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.

Friday, 29 November 2013

O Christmas tree.....

So when I was asked recently to make 7 miniature boobs out of old tights I have to say I was a little perplexed.  When I was told they were to decorate a Christmas tree I was further surprised.  You see, Deal Breastfeeding Support Group were taking part in Trinity Church's Festival of Christmas trees.  The thought did cross my mind that not everybody is as 'boob desensitised' as me.  You only need to read the comments section in any news story about breastfeeding to see that certain individuals are fairly prudish when it comes to the exposed female breast (well at least when linked to breastfeeding anyway).  Still I did as I was told and I shouldn't have doubted the group for a second.

I went to see the festival today.  The trees were awesome.  Particular highlights were the 'gravitree'.....

and the 'infinitree' (a tree between 2 mirrors, producing a very cool effect that captured the boy for a good long while).  It was also nice to write a little note on the 'memory tree'. 

The boy kept calling me to see this or that and proclaimed that it had 'made him feel christmasy'.  It's certainly well worth a visit, for just £2 entry per adult.  It's running till Sunday 1st December (10am till 5pm).

I lingered over the tree by DBSG, the 'Breastfeeding fact-tree'.  Partially because I was earwigging  to see what people were saying about it, but I didn't hear anything interesting enough to write about.

The most wonderful thing about their tree was that it was totally age appropriate.  Skirting the bottom there were pictures of mammals feeding their young and baubles containing pictures of babies from the group (with a certain little madam I recognise only too well... :) ). 


As you moved further up the tree you found the facts and bits of information about the group.  At the very top, to help with a little bit of normalisation, were my creations (which I had ended up having to sew onto Christmas ribbon, much to hubby's amusement) and some slightly more risqué photographs of nursing and images from paintings. 

As usual, DBSG have seized an opportunity and produced something wonderful and, I feel, classy.  People can learn a few interesting facts, pique their interest, and become that little bit more comfortable with breastfeeding.

This normalisation in the community is just so important.  Deal is a pretty safe place to breastfeed in public, DBSG has a high profile and a good reputation which helps.  But as ever, there is a long way to go.  Mum's need to get good support from all parties, good advice from well informed medical professionals and feel comfortable within their own communities.  Watch this space......

Friday, 1 November 2013

LIARS!! (or 'sleep-boasters')

When my son was a baby I used to attend a Friday group for babies under 9months.  I liked it there.  There were no crazy toddlers running around.  It was intimate and quiet.  We used to sit in one big gossipy circle.  There were few of us who breastfed.  I used to feel slightly uncomfortable when my son's cries intimated that I needed to start to strip.  I used to use a cover - something I wouldn't now do in a baby group.  There were many conversations that baffled me.  Many about how many ounces or how many feeds....and I must admit that I occasionally felt uncomfortable when I though about how often I would feed and the fact that I hadn't the foggiest idea how much my skinny little fella actually consumed.  But, y'know, we had made different choices and that was cool.  I kind of wished there were some others like me, but I could live with it.  However a favourite topic was sleep.  I listened as one by one all of my friends declared their babies had started to sleep through.  It ended up being a joke.  I had the baby that didn't sleep.  The last time I went to that group the organiser gave me a leaflet on controlled crying.  I knew it was time to go.

I was so anxious about sleep!  I thought that babies were supposed to sleep through by two or three months.  It was certainly a figure that was bandied about.  My health visitor would ask how he was sleeping and I would meekly tell her that he 'sometimes woke up once or twice' and 'slept in his cot'.  The truth was he woke at least 4 times and spent most of the night in our bed.  I felt like an alien.  Was I doing all this wrong?  On a good day I felt like I was the only one who had it right.  Most days were not good days. 

I beat myself up endlessly.  It didn't help that every visitor's first question was 'how is he sleeping?'.  I was shattered.  I was sick of getting up. My eyes stung and I felt about a zillion years old  But there was not way on God's Earth that I was going to let my baby cry his-self to sleep.  Even if he never slept through.  Even if he slept in my bed for the rest of his life.  It felt like this may be a real possibility too. 

But how the hell was everyone else doing it?  Many were 'self soothing'. I am not going to discuss self soothing.  'If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all'.  Each to their own.   Many were using dummies, white noise, swaddles, sleeping bags, special toys.....endless props.  Well I had bought every damn thing that I thought might work and it never did.  I filled him with painkillers when he was teething.  He was dry, warm, fed......why couldn't I do it?  It left one conclusion.  I was a rubbish mum.  Maybe I was weak, I should have had the balls to let him cry.  Maybe I wasn't very good at being quiet and soothing.  Maybe I wasn't feeding him enough.... AHA.  There's that breastfeeder's self-doubt lingering away there.

He slept through at 10 months by the way.  Which seemed awfully late.

Baby number two has always been a bit of a better sleeper.  Also I have always been a bit more confident about what I am doing which helps.  However something seemed to have happened.  Maybe I started to hang out with different women (and I must say I hang out with a lot of boobie mamas these days), or maybe there's been a sea change.  However suddenly other mums have admitted that they bedshare.  Most of my friends babies don't sleep.  In fact mine is one of the better sleepers.  In fact when I recently got all panicky because she (at 10 months) had started sleeping worse, it was basically laughed off as normal and I was told that I'd had it good up till now.

This time around I know she gets enough milk.  I know she has every damn thing she needs.  I know that the white noise thing isn't going to cut it.  I know that soothing music, pretty lights, a favourite toy will not settle her back to sleep.  And I know something else.  Other women lie.  Not all of them - some have these magic sleeping babies.  But most don't.  And here's how I know it.  A friend recently told me her 10 week old was sleeping through the night.  I expressed surprise (holdiong in the compulsion to shout LIAR!!!!!!!!).  She then said 'well yeah, because technically sleeping for five hour stretches is sleeping through the night.'  Um..... OK, sure she has me there, as I have recently discovered, technically speaking that is considered true. medically anyway. But to me it is a load of ol' cobblers.  Sleeping through means that I don't have to wake up and deal with it.  It means I get to be woken up by something other than a baby.  It means that I don't have dark circles and I can get through a day without caffeine.  Five hour stretches indeed. 

So...those women sat in that circle when I was a naïve new mum.  Claiming that they had special sleeping children...... I don't buy it.  And yet, they made me feed anxious.  They made me doubt my personal brand of milk.  Worst of all, they made me doubt my mothering skills.  I still doubt myself but I am picked up by honest friends who tell me that their dark eye circles are as bad as mine.  I can cope with the hardship when I am part of a club, not when I am the only mum still soldiering on months down the line.

I did read that controlled crying leaflet the lady gave me.  Then I threw it away.  My lack of sleep didn't need solving.  It was a phase.  Same as many of those other women had they chosen to admit it.  So, be wary of the 'sleep-boasters'. 

Oh and for the record, my 10 month old wakes at least twice in the night.  Yes it annoys me.  No I'm not going to do anything about it, other than feed her back to sleep like I've done since the day she was born.

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”   Dr Seuss

Friday, 13 September 2013

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to express at work I go.....

So it's been a bit quiet on this blog because I am working my freaking socks off in my actual job.  I'm back, part time (so amazing). 

I was very apprehensive about my return but it has been wonderfully smooth.  The main thing is that the kids are OK.  My son is loving being back at nursery and the only sign of any disruption is a slight backward step in his potty training.  My daughter seemingly has been quite happy and has slept in my absence, which, given that I breastfeed her to sleep, is quite a shock.

Expressing at work is weird.  I've never had to do it before.  Firstly, I was quite fussy about where to express.  This is largely because I am a teacher - I have to know that I am secure.  I cannot tell you how horrified I would be to have a pupil in any way aware of what I was up to.  So, I needed a maximum security room, which I have.  But then comes the issues with the deed itself.  It's a bit weird to be getting my boobs out at work.  It's also hard to express well when I am anxious about the noises of the pupils running around outside and bashing into the door even though I know I am safe.  Plus their noise is distracting.  It takes a while for the milk to flow and I'm not surprised.  I worry about the noise.  I know it's only a quiet click and there would be nobody that would even care enough to even waste their time worrying about what was going on within the room, but it still makes me nervous.

