10 things you really need to do once you’re on maternity leave, but before giving birth

Congratulations mum-to-be! You look great, really. Are you enjoying maternity leave? Not long until the baby arrives now, right? Well, maybe. He might come early, you might be hanging around for three weeks more than you thought. Whichever it is would you allow me to offer a little advice? These are things I want to say to every first-time mum when she announces she’s off on mat leave or approaching her due date, but often can’t because, you know, people don’t like being given advice out of the blue. But you’re looking for suggestions, aren’t you? Looking for what to do while you wait? That’s why you’re here. That makes you a captive audience so allow me to get this off my chest! Hurrah!maternityleave2

1 – line up breastfeeding support
Ok, maybe you’re not planning on breastfeeding, or there are medical contraindications in which case skip this one and go right to number 2. The majority of mums, however, are probably planning to breastfeed so do yourself a favour – get the information lined up now. Read up on it  for a start – ‘The Food of Love‘ is a fab book – lighthearted, funny, very very informative.

Research some support groups you can go to – the last thing you want to do is try to find out about these at three in the morning when you’ve been struggling all night and want to go talk to somebody. Try the La Leche League, Baby Cafe, your local maternity unit. Whatever is available. You can even go before you have the baby, that way it’s already a familiar environment that you’ve experienced before you’re sleep deprived, hormone-riddled and lugging a new baby and all their crap around with you.

And make a note of this: The national breastfeeding support helpline. Open between 9.30am and 9.30pm it is a fabulous resource.

2 – read up on the fourth trimester 
This is the period of time right after a baby is born when, in all other mammals, they should still really be in your womb, but have had to be evicted before their head got so big they wouldn;t fit through your pelvis. If you know all about it then you’ll be more inclined to accept some of the newbrn behaviour and just roll with the punches, rather than trying to get a totally dependent newborn to fit to a ‘routine’ just because your mother has been guilting you about what they did ‘when you were a baby’.

Here’s one as a start, and another, but just google ‘fourth trimester’ and you’ll be able to read up to your heart’s content.
3 – read up on ‘going overdue’
There’s a lot of pressure put on women to seek medical assistance when they go ‘overdue’ – but do you know when that is (42 weeks, by the way. NOT simply after your due date), what the risks and benefits are of doing something versus doing nothing, or how you’d feel about undergoing some of those procedures? I highly recommend making sure you’re fully informed of all the ins and outs so that whatever decision you make is an educated one and not a reaction to undue pressure being put on you by someone in a position of authority.
this article is quite helpful

4 – line up a load of DVD boxsets (I’ve made some recommendations in the past)
You spend a lot of time curled up on the sofa when you have your first baby (not so much with subsequent kids but oh well). Do yourself a favour and buy in some boxsets, subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Fire or NowTV. You’ll thank me later.
5 – join an online ante-natal group
Go to Mumsnet, Netmums, wherever. Find other mums due the same month. Talk anonymously, migrate to Facebook. Whatever you do you will be so grateful to have all these other women to go through it with you – the late pregnancy insomnia, the birth, the feeding issues, the late night/midnight/early morning feeds, the weaning, the walking, the potty training…
I’m still in my group from The Boy, it’s been more than four years now and we’ve seen each other through so much. Second and third babies, divorces, mental health issues, cancer, fertility issues, terrible twos, threenagers – I can’t tell you.  This is solid gold, diamond encrusted advice. Take it.
6 – book lots of exciting activities to do
Nothing worse than waiting around for that baby to arrive. Book things to do every day so you’re not just twiddling your thumbs and waiting. Far better to have to cancel stuff.
7 – get a massage or some chiropractor/osteo treatments.
This is not just in the name of self-indulgence, although this might be your last chance for a while. No. A good osteo-type treatment will help open up your sacroiliac joints helping prepare your body for labour and improving the likelihood of a straightforward birth.
8 – take some photos of yourself
I was inspired to take some photos of my mega bump one morning, not knowing I’d go into labour that night. I love being able to put the photos of my bump and my baby together knowing there was only 24 hours between them.
9 – find/go to baby groups
As with the online groups – friends in similar situations are what will get you through those early days and, as with the breastfeeding support groups, it’s much easier to go into those situations as a sleep-deprived, vulnerable new mum if you’ve been before and sussed out the parking, the location, the cost, the tea/coffee etiquette etc
10 – learn how to use all the stuff!
Do you know how to fold and unfold the buggy? Fix the car seat into the car? Run the steriliser? Swaddle a baby? Change a nappy? Do NOT let your first try at these complicated skills be when you have a newborn SCREAMING at you. I speak from bitter experience.
Also – find places for all the stuff to live, otherwise you’ll suddenly have to frind home for baby bouncers, moses baskets and god knows what else all in one hit.

