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Breastfeeding

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Featured, Parenting

Until they are done (Breastfeeding a four year old & an 18 month old)

30 October, 2014

Ah, breastfeeding. Just me and my little one… and my big one… and a small pink babushka doll… half a chewed orange… an awkward pair of fairy wings… and a small bunch of wild flowers.

I never expected such a crowd.

Yet here we are!

*smiles brightly*

It’s not often we all squeeze up together like this. 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!)

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

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.

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…

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

Natural Term Breastfeeding 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.

Breastfeeding, Parenting

Cheerleading Breastfeeders in the Court

8 July, 2014

I walked passed a mum breastfeeding her newborn in the Food Court at the Mall a few weeks ago. (I try and avoid the Mall like the noro-virus- mostly because there is a tiny carousel of horses right in the middle that both the girls could happily kill an afternoon on. Without even KNOWING they played music and spun around. This last time we went a boy set it in motion with a buck his generous dad handed him. Pheweeee. The girls were like MIND = BLOWN. We can never return. They will hold a Sit In on the saddles until I’ve emptied our bank account into the horses’ throats.)

So, anyway. I was at the Mall, forced to go there after looking unsuccessfully for safety pins in no less than 4 shops on the high street. After seventeen hours on the horses I managed to buy the safety pins and we were just passing through the Food Court when this new mama caught my eye. The thought occurred to me that, outside of my own circle of extended breastfeeding friends, I can’t actually remember the last person I saw breastfeeding in public. Truly.

I had an urge to connect with her, as irresistible as my fingers responding to a sign that says WET PAINT, (what, don’t tell me you never lightly stroke the surrounding surface? Oh, you really don’t?) I was pulled towards her by the forces of the Cosmic Breastfeeding Brigade.

BUT! EEP! She looks a but scary! Not really like me at all! Cried my fearful mind.

COME YE! Soothed the CBB and I wandered over to her.

“It’s so nice to see you nursing your baby!”

“Oh! Yeah.”

*EVER SO SLIGHTLY AWKWARD SILENCE*

“Sorry, just thought I’d say I really appreciate you nursing in public as it makes it all much easier for mums, I reckon, um..babble, babble..”

“Yeah, I normally do it in the toilet but I just didn’t today.”

“It’s a bit nicer out here, eh.”

YEAH WOOO WE TOTALLY CONNECTED!

We smiled and had Meaningful Mother to Mother Eye Contact etc and it didn’t end awkwardly AT ALL. Of course, on my way out I thought about how awfully patronising I probably sounded, and how idiotic it was for me to even mention it, it’s such a non issue.

But turns out it is an issue. The latest edition of our local newspaper had as it’s front page “Mother told to leave for breastfeeding in the Food Court of the Mall”… Yep, that REALLY HAPPENED. She was told by staff to stop breastfeeding or to leave. Isn’t that just gobsmacking?

How awful I felt for the mother asked to leave- how horrendously humiliating- and how glad I felt that I did have that encouraging conversation with another breastfeeding mother just a few weeks earlier.

Mystic Meg aside, (Come on, that is WELL WEIRD that I had that funny solidarity chat in the food court of the Mall I never go to, eh?) I did feel like at least it’s not all completely out of kilter. Because other mums will be saying kind things to other publicly breastfeeding mums all over the place- I know they have to me- and every single one of these is a counter weight to all the nonsense and humiliating guff spoken to breastfeeding mums at other times.

WE are the antidote to ignorance! WE are the salve for wounds of embarrassment and rejection!

(Our kind words are SO important and so us our own public breastfeeding and campaigning for more welcoming attitudes to nursing mothers.)

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So go on, really, the next time you see a breastfeeding mum, go over and give her a verbal High Five. Leave out the patronising, and no need to glorify it or Boo Hiss at a bottle, but simply let the mother know that she is making the world a kinder place for other mothers and babies. Have the courage to tell a breastfeeding mum that you appreciate HER courage.

I might head to the Mall and let the kids spend their dream day on the carousel while I breastfeed brazenly and cheerlead anyone else doing so!

PS I wrote something like this but better last year…

Attachment parenting, Babywearing, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping, Parenting

Images in Fine Art that Normalise Breastfeeding

20 March, 2014

I am always delighted when I stumble across breastfeeding 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.

