Monthly Archives: August 2014

51 weeks


Having had my WordPress app lose three of my posts last week I’m quite nervous about writing another one!

Yesterday signified the last day of my maternity leave. Well, technically I returned to work at the end of July and have been on leave since then but I return to work in just 36 hours.

What have I done with the last 51 weeks? I’ve spent a lot of time pinned to the sofa breastfeeding it with a sleeping baby on me.

We’ve been to 4 doctors appointments, seen the midwife and health visitors about 15 times, been to five breastfeeding clinics and attended about 55 baby group sessions.

I’ve dragged Robin to about 35 buggy fit sessions, visited countless friends and hosted and attended coffee mornings. We’ve watched Robin grow and develop- gaining 13lb in weight and blazing through the clothes sizes up to 12-18 months now.

He’s learnt to smile, clap, burble, found his hands and then his feet. He’s learnt to sit, hold things, roll,pick things up, laugh, stick out his tongue. He can pull himself up, cruise, bumshuffle, wave, copy sounds, stroke the cat. And now he can stand unaided and walk by himself!

I’ve eaten a lot of cake and biscuits, trawled the Internet, cried,  missed out of hours and hours of sleep, doubted myself, Co slept, been bitten, had cuddles.

I’ve walked 978 miles (the majority of which pushing the buggy it carrying baby in a sling) , cycled 115 and run 49!

We’ve reached our 5 year wedding anniversary, and almost ten years together,  we’ve argued and cried and cuddled. I’ve taken photos and videos, made a scrap book, written him a song and a book, painted him a mural.

I’ve given him as much of myself as I can over the last almost-year and I’m going to miss his company terribly.

I am only going back part time to paid employment so I’m hoping to strike a great balance between being a mummy and being a person in my own right.  Might be wishful thinking and I’m sure to be busy and tired and confused. But these are the decisions we make.




So I’ve been asked to review a book!

I think the last time I wrote a book review was back at school, but I’m hoping a vague grasp of the English language and an interest in the subject of the book will help me with this one.

Publishers Pinter & Martin have sent me a copy of Evelin Kirkilionis’s book A Baby Wants to be Carried, translated by Kathryn O’Donoghue from the original German Ein Baby will getragen sein. Alles uber geeignete Tragehilfen und die Vorteile des Tragens in 2014.


My inital thought was “Who is this book for?”. I am what is called a “Babywearer”- not a term I particularly relate to or like but it rolls off the tongue better than “I am a person that sometimes carries my baby in a sling or wrap”, so this book does hold a certain interest for me personally. I didn’t know very much about “Babywearing” when I was pregnant, other than that there were a range of slings available, and a friend kindly lent me one to try. When my baby arrived, I tried out the sling and then realised I wanted to know more about it. I am the kind of person who likes to have good information about what I am doing and why. I like to get things correct, so I went straight to the internet to find a local group to ask “Am I doing this right”?

In the developed western world where access to the internet is simple and fast, it was easy to find a wealth of information about slings and wraps- from companies that manufacture slings, to facebook groups set up purely for advice to community sites about local “sling meet” groups that you can join and convene in real life with other sling mums and dads, or “sling libraries” where you can borrow different kinds of slings to see how you get on. Of course there are drawbacks to having so much information out there- much of it being personal opinions masquarading as fact and some very strong opinions on both sides of the debate. And this is what surprised me: there is some debate about whether slings are good for babies and even discussion about whether some slings on the market are not actually fit for purpose or safe. So this lead me to thinking that this book probably does have a good strong audience- those who are interested in using slings and wraps but are maybe blinded by the huge number of sites and different kinds of information out there. A quick google of the phrase “slings and wraps” brought up 2.5 million results so where to start?


The subtitle of A Baby Wants to be Carried is “Everything you meed to know about baby carriers and the benefits of babywearing”, which was a promising start. I opened the book really looking forwards to seeing a condensed and concise version of the information I’d personally been trawling through for the past 11 months or so.

One of the first things I noticed about the book was the beautiful photographs. As a photographer myself, I was pleased to see really lovely, well composed and varied photos- not just skinny modelesque women, but normal people (both men and women) with a range of different kinds of carriers. However, I was surprised throughout the book at the positioning of the photographs. For example: on page eleven there is a useful table outlining the main different kinds of slings and wraps, however there were no pictures or photographs to illustrate what was meant for those who maybe hadn’t seen a Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) and couldn’t visualise it from the description. This was a theme that reoccured throughout the book- in places where I expected a picture or a diagram to clarify a description of a carry, position or sling there was rarely one there. I think I’m a visual learner in many ways so for me, this made some of the text quite inpenetrable, though I’m lucky that I’ve seen and experienced many of the slings and wraps discussed so at least had a good starting point to be able to understand the written definitions. Those who were maybe more new to the concept of babywearing might find this a little intimidating.

