Category Archives: review

Review: TigerPig

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Those who read this will know that I like my wraps. Erm- our wraps. Not that the toddler contributes financially to them of course, but he does use them with us.

I recently thought I’d reached being “stashified” but my most recent purchase wasn’t really working for me.

I’m not a “serial churner”- some people like to try all the wraps, so they buy, try and sell on to fund their next wrap. I’ve been trying to find a little bit of everything so have plumped for a few different lengths and a few different blends. I now have 100% cotton (6), cotton/wool/silk blend (3), cotton/linen blend (4), cotton/hemp blend (4) and then a cotton/silk blend mei tai and I am now the proud owner of a cotton rebozo scarf too. That doesn’t include things I’m trying to sell or anything I’ve lent to the sling library! However I changed the hemp blend I owned. Initially I bought a didymos indio as I really wanted to try a an indio. They always shimmer so beautifully and the diamond weave is stunning. However, the hemp had not been “broken in” and the fabric was still very stiff. I worked on it- wearing, pulling htrough rings, plaiting, steam iron and leaving it in a warm car- but although it was softening up, the diamond weave dug into my shoulders. Amazingly my “ISO” came up- the wrap I was in search of a few months ago- a Natibaby Cogs Acero. It was woven as a an exclusive for a Polish forum group and is a soft shimmery blue and silver blend. The lady that sold it to me was very sad to let it go after having broken it in so beautifully, but it’s found a happy home here!

Indio is parcelled up and ready to go to it’s new home, and cogs is here to stay!

So onto the review- I decided I wanted a little something that I could use out and about when I wasn’t able to have the small person wrapped on me. The fabrics of the wraps are so beautiful that I wish I could have them on me every day. I contacted a few different small companies that use wrap scraps to make items- bags, hairbands, necklaces etc and the quickest and friendliest response by far was TigerPig. I knew my friend Sling Sally had bought at least one item from her before, so we struck up a conversation. So much attention to detail was paid in terms of the fabrics, the linings, the extra features, with lovely photographs sent to me so that I could choose exactly what I wanted. The invoice was sent over before pay day and Hillary kindly waited until I had been paid and was back from holiday and able to access my paypal. The best surprise was the bag arriving- I hadn’t even realised it would be ready so quickly, so it was a great surprise. It came beautifully wrapped up and was instantly stolen by my son who wanted to wear it (and very fetching it looked too). And the bag is stunning! So beautifully made, and exactly as expected with all the photo communication about the fabrics and trim. I can’t wait for a night out now!

Thank you TigerPig!

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!

Review: Bebe Sachi “hobo” bag

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Review: Bebe Sachi  “hobo” bag

I’ve been looking for a comfy babywearing bag for a while.

Rucksacks kindof work but not really all the time. I do have a cross body style bag  but it’s a bit small for everyday wearing (need to fit a lot in) and it can only be worn on one way and can get a bit  uncomfortable after a while.

It’s been bugging me for a while now so I’m really happy to be able to say that I think I’ve found something.

And it’s been lusted over at sling meet, and I know of at least two more people who have already purchased the bag having seen mine in person!

Normal kit I need to take around with me from spring to Autumn (winter is a whole other story of layers) for him:

  • spare nappy (sometimes cloth which are bulky), wipes and bags
  • snack and water
  • sling (if he’s not in it or I’m not wearing it as a scarf)
  • maybe a toy or two
  • jumper/sunhat/suncream

On top of that I’ll have my classic wallet/phone/keys and if we’re out for longer maybe a few other bits too.

A lot of proper “babywearing” bags are beautiful but a)expensive as they’re usually made from woven wrap fabric and b)pretty small which is no good for the above. So I’ve been searching and this one really fell into my lap.

One of my old slings (mei tai) was made by a brand called Bebe Sachi. They are owned by a Malaysian Social Enterprise whose aims are :

…. to provide an alternative to the forced mass migration of artisan weavers into the cities looking for employment. Buying from us helps us to provide what we are hoping to be sustainable employment for our weavers thus preserving their ancient tradition of hand weaving.