(I wish I could say phenomenon without following it up with a musical “doodoodidodo phenomenon doodoodidoo” it would make me feel a lot more like a grown up but I can’t so…)

Doodoodidodoo.

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 sohisticated 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…

La Maternite
Auguste Renoir
1885
Breastfeeding Renoir- Natural Parenting in Art

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.”

The Three Ages of Life: Detail
Gustav Klimt
1905

Natural Parenting in Art Klimt Cosleeping

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.

Mother and Child
Jose Orozco
1919

Babywearing: Natural Parenting in Art

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.

Young Mother Giving Milk to Her Son
Utamaro
1753 – 1806 (Woodcut undated)
Utamao Breastfeeding - Natural Parenting through fine art

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. Utamaro, what a legend.

What is your favourite natural parenting image?

Breastfeeding

Get your boobs out (and help normalise breastfeeding)

14 February, 2014

I know it’s time for a post on a topic when I start bending folk’s ears about it. Pacing up and down my friend’s kitchen yesterday, gesturing like I’m conducting an orchestra, words spilling out of my mouth all over her lino, it dawned on me. “Ah. Yes. I haven’t blogged about breastfeeding for tiiiiime!”

You know, a couple of weeks ago I was involved in a conversation on Facebook. I was defending the right for a woman to nurse her baby wherever she needs to. A mother had been nursing her baby in the reception area of her older child’s school and had been asked to move into the bathroom. That’s not reasonable, I argued, politely. In fact, I believe it is illegal. It wasn’t long before someone marched in and began to blame the world’s problems on “militant breastfeeders” like me.

Duuuuude.

I had to leave the conversation. I couldn’t respond to that. There is no conversation that can happen after one party has been labeled so harshly.

*cries a bit*

But it’s where we have come to, it seems.

The polarisation of infant nursing is so extreme- each end of the spectrum doesn’t have the ears to hear the other story any more.

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“Some of my best friends are bottle feeders!”

It seems crazy to have to harness a phrase usually saved to defend a spell of racism or homophobia… But it’s true! I’ve seen the heartache of mothers who couldn’t nurse, I’ve witnessed the decision of mothers to opt for another way to feed their baby, I’ve known mothers only last a week due to pain or lack of support and I think they are all AWESOME! And I know they nurse their babies with love.

So when I defend a mother’s right to breastfeed where she wants I do it with absolutely NO attack on people who bottle feed.

Why does it have to be seen that way? Why is it even related?

You know what it IS an attack on?

A society that has sexualised breasts to the point that they should never make an appearance other than to titilate. Where nursing your baby is inappropriate because boobs are blatantly provocative.

It is the primary reason we have such a low breastfeeding rate and it is the main reason people get mad when they see a woman publicly, openly nursing her child.

We have got a behemothic issue with boobs, an inability to see them as a feeding tool. Teenagers I know are HORRIFIED at the thought of breastfeeding – that their alluring “lady lumps” might ever nurse a child.

People who speak out about breastfeeding, who post breastfeeding photos and who pressure authorities to support breastfeeding are not anti bottle feeding, we are anti the objectification of women’s bodies.

Please, please understand this thing. It matters to me…. because some of my best friends are bottlefeeders!

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Words won’t do

Did you see the United Arab Emirates has passed a law requiring women to breastfeed for two years? (Lordy, so much to say, so little time.) It’s not the answer, is it? In fact, I thought it was an article for satirical site The Onion at first. It is such an oppressive response but I’d put money on the fact that breastfeeding mothers would stop getting harassed. Even shy mums would feel happier nursing in public if they knew the fuzz had their back.

So laws handed down from a dictatorship isn’t QUITE the answer … But we need more than our words. If we are labelled “Breastapo” before we’ve even drawn breath than we’ve already lost the argument; there is no enlightening debate going to happen there.

Save your breath, eh?

It’s handy that actions speak louder

There IS a place for sensible policies that support breastfeeding (such as prohibiting aggressive formula advertising throughout maternity services) and there IS a place for people who want to point out society’s hypocritical attitude towards mammary glands.

