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A sibling on the scene

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Every morning when my daughter Ramona opens her eyes, she snuggles up to my face and whispers “Hello, mummy”. These days, this tiny tradition is followed up by her scuffling down and pulling apart my pyjama top and murmuring “Hello, baby” into my tummy. With no bump to reveal my 4 month pregnancy just yet my belly button is getting all the attention.

Ramona is two and loves babies. She loves babies, imaginary babies and Things that Will Do.

Ramona Babywearing

Ramona constantly has to be either pushing a buggy or wearing a baby in the sling, and I normally have to accompany her, with a Cabbage Patch Kid tied to my front.

As I cooked dinner yesterday I could hear her singing sweet nothings “Oh, baby. Good? Baby? Oooh. Baby” and looked over my shoulder to see what she was caressing with her soft words and hands.

It was a bulb of garlic.

Obviously.

Minutes later, I had to help her undo the zip on her jumper because the garlic wanted “milkies.”

(Mind you, a few months ago it was me that had to nurse the obscure objects she chose so I’m quite happy she has taken on that responsibility herself. My days of breastfeeding toy cars and lego are over for a while, thanks.)

When my mum first heard our new baby news, she exclaimed “Crumbs, Ramona will have her nose put out, won’t she?!” I guess it was in reference to the intense attachment we have, and the practices that, for us, are a big part in it. When the baby comes along Ramona will have to deal with not lying starfish like along our bed between us, she’ll learn to share Mummy’s milkies (with a human and not a bit of plastic) and she’ll have to adapt to another little mite being limpet-like in the sling.

And of course, while I feel blissfully relaxed in this pregnancy and perhaps naively optimistic about a second baby, I can’t help but feel a leeetle bit intreipidly curious about what tandem nursing will be like, and keeping them both happy during the night times.

I am fairly confident that all those juicy hormones will smother everything in glazey eyed love for a while, making it all okay for me.

And hopefully Ramona’s love for babies (and I hope she loves the new one a little bit more than the ones she frequently sits on/ covers in Marmite) will help her ride out the changes. We just have 5 months to get her used to the idea that the new kid on the block will be a bit noisier than the garlic and a bit more demanding than my belly button!

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Breastfeeding Olympics- Toddler Heat

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Here we are in London, getting ready for one of the most highly esteemed sports here at the 2012 Games.

Taking her place in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics we have Ramona of Camberwell, London, surely she will prove to be a legend in her time. At 22 months old she has been preparing for this moment in the limelight for well over a year and a half.

Ramona starts off steady, toddling towards the goal signalling her wish for milk. In a commitment to efficiency she has discarded all words (her favourite once being “BAPS”)  and has now streamlined it to something that takes much less effort- a mere greedy smacking of her lips.

Here we are able to witness the critical difference between an Olympian and a rubbish human- TOTAL DEDICATION. Nothing will steer them off course. Ramona marks out her target from the other side of the playground and makes her way over, ascending small mountains of sand, elbowing other competitors out of the way, pulling at her mother’s top with a verocity that gives her a clear advantage. With not a glance at the teenage boys huddled in the corner who may be getting ready to whip out at best a smirk, Ramona tucks in.

This is what winners are made of.

Of course, like most sports there is a team to think of here and Ramona makes sure Tiny Cat, Musical Duck, Stiff Haired Playmobil Fella, Thomas the Tank Engine all get a turn at exercising their nursing prowess.

We move on to the time-trials now as Ramona shows just how seriously she takes the Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, stronger. She hurtles in for a slurp lasting just moments before running back to the game she was previously involved in. Seconds later she is back, with yet another momentary tug and a sip and a squirt high in the air for good measure. And WHAT’S THIS?! Back for a third time in 5 minutes! This time showing true dexterity by nursing upside down whilst climbing over mummy’s shoulder.

