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Attachment parenting, Babywearing, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping, Featured, Parenting

5 inspiring Breastfeeding Images that normalise nursing

1 April, 2016

I am always delighted when I stumble across breastfeeding images and attachment parenting in historical photos or art. It seems to affirm a strong belief of mine- that society’s discomfort at public breastfeeding and other intuitive forms of parenting is a modern phenomenon.

Allow these breastfeeding images to be a salve on the wound caused by the public shaming of breastfeeding mothers.

Some of history’s best artists and the world’s most sophisticated fine art deal with the beautiful act of nursing – try fitting the word “tramp” in to some of these situations.

Come and take a stroll through some of my absolute favourite natural parenting paintings by some of my favourite artists…Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

La Maternite
Auguste Renoir
1885

I love the everyday scenario of a mother perched on a wall to respond to her baby’s need. I feel like her eyes have the oxytocin glaze, that relaxed kind of high breastfeeding can sometimes produce.

Artist Stella Mertens says “Renoir – eternal continuity- this flesh remains bound to this flesh; monument to hope and love created by your genius.”

This image challenges those who say breastfeeding should be kept behind closed doors, that it is not to be done in public. Renoir’s breastfeeding image says “Anywhere the baby needs to be fed!”

The Three Ages of Life: Detail
Gustav Klimt
1905

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Oh, Klimt. A hero of mine depicting a passion of mine. Look at the connection between mother and child here! The vulnerability and the trust between them. There is a peace here in this deepest of sleeps; the contentedness of cosleeping.

The challenge here is for those who believe mother and child need to be separated at night. This is not “normal” for much of the world! Sleeping entwined, with ready access to breastfeeding is a beautiful thing for both mother and child, and has been for millennia.

Mother and Child
Jose Orozco
1919

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

One of the first things strangers often remark when they see my large baby on back is “Gosh, you must have a strong back!” As if it is a hardship. I love this picture as it perfectly shows that babywearing is no hardship, no maternal sacrifice. There is pleasure here. A woman able to work, to create, while nurturing a child. The child is intrigued – mother is opening doors to the world and the child is in the perfect place to discover it all.

This mother’s breasts here feel like the tools that they are! The instruments of motherhood, rather than anything to be objectified. This breastfeeding image normalises the presence of breasts in everyday life.

Utamao Breastfeeding - Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Young Mother Giving Milk to Her Son
Utamaro
1753 – 1806 (Woodcut undated)

This baby is guzzling like a champion and he has that look on his face that nursing babies often get – a sort of pride at nailing this breastfeeding business. I love the delight on the mother’s face and I love that these are expressions that have crossed the faces of millions of nursing mothers and babies over the course of history.

There is something of an older child’s knowing in this rascal’s face, perhaps an agelessness. It isn’t historically, or globally, normal to constantly ask mothers after 3 months of nursing “when are you weaning him?” When the child is done, that is when! My own photos of breastfeeding my two older children are here.

Utamaro, what a legend.

Stanisław Wyspiański
Motherhood
19055 images that normalise breastfeeding

It’s that artist, you know, Stanisław Wyspiański, whose name just rolls off the tongue. Hehe.

The thing I love about “Motherhood” is the expressions on all the faces. There isn’t really much romanticising of breastfeeding here! (Which I would hate to do.) Breastfeeding for me was surprisingly painful. In fact, despite knowing many breastfeeders, having huge support, having been breastfed and having read billions of books about the importance of breastfeeding there was a day early on where I thought “I CANNOT DO THIS” – it was too painful. I was shocked and even a bit hurt, emotionally. It seems a common part of the breastfeeding journey. A deep need to concentrate, to work at it, to push through until you arrive at the place where it really comes naturally. I feel like of all the breastfeeding images I have chosen, this one sums that up! There is a sort of desperate hope in the mother’s expression, and an intrigue from her friends (or La Leche league support team) that could almost make this painting be captioned “That’s it, good latch there mama!”

I would love to hear about your favourite breastfeeding images.

