Browsing Tag

toddler

Attachment parenting, Parenting, Uncategorized

Attachment Parenting A Toddler: Beyond Breastfeeding and Babywearing

4 March, 2014

Last night Tim was out late so I had two little people on my hands at bed time- this is pretty rare for us. I hunkered down with them both, one on each side, breastfeeding to sleep, their guzzling and gulping the only sound in the treacly silence of a countryside evening.

Their eyes began closing as if on command, and they held hands across my belly. “What a perfect picture of attachment parenting!” I thought, ever so slightly wryly.

Truth is, this is rarely what mothering looks like for me. I find tandem breastfeeding uncomfortable and over the last year I’ve encouraged Ramona, who is three, down from a billion breastfeeds a day to just this one breastfeed at bed time.

Even last night, a second after I had that thought, baby Juno decided sleep is for suckers and instead burrowed under the duvet, popped back up with a fork (you know) and climbed atop my tummy, yodelling and waving her weapon about. (It is testament to the power of the boob that Ramona carried on drifting off to sleep regardless.) This peaceful, tandem breastfeeding and tandem babywearing thing just doesn’t seem to fit us with grace and ease!

Ramona rarely rides about in a sling these days – she prefers to run, scoot or sit upon her dad’s shoulders – clinging to his head and stealing his specs. We do cosleep – but her with her daddy in one double and Juno and I in another.20140304-134021.jpg

It’s funny, because when our children are babies attachment parenting seems to mainly be about those three behaviours.

Of course, babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping is how attachment parenting often LOOKS but no official AP sergeant has ever demanded these things in order to make it on the AP team. Because attachment- based on a quite unwooly psychological / mental well being- theory- really mostly comes down to nurturing connection and responding quickly to a child’s needs, with respect.

But when the baby has been weaned, when they want to sleep in their own bed, when they opt for the scooter over the sling, what does attachment parenting look like? As they grow, and these things become a little less a part of their lives, many parents feel a bit lost.

I for one began burying my head into books again, searching for ideas about child development, communication and nurturing connection with this wild and wonderful toddler in my life. 20140304-133829.jpg

There are five main ways that our attachment parenting philosophy has influenced our parenting an older child:

Validate
I reckon this is the Big One, the crucial part of our communication with toddlers. If attachment parenting is about connection, trust and responsiveness then our toddler need to feel understood and they need to feel that their emotions are valid, loved through their big feelings. We need to knock on the head “You’re okay, honey!” and ” Don’t worry!” – replacing them with an acknowledgment of how they are feeling; “You lost your toy? And I can see you are really upset” and “You are frustrated about that!”

Get into the habit of repeating back to them what you hear. Don’t add to their emotion “OOH, YOU ARE SUPER, SWEARINGLY FURIOUS!” (hehehe) but do give them words if they can’t find them- “upset” is a nice word that covers lots of emotions.

Start with your baby. Even when they cry as a tiny one, instead of “Shhhh” as them “Were you worried that I had walked away?” (Or whatever) – of course, while offering your boob because that IS what they want, a lot of the time.

This validation is a communication habit for a lifetime, for children, for friends, and colleagues.

Standing back
Strangely, it feels as if so at a loss are attachment parents when their kids hit the toddler years that they become “helicopter parents” – hovering over their child’s every move, as if worried of severing the attachment.

This isn’t the way, dudes.

Attachment parenting is about responding to a child’s needs and as they grow one of a child’s most demanding needs is that of autonomy. They need to know they are in charge of some stuff, they need to know they have a say on the things that impact their lives. (They also – importantly- have a right to this.)

Has your child, through tantrums, been asking for more space to exercise their will and their choices? What areas will you let go control of? Their clothes? Their food? Their play?

The attachment parents is the one that stands back when their child strikes out for independence, knowing that sometimes meeting the need of an older child can sometimes look like the EXACT OPPOSITE of meeting the needs of a baby.

Touch
And yet. Children still need touch. A parent’s hug can still fill the cup of an older child who has emptied themselves emotionally. A cuddle can change direction of an afternoon of play between kids that has become quite wrestle-based! Sometimes I wonder if a toddler’s physical (by physical I mean a lot of pushing) play is a plea for more touch.

Touch activates important chemicals in our bodies, and sometimes toddlers, and parents, can be so busy that we don’t activate them enough. It may be a cuddle, joining in with the wrestle, or even a massage that can restore a connection lost in mayhem.

