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Archive for the ‘Breastfeeding’ Category

1. Feeding the baby, I realise that this is a beautiful thing, that we’re lucky enough to do together several times a day.

2. At the park with two little preschooler friends. We all play together. I ride on the seesaw with my friend’s son; every time I check whether he’s had enough and wants to get off, he replies with a firm “No”, and we bounce for about 15 minutes, talking about planes and lawnmowers and watches. Baby is in the sling on my back and bounces off to sleep. Later we’re playing and my four-year-old friend pulls me around by the hand, looking for the pirate captain’s missing brother in jellyfish-infested waters.

3. Toddler’s new CD’s arrive. Instead of listening to Paddington in the car (again!) we have Winnie the Pooh, read by Alan Bennett. The children both fall asleep and I carry on listening regardless.

4. Teatime. More creative playing with food. Perhaps I should discourage this, but at the moment I love it. His pieces of fishfinger are arranged into a caterpillar, a bird, an elephant (“here’s it’s head, Mummy, and here’s it’s toes”), a frog, and a kangaroo. He’s so inventive and full of ideas.

5. Baby is becoming an expert at the “How big is he..? This big!” game. He finds it utterly hilarious.

6. I make plans for Husband and I to go for lunch in a couple of weeks, by ourselves.

7. Husband gets up with Baby and I sleep soundly until 9.00 am.

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Ranting away about gifts over Christmas, I think I’ve worked out clearly where I stand on the ethics of spending on gifts. I think that everyone should have the right to buy whatever they like, for themselves and for others. If they want to spend a large proportion of their wages (or indeed a small proportion of a very large wage) on hundreds of pounds worth of presents for their children, they should be free to do so. However, I am also free to make the judgement that excessive spending is morally wrong. I can judge that they’ve made a bad choice.

Personally, I don’t think that spending hundreds of pounds on gifts for young children is necessary. There are only so many toys they can play with and appreciate, only so many clothes they can wear. I’m nowhere near perfect but I think that living sustainably is important, and I think that buying big pieces of plastic for little babies who don’t care either way and would be happy to play with a cardboard box (or, indeed, with their older siblings’ outgrown toys) is wasteful on a lot of levels. However, not everybody agrees with me; people can and do choose to buy all manner of ‘stuff’. Logically, morally, I have to be cool with that.

The same applies to parenting choices. I choose to raise my children in an ‘attached’ way: I breastfeed, I carry my baby in a sling rather than a buggy, he sleeps in bed with me at night and often naps in a sling in the daytime (now that he’s bigger, mostly on my back in a Rose and Rebellion). I don’t choose to leave my children to cry (obviously sometimes it can’t be helped, but I’d never ever deliberately leave them to ‘cry it out’).

Again, not everyone agrees with me. I saw somebody on Twitter tonight saying that they were about to start ‘sleep training’ their 17 week old son. He was planning to use ‘controlled crying’. I think that what he’s planning is horribly cruel: teaching a tiny baby that nobody will come when he cries, so that he finally gives up and stops crying. But obviously some parents think it’s a good idea: teaching a tiny baby to fall asleep by himself so that everyone can get a solid night’s sleep and be well-rested for daytime. Short term pain, long term gain?

There’s no absolute to decide who’s right. Obviously I think I’m right, or I wouldn’t be parenting the way I am. But that doesn’t mean I am right. If I want to say “people shouldn’t be allowed to make this choice for their babies” then there’s no logical reason why the ‘rule’ couldn’t be “people shouldn’t be allowed to co-sleep” or “babies must be independent from week 1”. I want the freedom to parent the way I choose, so I have to allow everyone that freedom.

My instinct was to say to the guy on Twitter “Are you crazy? Why would you want to train a tiny helpless mammal to sleep in his own room by himself all night?!”. But I wouldn’t appreciate it if people started challenging my parenting choices. If I want the right to raise my child the way I choose, I have to afford that right to everyone else. So I said nothing. I just try to carry on doing my thing with my kids, tend to gravitate towards like-minded people, and relax about everyone else.

