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Category Archives: Attachment parenting

Nursing a micromachine: breastfeeding at 16 months

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As winter turns to spring, and spring turns to summer, I realise I am in my second cycle of seasons nursing Ramona. You know how you don’t really massively plan to breastfeed a toddler, and then all of a sudden you look down one day and you’re like “LOOK AT THE GIANT BABY! I AM BREASTFEEDING A TODDLER!!!”

I really love it though.

  • Coming home from work and spending the first half an hour snuggled up on the sofa while she nurses and Tim tells me what they have been up to. Ramona occasionally pauses to shout “DUCK!” or “HAT”  and her other favourite words, and Tim confirms, yes, they did feed the ducks, they did wear their hats. But he can never confirm the presense of Gok Wan.
  • Ramona has me sharing my breast milk with her Iggle Piggle, her tiny cat, her micro machine. I like her generous spirit.
  • I go to work two and a half days a week while Ramona hangs with Tim. I have been so surprised at how both Ramona and my supply hasn’t been impacted at all. When I am home Ramona nurses 5 or 6 times but doesn’t seem bothered when she can’t even come and meet me on my lunch break. My boobs have coped splendidly too, maybe just looking a touch Dolly Parton-y towards the end of the day. I have also had to work a few late nights and Ramona just drifts off to sleep with a book read by Tim. Another myth busted- if you nurse to sleep you won’t be locked in to nursing your 9 year old!
  • Ramona has the sign language for milk down. We haven’t been very committed to baby sign, but she has picked up and run with a handful of them. Her having the milk sign is so brilliant- it has replaced her frantically climbing up and sticking her whole head down my neckline. Although I wish the sign was different – it is way too reminiscent of milking a cow, or a dirty boozy man air groping.
  • Something about nursing a baby beyond the normal time frame bizarrely means you aren’t in the running for conversations about breast vs bottle, demand vs routine. Of course, I am ALL FOR breastfeeding on demand and do feel that we have societal issues with sexualising breasts but I really dislike the implicit judgement that is felt by mothers on either side of the decision. (I truly do reckon that every mother wakes up in the morning wanting to do their very best for their little one.) It is a shame as I could talk all day long about breastfeeding but it doesn’t tend to happen to me anymore.
  • Although I have been stopped on the bus a couple of times by people exclaiming WELL DONE! For the most part I have been genuinely shocked by the general lack of interest by members of the public. Particularly after some early encounters with rapscallion teens. Have you found it this way? Part of me wonders if there is an element of confidence breeding normality- does that fact that I don’t even think twice when I nurse Ramona come across? That people who thought this was mad suddenly go “Ooh, I thought that was mad but this lady here doesn’t seem bothered by it, maybe everyone does it these days?” And then it becomes the new normal?!

I am currently blogging this on a quick late lunchbreak. My boss’s boss just came over and chatted to me, I quickly tried to shut my screen with it’s huge title in bold but it didn’t shut and now he thinks I spend all day blogging about breasts ARGGGHHHHHH.

I. Am. So. Embarrassed. I have to go now and die under my desk.

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Cosleeping Practicalities

Co Co Co Cooooosleeping (To the tune of Sh Sh Sh Shoooooe people. Literally though, how amazing was that programme?) (ARRGH IT’S ON YOUTUBE! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!)

I have posted recently about our experience of cosleeping; some of the pros and cons , wondering about the fear that drives some people away from it. Whenever we mention cosleeping we are often met with a barrage of questions about the practicalities around it. So I wanted to cover some of those a bit.

Where?
We have a maHUsive bed, like a triple x, super who-ate-all-the pies-king, which we rescued one time. It has saved the night. We can all fit in there with loads of space. However the three of us inevitably end up all squished up at one end. Ramona and I just like snuggling up with Tim. Tim isn’t such a fan.

Ramona tends to sleep in the middle apart from when she nurses all night and then I need to switcheroo. So she is closer to the edge, but she’s only ever fallen out a few times. (Haha, kidding.) (Kind of.)