 

A very worthy company who make beautiful hand-loomed wraps.

Bebe Sachi are currently selling this “Hobo Bag” on their Etsy store for just £18.58 (plus shipping). It’s not made from woven fabric- just simple cotton but it really is great. Not only is it huge at 18.5 inches wide and 14.5inches high but it has a tie up strap which ties in a number of ways to make it very versatile.

It has a small loop near the bottom on the outside which you can thread the strap through and tie off as you like to make it into a backpack. You can also tie to adjust the height to make it comfortable if you’re wearing it across your body. Not much to say other than it fits everything in, is really versatile and looks great. I will admit that I’m thinking of dying it, but only because cream & me & a toddler is not a great mix!

AND EVEN BETTER:
£3 of each purchase is going towards the Nepal Earthquake Appeal!

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.

Wrapping

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Nope, not a post about christmas!

I thought it was time for another post about “babywearing”. My wrap count is now up to 4! There were two other carriers in the past two- one which I now know isn’t very ergonomic and wasn’t very comfy with his weight anyway and one which I upgraded to something a bit more supportive for a heavier toddler.

So the first kind of carrier I had was something a bit like this:
mothercare carrier
The kind of highstreet carrier you’ll find lots of mums and dads buying. It was given to us and was a great entry into the world of slings and wraps, but wasn’t used for very long.

I was also kindly lent a ringsling by a friend. I’ve heard lots of brilliant things about ringslings- in particular they are good for “quick up and downs” especially with toddlers who want to walk but then get tired.
ringsling
Sadly this one isn’t brilliant and I’ve struggled with it. At first it was fine, with small light baby and I could get it nice and tight. Now the extra weight is uncomfortable on long (more than half a mile) walks and the fabric is hard to adjust as the rings are a bit small for the thickness of the fabric.

Third sling was the first that I bought, having tried a mei tai at a local sling meet. Second hand, this BabyHawke Mei Tai served me really well up until about 10 months old, when he seemed to get a bit too heavy for it, and no matter which kind of carry I tried, his weight pulled at my shoulders.I only worked out how to get him onto my back with help from someone else but it was great when it happened as he could fall asleep whilst I did housework or went for a walk.
mei tai
I promise he’s comfier than he looks! The Mei Tai is a soft structured carrier- a rectangle of fabric with a waist strap that you tie up and two shoulder straps that you can tie in numerous ways to support the baby and be comfortable for you.

I also bought a cheap wrap- it’s a Calin Bleu size “L” which equates to about a “size 6 wrap”. I wanted something lightweight for summer and easy to wrap with as the different fiber blends give the wraps different properties. This was perfect for what I needed, and taught me how woven wraps can spread the weight of your baby as you carry them and support them better.
wrap
This was my first successful attempt at getting baby onto my back by myself with the wrap. It wasn’t perfect but it was safe and we were both comfy!

So I decided I wanted a mei tai with “wrap straps”. These are wider than the normal straps, and are used a bit more like a woven wrap, to spread out the weight better. I looked for a second hand one within budget and struggled to find one, despite being on all the second hand sling forums on facebook! However, someone kindly pointed me towards a company called Bebe Sachi who are a Malaysian Social Enterprise, producing wraps in fairtrade conditions in Bangladesh. Though I found their website impossible to navigate and at one point had paypalled a nice lady on facebook with no idea of whether anything would materialise- they are a wonderfully ethical company and I got great service from them. Even better- if you look after them, their resale value is high. In fact most slings keep a decent resale value, and when I bought my Bebe Sachi wrap strap mei tai and sold the old mei tai, I got back the cost of buying it second hand originally.
Bebe sachi
Another back carry, getting from one part of a wedding to the other. It spreads his weight (now 10.5kg) around my waist and over my shoulders in a way the standard straps can’t. It’s my go-to for easy front carries- and now I’ve figured it out-easy back carries too.