It is lovely to spend a few minutes of my day doing something for my baby girl.  To have an enforced pause in my chaotic and busy day.  I am going to have to be strict with myself about finding the time. 

Wandering around with my milk extraction kit is uncomfortable too.  I have squirrelled my manual pump in a lunchbox and am praying nobody ever looks in it.  My sister in law has lent me her electric pump (yeah, sharing pumps, whatever we don't care) and I have yet to figure out how to hide it as I make my way from the staff room to my room of expression to the fridge.

I can see that I won't keep this up.  I'm not surprised that women who exclusively express sometimes struggle with it.  But then I've never been a fan of expressing.  I am quite happy breastfeeding in front of my family, but  It's....undignified.  Or at least that's how it feels.  I suppose in the fullness of time I may give my daughter cows milk.  I don't need to pump for supply reasons - I am only at work 3 days a week and supply was never a big issue for me.  In fact my milk never even went away after I stopped breastfeeding. 

So this is a new development in my public breastfeeding adventures - expressing outside of my home...expect more musings :)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The end of maternity

My return to work is drawing nigh.  I was quite worried about this but now I feel differently.  I am looking forward to a little less stress and the odd opportunity for downtime.  It will also make a nice change to wee alone.  I will of course miss my gorgeous children a lot, but I am fortunate to have a busy job that makes it unlikely I will think about them.

I took a year off on maternity with my son.  This time I am returning after 8 months (largely to make my life easier at work).  This means it is a rather different matter leaving my baby.  My son was only feeding once a day when I left him.  My daughter is mostly breastfed and just has little bits of food.  So, it seems I am entering the world of expressing.  

I have expressed before on occasion, but not regularly like I will now.  However, the new realm for me is expressing in public.  It's one thing getting my boobs out, which will inevitably be hidden by a baby's head.  It's another to be milking myself.  The truth is that I will have a secret room to go and lock myself away in, so nobody will see me.  This is very important as I am a teacher and I would most likely get fired for that level of exposure. 

I am a bit concerned about the noise of expressing.  The click of the handle.  When I know that just the other side of the door are hoards of screaming teenagers.  I am also concerned about transporting my breast pump to and from my expressing room (in a closed cool bag I am thinking) without anybody knowing what I have been up to.  And hiding the accoutrement's from my colleagues.  It will also be interesting to see how much of a drain on my time it is, given that in the past I have chosen to work through all these breaks. 

I am sure it will be fine.  But I hadn't really thought about this side of the world of breastfeeding.  Watch this space!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

breastfeeding in front of my big brother

I feel that I recently overcame a big public breastfeeding hurdle.  I have previously talked about my reluctance to feed in front of men I know.  I have little issue with strangers, but am uncomfortable feeding around those I am close to.

In the recent scorching summer I spent a weekend in London with the family and my brother.  London always seems to be a bit hotter than the rest of the country.  All the time sitting on sweaty buses didn't help.  Understandably, baby girl wanted to feed more than usual.  It seemed quite simply cruel to cover her up, even with the lightest of fabrics.  So, I fed her uncovered, in front of my big brother.

Now this is even more of a big deal than it may seem.  My Dad, who I love dearly and have a great relationship with, has lived abroad since I was about 9.  Therefore, despite frequent contact, I was missing a physical male role model.  My big brother (10 years older than me) filled the position at once.  Sure, we are a typical sibling pair, we tease each other, we jabber on into the night when we are together, we drink together given half the chance.  However, for me, there is that aspect of him having been there as a guiding force in my life.

So, given how much my brother means to me, this is a big deal.  My brother, characteristically, totally ignored it.  So the rest of the weekend I could quench my little girl's thirst without irritating her with more layers.  Sometimes being forced into these situations makes you realise just how cool people are.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Things my son has taught me

Yesterday was my son's 3rd birthday.  It is quite unbelievable that he is so grown up, a proper little person.  Before he was born I dreamt of the things I would teach him - good manners, how to read and write, how to play musical instruments, how to be kind, how to swim and SCUBA dive..... the list goes on.  Little did I realise that he would teach me far more than I would ever teach him.  Here is a list of the things I have been taught
  • babies do not do as they are told
  • babies do not do as the books tell them
  • babies do as they damn well please
  • breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks
  • looking after a baby is not as easy as it looks
  • you do not know what tired means until you have a baby
  • you do not know what busy means till you have a baby (and this comes from somebody who worked full time, trained at karate, was in a band and did a part time MA all at the same time)
  • you do not know what love is until you have a baby
  • I have more patience than I ever thought
  • I need my friends and family more than I ever thought
  • Some of my friends were not really my friends
  • toddlers are cleverer than you think
  • just when you think everything has settled down, it all changes
  • I can think on my feet faster than I ever thought
  • I can apologise to a toddler when I have not behaved well
  • I can find the strength within me to protect my children where I wouldn't find it to protect myself.
  • I am better at multitasking than I thought possible
  • Take any chance to sleep
  • Without sleep I am a bad mother (see previous point)
  • Without food I am a bad mother
  • I do not need clean clothes or a shower (although it would be nice)
  • A bit of wee/poo/sick is not the end of the world
  • Always anticipate a bodily fluid incident (particularly when changing boy's nappies)
  • You forget the bad stuff and you miss the good stuff
Dear son,

Sometimes I'm not a very good student, but I have tried my best for 3 years and I will go on trying.  I love you more than anything little man.

Mummy x

Sunday, 4 August 2013

what's the point in 'The Big Latch On'?

This year was the first time I've joined a 'Big Latch On' event.  In the past I was always on holiday or not breastfeeding. n I jumped at the chance this year.  It was everything I'd hoped.  The normal good humour, older kids loving being a part of it all and husbands showing their support (even if some had been forced to come along :) ).  It was an opportunity for sharing tips as usual and cooing over all the beautiful babies.

But what's the point?  Other than it being a pleasant gathering, what's the big deal?

Well, in my opinion the biggest benefit is to raise the profile of breastfeeding in public.  I remember the first time I fed in public.  I went shopping with my in laws.  Initially I had to face the fear of getting my boobs out in public.  I gazed around looking for somewhere secluded and comfortable.  I spied a lady sat on a bench breastfeeding her baby.  I can still remember her face.  I timidly went and sat at the bench next to her and latched my son on.  She probably had no idea I was a public breastfeeding virgin.  However her mere presence acted as somebody holding my hand.  The more women breastfeed in public, the more we give each other confidence to do it.   Up to this moment I had never seen (or noticed) a woman breastfeeding in public.  I didn't know how to do it in an acceptable manner (if there is such a thing).  By gathering at a Big Latch On we are noticeably showing that it's OK.

We also fly in the face of people who think it is unacceptable.  A friend recently told me how somebody had muttered 'dirty' as they passed her feeding.  Until that moment she hadn't been inhibited.  I know I say it a lot, but it's all about normalisation.  The more we do it and the more people notice us doing it, the less people care.

When I fed my baby at the shopping centre that first time there was another issues.  Half an hour after he finished his feed he was up for another.  I was mortified.  People would realise just how much I fed my little boy and think I was pandering to him.  I was sweating and paniced.  I apologetically went off and fed him again.  But here's the other point - breastfed babies like to feed all the freaking time.  There's no distracting their one track mind.  So if you want to do anything other than go to breastfeeding groups then you need to breastfeed in public (unless you breastfeed in a car or a toilet, which is just a damn shame).  People who tut and shake their heads don't seem to realise that you can't leave the house unless you do this.  Also, going and sitting in a toilet every half an hour for 20 minutes pretty much makes me not want to bother going out, whereas sitting on a bench and watching the world go by is tolerable.  Once the public breastfeeding hurdle has been crossed you suddenly find you can shop, meet friends for coffee, go on holiday, whatever you want to do. 