But more important than these things are the actions of every nursing mother.

Get them out, folks, and do your bit for normalising breastfeeding.

(If you want, that is. No pressure. Someone might get gnarly at you and I don’t want to get the blame if you bop them. But at least you’d legitimately deserve the label Aggressive Breastfeeder.)

20140214-165538.jpg

Nurse in church, on the high street, in the cafe, on the beach, in the lounge, on Facebook, at work, on a hike, in the garden, on Instagram, in the playground, at the party and around the dinner table.

Nurse your child anywhere and nurse your child everywhere.

I was shy about it until I spent some time with more confident mums and realised that my big peachy breast is nothing to be ashamed of.

So now I don’t hide it.

I see that by responding to my baby’s need for hunger all over the place I am paving the way for other new breastfeeding mums.

Get your boobs out

Over my years I have had macho males yell at me, imploring me to reveal my breasts. The time that made me feel so SO bad was just last year when I put the bin out in front of our house late at night. A couple of men were passing my front door and stopped to aggressively suggest I show them my boobs. Yeah. It was awful.

I can understand that nursing mothers feel conspicuous in such a climate.

But to only breastfeed behind closed doors or under one of those massive shawley things (I call them a bushel but I don’t think that is their official name) we are letting Murdoch and the Sun and all the leerers continue their claim on breasts.

So my boobs are out now, guys, but only with a baby guzzling there. (Or thinking about guzzling; my nine month old is at that stage where she is happy to just look at my nipple, or poke it, or squeeze it, oblivious to the fact that there is a whole debate raging around those glorious producers of sweet, sweet milk.)

By nursing in public I am doing my bit in shifting the framing of breasts back to feeding rather than sexing and it’s important enough to me to risk Death Stares and Facebook rants.

It’s not militant, it’s not aggressive, it’s no Gestapo-like boob army. It’s just a mother breastfeeding her baby when the baby needs it. It’s a natural, normal activity that has been done since time began and shouldn’t be hidden under a bushel.

Let your boobs shine. Let them shine, let them shine, let them shine.

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Babywearing, Breastfeeding

Simple clothes for easy breastfeeding and babywearing

10 September, 2013

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I use the word fashion kind of loosely here. More “items that you like that cover your nudey rudies.” You know me, I do like style but I also like being WELL COMFY and SPENDING NOTHING. Which I suspect makes proper fashionistas consider me much in the same way architects consider Bob the Builder.

I have tried lots and lots of different breastfeeding and babywearing combinations. It’s a bit trickier see as you can’t yank tops up and fiddle around with zips while you have a baby strapped on. I was enjoying shirts for a while, you know button right up hipstery ones and then realised that I only ever had the top button done up but was spending way too much of my day thinking about how I should do the other buttons up. So, buttons; on yer bike.

For me it is all about tops where you can pop your boob over the top. Some will call it immodest, I call it normalising breastfeeding! 90% of my life is spent with one mammary out of its hammock, but with a baby squashed in front as above.20130731-210821.jpg(I did aim for a proper shoot but it was quite ridiculous, with Tim juggling Juno and the camera and Ramona leaping into my arms at every opportunity!)

Because our living space is now about 2m x 2m I have stripped down my wardrobe massively. I took TWELVE BIN BAGS of my clothes to the charity shop! Scary or what?! So now I have about 5 strappy vests/ singlets (catering to both UK and kiwi dialects here as I know these two things mean the opposite- when I used to talk about wearing a vest on the hottest NZ days my friends would look at me with goggle eyes as a vest is one of those big heavy sleeveless jackets that farmers wear, pahaha) I have got from charity shops. And about 2 skirts and a pair of shorts and jeans. And two vintage wrap dresses. And… (I kid, really, I am basically a clothing monk these days.)
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In “Moranthology” Caitlin Moran (really, read it!) talks about how women tell a story with their outfits. (It is one of her more frivolous chapters.) My story these days is “Mother with two nursing kiddos who needs booby access constantly and who chooses to laze around in the mornings rather than picking out a complex and fantastic display of garments.”

I think I have cracked it with the bright skirt and basic, low key tee combo. With two retro cardis that can wrap all the way around the two of us too.
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What combinations have you found to be the easiest for babywearing and breastfeeding? How important is style? Do you have to compromise on fashion a bit when the kiddos are tiny?

