Bye bye boobie

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25 May 2014.

Pegasus Air flight.

Somewhere over Europe…

What’s the significance?

It was my last breastfeed…

 

I struggled to start and continue breastfeeding, but once I had the hang of it I had set my mind on doing it until 6 months.  Once it settled down I decided to continue until a year old.  Whilst I had days and weeks moments of doubt where I felt trapped, like a milk machine and frustrated that no one else could look after my baby because of the boob addiction, by 9 months Jem went down to feeding only in the morning and last thing at night so it was manageable.  I even discovered that if I went out in the evening (about once a month I have an evening meeting for my voluntary work) although he wouldn’t take a bottle he would settle to sleep without milk with the Turk.  I began to question what he was really getting from breastfeeding, but given that it was only twice a day for about 5 minutes I figured that even if it was only for comfort or routine I could live with it.

In fact I was planning on continuing this pattern even when I returned to work, but Jem took a different view.  When we were on holiday shortly after his first birthday he didn’t seem bothered about his morning feed, in fact twice he went without it and didn’t bother at all!  By the final week of our holiday when I tried to feed him in the evening he actually burst into giggles (RUDE!) when I tried to feed him and was more interested in playing.

I can take a hint…

On the flight home Jem slept for an hour and then got very fussy, singing, toys, breadsticks, leftover simit, rice cakes didn’t do the trick so I broke out the failsafe booby distraction to try and stop invoking the rage from the other passengers.  He was still very tired so I thought it might make him nod off…it did not.

Anyway, what I didn’t appreciate at the time was that this was it.  When we came home I decided to start the “real” milk, and Jem loved it.  I was really surprised as he never really took to formula, it took months to get him to drink ANY water and when I tried cow milk before he wasn’t bothered.  Perhaps it was because I warmed it, or maybe he was just ready to move on, whatever it was I had expected to wind down from the breast and have a month or so of switching over, but it wasn’t needed.

I was reading other blog posts around the time and Donna from Red Head Baby Led was writing about her experience of finishing breastfeeding and my NCT friends whom mostly fed up to 12 months were going through the same thing.  It struck me that they were all experiencing pain, engorgement or other niggles from finishing bf…but I wasn’t.  In fact for a couple of months I’d been back in pre-pregnancy bras, I literally had no “side effects” from stopping…

…I suspect that Jem had been rather taking me for a ride for a little while!

Well I’m not complaining, it was mixed but overall I’m pretty glad it’s over.

Although as this is probably my last opportunity to comment on breastfeeding can I direct you to the Two Boys One Mum blog, here, for what is probably my favourite ever post on this topic.

Poonami and adventures with water

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It is strange that prior to having a child it wouldn’t have occurred to me to speak to complete strangers about toilet habits, but that’s all changed…well in respect of the boy in any event.  The big saga of poo started at around 5 months when we took Jem to Turkey for 3 weeks (brave you say?…yes, I know!)  For some reason the boy decided that poo was no longer necessary, I was still exclusively bf at this point, so it was a bit strange, as bf mothers will know that breast milk can lead to rather a lot of poo.  Despite being freezing cold the entire time we were there (no I didn’t take a coat for either of us, but I did take a selection of t-shirts, vests and shorts…it’s Turkey, it’s supposed to be hot) we thought it might be dehydration so decided to try and feed him water.  Jem has never really taken to a bottle after a bout of bottle refusal at around 3 months so we resorted to warm water from a turkish tea glass, which worked pretty well in terms of drinking but had no effect on getting things moving.  Despite my intention not to start weaning until we returned to the UK I resorted to fresh figs.  These went down a treat…but still no movement.

Anyway naturally what I should have done was simply take him to an inconvenient location, literally seconds after sitting down to my kofte in a restaurant in a busy shopping centre the poonami arrived.  I’m not going to lie, it was not my finest moment.  The whole situation ended with me throwing his entire outfit in the bin, using up a whole bag of wet wipes as I frantically cleaned poo from legs, back and hands, and screaming for the Turk to come and help me out in the ladies room…

You’d think that this would teach me a lesson, but no…in the entire 3 weeks Jem only emptied himself 3 times while we were away…all 3 times we were in the same blooming shopping centre…

 

Post-script:

We recently returned to Turkey for another three weeks.  Jem only had one poonami.  It was in a shopping centre #motherhoodfail

Does your baby lead weaning…?