The other day Ramona was struggling a bit and we kind of invented a game. She lies on her back and I just do the motions for different things over her body. So I say “spiders creeping up” and tap my fingers all over her from feet to head and “sun shining down” and whoosh my fingers back down from her head to her toes- like the whooshing sun, you know?!? I did different animals and weathers for about five minutes and it was almost like a meditation. There have a been a couple of times since when she has been really sad that she has asked me for the creepy spider game again.

It reminded me how substantial good healthy physical contact is with our busy toddlers and how it can meet needs that are hidden amongst rambunctiousness.

Empathy
The most helpful tool I have found in my parenting kit (what, you didn’t get a nice bumbag filled with gadgets? It comes out just before the placenta) has been an ability to empathise. And I don’t really know where it came from. I struggled for about a year feeling overwhelmed by the strength of a two year old’s feelings, almost annoyed and frustrated – primarily I imagine because I couldn’t FIX it. I felt almost redundant.

I wish I could remember what triggered the change. (It was quite possibly finding out about play urges- a child’s instinct to play/throw/climb/burrow is as strong for them as BREATHING!) But somehow I just began seeing things from our daughter’s perspective- and I got a bit of a glimpse into how annoying and frustrating HER day must get! Being so curious, but not being given the space to follow up discoveries. Being so excited but finding that shouts of glee aren’t welcome. Being so opinionated but not being heard.

20140304-133642.jpg

I’m no parenting saint AT ALL and I do feel infuriated sometimes but stepping back from my feelings and attempting to see things through her eyes REALLY helps.

Play
Play is a form of communication for children, so if we want to nurture a strong connection with them we need to play hard too! Play has also rescued many a moment for us that was spiralling into disconnection.

If Ramona is doing something that breaks our one rule (No harming people or people’s stuff) then I will often use play as a way of recovering any shaken connection. So a couple of days ago Ramona was enjoying pulling apart a friend’s house plant. I explained to her why house plants need to not have their leaves ripped, but she continued. I was picking up that Ramona was running on empty a bit so I firmly said “I’m not going to let you pull apart that plant” and then I began to cry big, ridiculous sobs and pretended to be the plant “Noooooo, don’t pull meeeeeeeee!!!” And we had a silly old game of plant chasing kid and kid pulling plant. (A classic.) Later on, when Ramona was full up and connected again, we had a conversation about keeping people’s stuff safe.

Attachment parenting is not about avoiding all tension and healthy boundaries/ guidelines, but IS about creating a good, receptive environment in which to discuss these things in a respectful way. Play is often a bridge between inappropriate behaviour and necessary discussion for us.

One of the best books I have read on the whole of childhood based on attachment theory is “Letting Go As Children Grow” by author of cosleeping bible, Three In A Bed, Deborah Jackson.

“The letting go process does not have to wait until the rebellious teenager explodes with anger and frustration. It does not even have to wait for a two yea old to become ‘terrible’. We can let our children go from the moment they are born by trusting in the process of nature and responding to their needs as they become apparent.”

How does attachment look in your family these days? I’d love to hear from families with different ages.

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.

Parenting

Championing children as tiny teachers (rather than bearers of naughty bottoms that need a smack)

8 April, 2013

I don’t think I told you much about the disasterous holiday we had a couple of weeks ago- we went down to the coast for a few days in the campervan. The van broke down (notice how I have moved on from first-name terms here. She normally gets to be Betty) and after spending a day in the derelict car park of Margate’s not-so-dreamy Dreamland had to come home. Oh, also, while Tim had his head in the broken bonnet we had a phone call saying the offer on our house had fallen through. *cries*Welcome to dreamland baby(Hey *trying to be positive* I at least got this cool posey bump shot though. Yeah. Not worth it.)

Before we came home we went out for a Thai meal, we were the only ones in the restaurant and Ramona gobbled up nearly a whole bowl of Pad-thai noodles. As we went to leave, Ramona walked past the solo waitress who had bent down to wave good-bye to her, and stopped. Ramona threw her arms around her neck and gave her the biggest, longest cuddle I have EVER seen. Ramona doesn’t give out cuddles willy nilly. She is quite picky. It got to the point where Tim and I were almost being awkward about it, like “Wow, they are still cuddling…” The waitress was absolutely made up, overjoyed.