The excitement is unbearable as we head into the all important endurance phase. Ramona steers quickly away from her triumph in the Swift Nursing round and as we head into the night time she reveals exactly how superior her talent for perseverance is. This tiny mite is but a GIANT when it comes to breastfeeding non-stop throughout the period when most mere mortals have to sleep.  It isn’t just chance that Ramona’s slogan is Sleep is for the Weak.

In the final round Ramona assures her supremacy by going all out in the multi-tasking phase. She steams ahead of the other competitors by nursing AND counting her toes AND honking mummy’s nose AND poking mummy’s tonsils AND singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

And, we get a glimpse at just how critical the apparatus are, as nipples are stretched, pulled, stamped on and knelt on in a keen display of athletic versatility and strength.

AND SHE HAS DONE IT! The Champion of the World in Toddler Breastfeeding Olympics, Ramona Lily of Camberwell. Dizzying heights for a toddler of such slight stature. If she could speak she would surely thank her team and all her fans but instead she simply stares adoringly up at her mummy and her mammory glands in a profound demonstration of team effort.

Back over to the Aquatic Centre now where our beloved Becky Adlington is stepping into the water…


It is World Breastfeeding Week! Here’s to a world free from breastfeeding  misinformation and myths, where women can nurse their children without being mocked or derided, where breastfeeding mothers can get applauded and celebrated and supported, and where walls put up between breastfeeders and bottlefeeders are pulled down because we are all mammas, all wanting the absolute best for our little legends.  Woop woop!

Nappy Free at 17 months

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I have had a couple of interesting emails this week. The first came from a close relative who was just expressing some gratitude for getting her started with Elimination Communication (EC or Nappy Free for something that sounds less Willy Wonkery.) I didn’t mean to get her started, it is just that one time a few months ago I heard her little 4 month old lad do huge trump. Knowing it was approaching the time he normally filled his pants, I whipped of his nappy and he proceeded to do two wees and an implausibly large dump.

Now, I am well aware this makes me seem AWFUL! Imposing my parenting way onto another. I swear, I have only done it a couple of times, once to my nephew and once to my neice, both times when their mothers weren’t around, and I would never do it to YOUR baby.

Yeah, it still makes me sound awful, eh. I’m sorry.

Anyway, while he was taking his dump, his mama came in. It was, er, a little awkward.

But she emailed this week, saying how since then he has done all of his poos in the potty – THREE A DAY!!- and it has changed their lives. He used to really struggle, poor chap, and turns out  The  Hold helps it all along.

HURRAH!

Then on the other hand, the second email. It was a friend also doing EC. Her 13 month old has turned Anti-Potty. It is a common low in this rollercoaster of EC and I really felt some of her disappointment. Those two emails really encapsulate the good and bad of Nappy Free, I reckon.

We began when Ramona was 3 months old, primarily out of curiosity but partly because I felt there must be something in it. Within days we discovered there was and we quickly hit a rhythm, catching 80% of her shizzle.

With every month that passes it is becoming less unusual that Ramona is Nappy Free. Sitting a baby on the potty at three months is ridiculous by almost everyone’s standard, sitting a toddler on the potty is pretty normal. This is a nice feeling – it is hard feeling as if you have to constantly explain yourself, particularly when people can be really quite hostile about it (for example, people “explaining” that it is physiologically impossible for babies to hold their wees in – if this is the case, how comes Ramona has held her wees since she was about 6 months?)

But with her growing up there also comes a sense that perhaps we should be further along the “potty trained” journey by now- since we have been doing it for 15 months!! Of course, it isn’t training. It is communication. And in the communication stakes we are doing superbly- oh yes. She ALWAYS tells us as she is doing a wee, even if it IS on the new carpet.

There is something brilliant about Ramona saying “POO”, walking up to the potty, sitting down and doing her business. She has been doing that since she was about 15 months old, it blew our minds the first time, and even now gives us a huge smile to see the communication effort paying off. Other signs she needs to go include grabbing her bum, patting the potty, looking very serious indeed, and pausing. (Yeah, she really doesn’t pause for any other reason!) In fact, there is a particuarly style of Serious Pause which usually means she already has a turtlehead.