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Well weaning got off to a difficult start in our house, you may have read a previous post about the poo issues we had when away in Turkey, after several attempts at the Dr to fix this the only suggestions we stuck with were to try and get Jem to drink water.  Jem doesn’t drink water.  He only drinks breast milk.  I tried to reason with him, it didn’t work.  Anyway despite having read a friends BLW book from start to finish it became obvious that the only way to force him to ingest some extra fluids was to mix various foods with water in a puree and spoon feed him.

At the time I started weaning we were still squashed into our carpeted loft room with all our belongings.  Our beautiful new wooden highchair was given pride of place next to the sofa and we began the process.

Jem didn’t take to spoon feeding.  He did take to throwing his spoon and it’s contents on the floor and then rubbing any leftover puree into the crevices (of which there are many) on his highchair.  Not impressed.

Poo or no poo I decided that puree was not the way forward for us, and I reverted to large chunks of food, perhaps way beyond what was meant by BLW.  I was always told that BLW was far messier than puree, but when your baby is a food monster, like mine, it’s actually far easier.  From 6 months Jem has managed to devour whole pears, skin, seeds and all in a matter of seconds.  I treated it as somewhat of a party piece as people couldn’t believe it of such a tiny baby.

For the first couple of months he ate everything he could get his hands on (yes, including cat food, shoes and elastic bands…) and only after this he became more choosy.  Green vegetables are strictly off the menu at the moment, and whilst I of course want him to have a wide range of healthy food I don’t think that this is the age to have the argument (“food is for fun…” and all that jazz).  I keep trying, and Jem steadfastly gives me a look as he dispatches the offending green item over the side of the highchair.

To this day he has a voracious appetite, no one may eat within his sight unless he has a ready supply of ricecakes/bread/cheese/grapes or blueberries, but woe betide the person who attempts to give him broccoli…

On a recent trip to Turkey he discovered the joys of eating fruit from trees…that’s interesting when you walk through the park now!

 

If you would like to read some great posts about BLW please do check out the Red Head Baby Led blog which features some great guest posts on this topic.

Inlaws or Outlaws…

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I’ve never really had much of an issue with my inlaws, they live in a different country and don’t speak English…so whilst that creates some problems it also eases many of them.

The only real frustration arose during a visit with our baby, who was 5 months old.  It turns out that the Turkish parenting style is massively slightly different to my own.  Whereas in the UK there are several main themes of parenting, people tend to pick a style and then go along with this to some extent whilst incorporating bits of other styles and advice from others so they end up with a system that best suits their own family, because as far as I can see every child is different and there’s no “one size fits all” solution unfortunately.

Before we went away we had a pretty decent bedtime routine, Jem slept through the night or woke once for milk, he still fed a lot during the day but it was manageable and he napped pretty well although did have a tendency to cry when put down.  He has a cousin who lives in Turkey who is almost exactly 1 year older which is nice, and although the difference between a 6 month old and an 18 month old is huge it was interesting to see the effect of our different parenting styles.

The first issue was feeding, my inlaws were pretty convinced that I was effectively starving the baby.  Every whimper would result in enquiries of “are you going to feed him, he’s hungry”.  I found this really puzzling, he doesn’t cry that much but he was in the process of teething and on the verge of crawling so sometimes he would cry for reasons other than hunger…

The second issue was napping.  Apparently napping is unnecessary, and there’s no word for “overtired” as far as I can establish.  Jem would nap in the car but my inlaws thought I was being cruel by trying to put him down in his travelcot for a nap.  “Rock him” they said, taking him and rocking him to sleep.  I tried to explain that the reason I didn’t do this was because I was trying to encourage him to fall asleep in his cot so we could nap at home…it didn’t go down well.

