Browsing Tag

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.

Parenting, Reviews & sponsored posts

Some beautiful poetry on mothering & breastfeeding (and a giveaway)

20 May, 2014

I’ve sort of given up on pithy titles for my posts, can you tell? After a gnarly couple of posts on the blog (with some incredible discussion in the comments – do read them! And thank you for joining in with such honesty and with such open hearts…) I felt like today would be a perfect day for four beautiful poems on mothering and womanhood. They are penned by the brilliant poet Cathy Bryant in her new book Look At All the Women. There are poems on love to make you fall in love again, funny ones (Wonder Woman hitting menopause made me laugh out loud) and stirring, political ones (she takes on the Bedroom Tax and climate change in one chapter.)  I was always going to be drawn to the poetry on breastfeeding though, eh?

At Last
She feeds her baby
and it is the first loving touch
she has ever felt
in her bruised and battered life.
She strengthens and nourishes
her little one,
and introduces him to love and trust
and he does the same for her.
He thrives, and so does she,
for the first time;
for the first time, and forever.

Poetry on motherhood

Unbreakable
Hard to believe now
that we are such separate beings —
you a great strapping
toddler of three, all-knowing,
I a hopeful extemporising
mother.
Thankfully, when you were born
and we parted for the first time,
we kept that close touch.
Feeding fed us both
with love and care
and slowly, only when ready,
you drew away to other
sources of nourishment.
But the everyday miracle
is still there in my memory
of the closeness between us
and of us and in us
and the sweetest, most gentle
bonds are unbreakable.

Poetry on Motherhood

Child and the Future
Little one, your hurts, though deep, are fleeting.
You always hope for better, tomorrow.
Not like me, too knowing, slug heart beating
while yours pounds swiftly in joy or sorrow.
As the doors of dreams slam finally shut
and knee grazes become heart’s dragging wounds,
one copes with haircut, pay cut, paper cut;
music no longer magic, just nice sounds.
It’s not all bad. You keep some illusions.
The drawn-out years become flashing seasons.
You can smile at popular delusions
and settle with your comfortable reasons.
Yet, child of mine, keep hope for better things.
Innocence should shape what the future brings.

Poetry on Motherhood

Look At All The Women
Look at that woman breastfeeding in public!
I think it’s absolutely disgusting

the way people give her a hard time.

Look at that lass in a minidress!
Whore! Slag! Bitch! Slut!

are just some of the things she’ll be called
by prejudiced strangers.

Look at that grandmother!
A lot of support is needed

from her for all her friends and relatives,
but she still finds time to lead a vibrant, balanced life.

Look at that campaigner!
She should get to the kitchen,

have a glass of wine and put her feet up,
later on, after standing up for us all.

Look at that woman writer!
It’ll be all flowers, dresses and chocolates

at her many literary award ceremonies.

Look at that sister!
She’s arguing with her siblings again

which, done with affection and a willingness
to compromise, is a really useful life skill.

Look at that stay-at-home mother!
She doesn’t work, of course

apart from 24 hours a day, seven days a week
doing one of the most important jobs there is.

Look at that woman scientist!
She’s outside her natural environment

analysing soil samples from the planet Mars.

Look at me!
Ill and unable to work again

but still making people laugh, and still giving
the best hugs in Manchester.

Look at that cleaner!
The lowest of the low

will sneer at her, as she makes our lives pleasanter
for a pittance.

Look at that daughter!
Disappointing, really

that she still has so much sexism to face.

Look at that lesbian!
You can tell what she needs

— equality, and recognition of
her voice that enriches us all.

Look at that schoolgirl!
They shouldn’t be educated

differently from boys.

Look at all the women!

What a waste of time

life would be without them.

***GIVEAWAY***
The publishers, Mother’s Milk Books, would like to send a paperback version of Look At All The Women to a reader somewhere in the world. Simply leave a comment to be entered. I’ll draw the winner of the giveaway at random at 9pm June 9th. I’ll redraw two days later if I don’t get a response to my email. 

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?

