Friday, 25 November 2011

Just a Caesarean?

My first child was born via cesarean section, my second born naturally in hospital and my third born naturally... and unexpectedly at home. So I feel that, anecdotally at least, I may have a little to say about the subject.

On the 23rd November, I was woken by the radio announcement of 'NICE guidelines recommend that all pregnant women be offered caesarean section'. As the day wore on they tracked down a couple of women who said that they would definately have a c-sec if offered, in order to avoid the pain. Needless to say, I was a little bemused.

So I had a look at the new guidelines myself. And to say that the news got it wrong, would be to understate the situation. As usual they latched onto the bit that was most likely to make the news, and ran with it, regardless of the actual facts of the matter.

If someone looked closer, they begin to see that the updated guidelines actually are to do with 2 groups of women who have in the past, been routinely offered c-sec. This includes women with an HIV + status and women who have had a previous status; "Once a caesarean, always a caesarean". They find that after new published research, that in certain circs, a vaginal birth has the same rate of HIV transmission as a caesarean; therefore those women can be offered a vaginal birth and that after up to 4 previous caesareans, there is no difference in risk between the two birth methods.

The change however that was latched onto, was the part that said that where a women requests a caesarean due to anxiety about childbirth, NICE recommends that those women be sent for mental health support. If after this, and after all the information has been supplied to the woman and all support offered, only then would a planned caesarean be offered. A far cry from a free for all.

Dr Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, said: “For a very small number of women, their anxiety about childbirth will lead them to ask for a caesarean section. The new recommendations in this guideline mean that these fears will be taken seriously and women will be offered mental health support if they need it. If the woman's anxiety is not allayed by this support, then she should be offered a planned caesarean section. Offering these women a planned caesarean in these circumstances is a very long way from saying that caesarean section should automatically be offered to every woman.”

As someone who has given birth 'both ways', I will say every time that I would take a natural birth every time. When I was told that I would need a c-sec to deliver my breech baby, I had no concept of how big a deal the surgery was. It is, after all major abdominal surgery. After which you then need to care round the clock for a newborn. Add to that not being able to drive for 6 weeks, add to that feelings of isolation... Add to that again, in my case, the feeling that my body had somehow let me down by not birthing 'properly' and all the associated feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and fear that brings. Picking up and breastfeeding my baby was a challenge while my wound was healing, I was knocked out by the necessary pain relief in those first 24 hours. I literally remember snippits of my eldests first day and that saddens me.

Caesarean has a valuable place. Babies are born healthily now where, before c-sec, they would not have been born live at all, but it is not ideal and should certainly not be idealised by the popular media.

Informed choice shold be paramount in all situations and that includes childbirth. Being informed is empowering, confidence building and essential to maintaining a sense of control over the situation. In antenatal education, the emphasis is rightly on normal birth but I wonder, can a balance be found between giving the information about the facts of a caesarean and causing unnecessary anxiety about it? Afterall we don't want to frighten women either.

What doesnt help though is stories like this where the media is implanting into peoples brains that to give birth by caesarean is 'just' a choice. Theres nothing 'just' about it.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Jelly The Axolotl

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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Leave the World a Little Better

I have to admit to being a bit of a quote fiend. I manage to control my addiction mainly because most people find quotes a bit irritating after the 10th one has been rolled out.

However I'm going to ask you to humour me on this one and take a moment to enjoy with me my favourite of all secular quotes. Its by Ralph Emerson and I was introduced to it around 10 years ago. I was initially drawn to it by the whole 'laugh often and love much' bit but it goes on to talk about how we can affect other people and that this is the point of living.

“To laugh often and love much:
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give one’s self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived…
This is to have succeeded.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is Normal?

I found this link in a forum (www.studentmidwife.net) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m.../ai_n21053626/ If you, like me, have a day to day, ongoing battle with the idea of normal and how it applies to your life then you may very well find it interesting. 'Extra' needs of an SEN child aside, I still do take exception even with the term 'normal'. My son falls outside of the range of normal in a few ways but does that mean by default that he is then 'ABnormal'? Of course not. And then of course we are left with instead 'Outside of the range of normal', which when dissected actually still means abnormal. I'm not saying that there is any solution here, its just an observation I have as a mother of a child who dances to his own tune. Beautifully I might add.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Start Right - The Elusive Latch


While I'm thinking about it (and I often am) I wanted to jot a few things down about the latch.
 
So many things come back to it, so its well worth revisiting. A significant proportion of breastfeeding problems come back to an incorrect, or inefficient latch.
 
Sore nipples - almost always a poor latch
Other things to cause soreness - tongue tie, Raynauds
 
Poor milk supply - an inefficient latch - baby not feeding very efficiently, so not draining the breast effectively and stimulating further breastmilk production
Other things to cause poor supply - baby not feeding very often, extreme malnutrition in the mother
 
Mastitis - Infected blocked ducts are often caused by poor drainage of the breast. Engorgement may then result in mastitis. If the latch isnt right, then particularly in the early days, engorgement may result.
 
My Tips for a Great Latch
 
* A baby can breastfeed from many 'directions' hence the various 'holds' like cradle and rugby hold (under the arm closest to the breast). The direction doesnt matter. Just be comfortable.
* Trust that your babys instincts will help
* Keep your hand OFF the BACK of the babys head - she needs to tilt her head back to get a decent mouthful of the areola surrounding the nipple. If you recline, then your baby can better support him/herself. Put your otehr arm to the SIDE of the babys head if necessary
 * Nose to Nipple - if you do this, brushing the babys nose with your nipple will stimulate baby to open their mouth really wide - with the back of the head unrestricted, they can tilt back and latch on brilliantly. Nose to Nipple should result in the ideal position. It therefore doesnt matter where on your breasts your nipples are - pointing forward, downward, whichever way.
* You can tell a great latch because it doesnt hurt beyond perhaps a few seconds of initial discomfort in the early days.
* You can tell a great latch because of the chubby cheeks puffed out, the lip is curled out underneath, creating a suction
 
BUT WHAT IF IT HURTS?!
 
* Take the baby off by inserting a little finger into the side of babys mouth, release the suction of the latch and start again
* Look at your nipple - is there any redness? If there is, then when you next attempt to latch baby on, you need to position baby TOWARD the redness...
 
So...

* Redness on the end of the nipple - the nipple isnt far enough into the babys mouth - when youre latching ehr on, wait until the mouth is at its widest and bring baby on quickly
* Redness to a side of the nipple - the redness is excessive stretching, which means the nipple isnt comfortably inside the babys mouth. When you latch on again, adjust the position of the baby - its likely that he/she is either too far over or having to reach up too far. Nose to nipple is just right
 
Some final thoughts (this time)
 
* There is no need to 'prepare' your nipples prior to breastfeeding
* If you do get cracks or sores, then the best way to heal is thorugh moist wound healing, and a pure lanolin ointment like Lansinoh is very soothing and safe for babies too
*Aim to avoid introducing anything else (teats) before 6 weeks. 6 weeks seems to be the magic number where establishing supply and demand are concerned. Wait until after that, and the system is pretty robust by then
* If you experience any or all of these problems then access some local support
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Step back in time


On the bank holiday weekend I watched the Duke of Suffolk defeat Sir William of Herstmonceux. I'm not entirely sure of the historical accuracy of the re-enactment - afterall I'm fairly sure that Sir Williams Dad wasn't only concerned with the state of his lawn when he came home to find his son was hosting an impromptu battle in the back garden - but the atmosphere was certainly convincing.
 
The cannons admitedly sent my middle son up the wall and my eldest son hasn't yet stopped wanting to throw us all into the stocks, but apart from that it was a great day. The amount of traditional medieval dress around actually made me question my own choice of clothing today. Perhaps I should have worn a corset and floor length gown? I might have fit in a little more rather than cut off jeans and a vest top. Not too many White Stuff outlets in medieval Britain.

Number one son tried on some of the soldiers armour and bless his little heart, he was swamped by it. And not surprisingly either... further investigation turned up that the outfit weighed in at around 60lbs! More than his own weight!
 
It became apparent as the day went on that there is a whole community out there dedicated to medieval seiges and re-enactments. I wonder what their day jobs are?!
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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

With Woman

I tried recently to pin point the moment in my life when I realised that what I really wanted to do with my life, in fact, needed to do with my life, was to be a midwife.
 
Truth be told although there was a moment of the seed being planted, it has taken a while for me to really grasp the enormity of this choice. Being a midwife is not just about catching babies and it is so important to really think, I mean really think about it. I don't suppose anything can prepare you for the inevitable sad side of the role but equally I don't suppose you'd be human if that side didn't affect you.
 
I've always known I wanted to work with people and so it was no real surprise that I ended up in the housing industry. Loads of opportunity to support people but ultimately I am still asking of people. They have to pay the rent and I have to ask for it.
 
When I was trying to get pregnant I discovered a thirst for knowledge about how it all happens, I was absolutely fascinated. When I got pregnant, I devoured books about how my baby was developing. I looked forward to my appointments with the midwife; looking back I'm sure my poor midwife needed a good cuppa (or a glass of wine) afterwards as I generally grilled her.
 