If he cried in his cot he would be immediately picked up.  If they got chance loud singing and clapping would be employed to distract him from tiredness…whilst I tried to maintain our habit of quiet time.  I tried explaining that he often cried for a couple of minutes as he fell asleep, but again I was speaking a foreign language.

As we are about to venture to my inlaws again they are confused as to why we are again taking a cot when he could just sleep in our bed.  Issue 3: bed times.  In Turkey our nephew goes to bed when his parents go to bed, as they are often out in the evenings and don’t like to stay in.  He also has no nap routine but if he’s getting particularly tired they will rock him to sleep and then put him down on a bed.  Jem goes to bed at half 7 and as a VERY active 1 year old without something to contain him we are asking for trouble.  The inlaws think he can just stay up with us and really that napping is unnecessary so he could manage…I disagree!

Food will be an interesting issue this time, Jem was only just about to wean last time we went and although he will eat pretty much anything I still dread mealtimes there, we will have no highchair and from what I have seen soup is the primary food source for children (not his favourite thing!) and they tend to eat very late whereas I like Jem to have eaten an hour before bed.

*sigh*

It may be find, I may be overreacting – keep your fingers crossed for me!

(and don’t get me started on showering and bathing babies….)

 

Twitter -v- Forums, a beginners view…

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Whilst pregnant I became slightly obsessed with research about pregnancy (for those who know me you will appreciate that this was to be expected), books, DVDs, internet, daily emails, apps…and it was my discovery of forums.  I always thought that forums were a bit sad, I mean really, who sits around all day waiting for other people to type to you…anyway.

I started following my birth club on Babycentre, and whilst bits were useful once people started having all their babies I felt a little left out (I was due on 21 April but didn’t end up having my baby until 3 May…that’s a whole different month so birth club didn’t work for me so much…)

After I had my baby is when my serious forum addiction started.  I was obsessed, I was a member of several different forums, I consulted them on EVERYTHING, every little panic or niggle.  I got loads of breastfeeding support from them (I needed it, bf didn’t get any easier for us until after 4 months), and just knowing that someone else was in the same position (well a similar position) was incredibly useful.  I had email notifications every time something new was posted, you name it, traumatic birth, bf, rhesus negative mums…I was into them all.  As time passed I became slightly less obsessed, and stopped checking the forums, I think it tied in with becoming slightly more relaxed about having to look after a baby in general, and when I realised that they are in fact all so different that it’s hard to apply someone else’s situation to your own baby.  In fact when for some unknown reason my update emails stopped coming through I didn’t even notice.  In fairness I was always more of a lurker than a poster, I found some of the interactions a bit uncomfortable and needy (apart from my own of course…)  Even now I look back and think, how did I manage to spend so many hours on the internet looking at forum posts. Of course the answer is easy, I had a tiny baby who fed for 45 minutes every 2 hours and in between slept in 30 minute bursts but only if he was sleeping on me.  I was rooted to the sofa, I couldn’t move, and quite frankly (apart from watching Gems TV #guiltypleasure…) I had nothing else to do.  I really had little other support, my parents live quite far and have a “different parenting approach”, and the Turk is a ‘hands off’ parent/husband (this will be interesting when he becomes a stay at home dad in June…) who was trying to renovate our house so I barely saw him (heard him a lot…regularly he would shout up the stairs and ask why the baby was still crying…I didn’t know why…I was still crying too but I don’t think that bothered him as much…) so my forums became a surrogate family along with my fabulous NCT group (with thanks to Whatsapp).

From the time I lost interest in the forums at around 4/5 months I haven’t really had much online interaction (apart from Facebook obviously!) but as my friends return to work I find myself more and more alone and have issues such as returning to work on my mind.

Forums didn’t really do it this time, what I needed now was less reassurance and more of an opportunity to talk (hence blogging) so I gave twitter another go.  I’ve had a couple of twitter accounts over the years, the first my own and I used it in the run up to our wedding, my mum didn’t use Facebook so it was a nice way of communicating for us as a family.  Then I had an account for entering competitions (this didn’t last long!) but I thought I’d give it another go.