Babywearing, Breastfeeding

Simple clothes for easy breastfeeding and babywearing

10 September, 2013

20130731-211954.jpg
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.)
20130731-210841.jpg

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.
20130731-210900.jpg

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.

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Attachment Daddy: Supporting Breastfeeding

10 June, 2013

I am handing over my blog today once again to my husband, Tim- or Tim Pop as Ramona calls him. (She also calls him Tim AitkenRead or Uncle Tim- very rarely Daddy! Hehehoohoo.) He wrote about general attachment fatherhood things quite a while ago now, and I’d like him to write about cosleeping and babywearing, but today he is writing about breastfeeding.

Of course, what men think about breastfeeding should be irrelevent – who cares what they think?! Babies need to be nursed by women and we will do it regardless! But, in actual fact, I think it is pretty vital. Husbands and partners can provide much needed support during those early tricky days, or wearying night feeds, or when people criticise the choice to breastfeed a toddler. Tim was the one who bought me endless drinks when that extreme thirst hit everytime I sat down to nurse, the one made me healthy meals and snacks, the one who gave important support to my decision to keep nursing Ramona even when Juno came along. But men are also critical in re-adjusting society’s perspective on breasts- they are the ones who have sexualised them, they now play an enormous role in reframing them as nutritous nursers of children. Only when men on the street and male media moguls/ policy makers/ shop owners make an effort in this will breastfeeding become mainstream.

So here he is…Attachment Daddy on Breastfeeding

Lucy would like me to write about her breasts.  This seems an interesting prospect really considering my mother in law will no doubt read this.  I vividly remember meeting them for the first time.  It was fairly meteoritic.  Since then they have, for the most part, become a normal part of life.

Growing up with two brothers the particulars of breasts were something quite foreign.  The sort of thing you tried not to accidentally elbow when wrestling with our peers or try not to hit with a misjudged pass in touch rugby.  The repercussions of these sort of indiscretions were often quite violent and embarrassing.

Breasts did take on a different dimension later in life, but I won’t dwell on this too much for everyone’s sake.  Then along came Ramona.  Things changed quite dramatically after that.  Baby’s are often quite hungry, and if anyone as ever seen any pictures of Ramona (and now Juno) between 0 and 6 months you’ll understand that feeding time was pretty important.

Attachment Daddy on breastfeeing

I’d like to say that as a mature adult I have developed an amazing level of impulse control, for the most part I actually have.  I have a good level of bowel control.  I manage to not say too many awkward things to the extent that my friends at least think I’m reasonably normal.  But as far as food goes though I can’t resist chocolate.  It’s the answer to most of my problems ranging from hunger through to emotional upheaval.  Ramona takes after me on this one.  Though her focus seems to be “Mummy’s Milk” as she calls it.

Obviously with this in mind, meal times/comfort eating never really followed a set pattern or predictable routine.  So whether we found ourselves walking to the shops, sitting on the bus, playing in the park, or even sitting in the privacy of our lounge Ramona’s desire to be close and eating became the expected norm.  Arguably, for the most part I’m a reasonably modest character when it comes to skin showing.  But the experience of becoming a parent has changed me.  Hunger is hunger.  Needs are needs.  Ramona and Juno need to eat.

Last week I found myself sitting in a circle with 11 other students, and the coordinator of our experiential session of my weekly counseling skills course.  In a lull in the conversation (there are loads of these) I stated that recently I have been struggling with a message that a friend sent to Lucy about her ”tits” being inappropriately all over facebook.  I thought that it was perhaps a misjudged joke, but nonetheless, like Lucy, found it difficult to take.

What came next took a while to process.  According to half the members of the group breastfeeding should be done away from others, if breasts are on show you should expect people to stare at them because they are essentially sexual objects, breastfeeding mums should not go round upsetting people basically;  breasts should not run the risk of being spotted by a guy.

I don’t remember being massively surprised really.  I sort of became sad and quiet initially as the conversation bouncing around the room became irrelevant to my initial statement, later on I may have said a few carefully chosen words. When was the last time you felt the need to go eat your dinner in a room away from your friends and family?