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Some of my big passions: breastfeeding, feminism, truth and accurate information, have been at the forefront of my mind today. Amy at And One More Means Four… And One More recently submitted a post about her personal breastfeeding experience to Baby BornFree’s blog (you can read the full post and comments here). The post was picked up by a Facebook group called Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths and they highlighted some of the points that Amy made as ‘bad advice’ (the full thread is available here and I highly recommend it as, unsurprisingly, it dispels some common misconceptions about breastfeeding). Some of the initial comments were pretty harsh towards Amy’s post; she responded very graciously and the discussion seems to have had a positive conclusion. Liz picked up the story on her Living with Kids blog and I think that the main focus of her post meant that the activities of DBM were interpreted by some in the wrong way.

Liz wrote about women who criticise other women’s choices, and the comments moved on to discuss people who criticise those who choose to formula feed or combine feed. There were comments about women undermining other women and about the ‘Breastapo’ pushing breastfeeding and trying to make other women feel guilty or inferior for not breastfeeding.

I don’t think this is what the DBM comments intended at all. Amy’s blog post was her own personal experience; she was very clear that she was talking about what worked for her. However, posting a personal experience on your own blog and posting it on a corporate blog is quite a different thing. When a company publishes something, readers expect that content to be authoritative. DBM were criticising BornFree, who as a company have a responsibility to publish accurate advice. They weren’t criticising Amy as a person, they were criticising the way that the company had chosen to use her words and experience.

The post was particularly contentious because BornFree manufacture bottles. On the face of it, they have an interest in encouraging people to use formula, as (assuming that most of those who breastfeed exclusively don’t express for every feed) more formula feeding = more bottle sales. Given those circumstances, I think it’s only reasonable for readers to consider BornFree’s motives in publishing such a post. (Personally, I don’t think BornFree are operating an evil conspiracy to undermine breastfeeding. I think they’ve naively tried to engage parents and been ignorant of their responsibilities as a bottle manufacturer. But I respect everyone’s right to inquire, investigate and form their own opinion.)

I wholeheartedly support every woman’s right to make her own choices, and I hope I’d never make anyone feel inferior because of a decision they’ve made about their child. I think it’s deplorable when women criticise other women’s personal decisions, whether to cover their own insecurities, make themselves feel superior or whatever. I know that there are plenty of women out there who choose to formula feed, and I respect that choice.

The women I’m concerned about are those who want to breastfeed their baby, but for some reason don’t or can’t. Before birth, 70% of women say that they want to breastfeed their baby, yet only 45% are exclusively breastfeeding at one week and only 21% by six weeks. (Infant Feeding Survey 2005) What is going wrong for all these women? Is lack of support, or lack of good information, a factor in why they aren’t able to fulfil the choice they’ve made?

I think that questioning, challenging, and searching for the facts is a good way to behave. The women commenting about Amy’s post weren’t criticising her choice. They were they were questioning a company that added weight to her opinions and presented them to a wide audience as fact. I think that in challenging incorrect information about breastfeeding they were actually doing a service to women, enabling them to access information and support them in sticking to the choices they’ve made.

Of course parents should make their own choices about how they bring up their children. From childbirth to vaccinations to sleeping arrangements to education, we’re all looking at the evidence, weighing it up and making the best decisions we can every day. But to make these choices properly and fairly, people need to be presented with accurate and true information. I think that’s crucially important and I’ll support it all the way.

I haven’t commented on the detail of Amy’s advice as it’s all covered in the DBM Facebook thread. However, if you’re looking for information on breastfeeding, I’d recommend KellyMom as an excellent source of evidence-based breastfeeding advice.

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Today my baby is six months old. The time has gone quickly – it doesn’t seem so long ago that you and I first met, in a bright, white room surrounded by doctors and midwives.

At five days overdue and weighing in at 10lb 14oz (yes, you read that right!) you were quite a sight to behold. The newborn clothes that we’d brought to hospital didn’t even fit you. I’d never spent a night apart from your brother then all of a sudden here I was, starting all over again with a brand new baby. I’d never been one of the mothers who wonders whether they’ll love their second child as much as their first. I always knew I’d love you, but still I’ve been surprised just how much it is possible to love. Our little family is complete.

Of course, in other ways the time seems to have gone slowly. When I think of the early days, of all the times you screamed while I frantically tried to get your brother dressed, of the times you wanted feeding all day or the times we all shouted and cried… those days sometimes seemed to last for years.

Yet for all the challenging times, there have been wonderful moments that make up for the tears 100 times over.

My poor baby has suffered indignities at the hands of his big brother.

He has been squashed, bitten and enthusiastically licked by a toddler learning to express his love and affection.