I’ve since discovered the joy of interacting in 160 characters.  When using it previously I thought it was a bit pointless, what can you say in such a short space?  I hadn’t realised you could get such an impression of someone through their tweets.  Admittedly it’s led me towards a number of cathartic blogs too, but I have loved the immediate interaction of Twitter and am amazed and overwhelmed at the proliferation of parent-tweeters  and #pbloggers (yes I know what it means thanks to helpful twitterers!!!)  I’ve heard a lot about the unpleasantness that can be found in social networks, which I can imagine is terrible for those affected, but I have been truly heartened by the loveliness and support that can be found in Twitterees.

In short, for me Twitter wins hands down…until the next pregnancy perhaps…!?

Do you NCT…?

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We debated a long time about doing the NCT course, it is a lot of money and although heavily recommended to me, it seemed essentially I was paying to make friends.  I already have friends, did I really need more?

A friend had a baby 18 months ahead of us and seemed to get on really well with her NCT group initially, even moving next door to one of them!  However as time went on some of the love appeared to be lost and I heard about competitiveness, in-fighting and flakiness (as the queen of flake I rather forgive the last one…)

During one of my many panics about having a baby I signed us up and forked out the extortionate amount to find new friends.  I  had to make the decision about whether to do evenings over a course of days or a weekend intense course.  Also the location on the basis of courses running around my due date, we were slap in between the “yummy mummies” of Crouch End and Tottenham…Crouch End was closer, but I was anxious about mixing with the better off…I decided to risk the posh and to close my ears to any talk of expensive buggies.

The course started on a Saturday morning, we were on time…ish (a great achievement when anything involves the Turk), and luckily there was a familiar face as I had met one of the other mums at my pregnancy yoga class the week before (more on this another time).  The tutor was a shock, she wasn’t what I expected, and she definitely rubbed some in the group up the wrong way, but luckily both the males and females in our group were so laid back that there was no fuss (just something to discuss in the pub later…)

The course in a nutshell – I learned loads, whilst she may not be everyone’s cup of tea the tutor was superb, not a rule follower, frank, honest and not overly “NCT”.  That may sound mean as the NCT is a fantastic charity, but I had always seen them as pushing breastfeeding and natural birth, whilst there’s nothing wrong with either of these things, you know sometimes, you just don’t need it ramming down your throat.  Of course we all wanted the best for the birth and feeding, but we also came out of there with a realistic attitude, which was handy as 3 out of 7 of our babies were born by c-section, one of them only a week after the end of the course!  She understood what was needed, I had never held a baby before so naturally I was forced to go hands on with the doll, but as someone who hates “roll play” I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point.  Even more importantly I didn’t freak out about the epidural and felt less scared of it (which was handy as I ended up having one…after 3 attempts by the anesthetist…fun).  Overall the course was worth the cost even if I did resent paying for it.

Even more importantly, whilst I still don’t believe money can buy you love,  I have made firm friends.  We were lucky, our group all get on really well, we met up every week for the first 6 months or so and took a really laid back approach, meeting in different places on an ad hoc basis, those who wanted turned up and those who didn’t or couldn’t wouldn’t!  Perhaps the weather helped, we spent a lot of time in the fabulous parks that Haringey has to offer, and a year on we had our first 2014 park meet up yesterday…those of us who weren’t at work…

It is getting more difficult, I am the only one not yet back at work, but as I am also going back full time I know that it is going to be hard for me to see much of those lovely ladies and their babies.  A couple of our group are planning on moving further afield and my heart sinks at the prospect of not seeing those babes on a weekly basis.  I would love to think that our children will grow up together, even as ‘out of school’ friends as we are spread across the borough, but I have to be realistic and just be thankful for the time we have.