The book was well structured to cover all aspects of babywearing from the myths and facts surrounding babywearing to some different techniques for tying woven wraps. The contents page was very thorough so if the book were being used more as a reference guide than something to sit down and read all the way through, it’s easy to find exactly what it is you want. I read it in two sittings- which fit in well with the main sections. The first section is The Theory of Babywearing: why carry your child? and the second is The racticalities of babywearing: how to carry your child.

The first section did seem slightly overwhelming to me, and I was surprised at some of the information that is most commonly shared around babywearing groups not being present. There is a lot of discussion and some very good scientific information in this section about culture, evolution, child development, physiology and interestingly for me how babywearing benefits your babies proprio-vestibular sensory system. Some of this was research I’d already read elsewhere, and some of it was new to me and very interesting. However this half of the book is quite heavy, and very scientific. I’ll admit that I did skim read a few of these bits, but it does contain useful knowledge if I were ever to have anyone question my choice to use wraps and slings, and it’s well referenced to a number of studies. I did expect the information to be clearer about HOW to carry a baby in this section. Yes there are a huge number of benefits to both child and parent, but many of these benefits can only be seen when the child is carried correctly. Although parts of this are carried, there wasn’t as much emphasis on the safety aspect of babywearing correctly, and the potential risks of using a non-ergonomic highstreet carrier.

The second half of the book concentrates on expanding on that initial table I mentioned from page 11 (with the different kinds of slings and wraps available)- with a double page spread plus on each of the kinds of carriers mentioned with a photograph this time and bullet points to showcase “special features” and “points to consider”. This was useful to compare and contrast the different kinds of slings, but it wasn’t maybe as clear as it could be to compare the slings against each other.

On page 119 there is mention about the correct leg postition for a soft structured carrier, with a rare illustration rather than photograph. However, the illustration isn’t very detailed and doesn’t show the entire carrier, the incorrect position isn’t particularly emphasised and the issue is confused slightly by also mentioning extra straps for stabilising small babies. The leg position is one of the most important parts of getting a SCC, Mei Tai or similar kind of carrier correct, and it’s a shame that this section wasn’t clearer. The terminology used also wasn’t common parlance- maybe a consequence of it being translated from the authors native German.

The common terms used in the UK/US are “knee to knee” or “M shape” to describe how the legs should be positioned in a carrier- with the following picture being one of the most shared:

Knee to Knee position

In addition to this, on page 135 it says:

“[…}This is one of the T.I.C.K.S rules for safe babywearing you can find on the internet”

I was quite shocked by this as the TICKS rules are one of the first things one learns about babywearing and are the guidelines developed by The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers and recommended by The British Association of Babywearing Instructors for any babywearer to follow. It seems like a strange omission and for me would be the first thing that the second section focussed on.

TICKS babywearing safely

A large part of the second half of the book was allocated to showing the techniques for different kinds of carry with a woven wrap. I had a go at some of them and found the instructions to be very good. In the past I’ve had to visit YouTube but will now be able to use the book for some of the different carries. The photographs here were very useful to really show where to pass the fabric and the text highlighted the important points to remember for each different carry. The double page spread (or more) showed the minimum length of fabric required for the specific carry (though didn’t equate this to a wrap size but ().

There are so many different wrap carries and variations of the various carries that there was no way that they could all be covered in this book. However it did feel like some of the other babywearing options were slightly glossed over to favour the woven wrap- in particular stretchy wraps, ring slings and mei tais. I have three slings- a calin bleu light summer linen wrap in a size L (equivalent of about a 6), a mei tai and a ring sling, so I do feel like the parts I may have found more interesting were not covered in much detail. I recently bought a mei tai with wrap straps, and I’ve been looking for new ways to do back carries with it, but there was nothing in the book to cover this.

The book concluded with some very important issues- one being FFO (Forward Facing Out) carries which are NOT recommended at all due to the hip postitioning for the baby, inability to turn away from external stimuli and the reduction in physical contact, let alone the immense strain on the parent wearing the sling as it can be very uncomfortable for them too. It also touches on inappropriate and badly designed carriers though can clearly not mention specific brands in the same way that internet discussion can. In particular “narrow based carriers” which do not produce the “knee to knee” position I mentioned above, FFO carriers and bag slings which have very sadly been linked to a couple of baby deaths due to them not being fit for purpose. This is obviously a very serious matter, and whilst I was pleased that it was included, it could have been made more prominent for those new to babywearing.