Bonus tip! – read all the stuff! Here are some of my suggestions/recommendations for really useful reading while you still have the time and brainspace to do so – enjoy! I may do a whole post on this if my list gets any longer, but for now…


The thinking womans’ guide to a better birth,

Gentle birth, gentle mothering,

Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby


5 ignorant questions about co-sleeping

questionsaboutcosleepingThis started out as yet another “5 stupid things…” post (see ‘babywearing’ and ‘breastfeeding’), but once I started listing the questions I realised they weren’t so much stupid as ignorant about co-sleeping and instead of venting my stored-up sarky responses perhaps it might be helpful to actually address some of the most common concerns I hear mentioned. However, this is me and I do have a sharp tongue when writing, so expect the odd drop of sarcasm here and there, it’s just the way I roll.  So if you want to know about how to make co-sleeping safe, or how to have sex whilst the result of your last encounter snores gently beside you then perhaps you might find an answer or two below… And for the purposes of accuracy, I am referring specifically to bedsharing, as co-sleeping technically just means sleeping in the same room as your baby.

1 – Aren’t you worried about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)?

No. Not in the slightest. I’m sometimes occasionally concerned about over-lying, especially with my first baby, but over-lying (or smothering) is not the same thing as SIDS.  In fact, the risks of SIDS are reduced with safe co-sleeping and that’s what we practice.  This is borne out by the fact that the lowest incidences of SIDS occur in countries where bedsharing is the accepted norm.  Here’s a bit more info if you’re interested.

2 – Is it safe?

It is as safe as we can make it. We have a firm mattress, a super king sized bed, she only sleeps on my side and I exclusively breastfeed. Neither of us drink, smoke or take drugs (good thing we have a terrible sense of humour and love to eat junk or we’d be so virtuous it’d make other people sick) and our room is cool and well-ventilated.  There are no cracks or gaps for her to get wedged in or fall down.  I tie up my long hair (although this is also because otherwise she rips handfuls of it out with her tiny little monkey hands) and avoid overheating. We have done everything we can to ensure her safety.

You know what’s not safe? Falling asleep over the top of your baby whilst sitting in a hard, upright chair as recommended by my Health Visitor with my first baby.  Or making a nest on the sofa to sleep in so he can stay on your chest.  In fact most of the studies that conclude how dangerous co-sleeping is do not differentiate between bedsharing and sleeping on a sofa or chair. Those are always dangerous to do. If you’re tired and your baby will only settle near you then why not read up here and make sure you’re doing it safely?

3 – But how do you have ‘an intimate relationship’ with your husband?

OK, firstly, do you mean sex? Cos if you mean sex then you should just say sex, cos you know, that’s how we made the baby so it’s not too presumptuous to assume we might indulge in sex sometimes. Sex. Sex. Sex sex sex sex sex. Right. Now I’ve got that off my chest allow me to answer the question.
I would have to quote a blogger friend of mine who said on a post about Attachment Parenting on her blog, Another Bun, that if the only place you have sex is in your bed then she feels sorry for you. So yes, a little inventiveness can go a long way. Plus, you know, babies sleep well and we have a super king size bed with a co-sleeper attachment so there’s ways around these things. Plus, you know, it’s not really any of your business.

4 – Doesn’t she wake you up?

No more than any other breastfed infant. Oftentimes I actually stick a boob in her mouth without fully waking up and wonder the next morning why one of my breasts is hanging out, assuming she’s slept through the night.  In fact sometimes I struggle to get to sleep at night, too many lists and worries whizzing through my brain. At times like these I lie my head down next to her so I can feel her breath on my face, I take hold of her little hand in mine and drift peacefully off to sleep.  She’s a very restful wee person. I don’t wake her up, either, in case you were wondering.  She sleeps best knowing that her source of warmth, comfort and food is right there within grabbing reach.

5 – Are you still going to let her be in with you when she’s a teenager?