When the 'Big Latch On' rolls round next year then try to go to/organise your own event.  It really is important.  And if you don't breastfeed, or are a man, a smile, a word or a thumbs up makes our day. Not just at an event, but everyday  Especially if we are all alone and looking worried.  It might be our first time.  I have been told that breastfeeding is beautiful by strangers far more times than I have been told it is disgusting and it makes all the difference.  And you know what, if I see a new mum breastfeeding I don't think I'll say a word.  I think I'll sit next to her and latch on my little girl, so I can give her the support of solidarity.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

You can only breastfeed in public if you're pretty

Me and my husband like to wind each other up.  He likes to say things about breastfeeding that he knows will make me rant.  I make ignorant statements about computers to give the same effect.  We thrive on irritating each other.

This morning's exchange began innocuously enough.
He said. 'My mate Matt went to (well known high street department store) the other day.  He said he saw a woman breastfeeding outside the men's toilets.'
'Oh yeah?  Cool' I replied
'He said he doesn't like it when it's in your face.'
'What? She got up and waved her boobs in his face?  That's a disgrace!'  I grinned.
'Haha, that's what I said.  I said that it was probably the only chair in the whole shop'.  I was feeling proud.  How well trained my husband has become. Defender of the breastfeeder.  'He said there were loads of chairs though.'
I replied archly 'I bet he really hates all those billboards with scantily clad models too.'
Husband gets that cheeky grin where I know he's trying to annoy me. 'Course not.  But they're pretty.'
'So it's alright to breastfeed in public, but only if you're pretty?

Now, I need to point out here that he does not believe any of this.  Or at least he'd better not. It was designed solely to get my goat.  Please don't get wound up (that would only make him happy :) )  But it did make me think.  There are two points here.  Firstly, I get a bit complacent sometimes about public breastfeeding, even though I blog about it.  I've been getting my boobs out in public for nearly three years.  I'm pretty brazen about it.  I don't look around to see who's staring, I get on with my life.  I probably wouldn't even notice 'a look' anymore.  So I actually am surprised when I hear that it bothers people.  I expect Matt just did an inward British tut and pretended not to look.  But what a shame, not that it bothered him, but that he even noticed.  Do you see a teenager playing with their phone and take any notice? No, because you see it everyday.  A woman sat in a shop quietly feeding her baby shouldn't actually even arouse interest in an ideal world.  In my opinion anyway.  To me that's the ideal - normalised.  Breastfeeding no longer interesting, just something that happens.  Something that passes into our subconscious for when we need the skills ourselves.  Something that gets talked about in everyday boring conversation, not in headlines. Something that we see so much that when a woman has her first baby we can all offer her support.  Something that is so uninteresting that we don't even care about the breast v bottle thing anymore and we just let mums get on with it.

Secondly, there is a lot of publicity about the issue of acceptable nudity, including the 'no more page three' campaign.  I wonder if there is some basis in this idea of attractiveness making it OK?  Whether my husband thinks I'm pretty or not, when I am sloping about town with no makeup, sleep deprived and drawn faced I don't think I'm an oil painting.  With puke, spit, snot, paint, glue and god knows what else on my clothes.  Do people look and think 'eugh, I don't want to see her boobs.'  If there any truth in this, it is appalling.  If there is anyone out there who truly looks at a woman breastfeeding, even if she looks like a foot, and doesn't think they are seeing something beautiful they need a slap.  Anyway, attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder, some people think I'm pretty and some don't.  Some people don't think Kate Moss is pretty.  What does it even matter.  Nine times out of ten you won't even see any of her flesh - it is just that knowledge that that naked female flesh is under there, and a baby is feeding - oh my god we can imagine it!! Help, help!!  Women have nipples!! Are we not aware that everyone is naked under their clothes?  In houses and in toilets up and down the country there are pretty and ugly women baring their breasts and feeding their babies with them. Do you look at a toilet and shiver in horror at the thought of what aesthetically displeasing act is going on in there (and I'm talking about breastfeeding).  No? Well if you can't see it, if you can't actually see a baby latched onto a nipple (and you'd have to get creepily close to see that) then who cares! If the image you see displeases you then don't look.  Get over it, it's only a bit of skin.  

Ah, seems the rant my husband wanted just happened.  Darn, he wins again. Good job I broke my laptop last night so I can think up some particularly thick comments about it.

Sisters, shall we put on some lippy, some heels and a nice dress before we breastfeed our babies?  No, I thought not.  Let's just raise our unplucked (because we haven't slept in 5 years and have no time to even do a wee let alone pay any attention to our appearances) eyebrows and do a good British tut at the idiots that don't support us.  Or any mother.  What business is it of anybody else's whether I feed my baby with my breast or a bottle?  As long as we are happy, healthy, informed, supported and confident that what we are doing is right for us?  You know what I do?  I see a cute baby and smile at the poor tired mum.  That's it.  If I can see a breast it matters not (except the little inner lactivist that thinks 'hooray, a bit more normalisation').

It's world breastfeeding week and the theme is 'Breastfeeding support, close to mothers'.  Lets support the hell out of each other.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Ring out the bells, a baby is born

3 years ago (in 2 weeks) I gave birth to my son and heir.  I'm not going to go into the details, but it was flipping traumatic.  Sure, it was amazing, miraculous, yadda yadda.... but there is stuff that I am still angry about.  My daughter's birth on the other hand was like Bambi, where my son's was more like Alien.

I felt like the first person to have a baby.  Only one of my friends had given birth previously and she had moved to Africa.  I felt alone and unsure.  I felt like nobody really understood what I had just been through.  Sure there were people who gave birth ages ago, but what do they know hey? They've been all healed by time.  I know that's not entirely true, but it's how it felt at the time.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law's waters broke.  Lets call her Rose.  Stuff the Royal baby (and that comes from a monarchy geek), this was the birth of the century.  I was mildly concerned but figured things would take a while and so shrugged it off.  Yesterday evening Rose went to hospital.  I was so excited!  I went to bed and closed my eyes.  I had visions of her in the same situation as me.  Going through the pain and fear of labour.  I had flashbacks of my experiences.  Of how horrible the labour is and then how crazy the aftermath is when this whole new little person appears and is wholly, entirely yours.  

Needless to say I got little sleep.  It didn't help that my baby still wakes a few times in the night.  By morning I was a wreck.  Hubby ran downstairs and got my phone - no news.  We spent the morning in a state of anxiety.  I realised Rose was having a long labour like mine.  I hoped to God that, even though it was long, it wasn't negative in any way.  I wanted to help her, to tell her it was OK.  I wanted somebody to tell me that she was alright and it was over for her

Her gorgeous baby eventually made his appearance, as babies are wont to do in their own sweet time.  The relief I felt, I am sure, was only a fraction of what they felt.  I didn't realise I would feel like this - reliving my experiences and worrying so much about hers.  What made it even weirder was walking past the room where my son was born on the way to visit her.  There are some demons wrapped up in that room and I tried to put those aside when I saw that Rose's room was an exact replica of mine.  I felt this urge to protect her from my demons.  If it would have been in any way appropriate or possible I would have become her personal bodyguard and supporter until she had recovered - but that may have been a bit much.  Although I could have made a special hat.

However Rose feeds her baby I hope it's not a struggle, physically or emotionally.  I want that for everyone, but I want it the most for those who I hold dear.  I want everybody else to get the Bambi experience.  I probably seem like a meddler, but it's just a bit of a mission of mine to prevent anybody having unnecessary bad experiences.  That's my point really.  It is such a shame that we don't all get that empowering, beautiful experience with an absence of maternal guilt.   

Congratulations to all the new parents today xxx

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Not a lot about breastfeeding and a lot about patriotism.