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping

Co sleeping with toddler: The good and the bad

24 March, 2016

Co sleeping with toddler age kiddies is a bit of a mixed bag. In the middle of the night a few days ago Ramona shuffled over to Tim, climbed up so her bum was right in his face and did a whopping toot. Then she clambered back down to her spot and returned to sleep. Oh, how Tim and I didst laugh- the timing was impeccable.

Farts- when it comes to making a list of pros and cons of co sleeping with toddler or baby – where do they come? No one likes little clouds of excrement in their nostrils but the comical effect of tiny bottom coughs are right up there. It is a dilemma, for sure. I’ll have to leave it hanging in the midst there.

Now, we always knew we would cosleep. We didn’t even buy a crib. (Read about this beautiful family who came round to the idea of co sleeping – Thalia has a whole series on their co sleeping process!) And I have to say, the good side has always, since day one, outweighed the bad. You can read all my writing on co sleeping here.

Here is the rest of my list.co sleeping with toddler

THE PROS OF CO SLEEPING WITH TODDLER RAMONA

  • My toddler’s morning kisses are definitely number one. Ramona wakes up, stretches and immediately finds my face for a kiss, as if she is so stoked to begin a new day with me as her mummy.
  • I am with her through her dreams and nightmares. Co sleeping allows me to hear her giggle in her sleep and I equally love that when she whimpers with fright or discomfort she somehow knows I am just a breath away.
  • Co sleeping provided another way for Tim to be with her through my maternity leave when he wasn’t getting to hang out with her nearly as much as me. There is a BEAUTY article here where a cosleeping daddy shares his thoughts.
  • Co sleeping has eased my transition back to part time work as I get to make up for any missed cuddles throughout the night. Just breathing in her hair as I go to sleep helps me to treasure her right now, in this very moment.
  • We didn’t have to spend any money on a baby room and crib. Our spare room is just a dumping ground spare room complete with double bed.
  • I like to think toddler co sleeping has given Ramona a real security around night times, that she will always associate bed time with comfort and met needs rather than being alone.
  • I am able to keep in touch with her potty needs, aware of her nightly wee rhythm and giving her chance to pee as soon as she needs it.


CONS OF CO SLEEPING WITH TODDLER RAMONA

  • Unlimited, non stop access to her milk source! Mostly this is fine, she only  helps her self one or two times a night and it isn’t enough to really wake either of us, but sometimes, like last night, it is NONSTOP and well, drives me a little, er, insane.
  • If Ramona wees the bed it is a whole load in the washing machine rather than a tiny little crib change.

 

Toddler co sleeping truth

Amazing illustration of toddler co sleeping postions on Howtobeadad.com

TODDLER CO SLEEPING PSEUDO-CONS
(things about toddler co sleeping that should be bad but aren’t really)

  • I definitely thought Ramona’s movement would bother us a bit more. We are pretty fortunate that she actually doesn’t shuffle around at all. When our little nephew used to come and stay he would Jazz Hand us ALL NIGHT and we vowed to never have our kiddies in bed!
  • A few people have mentioned the lack of marital space which I agree I thought initially would be an issue for us. However I don’t really have those distinctions in my mind – “Tim and I”/ “Ramona” – I just kind of see us as one little family, sharing everything and doing life all together. We make an effort to spend a day alone together every now and then, and
  • I also thought I would struggle with Ramona’s lack of “sleep independance” but since her arrival I have had a total turn around on this and instead feel like it is just natural for her to need the comfort of us for a while.

I really love hearing stories of people’s cosleeping experiences –this nice article by Dr Sears has lots of parents talking about the “protective effect” of cosleeping.

What are some of the things you love about cosleeping? And some of the things you find hard?

 

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Parenting

Beyond Bitty – 100 other Names for Breastfeeding

18 March, 2015

100 Names for Breastmilk beyond bitty

I am so excited about this post, I am sitting in a cafe using their rubbish (but existent) wifi beaming my face off. It has been such a pleasure pulling together all the names toddler have for breastfeeding out there. They cover different languages, most of them have been generated by the children themselves and a few have been passed down through generations. Some of them clearly come from similar meanings and then some of them are just totally wild. Olivia and Donald? Finky and Dumper? Hardly a Bitty in sight! Unbridled imagination – (don’t crush it!!)