Breastmilk gives life to hundreds of millions of children everyday.  Breastmilk has sustained and continues to sustain both of my children, even the 2 and a half year old sausage.  Breastmilk is amazing stuff that has ensured the health and vitality of Ramona and now Juno.  From pus leaking eyeballs, to blocked noses, basic infections to comforting a toddler with a broken leg Lucy’s breastmilk has been the answer!

I believe that breastfeeding should be normalized in our western, sadly male dominated culture.  In New Zealand where I grew up we didn’t actually have the Sun’s page 3 (it’s not only the architecture of this country that is mainly Victorian), but the prevailing sexualisation of these amazing things still shaped our view of breasts.  I support Lucy entirely in the pursuit of changing this, in fact more than that, I think that it’s an essential chorus that will enable all of us to grow up a bit.

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

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.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Olympics- Toddler Heat

2 August, 2012

Here we are in London, getting ready for one of the most highly esteemed sports here at the 2012 Games.

Taking her place in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics we have Ramona of Camberwell, London, surely she will prove to be a legend in her time. At 22 months old she has been preparing for this moment in the limelight for well over a year and a half.

Ramona starts off steady, toddling towards the goal signalling her wish for milk. In a commitment to efficiency she has discarded all words (her favourite once being “BAPS”)  and has now streamlined it to something that takes much less effort- a mere greedy smacking of her lips.

Here we are able to witness the critical difference between an Olympian and a rubbish human- TOTAL DEDICATION. Nothing will steer them off course. Ramona marks out her target from the other side of the playground and makes her way over, ascending small mountains of sand, elbowing other competitors out of the way, pulling at her mother’s top with a verocity that gives her a clear advantage. With not a glance at the teenage boys huddled in the corner who may be getting ready to whip out at best a smirk, Ramona tucks in.

This is what winners are made of.

Of course, like most sports there is a team to think of here and Ramona makes sure Tiny Cat, Musical Duck, Stiff Haired Playmobil Fella, Thomas the Tank Engine all get a turn at exercising their nursing prowess.

We move on to the time-trials now as Ramona shows just how seriously she takes the Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, stronger. She hurtles in for a slurp lasting just moments before running back to the game she was previously involved in. Seconds later she is back, with yet another momentary tug and a sip and a squirt high in the air for good measure. And WHAT’S THIS?! Back for a third time in 5 minutes! This time showing true dexterity by nursing upside down whilst climbing over mummy’s shoulder.

The excitement is unbearable as we head into the all important endurance phase. Ramona steers quickly away from her triumph in the Swift Nursing round and as we head into the night time she reveals exactly how superior her talent for perseverance is. This tiny mite is but a GIANT when it comes to breastfeeding non-stop throughout the period when most mere mortals have to sleep.  It isn’t just chance that Ramona’s slogan is Sleep is for the Weak.

In the final round Ramona assures her supremacy by going all out in the multi-tasking phase. She steams ahead of the other competitors by nursing AND counting her toes AND honking mummy’s nose AND poking mummy’s tonsils AND singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

And, we get a glimpse at just how critical the apparatus are, as nipples are stretched, pulled, stamped on and knelt on in a keen display of athletic versatility and strength.

AND SHE HAS DONE IT! The Champion of the World in Toddler Breastfeeding Olympics, Ramona Lily of Camberwell. Dizzying heights for a toddler of such slight stature. If she could speak she would surely thank her team and all her fans but instead she simply stares adoringly up at her mummy and her mammory glands in a profound demonstration of team effort.

Back over to the Aquatic Centre now where our beloved Becky Adlington is stepping into the water…


It is World Breastfeeding Week! Here’s to a world free from breastfeeding  misinformation and myths, where women can nurse their children without being mocked or derided, where breastfeeding mothers can get applauded and celebrated and supported, and where walls put up between breastfeeders and bottlefeeders are pulled down because we are all mammas, all wanting the absolute best for our little legends.  Woop woop!