With this big leap in communication comes a tiny bit of disappointment too, when it doesn’t go to plan. Until now it has been quite easy to be breezy about the misses, but now, because we know she can communicate  effectively and even sit her self down on the potty, it is a challenge not to let manipulative language in, or show signs of frustration. The last thing we want is hang ups over taking a dump.

We have by no means nailed this but still I thought this would be a nice opportunity to share…

Things I have found useful in all of this:

  • The Baby Bjorn Potty Chair – when Ramona was tiny we had a little Baby Bjorn Potty, it was gorgeous but fell out of my bag on to some train tracks when we were going camping last summer. To replace it I got the BB potty chair, for £1 from Ebay. It is MAHUSIVE and I was gutted at first. But, because it is so sturdy, it means she can climb on and off and has been brilliant in fostering some independence about it all.
  • Keeping the potty in the same, visible place everyday, so Ramona knows exactly where to find it.
  • The Born Ready website– a totally honest, warm community of people doing Nappy Free with their little ones. It has been such an encouragement. Also the lively Facebook group found by searching EC UK.
  • Keeping on communicating. When she has a miss we routinely say “OH! It’s a wee, wee wee goes in the potty!” and then sitting her on the potty for a little bit. We hold back any negativity. It is lovely when she grabs a rag too, and helps clean up her pee.
  • Putting nappies on. This is controversial as some wonderful ECers suggest not to. But putting nappies on every so often when we REALLY don’t want a puddle has helped us to relax and being relaxed is probably one of the most important attributes in all of this.  Little ones pick up our cues so perfectly.
  • Commitment to noises like PSST. It is remarkable how doing the PSST cue encourages Ramona to take a whizz. If she is a bit distracted doing PSST just seems to help her release her bladder.
  • High entertainment. There are certain times of the day that sitting on the potty is obviously just the perfect activity – namely upon waking. However sometimes she is so into her playing it just seems mean to interrupt. Instead we incorporate potty time- putting the potty in front of the Superhero Base (otherwise known as the Dolls House) or getting out all the best books.

Ramona finding a tree to wee by

I have earlier on this blog suggested that EC isn’t necessarily for everyone. But I think I might backtrack now. Not because I think  parents need anymore pressure put on them – to add cleaning up rogue wees and chasing nakey crawlers around the lounge, or any more burdens of “Eek, I should be doing this” to shoulder.

But because I think a form of EC is accessible to every parent and will often times even EASE the strain of parenting. It is simply a case of adding in a bit more talk when you observe them doing their business – expressing from a tiny age exactly what is going on with their bodily functions, or, if you see your baby pushing out a wee turd, whipping of the nappy, holding them over a loo. A tiny wipe and clean up is done, nappy saved. For some babies, like the little guy mentioned earlier, getting help with the elimination could eliminate a whole lot of angst.

It seems such a shame that Nappy Free is seen as going all out- when it is essentially just about communication, something every parent is already doing.

Are you doing normal potty training, or a form of EC? Have you found anything particularly ace/ hard?

PS I rarely post about being Nappy Free but have a squizz here if you want more 🙂

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?

 

Nakey bum at one: the highs and lows of a nappyfree baby

Oh me, oh my. I just wandered into the spare bedroom to find Ramona sitting on the bed with poo smudged around her, a huge turd sitting atop the box she used to climb up.

Now seems to be the perfect moment for a 9 month summary of Elimination Communication (EC). The highs. The lows.

Clearly, crap on the bed is a low.

Three wee’s on the floor in the lounge within the first day of having new carpet put in. Also a low.

A wee on my lap on the bus. Hmmm, probably a low. A poo in her trousers in the park. I’d go a low.

As you can see being on a nappy free journey with a tiny tot isn’t a ride free of bumps, we get quite a few bumps. But there are some great, even exhilirating, times too.