What glorious weather we are having here in beautiful Britain.  At long last I am worrying about whether the kids have had enough to drink or whether they have got enough sun lotion on rather than if they are wearing enough layers.  Sunday's summer sun made the perfect setting for the 'Deal Bandstand Memorial Concert' which commemorates the tragic death of 11 Royal Marine musicians as a result of an IRA attack on the Royal Marines School of Music building in 1989.  The roads close, the locals swarm Walmer green and are beautifully entertained for the afternoon.  The culmination is a performance by HM Royal Marines Collingwood band themselves.

The music was wonderful, not least because I am a big fan of the whole marching drummers moustache sticks thing. Towards the end a priest mounted the steps of the bandstand.  Prayers were said.  Then a lone brass player stood and played that eerie tune 'The last Post'.  As the sound system clicked off we all continued to stand there.  Thousands of us gazing at that monument, the Deal bandstand, in complete silence.  So very, very powerful.  After a few minutes the gentle music began again and the atmosphere was stunning.

Things like this cannot fail to bring a lump to my throat.  Why?  Is it because I am a sap?  No, it's because I am a military girl.  I wasn't in the military myself, but I come from a military family, its something that runs in my veins.  My father served for 15 years in the Royal Navy.  I was raised on stories about naval life and speaking fluent Naval slang (something about nets over the funnels was talked about a lot).  In fact most men from my dad's family seem to have served, except my generation.  I flirted with the idea myself but never took the plunge.  It seemed like too big a commitment and there was of course the chance that a bullet somewhere might have had my name on it.

I think every family has it's legends, but mine, by default of being mine, are special.  My great, great, granddad, George Henry Wright, must be the subject of my favourite family story. In fact the story of his ships on that fateful morning became the subject of a book called 'Three before Breakfast'. Early one morning, in September 1914 he was aboard a ship, HMS Aboukir.  At 6.20 in the morning the ship was hit by a torpedo, fired by a German U-boat, U-9.  Tragically, the ship was sunk and 527 of her crew drowned.  Not my great, great, granddad.  No, he was fortunate and was picked up by the HMS Hogue. The HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy had come to help the crew of the Aboukir as they believed that she had struck a mine.   I suppose there was a great sense of relief for my great, great grandfather to be out of the water and safely back on board a native ship.  Seeing his crewmates dead or dying and his ship stricken, while he had been saved, is not a feeling one can easily understand, but there must have been some joy and relief.  Until 6.55 when the same U-boat torpedoed HMS Hogue.  Again he was in the water, and again many lives were lost.  Again, George was lucky enough to be picked up.  This time it was the HMS Cressy that rescued him.  I can only imagine how thankful he must have felt to still be alive.  Perhaps until U-9 torpedoed HMS Cressy at 7.20.  I think that when he found himself decidedly damp for a third time he must have felt that it was not his lucky day.  But in truth he was extroadinarily lucky, since he was picked up by a Dutch fishing boat.  The story goes that he forgot his identity for a period when he was taken back to Holland.  Now in those days the crew of  a ship would generally come from one locality.  Obviously, in George's neck of the woods there had been horrendous loss of life.  Over 1500 men had lost their lives in that one morning.  A mass funeral was held for the local young menfolk.  My great grandmother Floss, then a young girl, was left at home.  There was a knock at the door.  She answered to find a strange beardey looking fella...that's right, her daddy, George.  Flossie ran all the way to the church to find her mother.  She flung the doors wide but could only see a sea of black clad persons.  So, she shouted from the door 'Mum!! Dad's come 'ome!!'  The widows turned to see a little girl, overjoyed that her dad was no longer the subject of this particular mourning.

I love that story.  How happy my relatives must have been that their dear George wasn't dead.  How happy George himself must have been to not be dead.  His son, Charlie, was not so lucky.  He died in the trenches at Anzio beachhead, Italy, in 1944, aged just 22.  A photograph portrait of him in uniform hung in his sister Floss' house and now on the wall of her daughter, my grandmother, his niece. Surrounded by ship's crests, a newspaper clipping about the sinking of the Aboukir, and faded pictures of men in uniform it has a single poppy placed on top of the frame.  He died 69 years ago, but we haven't forgotten.

My paternal grandfather, Charles Henry 'Harry' Sartain did his stint in the Navy. He was a real stereotype matelow, I remember him smoking his pipe with anchor tattoos on his forearms.  His best tattoo read 'Homward Bound'.  Despite his appearance, he only served for around 2 or 3 years.

These were young men signing up.  My dad himself was just 15 when he joined up.  15 and going off, possibly to war!  He was fortunate to have not seen any serious conflict during his time, but nonetheless, how brave he was to leave his family behind and join this legacy of men who sometimes died for their country.  How his parents and sisters must have felt to see him go and wonder if he would come back.  For 15 years he served his country, finally being discharged as a Chief Petty Officer, having also been a ship's diver during his career.

That's what I think when I attend commemorative functions.  I think of the people.  I think of those who are lucky enough to survive the military and how fortunate I was that my father was one of them.  I also think of the young, fit personnel who are lost.  The families left behind.  They took huge risk because they believed in something enough. Or because they had no choice.  Or because it's just what you do, with a stiff upper lip.

Those 11 men killed in Deal weren't even at war.  They were in their home country and yet they were still attacked because of the position they held.   Just like that poor soldier, another musician, Lee Rigby recently.  Although for those that loved them, no concert will ever fix the hole they left, it surely must go some way to saying 'we haven't forgotten them'.  We honour these people who have lost their lives protecting our country.  I feel that while we remember them, while we gather on a green and stand in grave silence, we will do whatever is in our powers to stop unnecessary wastes of life.  We will deplore such behaviour and we will support those left behind.

My son had no idea.  He was wearing no trousers and trying to make himself dizzy.  I looked at his little innocent frame and felt so overwhelmingly sad for him.  One of our fish died the other day and he keeps asking where its gone.  I don't want to tell him the truth, I just tell him that it was ill.  I don't want my son to learn about the horror in this world.  Worst of all I don't want him to march off to war.  I want him forever to be that carefree little lad who got a bit of grass stuck in his eyelashes during the two minutes silence so that we had to break the spell that was holding us and deal with him.

The band lifted the melancholy spirits with a rousing rendition of 'Rule Brittannia' followed by 'Land of Hope and Glory'.  The crowd went wild, waving their miniature union flags (no, it's not a union jack unless flown from the jack staff of a ship).  One wonderful old lady was wearing union flag leggings and T-shirt and was brandishing a union flag umbrella and tiny flag.  People danced and sang, furiously waving their miniature flags, believing passionately in this funny little island.  My daughter quietly breastfed, gazing at me with curiosity as to what was going on.  I am glad I live in a land that has days like this.  Sunny days.  Days of remembering important things.  Days of preserving innocence.  Days of mad, dancing people in red, white and blue.  Days of breastfeeding surrounded by thousands of people and knowing that sometimes there are bigger and more important things to worry about than whether anybody looks askance at me today.

My favourite hymn was played today.  Read the beautiful words and think awhile of those who take a risk for our country.  Forget a moment any political leaning you have and just admire their bravery and empathise with their fears and those of their families.  Lest we Forget.

Eternal Father, Strong to save (for those at peril on the sea)
William Whiting, 1860

Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea!
O Saviour, whose almighty word, the winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep, and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
O sacred Spirit, who didst brood, upon the chaos dark and rude,
Who bad’st its angry tumult cease, and gavest light and life and peace:
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power, our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe, protect them wheresoe'er they go;
And ever let there rise to Thee , glad hymns of praise from land and sea

For George Henry Wright, who somehow didn't die at sea
For Charles E. Wright, who went to Anzio aged 22 and never came home
For Charles Henry Sartain who lost his battle with cancer in 1998
For the Deal 11 and for Drummer Lee Rigby
For all the brave men and women who risk their lives in the armed forces.
For their families who are left behind.

There, your names are in black and white, just as they should be.