A child’s word for breastmilk and the act of feeding is very often one of their first, and often introduced into the family dictionary. It must feel pretty special for a child to have their own word, for something that is so important to them, taken on and used. How perfect to feel so valued and trusted and a part of things. I feel like this list symbolises some of that trust, and the trust inherent in the intimate breastfeeding relationship.

We live in a society where it is common to hear people say “I don’t mind breastfeeding- but as soon as a child is old enough to ask for it, then they are TOO OLD.”

This is a rebel anthology- declaring this position to be an untruth. The moment babies are born they find ways to ask for it, and the moment they find WORDS to ask for it is the doorway to a whole new amazing experience.

Society’s distaste for breastfeeding older children is totally misplaced- in fact,  *breaking news*, massive, longitudinal study just published seem to show that the longer a child is breastfed, the more “successful” she is.

This anthology of names for breastfeeding feels important to me because the word bitty has become so associated with the mockery of nursing an older child. (Thanks Little Britain!)

Let’s celebrate the connection, the emotional and physical needs that are met in breastfeeding, by revelling in this joyous list. MILKY BOOBIES, THE OTHER ONE: ROCK ON BREASTFEEDING TALKERS! You yell your milk cry across the room, go right ahead- show the world that it is normal and right and magnificent to be a breastfeeding child. Beyond Bitty - what toddlers call breastmilk!

Commonalities
There were one or two variations on “mummy milk” present but without a doubt the one that came up over and over and over (ten times!) was “Other side”. This is funny and astonishing! It just shows how much our children tune in to everything from a youngest age. Obviously, we don’t tend to say “Milkies” throughout a nursing session but we far more frequently offer, during the act, “Other side?!” Brilliant.

Different Languages
Susu – Samoan word for milk/ breast (I am interested in the fact that Susu could be milk or breast? This doesn’t seem common?)
Maka- from the word Malako in Russian.
Leche – Spainish for milk
Lait- French for milk and Bord is French for other side.
Dudth is how the Hindi word for milk sounds.
Nyonya is remembered as Swahili slang.
Teta – Catalonion, for milk.

Stories
Here are a few of the accompanying stories…
Olivia and Donald: Lindsey explains “When he was 4 he started calling my boobs Olivia and Donald. Not really sure why. He’s a bit off the wall that one. “Olivia” was sometimes called “Big fat booby” due to the size discrepancy. Poor Donald wasn’t very popular…”
Dips: Abigail says “Because I had to undo the clip on my bra”
Feeju: Marnie “As in “Feed You””
Nulky nulky noo: Hanabee, “Her own poem dedicated to the joys of extended/ never ending breastfeeing.”
Booble: Mo says “This caused confusion one Christmas when we were looking at the wreath on the next door neighbour’s house and I said “That ones made of baubles!”

Big thanks to our brilliant Facebook community and Twitter peeps who collaborated and shared their lovely stories.

ALSO EXCITING: I AM ON YOUTUBE! AND HERE IS ONE OF MY FIRST VIDEOS:
You definitely didn’t think you could hack watching five minutes of someone breastfeeding their toddler, did you? Well, let’s just see if you can! I wanted to try and capture the frantic fun and mayhem involved with breastfeeding older children. I hit record and got it in five minutes straight off. Pahahaha. Breaking for a book. Yelling. All the laughter. Animal sounds. Hands up nostrils. Chest pummelling. It’s all there. Come and find me and subscribe on Youtube as I hope to be giving it a good bash this year.

Hehe, all the fun, eh.

Thank you for taking part in this breastfeeding anthology. And if your child DOES call it Bitty – good on them. Don’t stop them! The word can be reclaimed!

If you missed out it isn’t too late- add it in the comments 😀

PS – If you like this post share it all about – play a little part in normalising breastfeeding… !

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Parenting

A Breastfeeding Poem (also- I need your help!)

19 February, 2015

I wrote a little breastfeeding poem. Forgive my indulgence for publishing it!