When we go a whole day with everything in the potty. When she points to the toilet when she needs to go or when she grabs her baby girl bits before she needs to go. It is nice not having to clear smeary nappy poo up each day. Even clearing it up from a bed or other non-loo (these misses happen around once a month)  seems to be less work than changing a nappy (Pick up sheet, bung in washing machine). And even though we have some tricky times (most commonly if she is teething, as if she looses sense of her bowel movements- that is when we get rogue poos) they really seem just a minor part in the whole scheme of it. And if those lows I mentioned above happened more commonly than once a month I think I would struggle! But keeping her in touch with her bodily functions from babyhood through EC  just seems kind of natural to me.

I appreciate it is not for everyone though, certainly not for the faint hearted. You have to have a certain un-fazed-ness to whip your babies trousers down in public to give her a wee opportunity in a bush, or to laugh off a sneaky public shart in the trousers.  And doing it with more than one child on the scene would be a bit of a challenge, although one I think we’ll probably have a bash at, as millions of big families manage in this way in other places.

I guess, back in the day, or in the villages of rural China, adults would all be keeping an eye on the whipper snappers, not leaving it just for Mum to watch out for baby’s toilet need signalling. The other day we were all up in London at the Occupy protest having a big fun family day- Tim and I were caught up doing games with some of the big kids. My mum was there and spotted Ramona’s “wee face”- and took her outside for a successful tree pee. It made me think how much our small, isolated lives make this kind of natural parenting a lot trickier. The more we head along this journey the more I realise how lives have moved on from that tribal parenting, and how lifethese days is just set up harder to do these kinds of things with your baby.

So there we go. Nakey bum at one, a short review. NOT a “Woohoo!! Everyone should do this!!!” parenting post. In fact, it probably made some of you vomit in your mouth a little. Sorry about that.

We don’t actually have her nakey bum hanging out like this all the time. Ramona just happened to have these ridiculous baggy bloomers on that slipped down just as she reached round to attack Daddy’s specs. Just look at that tiny rotund bum!

Ramona, it’s your first birthday, we’re gonna party like it’s your first birthday…

Eat pizza like it’s your first birthday…

Ramona Lily! You are ONE! It is astonishing to believe that one year ago I was groaning around in the birth pool that had been erected and filled three days earlier thinking your arrival was imminent. In some ways your Birth Day feels like yesterday- the emotions are still so tangible; the intense hunger to meet you, the frustration that your journey down was taking so bloody long, the slight apprehension of how our happy, carefree days were about to abruptly end. Yet in other ways it feels like an absolute AGE ago! You seem so grown up – how you bite the top layer of bread from your toast, the bit covered in marmite- that is just WISDOM, right there.

I remember our first week together. I was a bit shocked at the lack of overwhelming love. I had always assumed I would just be head over heels for you. Where as actually, my primary feeling was one of  “Who are you?! A whole little person I have yet to know?” I was surprised that My Bump turned into a real, tiny, individual human instead of just an extension of myself with it’s own limbs.  It didn’t last long though, before two weeks were up I sometimes couldn’t get the breath out of my lungs because I loved you so much.

I always thought the lack of sleep would be the worst thing about having a baby, as I was used to 11- 12 hours of sleep every night. Surprisingly, perhaps because of daddy’s Flat White making skills, that has been less of a big deal. I have been pleasantly surprised by how significantly the wonders outweigh the hardships. Although my nipples probably don’t agree. Sometimes I think you are gonna suck them right off.

I am so glad people encouraged me to follow my instincts with you. This led me to wear you close all day, sleep snuggled up, feed you whenever you peeped. I feel this has been just the ticket for us- you seem so content and secure. I remember a few months ago, just 2 days after you learnt to crawl, you crawled out of the room  without me, and into the garden to investigate the big kid  ruckus. I was quite relieved in that moment, as the myth that attachment parenting leads to desperately clingy babies was dissolved before my eyes. Now you are walking, and climbing, and gaining independance everyday. And soon you’ll be shouting that your skirt isn’t too short and 10pm is way too early.