FFO not ideal

It’s always easier to pick holes in something than to find positives, so I’ll say now that this is a good and useful book. This review represents my personal opinion in particular of some of the areas that I feel could have been improved to make the book flow better and to make it more accessible for the kind of person that I assume the audience to be.

As someone who has spent almost a year of nightfeeds trawling the internet for information about safe and comfortable babywearing, I feel I’m reasonably well informed about the issues surrounding babywearing, and was surprised by some ommissions in this book. However, I’d imagine that anyone with any real interest in carrying their baby will find local facebook groups and similar where their knowledge of the subject can grow beyond what can reasonably be expected to fit into a book.

The book is beautifully produced, colourful, well laid out and very well referenced and backed up with scientific studies. I think it would be an asset to any Sling Library, and there are many parents out there who will find the abundance of science, sense and step-by-step instructions a good gateway into the wonderful world of babywearing, although I hope that some of the key material missed out may be included in a future edition.

Happy Babywearing!


Hand foot and mouth


Two weeks left of maternity and I’m poorly! Not fair!

Last week the boy had a few spots on his feet and a bit of a cold but was ok in himself. On Friday I woke up feeling awful with a throat made of razor blades and that horrible heavy aching flu feeling. Then slowly the spots started. I’d Googled hand foot and mouth when the baby seemed to have it but the Internet reliably told me that adults only got a mild version and it wouldn’t itch.

I suppose they were partially right- it doesn’t really itch. It does sting like hell though. I’ve been lucky so far as further research suggests that a mouth full of painful ulcers is reasonably common for adults who get hf&m. I’ve got a red raw nose, a rash on my chin and chest then the red polkadots all over my hands and feet.  My mouth is dotty but no ulcers yet.


My hands sting like crazy especially when I have to use them. Any kind of pressure, rough texture or heat really hurts like a burn. So looking after a baby is frustratingly hard. I don’t feel as ill and fluey now but still feeling rubbish. And I suppose we shouldn’t be going to baby groups etc for fear of passing this on. No good.



So is an amazing American website with lots of useful info about breastfeeding- from information about medicines you can trave whilst breastfeeding to advice and discussion. I follow them on Facebook and recently they asked “what products helped you keep breastfeeding”. Reading through th he answers was really interesting and although some of then clearly weren’t products per se, it was good to see what helped others keep going.

I stated thinking about what and who helped me keep breastfeeding when times were tough.
1. My own utter determination that there was only one option and we would get the hang of breastfeeding. If anything ever in my life, I am proud that I did this and that I persevered.
2. My husband for his unwavering support and understanding that this wasn’t up for discussion.
3. The midwives, health visitors and breastfeeding clinics who helped with the technical and emotional side of things
4. The interwebs- for its wealth and breadth of information and the ability to link up with women in similar situations all over the world.
5. The breast pump for helping me at least try to offer a bottle and for relieving pressure when required.
6. TV, online TV, love film and Facebook. Where would I be without you? My enough hands or braincells to read fit the first six months I needed easy entertainment
7. Nipple shells (no, not shields but shells). Someone told me about these and they saved my nipples! I’m allergic to lanolin so hadn’t bought any Nipple cream. The shells collect any excess leaking milk whilst airing your Nipple. … Very clever. I did eventually find, buy, use and lose Earth Mama Angel Nipple Butter which was great too (good lip balm also)
8. Malt loaf. How many kilos I got through I dread to think but it was great. Yum yum.
9. Decent maternity leave from work. Dear America, 8  unpaid weeks does not constitute maternity leave! 52 weeks, 33 of them paid to a degree. …. that is maternity leave.




I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned but being ill when you are a mummy is rubbish. Especially if you are a breastfeeding mummy and your baby doesn’t take a bottle-you become very relied on.

Luckily this time is just a stinky had cold (so far) with a throat like razor blades and drooping eye lids, headache, earache,  gland ache and body ache!

Luckily small stuff has been pretty laid back today and he’s decided for the first time this week to have a decent afternoon nap. Hurrah! Sadly the foot stool is too far away! Send help!

We do have medicinal wine and peanut butter cup Ben and Jerry’s!