After my son was born I threw myself into meeting up with other new mothers and going to groups and I found that the group I most identified with was the breastfeeding support group. I had figured I would breastfeed but yet again I was amazed at how I could sustain and grow my child myself. I was brought up in quite a strong feminist environment but now it was really dawning on me just how amazing and powerful 'woman' was.
 
Fast forward a number of years and I am now a Breastfeeding Counsellor and that belief just gets stronger. My desire to work with 'people' has defined into working with women and then more specifically with mothers and thier families. Teaching mothers-to-be about breastfeeding and then supporting new mothers is wonderful. Its challenging and sometimes exhausting because you give of yourself over and over again but in terms of feeling satisfied in my role, I feel I am receiving much more.
 
I dont know quite how to explain it but being a Breastfeeding Counsellor is a part of me. I am also a mother, and a number of other things, and I am also a potential midwife. I put mothering firmly at the top of the metaphorical pile but everything else is 'parts' of me. I didn't get into Breastfeeding Counselling because I wanted to be a midwife, rather the way I have grown has taken me into the breastfeeding world because being 'with woman' is a part of me. Does that make sense?
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Monday, 1 August 2011

With Woman

I tried recently to pin point the moment in my life when I realised that what I really wanted to do with my life, in fact, needed to do with my life, was to be a midwife.

Truth be told although there was a moment of the seed being planted, it has taken a while for me to really grasp the enormity of this choice. Being a midwife is not just about catching babies and it is so important to really think, I mean really think about it. I don't suppose anything can prepare you for the inevitable sad side of the role but equally I don't suppose you'd be human if that side didn't affect you.

I've always known I wanted to work with people and so it was no real surprise that I ended up in the housing industry. Loads of opportunity to support people but ultimately I am still asking of people. They have to pay the rent and I have to ask for it.

When I was trying to get pregnant I discovered a thirst for knowledge about how it all happens, I was absolutely fascinated. When I got pregnant, I devoured books about how my baby was developing. I looked forward to my appointments with the midwife; looking back I'm sure my poor midwife needed a good cuppa (or a glass of wine) afterwards as I generally grilled her.

After my son was born I threw myself into meeting up with other new mothers and going to groups and I found that the group I most identified with was the breastfeeding support group. I had figured I would breastfeed but yet again I was amazed at how I could sustain and grow my child myself. I was brought up in quite a strong feminist environment but now it was really dawning on me just how amazing and powerful 'woman' was.

Fast forward a number of years and I am now a Breastfeeding Counsellor and that belief just gets stronger. My desire to work with 'people' has defined into working with women and then more specifically with mothers and thier families. Teaching mothers-to-be about breastfeeding and then supporting new mothers is wonderful. Its challenging and sometimes exhausting because you give of yourself over and over again but in terms of feeling satisfied in my role, I feel I am receiving much more.

I dont know quite how to explain it but being a Breastfeeding Counsellor is a part of me. I am also a mother, and a number of other things, and I am also a potential midwife. I put mothering firmly at the top of the metaphorical pile but everything else is 'parts' of me. I didn't get into Breastfeeding Counselling because I wanted to be a midwife, rather the way I have grown has taken me into the breastfeeding world because being 'with woman' is a part of me. Does that make sense?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Just Semantics? Breastfeeding is normality at its Best

There has been a call from Lesley Backhouse, chair of The Breastfeeding Network to scrap the slogan. No its not a backtrack on policy, its an attempt to shift the balance towards breastfeeding being the normal and usual way to feed a baby, rather than formula being the norm and breastfeeding being something slightly out of reach and unusually exceptional.

"We've got to knock breastfeeding off this pedestal," said Lesley Backhouse.
"It implies something special, whereas breastfeeding is the physiological norm, and suggests that formula is the standard way to feed babies.
"Breastfeeding is the only case where the biological norm is expressed as the exception rather than the rule,".

Of course breastfeeding IS exceptional, ie its amazing properties, its extraordinary ability to sustain and improve life, to improve life prospects even in terms of surviving childhood, reducing obesity and common childhood illnesses, right up to reducing pre-menopausal breast cancer in women who do breastfeed.

All of that is exceptional but from the beginning of time it was meant to be normal. Those 'benefits' were meant to be the normal experiences of life. We were meant to be healthier. Breastfeeding is not meant to be the luxury of those fortunate enough to be able to access support. Somewhere along the line, and in some cases very clearly, breastfeeding has been seriously undermined. It's reputation systemayically damaged to the point now where most mothers think "Ill give it a go" because its 'nice' if you can do it but ok if you can't.

The human race has been robbed of the normality of breastfeeding. So yes, it is time to claim that back.

Some might think that the Breastfeeding Networks stand on this is just a case of semantics but as a promotion campaign, I think it is a brilliant starting place.
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Monday, 13 June 2011

Whose responsibility is it?

According to government statistics, 96% of women drink less alcohol once they get pregnant.

So why is there this 'tar with the same brush' mentality to making recommendations about alcohol consumption?

I'm certainly not negating the seriousness of fetal alcohol syndrome but I do think that the women who are going to drink to excess whilst pregnant will do so regardless of the governments well meaning guidelines. The vast majority, yes, safe to say, almost all women take a sensible view to alcohol drinking when pregnant if the figures are to be believed. In fact a third of that 96% actually give up alcohol entirely.

There's a part of me that thinks that the whole thing smacks of a nanny state, driven to reactive government styles. Women are more than capable of making these decisions. We are not defenseless, ill-educated dolls hanging about waiting for someone, anyone to please tell us how to look after our bodies and children because really we have no idea.

And what about drinks companies getting involved with the campaign? My feelings about the campaign itself aside (and which you are by now familiar with having read this far) I can't help but be confused by the British Medical Associations response to their involvement. They think its a bad idea owing to a conflict of interests.

I think its a great idea. In parenting I subscribe to the school of 'take responsibility and learn the consequences' in terms of behavior etc. In the main I find it works for me. If my kids chuck their toys all round the floor, they need to tidy them up again before they can play with another toy. If you save your pocket money you can buy something bigger... that sort of stuff, so yes, definitely. The drinks companies have contributed to the alcohol related ill health in this country so yes they should make a contribution in order to take some responsibility for that.

It's actually a great step forward. By making the contribution they are admitting some liability. For selling alcohol cheaply, for targeting young people etc etc.

There are however more vulnerable groups than pregnant women when it comes to alcohol abuse. It's time the government recognized the fact and directed its resources more constructively. To reduce under age drinking perhaps. How about banning alcohol adverts? It's just as damaging as smoking, so why the distinction?

If the government really cared about the health of unborn children, it would invest more money in excellent antenatal care, in funding routine Group Strep B screening, training more Midwives, providing some sort of insurance and infrastructure that allows the independent midwifery services to continue. These are the important things.

If Mr Cameron is looking to make cuts, he needs to be looking a bit more creatively than public services. Taking away the fundamental services that are used by the public who voted you in (oh help) is possibly not the way to guarantee a second term?
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Friday, 3 June 2011

Quickest Year Ever

So its happy 1st birthday to my beautiful little girl. Where on earth has that year gone? From what seemed like the longest pregnancy in history, to the fastest 365 days of my life to date...

We took the 3 of them out for a meal and she polished off a whole childrens menu meal for herself, gone apparently are the days of snaffling a few bits and pieces from Mummys plate. A big girl no less. The boys were definitely more excited about her birthday than the birthday girl herself who was distinctly underwhelmed by the whole experience. She sailed through the day as if to say "well of course all this attention directed my way is normal".

The way she just takes it all in with a beautific, if not a little cheeky, smile, is so telling of her character though so far. Perhaps its something to do with being a third child, perhaps not, but either way she is so easy and happy. The boys adore her and she charms everyone she encounters.

So *cheers* Here's to another year of cuteness, may the road rise before us and the toddler tantrums be brief. Amen.
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Bad Year for Breastfeeding

This year has felt like one attack after another on breastfeeding.

There's been the ongoing Facebook debacle; photos of breastfeeding being removed while Playboys pages are continued to be allowed to flaunt more flesh than a whole convention of breastfeeding mothers.

Then there was the ridiculous opinion piece in the British Medical Journal which many newspapers, including The Daily Fail regurgitated as fact, further undermining the benefits of breastfeeding.

Just this week I saw a short piece in Practical Parenting magazine about the Chinese developing GM cows to produce human milk! One sentence says the milk will have more nutritional content in it, though its unclear whether it means than breastmilk or than formula milk.

And now this.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/campaigners-livid-as-whitehall-axes-breastfeeding-week-2287445.html

Our beloved government in its wisdom has cut national support for National Breastfeeding Week and for what? Money? Dare I say it corporate sponsorship from a certain multi million pound unethical, immoral corporation? A quiet word to the Prime Minister, axe the funding or the Kit Kay gets it?

I digress into Nestle mudslinging but honestly, why is good health so threatening? Breastfed babies equal healthier children and adults, so less strain on the NHS, less work time lost for employers as parents take less time off to care for sniffly kids, the list of benefits to society goes on much further than I am attempting today.