Could it be that Ramona was picking up on something throughout our meal, that we were missing? Sometimes, even when I am trying my very best to hide it, Ramona will look at me with her open little face and enquire “Mummy, why are you sad?”

I am convinced Ramona just knew this lady needed a cuddle. That it was more than just a whopping big thank you for her succulent bowl of noodles!

Children are in tune in a way that us adults lost long ago. Their sensitive hearts and inquisitive minds are to be admired and aspired to.

I think we often take it for granted that our children add SO much to society, to life. It seems rare to see them authentically celebrated and treated with awe.

celebrating childrenWe went to the Dulwich Picture Gallery at the weekend, to see the Murillo exhibition. Such beautiful paintings that are just now being clawed back from vintage confectionary tin world. I was struck by the beauty and sensitivity with which the children were portrayed. The painter’s adoration of children emanated from the canvas- even the filthy, rapscallion orphans were somehow painted with dignity and love.

Others have found this too-

“… you begin to see how compassionate these pictures are, how each youngster, including one black boy who was presumably a slave, is accorded the painter’s absolute respect as a Christian soul, a child of God.”

As we were leaving one room Ramona felt the door needed to be shut (she wasn’t born in a barn, ha!) so she closed it gently. One of the employees of the gallery was clearly alarmed by this action and swiftly tugged it open and abruptly told Ramona, much more crossly then I would tend to ever speak, to leave it alone and stay with Mummy. I was so shocked. After spending an hour in Murillo’s enchanted world it seemed like such a crashingly disrespectful way to treat a tiny tot. Children as our teachers

Of course, this is nothing, really. Just last week a mother was in Boots when her toddler knocked some bottles from the shelf and broke a nozzle. A staff member approached, told the child she was naughty and SMACKED HER BOTTOM. (Read the original news article here.) Lots of older people possibly think “Disciplining other people’s kids was all the rage when I was a nipper!” and others maybe think it isn’t that much of a big deal – the comments on the piece mostly suggested readers felt she got what she deserved.

However, once you begin perceiving children as fully human, abundant with gifts and abilities, full of curiosity and sensitivity and traits that are lost to adults, this story becomes outrageous! It becomes a story about ‘well-intended’ physical assault.

When people shout and undermine and mock children we are treating them as less than human, as innately naughty and as deserving of emotional or physical pain. At least once a day I hear something, either in the street, at the park or in a film, which tells me that our views on children are utterly upside down and inside out.

(A little shout out from me to all the parents who, well, shout out sometimes… I’m not saying we don’t all slip up. When we are trying, with every minute of the day, to nurture and love it can be tiring and sometimes we fail to show that respect. But we are trying, right?)

We ARE getting better, I do believe that. Knowledge about child developmental stages is helping us become increasingly understanding of kids and their needs and the ways they express themselves. The idea that kids need aggressive discipline in order to fit to our expectations is becoming less prominent. Hopefully we are on a journey of children being seen less as wandering bottoms wanting a smack and more tiny teachers who could enlighten us a whole lot.

Bring on the day when admonishing and shaming children in public a thing of the past. When we champion children as our teachers in love and curiosity. When we strive to be as sensitive and intuitive as they are. When we admire their abandon rather than quash it.

YEAH! You with me?!

*does fierce Hulk pose*

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Nappyfree

Get started with Elimination Communication

28 January, 2013

We have made a few parenting choices that aren’t those made by most others, but possibly the one deemed most odd was bringing up a nappy-free baby.

I heard about Elimination Communication when I was pregnant and remember thinking it an utterly bizarre and implausible practice! Then, when Ramona was 10 weeks old, I decided I would give it a crack. (Me, on everything: “Bizarre? Hmm. I’ll try it.)

A few wees in and I was hooked! (I get a feeling this post is going to be filled with collections of words never, ever used in a sentence together before.) Within days she was responding to me helping her go in the potty and I was able to detect a few signals.