PS We are currently in Northern Italy, by Lake Como. We were going to hotfoot it to Croatia but our van is a bit crook and needs to see a Dr, and we’ve had tragic news from home that we are trying to process. It is a bit of an alright spot to figure out our next steps.

Breastfeeding

Nursing in public and the Breastfeeding Pyramid Scheme

31 July, 2013

I can’t help but be a little riveted by little Prince George and his mama, Kate Middleton (oh, it isn’t Middleton anymore is it? She obviously didn’t read my post about women changing their surnames. HUH. I think she is now Kate Wales or something? *confused face*) You can probably tell my interest isn’t about the royal thing (I don’t dig everything a monarchy means for the chances of ever reaching equality) or even a celebrity thing. I think (I hope!) it is just the interest in the story of a new mother and a freshly minted person, and a throbbing pity I feel for them having to do it all so publicly.

I have been puzzling over something I read about her choice to breastfeed. This is brilliant, but the article went on with a royal aide – that is, that man in the same Facebook group as the woman whose cousin walks the Corgies-  saying “But don’t expect Kate to be photographed breastfeeding. She doesn’t want to be a pin-up for the breastfeeding lobby.”

Well!

There are two things that have been flicking around in my head since reading this, like a pair of ping-pong bats swatting around a ball of breastfeeding. The first is: A breastfeeding lobby? Really? What is with people so happily projecting breastfeeders as a well-funded band of propagandists? They can only be talking about breastfeeding mothers as I look around and don’t really see many health professionals or organisations banging on about it. In fact, it has been Doctors and Midwives and Health Visitors who have been the LEAST encouraging about breastfeeding my daughter beyond 6 months (you can read about that here.)Nursing in public isn't militant!

It is much touted sentiment. Someone complained to me of “militant breastfeeders” the other day. Just because mothers chose to breastfeed in public doesn’t make them “militant.” There is nothing militant about breastfeeding. It is the opposite of aggression. It is gentle touch. Loving nurture. The most nutritious cuddle. Adoration in milk form.

Actually we do have quite an aggressive lactating lady living locally. She approaches people, gets lary and then squirts her milk in their faces. It’s not an urban legend, I swear; it happened to my friend Mel outside McDonalds.

But for the most part it really is rare to use one’s boobies as weapons of not-so mass destruction.

Breastfeeders aren’t militant. They aren’t a lobby. Nursing in public should be no one’s issue apart from the mother’s- whose problems; her soaking through milky shirt, her baby nursing upside down whilst singing Wheels on the Bus, her uneven- one-empty-one-engorged breasts, are all her own.

But then. But THEN. Mothers who nurse in public are a lobby or sorts. And here we get to my second ping-pong bat that arose from Kate’s non-mate talking in the above rag.

I was at the outdoor pool a couple of weeks ago, nursing Juno, as I mostly am. Someone passed me and said “Fantastic breastfeeding! You are a picture of summertime motherhood!”Breastfeeding in public

You see, we don’t need a “pin-up girl for breastfeeding” – every nursing mother is one. We are our own ambassadors by simply being out and about, nurturing our tinies and not-that-tines in front of people.

Lobbyists influence decision makers. They create change. And I am convinced that every mother who shrugs off embarrassment and nurses her child in public makes it more possible for other mothers to do so. One nursing mother helps ten other mothers, in a kind of beautiful breastfeeding pyramid scheme.

(It might not be one to ten as I just made this concept up. Number schnumbers. I’m terrible at always forgetting actual facts and plucking them out of the air instead and only my husband calls me out on it. “Chocolate provides 76% of the minerals we need? Lucy, are you sure about that?”)

It was spending time with brave mothers and their unshy breasts that heralded my own promotion from nursing-in-a-smelly-alleyway-to-get-away-from-staring-eyeballs novice to Top Agent in Normalising Breastfeeding Corpwho is happy to brazenly whip them out at the lido.

(Hehehe. Did you just google that company? It’s an enterprise I’m working on, ooh yeah, another kind of pyramid scheme thingy… the babies all pay 50p to nurse, no, erm… the people who get offended by breastfeeding have to pay ten people 50p… er.. GAH. I don’t think Dragon’s Den will go for this one.)

