Category Archives: Comment Piece

Catch up

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I have to stop counting on months now, right? (25 months old!)

Quite update on some things we’ve been up to.

2 year Health Visitor check went pretty well. We had been entirely honest on our form- it asks about whether he can perform certain tasks. There were a few we didn’t know about- like whether he could flick a switch. We’ve always discouraged him from switches of any kind (ie sockets) so he’s never found out! The Health Visitor ended up changin g a few of our answers for a better score as she could see that he’s very capable. He can use a fork. He chooses to use his hands. He probably can tidy up his toys. Not to say he will! Anyway, she was pleased with him as we hoped so that was good.

The health visitor checks are interesting. My view has always been that if you have attended one and think it’s a waste of time, then you are probably one of the lucky ones. This means there are no problems being identified with your childs speech, fine motor skills, weight gain or any other factors. This means your child is developing normally and you had to take an hour out of your day to find that out. Sometimes its’ hard to think outside of our own home-life bubble, but there will be parents who have taken their child to a checkup where the health visitor has identified an issue with the child’s development or home life that needs attention. It may help pick up on problems early so they can be tackled or that families can be signposted to get extra help where needed.

The other side of things I often hear on the facebook breastfeeding groups I’m on is about how some health care professionals including health visitors treat those of us that practice Attachment Parenting. I HATE labels like this but if I look at the way we are choosing to bring up our child, most of it falls pretty neatly into AP’s philosophy (one reason I dislike it is the suggestion that those who do not identify with AP are somehow detached……). Many women have had negative experiences of hcps commenting on their decision to breastfeed past a certain arbitrary age, for co-sleeping, for not using CIO (Cry It Out) methods to get their children to sleep etc. However I would say that our review was an unmitigated success.

R ran about whilst we chatted through the paperwork. We were then asked how he eats (badly) so she asked us to talk through a typical day. Half way through this, he hopped up onto my lap and asked for “boobies” (not my favourite choice of word to signify that he wants milk but hey ho, it’s stuck). At the end of describing his daily food intake, I finished with “Oh, and milk of course“. The HV then asked me if he drank it from a cup, which seemed like an odd question at the time, but I replied “No, just from me”. At which point she looked up from her laptop and said, “Oh…. Yes. Well done.” Now I do not breastfeed my child for a pat on the back but it was very welcome after the horror stories I’d heard and was better than being told erroniously that there would be “no nutritional value” in my milk or that he was “only doing it for comfort” (favoured phrases it seems). She asked if we were happy with it still and both myself and the husband said “YES” in unison. After a short discussion about his frequent night wakings, she then told me that if I wanted to wean at any point and needed help, then I could call the HV team. And that was that.

Well not really, my little charmer then proved that he could put all the toys away and then as we put him into his buggy (with not a single protest from him) he waved and said “Goodbye nice lady” and blew her a kiss!

What else?

Nightweaning (to be sung to the tune of Nightswimming by REM). Not sure if I blogged about it then but back in January around my birthday we had a pop at night weaning from milk. It happened at this point because a friend (who had a child herself that didn’t sleep though for different reasons) pointed me towards a gentle AP-worthy method of night weaning by a chap called Dr Jay Gordon. I was understandably entirely sceptical. We have (half heartedly) attempted a number of different things over the last two years to improve sleep, and none of them have worked. In fairness the element of half heartedness no doubt had some kind of influence on this but realistically we knew they were never going to work and so it was all a bit of a pointless exercise. However, straight away on reading this method, I felt like I could get on with it. Dr Gordon doesn’t endorse any kind of sleep training for under one year olds. He talks about co-sleeping in the “family bed”.

He says:

Don’t get me wrong. I love the family bed, child-led weaning and cuddling all through the first, second, third year or more if it’s working well and if the family is doing well. Don’t let anyone convince you that this is a harmful choice or that there will be “no way” to get him out of your bed if you don’t do it now. Don’t believe anyone who says that babies who cuddle and nurse all night long “never” learn to self soothe or become independent. This is simply not true but it sells books and the myths stay in our culture.