It hasn’t been a simple ride ever since, we have had a grand old share of rogue poos and wet pants. But I have loved our journey, it made sense for us. I like the emphasis on babies being born with the ability to communicate and get their needs met. I love that Ramona has had a continued awareness of her bodily functions- there was no moment, which I know other toddlers have, that involved a revelation like “WHAT THE HECK IS THAT COMING OUT OF MY BUM!” I liked that we weren’t giving conflicting messages; “Wees go here in the nappy… oh, actually you are now this arbitrary age, now they go in the loo!” I like that Ramona never had her tender little bottom sitting in wee or poo for more than a minute.  It provided another channel for connection. But finally, I have definitely enjoyed the avoidance of any bribe/reward-based or punitive potty training. This has to be potty training at it’s most gentle- a pace set entirely by the child, for us it spanned two years.

Last night I mentioned the word “bath” to my just-turned-two Ramona, and got distracted by something. Minutes later I went upstairs to see Ramona running both taps, a towel helpfully placed on the side, totally nude, doing her business on the loo (no child seat) that she had evidently just discovered she could climb on to!! She is entirely independent of needing our help now and it is a complete relief knowing I will be able to concentrate on the new Spring baby’s elimination needs and leave Ramona to it.

You really don’t have to go the whole hog in order to appreciate the principles of EC. Your babe might be a bit older-  commencing toddlerhood, or you might have brand new carpets that would not welcome even a tiny spray of newborn butt-caramel!! Wherever you are coming from, is entirely possible to help your kid understand their body, keep their bums poo free and talk to them about their elimination- all of which will make the transition to their toilet- independence much easier.

If you are wondering about EC, or even considering doing it a little bit, this tips here might be a little bit helpful.

Elimination Communication Nappyfree Baby

  • Don’t expect a linear journey! This isn’t potty training. You don’t begin and get better and better until suddenly there are no accidents.  Some months are brilliant (for example, when Ramona was 5-7 months we rarely had accidents) and then others are a bit harder. Once Ramona was mobile she showed little interest in sitting on the potty, and it felt like a “backwards step”- try not to see it this way. It is so much easier if we can put aside our expectations and just roll with it, accepting whatever happens.
  • Learn the lingo and develop the communication. “Signals” are when they let you know they need to go- it might be squirming, crying, pursing lips, grunting or lifting legs. “Cues” are sounds they learn to associate with wees and poos, they end up being a bit of a trigger for them We used “Psst” for wee and a “poopoopoo!” for poop. “Offering” is suggesting to them they might need to go or “pottytunity” is sometimes used to!
  • Play with different places for pottytunities. Babies and tots will have a preference. Try the sink, the loo, a big potty, a small potty, by a tree. Adding variety might get them back into it. Plus certain potties are uncomfortable, so don’t insist if they aren’t up for it.
  • We ALL like entertainment on the loo, eh? A good book and a poo = perfect combo. Have a stack of toys/ books/ action songs that you do to encourage them to stay on the potty until they have been.
  • Get into a rhythm of offering at certain times. We always offered upon waking, upon leaving a place, upon arriving at a new place, upon getting in and out of the sling/ buggy/ car seat. This helps them get a sense of when their next pottytunity might be.
  • You will soon pick up a natural rhythm – for us in the early day between 3-6 months it was every 20 minutes or so. You will soon learn how long their little bodies take to process breast milk and you’ll be able to offer when you think they are due. And then they will still surprise you every now and then! Once they are drinking juice and water you will be surprised at how quickly that comes out the other end!
  • You will soon learn what you are comfortable with when out and about. We used to hide behind bushes and trees for a wee, or aim down drains in alleyways,  and do poos in a plastic bag like a doggy poop bag! Ramona didn’t used to like going in public loos at all. Other people have used the foldable portable potties, or even just an old ice cream carton. And others still don’t like offering in public at all.
  • Clothing completely depends on the season, but you will very soon discover that those baby grows with poppers are not workable! We very quickly moved on to leggings/ tights and tee shirts that could be quickly pulled up and down. Some people cut a gap in the leggings for even quicker access. Summer is the absolute best as they can be nudey pants all day!
  • Baby Bjorn do a couple of great pottys for EC. We had their little potty for a while, and loved it, but we lost it on a camping trip. To eplace it we paid £1 for their potty chair on Ebay. It is HUGE but incredibly sturdy so really nurtures independence.
  • Don’t be scared of nappies. There is a mixed feeling about this. But for a while I was hung up about putting any kind of nappy on. It annoyed me to concede to the nappy if we were in a “missy” stage after a “miss free” stage. However, when in other people’s homes, or somewhere where a miss might be awkward a nappy will help you relax and that is most important….
  • Relax. You would not believe the effect our own emotions can have on a child! They WILL pick up on any anxiety you have, and you could well get in a vicious cycle of tension based misses.
  • Avoid praise, if you can! Your child is only doing what is natural, when she does her business on the potty you WILL be thrilled. But try “Thank you for doing it on the pot, it makes it much easier for mummy” or “Doesn’t it feel nice letting it all out into the loo?” The last thing you need is a tot unable to do a poo without a clap (true story, by the way…)
  • Nurture independence from whenever they are ready. For us that was when Ramona was 1. We encouraged her to help us take her undies up and down, to wash her hands and flush the loo. Allowing them to be their own person is SO important at all times, but even more so when it comes to their bodies, eh?
  • Often, in a series of misses we just had to step right back, rather than constantly offering. Sometimes they can respond pretty sourly to us crowding them, offering all the time, which what we inevitably tend towards during a bout of misses. Better for them to miss and keep their independence then have a helicopter parent.
  • Once you get cracking join the Facebook EC group and Born Ready Forums. It is vital, when choosing a more unusual path, to have people around you who have chosen the same. They are a WEALTH of wisdom and expertise and there will not be ONE issue that you come across that someone hasn’t not faced before!
  • If you are reading type you will enjoy Diaper Free Baby and a very new book EC simplified. I referred to my Diaper Free book a lot, I loved reading the stories and seeing how different each journey was.