Crying walking sleeping talking


Okay, not yet talking. …

So we have steps. At first, encouraged by pushy mother (sore back from leaning over to hold his hands) and a week later taken by choice, and very pleased with himself! 

This new mobility had come at a price-the constant fear of what he’s going to fall over next. He likes things that moves-doors, the buggy, the clothes airer, the car seat, my office chair and so on. In one week he managed to collapse the clothes airer onto himself, knock over an ironing board, fall over closing a door with me on the other side and fall out of a friends patio doors, not to mention falling over his own feet and banging his head on every table in the RG postcode….. I sound hideously negligent but at least we are yet to experience the rite of passage that is falling off the sofa/bed.

It’s hard to find a balance between wrapping them in cotton wool and letting them learn their own lessons. Already he is starting to learn how to fall gently onto his bottom rather than an uncontrolled backwards head-banger and his balance has improved markedly from letting him hold onto things that move.

And whilst I never get too optimistic about these matters, there seems to be some improvement with sleep. To many parents it’s still awful sleep but in comparison to what we are used to, it feels like an uninterrupted 8hrs!

We’ve had a few nights of 8-12, 12:15-3, 3:15-6, 6:15-8 ish. Tonight is buggered up because he coughed himself awake (think he’s got and has given me hand foot and mouth) at half ten.

I’ve spent the last 11 months being told that xy or X Well help him sleep (turning three months, being in his own room, starting solids etc). As a consequence I’ve started to ignore everything everyone says ever, but maybe he really is wearing himself out. He is trying to walk and cruise at every waking hour!

We still have no words. I am trying to ensure we converse with him and read to him more. He makes the most wonderful hilarious sounds, his favourite being “do ooh! ” and “lerglerglergle” but can make quite complex sounds too like th, ck, St etc so we have no worries about him that way. Just being impatient waiting for a mama or dada



World breastfeeding week


Last night whilst struggling to fall asleep, I was mentally wiring blog posts. They were astute, witty and used lots of big words. Baby D woke around midnight (I was yet to fall asleep) for a feed and then every hour until he woke very hot and with a rash at 4:50am. I volunteered to get up with him and managed to doze a little from 6-8am. Foolishly I am going to try to write a post still, on a touchy subject. Bare with me.

It’s national breastfeeding week (1-7th August) which is something I’d like to celebrate. However I feel like I am unable to do so publishing for fear of misunderstanding. I’ve learnt my lesson on this one having inadvertently upset a whole swathe of women with a comment I made on the subject so I’ll try my best to be as inoffensive and honest as I can.

I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. I think its a wonderful, natural and obvious choice for any mother and am often surprised that other people don’t feel the same. I also have first hand experience of how stressful and difficult it can be to convince a tiny baby that breastfeeding is the way forwards. From getting the latch correct to getting your baby to stay awake, to the incessant feeding of a new born (he can’t be hungry again? !), to bottle refusal, sleep deprivation, sore nipples, blebs, teeth, nursing strikes and mastitis.

However it is near on impossible to be Pro Breastfeeding without appearing or being labeled “anti-formula”. Or more specifically “anti-parents-who-use-formula”.

In the past I might not have worded myself well or tactfully (which I shall blame on the fact that I’ve had one five hour stretch of sleep since January and not much more than 2hrs at a time since). However it is important that we take responsibility for our own emotions and bias when it comes to reading stuff on the Internet.  A lot I read could offend me. My baby doesn’t sleep and I am often reading posts from disgruntled mums complaining their babies are waking once a night whilst mine is waking seven plus. I deal with it because I wouldn’t wish my situation on anyone and I know that I am not necessarily able to be rational about it. The same needs to be extended to feeding issues. I know it’s deeply emotive for those who feel or were told they were unable to breastfeed, however this is not the fault of those who do breastfeed, and they are not flaunting it to upset you.

To set out my feelings:
I think breastfeeding is awesome because it is what my body was made to do. We are Mammals, named so because of our mammary glands. The fact I can feed my baby for free, with a tailor made substance that can change its consistency and make up to nourish, soothe and hydrate is mindblowing.  I could feed my baby with it all day every day and he would never be over fed. It’s very clever!

I am surprised when women do not want to breastfeed if they are healthy and able to but we are all different and this is what makes the world go round (well, you know what I mean). Luckily formula exists (whether one agrees with some of the marketing tactics and ethics of the companies that produce formula or not) and modern women in the developed world have options. Sometimes (but not often) a women’s decision is out of her hands-usually linked to illness and medication and it must be heartbreaking for those who would love to feed their babies but are medically unable.

