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Attachment parenting

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.

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Authentic Parenting and the Importance of Happiness

30 May, 2013

A few weeks ago, in the late stages of pregnancy when I felt like my womb-baby and rapscallion toddler were running me a bit ragged I  had a totally indulgent, luxurious shower all by myself. (Hey, this is a big deal! Even the stealthiest of my loo breaks are interrupted by a curious “What are you doing, mummy?”)  I was tired and body-weary and even though Tim wasn’t around I just wanted to have some time to myself. I wanted to shower so hard I got WRINKLES. I left Ramona playing alone and I let the hot water run over me for what seemed like half the morning. Every so often she would pop her head in and say “Are you having a nice time, Mummy?” and would skip away, delighting in her mum’s delight.

It struck me just how knitted together a child’s joy is with her parent’s.

One of the biggest implicit myths around Attachment or Gentle Parenting is that a child’s happiness correlates directly with a parent’s sacrifice. No one really says this out loud, but sometimes it does feel like the message is “The more night time parenting you do/ the more babywearing despite back ache/ the more breastfeeding a toddler whilst cooking dinner, the more well- rounded your child will be.”

In a big way I think this really is just rubbish.

I do think there are sacrifices to be made as a parent. And I do think that for babies, those under a year, their needs should always, always, always come first. This will mean less sleep/ stopping what we are doing to respond to a cry/ tough, stretched nipples. (I think most parents can handle this for a tiny one – so many of us gather under the “They are only babies once” banner.)

I think people who appreciate attachment parenting principles can too often forget that there is a balancing of needs to be done. Sometimes this balancing of needs is easy. Often there is  massive joy in meeting our little one’s needs first;  a pleasure in night parenting and putting plans on hold to play.

And then there are other times when we need to listen to our own bodies and minds.

I’m just sure that as our little ones grow we need to grab hold of our own sense of well being. I am becoming increasingly convinced that our children are massively affected by our own happiness.

Too often I see (and become one!) a mother who has taken Attachment Parenting as an order to ignore every niggle and ambition and desire and hope of their own.

Kids take in EVERYTHING. Every grimace. Every flare of the nostrils. If we are babywearing through exhausted discontent then they will know. They will absorb an underlying resentment like the sweat from your neck. So push them in a buggy. It will be about a million times better for you both.

There is some science around this – chemicals we release when we are either joyful or annoyed. (Yeah, that is about as far as my science goes. I spent most of my science classes at school playing with the pet rabbit or dying my hair with the little vials of peroxide.) Oxycontin or adrenaline float through the air like dust, alighting on those we are with and setting off a similar mood. It is why when the plane takes off from the tarmac a palpable fear sometimes descends, or why when we giggle with our children you often end up rolling around in delirium together.

authentic parenting atta

Then I think there is also something about authenticity.  Our children need us to be real and to be honest. Yes, we ARE the adults so for the most part we do need to hold it together, take some deep breaths when we feel like yelling. But if our children never see us sad or cross, what are we teaching them about the importance of expressing emotion? We risk too much if we mask everything, if we are dishonest with ourselves and our children about what is causing us stress.

It isn’t manipulative to discuss with your two year old how hard you find it when she gets naked in public. You aren’t a bad parent if you do a childcare swap (where you baby sit yours and theirs and then they look after yours and theirs another time) with your friend just so you can have an afternoon not being climbed on. If you are a parent with an ambitious mind and a brain that needs stimulation the best thing you can do for your child is get back to the workplace for at least part of the week – they don’t need to be cuddled through your bitterness.

(Also, it is kind of an aside, but while I am justifying all the things I need to do for my own sense of well being: it is natural to describe your crossness after an infuriatingly long and expensive and pointless 0844 call – just maybe don’t growl Ba$!a%ds! in a tone your toddler will find impossible to not repeat all afternoon as you hang up. Er.)

Despite me being the BIGGEST FAN EVER of cosleeping and that I always imagined the four of us would hunker down in the Family Bed, since Juno was born we have split up. Tim and my toddler Ramona in one room and Juno and I in another. Despite knowing Ramona’s needs are being met it was hard to make this decision, I felt like I was letting the world of cosleeping attachment parents down! But maximising the sleep we all get is pretty much a must right now and waking up to one kid each is more than enough!

It is a shame that as people pick up and run with parenting approaches, expert advice is often bashed all over the nuances of our personalities, cultures and families. It annoys me that Attachment Parenting is seen as extreme practice because some people see it as a set of rules to followed, rather than an encouragement for parents to simply connect, connect, connect with our little ones.  And in order to connect we need to be authentic.

I’d love to hear your honest thoughts on this. Can you believe I get annoyed with attachment parenting?! What have you found in your own parenting experience? What do you do to maintain a sense of well being as a parent? As a Gentle/ Attachment parent, do you think we can have a tendency to compromise authenticity? 