There are 16 little pointers, the things I wished I had understood in my first week.  Would love to hear your thoughts, if you are doing it, and what you would chose to share!

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Babywearing, Craftiness

Easy Sling for Your Toddler’s Doll

9 January, 2013

It is a bit frightening/funny/awkward when your tot learns to copy everything you do. This morning Ramona has been exclaiming “Holy McNoly!” at everything (it could have been so, so much worse but I am desperately trying to modify my sweary antics!) and for the last few days she has been wandering around with a huge swab of red lipstick on her cheek that looks like a nasty gash. She somehow laid her hands on some old “Stay all day” makeup. It’s a wonder product, really. We are three days in and despite several attempts at washing it is not budging! Remind me not to go around covering my face in lipstick in front of her again, okay?

Ramona has often emulated breastfeeding (she nursed a bulb of garlic, I think it was just comfort feeding though) and now she is all about babywearing. It is handy for me too as it means one less thing that I will inevitably end up carrying home from the park. I have tried a couple of methods and now I want to present to you The Easiest, Quickest Sling you could possibly make for your tot.

It is a traditional Asian carry, a mei tai, meaning no buckles just two bows. I have found a way to eradicate most sewing, so this should be crafted up in a tick…

DIY sling for toddlers doll

I often pick up vintage cotton placemats and embroidered hankies, ribbon and binding whenever I see it at a car boot or charity shop. Just a little rummage in my cupboard found me just what I needed. How delightful is this retro soldier fabric? It is a tea towel-y thing, but way too small to be helpful in the kitchen.

easy quick toddler doll sling

Fabric placemats and small tea towels are ideal as they don’t need hemming, but a square of any fabric will do, just put a hem around the edge so it doesn’t fray. Mine was 27cm x 27cm but round it up to 30 and it will fit both big dolls and big toddlers!

Simply place your fabric in the middle of one of the 70cm ribbons and sew one straight line, attaching the ribbon to the back of the fabric. This will give you two shorter bottom straps. coming out of either side. Then sew one 70 cm ribbon to each top corner, pointing verticallytr. These will look long but they need to cross over your child’s back and tie around the front, so long is good.

Ummm….. Ta Da! For real, that is it! It is a 5 minute number, tops.

To put it on:
This might sound complicated, but once you do it you will see how simple it is! Tie the bottom strap around your kid’s waist, with a bow at the back, the pattern/ front of the fabric facing out. Place doll chest to chest with your toddler and bring the square up over dolls back. Put a strap over each shoulder, cross over the back (to look at tot’s back would show a big X) and bring straps around to the front again (under dolls bottom) and tie a front bow.

Every tot that has seen Ramona’s has wanted a carry – it would make a great pressie. I think it may have usurped the Easy Toddler Wings as my gift of choice!

Have fuuuun!

PS I’d hate for you to miss a thrifty/crafty/parenting post- enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


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.