I agree. This helps.

This method highlights the difference between a child who is safely in his mother or fathers arms crying because he is frustrated at not getting what he wants (milk) when he wants it (9pm,11:30pm, 1am, 2:30am, 4am, 5am and from 6-7am), and leaving a child alone in their own room to cry to teach them that no-one is coming. This hit hard with me as leaving a child to cry alone has never resonated well with me. However, I am able to leave R in his daddies arms having a bit of a sob to go and do things because I know he is safe and loved and protected.

I won’t go through the full method as you can read it on the link to Dr Gordon’s page, but a brief run down is that you choose a period of night during which you do not feed your child (we chose 11pm to 5am). Before and after that time you continue as normal. During that time for the first 3 nights you give them a brief feed (but don’t feed to sleep), then cuddled them to sleep. You repeat the process each time they wake. The next 3 nights, you just cuddle, with no feed. The next 3-4 nights after that you stay with them, talk to them, soothe them etc but don’t pick them up to cuddle them. The idea is that it’s gentle but persuades them that they don’t need a feed to get to sleep, and also that they won’t get one so they don’t need to wake. At R’s age, he does not need to feed at night but he likes to. But I also need to get some sleep.

When we tried back in January, it was going well before we all got hideous germs. I had tonsilitis then spent the next 6 weeks with a cold, a lost voice etc, small person was so full of green goo it wasn’t funny and the husband had a selection of his own germs too. It went on for so long (which was unusual as we usually have good health!) that we just totally gave up on it. Which is weird because it was actually working prior to the ill.

Our sleep got worse again a month or so ago and I was duly complaining to anyone who would listen, and it was suggested that we try again. So we said “Why not?”, and we did. There were two nights in the middle where small stuff cried for 2 hours or so. One night we actually ended up taking him downstairs as he was being so noisy and awful, the other night I told him stories gently in the hope of convincing him to sleep but just our luck we have the only child in the land who finds bedtime stories too stimulating and then starts joining in! At this point we weren’t very hopeful but the next night, he only woke twice. All night. TWICE! Not seven times. From then on in it’s been pretty consistent. We still have bad nights and we’ve shifted the timings a little because he was waking at 4:30 or so desperate for a feed and crying until five. As he wasn’t often waking before that, I decided a 4:30am feed isn’t such a bad thing.

So the next step may end up being his own bed. We have an old single bed frame in the attic which we are going to get out at the weekend and see if we can get a mattress to fit (weird Ikea bed size). Then we can see if he likes having his own room….. Wish us luck!

Sorry no pictures- will add some in from my phone when I get a chance

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Advice

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Small turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t think of anything interesting or poignant to post so I didn’t!

I know a few people having or due babies soon and was thinking about the most useful bit of advice I could give them and what it might be. There’s tonnes of great info about breastfeeding out there on the internet if you’re willing to look for it, so I’m not sure that there’s anything there I could say of much use. There’s also so much conflicting stuff about sleep and all those things and most would hardly peg me as an expert with our sleep situation. So I think my best advice would be:

For every one person that tells you something worked for them there are a) a hundred people who it didn’t work for and b)a hundred other things that person tried that didn’t work.

Why that?

The thing I found hardest when R was little was that everyone had a handy trick up their sleeve for getting a child to eat or sleep or whatever.

And it was always conveyed to us with such authority, that I often tried whatever the method was. Even some of the expensive ones.

And you know what? Nothing worked.

I now know and believe this isn’t because I’m a terrible rubbish parent. It is (that old chestnut) that every child is different.

Whilst trying to impart your wisdom on someone else, it’s hard not be emphatically excited that some magical method of convincing your child to sleep/eat/be independent/ nap in their cot etc really really worked for you. It’s also easy to overlook all those other things you tried and didn’t manage to make work for you (we won’t say “failed at”). It’s also easy to forget that your specific circumstances and your specific child is very different to the next one.