Milk-cry

“BOOBOO!” You shout
Less crass than “BAPS!”
– the milk-cry of your sister.

Entangled elsewhere,
Hands dirty, arms full,
You dissolve;
“Booboobooboobooboobooooo.”

Sometimes, instead of “Mama!”
You try “Booboo?”
My sense, that milk is all I am to you,
manifest.

Then you call “Booboo!”
When you mean “Weewee!”
And I know it simply
Drips from your lips.

As natural as breathing;
Oxygen in/ “Booboo” out.
Sung through the day
Hummed in the night.

Our own home’s cuckoo;
Your heart-burst for Booboo.

breastfeeding poem

(Despite having written poetry since being able to scrawl letters, I’ve only one other time shared a poem with others and that was moons ago. So yeah, yikes. There it was.

My Grandad Harry, who is ninety, is a prolific poet, writing several verses every single day. He has had books of his beautiful poetry published and each Monday he shares a new poem on Facebook. How cool is that?

I’m not imagining emulating my Grandad, but when poet Natalie Goldberg wrote that writing doesn’t exist until it’s been heard or read, I felt that if I was going to give in to the urge of writing poetry then I must give fully to it, and hit publish every now and then.)

And now, I’d love your help

As I finished this poem I wondered about all the other milk-crys out there and thought I might like to make an anthology of them.

Ramona loves to hear the story of her own word, BAPS! (Always yelled.) She asks how I knew she meant Mama Milk and I tell her how it was always accompanied by her extending her arms, pumping her hands like she was milking a cow, and then climbing on to my lap and stuffing her head down the neck of my jumper.

What have your little ones called breastfeeding? Is there a story about it? If you don’t mind me sharing it on this blog, please do leave a comment with your own kiddo’s milk-cry.

Thank you!

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Featured, Parenting

Breastfeeding older children together

30 October, 2014

Ah, precious breastfeeding moments!. Just me and my little one… and my older one… and a small pink babushka doll… half a chewed orange… an awkward pair of fairy wings… and a small bunch of wild flowers. Breastfeeding older children can be quite a crowded experience!

Yet here we are!

*smiles brightly*

It’s not often we all squeeze up together like this, my two older children and I. Early on in my tandem breastfeeding experience I decided that three of us at once was too tricky for me to handle. (In one sense “tandem” is a good word- it brings to mind the gargantuan effort of tandem parachuting – a wild enough thing without another person tangled around you. But in another sense, it doesn’t quite do, as there are more than two involved. There are three of us trying to get our heads/ lips around this. I think “triptych breastfeeding” better captures the ungainly mechanisms of it all!)

Breastfeeding older children - Extended Tandem

Breastfeeding older children – Extended Tandem

What is it like breastfeeding older children?

18 month old Juno is in the stage of breastfeeding that makes me think that the whole “grass is greener” part of human nature begins early. She takes a few gulps on one side, then pats the other as if to test the waters, then moves over to the other one.
She isn’t quite at the inanimate objects sharing her milk stage (that began with Ramona at two, nursing a micromachine…) but she will often bring some kind of contribution. The marmite toast she is halfway through or a bit of lego she can’t leave behind.
Juno is restless… always on the go, climbing and discovering… when she snuggles in for Mummy Milk it is one of the few moments of stillness in her day. Her eyes flicker vacantly at the sky or our ceiling, I can almost see her processing all that has gone before. I watch her watching her own little show reel. And then the eye lids droop and sleep stills her body.

Ramona will be four in two weeks… and as we approach her birthday I wonder if we are approaching her weaning. Some weeks she doesn’t have a drop of my milk. Most nights she will fall asleep during a story, or just snuggled against my side while I give Juno milk. I guess we have been on the world’s slowest weaning journey over the last year… creeping down at Ramona’s pace, soon to be done.

When I bring the topic up she vehemently declares she isn’t finished with it… “I’m going to have Mummy Milk ‘till I am FIFTEEN!” (Ah.. . the internet’s worst nightmare.) She still sees breastfeeding as her greatest comfort.

Breastfeeding older children simply for our own sakes?