Nursing in a public space and Instagramming / Facebooking our beautiful breastfeeding experience isn’t a violent campaign to make people feel uncomfortable or bad. But it is a movement of mothers who know that breastfeeding is not a thing to hide and who will make it easier for new mums to enter their gentle breastfeeding relationship without shame and with ease.

We don’t need Kate to be a pin-up girl as it is the daily collective experience of breastfeeding that will create the change our babies need.

And if Kate does feel able to nurse while out an about as a result of mothers trying to normalise breastfeeding then we’ll end up with a high profile President of Normalising Breastfeeding Corp after all, but mostly it’ll be little George who will feel all the benefits of that wonder-milk on tap.

PS Don’t miss a thing! Follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Parenting

Our experience of Tandem Breastfeeding

19 June, 2013

Within a few hours of Juno being born I had both girls tucked in my arms and I was full of emotion, watching the pair of them breastfeeding to sleep. My two and a half year old stroked the hair of her brand new baby sister and it felt like we were cocooned in a blissful bubble of love and oxytocin. I couldn’t shed my smile; this was exactly how I imagined tandem nursing to be.
Tandem Breastfeeding
And then, 24 hours later, my milk came in and the gushing, uncontrollable force of it burst that bubble with a loud, chokey bang! Positioning Juno became quite all-consuming, I had to be flat on my back or stand up with her in a wrap to nurse her without her gagging non-stop. Breastfeeding her was a tangle of tiny limbs, slipping around on a Niagara Falls of milk. Bringing Ramona into the picture was  impossible. Lots of tandem mums cope with oversupply by having their eldest child skim off the extra- but I was hoping to try and regulate my supply quickly by keeping Ramona on just three nurses a day. (Morning, nap and night time.) I admit I had to make that call for my own sanity too, I was worried about feeling all touched out and like a dairy cow.

It is a bit heart wrenching when Ramona asks for it at other times in the day and I gently explain “Not now”- I feel like I am arbitrarily enforcing rules that she can’t understand and I have to really convince myself that three times a day is better than nothing, despite those tiny pleas.

Bed time is a careful balance of needs- making sure Juno is full up and content so I can hand her to Daddy who wraps her on his front and takes a walk, I can then take Ramona to bed for a story and “Mummy Milk by hershelf.”  Nap times mean me getting Juno to sleep on my front and then gymnastically making a mammary gland available for Ramona – and getting immediately on Twitter as a distraction , for that lunchtime nurse feels really quite physiologically aggravating.

Not quite the picture of two utterly content children and peaceful sofa languishing that I had hoped for! (Lazy, me?)

Nursing through pregnancy was quite a challenge, solely from the strange feeling of nursing without much milk, but I was committed to trying tandem nursing.  (Despite at least one Doctor and two nurses telling me I mustn’t/ can’t- what is up with that?!) Not purely as I felt it would mean more sitting around in our PJ’s, girls on my lap, a cup of tea in one hand and Twitter in the other (although, I’m sure you’re picking up, that WAS a factor!) but because I was serious about letting Ramona decide when she was done with nursing. In everything I have attempted to let Ramona be autonomous in the things she has done; not teaching  her to roll/ walk/ climb/ count but rather letting her explore those things in her own time, through babyled weaning we gave her the space to eat the stuff she was ready to eat, and she is still in our bed as she hasn’t chosen to leave yet.  It makes sense for us to let her choose the moment when she will be content without Mummy Milk. (I don’t want this to sound smug, I know lots of parents have decided this isn’t for them or don’t have this luxury- employment needs/ lack of support/ personal reasons.)
pregnant breastfeeding
While tandem nursing is different to the picture I had in my head, 7 weeks in I am glad we have taken this road. Primarily because it is SO obvious that Ramona still reaps the benefits of nursing, both emotionally and physically. It provides an anchor for her little soul, just like it does for newborn Juno, and keeps her strong and immune without me obsessing over what she is or isn’t eating.

I am sure that it has eased the arrival of her little sister, providing a buffer for the times when it must really be quite irritating to have a very loud baby launch herself on to the scene.

