ailbhe: (emer)
Gah, just realised I have to send this to her supervisor as mere plebs can't nominate for this award. Um. I've got as far as

Dear [name],

I really want to nominate [my midwife] for "Community Midwife of the Year" but the Mamas and Papas nominations have closed for the year. The British Journal of Midwifery is accepting nominations from colleagues and supervisors of midwives until 22nd September, at http://www.britishjournalofmidwifery.com/cgi-bin/go.pl/register.html

My personal recommendation of her is below. I hope you see fit to put her name forward.

Many thanks,

Ailbhe Leamy

Yargh. At least they've extended the deadline.
ailbhe: (working)
I have two blogs - I think they're blogs - in their infancy, which may end up nothing or may be fascinating mines for semi-precious stones of wisdom. No idea.

[livejournal.com profile] whoteacheswhom and [livejournal.com profile] mamahastwo are about home education and tandem feeding.

(While I'm plugging syndicated feeds, I rather like [livejournal.com profile] mydadsacommunis even though the title was too long for an lj username).
ailbhe: (Default)
The first was when I asked a woman in staff clothes - I think she was a Maternity Assistant, not a nurse or a midwife - to help me by giving me a cushion to keep the baby off my wound, and hand me the baby. She wanted me to try the "rugby hold", and I said "It never worked with my other daughter." She argued with me, saying that feeding the baby held in front of me wouldn't work and would cause pain to the wound. When it became clear I was going to try it my way, she walked away. Had I needed further assistance, I would have had to buzz again - as it was I had to position the cushion with one hand while holding the baby with the other, less than twelve hours after abdominal surgery. The good news is that the cushion supported my arm, which supported the baby, and we had a comfortable feed.

The next I don't really remember, but feeding lying down a Staff Nurse reached out and touched my breast to help position it. I don't remember whether I said anything, or what she was trying to do.

After that, my mother and I heard the woman in the bed next to mine having a long argument with a midwife because she and her baby had been just about discharged, gone to change the baby's nappy before leaving, and found crystals in it. This can be a sign of dehydration so they were asked to wait to see a paediatrician before leaving. There was a delay of more than six hours to see the paediatrician, during which time the woman was given no help at all with latching, positioning, determining whether the baby was sucking effectively (you can often tell by looking). She wasn't told that there was a breastfeeding clinic downstairs she could drop in to without an appointment. She wasn't offered a meeting with a lactation consultant. She was just told that the baby could be dehydrated, that this was "because feeding wasn't going well," and that she "had to" wait to see a paediatrician before she could go home. (Eventually, her mother, who is a doctor, came in and got them released somehow, after both parents and the grandmother spoke to the paediatrician - luckily the paediatrician spoke German, because the baby's mother was German and though her English was excellent she was too upset to have to cope with new-baby-panic in a second language. The grandmother's English wasn't as good as the mother's, either).

Later that evening the Staff Nurse dropped by my bed to ask how things were going and I said "Fine," and she asked how feeding was going and I said "Great, she's been on most of the day, really," and I was in the process of latching her on again as I said that. The Staff Nurse reached out and sort of squeezed my breast above the nipple to try to push more if it into Emer's mouth. I said "Please don't," and she explained that she was trying to make sure the latch was ok. I assured her it was fine. She said it couldn't be because the baby shouldn't be hungry enough to suck all day, the colostrum should be enough, and if she was sucking all day it was because the latch was bad. I ended up repeating over and over that I thought the baby just liked to suck. She'd only been born that morning, after all - and that was early. (Latch fine, baby fine, c-section babies are often very clingy and needy the first day because it's a very sudden way to come into the world).

At some point that night someone told me I shouldn't feed her when she started mouthing, I should wait until she "really wanted it" so that she'd "have a really good feed". Er, yeah. Ever tried to latch on a really, really hungry and frustrated newborn? No joke.

And the final straw was at about 1 am. Around 8 pm Emer was declared a bit cold, and they put her on a heat pad under a plastic dome in the bedside bassinet (a whole nother post about the skin to skin thing follows, I promise). At 11 pm I couldn't bear it any more and I buzzed for someone. A midwife arrived, told me to turn on the light - I had no idea how and it took a while to get her to tell me how, turns out there's a button on the buzz-for-a-nurse thing - and asked me impatiently, in a daytime voice, what I wanted. I said "I want to touch my baby." She said:

"What for?"