Breastmilk is heroic, miraculous even... life saving and extraordinary. They still haven't discovered all there is to know about it and new studies all the time are realising the incredible properties of this liquid gold.

When will the world start to stand up and be counted on the side of health rather than wealth?
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Monday, 16 May 2011

Listen to me?

I appreciate that the title of this blog post sounds a tad on the self centred side, but do bear with me.

At work today I had a bit of a 'moment'. I found out things I wasn't happy about, hadn't been consulted on and to add insult to injury I felt that I was being dumped on work load wise. In my job we do manage our own day to day work, in that I have an amount of tenancies to 'look after' so how I manage that time is up to me so long as the net result is the same... I achieve the targets set.

So when I realised today that yet again a colleague was expecting me to do their work for them despite them being able and available, I guess I threw all my toys out of the pram as it was the straw to break this camels back. Fuming and very upset to boot I rang my line manager.

10 minutes later I came off the phone even more frustrated and upset than before. What happened?

I explained how I felt, the circumstances as I saw them and the response I got was excuse after feeble excuse and I was told I couldn't be upset because this is the way it is. By the time the call ended I was in tears.

A while after that, my 'big boss' rang. She had clearly spoken to my line manager as she wasted no time in asking how I was. And she listened. She didn't offer any reason behind my colleagues behaviour, or excuses, nor any solution to the problem, she just listened until I'd finished. Then she said she could hear I was very upset about it and that she'll be in the office tomorrow so we can discuss a way forward.

My 'big boss' didn't resolve the situation, but what she did do, which is far more important I believe is recognise that I was upset... for whatever reason that might be, whether right or wrong, she acknowledged that I was feeling this way. She listened to me.

I have no idea how the meeting is going to go tomorrow, there's a lot to discuss but I do have confidence that I won't be dismissed and ignored.

In the book 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' we learn how men need to solve our issues when women need someone to simply listen, sympathise, empathise. This is what enables us to feel valued. I've never been entirely comfortable with the generalized notion of the book - women are like this, men are like that... but I do truly believe that this concept, that listening equates to valuing is an important thing to learn, male and female.
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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Haiti

In January 2010, a massive shattering earthquake hit Haiti with the epicentre in the capital of Port au Prince.

In Haiti now there are an estimated 1.2million orphans. Entire communities were destroyed in the space in seconds and families devastated forever.

In my church we have a couple who are involved with the charity Direction for Life, him as a Police Chaplain and they responded to the disaster by going out there with a team and making contacts, channeling aid and welfare to the people needing it most.

They now have a vision to create a community for some of the orphans.10 x 3 bedroom houses with 'house parents' to become family to children. School as well. These things cost money and so I've been thinking how to raise a bit of cash.

Kev and I haven't been able to travel for some time now. I know some people travel all the time with their kids, it just hasn't happened for us. Anyway, we've done a fair amount of travel in the past and we've also both done mission work with an organization called Soapbox Trust. Between us we've worked in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador & Bolivia.

We don't know if those days are over for us but for now we are bringing up our 3 children which keeps us fairly busy... So we can't right now be intimately involved in the mission work abroad but we can raise money for those who are in a different season of their lives.

So out of this came the Swish. We didn't exactly set the world alight with loads of money raised but it was a start and I'm so glad I gave it a go. Not to mention brought home a couple of new outfits.

If you want to know more about the project in Haiti, visit www.themangotreevillage.com
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Monday, 2 May 2011

Wordless May Day

We recently went for a walk in the woods and after taking this gorgeous picture of the three men in my life, it occurred to me that they rarely get a look in on my blog so here they are.

A beautiful day spent with my most favourite people in the whole world. One of those days when you remember to count your blessings, each and every one of them.
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Friday, 29 April 2011

Duke & Duchess of Cambridge

Today I watched history as our nations favourite Prince got married to the lovely Kate Middleton.

I wish them health and happiness in their marriage, they seem very sweet.

I'd say that Brits in the main have been very happy to see this wedding, not least because there's the general feeling that we've had quite a bit of bad news on a world scale lately. It seems the world loves our Monarchy so it felt like a world event.

Here in the UK people have been celebrating, apparently there was 5500 applications for street parties for today and our (choke) Prime Minister said to celebrate and don't worry about the red tape so presumably there were many more.

We watched the wedding at home then had a BBQ with friends to celebrate. My kids dressed as Princes and a Princess, hence my picture today.

Congratulations William and Kate.
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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Never mind Breast, does Doctor always know best?

I am presuming (hoping?) that The Guardian newspaper did nor set out to publish an inflammatory piece about breastfeeding but unfortunately, it seems to have fallen into the media breastfeeding black hole.

http://m.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/23/mix-feed-baby-doctor?cat=lifeandstyle&type=article

But more important than yet another media #fail are the ridiculous statements by this 'Dr Smith'. What book was he referencing when he said that the immune benefits cross over in the first few weeks, suggesting therefore that there are no further immunity benefits to be gained by breastfeeding for longer than that?

I blogged about some of the significant milestones in breastfeeding here - http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/02/milestones-that-matter.html and honestly doctor, the facts are easy enough to come across if you look.

Then to move along to saying that expressing is faster than a baby feeding directly? While of course there may be individual cases where this happens, he is not to know that this is one of them and she certainly does not allude to that. in the main, babies who are latched on well will be much more efficient at 'draining' the breast and will get more than the mother pumping at that same session instead.

This Doctor is publishing in a respected newspaper and at the very least, should have a responsibility to check that the information they are providing is correct. Statements such as the ones he made result in me thinking about his motives, his funding etc.

Breastfeeding is not a medical mechanical process that can easily be quantified by science. The facts as we know them are that breastfeeding perfectly supplies exactly what is needed, when asked for, for as long as required. Some Doctors can't bear it that exact amounts cannot be pinned down, and their response then is to undermine it, consequently undermining the ability of woman to more than adequately nurture her child.

Wellmeaning advice it might be but I would like to see breastfeeding getting some positive and correct press coverage. Is that too much to ask?
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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Mum : AKA My Biggest Fan?

A friend said to me the other day how her own mother was pressurising her about her weight loss.

My friend is 8 weeks post partum.

The hurt I felt on her behalf cut me to the core. The one person who is supposed to be a guaranteed cheerleader is your mother. That doesn't stop once you become an adult. In fact if there was ever a time you need your mothers support and unconditional approval, its when you become a mother yourself.

Mothering is hard! It's also joyful, rewarding, surprising, fulfilling and utterly mad. But it is also relentless, tiring, heart wrenching and complicated. Who doesn't need the occasional shoulder to lean or cry on?

Mothers are uniquely placed to be supportive of other mothers. Who should know this but a mother?

Our own mothers have 'been there and done that'... sometimes right, sometimes wrong but they have been there and they know that this mothering lark is not as black and white as the books would have us think.

Now we are mothers we know this too. I for one consider myself to be a mothers cheerleader. If you've read my blog before then you'll know already that I think women are pretty amazing and you'll know that I spent some time with my friend reminding her how amazing she is.

I can't change her mother but I can step into the gap. I don't mean mother her but I do mean pick up the slack.

I'm so fortunate with my own wonderful mum, she is one of my biggest fans and I know I can count on her to build me up, to support me when I'm flagging and to give me advice from her experience of mothering me and my 4 siblings.

As a breastfeeding counsellor I have a wonderful opportunity to support women at an incredibly vulnerable time in her life. I choose to be a cheerleader in that role too, but also as a mother to mother.

Not to say I always get it right, after all I have grumpy off days the same as everyone else but if I can, I love to be a mothers biggest fan, even for a short moment. She deserves it.

Can you be a cheerleader?
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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Almost Silent Sunday

My boys enjoying an ice cream on Brighton Pier. Their faces smothered!
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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A Great Latch....

Good quality, timely support is absolutely necessary to help mothers to have the breastfeeding experience that they want.

We know that of mothers that stopped breastfeeding before 6 months, the vast majority wished that they had continued. The reasons they cite for stopping being pain and failure to thrive among others.

Pain is so not necessary in breastfeeding. It's quite often unfortunately that a breastfeeding counsellor will be called to support a mother with cracked, sore and bleeding nips. You can't help feeling that earlier support may well have avoided the issue. Getting a great latch early on is key.

Remember that a baby born after 34 weeks has the ability to breastfeed. Babies who are born and put onto their mothers tummies and 'left to it' will find their way and rather helpfully latch themselves on.

They don't worry about mummy sitting bolt upright clutching them in a vice like grip and cradle hold, they simply want mummy to be relaxed and all parts of her body supported. Using their natural instincts, quite a bit of bobbing around etc, and then with a big open mouth, they'll latch on. No specific direction, just let the baby lead the way.

Mothers have reported less incidents of pain this way so give it a go. Try it at a time when baby is relaxed and only demonstrating the very early infant feeding cues.

Above all, ring someone, get someone to come visit you and get the support you need. Nipple pain is horrible so give yourself a fighting chance of avoiding it.

Failure to thrive...
A favourite of the 'chart brigade' this one is used to frequently guilt mothers into formula feeding exclusively or topping up.