It’s easy to feel, in your new parent, sleep deprived, hormonal state that you are, in fact, the worlds’ worst and most incapable parent. If they managed to make the “Pick Up Put Down” method work for them, why couldn’t you make it work for you? If they managed to achieve a non-fussy eater by practicing baby-led weaning and introducing a new food every 72 hours, why weren’t you capable of doing the same? If leaving their child to scream led to them falling asleep in 30 minutes, why does your child just scream until he vomits over himself? And this can feel really isolating and lonely. If everyone else is having success and you’re not, then it can be really hard to swallow.

So in a way this is advice not only for new parents but for those “old hands” who are trying to help out newbie parents.

In reality that parent that got the “Pick Up Put Down” method to work probably tried a huge number of other techniques (90 Minute Sleep Programme, No Cry Sleep Solution, Pantly Pull off etc) with no success, but invariably they will forget to tell you that.

So if you’re a parent already and have friends having their first baby, think carefully about what you say to them. Be honest, show that you’re human and understand not everyone is the same and pay particular attention to trying to remember how you felt when everyone else seemed to be sailing through parenthood whilst you struggled. Kindness is the key gift we can give new parents at what is likely the most stressful time of their lives!

Kos

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I’m going to try to write this very carefully. I am absolutely sure that I will offend somebody with what I’m saying, so please understand that is not my aim, in fact I’m trying to be honest whilst doing my best not to say anything out of turn.

There is clearly a huge humanitarian crisis which happening on our doorstep, and we are being called to action to do something. My memories of huge crisis like this go back to being a child and watching news footage of 2 million refugees from Rwanda fleeing genocide by the Tutsi Patriotic Front. Although at age 9 I understood what I was told about the footage, I was too young to really comprehend what it meant for actual real people and families who were leaving their homes under dire circumstances and walking hundreds of miles to try to find somewhere safe to settle. With no food or water, few belonging and children and the elderly all being put through such awful trauma and both physical and mental stress. There are a number of humanitarian issues at the moment- the War in Syria which has also spilled over into Iraq, with 3.9 million Syrians having to leave the country and a further 11.4 million displaced (http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/top-humanitarian-crises-2015), with Ebola is West Africa, and droughts in Somalia and Central America to name a few.

The shock tactic images hitting my social media screens have been very hard to swallow. To be sitting here typing this from a very priviledged viewpoint, I can of course feel irony of my complaint. I’ve been feeling quite down and sensitive recently and have felt very affected by the images of drowned children, especially those around the same age as my son. It’s very emotional to be engaged in the stark and striking images that are being shared around facebook and twitter, and in my current position have actually put me off looking further into the issue to see what I can do to help. Although once you’ve seen a photo of a child drowned, facedown in the sane, it cannot be unseed. In fact, I’m so worried about what images are going to be shared that I’ve ended up ignoring the issue all together which is of course the wrong reaction. I’ve been reading up a bit about the use of shock tactics- most articles cite the way that charities use shock tactics to raise awareness of an issue or persuade individuals that theirs is the most “worthy” cause. Though there’s little conclusion about the effectiveness, I worry about what happens next time. Will a photo of a dead child be enough? Will we be subjected to graphic videos of incidents taking place? Whilst of course we are so fortunate not to be in that position ourselves, one can have empathy and one can help and care without having to see everything in graphic detail. However, there’s no doubt that in the case of the Syrian refugee crisis that after an initial slow and aprehensive start, people are jumping to act across the world. The biggest wonderful thing that I’ve seen is the number of sling mummies who have set up and donated to a “Slings for Kos” group- who are raising funds and collecting slings for refugee parents in Kos.