Those bedtime nurses with Ramona are so precious – I dwell on her little fingers, her flickering eye lids and my heart melts. They are daily 15 minute slots that remind me that Ramona is really still tiny.

I love that the girls share this really important, meaningful experience, albeit at different times. When Juno cries out Ramona attempts to soothe her by getting all up in her grill yelling “OH JUNO! YOU WANT SOME MUMMY MILK, YES YOU DO!!”

This tandem breastfeeding lark is no bed (*Homer voice* Mmmmm, bed) of roses, but like with many parenting, and life, challenges, there is so much goodness amongst the angst. And maybe one day, ONE DAY, once my milk has levelled out, I might get to spend the afternoon ensconced on the couch looking at the internet while the pair of them banquet on breastmilk gold.

PS Are you on Instagram? I am there: Lulasticblog and am trying to post a daily breastfeeding snap with the hashtag #bfing365 as a little effort in the normalise breastfeeding canpaign! Do join in with your own snaps when you can.

Activism, Breastfeeding

Boobs VS Big Business

19 February, 2013

I have talking boobs. And it is my own fault. It came about subtly, in an effort to playfully end a leisurely breastfeed my toddler was having. Tim had bought in our porridge, steaming and slathered in Golden Syrup and I was ready to get on with the day. Gentle cajoling hadn’t worked, so I put on a Northern male accent and spoke on behalf of my breasts.

“Er, excuse me, Ramona, we know you are enjoying your nurse right here, love, but we ain’t ‘alf  ready for our porridge!” *Left Boob joins in the fun* “Oooh, aye, we do want to gobble up that porridge!”

It has finished many an epic nursing session in ripples of giggles for both of us, and often Ramona would talk back, and ask them questions, normally about whether now was a good time to nurse and that kind of thing. But in the last day or so, she has asked them their wise opinions about other, more general, stuff. . .

Of course, not all women are lucky enough to have enlightened oracles for breasts. But all women’s breasts are magical, nonetheless. They all produce, when required, life giving milk; every possible nutrient tiny bodies need in a few completely free sucks.

My sleepy nursling

My sleepy nursling

But all goodies have a baddy out to get them. Every Superman a Lex Luther. Every packet of Custard Creams a tin with an ill fitting lid that makes them all soft.

Boobs have quite a few enemies, amongst them misinformed health professionals who advise new mamas to not spoil the baby by nursing on demand, an oversexualised culture that give breasts a limiting role of titillators, and also I bet boobs hate bras in general too (Hold on, I’ll just ask them. Yep, they do, they bloody hate bras.) But their absolute arch enemy must be formula companies. Not formula or formula feeding parents – formula has been life-giving too and parents who use formula are often breastfeeders as well, and if not, still just doing the best they know for their baby. But formula companies, sheesh. When it comes to baddies, they take the biscuit.

I can remember reading about Nestle and their formula pushing tactics in poor communities when I was around 17. I wasn’t a mother, saw breasts primarily as a pain in my teenage bum rather than potential baby nurturers, and wasn’t the least “activisty.” I suspect I only came across the information because I was googling tips for how I might go about making a giant Kit Kat, Pimp My Snack styles.

But I remember feeling so angry. The injustice of it was clear to me. That huge corporations would generate myths around breastfeeding and use sly tactics like giving out freebies at the hospital to undermine the ancient, healthy and free practice of breastfeeding. I became mad at Nestle that day and haven’t touched one of their products since. Even though I dream of giant Kit Kats pretty much every night.

Imagine how angry I felt when I read Zoe Williams’ article on Saturday about similar strategies still being employed today, decades after the original evils were bought to light.  Formula companies still giving gifts to health workers in return for promotion, propaganda still being placed in antenatal wards. Super rich, global companies are doing everything they can to create a market for a product in a place where that product can not be used safely. Lack of clean water and clean bottles mean the formula will always be germ ridden, compared to breastmilk that comes ready sterilised.

