Monday, 21 June 2010

Guide to where I will and won't breastfeed

Here's a list of some of the places I have fed my hungry little girl.

  • In a school staffroom
  • Coventry Cathedral
  • At the dinner table while eating Christmas dinner
  • My brother-in -law's wedding
  • In the supermarket
  • The London Underground (Northern and Victoria Lines)
  • On the Fosse Way while leaning over Alice's carseat (I wasn't driving!)
  • In a studio getting my hair and make-up done for a photoshoot
  • On a beach
  • In the bath
  • On a swing

Here's a list of places I will not feed my baby:

  • In a public toilet
  • Under a blanket

Sunday, 20 June 2010

How to have a cheap baby

I found an old document I'd written before I was pregnant listing all the things I thought I'd need for our new addition. I made it using a range of information to try and make a budget. At the time, I was bombarded with check-lists on the Internet, in books and in magazines all telling me about the 'essentials'. Turns out, a lot of those essentials aren't really that essential.

These are a few things I either bought, or discovered weren't really necessary for bringing up a happy baby.

Travel System
Admittedly, we bought this second hand from some friends, so we spent far less than we could have done. We foolishly decided to buy the car-seat to go with the pram/pushchair part, and ended up with an insanely heavy seat that we never put on the base. After two months, Alice was pretty clear that she didn't like being wheeled about one bit, and I was fed up of being unable to go in places I wanted to without knocking over displays or running over people's feet. The pushchair was banished to the garage, and my mei tai became the new, and very much improved form of transport.

Disposable Nappies
A conservative estimate of 6 nappies a day at 15p a nappy works out at £27 a month or £328.50 a year. Then there's the cost of disposable wipes. I made the swap to cloth after about a month, and wish I had sooner. My stash has cost me about £200, which made me wince, but will see through Alice and hopefully another sibling too. If I'd bought second hand or a different brand, I could easily have spent less than this. Even with costs of washing, the costs are nowhere near that of disposables.

Baby bath
What wrong with bathing at the same time as your baby? Saves water too.

Outfits for newborns
I could barely dress myself in the first month. Plain babygros and vests were all I wanted to use.

Moses basket/cot/baby sleeping bags/travel cot
Thankfully I received a cot and Moses basket as hand me downs, but bought new mattresses. We managed a full two weeks of dutifully popping her in and out of the basket at night until we joined the dark side and began co-sleeping. Cheap, and in my humble opinion, the very best place for a baby to sleep.

I know these are an essential for many mothers, but I had no idea it was even possible to feed a baby without ever giving them a bottle. I blame the dolls I had as a child that always came complete with bottle! I tried and failed to get Alice to take one before stopping to think why I was even trying. I'm in no desperate hurry to go out in the evenings, and I'm a stay at home mum. Straight from the tap is all she needs.

If I had wanted to formula feed, I'm told that one box lasts about a week, and each box is about £7. That's £365 a year!

Another thing I seemed to believe came as part of the set. Alice was a very sucky baby and I was warned that she was using me as a 'human dummy', but she wouldn't take to any of the many types of dummy we bought her. I am hugely relieved now as I'm sure all that sucking helped my supply and I don't have to worry about stopping her using one. I've since realised that dummies are there to imitate a breast, I wasn't imitating a dummy.

Now obviously I want some toys for my baby, but I've had to think very carefully about each one. More often than not she's happier playing with the box it comes in. A toy marketed as encouraging physical or mental development has far less positive effect than a willing pair of hands or a range of interesting household objects.

What could be more soothing than mummy or daddy's arms?

Weaning stuff
Baby led weaning means none of the jars, Tupperware, ice-cube sized pots or hand blenders needed for traditional weaning. She just eats food that's cooled from my plate. All we need is a place for her to sit, and a lot of cloths to clean up with.

Baby shoes
I really don't get these. When she's walking, she'll wear some, but until then, socks are just fine in this climate.