I won’t claim to know as much about this as I could- my head is firmly wedged in the sand over this one because I’ve found it so upsetting, however I did find this Guardian Article: 5 Practical Ways You Can Help Refugees Trying to Find Safety in Europe wonderfully succinct and helpful. I have spent the afternoon going through and signing the appropriate petitions to ensure that the county I live in does as much as it can to help these refugees (not immigrants as the papers like to call them), and am now off to raid my ISA to make a sizeable donation to one of the charities listed (not sure which one yet)- a donation the size of which I have never been compelled to make before.

For anyone similarly uninformed, I founds this wonderful Upworthy comic strip very informative.

709 days

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Not long til short stuff is two!

The last few months have heralded a little improvement in sleep (3 wake ups is better than 7!) and more recently a desperate attempt to drop his only nap. A quick google says that by age 2 most children drop their morning nap and by 4 they tend to drop their afternoon one too. But apparently this depends on how much night time sleep they get as they may be getting “enough” at night.

I can’t even remember when the regular morning nap stopped but it was a good while ago. I think we’ve had about 6 days over the last three or so weeks in which there has been no nap. We’ve had to time bed time very carefully and there have been more wake ups on those nights but overall it seems to have coincided with the better general sleep.

Most words are coming out in full sentences (whether we can understand it or not is a different matter entirely) and his patience and ability to sit still to achieve small tasks is growing by the day.

We’ll be due our 2 year health visitor check at some point soon. I’m just hoping that the appointment doesn’t echo the stories I hear about from other women about admonishments for breastfeeding and co-sleeping. Luckily as long as I’m prepared for potential conflict I can handle myself, so we’ll see what happens. The Health Visitor and MidWife team have changed around here recently apparently so I might not see someone I know.

We achieved an even more successful family holiday than the last one- partially due to the above developments but also some good and lucky accomodation choices (enclosed garden!), locality of steam railways and making great use of the lovely Mumsnet friends that I made way back in Jan 2013 to break up the journey and give small stuff some time to play.

I can highly recommend Norfolk with a toddler- it was only part of our trip but lots to do and luckily beautiful weather to do it in.

Review: Riverford Organic Veg Box

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Review: Riverford Organic Veg Box

Time for another review.

Although my small person is pretty fussy with food, it hasn’t stopped us trying to ensure he gets a good variety of healthy, home made meals. Our diet is in no way perfect- neither of us eat enough fruit and veg most days and we both enjoy a drink. We don’t really believe in faddy eating- detoxes, diets, sugar free, “paleo” or “carb free” eating. However we do believe in home made good hearty food. We drink full fat milk, and enjoy cheese and real butter. We eat carbohydrates with most meals and balance that with protein, vegetables and grains. We don’t eat much “processed” food- from jars or packets, and as a consequence happily add sugar and salt to recipes where required. We probably eat “too much” meat, and definitely too much processed meat, though if I were more confident in my cooking I’d cook more fish and more vegetarian dishes.

When we moved in together we decided we needed to at least try some kind of organic veg box. Initially it didn’t work out for us in our last property due to our lifestyle amongst other things but we started back up with Riverford 5 years ago and have been enjoying seasonal treats and cooking challenges ever since.

From Riverford’s website:

The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. We now deliver around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from our regional farms.

Things I like about this kind of vegetable box scheme:

  • It supports small scale local businesses not just the huge supermarket chains
  • Attention is paid to all kinds of ethics across the company from freighting options to packaging to staff and animal welfare
  • Prices are comparable with larger businesses
  • Personal touch of notes from Guy and new recipes every week
  • The challenge of a new vegetable

Riverford offer a huge range of different size and style of vegetable boxes, plus they do fruit boxes, meat, dairy produce, recipe boxes and much more. This means that you can just supplement your usual weekly shop with a box delivered to your door, or if you choose can get the majority of your grocery and some store cupboard essentials all directly from Riverford. Most boxes contain onions, potatoes and carrots (or another root vegetable) but you can also get their “less root veg” box which doesn’t contain the above if you prefer. They also do fruit boxes for workplaces, veg & meat combination boxes or you can just make up your own order. The system remembers you order and places the order each week/fortnight depending on the regularity you’ve selected and takes the payment directly from your account.