Somehow I think she might object to this more than I will. Aren’t teenagers renowned for retreating from the world to fester in their bedroom all alone? My son started flinging himself around and insisting on his own space from about 10 months. I suspect my daughter will want to stay rather longer than this (and she’s certainly more pleasant to bedshare with as she doesn’t hurl herself about in the same way) but, as with him, I’m happy to let my baby lead the way. I sleep better when there’s someone beside me to cuddle up with, why it shouldn’t be the same for my children I don’t know.

The gift of beauty

Being the mother of a daughter comes with a special sort of responsibility, well, being the mother of a son does too, but it’s daughters I’m talking about here and building their self-confidence and body image so that they have a true notion of their intrinsic value and beauty and as the model of womanhood that they grow up with then that surely comes from us.The gift of beauty

Have you seen that article doing the rounds about a little girl who knows she looks like her Mama and thinks her Mama is beautiful, so therefore she is beautiful? Only the mama in question criticises herself so if her Mama isn’t beautiful, how can she be? You can read it hereIf you haven’t, then you should. It’s an eye-opening insight into how we, as mothers, can shape our daughter’s body confidence through the most thoughtless of comments, without ever saying anything about how she looks.  Yet, we’re so self-critical, often out loud to our reflections or our friends, and how can they not pick up on this?

I took steps to try and change the way I spoke about myself, even before I had a daughter. I don’t want my son to look at women critically any more than I want my daughter to look at herself that way. I made sure to admire the strong legs I used to carry my babies, the stripes they wrote onto my belly as they grew, the creases round my eyes put there as I stayed up all night feeding and soothing them and the lines at the corners they caused with their smiles.

Over time I even came to believe in these truths. I like my thighs in a way I never used to and getting older holds less fear when I think of the history that will be written into my face with the wrinkles.  But these only address the superficial, not how I felt about myself underneath it all.

Then my daughter was born. Now, my son looks like a little Man-mini-me. Everyone who’d met my husband would comment on how much my son looked like his daddy until I began to feel more like an incubator than a DNA contributor. Not so with our Girl. She’s a perfect blend of both of us, though some days she looks more like him and some, like today, she looks so much like me it’s as if a baby photo of mine has come to life a la Harry Potter.

I gaze at her and think what every mother has felt since time immemorial “My God, she’s so beautiful. I mean so so beautiful.” I’ve not seen anything so beautiful since my son was born and when she smiles I feel as though something heavy is pressing down on my chest as it tightens with love so hard it feels almost like pain. But she looks like me. She looks just like me. Now either I can indulge in the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows me to think she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and that she looks like me, but I’m not beautiful, or I can just accept a new view of myself.

That’s the gift my daughter has given me: to see myself as beautiful right down to the bones for the first time since I started to criticise my reflection in the mirror years ago.  A fair exchange for the gift of life I think.

How does your daughter make you feel?

Behind the birth story

So we’re coming up to the five month mark since our little girl joined our family earthside and, since she and I are healthy and thriving you might be excused for thinking that I would have no lingering concerns over her arrival.  Birth trauma is a bitch, though, if you’ll pardon my language and even the most outwardly straightforward births can leave a new mother with anything from a lingering sadness through to flashbacks, post-natal depression or even psychosis, because what so many people fail to recognise is that birth is not a purely physiological process.behindbirthstory

Bringing a baby into the world may happen through a physical process, but that physical process is brought about and supported by emotional and hormonal reactions. Other people* have written far more widely and knowledgeably about the birth process and, as I have no pretension to medical expertise, I’ll leave that to them.  No, I’m going to share something more personal. My daughter was born at home, as planned, with kind and caring midwives who had looked after me throughout my pregnancy. I laboured in a pool, birthed her with no medication at all, even gas and air, and my husband supported me through the whole thing. She had nothing to eat but breastmilk.

This is the story I tell to strangers. It’s all true. It’s just not all of the truth. Even now I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail, but she got her shoulder stuck on my pubic bone (shoulder dystocia). She needed resuscitation as she didn’t breathe on her own for ten minutes. Paramedics were called and responded with urgency.  We transferred to hospital where I had a haemorrhage and a general anaesthetic. She was given donor milk, hooked up to machines, given a lumbar puncture, roomed away from me for the four most painful nights of my life. She’s fine. I’m fine. But that’s not all that matters.

As mothers we have hopes for our births and our babies. Not every mother’s is the same as mine, but I hoped for calmness, peace, an intimate experience and a babymoon at home in my own bed with my new baby. I laboured for 8 hours, brought forth a 10lb baby with shoulder dystocia and had no pain relief. I worked damn hard for the outcome I wanted and I feel cheated. And sad – so so sad.