I said "Because she's my baby," and we had a little argument. She insisted that the baby should not be disturbed, I said I didn't want to disturb her, just touch her, she said that I ought to leave the baby alone and rest... it went on and on. Eventually I said "But how can I rest if I can't touch my baby?" and she gave in. She did a full check of blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, and then tucked Emer in beside me for skin to skin, and I fed her. The midwife asked if I'd fed my other daughter and I said "I still do," and immediately her attitude changed: now I was a Good Mother, a Good Patient, and she was going to be nice to me. She even said she'd make sure I was checked a couple of hours early to get the catheter out before breakfast time.

And a while later the woman in the bed opposite buzzed for her, for help breastfeeding. I don't remember the whole conversation, but the gist of it was that the woman had had trouble feeding earlier in the day and asked for and been given a bottle of formula. The night midwife harangued her about it - strongly implying that she was stupid, repeating and repeating that she was sure to fail if she had given a bottle, that bottles are very harmful to breastfeeding, that she needed to never give a bottle, that she shouldn't have given the bottle... she didn't stop until the woman was crying. And nowhere in the "conversation" did I hear helpful advice, or a question about what precise problem the mother had with feeding, or anything useful or supportive like that.

I was furious, but far too ill and tired to buzz for the midwife to tell her what I thought of her. I wanted to. I almost shouted across the bloody room, but I was too ill for a confrontation at 1 am - I was too ill to hear other people's confrontations, for heavens' sake. And I was sick of being given breastfeeding advice by unqualified people myself, so dishing it out wasn't really a good idea.

Next day I moved to a private room, and we found out that there's a patient-midwives meetings scheme thing to improve midwifery services. I intend to get involved. Hooboy do I intend to get involved.
ailbhe: (baby)
Clare said "I have just been getting the are you completely mad looks from friends when I mention going to the pool."

IMPORTANT SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT: Saying any or all of the following may lead me to poke you in the snoot.

"Oh my god you're eating tuna?" "Don't you know you shouldn't drink tea?" "Swimming will kill your baby!" "That child should have a hat on." "You're gaining too much weight." "I can tell it's a boy because you're so wide." "Hahaha you must be ready to burst!" "If you walk too much you'll start labour early." "Don't eat milk or you'll make the baby lactose intolerant." "You should have a salt water bath every day to keep swelling down." "It's dangerous to have a bath after 30 weeks in case you get an infection." "Showers cause varicose veins." "Overcooked and undercooked meat will give you cancer." "Never eat anything but salad when you eat out so you don't gain too much weight." "Never eat salad when you're out in case you get listeria." "You can't use sunscreen when you're pregnant." "I can't believe you eat peanut butter." "Should you really be lifting that?" "If you don't watch your sugar intake you'll get diabetes." "I once heard of someone who read about someone who did whatever you're doing and there were DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES."

That is all.

Career

Jun. 22nd, 2006 02:08 pm
ailbhe: (Default)
There's a lot of discussion about The Mommy Wars again, apparently. You know - mothers who don't get paid and do stay at home doing childcare think mothers who have paying jobs and use babysitters, nannies, nurseries, et cetera are neglectful and abandoning, and mothers who have paying jobs etc etc think mothers who stay at home are anti-feminist parasites.

I'm the stay at home type (and you're all evil child-abandoning monsters, etc, etc, we can consider that bit said) and I've spent a lot of time over the past two years trying to think it all through.

First, for me, stay at home mothering was a career choice. It's a bit odd, as a career choice, because it means that unless I pop out a baby every couple of years until I'm 45, I will hit unemployment long before retirement age. It also frames the father of my children, who is also my husband, as my employer, a framing which just plain doesn't work, because he can't afford to pay me minimum wage for the hours I work and still cover his half of the mortgage, bills etc, and he also doesn't have the power to sack me, and, er, he's not my employer. Perhaps the child(ren) is (are).

Second, for me, stay at home mothering was something I had always wanted to do. It wasn't a primary goal for my four sisters, who all actively pursued other careers although they want to have children as well. But for me, it was something I wanted to do but thought was impossible from the time I was 14 years old. I grew up knowing that respectable, intelligent women go out to work and have Proper Jobs. And I was clearly intelligent, though I wasn't sure about respectable.

Third, none of the boys I knew, growing up, could imagine a partner who didn't have a job and earn money. No way. I suspect that none of them could imagine doing their fair share of the childcare either, but since they're not around now I can't ask. I vetted serious boyfriends on whether they thought stay at home mothering would be a possibility if we ever settled down together; I have had only two serious boyfriends who passed that test, out of, well, lots. One of them liked the idea but wasn't ready to settle down yet really, and the other married me.