The reason I write this post is because this Sunday we had a joint first birthday party for all our babies and it really moved me knowing all these mamas before they gave birth and having had the privilege of sharing their first year with them.  Whilst these may not have been the aim of the NCT course I thought I would share with you what I have learned as a result of it:

  1. Never judge mummies by their yumminess, much to my shock the group were neither posh, competitive or bitchy.  I love them all and their individual fabulousness.
  2. Babies are delightful, a bit scary, but worth it.
  3. Babies are all different in just about every way, there’s nothing wrong with asking advice, but don’t expect anyone else to have been through it.
  4. Everyone copes differently.
  5. Men need to know more about breastfeeding.
  6. True friends will be there for you when you suffer a poonami in the park, anyone who offers to help with said poonami is an angel.
  7. Wine always helps.
  8. Mums can still be super cool & a bit crazy.
  9. No one’s life is perfect.
  10. Life doesn’t need to be perfect.

 

PS. On a side note whilst our NCT tutor didn’t shove the benefits of breastfeeding down our throats, but took a sensible approach, all of us breastfed up to 7 months, and at 1 year 5 of us are still going 🙂

 

Breastfeeding abroad…tales from my offensive breast

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When Jem was 5 months old we took him to Turkey to visit his grandparents.  I was settled into bf by this point and although a little anxious about travelling keen to go before we started weaning.

“How do women bf in Turkey” I asked the Turk.  “Dunno” he said. [note to self: this should have been my first warning].

“Could you ask your mum/sister/sister-in-law” I asked the Turk.  “Ok” he replied.

Long story short I find myself on an aeroplane none the wiser about the attitude towards bf.  In my head Turkey is the kind of country that actively encourages bf, therefore presumably it’s pretty acceptable. I am equipped with my bebe au lait nursing cover (an expense I wasn’t convinced about but once I had it wished I had one earlier).  This assumption was incorrect, I later found out that take up of bf is relatively low, despite Government policy to encourage exclusive bf until 6 months.  Upon arrival at my in-laws I was desperate to feed, we’d had 2 hours in the airport and over an hour in the incredibly hot and un-airconditioned car without a feed…that was a long time in Jem’s world.  I was encouraged to feed, but in the bedroom, away from the men.  OK so I accept my father in law may not want to see my boobs, but I am pretty discrete having finally got the hang of it, and I had my nursing cover.  Jem was desperate for a feed so I went with it and was glad to get him away from the hysteria of family reuniting anyway.

What I didn’t really appreciate at the time was that this was how every feed would be, at any cry my in-laws would insist that Jem was hungry (he wasn’t he was usually tired…but they don’t believe in tiredness in Turkey – more on this in another rant post!) so I would be banished to another room to feed.  Whilst out the next day I horrified my mother in law by suggesting I feed using my nursing cover, again I had to resort to sitting in the car out of public view.  I was getting confused, for such a bunch of people who clearly wanted me to feed my baby as frequently as possible they didn’t want me to do it around them!

In supermarkets or shopping centres I discovered something interesting.  The baby changing rooms were usually great, clean, large, sometimes with supplies, good quality changing tables and mats and hand washing facilities.  This wasn’t all, they were almost always equipped with somewhere to sit, often a comfy high backed chair with arm rests ideal for nursing.  Whilst my story is generally negative about the experience I had, I really wish I could transpose this good practice to the UK, all changing rooms should be somewhere pleasant to sit and feed your baby rather than a cubby hole created just because you “have to” have somewhere to enable parents to change their baby.

I would never sit in a public toilet to feed my child and in the UK I’ve fed all over the place, so whilst I appreciate that there were lovely locations to feed in Turkey, having worked so hard to become a competent bf’er  I really resented the feeling of being sent away to feed my baby.  I understand that around the world there are different sensitivities to adapt to and I have no objection to being more discrete even than I might normally be, but it was a real shock to me to not feel able to even feed my (“starving“) baby in the living room if there were men present.  It made me feel unwanted, dirty and like I was doing something wrong.  I have never felt like this in the UK and that is why I am so pleased that recently so many women have made a stand against negative attitudes towards bf.  I think it is now relatively uncommon to have such a reaction towards bf in the UK, but I appreciate that only a few short years ago many women would have felt the same as I do now.  Given the changing attitude in this country to bf I believe we should all do our utmost to ensure free and open opportunities for bf, it is only through this that we will be able to encourage mums like me who struggled so much with bf to be able to continue.  When I started bf I had genuinely never seen anyone close to me nursing their baby, I had no idea how to hold a baby or what it should be like, I felt it was shrouded in some great mystery!  I hope that my open approach and that of others is helping to demystify the process and encourage more and more mums to try bf and overcoming a fear that it is somehow offensive for others to see.