Friday, 28 June 2013

My future hopes #kbbf #bf2013

I hated breastfeeding my son.  I was adamant that I would do 6 months and then he was getting formula.  I had gone through split bleeding nipples, no sleep, the judgement of those around me, my own personal discomfort, having no life anymore...... and I hated it.

6 months arrived, and I suddenly realised that without noticing I had come to love breastfeeding.  We had overcome all of our issues and were now in this wonderful time where breastfeeding was a lovely, close lull in the daily hum of activity.  I was proud of our achievements, but more to the point I had come to value breastfeeding.  It's not just all the normal benefits that everyone harps on about.  Breastfeeding changed me.  It made me the person I always wanted to be.  That may sound over-zealous but its true.  For me, breastfeeding had become this whole new centre in my life that was this huge source of inspiration and passion.  It had taught me s much about myself and the value of the people who surround me.  It made me want to help other people to have a good experience.  At 6 months,  I was determined to do 2 years.

My son's first birthday arrived.  I was like the queen of breastfeeding.  Everyone new about it because I was always wittering on about it.  I was gonna breastfeed till my children were 30.

15 months came.  My son had lost interest.  He was bored at the breast.  I was basically having to force it down his throat in this massive battle of wills every night where I eventually gave in and just put him to bed.  It was a wrench, but I had to admit to myself that I no longer liked breastfeeding.  I supported it vehemently - but we had come to the end of the road. While I would have fed forever if my son wanted it, he didn't want it either.  I decided not to offer anymore.  There was no ceremonial last feed, which I have mixed feelings about.  I just stopped.  He stopped.  It was over.  I found this very sad, but I am so thankful that we 'self weaned'.  There were no tears (well, not from him), I gave him what he wanted for as long as he wanted.

So where does that leave me now? Nothing has changed.  I will feed my daughter until she doesn't want it anymore.  But I think that this time around I have nothing to prove.  I would love to feed into toddlerhood (although I look at my son who is nearly 3 and find it a bit odd to imagine still breastfeeding him).  I am glad that there was no battle with my son, I didn't upset him by taking his milk away.  It just fizzled out of its own accord. I hope I get that with my daughter.  But, I would like to experience feeding further into toddlerhood if that is what she wants.

Every stage has its beauty.  Even when I look back at feeding my son in the early days, there was a lot that was good about it.  I was just not in a position to recognise that then.  But I do remember the quiet snuggles and the pride as we overcame each barrier.  However, I was inordinately proud to be feeding past a year.   To experience feeding a fidgety active little toddler who keeps pulling off the breast to look at his toys.  Maybe I will get to feed past 2 this time?  To have a baby who has a name for breastfeeding and can talk to me about it.  I think I would like that.

So what is my point? 

Feelings change.  If somebody had said to me when my son was a week old that I would feed him for 15 months and then feel terribly sad when I gave it up, I would have raised my eyebrows in disbelief.  If you now suggested to me that I stopped breastfeeding my daughter before she was ready I would be furious at the suggestion.  As far as I see it, breastfeed your babies as long as you both want, whether that is a week or a year or a decade (OK, that may be going a little far).

The scavenger hunt is drawing to a close.  You might want to check out the posts by

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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Boob juice #kbbf #bf2013

My daughter was christened on Saturday. It was a really truly, lovely day. My old school friend who blogs at the 'wardrobe of words'  was godmother, along with my sister-in-law.  My husband's pal was godfather.    After the service we went to the local village hall for my stressfully produced buffet (thank heavens for the female rellies that mucked in too). 

Now, at my son's christening I had been very thankful that he had not demanded a feed.  I remember being worried about having to feed in front of everybody, my nearest and dearest.  Feeding in front of strangers is one thing, but in front of your closest friends and family I think it is a little harder.  This time was a different matter.  For one thing, my daughter was a little younger, which I think made me more comfortable in terms of other people's expectations of our feeding habits.  But also, I also am far more relaxed anyway.  So, when girly started to get fraxious, tired and hungry (she tried to latch on to my face) I just grabbed my shawl and snuggled her up.

At my table was my uncle.  Lets call him 'Uncle Sy' (anyone related to me should now know who I'm talking about).  Uncle Sy looked at me feeding and said
'So, you still got the juice then?'  Now, me and Uncle Sy have a fairly friendly relationship.  We don't see much of each other since he lives over 100 miles away, but we have always had a natural friendship.  You know, he's just one of those people who is easy to get on with, a nice guy.  It helps that we're not dissimilar in age, him being married to my Dad's youngest sister.  Nonetheless, this question seemed a bit...forward.  I thought I must have misheard him.
'Sorry?'  I said.
'Have you still got the juice?'
'Um....'  I felt a bit uncomfortable.  I may be fairly blase about breastfeeding but this did seem a bit much 'yeah, I have.'
'Well done mate' said Uncle Sy.
'Er.....thanks Sy'
Now, thank goodness I did not say any more.  I could have launched into a speech about how I had fed my son for 15 months, how it was easier this time around, how I am training as a mother supporter - all kinds of things.  But luckily, through confusion, I was quiet for once.
'Yeah, one's gone broody now' said my husband was sitting next to Sy.  OK, now I was confused.  My brain started to catch up with my ears and I realised that what Uncle Sy had actually asked was 'So, you still got the chooks then', because I keep chickens.  I felt a sudden sense of relief to discover that Uncle Sy wasn't a complete weirdo.

So here's my advice, people generally aren't that weird, so if you think they are make absolutely certain before you make a fool of yourself.  And make sure you listen carefully to what people say to you :)

Keep on scavengin'
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A little help from my friends

In my early days of feeding in public, I used to find it hard.  Fumbling under a cover of some kind trying to latch baby on was a nightmare.  This was especially bad in the early days when I was still sore due to various latch issues that I had.  Trying to not scream out in pain and frustration, along with being panicked about the reaction of's not easy.

I might be lighthearted in this blog about feeding in public, but then I have been doing it for nearly 3 years.  I have come a long, long, long way from that nervous new mum.  So here's a tip -

When you have to face that hurdle of feeding outside for the first time, do it with a friend.  If possible, do it with somebody who is already breastfeeding as some moral support.  However if (like me) you don't know anyone that fits that bill, just take somebody you feel happy with.  Somebody who can be a distraction for you and who you know will turn into a fearsome tiger if anybody dares to raise an eyebrow in your direction.  A chaperon, a knight in shining armour.  It will also make you less obvious, more transparent, to passers by.

I may have been in this situation for a while, but I have still enlisted friends to throw something over me when baby pulls away and exposes my breast completely.  Or just to keep me company so I'm not so bored!  Since having a baby I have needed my friends more than ever before and they ave become like gold to me. 

Oh, and if you know a breastfeeding mum - offer to be that friend.  The one who keeps her company, or does little helpful jobs for her.  She needs you, she may just be too polite to ask.

Have you checked out these blogs yet?

Hop on over to the website of Eco Rainbow  as well to look at their lovely stuff!  I am slightly in love with their 'cat in the hat' breast pads. Use discount code 'BREAST' for 15% off

Good luck on the hunt xx

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Sunday, 23 June 2013

'the benefits of breastfeeding', a ditty #kbbf #bf2013

The scavenger hunt is here!!!  Here is my little poem to kick things off on my blog.

Breastmilk is yummy,
Breastmilk is good.
It's the very best way
To give babies food.

It keeps them all healthy
From their head to their toes,
By fighting their bugs,
And calming their woes.

If their skin gets itchy,
Or their bottom gets sore,
A squirt of some milk
And the red is no more.

If mummy needs fresh air,
No bag need she carry,
A baby in one arm,
In her pocket, a nappy.

Breastmilk costs nothing,
But a little more choc.
That means more pennies,
To spend on a frock.

OK, so I'm biased,
An addict, alright.
But when I look at my babies,
Something must have gone right.