Wipe warmers, baby walkers, playpens and changing tables... I really could go on and on. Parents want the best for their children, and it is easy for companies to prey on this by making out their products are vital for a happy well-developed child. It's worth taking a step back and thinking about whether our children really need the things we're told they need.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Mmm is the new Shh

I dread car journeys with Alice. They tend to start well. She's in a rear facing group 1 seat and can see clearly out the back window, so she's entertained by watching the world whizz by and she soon drops off. The problems come when she wakes up. This is what happened at the weekend. She screamed so hard her lips went blue and she began to foam at the mouth. She wouldn't even look at me as I held her hands, stroked her head, shushed and sang at her. As soon as he could, her daddy pulled the car into a lay-by. I got her out and tried to latch her on, but even that wouldn't soothe her. We took her for a little walk outside, but the noise of the cars scared her even more. Finally, we decided to get her back into her seat and just continue our journey. As we started off again, I made a last ditch attempt and hummed at her in a low tone. Instantly, her cry became a whimper and soon stopped altogether. Her stiff little limbs relaxed and she started to smile and look at me again. I have absolutely no explanation for it, but I've used it several times since then and it works like a dream. As with all these little tricks, I've no idea if the effect will last, but I'm grateful for it while it does!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Sleeping through

More and more, I am asked the question "Is she sleeping through the night yet?". This seems to be counted as an essential milestone along with cutting the first tooth and learning to crawl. The sooner it happens the better. If I reply that she isn't sleeping through, and in fact, never has, the response is a mixture of sympathy and faint criticism. Surely a child of 9 months should be sleeping through? My sister/brother/Aunty/best friend's second cousin had her baby sleeping through from 2 months/weeks/days. Worst of all is when they try and advise me on what I am doing wrong. "Let her cry for a bit," "Stick to a bedtime routine," "Give her formula,"

I'm very sorry, but no. To all of them.

Although she wakes 3 or 4 times throughout the night, I am rarely aware of it. The disturbance usually lasts only a few seconds without either of us really becoming totally conscious. She is also able to latch on at times without me even noticing. We both wake up with smiles on our faces. If she wants to feed every night until she's 5, that's fine by me. I think it has helped my milk production too. I never wake up feeling too full, and I never feel as if my milk is running low.

Sometimes when I tell people she is still waking in the night I feign frustration, rolling my eyes. I exclaim in wonder when I hear about the sleeping prodigies of other parents, but no longer. I'm going to let them know my baby has never slept through a whole night, and what's more, I'm pretty darn happy about it.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Stay at Home Mum

It's been exactly a year now since I finished work. In the later part of my pregnancy I was struggling with fainting fits. As the baby grew, she pushed against my spine which lowered my blood pressure. I would recover pretty quickly after hitting the floor, but it wasn't an ideal situation for a primary school teacher to be in.

It has got me thinking about how my life could have been. This morning, I could have got up at 6, got Alice ready for nursery, expressed some milk and marked a few school books. I'd have left her daddy to take her to nursery and driven off for a day in school. Later, I'd have picked her up at the end of a tiring day. My evenings would be spent trying to juggle her needs with my workload, and I guess I'd feel I wasn't doing a very good job of either.

This is my nightmare, yet it's a scenario many women cope with just fine. I knew it wasn't going to be an option for us. Before Alice was conceived I made a very tight budget so that we could live off one income and we stuck to it. Some people I know have said that they are jealous of me because they wouldn't be able to afford to give up work. That may be true, but we haven't just been lucky. We have scrimped and saved for years. We don't go on expensive holidays, we rarely have meals out and I buy clothes from charity shops. We evaluated what was most important to us, and adjusted our lifestyle accordingly. This all sounds a bit self righteous, but I don't mean to. I was miserable in my job, and I wanted to make a change. We have been fortunate, but we've also gone without and sacrificed to get the life we wanted for our family. It's a possiblity that would be open to many people if they are prepared to make the changes.