More thoughts on feeding a toddler

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I have another urge to write something about what I’ve learnt about breastfeeding a toddler.

In a way I feel like I shouldn’t have to write this yet somehow it needs to be said.  I’m learning slowly how to communicate the way I feel in a positive way rather than being typically British and apologetic. I am now trying to ensure that I always say “R is breastfed” rather than the usual “R is still breastfed”. Don’t forget that the WHO recommend breastfeeding to two and beyond so I’m not some crazy boobmatyrhippy I’m just following World Health guidelines.

I’m lucky that both my mother and mother in law breastfed, although in a different day and age and with very different guidelines and advice. This means that straight off no one in my immediate family found  “natural term” breastfeeding odd or gave me a hard time about it. That’s another phrase-refusing to say “extended”breastfeeding any more to mean feeding past six months,  but to say “natural term” to reflect the nature of feeding a child until an extend nursing strike or self-initiated weaning.

It would be a lie to say that I don’t care what other people think or what they think of me. Obviously I care little about what strangers think of me as their opinion is irrelevant whilst it matters more what my friends and family think.  There is a huge disappointment when I hear phrases from friends and acquaintances like “I’m all for breastfeeding but. ..” which is the breastfeeding-in-public version of “I’m not a racist but”. Whatever is going to come after that “but” is almost certainly going to be misinformed, incorrect and offensive.

  I talk passionately about breastfeeding because I think it’s important that we change the way our society  views it. I’m not saying that everyone should breastfeed no matter what but just that we accept it as a normal part of every day public life.  This in turn will improve rates of breastfeeding as it becomes a more normalised and publically discussed activity. It will make it more accessible to more people, giving women the choice and the power back in the relationship rather than giving over to the misinformation rife when women are having a physical or emotional wobble about breastfeeding

So whilst I  “don’t care” what strangers think of me breastfeeding a toddler in public (probably not discreetly as he won’t stay still for 5 seconds), I do care about why people would find this entirely natural act offensive. I worry about the state of the country I live in where people think that feeding a baby from the breast is disgusting or wrong. I want to change the way people feel about it and the way they view it.

There are (to my honest knowledge) many people who think that women that breastfed past a certain age (usually a number picked out of the air) are “only doing it for themselves”. If you’ve ever watched a toddler breastfeed you’d have something else to say. With blocked ducts and mastitis,  nipple and skin pinching, Gymnastics, teeth etc it’s not really a relaxing cuddle with your small person. But then on the back of that, another huge swathe of people think that women who breastfeed to natural term are ridiculous martyrs who like to Lord over everyone else about how hard their lives are but who won’t help themselves to make life easier. By help themselves I mean employ tactics they are not comfortable with/ dont believe in that someone else thinks it will help them.

I promise you that the majority of us are neither of the above.  When you make a parenting decision, you often feel like the decision has been made for you and there was actually no choice at all.

There are very few circumstances under which a woman cannot breastfeed. This is not to undermine those who genuinely can’t , but they are in a very small minority. There was absolutely no decision to be made for me,  if I could, I would. I didn’t feel like this was a decision that I made and it certainly wasn’t in silo. It was about my whole outlook on the point of procreation- and it was just always going to be that way. Luckily once he worked it out, R felt the same and his complete bottle refusal showed me that he wanted to be breastfed. Even if for any reason I wanted to wean now, I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to go about it and R would be none too pleased about it all. It’s an even better reason to keep feeding him.

And this is what makes things hard. R is not a sleeper. And some breastfed babies are, some aren’t. Babies are made to wake every 90 minutes or so. Some can settle themselves back to sleep and some can’t. Sometimes this is beyond challenging. During my week of solo parenting R decided on the last night that he didn’t fancy going to sleep. I was exhausted having been up and out to buggy fit in the morning then out to a friends in the afternoon and it was day five of solo parenting. It took me two hours and two different beds to get him down. He woke after fifteen minutes. He then took another hour to settle again and that time slept for just thirty minutes. After about 2 1/2 hours I started to slowly crumble. This isn’t related to breastfeeding specifically but the style of more natural /attachment parenting that we have fallen into through our beliefs and Outlook.

Toddler refusingto sleep, Husband about to board a plane hundreds of miles away and all I felt was that I was trapped and unable to express honestly how I was feeling to anyone. When it feels (from comments made like “you spoil him” or “you need to put him in his own bed otherwise you’ll never get him out” etc) everyone seems to view you as a soft idiot who should be shutting the door on your screaming baby to try to”fix” him, it’s hard to find solidarity. Luckily someone posted about a similar problem on the Facebook breastfeeding group that I’m on and I felt able to share there and the lovely comments and support I received there was invaluable that night, another night feeling in a pit of despair.