Craftiness, Thrifty

Easy Toddler Wings Craft

8 November, 2012

When I was a wee tike I was selected as part of the Royal Ballet Help the Poor South London Kiddies Scheme. It meant being bustled off each week to a cold, scary big hall and leaping from corner to corner and getting told off for not leaping gracefully enough by older ballerinas. I didn’t really like it much (what an ungrateful Beneficiary of Good Will!) and didn’t last very long. But before I had my last tussle with Mum about whether I could give up this opportunity I did get to perform in the Royal Opera House dressed as a giant chicken.

Despite being a rubbish, ungrateful ballerina I can remember being so proud on that stage, and feeling so full of fancy, so unlike my clumsy self, I felt that even my leaping met the grade, as a flapped my way from stage left to stage right.  I think I was probably the last child out of my suit.

There is something about wings, even those wings of the inelegant chicken, that makes a child’s imagination soar.

After seeing some images of a child in wings on the internet a few times, I decided I had to give this craft a crack and discovered just how irresistibly easy it is and what delight they provoke in children!


It was such a simple craft, anyone could manage it with just some scraps of fabric and a sewing machine. It did take a while cutting out all those reams of looping feathers, and it is fairly monotonous sewing the lines – but I am sure you all have a much higher boredom threshold than me!   I used up some upholstery samples, so I had fantastic, bold colours but really just too heavy for tiny arms to happily flap for hours.

How to:

  • You need a base that reflect the arm length of the child. I did 30 cm x 30 cm (for a 1-2 year old, would fit up to 3)  and cut a loose curve between them.
  • I then cut lots of loopy strands, beginning at 36 cm and getting smaller as you sew up into the corner.
  • My strands were  around 5 cm wide, but these could be any width- wider if you are lazier than me and want less strands or much less wide if you would like lots and lots of feathery layers.
  • Best to leave a loop hanging off each end and then cut the loop smaller once you are all done.
  • I just sewed straight along the top of each strand from corner to corner, wriggling and doing tiny tucks as I went to accommodate the curve for the first one or two longer strands. For the short strands you can zip straight along.
  • I then laid them out to make a half circle and so I could easily imagine where the ribbon needed to go.
  • I then attached a long piece ribbon to the pointy corner of each wing, with a few centimetres between them, so that could go around the neck with a nice bow.
  • I left the bottom corner to just hang, and tied a smaller bit of ribbon on the far end corners to tie around the ribbon.
  • Hope that all makes sense!

As you can see, I didn’t use the ideal fabric and my cuts are wonky but it still turned out okay! Such a forgiving craft, my absolute favourite kind.

I made two pairs to send to my two toddler nephews in New Zealand. It is hard finding crafty  present ideas for toddlers and children so I was REALLY happy when my sister-in-law sent a video of her darling boy having a major giggle, flapping about and dancing to Adele. These are now my present of choice for every child!!

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!

Attachment parenting, Babywearing

5 reasons I love toddler wearing

12 July, 2012

I was queuing for a bag of chips last Friday when the gruff, bald, beer bellied Polish man behind the counter looked up at me and exclaimed “I love your style!”

Er.

He went on to explain “The way you are carrying your child, I really like it – we do it like that back home.” I had my toddler sprawled on my back, nestled in my wrap. I used to get comments like this quite commonly when she was tiny, but now more often than not all I get are those Raised Eyebrows of Consternation!

For the first 5 months of Ramona’s life I wore her in a sling every day, for most of the day. I just wanted to keep her close, I felt a small part of me to be missing if I were to let her snooze on the sofa! She would snuggle into me as  I cooked and protested and sewed and hiked.

I had a gorgeous ring sling a friend had made, but wanting to be completely hands free I made her a stretchy wrap. By the time she was 5 months old she was a corking 13 kilos and I needed to upgrade to a woven wrap that would made my load a little lighter! We invested in a Didymos wrap, a second hand one from Ebay, and has been serving us beautifully recently, with our little 21 month old Ramona.

Once Ramona got crawling, the cord that tied us began pulling a little bit and it seemed completely natural for her to want to crawl about, away from me and explore the dusty, crevices of our house.  I still wore her when we went out and about and for naps and for breastfeeding on the go. When she was 10 months old we found a buggy by a bin, a spectacular huge old Silver Cross and we  took it home and took Ramona for the odd spin in that. Ramona enjoyed it- she’d wave at everyone in a very Queen like way, enjoying a wonderfully novel experience, thinking she was the first baby  ever to get pushed about on a mini wagon; “Check out my WHEELS!”. It came in pretty handy for loading it up with our big supermarket shop and gradually we got used to using the buggy 75% of the time.