Keep hunting!  Why not try out

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Nearly got a parking ticket and waved at a man who totally saw my boobs

I don't understand why loads of toddler groups shut down during school holidays.  OK, I do understand - the people that run them need to look after their school age children and lots of mums can't attend the groups because they are at home with their older children.  However, it really annoys me.  What am I supposed to do? So, today I found myself at a complete loose end.  We have a rule whereby we must leave the house every day, otherwise I become thoroughly bored and despondent and a dreadful mother.  So, I was in a panic trying to think up today's activity.  Having not been clothes shopping for a hundred years I thought it could be a golden opportunity.  I asked the boy if he wanted to go.  He said no.  I told him he could ride in a 'noddy car'.  He said yes.

So, off to the shops we went.  The boy was very well behaved indeed and happily sat in his pushchair while I perused the shelves.  The girl was sound asleep in her little cubby in the back of the pushchair.  All was good.  The noddy car was successful.  I dragged the boy away from the bouncy castles and play park fairly easily with minimal tears.  I got his feet measured, bought him new shoes, bought loads of presents for other people and even a top for myself.

Now this shopping centre does have a carpark, however it charges a whole English pound for four measly hours parking (:P).  Next door to the shopping centre is a large supermarket which charges the same for two hours parking, however, if you spend five pounds you get it back.  Being completely stingy (and persuading myself that the saved pound would pay for the noddy car) I parked in the supermarket.  This meant that the shopping trip (including play park) could only last about an hour and a half and would have to culminate in a supermarket sweep.  It also meant that there was no time for a boob feed (although fortunately, one was not demanded).

We were doing well.  There I was at the checkout of the supermarket with a fussy starving baby on my hip and a bored toddler in the trolley when I saw her.  The parking lady.  My heart stopped.,  She was approaching my car.  I was five minutes late.  I snatched my card from the PIN machine and ran.  By some heavenly fortitude she took a circuitous route to my car and I bundled kids and shopping in and drove swiftly away.

I was now faced with a new problem.  Baby girl had a wet nappy, was bored and had a huge hungry hole.  I stopped at the nearest non paying carpark, which happened to be for a fast food restaurant.  I found a space at the back of the carpark and bribed the boy with being allowed to play in the drivers seat while I fed the baby.

As I have previously said on here, I have become more of an exhibitionist.  I don't really bother to cover up much.  I also think that there is a weird phenomenon whereby my car seems to be a little pod in which nobody can really see me or hear me.  I often do embarrassing things in my car (no not that....) and then remember that it is not a special protective bubble. Therefore, I don't particularly think about breastfeeing in my car in the same way as I do in other public spaces where I may make some vague attempt at modesty. Anyway, I was sat there in a state of undress trying to prevent toddler from using all of my washer fluid when a man got into the car next to me and started eating his takeaway.  I looked up and smiled as he caught my eye.  I then remembered that my boob was out.  I rearranged so that I was breastfeeding from under my top rather than over it (and therefore a bit more decent).  However, the man was clearly avoiding my gaze.  About ten minutes on however, he was forced to look up as my toddler was winding the windows up and down and being especially cute (and probably spraying washer fluid into the man's window).  We exchanged smiles.  I felt better this time as I was slightly more covered up.

Baby finished her feed and I decided to commence the journey home.  Boy was persuaded to clamber back into his own seat and I moved the girl's car seat into the front so that I could sing to her and keep her quiet (of course in no way diminishing my attention to the road - well less so than having her screaming in the back from boredom).  As I reversed out of my space I waved goodbye to the man.  He looked a little perplexed but smiled.  I can just picture him telling his friends about this deranged woman who had one boob out and kept grinning at him and for some reason waved goodbye.  What didn't help was that he was (I believe) a plater. For the uninitiated, this is a person who delivers cars and then often hitchhikes home by holding up their personal number plate so that you know they are a car deliverer and not a serial killer.  The reason that this was poignant was that my dad used to do this, so I had a bit of a 'that could have been my dad' moment.

Anyhoo, it took eight verses of  '10 little monkeys jumping on the bed' to get both children off to slumberland and I then had a wonderful twenty minutes of head space before the normal anarchy recommenced. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Breastfeeding multi-tasking

I was in the middle of a sing-song when baby woke up.  For the second time in an hour.  So, I decided to attempt the seemingly impossible.  Turns out I can totally breastfeed and play the guitar at the same time, except that baby kept nosing at what I was doing and fiddling with the fret board. 

So, here is my list of other things that you can do while breastfeeding, since it does take up a lot of time.

1.  Walk - this can be done carrying baby in one arm, or with baby in a sling for two-handed-ness. Although, I do have issues with my long-bodied baby these days.
2. Eat - until baby is on solids all foods must be edible with one hand.  Also baby may need a covering to protect them against fall-out.
3.  Sleep - very, very important to get the opportunity when chilling and breastfeeding.  The dozy breastfeeding hormones help too.
4. Surf the net - how do you think I write my blog?
5. handicrafts - this becomes more of an issue when baby is bigger and tries to steal whatever you are doing.
6.  Dry hair/do makeup - since two hands are generally needed for this it requires the leg up method of feeding, where baby rests on your thigh.  Cross-legged works well too.
7.  Housework (as long as it's one handed, sweeping is hard to do)
8.  One handed gardening - yep, my neighbours have probably seen my boobs.
9. Deal with tantrum-ing toddler - I can easily handle a breastfeeding baby in one arm and a screaming toddler in the other.
10.Cook (as long as there's no chance of spitting)
11.Get my hair cut - as long as baby isn't covered with plastic its all good.
12.  Dog handling - A few weeks ago, my mum arrived at the door and I went to greet her. I was breastfeeding baby in one arm and holding the overexcited dog back with the other. Mum laughed and said 'now that's multi-tasking.'
13. Dish up food - this requires the use of your 'tyrannasaurus arm' (the one under the baby) to hold the dish while you serve with your free arm.

Or, you can just gaze at your baby.  Whatever. :D  Breastfeeding doesn't need to hold you back.

What breastfeeding multitasking have you accomplished?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Academic lactation of a different sort

I just graduated from a Masters degree.  I am feeling pretty smug with myself - during my study I have had two babies, handing in my dissertation a fortnight after my daughters birth.

Anyway, enough trumpet blowing.  I was lucky enough to graduate at Canterbury Cathedral.  It was a stunning setting and a gloriously sunny spring day.  The ceremony would last two hours so I had to ensure that baby was full to the brim with milk so that she could be left alone.  As a result, I was lurking around the cathedral feeding her right up to the last minute

One lady stopped to say how lovely it was to see us and another took a picture of me (Without my permission annoyingly).  Nice to have such a positive response.

It did feel like some sort of political statement feeding in my academic robes.  But then, since it is disadvantaged women who are least likely to breastfeed, maybe it wasn't really a statement at all.  But then, breastfeeding, openly, in the seat of the Anglican church, in academic attire did feel pretty cool. 

I had spent a few hours expressing milk for my absence.  However, my little bottle refuser was far from interested and spent the whole of the ceremony screaming for her mum when she ought to have been asleep in her pushchair with her Gran.  She is a clingy little milk monster at the moment.  Seems that now that she knows who I am she doesn't want me out of her sight.  Still, there's worse things than having to spend all your time with your baby.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A wedding, a crabby baby and a lot of breastfeeding.

This weekend I was bridesmaid at a friends wedding.  I faced the long journey and the quiet service with some trepidation considering my 2.5 year old son and 4 month old daughter.  It has been a weekend of breastfeeding highs and lows I think.

We, of course, had to make an unplanned stop at a service station halfway there to feed baby.  This resulted in cancelling a planned trip to see my sister, which was a real shame.  After our stop, baby continued to fret, even when I sang to her.  This was when I perfected my 'in car feeding method'.  I was damned if we were stopping again.  There have been few times when I have found breastfeeding inconvenient, but long journeys have been one.  The repeated stops drive me mad.  Of course, it would be thoroughly dangerous to remove baby from the car seat and breastfeed.  However, I have now discovered that with a bit of a contortionist act I can breastfeed her while sitting in the seat next to her (not driving of course).  This video shows how I did it, except that I didn't cover up at all.  I wish I had known this ages ago!!  So many long stops could have been avoided over the last few years.