People say that mothers breastfeed for a long time for their own sakes… because they can’t let go of their children. You only need to breastfeed through a pregnancy to realise this isn’t the case… I never quite got over the weird physical feeling of breastfeeding Ramona while I was pregnant.

We are touched out, have things to do, no time to sit and watch eye lids flicker, no room on our laps for a babushka…

Breastfeeding older children - Extended Tandem

Breastfeeding older children – Extended Tandem

And yet.

I never imagined to still be nursing Ramona at four. But there are one million things I never imagined I’d do as a parent… yet have found myself embracing them when it appears apparent that this road is for us. (Every family has their own paths to take… and it is often the children who grab your hand and reveal it, don’t you reckon?) If you detect any lactating smuggery in this post… please don’t. I understand that for all sorts of reasons this path isn’t for all…. and it has been a rocky one for us at times. (*clumsily inserts all the journey metaphors*

It is pretty special to be meeting Ramona and Juno in a place that mothers in ancient and modern cultures across the world have met for millennia.

(On a rocking chair set in long grass. Hehe.)

Tim took three snaps and at first I didn’t like them one bit. I was so stern in the first! Like a Victorian teacher! But… I’m growing to like the fierceness. My expression is the courage of every parent to walk the way their children beckon.

And the second one…. it seems so immodest, with my spilling breasts. And then, I remembered that that is the accusation pointed at nursing mothers constantly. I’m not going to point it at myself. Breastfeeding can be a bit messy and gaping and vulnerable… but pfft, so is love. That is the world’s sexualisation issues. Not mine or my child’s.

So, there we are. The three of us… and the rest. Just breastfeeding until they aren’t any more.

Are you breastfeeding older children? Would love to hear of your experiences.

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Give a child a knife and you’ll empower them for a lifetime

19 August, 2014

I’m taking a little break from being the internet’s favourite filthy hippy to write a little something about one of my other favourite topics: children and knives!

Well, more widely, about how capable kids are and how it is up to us to either encourage their skills or make them afraid.

I was doing a bit of cleaning and tidying around the yurt yesterday, trying to get it ship shape. (By “cleaning and tidying” I mean “sitting on the sofa reading The Help”.) I looked out onto the deck and saw that Ramona and her mate Sandy were taking apart the washing basket, pulling each bit of weave out. It was on its last legs already but they were massively hastening its demise. I wondered to myself: do I mind? Well, it only cost 50p from the second hand shop and 50p spent on a thrilling activity where they analyse the process of basket weaving through deconstruction is 50p well spent. Also, very good bit in the book.

So I left them to it. I looked out about 20 minutes later and saw that they had found a bungee cord and had rigged up, from the floor of the deck to a hook on the wall, an enormous sling shot and they were firing bits of weave like arrows into the fruit trees. I was blown away! It was completely genius! They spent another half an hour working out what items fired the best. They are three and five years old and they had pretty much devised a contraption that would teach them about velocity and aerodynamics and they were having a complete blast.Childhood and risk

It made me consider how if I was in a worse mood I would have very quickly put an end to this activity. I have done it before, acted out of grumpiness (primarily) when I have observed Ramona making a mess – closing the door on what was almost certainly going to be an amazing learning experience and chance for creativity. (I say “almost certainly” because it is the only way kids are wired: to learn.)

I am glad that early on in our parenting story we decided to consider our stance on risk. As I think, apart from general parenting grumpiness (*puts hand up*) it is our own fear that impinges on these moments. It is our sense of risk that narrows our children’s scope for being able and shorts their learning journey.