I’m not sure what I hope to achieve with this post. It’s not really informative, unless you’re desperately interested in my personal life. I suppose I’m just asking for understanding for any woman who doesn’t seem ecstatic about her birth, perhaps there’s a reason. Be sensitive. What she’s telling you might not be the whole story, so don’t assume. Don’t judge. Despite the outward appearance of calm and happy maternity perhaps she, like me, is dreading bedtime because it means being alone with her thoughts and a long, sleepless night of tears and bitterness.  Motherhood is a baptism of fire and it can take a long time to move out of the flames.

*I recommend Sarah Buckley and Ina May Gaskin if you want a beginner’s crash course in birth.

Mum is the loneliest number – why you need support to breastfeed

Thanks for hopping over from My Thoughts on Things and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt – Day 6: The People Behind The Breastfeeder. 

Sponsors today include ARDO Breastpumps, who are giving away a Calypso Single Breastpump, Breastvest, who are offering an essential breastvest duo (1x black and 1x white) in your size, and Mother Loves Cookies, who are providing a box of delicious lactation cookies for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Successful breastfeeding is all about support. Ive said it before, I’ll say it again no doubt, but it’s the most true of all true things so I will keep on saying it.  It’s not just about any old support though. It has to be the right support, doing the right things, giving the right advice, listening at the right moments.

Being mum to a new baby is probably one of the hardest and most lonely things you can go through as a woman. I never truly imagined it. I enjoyed the fuss made of me during pregnancy and imagined that having a new, squishy baby would be similar. I’m not sure if I could have been more disillusioned, I suspect not. I had been warned by oh so many people about the sleep deprivation, the guilt, the emotional fall-out – almost every negative aspect of parenting there is (not that I believed any of it, but fair play, I was warned) but not a single person told me how horribly, utterly, fucking lonely it was.

Suddenly the midwives don’t really want to know about you. The six/eight-week check is more for Baby’s benefit than yours (except for advice about birth control – hah! The baby is doing that quite effectively thank you) and even your partner and mum can’t help that much.  Your mum totally gets it, of course, but she’s probably not that close by and she isn’t there in the cold, silent 3ams of the night.

Your husband or partner, whilst they’re around for quite a bit of it, especially that witching hour after they get home from work, don’t really understand how all-consuming it is to be somebody’s everything like that. To be their source of comfort, warmth, food, transport, entertainment: their life support in every way.

For me it was amplified by the fact that we lived in the middle of nowhere when we had The Boy. The C-section meant I couldn’t drive and even going for a walk was a solitary pursuit, with no friendly neighbours to bump into, no baby groups to walk to. As soon as I could conceivably do it I got myself out to groups in the nearby town and drank up the company like a wilted flower sucks up water. But nobody understood the all-consuming-ness of feeding a high needs baby unless they’d done it themselves, and, unlike in times gone by when we would have been surrounded by women we’d known all our lives who could share their experiences, modern life keeps us very much isolated.

If only a group had existed back then like the one I help to run now, but there was no such thing, so I was endlessly grateful when a burgeoning friendship began to flower with a mum who had fed her eldest daughter for several years and was then feeding her 18-month old.  Now one of my bestest of best good friends, she was then just a random woman I had met upon whose mercy I flung myself, but she gave me support and understanding, reassured me about problems I was having, sympathised, offered chocolate biscuits and, most of all, she listened.

I don’t think I truly realised it until I came to writing this post, but it is probably thanks to her that I stuck it out, not just because of her support and advice, but because of the living, breathing example that she provided of a ‘normal’ breastfeeding relationship. It gave me something to strive for, a reassurance that feeding an older baby was nothing extraordinary.

Through her I met other mothers feeding babies and toddlers and, through them, was invited to join a training course to become a peer supporter. That training was one of the most special and bonding experiences I have been through. The women on it were completely open and honest with each other. Completely warm and supportive to each other and, as peer supporters, they had all fed a baby at some point, most of them still were and the majority of our training sessions were conducted with at least one lot of slurping noises and happy humming from a small child at all times.

