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Shakeaway: breast milk to go

Once when Ramona was around 2 months I was walking along our road carrying her in the sling.  Some boys spotted me from their perch up in a block of flats and started hurling down meanness, although all I could really make out was the word “BREASTFEEDING!!!” screamed in a kind of offensive way. (The fact that this is a diss is worth a whole politics-of breastfeeding-rant in itself.) I was utterly mortified! “They must think I am breastfeeding her while I am walking along!” I put my head down and blushed to match my hair, feeling like my little freckly 9 year old self who got bullied in the playground. Then when I got to the end of the road I almost stopped in my tracks; what a bloody good idea. Of course I could breastfeed her in the sling!

The next time I was walking along and Ramona began her hungry headbutting I unhooked my bra and shuffled her around a bit;  she latched on immediately. That day a whole new sphere of stress free parenting opened up.

No more panick stations as I try and find a suitable place to feed her- with her nursing in the sling we can be wandering around the supermarket, a Parisian flea market or an  art gallery and no one is none the wiser. Well. Apart from the growling.

No more missing the train because I had to get a feed in before leaving the house. She just snacks on the walk up.

I feel it has helped build her security as she knows the instant she has a need it will be met, wherever we are – no crying involved. I love that science shows that meeting baby’s need quickly is vital to their development and nurtures things like their empathy cells. (Read more about that in my fave parenting book- it is the shizzle.)

If I ever want her to start a nap quickly (say because I have a meeting that it would be handy for her to sleep through) I just feed her off to sleep in the sling on the way. It often sends her to sleep within moments.

Around the three  month mark Ramona got way too distracted by goings on to breastfeed in public.Then she’d get all hungry and mad. However feeding in the sling helps her feel still involved somehow, avoiding what felt like miniture nursing strikes.

Perhaps best for those early days though was for the occasions when Ramona was incolsolable. They didn’t happen much but sometimes she wouldn’t feed or sleep even though I knew she was hungry and tired. As soon as I learnt to double them up she would settle really quickly. It was as if she needed movement to feed, or perhaps she wanted to feed upright.

I only wish I could have discovered it sooner.

So to those lads on the estate I will be forever indebted, for Ramona’s food on the hoof has made my life as a mother a lot easier. So much easier I would rank it in my top five mothering activities (I know, I’m a total expert after nine whole months.) I should really make those badasses some breast milk ice cream as a grateful treat.

In case your baby wants shakeaways…TIPS:

Feeding in a mei tai, ring sling or wrap is simple. Just tie it so their mouth is about level, although you may have to use your hand to hold either their head or your breast in place as they feed.

Where easy clothes, a low sccop or v-neck so you aren’t trying to yank up your top between your tummies.

Practice at home so you can get the hang of it.

Flick the end of the wrap over the top if you feel you have too much on show.

Beware of strangers coming in for a peek of your baby’s smile only to get that smile, dripping with milk, AND an eyeful of squirting nipple.

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Power of Making: making makes you…

Once I sewed a weird but cute looking stuffed monster for a friend’s new born baby. As I tucked it into the envelope something pricked my finger. I had left the needle in the toy. A cuddley toy. For a NEW BORN BABY. The needle.  The things I make have charm but otherwise fail on so many levels. Yet I continue to make stuff. “Why do it, baby harmer???!”  I hear you cry. It is because I think crafting is important.

The value of craft has been given loads of air time lately – the upcoming “Power of Making” exhibition at the V and A has inspired the Craft debate at the British Museum and a brilliant article by craftivist Sarah Corbett. There is shed loads of evidence to suggest that craft has the power to challenge social injustice in an imaginative and beautiful way.

It is a topic I LOVE.  In fact just a few months ago some friends and I launched “the Make Collective” –  a group of people who make stuff together as a way to build community and explore spirituality. It is a pretty exciting time for us.

I love stories of how cross stitch has played a part in significant global campaigns, and how making your own clothes quietly subverts our damaging consumer society.

For me though, a massive and unexplored part of the “power of making” is it’s impact on the person who is doing the making. Creating (be it writing a poem, pouring paint on canvas, building an ark) puts people in touch with their soul.  When we create we reveal an often hidden part of ourselves, a side that is quite primitive the part of us that can’t fail to be overawed by a night sky jampacked with blazing stars. (As a person of faith I reckon this is because when we make stuff we are imitating God, the one who formed mountains and imagined the oceans into being. It is a deeply spiritual act.)

And when we experience that moment of connection, the satisfaction after an afternoon of making – it feels like having scratched a good itch- we are just that bit more whole.

And whole people are often the ones who feel more able to visit their neighbour, write a letter to their MP about a major issue, spend more time on the eco-ness of their homes. When I give enough time to make stuff (even terrible stuff- trousers that give Ramona  builders crack, wobbly pottery that can’t stand up let alone hold a brew) I feel things are more right, and my self efficacy goes through the roof.

Making stuff changes people on the inside for the better. And in turn this impacts society and the world.

So I think every one should get in touch with their makey selves; even people who say they are utterly unartsy leave our Make workshops after whipping up a tiny comic or piece of metalwork with a buzz. I’d go so far to say that making is as important a need as nutrition, fitness and seven hugs a day.

Some of the Make Collective creating a collaborative collage for Camberwell Arts Week

Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective is leading our October Make Workshop at House Gallery and Cafe in Camberwell. Get in touch for more info.