If the baby doesn't seem to me putting on weight and is not moving up the chart in a consistent manner then there is a chance you'll hear this phrase. It's a horrible phrase actually, to me implies some dirt of failure on my part which is simply not the case. But why might a baby fail to put on weight?

The first thing to look at is the latch. Is it good? Is baby breastfeeding efficiently? If a baby isn't feeding efficiently its quite possible that they will out on weight slower.

Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, so the more you breastfeed the more you will supply.

Both these things can be addressed by early support for a great latch. Breastfeeding counsellors are not just here for when you're in bad pain through breastfeeding, we're here to support you to actually avoid that pain and heartache.
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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Admittance

This morning I met with the Occupational Therapist with Reuben. Amazingly the last time we saw her wad a year ago. It really is shocking that it has been that long but that is typical of the NHS really, lack of funding means that you get discharged from their service at the first opportunity.

Perfect example, Reuben is being assessed for verbal development delay as basically I can't understand much of what he says never mind anyone else and he's been discharged several times. It's madness. A less determined person might have given up by now but I believe that Reuben needs help, more help than I'm equipped to give and that's not false modesty, that's accepting that someone else may have better insight into some of my sons needs than I do and I have to say that admittance does not come easily to me by any means.

As a mother I believe that the vast majority of the time I know what's best for my children. I'm not an ego maniac, I'm a mummy! Sometimes though that belief means allowing someone else to know better and its a hard one to learn.
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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mothers Day

Tomorrow will be my 6th Mothers day. Seems almost unreal that I have been a mother for that long.

I've been been reflecting today about my 'place' in mothers day.

I know that to my children I am the main event so to speak on this day. But I know that I am most definitely not the main event. It's a funny day really, because even though I'm now a mother, I still celebrate my own mother. I am blessed beyond words to still have my mum and also to have a fantastic mother in law.

All the while I celebrate these two women in my life, they are my main events on this day. And rightly so in my mind. The mothers day where I am the main event is the mothers day I'm in mourning and so for that reason I will enjoy my brief moment of Mummy spoiling first thing in the morning with my 3 beautiful children, and then I will throw myself into the celebration of the women who made my Mummy-hood possible.

I don't want Mothers day to just be about me, we need to appreciate the good mothers we have while we have the chance.
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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Parenting tips from Gorillas?

A Western Lowlands Gorilla baby was born at the weekend and apparently Mummy hasn't yet put him or her down, consequently the zoo keepers don't yet know the sex.

www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/0330/breaking24.html

I've already seen it said online that we could take parenting lessons from this Gorilla Mama and while I enjoy the sentiment, the fact remains that she doesn't have house, husband,other demanding children with equally demanding social lives, meals to cook, not to mention another paid job to be shoe horned into the mix.

As a parent in the real world, I took my babymoons where I could, I accepted help where I could and I avoid articles that start me feeling that I am a second rate parent in comparison to a primate.

I'm one of the first unfortunately to say ignore the 'experts' who regiment parenting into unattainable routines but the more I've immersed myself in babyled culture, the more I see 'experts' on the other extreme who are equally regimented in their own way.

I'd like to see us parents cutting each other a bit more slack.
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

SPD, PGP & Pregnancy

The other day I noticed a pregnant woman on crutches, desperately struggling to climb a single stair without moving above her knees whilst simultaneously not twisting her hips and upper body. As I rushed to her aid, in my own mind I was catapulted back to my own pregnancies and I felt her agony.
 
While you are pregnant, for some reason the expectation from
non-pregnant people is that you should be a picture of blooming health, sailing around with that lovely pregnancy glow once the morning sickness has eased off. In fact even some pregnancy books say that once the first few months are passed that you will feel healthier and that you should take advantage of this time before the heaviness of the 3rd trimester kicks in.
 
So what if pregnancy, morning sickness aside, leaves you unable
to walk, unable to move in bed, climb stairs, get in and out of the car, sit up for any length of time, sit down for any length of time… what then? Welcome to the excruciating world of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, or as it is more commonly known as now – Pelvic Girdle Pain.
 
I did in fact sail through my 1st pregnancy without a pelvic hitch, my son was born at 37 weeks via caesarean section as he was in a breech position. The fact I didn’t suffer with SPD/PGP in my first pregnancy is unusual but I prefer to call it a glorious miracle.
 
Argh, pain!
 
So imagine my surprise when at around 25 weeks pregnant I
start to get twinges in my pelvis which within a week degenerated to the point where I couldn’t walk unassisted and without horrible indescribable pain. One evening, out of usual working hours I was in tears and rang the local midwife team and was told to “take a paracetamol, ligament pain in pregnancy is normal and to just take it easy”. Crying now with pain and frustration I turned to the internet, typed in my symptoms, something I always said I would never do, and up pinged SPD. My symptoms matched to the letter.
 
Symptoms
 
Symptoms include difficulty in scissor movements, so going
upstairs, walking/running, aerobics... Extending your knees apart is extremely difficult so breaststroke in swimming and some intimate positions are a no-no. The pain itself is generally at the very front part of your pelvis, right
behind your ‘bits’. In my case it felt like someone was twisting a
screwdriver into the bone whenever I moved. Yes I saw you wince.
 
The Pelvic Partnership (www.pelvicpartnership.org.uk) say that “Pelvic girdle pain is usually caused by an asymmetry or change of normal movement or alignment in your pelvic joints – a
mechanical joint problem not a hormonal one” and while I technically agree, yes the pain is caused as described, but the movement or asymmetry is caused by the fact that the hormone ‘relaxin’ increases in the body
during pregnancy. Relaxin causes the ligaments in the body to become more mobile and ultimately help the body to be able to birth the baby however with some women there is too much Relaxin and the ‘Symphysis’ becomes
too loose and so has too much movement, causing the pain.
 
In some women the movement becomes so severe that permanent damage can occur and this is why it is so so important that if you suffer with this,
that you get treatment immediately and look after yourself carefully.
 
Get Treatment
 
I got an appointment with the doctor who while was
sympathetic, didn’t know anything about it and told me to go to my
midwife. She saw immediately that I was in horrible pain and got me a physiotherapy appointment for the following morning. At 4pm that day,
it was quite an achievement and a testament to how urgent she saw the problem to be. The physiotherapist gave me a kind of tubigrip body sock and a set of crutches. She also did some manual manipulation on my back as where I was walking ‘funny’ I had all sorts of referred pain in my back, legs,
neck and shoulders. She also sent me away with a list of self help measures and a recommendation that I contact the doctor for stronger painkillers if
necessary.
 
Self help…
 
* Take it slowly
* To get in and out of the car, sit on a plastic bag so that you swivel easily – keep your knees together
* To roll in bed or to get out of bed, keep your knees together too and your pelvic/hips region as still as possible
* Support yourself in bed with plenty of pillows. A thin one between your knees may help
* Do keep moving a bit. Don’t sit down for the rest of your pregnancy. Don’t overdo it though
* Accept help
* Think about how you move around your home – avoid
the stairs where possible
* DO NOT PUSH TROLLEYS AT SUPERMARKETS!
* DO NOT VACUUM!
 
During vaginal examinations, don’t over extend your knees, get a piece of string and measure how far comfortably you can extend, then use that piece of string as a gauge. Don’t go beyond it and importantly give it to your midwife when you go into labour. Just because you cant feel the pain when/if you have an epidural, doesn’t mean it isn’t doing
damage and your goal is to minimise the damage to your pelvis so that you can make a full and fast recovery post birth.
 
With my daughter, I did develop SPD/PGP earlier in pregnancy
but I saw it coming a mile off and was able to manage it a bit better, I’m not saying there weren’t days when you’d have to peel me off the ceiling with the pain, but I was better prepared and knew that there were things I could do to help myself.
 
Post Birth
 
The magical thing about this condition for many women is the
way it disappears after the baby arrives. Not everyone is so lucky but you should expect to see significant improvement. 10 months down the line I still should not be pushing supermarket trollies/carts but in this age of online grocery shopping, it is avoidable. Still, don’t take it too fast, accept help, and it will improve.
 
Emotionally Speaking
 
When I was pregnant with Daisy and suffering with this condition, I did get very low, to the extent that I went to the doctors in a state, not able to cope and feeling like a failure. I was desperately trying to carry on through the pain caring for my two young children, look after the house, carry on with a very stressful job, and I wondered why it was all starting to get on top of me. If you are a PGP sufferer then please, be kind to yourself.
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Why be a breastfeeding counsellor?

Of late I've been wading my way through a number of things, returning to work at the housing association, my pet services business, looking after my family amongst other various bits of life. And I must say I am almost exhausted by it all.

The other big thing I've been grappling with is the practicality of becoming a breastfeeding counsellor. Administration was something I hoped would be at a minimum in my chosen profession but here it is raising its ugly head again, it would seem that even person centred jobs are not exempt.

The admin side has become such an elephant in the room that I've had to really evaluate my feelings about my new role and about the organization I do work for (I'm self employed and so am like a sub contractor!). There have been times even today where I've wanted to throw all my toys out of the pram, the baby out with the bath water, you think of a cliche and I'm already there.