Naps
Until Ramona was about 9 months old she used to take all her sleep on me, either in a sling or snuggled up in bed. This meant that I spent a lot of time in bed. (Incidentally it is why I restarted my blog as I wanted to contribute online rather than just speculate – and I was doing a lot of horizontal speculating.) It was totes delicious, napping with her, going to bed at 8pm.  At 9 months though we got an amazing baby monitor and now I let her sleep in the bed by herself (after nursing to sleep)  and just dash in if she wakes up.

I had read somewhere during pregnancy that the first year of a baby’s life should be seen as “out of the womb gestation” –  it really resonated with me. In hindsight it is very much a long the lines of the lovely Continuum Parenting concept. Also,  I want her to have completely positive sleep associations and hope that having someone close by during sleep can nurture this security.

Nappy Free
At the moment we put a washable nappy on Ramona at night time. She is dry all night (since she was about 6 months old – I don’t know if this is that common or just for nappyfree babes?) but every so often will do an early morning wee, say at 6am, and even though I can sense her needing to go (squirming etc)  I don’t want to potty her then as she’ll be up for the day.  She is getting less happy with the night time nappy though – she pulled it completely off tonight- so I have ordered a washable bed pad so that we can give the night time nappy the heave ho and  if that cheeky wee comes in the morning it is no biggy.

Business Socks
You just have to be creative with rooms, furniture etc.

(Sorry, I know that isn’t a very exhaustive answer but my granddad does know how to use Tinternet and I can not guarantee that he doesn’t read this.)

Bedding
We don’t have anything extra for Ramona she has always just slept on our mattress with our duvet on top, although when she was a tiny pip squeak she slept either prone or in the crook of my arm. She doesn’t sleep on a pillow as she nurses all night (did I mention that?)  so just faces my weary but succulent mammary glands.

Nursing
I wear a scoop neck tee shirt with one of Tim’s tee shirts over the top. Tim’s tee is usually bunched up but my own tee stops my torso getting chills. I wear a scoop neck so Ramona has easy access but one of Tim’s tees from that day with the idea that she can’t smell my milk so easily and be less nursey. It doesn’t really work but I guess I am superstitious about it now. (Do you get a bit like that?)

Cosleeping does encourage more nursing I think, which on one hand is good – with me being at work half the week her nursing at night keeps my supply up and means she is getting everything she needs for this growth spurt. (That is what I am telling myself the 6-10 night suckles are.) But on the other hand is bloody knackering isn’t it! I can handle anything between 1-5 without really noticing. But more than that and I get a little cranky. *climbs the walls*

Time for my Parenting Moto of the Year (sung Harry Hills styles) :

This Too Shall Pass!

Waking each other up
This does happen. Overall it has been found that cosleeping mothers get more sleep – primarily because we don’t have to get out of bed – but three in a bed isn’t the deepest sleep to be had. If one of us has a rough night than we all seem to. Sometimes it seems Ramona wakes at the slightest peep (me turning a page of my book – headlamp on!) or sleeps through the biggest ruckus – lights blazing, full on conversation between Tim and I.

We don’t fall into bed and stay fast asleep for ten hours like we used to. But, do you know what? It just isn’t a big deal. Letting go of my sleep obsession and embracing night time parenting helps me just feel totally at peace with this whole situation. (Just wish my nipples would agree, eek.)

Golden Rule for Mothering

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We got on the bus, both of us exhausted. As I slumped into a seat Ramona decided she wanted to have a little trundle around the lurching vehicle. Thinking that wasn’t the greatest plan I popped her on my lap. In turn, Ramona thought that idea was right up there with the worst of them and promptly decided to let the bus know it. She opened her mouth and ROARED. She turned purple and arched her back. She even started wacking her head on the window. I was pretty embarrassed to say the least,  and began a fairly typical reaction; I laughed with an “Oh, Really?!” and almost rolled my eyes towards other passengers. Fortunately I stopped myself just in time and tried to pull out from the depths of my harrassed mind a better, more respectful way of responding to my daughters angst.

Above her screaming I tried to catch her eye and validate with my voice; “I see you are so angry because you wanted to walk around the bus. It is okay to be angry. I understand that it is frustrating to not be able to go wherever you want to go.”