Connected by emails, a facebook group, our admin meetings and socials, we’re nearly all still in touch and, despite being trained counsellors ourselves, turn to each other for help and support when we’re struggling. Much like The Virtual Tribe a friend of mine has written about, this kind of unstinting, knowledgeable support is absolutely invaluable. From weaning overly-dependent toddlers, to recurring mastitis, tongue-tie, subsequent babies, traumatic births and subjects utterly unrelated to breastfeeding I have offered and received the support and advice I needed from these women.

If you hope to breastfeed then I advise you to seek out your support, whether it be an online group like Mumsnet or Facebook, or a real life one, like La Leche League or Baby Cafe, find it now so that it’s there, ready and waiting for you when you need it. Husbands are all well and good, but when the chips are down (and the lazy bastard is snoring beside you at 3am) you need to talk to women who have walked your path…and can commiserate as you fantasise about how exactly to smother the useless lump who’s stealing the duvet.

For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to Run Jump Scrap where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Extended breastfeeding – or just breastfeeding?

Thanks for hopping over from Renegade Feminist and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 5 Extended Breastfeeding we have over £700 worth of breastfeeding and baby goodies up for grabs including prizes from More4Mums providing a set of ‘Hot Milk’ Lingerie, a signed hardback limited edition copy of Milky Moments and a £30 voucher from Milk Chic  Full details of the Grand Prize can be found here and all entries to be completed via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

I dislike the term extended breastfeeding.  I, and many of my lentil-weaving hippyish friends, prefer to call it natural term breastfeeding, but only other lentil-weaving, hippyish people know what that means so I’m forced to use extended breastfeeding, because, in our modern-day 6-months-of-boob culture, anything past six months is seen as extended.  Just in case you’re still in the dark, though, allow me to enlighten you: extended breastfeeding is feeding your baby from the milk in your breast until an age where your family (either blood-related or in-laws) start openly asking you when you’re going to stop.  Naturally this is different for every family.extended breastfeeding

Yes, that’s right. In this age of tits on every billboard, buy a daily newspeper to admire some cleavage, décolletage being the selling point of every brand imaginable – whether relevant or not – it’s the sight of a mother feeding a child who (to quote a relative who should know better) “is old enough to ask for it” that really gets everybody clutching their pearls in abject horror.

I never set out to shock and dismay. I knew for sure that I wanted to breastfeed and, like many other mothers, had six months in my head as the goal I was aiming for. At the time I think I just believed this was how long you were ‘supposed’ to do it for. After three years of in-depth peer supporter training, I now know better.

Six months is just how old a child should roughly be before introducing anything other than breastmilk. Formula companies are banned from advertising in this country for babies under that age, so all their advertising (behind which there is much money) is aimed at ‘follow-on’ milks and so on for babies older than six months. I, like most others, mentally converted this into a maximum age limit for breastfeeding and honestly thought anything beyond that was unnecessary and, perhaps, a little odd.

And then I had my baby. My precious Boy. I held him in my arms, watched him stroke his cheek, my breast, his cheek, saw his wonder that he and I were the same person and two different people all at once. I fought to feed him despite birth trauma, bad advice, pain and post-natal depression and then, at about eight weeks it began to get easier, by 12 weeks it was easy (except for the sleep deprivation – oh God, was I deprived!) and by six months, when he started to mess around with bits of mango and fingers of toast I was laughing.

“Why would I give up now?!” I laughed to myself as I sailed out of the house with no paraphernalia other than nappies when he was five months old.
“Well I’m not giving up now!” I declared to myself, and others, when his molars started coming through aged one and feeding in the night was the best, easiest, quickest and most natural way to resettle him.
“Thank God I hadn’t given up!” I exclaimed through several stomach bugs at all ages where the only nutrition and fluids he took was endless, comforting suckles at my breasts.
“I don’t want him to give up now…” I murmured as I held my big two year old on my lap and stroked his hair and cuddled him in the only time he stayed still for more than a minute in his busy day.

By about two and half he was only having milk every couple of days and when I got pregnant and suffered horrendous pregnancy sickness for the first four months it was game over and the last of my milk went. He stopped wanting to suckle, even for the comfort.

If you’re wondering about feeding until your child weans themselves then I can honestly tell you it’s wonderful. It’s special. You can have time away from them (my son stayed away from me for five nights on two separate occasions and both times we managed to pick back up where we left off), but you don’t need to set yourself a goal now.  One of the very best things about breastfeeding is that (once you’re over the initial hump) it’s intuitive. You do it as and when. You know when it’s necessary and when it’s not and you can change your mind as you go.