So if the stuff I'm so offended by is so offensive, why am I doing what I'm doing?

Because breastfeeding is worth it. I've blogged about the brilliance of breastmilk, about the benefits to both mother and child. But my attraction to breastfeeding goes deeper than even these wonderful things.

Women are incredible. In the face of their children, a woman cannot be topped for bravery, courage, perseverance, patience. She has reserves she doesn't even know about. Carrying a baby and giving birth is extraordinarily special and as a c-sec and natural birth mum, I scoop up all of us in that statement.

We then want to do the very best for our children once they are out of our bodies and into our arms. Some of us find breastfeeding comes easily, to some of us... not so much and I fell inside that category.

Luckily I had fantastic support. Statistics show that the vast majority of women who stop breastfeeding, did so before they wanted to. That statement has its arms open to a lot of women. As a breastfeeding counsellor I can support women to have the breastfeeding journey they want to have.

Women deserve to have the parenting experience they want. My journey as a breastfeeding counsellor is about that, it is about the women, the babies, the families, ultimately the wider community, in fact let's aim high, worldwide health!

Thanks for walking with me as I reminded myself why I do this.
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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Warning - tired ranty blog alert

I wanted to write today but having stared at a blank screen for some time without typing a single character, I figured a quick visit to the Creativity Portal for a push button blog prompt was in order. I generally find that the best thing to do is just get words down, even of its just to write about how you cant write. (ahem).

Well I pushed the prompt button and so you know what it said?!

"Blog prompter is getting tired"

What?! If the prompter is getting tired then what hope do I, a mere writing mortal have?

Seriously though, it has no idea. I AM TIRED!! Take that and put it in your RSS feed Mr (of course) blog prompter.

*sigh* I have a meeting on Thursday to discuss my future with the company. It's going through a restructure and my job is in the firing line. I need to apply for one of the 2 jobs to be created from my current post.

I can barely think about what to have for dinner, never mind my next career move. I know what I really want to be doing and frankly it does not involve trying to persuade people that paying their rent is a good idea. (it IS A GOOD IDEA by the way people, you don't really need me to remind you surely... don't answer that).

And now its late and I'm even more tired. Thankfully no work tomorrow.
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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Women Rock! IWD 2011

"I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!" ~Author Unknown

Today is International Womens Day. Its also the 100th anniversary, first celebrated in 1911. Believe it or not, some countries actually celebrate it as a national holiday. We've come a long way baby but I get the distinct feeling we still have a way to go. A world where some women still die in childbirth where in other countries they dont, some women are routinely beaten by thier male relatives, women are still blamed for their own rapes, women still earn less than men overall and have less high powered jobs than men. Shocking stuff so yes, a way to go.

"The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes." Bella Abzug

A friend lately gave birth to her second child via cesarean section. Both labours failed to progress and it is more than likely that she would not have survived her first labour had she been giving birth 100 years ago or today in a country where maternity care is not a priority. Until all women can expect to survive childbirth, there is inequality.

"When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life." Kofi Annan

A study in 2006 (UK) reported that 'women working part-time earned 39% less per hour than men working full-time'. Women often work part time in order to care for children. In exchange for producing the next generation of well adjusted tax payers, women routinely earn less. Until women can expect to earn the same as men for doing the same job there is inequality.

"You don't have to be anti-man to be pro-woman." ~Jane Galvin Lewis

My Nan co-founded the Greenham Common womens peace camp in Newbury, England, and so that kind of back drop to my younger years instilled in me a firm belief that women can make a real difference, it just takes confidence. Unfortunately confidence is one of the things routinely eroded in women the world over, day in day out. Women are extraordinary, they possess a resiliance, courage and protective instinct that men can only aspire to. I dont mean that in a men-bashing way, just my observation of the mothers I meet and work with.

So I applaud International Womens Day, I unapologetically tweet and facebook about it and I encourage you to do the same. Inequality is not acceptable and neither is silence on the matter. Speak up.

References
http://www.internationalwomensday.com/ <--Visit this site for specific IWD info
www.weareequals.org
http://www.wrc.org.uk/resources/facts_and_statistics_on_womens_inequality_in_the_uk.aspx
http://www.quotegarden.com/feminism.html

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Losing The Plot

I'm not exactly Alan Titchmarsh but I have this vegetable plot in my back garden and I grow bits and pieces in it and its been an, up to now, 'Mummys stuff, don't touch!' area. And actually that's been just the way I've liked it.

However Jayden (5) has been asking questions about growing things and so in a rash moment I said when I next go to the garden centre he can choose the things we can grow. He drew up a list. On the list... carrots, potatoes (fine) apples (er...) bananas (hell no) so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we set off.

They naturally enjoyed the ride on the trolley and actually the choosing of seeds etc wasn't quite as painful as I'd envisaged. We left with potatoes, green beans, rhubarb, spring onions, a raspberry bush, a vegetable multipack and a herb multipack. That was apparently the easy part.

The hard part it turned out was relinquishing some sort of control over the plot itself. In the name of 'family time' I have no idea where one line begins or ends, what has been planted where and slightly worrying is that he's dug a rhubard in somewhere but I don't know where. Not a small plant... may overpower the spring onions... He also snapped the sprouts off a couple of seed potatoes before I noticed *sigh*

But even though there were some fraught moments, and perhaps a couple of (muted) frustrated exclamations from me, it was a success... Jayden is now checking every 10 mins to see if anything has grown yet. Should keep him busy if nothing else!
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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday

A letter to Princess Betty on the wall in the school hallway.

Proud mummies unite :)
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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Emigration Looking Mighty Attractive

With one NHS Trust losing 22.5% of its staff, health care in the UK is looking dicier by the day.

Check out this article in The Guardian http://m.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/23/nhs-to-lose-50000-jobs?cat=society&type=article

Cutting nhs staff is not the answer to the UKs problems. All that will achieve is a lowering of standards in healthcare. Perhaps the government should look closer to itself to make the savings rather than attacking the living standards of everyday people yet again.

Being a bleeding heart lefty, I was less than overjoyed at the election of a coalition government headed up by the Tories. Doesn't anyone remember what they did to us in the past?

A number of people I spoke to said they were voting blue because of their family friendly policies. Well look at us now.

* Surestart centres - funding slashed and centres closing.
* Tax credits reducing, mainly affecting mid-lower income families
* Child benefit to be gone in next few years
* Massive cuts to our NHS, resulting in poorer health care for us.
* Spiraling fuel costs pushing small businesses out of business
* Spiraling food costs pushing families into hunger - reports show some parents going without food in order to feed their children
* Spiraling costs of energy forcing fuel poverty. That's not affording to keep warm to you and me.
* Pay freezes across most industries as companies feel the pinch. Unfortunately as cost of living increases, this is leaving a family sized discrepancy.

What are we going to do about it? Have the Egyptians got the right idea? What do you think?
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Friday, 25 February 2011

Milestones that Matter



Even before I had my first child, I was sure I would breastfeed. I didn't actually give it that much thought, other than to get measured up for a nursing bra a couple of weeks before the birth. I know, very prepared.

My breastfeeding journey is another post for another day, but suffice to say, I knew that human milk was best for human babies.

Knowing what I do now, I'm glad I had that determination, after all, I wouldn't be a breastfeeding counsellor without it. Turns out though that breastfeeding was far more amazing than I ever gave it first credit for...

First Feed ~
Stabilizes babys blood sugar following birth and super lovely skin to skin contact for mother and baby. Don't underestimate the protective action of this one feed on babys gut.

One Week ~
Breastmilk has helped to clear through the sticky black meconium and the uterus is contracting back to its normal size with BF help. Mum is guaranteed decent sofa time as she breastfeeds her newborn - you deserve the rest!

One Month ~
Think of the time NOT spent sterilizing bottles etc. If your baby was premature, then even exclusive breastmilk for 4 weeks gives a lower risk factor for heart disease later in life.

Two Months ~
By now you already have a lower risk for ovarian cancer. Woohoo! Then the added bonus of lower risk of food allergies at 3 yrs old for your babe (the BMJ got it wrong. Shocking)

Three Months ~
You won't be wearing yourself out with doctors visits as your baby is now less likely to develop gastroenteritis and suffer with diarrhoea... an absolute bonus for you!

Four Months ~
Your baby has less risk of developing eczema and asthma. Look at her. She's gorgeous and you made her all by yourself!

Five Months ~
Risk of cot death is significantly reduced, along with a lower risk of urinary tract infections.

Six Months ~
Baby has a lower risk of ear infections and good news if there's Diabetes in your family... BF for 6 months and you'll have a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

One Year!! ~
You've saved a minimum of £450 in formula feed! Baby has lower risk of heart disease as an adult plus less likely to be overweight in later life.

Two Years ~
Mums risk of breast cancer has been slashed by a brilliant 8%. One cool bonus is that breastfed babies are more likely to have higher average scores on intelligence tests.

Some people say to me that a problem they have with breastfeeding is that it is not quantifiafble. Eg, how much did they take (dunno) etc... These milestone health benefits for both mother and child are measurable. Be proud though, whatever you achieve, just remember even from that first feed, you did a good job.