What to say? Never assume you know how someone else is thinking or that you know what you’d do in their shoes. Women who have had around 4hrs sleep a night for a year plus don’t tend to handle thoughtless comments well. Don’t underestimate how far a nice comment can go when it’s needed.

Going solo

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This week had been my opportunity to really appreciate how fortunate I am.

Since R was born, this is my first extended period of solo parenting. The most I’ve done over the past 17 months is a weekend (which struck at the height of tantrums and wanting to walk everywhere), but this is pretty much a week. Dada was out Friday with work then went away on Sunday and won’t be back until Friday.

So far we’ve coped ok. Largely helped by the fact that I can work from home so have a bit of time bookending  the day before the childcare run where I can get *stuff* done. It helps that we are mostly all feeling ok and healthy too. I’ve also resigned to the fact that stuff needs to be done and I need to be prepared at all times so pack lunches have been put together the night before,  all clearing up and chores done as soon as possible and dinners have slow cooked whilst I pick R up from the childminders.

And it’s easy there’s an end in sight. Ok Dada will come home exhausted and jet  lagged and possibly a little useless for a few days but we got back to being 2 on 1 which is a ratio that works for us.

I don’t mean this to be a patronising post that makes any assumptions about other people’s situation. However I have got to say yet again how I admire single parents. No matter what the circumstances, let alone those fraught with grief or arguments and stress,  parenting by yourself is hard work. Expecially if you’re lacking in family to support you; financially, emotionally or just by being able to help or and Hove you some time off.

I really am fortunate and I’ll work on appreciating that a little more in the future.

Another sling post

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Another sling post

I’ve been playing. I’m trying to get up ten minutes earlier in the morning and practice a different carry or finish in the sling!

Two days in (plus a play on sunday) and I’m getting there with techniques for distracting the wriggling small person and taking the time to get it right! So much to remember!


Not bad! I need to work on getting my back carries higher and tighter, and using the leg passes to pin the seat, but the pretty finishes (that take pressure off the shoulders so they’re practical too) are coming along.

What shall I try tomorrow?

(huge thanks to Wrap You In Love for wonderfully helpful tutorials without any irritating voiceover! :)

Playing with slings

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Playing with slings

And there’s another on it’s way! Lets hope small stuff lets me wrap him.. I don’t want to always have to wait until he’s asleep!!

Been having fun in preparation for the new sling library if we get it up and running! First sling meet next week so I need to brush up!

With my 3 I can do:
-Poppins Hip Carry
-Robbins Hip Carry
-Kangaroo TUB (Tied under bum)
-Ruck
-Half Jordans with leg pass (kind of)
-no sew ring sling

With my 7 I can do the above plus
-FWCC
-BWCC

And at some point I’ve managed both a saltwater finish and a candycane chestbelt but need to work on both!

So many more kinds of carry to learn!

ION I’ve lost my sling rings. They were on the sofa, then they weren’t!! I have a witness that they just DISAPPEARED! Help!

Adventures

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Adventures

Last week we bravely embarked on our first holiday abroad as a family of three…..

What an adventure! We chose Fuerteventura with the hopes of winter sunshine, reasonable flight time (4 hours?? With an active toddler? ?), good Spanish food and all at a sensible out of season price.

To start with we are all recovering from illnesses (or so we thought) which was less than helpful. I’ve had tonsillitis and laryngitis then small gave me his conjunctivitis. Husband thinks he might have bronchitis with a nasty lingering cough and a pain in his back. Small is snotty and coughing. Still. For more than three weeks we’ve all woken up feeling ill-not a great start!

Early morning get up and easy drive to the airport worked out ok, small just stayed happily asleep in the car seat until we arruived. We weren’t too impressed with the “valet parking” as it was pretty slow and not a drop off outside the terminal as promised but in the short stay car park! Check in and security were a breeze as I had small in the sling, then we settled in for breakfast and baby-wrangling.

The flight was. …okay. Small wore himself out running laps of the airport so he slept for a whopping 90 mins at the start of the flight. The only challenge being not able to put the tray down when my meal arrived, but thankfully the chap next to us went off for a wander when our meals arrived so we could borrow a tray. The last 2 1/2 hours involved walking up and down the aisle getting in people’s way, dancing outside the toilets, watching RaaRaa on the tablet and playing with cars and stickers.

The transfer to our hotel was a bit naff as we sat on a boiling coach on what turned out to be the nicest day of the holiday waiting 45 minutes for another flight to arrive before we could set off. Nice one Thomas Cook!

The hotel was lovely. All inclusive deals are new to me but impressed me with cava for breakfast,  let alone the wonderful range of hot and cold food for every meal. The buffet was ideal for a small who loses interest in food quickly and can only sit in a high chair for about 10-15 minutes before commencing food throwing and shouting. I ate all my favourite things-octopus, calamari,  fish, spanish meat stews,  paella etc and tried local cheeses and their rather moreish mojo verde sauce. Small ate sausages,  pasta,  potatoes and on occasion even some yogurt.