Anyway, for the rest of the weekend my baby has insisted on comfort feeding continuously. Thank goodness my bridesmaid's dress was low cut!  I swear that most of the people at that wedding have seen my underwear though, as even though I wrapped up in a shawl it did occasionally slip off.  A fellow bridesmaid helped me keep my decency.  Of course it's one for breastfeeding in public and all that, but it would have been nice to get away from baby a bit.  Every time I did she screamed her head off.  In fact, she refused to be even spoken to by anybody and was the moodiest, clingiest baby I have ever known.

Baby made her best effort to spoil the wedding.  I had deposited her, fed and asleep, in Daddy's arms.  Halfway through the ceremony however, she wakes up and decides to scream blue murder.  I, being a bridesmaid, was powerless to help with my handy mute button (breastfeeding).  The wedding was stopped and Daddy was ordered out.  There was a slight snag in that big brother had taken off his shoes and so had to stay behind with some friends.  Anyway, daddy ran out into the corridors, nicely away from the ceremony.  Or so he though - he in fact walked behind the hall so we could just hear baby's screams coming in through the other doors.  I was mortified.  I eventually had to run out at a good moment and tell him to go away. I think my friend has forgiven me now.

It was an amazing wedding.  Beautiful bride, gorgeous setting, amazing food.  My little boy threw some shapes on the dance floor and threw a wobbly when we finally dragged him away for bed.  Baby was a pain all day, screaming for the duration of the photos, but fortunately sleeping through the wedding breakfast.  My escape from her in the evening when I got her to bed was cut short when the baby monitor broke.  The next morning at breakfast, baby was lovely and gurgly as if butter wouldn't melt. 

On the way home we stopped at a well known Swedish furniture company.  Baby was nicely asleep in the carrier and big brother was toddling around, opening cupboard doors and sitting on a variety of chairs.  All of a sudden I heard a bottom explosion.  My baby girl doesn't do little ladylike poos.  She does huge ones that burst forth from her nappy.  I knew that I would have to change her at once and ran back to the car to strip, wash and re-clothe her.  Unfortunately all the baby things were buried amongst the suitcases so by the time I finished, I was in a rage and baby wasn't too much better.  I had thrown my keys across the car, had a complete strop and had to be helped by the lady who drew up in the car next to me.  On rejoining my husband I sat and fed baby for a little while (whilst venting my rage at him) on one of the display chairs, not for the first time in my life.  However, my son wanted to move on before baby had finished.  This was when I worked out how to feed baby in a sling with her upright.  I have done it with her lying down before, but she's far too big to do that now.  It worked nicely, although husband was laughing and saying that I wasn''t as discreet as I thought.  Certainly not when baby spat out my nipple after she fell asleep and I didn't notice for a while.

Anyway, home now.  Some lessons have been learnt this weekend.

1.  How to breastfeed in a car
2.  Express milk if you are bridesmaid at a wedding
3.  Don't allow a small baby anywhere near a wedding if at all possible.  They like to ruin it.
4.  Be prepared to permanently breastfeed when you are in an unfamiliar setting
5. Always make baby clothes and nappies accessible in a car, and don't remove baby's clothes until you have found them.
6.  How to breastfeed in a baby carrier

Friday, 12 April 2013

Book Review : 'Is Breast Best?' Joan Wolf

In February I took my little girl out in the cold to Canterbury Christ Church University to a lecture by Dr. Joan Wolf.  I had expected (from the vitriol I had been reading on the internet) an anti breastfeeding tirade.  It wasn't, as I blogged at the time.  One thing that particularly resounded was Joan Wolf's remarks concerning her critics who hadn't actually read her book.  I felt that before I could have a real opinion on the matter I ought to read the book too.  In fact, I find it a bugbear when I read or hear people's comments on books they have never read.  A review or a synopsis tells you nothing.  For example, many people cite Moby Dick as an amazing classic and will even cite certain lines even though they haven't read it ('Call me Ishmael').  I read it.  Truth is (in my opinion) that it is dull.  My point essentially is 'don't believe the hype', make your own decisions.

Now, clearly I am a breastfeeding advocate, or I wouldn't write this blog.  But I am interested in Joan Wolf's work for a few reasons.  Firstly, being a breastfeeding advocate does not necessarily make you anti-bottle feeding.  It is likely to make you have certain feelings about formula companies, or about support provision, but bottle feeding itself is not the same thing.  Secondly, I believe that you should 'know thine enemies'.  I mean this in the sense that you should be fully versed in opposing views to your own.  That doesn't mean just sitting and reading them in a seething rage, but to put yourself in another's position and cogitate upon their opinions.  It can serve to strengthen your own views or to tear down those that do not have strong foundations.  This kind of critical reflection takes you away from being hot-headed and opinionated and takes you further into the realms of knowledge.  I believe that in this respect, criticism is not dangerous and shouldn't be the source of anger.  Rather, it should be welcomed.

So, shortly after the lecture, my copy of the book arrived in the post (slightly grubby, which I was a bit miffed about, although its my own fault for buying second-hand).  I delved in with excitement and trepidation.  It isn't easy to find reading time with two young kids - I generally listen to audio books so that I get the chance - however I managed to get through this book in a fortnight as I found it fascinating.

Primarily, I feel that Joan Wolf has a point. Breast isn't necessarily 'best' for everyone.  I wish I lived in a society or a time where breastfeeding was totally normal and enabled.  But I don't.  I am lucky enough to have a family and friends with breastfeeding experience and to be able to access good support groups. Therefore, I had a good chance of establishing successful breastfeeding. I also am financially able to not work for a long period of time (I took a year off on maternity with my son).  I haven't had to worry about expressing at work and then somehow ensuring that my baby gets that milk.  What if I had have had to return to work after 3 months in order to pay my bills?  What if my family were unsupportive?  What if, despite my best intentions and efforts, my baby was unsuccessful in breastfeeding and was becoming seriously ill?  At what point do the scales tip so that breastfeeding is actually detrimental to the new family? 

Another interesting point is that concerning the importance of the child.  Of course, given the vulnerability of our children, we do our utmost to protect them and provide for them.  However, that does not completely remove our self-worth.  Indeed, any parent makes sacrifices, many of them.  However, at some point the strains that breastfeeding puts on some mothers can surely be considered too much.  At what point do we say that the damage to the mother is not worth the benefit to the baby?  At what point is formula potentially better for the baby?  Perhaps allowing the mother to work means that the family have a roof over their heads?  Perhaps removing the pressures of breastfeeding improve the mother's mental health? 

Breastfeeding is not possible for everybody, it really isn't. Not in our current society.  Sure, we can look at tribes who have no breastfeeding issues as a source of guidance, but our society is a long way off.  We can live in an idealistic world and say that the majority of women are biologically capable of breastfeeding and therefore that is what we should aim for.  However, there has to be some recognition for the fact that at present it is not enabled for everybody.  Who are we to question anybodies motives?

Given this situation, there has to be a realisation that the extremely pro-breastfeeding message that is continually promoted may be marginalising mothers who had no choice.  If we consult UK breastfeeding statistics we find that two thirds of mothers are not breastfeeding by 6 months, even though 81% initiated it .  It seems to me that the issue lies more with extending breastfeeding than initiating it.  We need to look at issues such as public breastfeeding, support networks and general societal acceptance rather than brow-beating mothers who have every right to make the decisions that they have.  We know breast is best (fi societal influences are removed), so lets start enabling people to do it rather than just hassling people about something they are aware of.  Even a revulsion towards breastfeeding is a good reason not to do so if it effects the psychological experience of motherhood.  The only way of tackling that issue is ensuring a future society where breastfeeding is 'everyday' and therefore not something to find uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, I feel that certain elements of the argument that Joan Wolf puts forward are stronger in American culture.  For example, I believe that in the UK we receive far better maternity provision than in America.  Therefore, if we need to take longer off work to breastfeed then it is easier financially, it is less likely to put you on the breadline.  Therefore the 'middle class breastfeeding mother' is a bit less of a stereotype.  But that doesn't mean to say that it doesn't exist to some extent in this country, just to a lesser degree.  Her description of breastfeeding promotion too is wholly based on America, and I agree that the promotion has been heavy-handed there (even more so than here int the UK it seems).