I could almost hear the inward collective groan of everyone on board. (And honestly? Pre -Ramona? I soooo would have been inwardly, collectively, groaning.)

I am always surprised by how easy I find it to treat Ramona as a non-person, as if her supersized feelings are minor, as tiny as she is. I want to laugh off those times her feelings are so big it makes her bang her tummy with her hands like Tarzan. Rather than help her deal with how cross she is that I dare put a cardigan on her.

I go through my life trying to treat others how I would like to be treated. This guides me in loads of facets of my life – in my work, my relationships, even my consumption.I fail constantly, of course. But it is my aim.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

(It has a ring to it, eh? I think it could catch on. I might get some World Religions involved with that one.)

And it is how I am trying to mother Ramona. To listen to her as I would want to be listened to, to respect her needs in the way I respect my own needs, to not force her to do things simply because I want her to do that/ go there/ come here.

I think I am just on the cusp of really needing to do this. Only in the last few months has Ramona expressed a will which doesn’t always match my own. Public meltdowns have just happened a couple of times so far in her 15 months (far more in my own three decades.) I know the coming few years will be quite tiring and will contain a few frustrations. I know that the parents that yell/manipulate/make fun of their kids wake up only with a heart filled with love for them but weariness  has left them frazzled.

Which is why I have got to start practicing this. So that when a potential head butting situation arises (Ramona’s vs my own, or a window) my first response is to act in understanding, kindness, gentleness – the way I hope people will respond to me when I next get chest beatingly cross. (Really, I don’t know WHERE she gets it from.)

Emerging Mummy is holding a marvellous carnival of “Practices of Mothering”. I have blogged about those very practical practices like cosleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding, breastfeeding while babywearing (bahaha) but this got me thinking more about those intangible practices – my mothering ethos. I’m hoping to post a few more over the next wee while.

It would be lovely if you could share some of your own Practices of Mothering too…

Cosleeping: The good and the bad

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In the middle of the night a few days ago Ramona shuffled over to Tim, climbed up so her bum was right in his face and did a whopping toot. Then she clambered back down to her spot and returned to sleep. Oh, how Tim and I didst laugh- the timing was impeccable. Farts- when it comes to making a list of pros and cons of cosleeping- where do they come? No one likes little clouds of excrement in their nostrils but the comical effect of childly bottom coughs are right up there. It is a dilemma, for sure. I’ll have to leave it hanging in the midst there. But here is the rest of my list.

PROS

Her morning kisses are definitely number one. Ramona wakes up, stretches and immediately finds my face for a kiss, as if she is so stoked to begin a new day with me as her mummy.

I am with her through her dreams and nightmares. I love hearing her giggle in her sleep and I equally love that when she whimpers with fright or discomfort she somehow knows I am just a breath away.

It provided another way for Tim to be with her through my maternity leave when he wasn’t getting to hang out with her nearly as much as me. There is a BEAUTY article here where a cosleeping daddy shares his thoughts.

It has eased my transition back to part time work as I get to make up for any missed cuddles throughout the night. Just breathing in her hair as I go to sleep helps me to treasure her right now, in this very moment.

We didn’t have to spend any money on a baby room and crib. Our spare room is just a dumping ground spare room complete with double bed.

I like to think it has given Ramona a real security around night times, that she will always associate bed time with comfort and met needs rather than being alone.

I am able to keep in touch with her potty needs, aware of her nightly wee rhythm and giving her chance to pee as soon as she needs it.

CONS

Unlimited, non stop access to her milk source! Mostly this is fine, she only  helps her self one or two times a night and it isn’t enough to really wake either of us, but sometimes, like last night, it is NONSTOP and well, drives me a little, er, insane.

If Ramona wees the bed it is a whole load in the washing machine rather than a tiny little crib change.

Cosleeping Positions from Howtobeadad.com

PSEUDO-CONS

I definitely thought Ramona’s movement would bother us a bit more. We are pretty fortunate that she actually doesn’t shuffle around at all. When our little nephew used to come and stay he would Jazz Hand us ALL NIGHT and we vowed to never have our kiddies in bed!