We used to get a “Seasons vegbox” but a couple of years ago Riverford changed around their offerings. We now get a “Large Fruit and Veg box” plus 1litre of milk and 6 eggs every fortnight at a cost of £21.95 (£10.96 per week). This is quite comparable to the box we used to get, as most of what you receive from Riverford is seaonal anyway. Most of it is grown on UK farms any anything from abroad is grown in fair trade co-operatives and never air freighted.

Riverford describe our large fruit and veg box as follows:

Eating a healthy, wholesome diet is easy with our large organic fruit and veg box. Packed with 7 different varieties of veg and 3 varieties of fruit, all of our produce is freshly picked and full of seasonal flavour. We only give you what’s ripe and ready for eating in our fields so box contents change throughout the year, giving you enough variety to keep everyone in the family happy. From crisp sugar snap peas to tart, tangy rhubarb, this fruit and vegbox is a winning combination of seasonal fruit and veg at its best.

We don’t use Riverford for all our fruit&veg needs, but for our family of three it builds the basis of our meal planning for about 3/4 of the fortnight before the next box arrives. This means that we’re guided by the items in there but not limited to them, the best of both worlds I say! Either when the box arrives, or before it arrives if I’ve got to do a shop, I take a look online to see what we are getting then purchase what else we need around that.

Our last veg box arrived 8 days ago, and we’ve eaten about 3/4 plus of what’s in the box.

In our veg box last week was:

  • bunched carrots
  • corgettes
  • broad beans
  • potatoes
  • globe artichokes
  • some kind of cabbage
  • complimentary basil leaves
  • mixed lettuce leaves
  • cherry tomatoes
  • bananas
  • nectarines
  • blackcurrants

I thought I’d show you what I’ve done with some of it!

I’ve made a few salads, drizzled in balsamic glaze or with goats cheese and sundried tomatoes.

I’ve drunk tea when working at home or at the weekends and had a cheeky post-workout banana

A make-it-up-as-you-go-along saussage and vegetable stew with potato and carrot mash which was approved of by all the family, including the fussy eater

There have been breakfasts- eggs on top of marmite on toast before a workout or porridge with fruit for long days at work

There was a slow cooker curry into which lots of green things were thrown

And I conquered my nemesis- broad beans by making a bean-puree, which was mixed with a kind of home made pesto using the basil that came in the box too, served with chicken legs on a bed of mixed grains.

And finally I’ve been nibbling these lovely cherry tomatoes like little sweets.

Not bad at all for 8 days of nutrition.

There’s still the globe artichokes to eat- I’ve learnt my lesson with them in terms of which bits you can and can’t eat, and have a wonderful lemon and artichoke pilaf recipe I hope to use again this week. Apart from that there’s a few potatoes and some carrots left, plus a a handful of  blackcurrants which were so wonderfully tangy I could only eat them in small amounts.

Are there negatives?

I think it depends on how adventurous you are. I love to cook and love cooking for my family, and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of looking at the veg box and working out a)what everything actually is (you can check online for anything you’re not sure about) and b)what on earth I’m going to do with it.

Something that’s helped with this enormously is the white board we have up in the dining room where we try to plan and write onto it our meals for most days of the week (alongside working days, childminder pickups, shoppings lists and social activities). Riverford also produce useful recipe cards with every box, they have a great recipe book which I own and they also have a whole page on their website dedicated to recipes.

If you are not adventurous or are very limited in terms of what fruit and veg you like, this might not be for you, however I’d recommend trying it as you might be surprised. There are very few vegetables that we don’t eat and I’ve managed to tackle a few of them- including broad beans (recipes like this Broad Bean Dip) and make something I like. I’ve learnt so much about different seasonal fruit and vegetables- I make a mean celeriac and blue cheese soup, I can make great coleslaw and I know how to tackle the different kinds of green cabbage type things from pak choi to spring greens and spinach.