Breast of both worlds…?

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So breastfeeding (bf) has been in the news a lot today (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-26592340), it’s interesting because my views on bf are rather mixed, prior to getting pregnant I didn’t brelike bf in public, it made me uncomfortable BUT I have always felt very strongly that the right to bf in public is one which must be protected.  When I became pregnant I was adamant that I would bf until 6 months, it never occurred to me that there were likely to be any issues or difficulty, surely it’s the most natural thing in the world…?

Naturally I duly attended my NCT bf session (without partners) and prepared myself to feed easily, quickly and without messy time consuming formula and sterilising.

Those who know me will know that the birth didn’t exactly go to plan, but who cares, this couldn’t affect my ability to bf surely…

Well at first baby wouldn’t latch, a midwife in hospital resolved this with some rather painful grabbing and shoving…it wasn’t great but I was so desperado to be home I didn’t really care because technically it meant the baby had fed so I could be released.  BIG mistake.  The first night we were home my tiny baby produced extraordinarily loud noises and refused to feed…he did however sleep through the night.  BAD, apparently very bad.  Long story short when the midwife came out the next day the Turk was immediately sent out for formula, babe hadn’t fed for 24 hours and was at risk of being pulled back into hospital.  “Wake the baby every 3 hours and feed some formula, I’ll be back tomorrow.”

We got through the day (albeit rather traumatised as my view on formula was that it was effectively like poisoning my baby) and set the alarm for 3 hours when we went to bed.  Luckily revived Jem didn’t allow us to miss his feeds and duly woke up every 2 hours for his formula.  The next day with the help of nipple shields he managed to latch and our difficult, frustrating and painful bf journey began.  I’m not going to lie it hurt a lot, and no amount of lactation consulting or forum whinging helped.  I became acquainted with “lipstick nipple” (google if you must) and tears at feeding time, I had a further formula panic when he wouldn’t feed one evening, but that didn’t go down very well and my lactation consultant took the view that missing a feed wouldn’t kill him (…whereas formula feeding clearly could given the look on her face when I mentioned I’d broken into my giant tin of SMA…) and a friend directed me to fussy evenings on Kellymom.com.

It did take 4 months of pain and struggling before it got easier, not helped by my frequent hysterical refusals to bf and the Turk’s shrugged shoulders and comments of “just get formula then” (note to younger self: take the Turk to the NCT bf session) but at 10 months it’s so so much easier for me than formula.  Admittedly I feel frustrated that Jem won’t take a bottle so my nights out were a no go until recently, but now I’m through the other side I think the difficulty is like childbirth, you forget just how bad it was.

Where am I going with this, well the answer is I’m not sure.  For me bf has been really positive (in the long term) and I don’t intend to stop until I go back to work at 13 months…and (shock horror) maybe not even then!  Knowing what a difficult journey it has been I have been really delighted to see the amazing rallies today of bf mothers supporting the right to bf wherever and whenever you want.

That doesn’t mean that formula is bad (and I have learned it’s certainly not evil), but it’s not right for everyone.  I have friends who formula fed from birth and have great stories about this, I have friends who switched to formula at 6 weeks but their babies still don’t sleep through the night.

Personally I admire mums who are mums, I don’t care how they feed their baby.  In fact as well as admiring bf (because I know how hard it can be) I also secretly admire formula mums, and not only because they have to do a lot of work to feed their baby.  I spend a significant amount of time wondering how bottle feeding mums get their babies to stop crying when they bang their heads, as sticking a boob in Jem’s mouth can solve pretty much any problem in his life (hence why I’m now actually scared of stopping…they must have another trick…?)