Our children often have the natural skill, the ability to focus and the desire to DO STUFF. They have it all there. They just need a few things from us:

A chance
A friend mentioned the other day how her Aunty was on her back for letting her seven year old help chop the veggies. A seven year old? With a knife?! I’m sorry but that is a bit absurd. In some countries five year olds are out hunting. Ramona has been chopping veggies with me for dinner since she was about 2.5. Give children a chance to help, to be a part of things.  With something sharp we can show them how to keep it safe, but then stand back while they work it out.Give a child a knife and we empower them for a lifetime

Photo from our trip to a forest kindergarten in Germany

“We live in an increasingly risk-averse culture, where many children’s behaviour is constrained. We raise them and educate them “in captivity” because of our anxieties. We are continually hypervigilant, as our anxieties are fuelled by stories and images of violent and aggressive crimes. And then we label children as troublemakers or failures because, as a society, we often fail to see their potential.” Professor Tanya Byron

A realistic safety check
We do have a bigger picture and we are able to foresee in a way that children aren’t. We have a policy now of scoping out all the water in an area before giving the kids chance to free range it. However, far too often we cry DANGER! when realistically, the risk is small.

When it comes to sharp knives and cooking – there is no life/death scenario happening there.

A philosophical approach to accidents
Ramona has a burn on her arm from where she was frying something last week. She leant over just too far and touch the side of the pan. Definitely feel like a rubbish parent when out and about- especially as it looks far too much life a self harming injury…

But the funny thing about it is that I have an identical burn – in fact I have TWO on my arm from doing the same thing TWICE. And I am 32 and have been cooking my own dinners for 15 years! Clumsiness isn’t an attribute of toddlers alone.

Accidents happen regardless of age. It is how children learn.

And better a broken limb than a lifetime of being fearful, eh? (I wrote all about that once…)

Our reactions in check
In Letting GO As Children Grow (I HEARTILY recommend this book! Totally underrated) Deborah Jackson talks about how our eagerness to help children learn about safety can actually hurt them much more. She discusses the use of scissors- scissors are really quite harmless yet when a young child picks them up we start to hyperventilate. This reaction then underpins all their future interaction with scissors, making them timid and unlikely to use them well.

And, with mess, consider if it is worth getting the hump over a child’s creative chaos- could this be the moment they realise they want to be the next Picasso- or simply a genius child artist like twelve year old Keiron?!- before balling them out.

Make it a practice to take a few seconds to asses where you are coming from before you react to a bit of risk or deconstruction.

The tools
John Holt talks about how our children are worth good equipment. How is a child meant to fall in love with painting if they only have these cheap paints that have almost no colour to them? My children can craft for so much longer if we do it with nice stuff that works rather than the nasty kids versions.

There is also a safety thing here- when it comes to cutting vegetables, there is probably less damage to be done with a sharp knife than a blunt one was it requires less pressure.

Patience
It is probably the one I struggle with most. When we bake together I am ITCHING to take the beater out of my children’s hands so I can get it done. ARGH WHY DO I DO THIS? I realise that the process is equally as important with the end product with children, but still I have to stomp on my impatient brain particles during it. Last night we baked pikelets and Juno, 16 months, did most of the beating. Pretty amazing!

An open door
For our first five months in the yurt we weren’t hooked up to solar so we depended on candles for light. You can imagine how fascinated the girls were with that. I would sit for almost 45 minutes each night whilst they lit them and blew them out, lit them again. It was important to me as I felt sure that if I was to say no to the playing/ working with candles Ramona would find a way- her urge was THAT strong- with or without me. And without me would be far, far more dangerous.

“If we become the locked door that stands between them and what they want, the only options we’re giving them are to push against us or sneak around us. If we stand beside them and help them figure out how they can get from where they are to where they want to be, then we become their partner.” From Joyfully Rejoicing.

One of the great gifts we can give our children is the space and freedom to discover the world and their own place within it. This is a gift that begins in our own home, as we give them chance to genuinely participate and as we trust them with implements and as we leave them alone without our constant verbal motivation. But it is one that will bloom and grow as they march on out the door.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”By embracing a little risk and trusting our children more we are letting them know about their unique and powerful place in our exciting world.

I said something to Ramona in passing once, when she was asking me permission to do something(she does this, I don’t know where she gets it from.) I said “Sure, mighty girl. Go right ahead, the world is your oyster!” It has stuck with her, and now, every so often when she is discovering something brand new or thrillingly reaching her own upper limits, she will shout excitedly, “THE WORLD IS MY OYSTER, EH, MUM?!”

It is, Ramona, it really is.