However if those milestones encourage you to BF longer, then I'm glad about that too. Care to share any known benefits of breastfeeding that you think should have been covered?

~~~~~~~

Info referenced from the NCT (UK) information sheet 'Reasons to be Proud'. For a full set of references, email me and I'll pass on the request to the NCT.
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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Don't Wear Black

When my first born was a week old, I asked my health visitor what I could do about the frequent sick ups or 'possetting' and her advice? "Don't wear black!".

To some people that might seem rather unhelpful and actually when she said it I kind of stared at her for a moment before allowing it to sink in that what she was actually saying was that the small amount of milk coming back after feeding wasn't a problem. It took my baby brain befuddled mind a few moments to appreciate the subtlety but we got there in the end.

She quite skillfully (wierdly) gave me information and allayed fears without being patronizing. She didn't simply tell me not to worry. If there is one thing I find infuriating is being told not to worry about something. There's a couple of issues here.

Number One. I'm a mum, I worry, that's my job.

Number Two. By telling me not to worry you are dismissing my fears. Not cool.

Number Three. Don't tell me what to do/feel and I won't poke you in the eye with a tube of nappy/diaper cream. Deal?

My first trip to the supermarket after Jayden was born was cut short as in the chilled foods aisle I became convinced he'd catch a cold. I abandoned the trolley and hightailed it back to my cozy car, bewildered husband in tow. Irrational? Likely. Normal for a new mum? Almost certainly. But could anyone at that moment have convinced me that my baby was unlikely to contract pneumonia from the cheese fridges? Probably not.

My lovely caring husband, even though he in all likelihood thought I was bonkers, humored me and went out alone later that day for supplies. He didn't tell me not to worry. By doing this he validated my feelings and respected my new-mum-decision-making.

He also brought home chocolate. Good boy.
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Friday, 18 February 2011

Look out world!

Today I received a long awaited confirmation... my portfolio passed and I am now a fully qualified, Licenced to practice NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor. Woot! *dances*

I feel like this has taken a long long time but when I consider how much I've changed, how much I've learnt, the people I've met, the experiences lived through in that time, then the time was well worth it. In the mix I have become a mother of three and turned 30 (whether that bit is significant I don't know, LOL).

So all this time I've been building up to this moment. My heart is to support mothers. I love people but I really do think that mothers are extraordinary. I also am in awe of women generally, but there is some other dimension, strength, inner fierce core in a mother that staggers me (incidentally whether she breastfeeds or not). I know its there because I feel it inside myself and I see it in them too.

So, I digress (as usual)... what now? There are plenty of opportunities to get involved so I need to see how I best fit in where I can be the most useful. I do have ideas and plans particularly for local breastfeeding support provision, but my interim plan is to support mothers wherever I can, gain experience and keep going on this amazing journey.

The biggest thank you ever to the people who have supported me to get to this point too. Your presence in my life means the world to me.
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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Sweet Support from an unlikely quarter

I am under no illusion that without the wonderful people who supported me in the early days, my breastfeeding journey and story might well have been different.



However the most astonishing part of this is that the woman I accredit my first breastfeeding success with my first child has no children. Her ability to empathise with me and really support me despite never having experienced it is extraordinary.

I still maintain my assertion that breastfeeding support is best coming from breastfeeding mothers but this lady broke the mold. She arrived at my door when my firstborn was 3 days old. I'd been crying my eyes out with pain and frustration and she sat down with me and didn't leave for 2 hours. By the time she left, my baby was latching on perfectly and had taken a good feed.

I'm a (very very nearly) newly qualified breastfeeding counsellor. I couldn't have started the training unless I'd breastfed for a minimum of 6 months and I still think that is the ideal basis to start from - mother to mother peer support - but in her case I'd be willing to make an exception.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You'll never know the impact you had on my life. My desire to support other mums partly stems from the support you showed me. Thank you :)
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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Working Mother - Breastfed Baby

I returned to work Monday after nearly a year off on maternity leave. 11am found me expressing in the ladies. The not so glamorous side of the working breastfeeding mother.

In the UK, businesses have no specific legal obligation to provide for breastfeeding mothers. However there are some slightly fluffier laws about the health and safety of the pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, though the latter part remains unclear as to whether that's only until the baby is 6 months old.

It's the health and safety bit that had me pondering as I rinsed my pump out in the sink, precariously balancing my precious bottle on top of the hand towel dispenser seeing as the only other option was the floor... of the toilet.

Unfortunately, pondering is as far as it will get because there is literally nowhere else in the building I could go to pump in private, so I'm just going to have to grin and bear it because I really do want to continue providing my daughter with breastmilk while I'm at work.

So I'd like to write briefly about making the most of the situation you're in when it comes to expressing. Because very often this is the best its going to get.

Think first about the conditions necessary for expressing.

* You need to be calm
* You need to feel comfortable

The reason I put these as my top two are that Oxytocin plays a huge part in effective expressing. Spending a couple of minutes emotionally preparing yourself will save you several minutes of non 'profitable' pumping so its worth the time investment.

Once you're sat as comfortably as you can be (perched on a poo seat in my case), close your eyes and take a deep breath. Then working from the top, focus on relaxing your muscles, paying particular attention to your neck, shoulders and arms.

Don't start until you've relaxed as best you can. Some mothers find it helpful to actually imagine nursing their baby. I actually carry a picture with me so that visualization is even easier.

Bear in mind that not everyone feels the 'let down' reflex but when you express, when you do let down, you'll know, as the milk flows freely. The difference between a session where you do let down and one where you don't is significant. There is generally much more.

Making the most of the natural Oxytocin is the key to expressing in less than ideal circumstances. Ideally you'll be perfectly comfortable, every part of your body supported so that no tensed muscles inhibit the pumping session but in the absence of fluffy cushions, visualization is the next best thing.

I was frankly anxious about expressing at work but by taking a few moments to relax and just imagining those bottles filling up... before I knew it, it had happened.

I'm not trying to over simplify this, I know expressing can be and is a real challenge, but it is worth a try.

Do you have any tips for successful expressing/pumping?
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Friday, 11 February 2011

Beautiful Boy

Today I am thankful. I have literally held my breath since September, the date 11th February hanging heavily over my head. The day we find out.

I didn't realise that I've been walking round with a constriction around my chest, watching, waiting. Seeing symptoms where I now know there to be none. Because that is what worry does to you. That is what being a mother does to you. And I'm not generally a paranoid type.

So I heard with my own ears. Saw with my own eyes that he is fine. My beautiful boy, the little boy that people keep saying to me 'has something about him' is in possession of a beautifully healthy heart. As if I didn't know...
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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Cover up please! Breastfeeding in Public..

So you've mastered breastfeeding at home and after the superhuman effort of childbirth, you deserve some retail therapy!

Is your blood running cold at the thought of getting your boobs out at the cafe? Or are you well armed with the knowledge that you're doing the most amazing thing ever for your baby and what others think doesn't mean a bean?

To be honest I don't think this subject is as simple as either of those responses. We've come a long way in that its now actually illegal in the UK to move on a breastfeeding mother so that's brilliant and not to mention long overdue. But I often find myself tying myself up in knots about it.

You might well ask why as I am, I guess, a breastfeeding veteran with 3 exclusively breastfed babies under my belt. I've confidently fed all of them in public, inwardly daring anyone to challenge me... honestly there were times I'd be sat in a cafe almost spoiling for a fight. How wrong is that? I would sit sometimes thinking about the women who have been asked to move on, by staff, by members of the public, and I'd end up fuming (in my really very English, mild mannered way, LOL).

Generally when you see a mother breastfeeding, you can see little or none of her breasts, and even if you could see some skin, then its still less than the photos on the front of any celebrity magazine and that's totally acceptable apparently. In fact I saw more areolas on display on the Oscars red carpet than at my local breastfeeding drop in.

In response to this societal reaction, a number of products can now be bought to help protect the breastfeeding mothers 'modesty'; shawls/ponchos etc. Although I am very pleased that there is a market for these items (as in, breastfeeding mothers out there breastfeeding) I wonder occasionally whether they reinforce the idea that breastfeeding needs to be covered up.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there isn't a place for modesty. What I'm saying is how saddened I am by the fact that women feel that if they do need to breastfeed while out and about, that she either needs to find a private room out of sight of everyone, or cover herself up.

And while I'm on the subject, those 'feeding' rooms provided by some shops etc are beyond gross, a vertical backed wooden bench next to the changing table and a bin full of ... well... not exactly a breastfeeding friendly environment, whatever the sticker on the front door says. Of course it could be worse. I've seen a disabled toilet with a feeding sign on it too. Maybe the management ordinarily eat their lunch in the bathroom... though I somehow suspect not.

If a breastfeeding cover enables a woman to feel confident about breastfeeding her baby in public then I'm all for them. I appreciate that its not all about worrying about the reactions of others and sometimes about personal modesty boundaries etc but they are also to me a little reminder that as far as total acceptance goes, we have a way to go yet.