He has stretched, reached, rolled over.

He has spent hours and hours drinking litres and pints of breastmilk.

Most of all, he has smiled his way through life.

 

 

 

 

Today my son has reached the grand old age of six months. So today we start a new adventure. Baby, welcome to the world of food!

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Breastfeeding rates in this country are shockingly low. Only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months. (Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative) The reasons for this are complex and intertwined. There isn’t enough support for breastfeeding mothers: maternity wards are short staffed, with many midwives having no up-to-date breastfeeding training and those that do often too busy to attend to struggling new mothers. Health professionals are often ill-informed and unsupportive, quick to recommend formula as a solution not just to feeding problems, but to sleep issues, post-natal depression and a host of other problems.

The biggest issue, though, is that breastfeeding is simply not seen as ‘normal’ in most parts of society. Young women having a baby today are unlikely to have been breastfed, or to have seen a baby being breastfed by their family or friends. Many women won’t even have held a baby until their own baby is born. There simply isn’t the natural support network that there might have been, say, eighty years ago, when babies were raised as part of an extended family network.

The prevalence of artificial feeding in the media and in society means that breastfeeding is too often perceived as unusual at best and weird, freakish and disgusting at worst. There are shelves upon shelves of formula in the supermarket. The accepted image for a ‘feeding room’ (the special little windowless cupboards in shopping centres, often complete with nappy changing area and stinking bin full of nappies, where women are expected to hide away and breastfeed) is a bottle.

One of the few things the government has successfully done to counter this trend is to ban all advertising of formula for babies under six months of age. Of course, formula companies got round this by introducing ‘follow on milk’, which they can and do advertise as a way of promoting their infant formula brand. Their blatant disregard for the spirit of the law in their unwavering pursuit of profit, along with all the issues above, can make a breastfeeder feel pretty despondent.

But my heart was lifted a little when I saw my baby record card, which my mother had kept since my birth in 1983. I was absolutely astounded to see, right there on the card issued by the NHS to each and every baby, a half-page advertisement for Gold Cap SMA formula. Yes, the advert has the usual disclaimers that breast milk is the “preferred” feeding method, but the majority of the text (not to mention the very presence of the advert) serves to seriously undermine breastfeeding.

“Infant formula is intended to replace or supplement breast milk when breast feeding is not possible or is insufficient”

The reality is that with the right advice, breastfeeding is rarely not possible. It’s even less likely that established breastfeeding would be ‘insufficient’ – if a baby is fed on demand (rather than attempting to impose some arbitrary routine or schedule) then the body will naturally produce more milk to meet the baby’s increasing needs. The advert for formula, appearing on an official and authoritative document, likely to be referred to when mothers are worrying about their baby’s weight and at their most vulnerable, could only serve to undermine breastfeeding. That the NHS would accept payment from formula manufacturers for advertising space in this way shows how little they valued and supported breastfeeding back in 1983.

There’s still a long way to go to normalise breastfeeding again and for society to support breastfeeding mothers. However, when I see evidence like this of where we’ve come from, I feel that at least we’re heading in the right direction, and that one day, eventually, we might get back to doing things as nature intended.

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I’ve ummed and ahhed a bit about doing this post, as for some reason I’m slightly paranoid about posting photos of myself on my blog. But logically, I already have a public Flickr photostream, I have photos of myself on both my Twitter accounts, plus various other places across the internet. If anyone wanted to hunt me down and stalk me, they could probably do so quite easily – an extra picture or two on my blog isn’t going to make much difference.

So, for those who are struggling with what to wear to a wedding when breastfeeding, or carrying a three-month-old baby, or indeed both, here’s what I wore:

The dress (which unfortunately I don’t have any good pictures of) is from Laura Ashley. It’s dark purple with light purple spots, has a crossover front which can be pulled aside for breastfeeding (the advantages of a wrap dress, but without the flapping skirt accidentally showing too much leg) and a wide ruffled waistband ideal for disguising the dreaded mummy tummy.

The sling is a Calin Bleu gauze wrap. I started with a ‘natural’ and dyed it in my washing machine using Dylon ‘French Lavender’. I’ve been wearing it for a few weeks to break it in, and on the day it worked brilliantly: BabyC went in and out with no bother, taking all his naps in there, and falling sound asleep at 8.00 pm until we left at 11.00 pm. Success!

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