Save the Children, who launched a report and campaign on it all yesterday, estimates that more than 800,000 deaths could be prevented each year if infants were simply given breast milk in the first hour of life. It is a silver bullet for child health in poor countries yet Big Business is doing all it can to undermine it.

save

I can’t be sure as I have a terrible memory (honestly, I don’t know who half my Facebook friends are) but I think the original Nestle boycott put my feet on the fight-for-a-better-world path. Despite setbacks like these current revelations, where rules that were made as a result of a first round of campaigning are broken, the world is an infinitely better place because of that initial fight against the formula villains. There are a lot more breastfeeding mums in developing countries than if the Nestle campaign never occurred. But there is still LOADS more to be done.

I’m going to have to muzzle the Northern male voice in my boobs soon, I know. I just don’t have the bravado to survive Ramona asking them a question about what we should all have for dinner loudly in the supermarket – public boob-questioning is the inevitable next step.

But, as I get ready to silence my own breasts, I have spoken out on behalf of breasts* in developing countries through the Save the Children campaign to hold some of the villains, Nestle and Danone, to account. Do consider doing it too.

* Of course, really you don’t have to give two hoots about boobs to care about this. It isn’t even really about breasts as much as injustice. You just need to care about babies surviving and hope for a future where people matter more than profit. This little dash of activism will go some way to making that happen.breastfeeding quote

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Breastfeeding, Parenting

Dear new mummy

4 January, 2013

The baby is here! In your ams! Mewing, and pooing, and screeching, and sleeping!

You can’t stop staring at the little mite in disbelief. YOU MADE THIS! You MADE this.

You want to cry at the mystery of it all… and also the sense of doom that seems to creep in at the corners, just a little, every so often… you shed a few tears at that. You want to laugh in elation… but not too much, until you really get cracking with those pelvic floor excercises. Your heart bursts with wonder… and your mind creaks a little with fear – how can I do this? You love this baby more than anyone ever in the whole world has loved a single soul… and also not quite enough.

It is, er, an emotional business, this parenthood malarkey.

I want to tell you one thing. This one thing I’m going to tell you… it is to forget everything anyone’s ever told you. And then replace it with this:

Trust yourself and your baby.

Just have this one mantra, and repeat it to yourself everyday.

I trust myself and I trust my baby.

Carry it with you and wield it like a silent shield, if need be, in front of disapproving glances, or undermining words. When you read parenting articles announcing new research that simply doesn’t fit with the rhythm the two of you have found. When experts suggest they know the pair of you better than you know yourselves. They don’t. You are the expert, the absolute expert, when it comes to the paths you are carving out together.

Settle into these instincts, be guided by your intuition, listen to your baby.

Soon enough you will gather confidence like a warm coat around you, you will delight in the trust you have developed. You will see your baby as wise, you will let them be your teacher, your lives together will be rich and deep and joyful. They’ll be angst and emotion and teething and hormones but this trust will be the surest foundation for your every parenting action and decision.Trust yourself and trust your baby

It starts now, with breastfeeding. It takes too much teethgritting, too much patience, it is not how you imagined it to be at all! You were excited about nursing your little one, but this actually just hurts.

Just trust.

Another day, maybe one more day after that, and you will feel like all the secrets of the universe have been bestowed upon the two of you.For real. It will go from feeling as if your toe blisters are being burst with pliers to feeling like sitting on a whimsical cloud being sprinkled with magical love glitter. You’ll soon cherish these milky moments, you’ll rest in the easy, blissful breastfeeding relationship you have woven together. It is JUST around the corner.

Believe in the concrete power of your intuition and the unfathomable innate ability of children, even the very youngest ones.

Your mother instincts and your baby’s voice is the most harmonious duet. Let this song guide you.

Trust yourself and trust your baby.

Love Lucy

PS- You may know… this is a letter to my new mamma self, that one that emerged late in the evening in November 2010. It is also a reminder as I contemplate another wee one arriving in the Spring…

PPS- I am actually all for reading and talking and exploring new ideas for parenting :) Books like How to Talk so Kids Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk inspire me no end. I just think it is vital first to have firm belief in your instincts and heart and what your child has to say!

If you were to write a letter to a new mum, or to your own fresh mother self, what would you say?

 

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding my Toddler – Me! Eat! Your boobies!