For the family who wonder why you still do it, well, it’s none of their business really, but I always found “There’s a reason they keep their milk teeth until they’re five or six you know!” was a very effective deterrant. If nothing else the look of horror on their faces as they picture you still feeding a six year old is totally worth it!

For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to My Moo and Woo where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Two timing

I feel a little guilty today because I have been two-timing my blog with another blog. Yes, that’s right, not only did I set up a new blog, but I also spent an hour staging and taking fancy schmancy photographs for it.IMG_6499

Please forgive me, though, my precious blog. I did it for a friend and she’s doing it for charity, so it’s all for a good cause. She’s setting up a vintage fashion show to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a charity which has helped her family ever since her daughter was diagnosed with the disease at two weeks old.

IMG_6462 editedSo I’ve been writing a press release with her, setting up a blog so all the stall holders and raffle prizes can get a mention, and taking some spiffing photos to try and give a flavour of what the event will be like.

I also took some gorgeous pics of her little girl who’s a total cutie-Mctootie,  I’m sure you’ll agree with me!

If you get the chance could you hop on over to her site, CF Fashion Show, and see if you fancy buying a raffle ticket or (if you’re in Oxfordshire or the media) helping to publicise her event?

header sized collage with words

The journey of a lifetime – feeding my babies

Thanks for visiting from Adventures of a Novice Mum and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt  “Day 1 The Start of My Journey”.

Sponsors today include Boobie Milk with a £50 voucher, Cherub Chews who are offering a breastfeeding necklace and Loveyush who are offering a breastfeeding scarf for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

The start of my breastfeeding journey was, as so many are, a rocky one.  After a difficult and traumatic birth, with the masses of medical intervention that I had never wanted, my poor body was tired and battered already. Add into the mix a constantly hungry, velcro baby and some very very poor support and you have the recipe for a broken mama.

I had so desperately wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby and, after I had (as I saw it) ‘failed’ to give birth, it was even more important to me to succeed with feeding: to try and make up for the drugs he’d received, the being ripped untimely from his mother’s womb, the fact I was a sobbing, miserable mess who struggled to attach to him.  The hospital pushed me to use formula and, exhausted and fighting to the last, I eventually gave in, although I pumped and fed, fed and pumped as well – anything to escape the hospital and get back to my community midwives.

I was, however, one of the lucky ones. I had the most amazing support from my husband and mother, I found a good midwife at my local unit who helped me when I turned up in tears at 3am two weeks after giving birth, I also found a support group not too far away where gentle peer supporters listened to me endlessly rehash my birth and a trained midwife gave some decent advice on holding my baby so everything was more comfortable.

I was on my knees with exhaustion, traumatised, in pain, struggling to bond, but I gritted my teeth and kept right on going and gradually, after about six weeks, things began to improve.  I couldn’t believe that something that was supposed to come naturally could cause so many difficulties and 10 months later, when the chance was offered for me to train to become a peer supporter myself, I jumped at the chance.

Feeding my daughter

Feeding my daughter

It’s been a long journey, from that first attempt to latch my baby on post c-section, dazed, exhausted, ignorant – to here. Now I support and advise other women and argued with ignorant HCPs when I began feeding my second baby and they tried to offer unwelcome and poor advice as I fed her in the Neonatal High Dependency Unit after, yet another, difficult birth.

Things are gradually changing. Between my two babies the hospital started to seek ‘Baby Friendly’ status and when I had my daughter they offered her donated breastmilk to supplement my milk.  There is still bad information out there, though, bad advisors, ignorant HCPs who, despite being medical personnel, have received less training on the mechanics and biology of breastfeeding than I, as a volunteer, have.

My breastfeeding journey has been a bumpy one, but it’s promising to be a lifetime one that carries on long after my own children have ceased to feed from me as I support generation after generation of other mothers to feed their children as they truly wish to do, and what a blessing that is.

Following on from my journey, please do visit Just Motherhood to see how her journey began and be in with more chances to enter the grand prize draw. Remember you need to earn 50 points to be eligible, full details can be found on the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Site.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Keep Britain breastfeeding scavenger hunt 2015

Craft groups and the female space

craft groupsThere’s something special about taking part in a craft group, whatever kind of craft you do, due largely to the return to the female space that it offers. This is something that is so hard to come by in our modern life. Except for baby or toddler groups (where the topic of conversation tends to be limited to the one, rather narrow, subject of children) we don’t often get the chance to spend time working together with other women in a way that would have been the day-to-day norm for our forbears. Whether poverty stricken field workers doing the laundry and spinning together, or upper class ladies all sewing on their samplers, we would have occupied this same, busy, feminine space where we could just ‘be’ and work together.  Much like those heart-to-hearts parents and children find so much easier in the car; removing the sense of observation and confrontation makes it easier to be open.