Attachment parenting, Nappyfree, Parenting

Hello Juno! Our new little girl

27 April, 2013

On Thursday 25th April we welcomed little Juno into the world!
She is a total delight; downy skin, rolls of chub and alert, bright eyes.

image

She is an expert breastfeeder and spends most of her time showing off her expertise!

Ramona is so far loving her little sister, kisses and cuddles are flowing in abundance. We have had some tandem nursing happening which is lovely, Ramona gently strokes her little sister, but also seems like a big entanglement of limbs. I need to work on my technique!

image

Juno’s birth journey didn’t follow quite the path we’d imagined, primarily due to me showing signs of infection, and we spent the last few hours in hospital. However, it was a still a gentle and peaceful entry for her and an empowering experience for me and the four of us were tucked up in bed together by night time.

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We have also caught a fair few wees, Juno makes it really obvious when she needs to go. So looks like our second nappyfree baby is keen to start

Over the moon that this little treasure has joined us!

Attachment parenting, Cosleeping, Parenting

The Family Bed- Cosleeping as connection

27 February, 2013

A few weeks ago Ramona woke up in the middle of the night, full of beans. She sleeps in the middle of the two of us, so if she wakes one of us can cuddle her back into dreamland. This time she woke up instantly, and gleefully, and she shouted “LEEEG! Where ARE YOUUUU? There you are! Other leg?! Where aaare youuuu?? FOUND you!”

Yes, YES, my friends. She was playing hide and seek with her limbs.

After stifling my giggles I stroked her head and she snuggled back down into a deep sleep.

People ask us alot if Ramona, just over two, will ever have her own room. I suspect she will one day, but we are in no hurry at all to usher her out. It is too much of a crack up! Ha. But, really, I still just find it the most perfect way for us. I know that she sees it as her place too for now, and that that won’t last forever- it won’t be long before she will be hankering after her own space I am sure.

Cosleeping as connection

One of the primary reasons I am still enjoying cosleeping with our toddler is the almost subconscious connection it gives us. I have had to work some crazy long days over the last few months, having breakfast with Tim and Ramona before leaving and not seeing them until Ramona is fast asleep. Getting to breathe in my daughter’s presence, to have her find my hand in the night, to share dreams seems to make up for missing out on a whole day.

I find cosleeping helpful too after a day of being together but being a bit out-of-sync. You know those days? When it is hard to put an agenda aside, when you miss the cues, when playing is last on your to-do list and you end up handing your child over to that magnificent pair of scallywags, Charlie and Lola, on Youtube? A fresh start and a new dawn is ALWAYS helpful, but I sometimes wonder if sharing sleep gives it an extra boost. That by being close for those night time hours just helps us to re-connect and find our natural parent-child rhythm again.

Last week I heard about the term the Japanese use for cosleeping, where the Family Bed is the norm until kids are quite old; it is “Kawa”. Kawa is the same character used for a river cascading between between two banks; they see parents as the strong, supportive edges, the life-giving river child flowing through them. How beautiful! An anthropological study found that the Japanese see cosleeping as a way of nurturing interdependence between child and parent, an interdependence that fosters good relationship for life.

Perhaps cosleeping isn’t for everyone, I do know lots of parents who just wouldn’t entertain the idea. I would never in a Brazillion years tell a parent what to do, or judge them for not doing what I do. But I hate that many parents are scared into not cosleeping. The way the media report cosleeping is incredibly skewed, citing examples where clearly unsafe practices have been used (bed sharing when drunk/ excess bedding) to deter it. It saddens me that fear and propaganda would drive people away from this beautiful, ancient way to connect –  particularly when countries that practice cosleeping have the least incidence of SIDS.

Admittedly, I am pleased as a pickle in punch that I am not nursing through the night anymore, and happy that Tim is able to comfort Ramona as much as I now. I reckon being the solo night nurturer for two would be exhausting. But I am excited about this little womb-baby emerging into our family bed in the Spring time. Where the four of us can laugh at each other’s crazy sleep talk, bond in our dreams and wake up facing the day together.

I just hope the two kids don’t start playing dream Hide and Seek together – that would be far too raucous, thanks….

PPS 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!


Attachment parenting, Parenting

Best reads for gentle pregnancy and parenting – and a giveaway

20 January, 2013

I have a bump! 28 weeks pregnant  and I finally have a bump. It took a while to arrive and then, aided by several Christmas dinners and a few weeks of festive chocolates left in the house, it burst on to the scene, knocking into things, rendering my clothes unwearable and making the poking of my bellybutton (of which I, er,  have a slight phobia) irresistible to my daughter!