So really my collection (Stash as it’s called in the babywearing business) was done (bar replacing the ring sling if I ever decided to)- except I probably spent too long on the facebook forums and learnt about the Legacy Wrap. A legacy wrap is one that is bought because of a special link to it, and is kept as part of your “permastash” and maybe passed on to your child eventually for them to use. Most people start to look by DOB, then if no special wraps or wraps they like were released on that date, they look at other special dates, colours or word associations to find a really special wrap to them. I used the woven wrap database but this hasn’t been updated since March 2014 or so. I found three wraps that were released on baby D’s birthday.

The first was the Artipoppe Tyger Copper- which is a beautiful design and colour but Artipoppe are very high end wraps and quite hard to get hold of in the UK I believe.
Artipoppe

The second was Natibaby Orchid in the Morea colourway. This one was nice but didn’t shout out to me at all.
Natibaby

The final one had me going “oooh” and made me unable to forget about it! It was the Oscha Okinami in Noir (which is the blend and colourway). It’s a wool, cotton and silk blend, so is very thick and chunky. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I also knew that a)it was expensive and b)it was going to be hard to get hold of but I kept my eyes peeled instead.
Oki

A few months later my wonderful husband asked if I might like one for christmas. I can only imagine the hints I dropped were a little too heavy…..
So I managed to source a size three second hand via the facebook Oscha group and on Christmas day I opened it (having tried a quick wrap with it a few weeks before once it arrived to check all was ok).
Oki me

I’ve never used a size three wrap before, so spent much of the weeks leading up to christmas googling which carries I could do. It turns out that because the wrap is also very thick, it’s quite hard to tie off at the end, making some of the different carries a bit harder! I found this website http://www.wrapyourbaby.com/wovenwraplength.html pretty helpful, and youtube has some great videos too.

Now we are back to normal every day life, I’ve been trying to use the new sling a bit more and get to grips with it. Two mornings going to the childminder and two different wraps tried. Turns out I think I did both of them wrong but they were supportive and safe enough for a 15 minute walk.

Must practice more!

Review: BUGGYFIT

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Something I’m always talking about because it’s the one constant in my weekly routine since October 2013 is Buggyfit.

I’m an active outdoorsey kind of person, so when I heard about a weekly exercise class to encourage new mums to keep fit and get out of the house, I signed up in a heartbeat. I’m really lucky that my local class really is very local. I resent driving anywhere to do exercise and don’t have the use of a car most of the time anyway, so the fact that Buggyfit is run at South Hill Park which is exactly a mile’s walk from my house is a huge bonus. I called the class weekly but actually GLF Fitness run a number of buggyfit classes throughout the week- two at South Hill Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10am and one California Country Park in Finchampstead at 10:30 am on a Wednesday morning.

This is only going to be a positive review, let me tell you now!
Things I LOVE about buggyfit:

*It gets you out of the house
As a new parent whether it’s your first or subsequent child, getting out of the house is something most people actively crave, though don’t always have the motivation to do so. It’s really important not only for physical health but for mental health too- To go from an active adult with a busy work and social life to being a mummy where you might feel you’re “stuck” at home all day in the totally new environment of having a baby to look after is a huge change that can really affect mental health and happiness.

It’s hard to get out with a new baby- knowing what to take, getting them ready, choosing their layers of clothing (forgetting your extra layers), sorting snacks and drinks, working out when you’ll be able to feed them, planning outings around nap times and so on. Not to mention the utter exhaustion of parenthood which can lead to entirely forgetting your own name, let alone a water bottle for an exercise class. When R was little, we went out every day – even if it was just a short walk. We went out in any weather but then I know I’m that kind of person who will find the motivation to leave the house and get some fresh air and exercise. However, like I said before- this is the one permanent fixture in my diary- I am officially busy on a Thursday morning doing Buggyfit!