Then, a few months ago Ramona gave up the buggy –  couldn’t get her in it for love nor money. I buckled her in against her will once and the discombobulation of that haunts me to this day. The wrap is once again making an appearance daily and it feel so right!

Here are my reasons for loving it:

    • It saved a buggy strike from becoming an immobilising crisis! Understandably, once your toddler GETS toddling, they don’t fancy being clipped in and pushed about.  For Ramona it seems being up high helps her to feel okay with being carted around, she feels involved with her excellent vantage point.

      We zipped off to Berlin for the day with Ramona on my back

    • I like how unfettered I feel. I walk out the door with my handbag and Ramona on my back and that’s that. Because it is hands free, I can text/ eye up Twitter/ pick my nose whilst walking along, without having to negotiate 4 wheels. (Mind you that could be simply my lack of coordination!) Our buggy used to get layers and layers of stuff packed into it, and bags hanging off all sides. Pushing that around made me feel like that fella off The Road.

      Checking out the horses – Ramona LOVED this place

    • Ramona falls asleep SO easily in a back carry, I love to feel her cheek press into my shoulder as she drops off. If I sense Ramona is a bit excited, or if we have a tribe of souls at our place having fun, bed times can involve much convincing! Sometimes I’ll pre-empt it and will take her for an evening stroll and let her gently off. Transferring her into her bed from a back carry is really simple too – a much lower Wake Up Rate than the buggy to bed transfer!

      Schnoozing

    • It is especially good for navigating the city crowds and public transport. Going into the centre of the Big Smoke with the buggy used to fill me with dread; having to ask strangers for help up and down the stairs, getting stuck behind a platoon of slow walkers. Now we just whip up and down and right past those meandering snail like tourists and strolling romantics.

      Just hanging out back there, eating a corn on the cob

    • It is especially good for navigating the city crowds and public transport. Going into the centre of the Big Smoke with the buggy used to fill me with dread; having to ask strangers for help up and down the stairs, getting stuck behind a platoon of slow walkers. Now we just whip up and down and right past those meandering snail like tourists and strolling romantics.

I can only really carry for an hour without a break, I’m not denying she is pretty heavy. But not nearly as wearying as pushing a heavy laden pram, or as hard as people think it – I guess your body becomes accustomed and grows in a way to accommodate toddlerwearing. I use a Reinforced Ruck Carry (I think, there are about a gazillion different carries) but have heard on the street that a Double Hammock is the FUTURE so I am going to be studying this video for a bit:

 Do you wear your baby or toddler?

Nappyfree

Nappy Free at 17 months

1 May, 2012

I have had a couple of interesting emails this week. The first came from a close relative who was just expressing some gratitude for getting her started with Elimination Communication (EC or Nappy Free for something that sounds less Willy Wonkery.) I didn’t mean to get her started, it is just that one time a few months ago I heard her little 4 month old lad do huge trump. Knowing it was approaching the time he normally filled his pants, I whipped of his nappy and he proceeded to do two wees and an implausibly large dump.

Now, I am well aware this makes me seem AWFUL! Imposing my parenting way onto another. I swear, I have only done it a couple of times, once to my nephew and once to my neice, both times when their mothers weren’t around, and I would never do it to YOUR baby.

Yeah, it still makes me sound awful, eh. I’m sorry.

Anyway, while he was taking his dump, his mama came in. It was, er, a little awkward.

But she emailed this week, saying how since then he has done all of his poos in the potty – THREE A DAY!!- and it has changed their lives. He used to really struggle, poor chap, and turns out  The  Hold helps it all along.

HURRAH!

Then on the other hand, the second email. It was a friend also doing EC. Her 13 month old has turned Anti-Potty. It is a common low in this rollercoaster of EC and I really felt some of her disappointment. Those two emails really encapsulate the good and bad of Nappy Free, I reckon.

We began when Ramona was 3 months old, primarily out of curiosity but partly because I felt there must be something in it. Within days we discovered there was and we quickly hit a rhythm, catching 80% of her shizzle.