Some people think this kind of thing is expensive, although Riverford have a great Price Comparison Page showing how their organic fruit and veg measures against most the large UK supermarkets and they tell you their method for working it out too. Having said that one reason we don’t order meat and so on is because (although it is lovely as we shared a large order with a friend before) that does work out quite expensive as far as I can tell.

There are other Veg Boxes avaialable including Abel and Cole and also some more local companies in some areas. Other people have looked at more than one company- Jorg&Olif have a comparison review on their site and good old Mumsnet have a discussion thread (though the first comment already had me remembering why I left such a catty, silly forum). All I can say is that we did have Abel and Cole in our old house and there must be a reason that we switched but I can’t think what it was now!

Pride

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Pride

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending London Pride. This might seem tangential from the general parenting theme of this blog, but I assure you it’s all linked.

My reason for specifically attending this year was that I was invited by Fujitsu. It’s a bit complicated, but essentially they decided this year to attend Pride, where the theme was “Pride Heroes”. Fujitsu’s reasonably new LGBT group (18 months old) decided to use Alan Turing as their Pride Hero, which made perfect sense with Fujitsus former company’s links to the Bombe machine that Turing created. Alan Turing happens to have been my Great Uncle which is a slightly tenuous connection and is really just genetics rather than anything special that I (or my family) have really done. However it’s a really wonderful family link. Alan’s work (as all work at Bletchly Park) during the war was guarded by the official secrets act, and as a consequence people didn’t really know who he was or what he did. Even in 2009 after John Graham Cummings petitioned the government to pardon Alan for his prosecution for being homosexual, it was reported that there were no living relatives. Actually quite a few of us, but that’s another story. It’s been a strange old few years- to go from a situation where it was thought that he had no living relatives, to the film premiere in 2014 which I believe 26 family members attended, to being invited to Gay Pride.

Whilst I appreciate that some members of the family have their own memories of Alan, and that he was mostly a private man who might have found the fanfare of being labelled a hero and having his face paraded through London, to many people he was a hero- both for his amazing work in mathematics, computing and in biology too but also for being famously gay in the 1940s when it was highly illegal. So I was proud to be asked by Fujitsu to attend the march with them, and did so alongside my second cousin Tom. Alan’s legacy has brought bits of the family closer together- Tom lives in the West Country and is a good few years younger than me, so it was a great opportunity to catch up  as we don’t get to see each other very often.

I arrived about 11:30 at Fujitsu on Baker Street and was welcomed with colour tshirts, friendly faces and wonderful doughnuts- which was a good thing as I had missed lunch and it was a long, hot day! We had some speeches, took some photographs and then headed off to our position in section E. It was a long way back- though we were next to the Android float which was very noisy and lots of fun- it kept us going for the 3 hours we stood in position before we set off.

I met lots of wonderful people both in the parade and in the crowd. The atmosphere was so positive and engaging, and whilst we were marching a number of times we heard chants of “Alan! Alan!” when the crowd saw out placards. It really was quite skin-tingling and overhwelming at times. Afterwards Fujitsu took us to Champagne Charlies for a well earned drink and some nibbles before we had to set off home.

As a claim to fame on top of this, we made it onto BuzzfeedGay Star NewsChannel 4 NewsThe IndependentInternational Business TimesThe MirrorLondon Pride’s official Faecbook pageFujitsu NewsBBC Berkshire Interivew with Sarah WalkerOut in The City magazineCity AM and Days Out In London to name a few media moments!

So why is this relevant to a parenting blog?