*The trainers are GREAT
Gilly and Becky run my local Buggyfit classes and they are both brilliant. They are well organised, friendly and very knowledgeable, particularly on the kind of exercises new mums should and shouldn’t do, but also generally within the fitness arena. Both can gauge fitness and strength levels of a participant very quickly and will use that to support you through injury or tiredness and push you if you want to work hard. I want to work hard but need a little motivation and they keep me going throughout the class. They’re both also great with children so whilst you’re taking part in circuits or a short run, they are happy to jiggle the prams and keep the small people amused.

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*The classes are varied
As Gilly and Becky run other classes too, they have lots of equipment and ideas to keep the classes interesting. We do a mix of fast walking, circuit training, work with bands, light handweights, some boxing, partner work and the odd bit of running for those who want to. Although you get to know the general format of the class, you never do the same route and exercises two weeks running.

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*Beautiful locations
Both California Country Park and South Hill Park are really lovely places to hang out, and the lovely manicured gardens and forested walkways at SHP make the exercise all the more enjoyable. Sometimes we have to dodge the swans around the lake, but we always have tree cover for the hot sunny summer days and somewhere to shelter on the really soggy ones. Surprisingly we don’t get that many really cold wet mornings, but the classes go ahead pretty much no matter what the weather, and people attend!

*Great people
I’ve met some really lovely friends through Buggyfit- likeminded local mummies (And daddies!). There’s always a great camaraderie in the group and when we can we pop into the cafe for a cuppa afterwards. Now my little boy is a bit bigger, he wants to run around the play park afterwards which makes heading in for a hot drink a bit more challenging, but it’s fun nonetheless.
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*They run other classes too
This has sparked a very surprising (for me) love of Boxing! We do a little boxing sometimes as part of Buggyfit with gloves and pads, and I shocked myself by loving it. It’s a great combination of cardio and strength using lots of core muscles and I find it very engaging. As a result, I’ve now attended two of Gilly’s Saturday morning Boxercise classes at Pinewood Scout Hut before Christmas and plan to attend more in the new year to build on my strength.

I also signed up to a couple of days of Gilly and Becky’s intensive 8 day Christmas Boot Camp. As we were away for much of the christmas period (and then I had a big birthday), I only attended two consecutive days (unlike the amazing hardcore lads and ladies who did all 8). However it was great fun, despite being -4 both mornings and us completing our circuits (the first day I did) and boxing (the second day) outside on frosty ground. It was a huge friendly group with a great focussed attitude. Gilly even provided us all with Epsom Salts for a nice muscle relaxing soak afterwards!

*Inspiration
I’ve been inspired to not only try Gilly’s other classes but get out a bit more by myself outside of that time. Whilst I tend to maintain some level of fitness, the lack of cycling over the last 16 months has been hard on my fitness levels and strength. So I have taken up a little running etc when I have a chance. Gilly is herself an inspiration- on her last big birthday I actually thought she was 10 years younger than she actually is! If i can be half as fit and look half as good as her when I reach that big birthday, I will be pleased!

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More info on GLF Fitness Classes here: http://www.glffitness.com/ .
Come along and try one!

Photos copyright Marla White (link to Flickr account)– taken at the Festive Bootcamp in the frost!

More reviews! Breast Pumps!

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I was very lucky to have not one but two different pre-loved breast pumps passed onto me when I was expecting baby R. Some might find the idea of a second hand breastpump a bit odd or gross, but if anything is to be passed on, something that comes apart for every single little bit to be steralized is probably one of the cleaner and safer items!

At first baby D refused to Breast Feed. He was jaundice and sleepy. In fact he slept for about 20 hours a day when he first came home from hospital, which made feeding him a huge challenge. I had no particular problem with offering him formula if he genuinely needed it, but was keen not to be sucked in to using formula to supplement his feeds, and then not producing enough of my own milk due to the complex supply and demand nature of producing breast milk. So this is where the pump came in.