6 December, 2012

Ramona is two now and our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong. There is something incredibly special about having a nursing toddler who can vocalise their feelings about it- the first time she looked up at me with those wide dewy eyes, took a pause from nursing to exclaim “YUMMY!” was a bit heart melting, and I remember thinking every mummy should nurse long enough to get some verbal feedback on the quality of their milk!

This morning I was a little more difficult to rouse for Ramona’s first nurse of the day and her usual snuggling and murmurs of “Mummy. Milk. Please” weren’t getting much response. She began pulling at my PJ’s saying “Me! Eat! Your Boobies!”

Ooh, waking up with a (slightly nervous) chuckle is a good way to wake up.

(Another benefit of cosleeping I guess- waking up with laughter happens quite often as Ramona’s early morning chats are quite hilarious, ranging from random musing about her favourite things to giggling at her own first fart of the day.)

I am 5 months pregnant now and my milk seems to be changing week by week – as early as 12 weeks it seemed I just had colostrum. And Ramona has taken her grown-up food eating to another level, putting away whole bananas, plates of spaghetti and gingerbread in a way she hasn’t done before, so she is obviously getting much less full on my milk. I am entering the fairly well documented stage of, um, finding it a bit hard. She only nurses 4-5 times a day, and most of those are completely fine, joyous for us both even. But the lengthy ones just before nap time and sleep can provide a bit of teeth grinding and cross eyed-ness for me. It is not dissimilar to those first ever new-born feeds where you just had to grin and bear it.

If we can, I am keen to plough through it, hoping that for us, like many other mammas, it is just a short stage of pregnancy. I can just see so many benefits for us still. Breastfeeding such a simple way to fill up her cup – keeping the emotional energy of a wild and rambunctious toddler steady.

Nursing toddler

We had a tricky period early on in pregnancy, when she really cut down her nursing, and I failed to recognise the debt this left, emotionally. I guess people who don’t breastfeed (like her Daddy, who tends not to) really quickly identify other ways of topping up their kid’s well being- knowing the right balance of hugs, games and other “connecting” activities.  Having been reliant on nursing – and her being completely in control of this- there were a few weeks when my milk was changing and she was nursing much less, where we had a bit of disconnect; she was volatile and fractious.

The relationship side of breastfeeding really hit home, I had kind of taken it for granted. For so long Ramona’s nursing sessions had been providing these perfect moments of connection throughout our day, moments that both of us needed. It actually restored us, healed any little snags in our relationship.

We had to find a new rhythm, fresh ways of connecting. In a way it was like beginning another lesson in parenthood. My husband Tim was much more advanced in these activities, having identified the need a year ago, once I left them together half the week as I went to work.

But we had to find our own ways – I couldn’t just steal Tim’s and think they would work for us. (Gah, exclaims my lazy old self.)

Some of the best ways I have found to connect with Ramona, as she weans off nursing a bit include:

  • Taking more hot baths together (such a cool way of spending cold winter afternoons) – we can spend an hour, blowing bubbles, painting the sides, singing
  • Two person dance parties – we put the music up loud and throw down our shapes, impressing each other
  • Kissing Game – you take it turns to kiss funny parts of each other
  • Pulling faces- we try and out do each other with our weird and wonderful facial expressions
  • Hide and Seek – together, so not so much seeking but hiding from imaginary people, usually snuggling under blankets and duvets

I think the key is in activities that involve loads of eye contact, and have the potential to end up in squeals of giggles. Laughter is a healer, no?

Ramona has somehow figured out that sleeping between 11pm and 7 am is a good plan, and doesn’t nurse anymore. (There was a while when I thought she might do this forever) – which just gives me full confidence that these kids know exactly what they need.

Breastfeeding is so much about trust. Trusting ourselves and trusting our children. I am so glad I was able to discount the voices that suggested Ramona’s night nursing would continue forever. And I am so glad I am able now, to distrust the ones that say nursing toddlers will never quit.

They do. And for now, it is still just perfect for us. With a smattering of dancing, playing and splashing, we are connecting more than ever.

What is your breastfeeding story? Have you found the same thing? How have you found ways to connect with your kids?

Feel free to check out my other posts on breastfeeding, including “Nursing a Micromachine” and the letter I had to write to my rubbish, myth-making Doctor.