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Friday, 4 February 2011

Breastfeeding and the C word

There was a worrying press article today about the rise in cases of breast cancer. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12356489

The phrase 'breast cancer' is enough to send any woman into a freefall of anxiety whether or not she has risk factors for the disease. The risk factors are...

*smoking
*oral contraceptives
*drinking alcohol every day
*obesity
*family history

Of course the indiscriminate nature of cancer means that women with no apparent risk factors may develop it and a boatload of risk factors might never. The report says a startling 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. That seems high to me.

The question I immediately asked of Google was how can I protect myself? What preventative measures can I take if any?

One was thankfully in my doorstep. Breastfeeding can actually reduce the chance of breast cancer by up to 50%, which is almost unbelievable. You do need to breastfeed for 2 years to get the full 50%. Check out this site for the stats if you like. http://www.breastfeeding.com/all_about/all_about_breast_cancer.html

The article goes on to say that the evidence shows that even breastfeeding for 2 days can have a significant impact on a persons risk of breast cancer.

The risk of ovarian cancer is also reduced by breastfeeding. Clever stuff huh?

Reading those articles this evening got me thinking. If more women were aware of these specific benefits, would more women try to breastfeed? Would they carry on longer? Or even initiate it. Knowing that breastfeeding is protective, wouldn't it be worth the extra effort?

I read somewhere recently that an estimated 3 in 4 women in the UK are UNAWARE of this information. That is massive. Considering the potential for protection, if all women knew this, would there be less incidences of breast cancer?

For an excellent webpage about reasons why women might find it in their best interests to give it a go, visit here.
http://www.notmilk.com/101.html

I'm not formula bashing here or anything like that, but in order to make informed choices we need to know what the possible consequences are. Sugar coating and avoiding the issue doesn't help, nor ignoring the situation. Read up, get educated and protect yourself the beat you can.
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Thursday, 3 February 2011

10 Days From Now

10 days from now I'll be back in the world of employment.10 days from now I'll be leaving my children for 11 hours per day, 3 days per week. 10 days from now I'll be joining the army of women doing the same, every day.

I've been sitting here, really thinking about how I feel about this. People ask me now with increasing regularity when I am returning to work. For some time I enjoyed saying "not until next year!", but now the time has come and I am counting the remainder of my maternity leave in days rather than months.

My childcare is sorted, and might I say at this point that I am blessed with angelic in-laws without whom our lives would be very different (read, worse) so in that respect we are beyond blessed. My eldest is now at school, my middle child spends the afternoons at nursery and my daughter lives it up with cuddles galore at Grandma and Grandads. Perfect.

When I left work last year to come onto maternity leave, there was a lot of uncertainty about the role I would ultimately return to. The company is going through some major changes and this raised the possibility of redundancy, new roles or relocation. I was so stressed when I left as a result. Not only was I dealing with the chronic pelvic pain from my SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) but I had to deal with the very real chance that I wouldn't be able to provide for my family financially. That stress made me into a person I didn't want to be; uncooperative, argumentative and extremely anxious.

Thankfully I managed to let that go and have enjoyed my maternity leave far more than I even imagined. My daughters birth was incredible and I've also been able to devote time to my 3yo with his developmental stuff and hospital to-ings and fro-ings that I would have found so hard to do had I been working.

I've been known to say flippantly that I'm going back to 'reality' when talking about my return to work. And I think in a way it really was like that with my elder two. With Jayden, I returned to work when he was just under 6 months, Reuben was 7 months. The time off seemed to fly by so quickly, before I knew it I was sat behind my desk again as if I'd never been away, with just some photos to prove I'd ever left. Real life was sat there waiting for me while I took time out to play at happy families.

This time feels different. Although I've never felt the 'g' word about returning to work, (guilt for the uninitiated), there is definitely a different... something... going on here. I've been trying to put my finger on it and the only way I can think to articulate it is to say that I finally feel comfortable in my own skin as a mother, I'm not feeling I have to justify my enjoyment of it by answering the "what do you do?" question with an explanation of what I do besides mothering.

It's not to say that I don't get some fulfilment from working outside the home (and let me say right now I get NO fulfilment from cleaning the bathroom at home, domestic goddess is NOT my alter ego) but I guess my reality has shifted.

I enjoy my work but its just a small part of me. It's just a hat I put on.
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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Confessions of a Wannabe Eco Warrior: Part Fourth & Final

I don’t have nearly enough time to go into all the ethical considerations for ethical living so I will first have a look at the Nestle Boycott, an issue close to my heart (well close to my boobs certainly), and then leave you with some facts and figures about the production of some of the everyday items in our lives. Beware though, learning some of them may well change the way you shop forever (and will most definitely change the way you look at those items).

Have you heard of the Nestle Boycott? If not, allow me to enlighten you with some background text from The Rough Guide to Ethical Living (Duncan Clark, 2006).

“Right back in the 1930s pioneering paediatrician Dr Cicely Williams published and spoke about the hazards of inappropriate bottle feeding (side note – i.e. over or under dilution, mixing with solids, making up with un-sterile water). But for much of the twentieth century the formula milk manufacturers – of which Nestle was and still is, the biggest – aggressively promoted their products around the world. Pictures of plump ‘first world’ babies were used on tins and posters, and free samples sometimes given out by marketing ‘nurses’ were provided for hospitals and given out to new mothers, often making breastfeeding impossible and forcing mothers into months of purchasing. The result was a huge decline in the exclusive use of breastfeeding and the completely avoidable deaths of hundreds of thousands of babies each year around the world”

The Boycott came about as a result of Nestle continuously disregarding the World Health Organisations (WHO) standards for promotion of formula. The Boycott will continue for as long as Nestle continue to do this. It is co-ordinated by the International Baby Food Action Network. www.ibfan.org Visit this site for more in depth information.

I was shocked when I realized how many products are directly or indirectly manufactured/supplied by Nestle. I had to change my cat food (Purina) and hair care (L’Oreal & The Body Shop) as well as avoiding half the breakfast cereal aisle and chocolate bars. Not easy but certainly do-able with so many other quality brands around. Yet again it comes back to power in numbers. Show your support by backing the Boycott.

Nice clothes… but at what price?
• According to a study by the India Committee of the Netherlands, 90% of all labour in the Indian cottonseed market is carried out by nearly half a million children, mostly girls aged between six and fourteen. (D.Clark, 2006)
• Did you know Nike allegedly petitioned the Indonesian government for exemption from the minimum wage?
• Did you know Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren an d Tommy Hilfiger USA have all been sued in the past for alleged labour abuses?
• Although testing on animals is now illegal in the UK, loads of products are imported from abroad where testing is not banned.
• As of summer 2004, the brands Unilever (Oil of Olay, Max Factor, Old Spice & Vidal Sassoon to name a few) and Colgate Palmolive (Colgate, L’Oreal:Elvive,Garnier, Georgio Armani amongst others) were, according to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, conducting/commissioning animal testing.
These few facts only scratch the vast surface of hair raising practices going on in the world. It is true that fair trade products do often cost more, but in a world sense, the cost is far, far lower. I started small, we now only buy fair-traded coffee, where can you start?

If you are interested in this issue, check out these websites
www.sweatshopwatch.org
www.fairlabor.org
www.undp.org The UNs Global Development network

Monday, 31 January 2011

Confessions of a Wannabe Eco Warrior: Part Three

A lot has been said in the media of late about our Carbon Footprint – the principle being that every human activity either directly or indirectly causes greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere and this contributes to climate change. I’d like to reduce my carbon footprint but its actually really hard! Funnily enough there is one thing I do which has a zero carbon footprint (CF), and that is breastfeeding! The production of baby milk substitutes has a high CF due to the rearing of the cows, the production of the cows feed, manufacture and transportation of the milk powder, the manufacture of the product itself, then there’s the packaging – tins, plastic etc. The long shelf life of formula milk means that a hard wearing container is essential. When I sit here and breastfeed, my carbon footprint is minimal… I say minimal because I do admittedly need to breathe… #justsayin

But as I’ve already said, living greener doesn’t just have to mean drinking out of used yoghurt pots and wearing only organic hemp clothing. It’s about the small do-able tweaks here and there that really do make a difference. So here’s a list of ‘all the small things’ I can do to minimize my impact on the world – in most cases is helps me to save money too which is a nice little bonus.

• Turn off the lights when you leave a room and use low energy light bulbs.
• AVOID Standby on appliances – TVs, Microwaves, DVD players, Stereos all use around the same amount of energy on standby as when in use! Turn them off where possible
• Use the lowest temperatures on your washing machine & dishwasher as possible to reduce energy use.
• Install a water meter – it will make you more careful about the amount of water you use so it doesn’t cost you so much, plus did you know that drinking water is actually only 3% of the worlds available water? Best look after it then.
• Put a brick in the toilet cistern – it reduces the amount of water flushed away, also consider not flushing every time… Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
• Collect rain water in a water butt leading from your gutters then you can use this to water the garden/vegetable beds rather than running it from fresh water taps. Use it to water the house plants too
• Don’t over fill the kettle, only boil as much as you need, result: less water waste & less energy used