We would give baby R skin to skin for 20-30 minutes before every attempted feed. Then we would have a go at breast feeding. This involved stripping him down to keep him cool and awake, tickling his feet and chin, poking him, anything we could do to keep him awake. He was perfectly capable of a good latch (taught by the fantastic midwives at both the antenatal class and at the hospital) but would just fall asleep. After 30 minutes or so of failed feeding at the breast, we moved onto expressed milk which we would take out of the fridge (the 30ml or so) and heat gently. Then after that, we would usually need to do a small top up of formula, which of course has to be mixed with boiling water, then cooled. Once that process was finished and we were happy we’d got a decent feed into him, I then had the pleasure of expressing for the next feed.

The thinking behind this was twofold- and for anyone not aware of how breast feeding works this might be helpful. One midwife described the process as “like a toilet cistern. If you don’t empty it, it won’t fill back up” (I like to think of it more as finishing your glass of wine at a lovely restaurant so the waiter can fill it back up again!). So the process of removing milk from my breasts wasn’t just to be able to feed it to Baby R in a bottle for the next feed, but combined with the skin to skin time and the attempted feeding at the breast, would further stimulate the supply. So I got to know our pumps well over the next few months.

I’ll be honest- there were also pipe dreams….. maybe of my lovely husband being able to do a night or evening feed so I could have a little rest, or even (shock horror) the concept of me going out one evening baby free and daddy doing a whole evening shift. Sadly bottle refusal from 6 weeks old mixed with a healthy (?) dose of colic put pay to that idea. The colic didn’t last, the bottle refusal lasted over a year!

Ok so here we go with the reviews!
Medela Mini Electric Breast Pump
I had no idea what to expect from a breast pump, but when I showed the midwife what I had she was very impressed and said that they’re some of the best on the market, and what they call “hospital grade”- i.e the midwives and health visitors in the hospitals use these themselves. It was pretty easy to put together and use. It’s important to get the positioning right otherwise you can end up with a rubbed nipple- and with everything else they go through whilst you learn to breastfeed, it can be very uncomfortable. I also had the issue that the standard size flange (the bit that goes over your nipple) wasn’t big enough (though it certainly looked it). When I went to the specialist Breast Feeding clinic in Farnborough, the BF advisor kindly lent me a larger one (which I must return at some point!).

Positives:
The pump is easy to use, extracts milk well, with a dial to change the strength setting and I found the sound of the motor very reassuring and relaxing!

Negatives:
Although they will take batteries, it’s easiest to use plugged in which slightly limits where you can use it. I found travelling to work, with it, for example, quite challenging. The pump has only one “pattern” so it sucks for around 1.5 seconds and releases. This means it isn’t particularly efficient.

Avent Comfort Manual Pump
The manual pump was a bit of a revelation to me. I tried it first at 2 days Post Partum, beofre the thick colustrum had changed into thinner milk. At the time I assumed that the colostrum was too thick to pump, but there’s definitely a technique which I am now aware of which may have worked then too.

I started properly using the manual pump when I went back to work for my Keeping In Touch days. Having never left my baby for more than a few hours previously, a 10 hour plus day away from him seemed a bit of a challenge for my poor swollen breasts. As I don’t work in one office, but visit lots of partner organisations, it was hard for me to request rooms to express in for regular breaks during the day. I realised that (for me) a shower room would suffice, but of course they lack in three pin sockets. So I decided to crack out the manual pump.

The important thing with this one is to ensure that all the parts are tightly fitted together, especially the cushion around the flange. It takes a few pumping motions to create enough of a vacuum to get the milk flowing. However, once it gets going, you can create your own pattern of pumps to match the speed and volume of milk that comes out and your own natural rhythm. This was a total revelation to me, and made expressing much easier and more efficient. In addition, providing there’s not too much other background noise, you can hear the milk shooting into the recepticle so you don’t need to watch what you’re doing.