A few people have mentioned the lack of marital space which I agree I thought initially would be an issue for us. However (Intimacy aside- I may cover that in the next Practicalities post) I don’t really have those distinctions in my mind – “Tim and I”/ “Ramona” – I just kind of see us as one little family, sharing everything and doing life all together.

I also thought I would struggle with Ramona’s lack of “sleep independance” but since her arrival I have had a total turn around on this and instead feel like it is just natural for her to need the comfort of us for a while.

I really love hearing stories of people’s cosleeping experiences –this nice article by Dr Sears has lots of parents talking about the “protective effect” of cosleeping.

What are some of the things you love about cosleeping? And some of the things you find hard?

 

Cosleeping and the Heeby Jeebies

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When I was pregnant Samantha Cameron gave birth to her little girl Florence and as she was early they hadn’t sorted a crib yet so she slept in a cardboard box.

I remember thinking, as we were of course meant to by the Number 10 PR people, “What a down to earth thing to do”.

Since then I have had my own baby and took a cosleeping path and now I am less “Awww, down to earth” and more  “A CARDBOARD BOX!!! You would rather put your precious new little treasure in a bulk purchase crisp container than in your own bed???” What a typical cold hearted Tory.

(Just kidding. I know not every single Tory is cold hearted.  What? Yes, I do! I do know a Tory actually! I think one of my friend’s may be one. But he keeps it hush hush.)

But for real, I don’t think the Cameron’s put their baby in a box because of their politics, but because of the reason so many other people won’t share a bed with their Little Ones – fear. Parents are generally frightened of co-sleeping.

I can’t think why.

Ah, yep. There is a fair bit of fear mongering about bedsharing. This ad was put out a few weeks ago in Canada. But all sorts of research claims to show that co-sleeping can endanger your babes. One major piece studied Maori families in New Zealand and suggested SIDS was much more likely within Maori families due to cosleeping. (Perhaps this explains why on our recent trip to NZ so many mothers could not get their head around us bedsharing.) But as more comprehensive research shows SAFE cosleeping (no smoking, drinking, drugs)  is as safe – or even a little safer- than having baby in a separate bed. The Maori example was a prime example of getting the cause mixed up (much higher percentage of alcohol abuse and tobacco use.)  But it has put the heeby jeebies into many mothers.  Check out this overview here for a research summary.

In fact, I probably would have been like many mothers – cosleeping by stealth for varying parts of the night- if it wasn’t for my friend recommending the brilliant book “Three in a bed” . Ramona slept brilliantly close by me and I loved being able to stay in bed and nurse but I would have probably kept it a secret if it wasn’t for this book. I felt encouraged by it’s depiction of cosleeping as a completely safe, ancient aspect of parenting with all kinds of extra benefits- nurturing milk supply and supporting better sleep for mothers, being just a couple.

Having started work recently for a few days a week I am finding cosleeping gives me chance to catch up on all the cuddles I have missed out on in the day – it has really eased the transition for us. I am so, SO,  glad that a few key people in the early days of Ramona’s life encouraged me to read into, and get over, the Heeby Jeebies around bed sharing. It is one of my favourite mothering practices.

I have a bit more to say, as people often ask about the practicalities and the pros and cons, so rather than this become a whopper of a post I am going to end it here and do 2 more cosleeping posts later in the week.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your own thoughts/ fears around bedsharing…

Work

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BIG day tomorrow! After 14 months of blissful maternity leave I am heading back to work.

My feelings are a tangle of nervousness, excitement, sadness and anticipation – a mix felt by most of the millions of mums returning to work I imagine. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster to get here- a year ago I looked towards this day with a pragmatic sense of “it’ll be fine”, then I swerved into panic; “I can not leave her!” (and spent hours writing business plans and creating logos for a career that I could do with Ramona slung on my back. Trust me breastmilk ice cream is not the weirdest thing a mumpreuneur could come up with) now fortunately I have arrived at a more balanced place of  “It will be hard but also fun and fulfilling.” *Smiles cheesily and poses for the government’s “Back to Work Mums!” pamphlet*

I am fortunate in that I don’t HAVE to work my two and a half days a week, it would be so hard to have this choice out of your hands for financial reasons. And for Ramona to be with my husband for half the week- what a balanced young women this will make her! It’s pretty jammy that we get to practice a parenting/ working model split exactly down the middle (don’t you just love how I am using the word Work as if parenting ISN’T up there with the hardest work evs!)