I feel it is wrong of Joan Wolf to choose to discount breastfeeding specific journals.  I understand her decision to do so in order to eliminate bias, however the result was completely ignoring highly important studies, particularly from the Journal of Human Lactation.  Rather than doing this I feel that she ought to have used the best studies, but considered the potential bias that could arise from publication in a specific journal.  I feel that this detracts from her argument that the science showing the medical benefits of breastfeeding is paltry.  She argues that there is a lack of science showing the mechanisms of health benefits.  I disagree.  We know that breastmilk is a 'live' substance.  The antibodies within it prevent illness, the enzymes breakdown the constituents and so forth.  But, there is some need to ensure that scientific studies (particularly epidemiological ones) are more rigorous.

Putting the argument for health benefits aside, I feel that there is an omission concerning the other benefits of breastfeeding.  Joan Wolf does discuss the concept of breastfeeding being 'free', and clearly shows that there are more costs to weigh up than just that of the accoutrements needed for formula feeding.  However I think that one must consider more than just health.  Convenience, bonding and the myriad small reasons such as dummy use, smelliness of poos and kitchen space.  There are a plethora of reasons that must be put onto the balance when considering infant feeding choice.  It is a huge issue.

The book is thought provoking and beautifully written (except that she uses the word putative a lot and for some reason it annoyed me).  It has made me consider my standpoint concerning breastfeeding promotion and I now know where I stand.  I believe in ensuring that those who want to and can breastfeed receive the support they need to do so, whilst those who choose to formula feed are awarded the same respect.  Neither party should be discriminated against for their choice.  We are all mums doing the best for our children.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Free sandwiches?

Hubby has recently been befriending the vending machine lady at work in the hope for free, soon to be out-of-date, sandwiches.  He claims that he is just being nice, but I am not convinced.  They got chatting about the ridiculous weather we have been having.  I mean seriously, snow in April?  It is just not on.  Anyway, he told the lady that I had been suffering from the cold and wanted to get to sunnier climes for a break from the icy wind.  But, he said that we were put off because of the kids.  She agreed and said that it was a real pain having to take the steriliser and all the bottles.  Hubby said that he just replied that it wasn't a problem as I breastfed.  Apparently she looked shocked but didn't say anything.

Hubby was pleased on two counts.  One, he might get free sandwiches one day.  Secondly, he is proud of me breastfeeding.

I wonder why the lady was shocked.  In this day and age I don't think breastfeeding is such a rarity.  It surprises me that somebody else would be stunned by this revelation.  Maybe it isn't as normal as I have come to think - perhaps I am just blinkered because it is normal for me.  Perhaps it was our separation in generation.  With her being in her forties (compared to me still just about on the right side of thirty) her experience may have been different.  Who can say?  But it goes to show that there is still some work to do for breastfeeding to be 'normal'. Also, more work seems to be needed for hubby to get his free sandwiches.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Why do I breastfeed? My top 10.

Why do I breastfeed?  Shall I count the ways....

1. I am lazy and I forget things.  It is best for everybody that I don't have to remember to make bottles, take them with me and dispose of them at a set time. 

2.  Portability.  Basically I don't have to carry stuff.  I hate change bags and rarely use one.  All I need is the contents of my bra and a handbag and I'm good to go.

3.  I'm possessive.  OK, I'm going to be honest. Breastfeeding gives me a reason to keep baby to myself at certain times.  I do understand the argument against breastfeeding where bottle feeding allows other family members to feed baby.  But, as far as I am concerned they can do that when it comes to solids.  This bit is mine.  I did the pregnancy and I'm having the milk bit as a reward.  Fortunately hubby is quite happy with that arrangement.  Equally, the fact that I am bound to my baby in this way also means that I can't escape and go and do loads of other stuff, which, knowing me, I probably would.

4.  I tend to do the natural thing.  I compost, I grow my own veg, I recycle, I make things, I buy from charity shops. Oh, and I use reusable nappies too.  Just kinda fits for me to breastfeed too. 

5.  I am stubborn.  This might seem a weird reason.  However, breastfeeding didn't come easy, I had to fight for it.  As a Taurus I have a typical bullish nature - the harder something is the more I dig my hooves in and refuse to move.  I won't give this up for anything, it was too hard won.

6.  The health benefits.  I have put this low down the list for a reason, which is that I feel it is too often cited to promote breastfeeding.  It's important, sure, but so are other more social reasons that deserve an airing.  Also, in the Western world the health benefits are less pronounced (but nonetheless evident).  However, when I refer to health benefits I don't just mean all the benefits from drinking or lactating the stuff.  I also refer to my on hand medicine that can be squirted onto a variety of cuts, burns, or gloopy infected bits as an easy alternative to bought medicine.

7.  I kinda like that it grosses people out.  It's fun to get the response of people when you have been breastfeeding a while 'your baby is how old???' .  But also the disgust when you tell people you use it if you run out milk (I hasten to add I have never actually done this).

8.  I want to be an example.  I wish I'd had breastfeeding women around me when I had my son.  I want to be an example to my sisters, my friends, my daughter and the women that wander past while I am feeding.  I hope that I may be the source of handy tips or that I aid the process of normalisation a bit. 

9.  Biology.  I am a biology teacher and have a degree in that field.  OK, so marine biology has very little to do with lactation (except whales - I'd love to see a whale breastfeed, what do their nipples look like?).  Nonetheless I have a fascination with living things.  Breastfeeding is so interesting.  The tissue structure, the hormonal regulation, the synthesis of the stuff (there were too many big words for a minute so I felt I needed a 'stuff').  Also, it's quite amazing really that there aren't any visible holes but milk comes out all the same.  I had always thought it would be a single jet, but no its more like a shower head.  See, biology is cool.

10.  Smell.  Apparently the baby's poo doesn't smell as bad.  My baby stinks enough already.  This is a good reason.

These are my top 10 reasons.  Nobody else's, just mine.  People make their own choices about their own way to feed their baby, be it breast, combined or formula.  We each have our own reasons.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Breast friends

At the weekend one of my best friends came over for a catch up.  She is the writer of fab literary blog 'Victoria Friedman's Wardrobe of Words'.  When baby needed feeding I, stupidly, apologised for getting my boobs out.  She laughed and said I was ridiculous.  She had a point.  As she said, she has probably seen my breasts a hundred times.  Not because we flash each other a lot for fun, but because we went to school together. OK, that sounds weird too, I didn't go to some kind of crazy topless school.  We used to have to get changed and shower communally for PE. For a start, school changing rooms always seemed to be the most dingy depressing places in the world.  But also, I hated this nude experience so much that I claimed every week to have a period to get out of it.  The teacher never seemed to notice that my period had been going on for about 6 months.  When this was questioned I then claimed to have a verruca for a while.  If the teacher wasn't in the changing rooms to check on us then none of us would have a shower.  To fool her we would wet our feet and shoulders in the shower room and then run around to leave wet footprints everywhere.  What disgusting, sweaty beasts we were.  Although I can't remember clearly, I am betting that the fragrant Miss Friedman always showered.

Seems then that I was always a bit uncomfortable with nudity.  Stupid really.  We're all the same after all. Is it any wonder we have issues with breastfeeding in front of others when we took such great steps to avoid flashing our friends in our adolescence.

 Anyway, I guess my new found liberation has been noted by my husband.  When he entered the room he just muttered 'Oh, she's already got her boobs out has she, she does that now that she has a blog.'  :D