With every month that passes it is becoming less unusual that Ramona is Nappy Free. Sitting a baby on the potty at three months is ridiculous by almost everyone’s standard, sitting a toddler on the potty is pretty normal. This is a nice feeling – it is hard feeling as if you have to constantly explain yourself, particularly when people can be really quite hostile about it (for example, people “explaining” that it is physiologically impossible for babies to hold their wees in – if this is the case, how comes Ramona has held her wees since she was about 6 months?)

But with her growing up there also comes a sense that perhaps we should be further along the “potty trained” journey by now- since we have been doing it for 15 months!! Of course, it isn’t training. It is communication. And in the communication stakes we are doing superbly- oh yes. She ALWAYS tells us as she is doing a wee, even if it IS on the new carpet.

There is something brilliant about Ramona saying “POO”, walking up to the potty, sitting down and doing her business. She has been doing that since she was about 15 months old, it blew our minds the first time, and even now gives us a huge smile to see the communication effort paying off. Other signs she needs to go include grabbing her bum, patting the potty, looking very serious indeed, and pausing. (Yeah, she really doesn’t pause for any other reason!) In fact, there is a particuarly style of Serious Pause which usually means she already has a turtlehead.

With this big leap in communication comes a tiny bit of disappointment too, when it doesn’t go to plan. Until now it has been quite easy to be breezy about the misses, but now, because we know she can communicate  effectively and even sit her self down on the potty, it is a challenge not to let manipulative language in, or show signs of frustration. The last thing we want is hang ups over taking a dump.

We have by no means nailed this but still I thought this would be a nice opportunity to share…

Things I have found useful in all of this:

  • The Baby Bjorn Potty Chair – when Ramona was tiny we had a little Baby Bjorn Potty, it was gorgeous but fell out of my bag on to some train tracks when we were going camping last summer. To replace it I got the BB potty chair, for £1 from Ebay. It is MAHUSIVE and I was gutted at first. But, because it is so sturdy, it means she can climb on and off and has been brilliant in fostering some independence about it all.
  • Keeping the potty in the same, visible place everyday, so Ramona knows exactly where to find it.
  • The Born Ready website- a totally honest, warm community of people doing Nappy Free with their little ones. It has been such an encouragement. Also the lively Facebook group found by searching EC UK.
  • Keeping on communicating. When she has a miss we routinely say “OH! It’s a wee, wee wee goes in the potty!” and then sitting her on the potty for a little bit. We hold back any negativity. It is lovely when she grabs a rag too, and helps clean up her pee.
  • Putting nappies on. This is controversial as some wonderful ECers suggest not to. But putting nappies on every so often when we REALLY don’t want a puddle has helped us to relax and being relaxed is probably one of the most important attributes in all of this.  Little ones pick up our cues so perfectly.
  • Commitment to noises like PSST. It is remarkable how doing the PSST cue encourages Ramona to take a whizz. If she is a bit distracted doing PSST just seems to help her release her bladder.
  • High entertainment. There are certain times of the day that sitting on the potty is obviously just the perfect activity – namely upon waking. However sometimes she is so into her playing it just seems mean to interrupt. Instead we incorporate potty time- putting the potty in front of the Superhero Base (otherwise known as the Dolls House) or getting out all the best books.

Ramona finding a tree to wee by

I have earlier on this blog suggested that EC isn’t necessarily for everyone. But I think I might backtrack now. Not because I think  parents need anymore pressure put on them – to add cleaning up rogue wees and chasing nakey crawlers around the lounge, or any more burdens of “Eek, I should be doing this” to shoulder.

But because I think a form of EC is accessible to every parent and will often times even EASE the strain of parenting. It is simply a case of adding in a bit more talk when you observe them doing their business – expressing from a tiny age exactly what is going on with their bodily functions, or, if you see your baby pushing out a wee turd, whipping of the nappy, holding them over a loo. A tiny wipe and clean up is done, nappy saved. For some babies, like the little guy mentioned earlier, getting help with the elimination could eliminate a whole lot of angst.

It seems such a shame that Nappy Free is seen as going all out- when it is essentially just about communication, something every parent is already doing.

Are you doing normal potty training, or a form of EC? Have you found anything particularly ace/ hard?

PS I rarely post about being Nappy Free but have a squizz here if you want more :)