We were in the family area of the hotel (Hotel Suite Atlantis in Corralejo for those interested) which was near the kids pools and play area (though sadly far from the nearest bar). Our room had a gigantic bed which meant the three of us could share easily even with small lying horizontally between our faces with minimum kicking. There was great entertainment for the children,  including a kids disco and at and games during the day. Small was a bit, well, small and impatient for most of it but enjoyed musical bumps once he’d worked it out!

We filled the week with activities in lieu of reasonable weather (I’m being harsh,  if was just poor for this time of year and certainly 15 plus degrees centigrade warmer than the snow at home), including a slightly disappointing boat trip to Lanzerote,  some brilliant bike hire and a wonderful Jeep tour to see the rugged North of the island up close. Though not all ideal,  all were sdoable with a small, wild one and the locals and other tourists alike were friendly and understanding.

The holiday finished in spectacular style with small falling into the fountain at the front of the hotel whilst we waited for our coach to take us back to the airport.

We came home with 93 load of washing to do and all the germs we went with,  and now an extra blocked duct to add to the healthy fun. And sand. Lots of sand.

Would we do it again? Yeeeeeeessss I *think* so. Maybe a little closer to in-season. Maybe a shorter flight but yes.

All we could do was praise small’s behavior whilst we were away but I think that is linked to being a but more relaxed in ourselves which meant more time to spend with him and entertain him!

So we did a thing. …

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I’ve been helping out with our local Bracknell sling meet group as the previous people ruining it were getting increasingly busy with the rest of life. I organised a few meet ups in the Dinnet which was nice but we don’t have anywhere regular to meet.

So a newer member Gemma and I met up today to talk about sorting a more regular meeting and potentially setting up a sling library. This is exactly what is sounds like-a facility where families can come and hire out different slings and wraps for a couple of weeks to see how they get on with them before committing to buy.

We had a really productive meeting and have thought very carefully about how it might work in practice. So we’ve got a new blog/site set up at Bracknell sling meet. Not much to see there yet but I’m hoping it will grow!

Clearly what I need is more hobbies. ….

NOT!

The secret formula

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This week I listened to The Food Program on radio 4. Although radio 4 is probably my most listened to station (that and Planet Rock when there’s a digital radio about) is unusual for me to seek out The Food Program (last time I did was a few years ago when the gin episode was on). Last week’s edition was called The Secret Formula- the subject of the episode all about baby formula- history,  manufacturing process,  ingredients and the law.

I was quite interested to see how they were going to play it and I must admit that overall I found their approach baffling and rather poor. The initial section which talked about low milk prices and why the milk industry especially in Ireland is refocusing their market to look more towards the production of formula was really interesting.  Milk prices are so low,  pushed down by the large conglomerates and supermarkets that farmers are struggling to make any money at all,  but formula is a growing market especially in newly developed and developing countries.

The presenters managed to get a guided tour of a formula production factory which in all honesty despite being the largest section of the programme was a huge waste of the valuable 26 minutes available. The presenter feigned surprise at the sights and conditions of the factory and it’s equipment with a very derogatory stance in regards to the hygiene/health&safety precautions and “all the huge metal storage tanks and tubes”. Whilst I’d be the first to raise a wry smile at the complicated process that goes into replicating breastmilk (the process of which we don’t have to concern ourselves with), my limited knowledge and experience of processed food production would suggest that both the above parts off the presenters experience were entirely normal. To top this off more minutes from the program were used up on listening to a protective suit being donned.

The presenters next looked at a potted history of baby foods and early “formula”. This part was particularly interesting but fell short of describing the changes in advice on weaning in the last 50 years or so or explaining why early “formulas” of mashed up bread and milk are now known to be unsuitable for children. I wonder if this was partially to appease the likely listener-ship of a radio four programme. Advice and info changes so regularly that is possible they didn’t want to alienate listeners who may have been parents of babies 20 to 80 years ago, and who very likely did some of the things that are now  frowned upon.

The part I found most fascinating covered law and regulation around formula production and how it is regulated. Although I felt I already knew  a reasonable amount on this subject I was pleased that the expert suggested how the rules could be changed in the future-including banning formula production companies from advertising any formula milk below one year and a ban on “follow on milks”. These follow on milks are not necessary and have been thought up by formula producing companies to get around the current legislation which states that formula cannot be advertised nor be on special offer aimed at babies under six months old.

Finally the piece spoke to a small group of mothers with formula fed babies. Whilst is unfair of me to judge anything that was said by those individuals,  it was interesting to see how marketing and celebrity had affected their decisions around which brand of formula to use.  When I think about my own friends, their decisions for what formula to chose was usually based on where they shopped and which ones their babies seemed to get on with best.