Suddenly I feel veeerrrrry pregnant. Every morning begins with the Beetles anthem for tired souls – “No, don’t wake me, please don’t shake me, leave me where I am! I’m only sleeeeeeping!” Even my knees creak as I walk around. I have had to change the start of my maternity leave from 2 weeks prior to my due date to 6 weeks prior because I am just so weary! GAH, being pregnant with Ramona wasn’t like this, I was a (probably slightly annoying) energetic bundle of glowing hormones.  It is partly having a rambunctious toddler, I guess, and also partly to it being cold, old January. I think everyone is a bit exhausted just now.

I am still nursing Ramona, and we have good days and bad days with that. I see so very many benefits for her still, so aim to keep going, and some days as I  snuggle on the sofa with her and we lock eyes as she nurses I love it as much as I did when she was a new born. And other days it is, as one mama put it, like getting a “30 minute long wet willy” – that classic, sloppy saliva finger wedged in your ear hole trick, eeep!

Of course, I love this baby growing inside me already, and I love parenting Ramona, and can’t wait to have both here on my lap. But sometimes I need a bit of a boost, reminders about why I am parenting peacefully, I need some comfort in shared experience.

I feel so fortunate to have a stack of books and online resources to help me get through some of these more sleepy, short-wick, big emotion days. It is always good to read of other people dealing with similar things, getting encouragement and ideas, and being part of communities that aim to parent in similar ways.

So. I thought I’d share my list of where I find this!

These are my favourite off line and online resources for parenting and pregnancy and birth.

I’d love to hear your own faves though- the books and blogs you rave about when you hear someone has a scrumptious new bun in the oven.Best parenting books and book giveaway

BOOKS

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. The BEST book. Oh my days. It covers SO much but in a really readable way. It is, without a doubt, the book I would recommend to every newly pregnant couple.

Hypno Birthing by Marie Mongan. I am a massive fan of hypnobirthing, primarily because of the complete faith it bestows upon women’s bodies. I am sure that reading this book in pregnancy created the gentle birth I had with Ramona.

The Science of Parenting. This was probably the first parenting book I read and I devoured it in one sitting. It covers babyhood to older childhood and brings, er, you may have guessed, a bit of science into it but in a super accessible way. It covers cosleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding and gentle parenting.

Playful Parenting. This is the manifesto for parents who want to have relationships with their children that bring joy and freedom, for those who want to move away from punitive, tension filled parenting. It is story after story of how play can restore our children and our relationships. Brilliant.

How to Talk so Kids Listen and Listen so Kids Talk. I read this book over Christmas and it has given me this pair of specs that I can’t take off! I feel like I see every adult-child interaction in a new way, a way that reveals where children are coming from. It has such incredible power to help parents understand, and respond to, their children.

ONLINE

The Green Parent. This is a WONDERFUL magazine, but also an online site with forums. These forums got me through my first few months of motherhood!  The community of people on there are so helpful and inspirational.

Kellymom. What breastfeeding question has Kellymom NOT answered? None. Nope, not one.

Mothering.com The articles on Mothering stretch my mind with potential, often full of creative and reflective stories on motherhood. There is a lovely community of mamas in the forums too.

Attachment Parenting UK Facebook group. I really like being part of this group! They post encouraging quotes and blogs and posts and generate alot of discussion.

The Natural Child Project. This site covers so much with the most simple, story based articles. From Elimination Communication to Unschooling it challenges main stream philosophies with really practical examples.

La Leche League. This is an incredible breastfeeding support network to tap into. Jampacked with resources, but also access to support lines and groups to help in the most hands on way.

The Mule, Baby Calm, Little Hearts, The Other Baby Book, Hobo Mama, Analytical Armadillo, Uncommon John and Aha Parenting are all blogs that I love -along with about a billion others-  and will often delve into their archives for inspiration and research on attachment, peaceful parenting. You have to follow these peeps too!

GIVEAWAY

A few weeks ago I was in an Oxfam Bookshop and found four of the above books in pristine condition, two each of Hypnobirthing and The Science of Parenting. I already have one set myself,  have given one to friends who are expecting so for the final duo I am giving them away on this ‘ere blog.

To win The Science of Parenting and Hypnobirthing (with CD)

Please leave a comment! That’s all folks!

However…

For an EXTRA entry you can follow this blog through email (see below to enter email address and hit subscribe button) or through Facebook (let me know in the comments)

And for a THIRD entry you can share this post either on Facebook or Twitter (again, let me know in the comments)

Winner will be chosen on Friday 1st February at 9pm. Winner will be drawn at random from all the entries. UK entrants only, unless you indicate that you’d be willing to help out with postage.

******WINNER ANNOUNCED******
Thank you SO much everyone, and especially for your beautiful and lovely comments. The winner was MrsXpat- congratulations! Thanks for entering everyone, and I’ll have another giveaway soon I’m sure!

Thank ye, my friends, and good luck!
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!