Positives:
More efficient and comfier to use due to the cushioning. Quieter!

Negatives:
Sometimes the flange fills with milk and you need to remove it and reposition to let the valve work properly

I will just add in the bottom something about hand expressing. It’s not something I’ve personally had much success with (bar the odd late evening at work recently where I’ve just relieved the pressure). However, those in the know say that it’s the most efficient way to express if you do things right and learn a good technique- and there are certainly plenty of useful videos and instructions available out there.

And finally- it’s really important to remember that your ability to express, and the amount that you can produce using a pump- electric or manual, or hand expressing- is NOT a representation of how much milk your baby will get during a feed. Babies are made by nature to get milk from their mummies, so trust in their ability to do this. They are much more efficient than a piece of machinery, and unless your health visitor or midwife has any serious concerns about your babies weightloss or ability to take in milk, don’t be alarmed if they lose a bit of weight after birth. The NCT have a great page here:
which tells you all about what to do if you worry that your baby is not getting “enough” milk.

Review: Moms Own Milk

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I can only imagine that it was a clever Facebook advert that hooked me onto this one!

When my little one was just a few weeks old, a company called MOM was brought to my attention- Moms Own Milk. This is a WAHM (an acronym I learnt recently- Work At Home Mum) who makes resin and silver jewellery made from your own breast milk. Now I am totally aware that some people will (and do) find the thought of this either pointless or disgusting- and if that’s you please feel free to move along and not read this review! Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I certainly have a few of my own….

Some back ground for me:
My little boy didn’t have an easy start to breastfeeding- it took him three long weeks to get the hang of it. I say long weeks- it felt like years passed and I aged another decade eachtime we tried and failed to get him latched on. Eventually he got the hang of it, and that was that. He hasn’t looked back since and at about 8 weeks old started refusing to take a bottle. We have successfully got about 10 oz total into him via a bottle since that date over numerous occasions.

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I went back to work three weeks ago, part time. It wasn’t a “hard” decision- I’ve had a wonderful year at home with my little scamp (not to say it hasn’t been trying and stressful at times), but I enjoy my job, love my employers and it was time to regain a little “me time”. Even if this is a 20 minute walk to the station by myself, a quiet train journey or eating lunch without having to sweep and mop the floor afterwards- it’s still me time. This was however reasonably stressful as baby still refuses milk from anything except the breast. He doesn’t eat or porrige with milk (fussy little so and so), and he wont drink milk from a tippy cup, open cup, straw cup or any other kind of recepticle. So the 10 hours he is at the childminders 10 days a month means 10 hours a day without any milk. We’ve tried breast milk and cows milk- cold, warm, hot- nothing is good enough! So my first fear was that he’d starve. When I realised he was actually fine without milk for numerous hours, it actually made me a little sad. Although it’s frustrating being the ONLY person in the whole world (well ok, in our small world) who can give him the nutrition and comfort he needs, there’s a lot to be said for the breastfeeding (or in American “nursing”) relationship with your baby. Whilst I can’t describe what it’s like to have the bottle feeding relationship, I can say that breastfeeding despite everything is a wonderful heartwarming sensation every single time. It’s very emotional, and really has helped me bond with my lovely little person.

So I really wanted something to commemorate that relationship and couldn’t really think what that one thing might be. I plan to feed my baby directly from the breast until he self weans- who knows when that might be but I guess he may feed until three or so, but I still wanted something for when I was at work to look at and remind me of that relationship.

So MOM seemed perfect. Althought the website is a little flashy, and I found it hard to navigate, Vickie’s comms were great, even when I sent her a long rambling email about what it was I wanted. Having said all this, today I’ve visited the website with it’s all NEW look, and found it much easier to navigate to find what I was looking for!