It’s something I’ve noticed as a mother – that caring for children and doing housework is not so onerous a chore when performing it in company. We’re social creatures meant for the community of the shared environment and the current isolation of everyday life is both alien and hard. Something about being with other women, too, is important. Whether it’s the shared experience, or the shared perspective – perhaps if society ever becomes truly equal it will become less of an issue, I don’t know.

There is so much that is soothing in doing a craft. It is work that leads to an end product that is valued by us and others and is, usually, either beautiful, or useful or both. When you compare that to our normal activities (whether paid work, childcare or housework) where so much of what we do is of fleeting duration and little valued you can see the appeal.

If you’ve never taken part in a group like this, you won’t have much of an idea what I’m talking about, so let me paint you a picture…

craft group 1It’s evening in someone’s home. As a crafter their sitting room is liberally bestowed with the fruits of their labours, and probably gifts from various crafty friends. A crocheted blanket in cheery colours is draped over the back of the sofa. Embroidered and appliqued cushions adorn the room like sprinkles on a cake. On the wall are various pictures, from a cross-stitch, to a heart made of buttons, some drawings, photographs and a large felted landscape.  A soft glow from lamps is cast across jars full of knitting needles sitting on decoupage coasters whilst a handmade dreamcatcher sways in the window.

At one side of the room is a set of shelves. Books on all kinds of craft from crochet to quilting are ranged in subject order and boxes full of fleece, yarn, fabric, and paper are stacked underneath. On the table in the centre of the room is a large plate of cakes, a bowl of crisps and at least one open bottle of wine and several glasses.  All sorts of women sit around the room, on the sofa and chairs, a bean bag, a pouffe and cross legged or sprawled on the floor, colourful projects filling their laps.craft group 2
The conversation is muted at first – a quiet discussion on this month’s ‘Let’s Knit’, or queries about which charity shop was selling off a job lot of yarn.  As the crafters warm up, and more wine is consumed the conversation gets more animated, more personal.  Babies are mentioned, as they always will be at gatherings of mothers, but the group is diverse and the ‘babies’ in question are all ages, from newborn through to grandbabies.  From babies the transition to sex and menfolk is simple and inevitable and raucous bursts of laughter spill across the room.  Sometimes there are tears and shared sorrow, too. Perhaps (as happened in my group) one of the mothers has lost a baby and the group draw together to support her and each other and to organise his funeral. This is womanhood at it’s strongest – sharing strength, sorrow, joy. Being together.

craft group 3Some of the women craft furiously – listening in, but working hard, their clicking needles providing a soothing backdrop of noise like a heartbeat. Others let their work lie idle in their laps, too taken up with the chatter to concentrate on both.  The most skilled have their fingers flying as fast as their tongues wag, finishing a whole sleeve of a cardigan whilst ripping the reputation of their son’s form teacher to shreds.

Eventually women begin to make excuses. It’s a school night, they’re tired, the toddler is teething and it’s not fair to leave himself alone to deal with it.  One or two will carry glasses out to the kitchen and the conversation will drift back to the muted level of the early evening as they wash and dry the glasses and plates and help tidy up.  The evening is over and everyone returns home but with a sense of community, shared experience, support and the whole of this entwined in the fabric of the project they’re making so it stays with them always.

10 really excellent gifts to buy a new mum

10 excellent gifts to buy a new mumAs you may have seen I was recently inspired to do a post on a Top 10 gifts to buy a new baby. Now, although this is super handy when going to visit this hypothetical infant, I do have to make the point that the gifts suggested there are in no way gifts for the mother (with the possible exception of Ewan the sleep sheep, if he works as he ought). So here are ten really excellent gifts you can buy a new mum to make her feel special, treated, looked after and not merely the battered incubator & milk bar for a new human.