On top of this I am saddened when women who want to breastfeed are unable to access the help, advice and motivation to get through the sometimes grueling first few weeks. I’m saddened when they are told that their baby isn’t getting enough milk because they are feeding regularly, when they’re advised to top up with formula rather than spending time skin to skin to boost supply (we did both). In other countries breastfeeding rates are so much higher (often through lack of choice), no doubt linked towards social attitude towards breastfeeding.  In particular the experience that women have in hospital which will likely taint their whole experience of breastfeeding. Nowhere describes it better than “The Politics Of Breastfeeding” by Gabrielle Palmer…..
(Page 34)


Extract of the analogy:
Imagine a young man making his first attempt at sexual penetration. Ask him to say about the project on a special sex centre where there are “experts” he has never met before, ready to supervise him and tell him how it ought to be done. [….]  By the bed is an artificial penis , put there, as the young man is told, “just in case you can’t manage it; many young men can’t make it. It’s not their fault, nature often fails.”

Although I slightly disapprove of the sexual nature of the analogy because I don’t want people to liken breastfeeding to a sexual act, it makes an important point. The huge pressure on women to feed, whilst dangling the backup tantalisingly over their heads really sends confusing mixed messages to women and families in a very vulnerable time. This combined with the social attitudes when women leave hospital makes it very hard for them to make rational decisions.

And that’s something that genuinely shocks me- the western world’s baffling attitude towards breastfeeding. It’s literally the most normal and natural thing that a woman could do and I am gobsmacked that anyone could think it’s disgusting or wrong. From the first few weeks when I struggled to feed, I was keen not to limit myself to trying to feed in private. In fact, I am lucky to be a confident person and I’m very sure of myself when it comes to my decisions about feeding. I’m lucky never to have been challenged about feeding my baby in shops, restaurants, parks, town centres and churches-I’ve even fed in St Pauls cathedral! I think that it’s important to do this so other women (and men) see it and see that it is ok. The more we normalise and the less we stigmatise, the easier it will be for women to continue with feeding for as long as they want to.

The “breastfeeding gestapo” do exist. Whilst I secretly agree with much of what they say, I don’t agree with the personal element. It’s our society that has funny ideas about breastfeeding, and we as individuals are just part of that. However what is often ignored is the polarisation of feeding. Like many issues (as I’ve mentioned before) many people I’ve come across are so black-or-white about the issue.

From my personal experience I’ve been offended by things that people have said directly about breastfeeding or questions I’ve been asked. Within two days on Facebook I saw one new mum (second baby) say that breastfeeding was “created by the devil” because she was struggling with it, and another person complain about “all the perks that breastfeeding mums get” after an article was doing the rounds about one cafe offering Breastfeeding mums a free cup of tea. I am frequently asked when I’ll stop breastfeeding, often alongside someone’s opinion of when a child is “too old” to be breastfeed (walking, talking, a year, going back to work, 18 months etc).

The difference is that there is a lot in the media currently about breastfeeding not being “all that”, about women being bullied into breastfeeding and about women who feel they are looked down on for formula feeding,whether they feel it was a decision they made by choice or not. There is very little about the flip side of the coin, though the odd story does come up including the lady Emily Slough who had a photo of her breastfeeding her child uploaded to Facebook with nasty comments about how disgusting and “trampy” it was.

Sometimes it feels that is not ok even to state facts about formula feeding of the companies that make formula for fear of offending, however you can make a pop at breastfeeding being “the work of the devil” or similar with no repercussions or acknowledgment of the concept that that might be upsetting for breastfeeding women.

In the UK just 1% of women exclusively breastfeed to 6 months. We are in a minority that is little understood and often treated badly. I hear stories every week through my online network of mummy friends and acquaintances of women being told to go elsewhere to breastfeed, often to toilets or other inappropriate places. This is not a perk. It’s naïve to suggest that women who breastfeed in the UK are getting “perks”. Does  the aforementioned cafe really want to reward breastfeeding mums? Or are they reveling in their highly shared positive press? Are they hoping you’ll buy a cake and invite your friends? What will it do for their business profile?

I often  want to know this. … But why can’t women be kinder to each other. We know that bringing up a baby is ridiculously difficult without creating barriers.

So I am (sitting at home sick to the sofa with a poorly baby) celebrating international breastfeeding week and I don’t care who knows it. Of course I feel like every week should be breastfeeding week!