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I have a Pandora bracelet which was a present from my sister for being her bridesmaid. Up until now it has only had the two charms she gave me on it (Birthday and Christmas are on their way!!) so I decided a Pandora style bead would be perfect. In all honesty, they are one of the only things from the website that is my style, but there’s something for everyone with a wide range of different things. You can add all kinds of things to the jewellery- from umbillical cord, to the first hair curl or placentra, but I was just after straight Milk.

Vickie responded quickly to my enquiry about what style and size bead I could have and I placed my order at once. Within 30 minutes I received the information about how to package and send my milk with a confirmation of my order. I happened to be popping out that afternoon so I posed a small freezer bag of milk (30ml) (double bagged to avoid leaks) that afternoon. Once Vickie had received the order, she emailed me to let me know, and the same once it had been shipped. I chose a quiet time of year (not just before christmas!) so the turn around was quick- less than a week from me posting the milk to the charm arriving, signed for post.

It arrived today, nicely presented in a frosted box, with a free MOM Breast Feeding Wristband (which you can turn inside out to show either a L or a R to show which side to feed from next), and came with a vial of resin and jewellery polish. Instructions are available on the website about how to care for it too.

And…. it’s lovely! Exactly how I pictured it (the website images are very clear and accurate) and it looks great with my two current charms. It’s a little bigger than would have been ideal for me, but I wanted the smooth finish and that only comes in the 17mm bead whereas you can get a multifaceted geometric shaped bead in a smaller 13mm. Having said that it looks really good with my current bracelet in the size it is so what do I know?!

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So all in all- great service, lovely item and something really special that I can look at whilst at work or away to remind my of my beautiful baby boy!

South Hill Park

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I thought I’d start with a review of local facilities and work from there.

My most visited place on maternity leave was South Hill Park, It’s a Grade II listed building, housing a cinema, theatre, art workshops, dance studios, a cafe/bar and much more.

Pre Baby, I used SHP for yoga classes on a Wednesday night (until I broke my shoulder (not doing yoga I hasten to add) and the bar was frequently visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The centre has lovely gardens (recently revamped with a Lottery Grant) where you can picnic in nicer weather and so we’ve enjoyed using the park for many years.

Post-baby I am sometimes surprised at how often I visit (I managed fiver visits one week recently)! Twice a week there are Buggy Fit classes held around the paths at the front and back of the arts centre. I’ve been almost every week since November last year. The classes are not affiliated with the centre but the council allow the classes to take place in the grounds. Post Buggy-Fit we usually pop into the cafe for a cup of tea/ cold drink. It’s just a mile from my house (walking) so it’s an easy place to meet up with friends, and especially friends with babies. They also run a Bring In Baby Cinema showing once a week and do much more for older children, including dance classes, art workshops and more.

The restaurant/ cafe serves excellent food, including Sunday Roasts with huge home made yorkshire puddings and bottomless dishes of roast potatoes and vegetables. Sandwiches and flatbreads (especially the goats cheese and caramelised onion) and superb and the chips are hot, crisps and fluffy. The food is quire reasonably priced- The roasts are under a tenner and Sandwiches with chips come in about £7. They serve a good range of hot and cold drinks, although in the past I know the Ale hasn’t been very well kept and the alcoholic drinks are pretty pricey.

I was quite frustrated to find out in the last of my 51 weeks maternity leave that they do a hot-drinks loyalty card. I am a regular there and most the staff know my face so I was surprised to find this out and a bit disappointed that I hadn’t been offered one!

South Hill Park

Out the back there’s a nice kids playpark- enclosed on all sides (which is handy as a lot of dog walkers use the grounds). It’s mostly covered in sand which even my one year old seem to enjoy digging in, and has a few play equipment items – a slide, some cute wooden pigs in the sand, a rocking horse and some squares you can jump on that make a funny sound. It could do with a swing but the park gets quite busy and there might be a perpetual queue!

It’s a really great asset to the local area. The grounds are well kept, there’s always parking and it’s quite central for those that want to walk or cycle, and well served with off road cycle routes.

I’ll be there tomorrow for buggyfit!