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.

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...

*oral contraceptives
*drinking alcohol every day
*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.

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.

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. 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 The UNs Global Development network