I have thought for the last few months that my primary reason for going back is because I didn’t want my career to halt, and to then have to start from scratch post offspringing. But today I feel that my reasons for returning are deeper than that – it is because I am passionate about making the world a bit of a brighter place and my work gives me a different way to do this. (With parenting being one of the fundamental way of doing it, of course.) I have found this last joyous year of motherhood to be one of the least cynical and least disenchanted times of my life and I hope I can take that into my nine to five. To see my job as a vocation, and to see the eradication of extreme global poverty as totally doable. (Extreme Global Poverty? Meh!  One time I got out the house with a baby with two matching socks, a picnic, my phone AND my oyster card AND made my train!)

But still…

My heart just about leaps out of my mouth when I imagine going a day without her little cheeky face within kissing distance.

The day my booby monster baby went on strike

We are at Singapore airport, killing 12 hours before the next leg of our flight to New Zealand. I have been dreading this flight- Ramona’s first, and what an epic one to begin with- thinking it would probably be fine, but if it was bad it would be INSANELY AWFUL. So far, it hasn’t been that. Phew. She has mostly slept.

We are immensely excited about this trip to Tim’s homeland; Ramona’s first meeting of many family members, including her Grandad and newly minted cousins. We also get to escape the bleak midwinter to bask in glorious sunshine and swim in cooling lakes.

However there is something a little bittersweet about it, as it marks the end of my maternity leave. The week we return to England in January is the week I return part time to work, and where Tim steps in for Daddy Daycare half the week. Splitting the parenting exactly in half is ideal, don’t you think? But I still feel quite heartbroken thinking about it.

This last week has already heralded a  transitional period for Ramona, since turning one she is becoming much more a child and much less a baby. She is speaking words and less dependant on me for things like sleep – which everyone always told me was the reason I shouldn’t breastfeed to sleep. In fact right now she is not nursing at all. I am pretty sure we have entered a full blown nursing strike.

Before I began breastfeeding I always assumed I’d just do “the norm” – be that a few months or whatever. If you had told me back then that I’d be upset when at 12 months old Ramona would stop nursing I would have found that massively odd.  “Nursing a baby over one year is just a bit too keen” I would have said.

But it has now been 24 hours since her last nurse in the dead of night and 36 since her last concious nurse and it is really quite devastating. She is completely uninterested. It is an abrubt, unexpected rejection of breastfeeding that is leaving me with painful lead boobs the size of the packed parachutes under our seats. And I am totally gutted. I miss her. And she is right here with me. My brain is on overdrive wondering what could be happening and my heart aching with the prospect that she might never nurse again.

I should get off this lovely free computer for another session in the loo hand expressing into her Tomee Tipee cup.

So sad.

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So. I hit SAVE DRAFT instead of PUBLISH and am now on the other side of the world  and joyously on the other side of the strike. About 4 hours after I wrote this post she just accepted one of the millions of offers and calmly nursed as if “yeah, actually, I could do with a dash of milk right now, thanks!” I almost cried with relief. And now she is nursing just the same, in fact today she is on a bender. What was the story? Her bunged up nose and cough?  Her upset at me leaving her for an hour while I went to the dentist? I’ll never know. But I now see our breastfeeding relationship as so deeply precious. Thank God I have met people along the way who have encouraged me past those “norms” I mentioned earlier.

New Zealand is being good to us. Ramona absolutely LOVING her new cuzzies, the warmth, being outside, her Grandma’s baking. The second half of the flight was INSANELY AWFUL!! We had powerchucks, crying, no sleeping. We had that baby. I am not the one to write the book “How to survive 35 hour journeys with a one year old and your sanity intact”, that’s for shizzle.

Photos coming soon hopefully!