It got me thinking though about why the programs left me feeling cold. I felt like there was a lot that could have been said in a professional, factual and impartial way about formula production, the companies that produce it and the risks and problems associated with it. However instead the programme content was neutral but the tone was sniffy and judgemental as if in in lieu of actually being able to say anything factually correct but potentially negative about formula.

I appreciate this was not a programme about breastfeeding. However I feel it’s almost impossible to talk about formula without the context of breastfeeding and I don’t think this was addressed very clearly. Try harder please Radio 4.

More Okinami

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I’ve finally got the proper camera out so here goes (half crossposted from my photography blog).

After my Blog post last week about “babywearing“, with a hodgepodge of different photos, it made me realise that I needed to get on with taking some better photos.

So this is what babywearers call the stash shot. It’s not very impressive in comparison to some (multiples of the same wrap in different lengths, colourways or blends), but it’s mine and it’s about what I’m prepared to spend! It shows what I currently own- though you may remember that I did own a babyhawke mei tai previous to the wrap strap mei tai.

Stash of four

The wrap of focus is the Okinami Noir from the Oscha Boutique. This is because not only is the most expensive and beautiful wrap that I own by far, it’s also our “legacy wrap” as I explained in the previous post.

Noir and rings
I’ve bought some sling rings to go with, which hopefully will give me more options for tying it, once I’ve worked it all out!

This is how they do it
This is the shot that everyone takes, so I thought I’d better join the gang.

Today the weather was beautiful and despite all our multiple germs, we decided to get a few shots. I was determined to get a good photo of the Half Jordans Back Carry with Hammock Pass that I mastered at 4am when baby kindly woke up for three hours in the middle of the night- thought I’d put it to good use, but baby of course refused to play ball when I tried to get him onto my back this morning! So instead we went for a Robbins Hip Carry which I’ve definitely got the hang of, although it’s not toddlerproof and he can get out of it if required!
Noir

Bear

I’m quite pleased with these and it’s finally a decent photo of my new hair cut and colour!

Annual fitness update

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Time for my annual exercise update!

In 2015 despite having a small person I completed about 653 1/2 hours of exercise (most to date!)- covering about 1540 miles (245 by bike, over 1000 walking, 70 running and a few others too). Most of it was walking to the shops, to visit friends or for the sake of walking, and 53 buggyfit classes.

Most of those miles include pushing or carrying baby.

Most active month was October with around 50 hours of exercise!

New things- didn’t try many new things this year but did attend 2 days of Gilly’s festive bootcamp and tried my first two boxercise sessions. Enjoyed a little Ice Skate on the Isle of Man too.

And I bought some new leggings too!

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Boobs again

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Christ it’s all going down today. This morning a mother went onto This morning on itv to talk about why she still breastfeeds her 6 year old.

To me this woman is selfless and brave. She knew that people wouldn’t understand but thought her point was important enough to put herself in the firing line. The breastfeeding support forums have been buzzing today with anger and upset at the comments (DON’T READ THE COMMENTS! )(sorry it’s just a thing we say to try to stop troll-feeding) that members of the public are making,  but for some people even close friends too.

We’re back to that classic issue of the anonymity and removed nature of the Internet comment section. The concept that you can say basically anything you like with no repercussion. But it goes deeper than that. It seems that most adults in the UK feel at best uncomfortable with the concept of breastfeeding a six year old. At worst they think it’s “disgusting” and “perverted” and “akin to child abuse”. There is something very inherently wrong with this societal view. In most issues, I’m a fence sitter nature but there are some things I just can’t understand.

The benefits of extended breastfeeding are well documented. Anyone who says there is no benefit to the child at this age may want to do some research on the subject. I’ve talked before about the sexualisation of breasts (in fact my Samsung Mobile Phone will not automatically let me type the word breast and tries to auto correct to the hilarious “beast” or the factual “breastfeeding”) in the western world particularly.  Some people say that the only benefit is to the mother. Whilst many mothers enjoy natural term feeding that’s not to say it’s easy. From latch issues from brand new babyhood all the way through to each new tooth, babies touching and fiddling and scratching and pinching and doing gymnastics and waking every 90 mins,  mums feeling “touched out” (fed up of being attached to the child all the time)…. I stand by my word when I say that mother is selfless to do that for six years.

But how do we change opinion?  The Daily Mirror were running a poll for their (no doubt open minded, liberal and well read) readers to find out what % of then thought it was right to feed a 6 year old. When I received a link to it and voted,  over 87% said that it wasn’t right. How do we tackle this?

I for one absolutely refuse to apologise or hide breastfeeding.  I feed in public wherever we need to. I talk about breastfeeding in normal everyday conversations with friends, family and colleagues because it is normal and the more we normalise the more we enable others to build their confidence to realise it’s normal and do the same.