• Consider swapping to washable nappies to avoid filling landfills with disposable nappies – the nappies we throw away now will outlive us. Chemicals released from the nappies are not healthy either for the world or for babies skin. The World Health Organisation has called for fecal and urine waste to stop being put into the ground, ie with disposable nappies and this is a great way to avoid it.
• Drive your car less. Your ’soon to be flatter’ tummy will thank you for it… not to mention your wallet and the ozone layer.
• Avoid air travel – the carbon footprint is uber high. Holiday local. I didn’t say that all these ideas would be popular.
• Buy your food local if you can to avoid travel costs (monetary & environmental), both to you and to the supplier.

Look out for Part Four where I delve into the issues surrounding ethical living and responsible shopping.

I would love to hear your ‘tweaks’ toward your greener living!

Part One : http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/01/confessions-of-wannabe-eco-warrior-part.html
Part Two : http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/01/confessions-of-wannabe-eco-warrior-part_30.html

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Confessions of a Wannabe Eco Warrior: Part Two

As a mother to three gorgeous children, the way I look at the world has changed somewhat. As I’ve explained before, I’ve always been concerned about world and environmental issues, but now it’s not just about the world that I live in, it’s the world that my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in. More to the point, will there be a world left for them?

In my attempts to live a greener, more environmentally aware everyday life I don’t always succeed, I am not a perfectly green person but I am doing the best I can. I guess what I’m trying to say is just do what you can; whatever you do, it is one more person doing one more thing and all those one things add up. This is not a wishy washy philosophy, there is power in numbers and I really believe that. It does still mean of course that I have to get up off my chair and do something.

Here in the UK, the buzz phrase for reducing waste is REDUCE, RE-USE, RECYCLE.

How can I REDUCE?

• The landfills in the world can’t take much more, so humans are dumping rubbish in the bottom of the sea. Nice. Reduce the rubbish you produce! You can choose to buy food with less packaging. Ideally buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than ready packed. Better still, bring along your own cloth bags to put them in as you go round the market.
• Every day, families throw away food. Mountains of the stuff. The simple answer here is to buy less and use what we have more efficiently. Make up the weeks menu, buy only what you need and stick to it. Less consumer buying means less demand means less manufacturing. In principle.

How can I RE-USE?

• Buy second hand – charity stores aren’t grim, they are opportunities to save the planet! Not only that but hopefully the proceeds are going to a good cause (more on this later). Also remember to donate unwanted clothes to charity so that they can be re-used too and not added to landfill sites. Ask the shops if they are currently accepting clothes/books/toys though… if not, then try another shop, otherwise it may still get chucked.
• If clothes really are past it, tear them up for washing up rags for the car or use them in pet beds. Pretty fabrics could be cut up for patchwork or reworked into a new garment if you’re that way inclined.
• Donate toys to toddler groups and churches.
• Re-use plastic carrier bags – ideally as shopping bags but also as waste paper bin liners at home. When you throw the filled bag away though with the main household waste, don’t tie it up, allow it to spill into the main bag, this gives it a better chance of breaking down.

Time to RECYCLE?

This part is frustratingly area dependent. For example where I live, the local council will collect glass, tin cans, some plastics, and paper. The council in the next district will collect green waste and cardboard as well. I am prepared to travel a bit to take my cardboard to the amenity tip but I know I am in the minority; not that people don’t WANT to recycle particularly, it’s simply one more thing to fit into an already busy week. Try to integrate a fortnightly or weekly trip to the recycling centre into a trip elsewhere. Every bag recycled is a bag less in the landfills, polluting the earth with leaching chemicals and atmosphere with released gasses. Separate your waste at home and get the children involved.

Can you compost? You can now get quite small ones if you have a small garden, or as my Grandfather does, dig the food waste directly into the ground on a rotation basis.

Look out for Part Three – More things to do to reduce our impact on the world.

Part One : http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/01/confessions-of-wannabe-eco-warrior-part.html
Part Three : http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/01/confessions-of-wannabe-eco-warrior-part_31.html

Friday, 28 January 2011

Confessions of a Wannabe Eco Warrior: Part One

I was brought up to have an awareness of the world around me, my Nan was a green campaigner, specifically protesting against the development of nuclear weapons and so I feel like it’s a part of me somehow, in my genes if you like!

So it was no surprise to my mother I would imagine when I came home with the leaflet from a petition I’d signed to stop the testing on animals for cosmetics etc. I was as furious as any 12 year old can be and I started writing letters, to the Prime Minister, to the cosmetics companies, to my local paper, anyone who would listen, but mainly those who wouldn’t. At times, as a young person, I felt utterly overwhelmed by the enormity of the issues of animal cruelty, what could I do?

As I grew up I carried on with the letters etc and a couple of protests at school, I learnt about other issues going on in the world, injustices towards children in the developing world, continuing prejudices on my own doorstep… It really sometimes feels like too much. How is it that the world seems to have come so far and still have such things going on in the world. It would be easy to get caught at that stage of the process and though its not for everyone to tie themselves to endangered trees, break into testing facilities or get arrested for protesting at nuclear weapon storage sites (yes, I’m talking about you Nan), there is still something that the rest of us, everyday people can do.

It’s taken me a long time to realize the power in numbers. But my primary responsibility is my own contribution to those larger numbers. I’ve had conversations with people who say there’s no point in boycotting Nestle/recycling/reducing food waste etc because no one else will do it. But I can’t help what other people do, I can however do what I CAN do - there is nothing wrong with that and everything right with it. Also, by living according to your values, we set examples for our children. My kids separate their rubbish… they are 5 and 3 years old. Tomorrows eco warriors? Maybe, but what they will grow up knowing is that we all, individually, need to do our bit to make a difference.

What I’ll be looking at in the next couple of blog posts is firstly the simple, everyday things we can do to save the world. Next I’ll look at some of the world wide issues we need to be aware of so we can bear these in mind in regards to the companies we deal with and buy from. So do come back next time, feel free to comment and add your own top tips and thoughts. My own are by no means exhaustive!

Part Two : http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/01/confessions-of-wannabe-eco-warrior-part_30.html
Part Three : http://michelletant.blogspot.com/2011/01/confessions-of-wannabe-eco-warrior-part_31.html

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Wordless Wednesday

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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Temptation

The last time I made a genuine effort to lose weight was before my eldest was born and I lost 33lbs. Quite impressive even if I do say so myself.

Now I have around 14lbs to lose, the byproduct of birthing 3 children. Not that I can blame them entirely of course, but everyone needs a fall-guy right? A small note on the picture I chose for this post - only I know the enormous amount of willpower going on in that picture of my son and his birthday cake! It's not a trait I possess in spades, nor a trait that his Father, who does admittedly have more than me, has passed to him. What a little angel.

I absolutely see the benefit and yes necessity of losing that weight and getting into shape but my inclination seems to have packed its slimline bag and trotted off into the chocolate laden sunset, leaving me wondering whether 'just one' makes a difference.

Believe it or not, I used to run. I ran the 5k women's challenge in Londons Hyde Park. It was a brilliant experience, I found out later that I was 6 weeks pregnant with my daughter. The difference that being fit made to my body shape was significant, I could fit happily into slim line jeans and I felt more buoyant, more cheerful in the mornings even. Must have been the extra happy hormones the exercise sent rushing through my body.

I need to do this really. How ridiculous to know how much better I'd feel from experience, but not do anything about it. Is one more chocolate really going to matter in the grand scheme of things? Well actually in my case yes. Because 1 simply isn't enough. Even the additional 500 calories I'm entitled to due to the breastfeeding don't cover the chocolate I occasionally consume!

So where the heck to start? Do I join a program like last time (Slimming World)? Do I count calories? Fat content? Do I try another program like Weight Watchers? I can get an App for that!

Shame I can't get an App that loses the weight for me!
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Saturday, 22 January 2011

All done bar the shouting (aka paperwork)

Now I only need to write essays for fun! Yes, its all done. All that's left is to put the folder in the post. It's out of my hands.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the writing aspect of the course, as I did immensely, its just I feel ready now for a period of writing without having to worry about getting my references perfect. Or in fact, write without referring to anyone. Love blogging.

The relief is palpable. I sat down this evening without that moment of thinking "I should be writing an essay".

So now I can start looking forward. I have a break planned, as in, I'm not starting teaching until I've started back to work, settled in a little, when life has started to get used to the new rhythm if my being back at 'normal' work will bring. I'm looking forward to teaching, to start building to my own experience, to improve, to become a better breastfeeding counsellor. To start working with women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, women are extraordinary. The things they experience, in their hearts, bodies and minds... gracefully, creatively, stoicly, with patience, strength... To be involved with enabling women to be the woman SHE WANTS TO BE, that's a privilege.

Breastfeeding is such a huge part of that. The act itself is life giving. It's effects are further reaching than we know at present. Did you know that the risks of developing female cancers decreases significantly with every year of breastfeeding? Apparently less than 1 in 4 British women know that.

So that in mind, keeping my eyes on the prize; women comfortable in their own skins with the decisions they make, I look forward to the future, leaving my essays behind for the time being... and picking up my knitted class boob in the meantime.
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