I think it’s hugely relevant.It’s about how we see the world and what kind of world we live in. I guess I use the term “world” loosely as there are many places still in which homosexuality is illegal which in the UK just seems so backwards and barbaric. I want my child to grow up in a world in which his gender or sexual preference are not an issue. I’ve mentioned gender at length before when discussing my volunteer work Let Toys Be Toys and I think that a more tolerant society is a very important thing and should not be underestimated. So what if he wears pink or plays with dolls? What’s the “worst” that will happen? I want to encourage him to be a caring, kind and considerate person, regardless of anything else. And playing with dolls or wearing pink won’t make that happen, but I certainly won’t be sending him the message that his choices for play, or clothing are limited based on his sex.

And we’re not just talking really about sexuality, we’re talking about the ability to be different from the perceived “norm” and for it to be ok. For it to be more than ok. I am one of a huge swathe of people that were bullied at school for not being the same as everyone else. And as an adult, I’m proud of the choices that I’ve made and the ability to be myself, but it’s taken a long time to get to this point. Your sexuality isn’t something that you choose, but it is something that you, and others choose to accept, and the more tolerant and understanding we can be of different lifestyles to our own really is key to to where we live being a better and safer place to live.

#nopoo one month on

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It’s been a month since my last post about going #nopoo.

The facebook NoPoo group is brilliant with lots of really helpful group files which explain and link to all the different methods of #nopoo (and #lopoo), trouble shooting, advice and photos.

I decided that the bicarb washes weren’t really working for me, mostly it seems because we are in a hard water area. It was increasing the waxiness in the texture (although it looked ok, it felt yucky) and was drying out the ends even with the vinegar rinse. So after a bit of research and two (homemade) apple sauce masks to reduce the waxiness I tried an egg wash. Oh my word, this was quite something. It didn’t help that our shower hose was on it’s last legs and I knew I had to rinse with cold water. However with the hose falling apart it would only do ice cold water, which gave me brain freeze for about 2 hours after. Despite this, it was amazing. I just mixed two eggs (could have done one) with a little water and applied it to dry hair. I rubbed it into the scalp and massaged it to the ends and left it for about 5 minutes. It was a very messy process! Then I just rinsed it carefully with cold water. I didn’t follow it with a rinse and my hair was beautifully soft for a few days after.

Egg washes aren’t to be used too often as the protein can affect your hair texture, so I’ve not done another since. However, I’d heard the virtues of rye flour being discussed and as it turns out to be readily available in the baking aisle, I thought I’d try it as a wash. It’s best to at least sieve it first as it’s a very “bitty” flour, and even then you need to carefully brush out your hair afterwards as it ends up with lots of flakes in. I might try steeping the flour in a tea strainer or muslin in the future  and just use the “milk” from it as I often wash and then go straight out so it’s hard to sit there and brush the bits out. However it’s a lovely “wash”- leaving my hair feeling very nice. I tend to follow it with a cide vinegar rinse to moisurise. I’m trying to wash with rye flour once a week and then just use a rinse inbetween. This seems to be working as 2 months in my hair is starting to feel wonderful. It still looks a bit greasy on inbetween days, but it’s definitely much better.

I also had a go at “plopping” (ridiculous name) which involves wrapping your hair in a tshirtafter a wash and it helps your natural curl by reducing frizz and lifting at the roots. I’m not sure it worked for me, though if I did it again I’d use some kind of coconut oil or aloe vera to help my hair hold the curl!

All a bit of a fun experiment. It’s interesting how much of life is mind over matter (I’ve noticed this in a few areas recently). Because I’m trialling #nopoo, I don’t mind if my hair looks totally crap. I’ll try to make it look nice but if it doesn’t I’m resigned to it. However, pre #nopoo I would get quite stressed if my hair looked awful! I guess I know I’m doing something nice for my hair, taking away them chemicals and reducing the number of times a week/month I wash it and agitate it, meaning that I’m giving it lots of lovely natural products and giving it a bit of a break.

I guess in the long run, this will ideally be a way of cutting down time spent washing my hair. I’ve got a fun toddler to be hanging around with and I want to enjoy more of his company!

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.

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.

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.