1- Monkey mama twiddle necklace and teething ring
Now I do have to make a wee disclaimer – if your intended recipient is more yummy mummy than lentil-weaving hippy mama like me then this gift is no good.  For breastfeeding and/or babywearing afficianados, though, I would go so far as to call this (or similar) a ‘must have’.  The Boy was an inveterate biter – even before he had teeth he liked to give his stony-hard little gums a good work out on my poor, tender nipples.  I bought myself a wooden teething necklace and necklacewhen he got bitey pulled him off and handed him the ring – miraculously he would give his wee gums a good chomp on the ring, then latch back on peacefully.  The Girl is a tiny monkey and likes to have a handful of ‘fur’ when she feeds or is carried. Before I thought to get my necklace back out this was (preferably) a handful of T-shirt but (usually) a painful grip on the loose skin of my breast or a handful of hair, generally with kitten-sharp fingernails digging in or the strands becoming ever more twisted about her tiny, clammy fingers!

They come in pretty colours and different designs and, when you can’t wear much jewellery for fear of it being grabbed, it’s nice to have something to accessorise with.

2- L’Occitane almond shower oil
oilAfter both of my pregnancies I have developed very dry skin and this seems to be common amongst most of the mums I’ve spoken to. A lovely lovely friend of mine bought me this luscious shower oil after I had The Girl and I’m obsessed with it. It saves two steps in the showering ritual – so useful when you have limited time to shower – as it moisturises, washes and makes the best shaving lubrication I’ve ever used. Plus it smells absolutely divine, but is a very light, subtle fragrance so you don’t have to worry about it overwhelming your baby or obliterating your own mummy-smell for them.  A top gift for any new mum.  I can also recommend their lavender hand sanitiser as a handy out-and-about hand cleanser for post-nappy-changes. Smells 100x better than any other sanitiser I’ve used!

3- Paperwhite Kindle
Chances are the baby will be keeping her up at night, so an e-book reader with built-in lighting is ideal for entertainment during those long night feeds. The light won’t wake the baby or the erstwhile snoring husband and an e-book reader is so much easier to manage one-handed than a ‘proper’ book, lovely though they are.  Just check she doesn’t have one already, but this would be an ideal ‘group’ gift, say, from an office to a mum about to go on mat leave. If you need any more persuading, why not read my post on 9 reasons why a mum needs an e-reader?!

4- Photobox vouchers and/or a photo frame
One thing there will be a surfeit of that first year is photos – photos of the baby, of mummy with baby, daddy with baby, Great Auntie Joan with baby etc. Why not buy some vouchers for an online photo printing site so they can immortalise those memories in a photo book, album or on a wall.

5- Jewellery (esp personalised to the baby – fingerprints/birthstone etc)rings
This might be one for the baby’s co-parent to purchase as it’s likely to be a bit more expensive.  The (lovely) Man has bought me two rings, one for each baby with their birth stone in and they nest together. I adore them probably more than my engagement ring because they symbolise my darling babas.  There are all sorts of options for meaningful jewellery – Not on the highstreet has some great ideas for fingerprint jewellery, but there are usually local jewellers who will do this for you which makes life easier in terms of getting the baby’s fingerprints!

If you want something engraved with a name then I adore Dino Daisy who does quirky little pendants and bangles stamped with the letters and images of your choice and for a very reasonable price. Although delivery is a little slow (due to being made to order) her customer service is great and she does her best for you.

6- Photo shoot
Again a great idea for a ‘group’ present, a photo shoot, or series of photo shoots, makes a lovely present for the whole family so they can immortalise their new addition and the new shape of their family.

7- Massage
After nine months of pregnancy and then giving birth and a possible hospital stay followed by sitting in funny positions to feed and constant carrying, bending and lifting trust me a massage would be a welcome gift. Try and find a masseur who’ll come to the house to minimise stress for the new mum and make sure you offer to be there for baby jiggling purposes so she can really relax!

8- DVD boxsets/subscription to a streaming service
My baby was born just a few days before my birthday and my lovely sister bought me a NowTV box and subscription to Sky Entertainment for 3 months – it was bliss. I watched so much crap. If something like this is beyond your budget, why not try one of these boxsets I recommended – she’ll be grateful of the TV on demand!

9 – A cleaner
No new mum should have to be worrying about cleaning – even tidying is too much sometimes and nothing makes as much mess as being post-partum and having a baby. Buy her a few hours with a good cleaner for the first couple of months and she’ll love you forever!

10 – Food!
See my post ‘How to support a new mum‘ – she’ll either be ravenous, or have no appetite but in great need of nutritious food (and cake). Look after her properly and come bearing food and you won’t be turned away!