I have absolutely LOVED this year with you Ramona! It has been SO fun. You make me laugh uncontrollably with your funny little dancing, weird facials and gappy teeth.

I hope I have the courage to keep mothering by instinct, to work things through with you gently, and to always treat you how I would hope to be treated, despite times when you and I might be a bit cross or grumpy.

With every ounce of love under the sun,

Mummy

This time last year, Ramona is a few hours old – clearly I have climbed that gargantuan mountain of labour and am ruddy knackered. One thing you learn the first time you give birth is that even if labour is three days long this is not an excuse to not wash your hair, or at least dry shampoo it, for goodness sake. There WILL be cameras you know.

Why the Occupy LSX protest is the perfect place for kids

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I really believe in activism. I am absolutely sure that protesting changes things, so bringing the baby on board was always gonna happen. But today I realised that sometimes a protest is the perfect place for the baby. Not just as there is an extra amount of people she can woo and then phones she can steal and chew.

We had a wonderful time with the nippers up at St Pauls for Occupy LSX today– facepainting, parachute games, poetry, juggling, one of the dads even turned up with a bouncy castle. While some of the older kids reflected on and drew their ideas of utopia all around us debate, speeches and conversation took place about how we can change the utterly bankrupt society we live in right now.

I’m no stranger to the shaper edge of protest. In fact (don’t tell my mum this) the first protest I took Ramona on saw us sitting down to breastfeed in a cafe just as a Black Bloc walked past- they picked up a bus stop and smashed the entire front window with it. About 3 feet away us. I have also been in peaceful, sitting down crowds as riot police have bought their truncheons down on heads.

I realise it is not always balloons and bubbles.

But the cost of our younger generation NOT being there is higher than the tiny, one in a million chance of them actually getting hurt.*

For it is here that the little ones learn that there is HOPE – that people do believe in an alternative to the economic apartheid we currently live in. Here they see true, live,  democracy – people listening to each other and voting together. Here they hear the melody of diverse voices, discussing problems and solutions.

But it is also the perfect place for them as it reminds us why we do it. Because they are the generation who will either inherit all this- greed (and the inequality greed gives birth to) – stretched and bloated, many time worse then we have even now, or they will inherit a much fairer and more beautiful society. It is completely up to us.

Someone told me today that there are over 900 occupied cities in over 82 countries. There is an incredible global connection happening that is totally unprecedented. The Occupy movement is gathering momentum and could become enough to change things. As a friend pointed out this week, anti-apartheid protesters couldn’t envision the world beyond apartheid- all they could do was say ENOUGH, enough of this injustice. It doesn’t matter that Occupy LSX doesn’t have a list of policies, we are simply saying ENOUGH.

We have had enough of a world where FTSE 100 directors experience a pay rise of 49% on average compared to 0% increase in the public sector. Enough of a world where CHEESE is the top shoplifted item, because people just literally need to eat (baby formula is the FIFTH, the FIFTH!!!!!) and ENOUGH of a world where one years worth of bankers bonuses could pay for 23 years of the youth service being shut in every poor community in the UK. (More on all this in Polly Toynbee’s excellent article here.)

For our children’s sake. We have had enough.

If you’ve had enough too but weren’t sure about bringing your baby along to Occupy London, please get in touch and I can introduce you to some of the coolest parent and kid activists in town.

There.

I’m sorry, all seriouspants once again. I promise my next post will be about poo.


* There are safety measures you can take, I for one would almost certainly leave with my baby at the first whiff of the riot police or other violence.

**Also, beware of the haters who can be equally vicious. Someone told me off today for taking Ramona to Occupy LSX, suggesting I was teaching kids about squatting and oppressing the rights of others. (Eh?!)  Thankfully it was only on Twitter so I was able to take a breath and graciously respond about how we were actually teaching kids about equality, justice and a loving, fair society. (While mentally taking his 140 characters and flicking them at his ragey right wing eyeballs of course.)