Hrump, where am I going with this?

Ah yes.

None of my boyfriends ever, ever wanted to be stay at home fathers. Not one. Those of you familiar with my past will realise how large the numbers are, and those of you who aren't, well, they're large. I never had a proper girlfriend, but only one of my female friends wanted to settle down, be dependent on a man, and have babies - and she didn't want to do the baby-raising work herself, she just saw it as an easy option. (I wasn't keen on the "dependent on a man" aspect either, and had many wild plans for getting pregnant anonymously and fleeing the country to live off the proceeds of my bestselling angsty novels, but I did, to be fair, recognise them as wild plans - I really thought I'd have to live off the dole).

I've had jobs where management asked casually whether I had plans to have children soon. I've had job interviews where I was asked that, very casually, sometimes very obliquely. I'm well aware that the fact that women are responsible for some stupendously large perecentage of childcare makes it harder for us/them to get and keep jobs, and especially to get and keep high-flying high-powered high-earning jobs. But I don't think that's my fault. I note that my husband has never been asked that, and has only once been made to feel that he shouldn't want to be involved in his baby's life to the extent that he is - it was someone in his management structure who thought paternity leave was a ridiculous joke and had no idea why anyone would want it, and Rob dismissed him as "an unreconstructed chauvinist" anyway.

It's not about whether stay-at-home mothers or working mothers are better mothers, to me, because it's obvious to me that some stay-at-home mothers are great and some are lousy, and some working mothers are great and some are lousy - even when they had a genuinely free choice over which to do, which I'm not convinced happens very often (for instance, my salary before we had a baby would not have covered childcare I would have been happy with, and the maternity leave conditions there weren't great either - plus I fairly often worked 60 hours a week or more and was often ill from work-related stress).

The argument I want to have is why is it women who have to make these "choices" and take all the flak for it? What stops men from doing it?
ailbhe: (banana)

Posted to a breastfeeding community earlier today, where it was actually a relevant comment, believe it or not:

Ten points for exclusively breastfeeding from the breast for the first six months through AT LEAST two bouts of mastitis, two of drug-resistant ductal and surface thrush, both nipples chapped to bleeding point, tongue tie, GERD and severe dairy, wheat, soy, egg and hydrogen intolerance.

Lose a point if you only had six or more of the obstacles mentioned.

Lose two points if you only had five or fewer.

Lose three points if breastfeeding was easy.

Lose a point for every month during the first six when the baby was given a bottle of your own EBM, even if you were having chemo.

Lose two points for ditto if the milk was donated.

Lose your parenting license forever if it was formula.

Gain seven points for exclusively pumping for the first six months. Another point for every months after that you exclusively pumped UNLESS you vaccinated UNTIL 12 months.

Gain half a point for every pint of milk donated for free to a milk bank.

Lose a point for every time you went to NIP and chickened out because you thought someone would yell at you or try to send you to the bathroom.

Gain a point for every time you had state legislation changed to make NIP permissable whereever the mother otherwise has a right to be with her baby.

ailbhe: (working)

I was recently made aware of the acronym MILF, which, according to a reliable and outraged source, means "Mother I'd Like to Fuck."

Well, isn't that nice?

One of the nicest things about it, I find, is that it assumes that such mothers are in the minority. Otherwise it wouldn't need an acronym; there'd be M for Mothers, and MIKOOB for Mothers I'd Kick Out Of Bed, or similar. And, of course, there's the implied corollary that women who are not mothers mostly fall into the Women I'd Like To Fuck category, because, well, WILF is just catchy.

And because there are, as we all know, Maidens, Mothers and Whores. And Mothers are the safe ones, who do not come with a load of desirability baggage. This goes back about a zillion years to the dawn of the anti-feminist backlash or whatever, depending on whether you believe certain Golden Age fantasties (when women ruled the world and lived in peace and harmony and never died of STDs or childbirth and celebrated their menses and revelled in their menopause and so on). It's sitting pretty at the back of the general subconscious; people react a lot more badly to "young mother (21) raped in park" than to "young woman (21) raped in park" because mothers are suppsed to be inviolate, asexual, aloof - and that's crazy.

Mothers are sexual creatures, just like they were when they started trying to conceive, and for much the same reasons. There hasn't been an immaculate conception for at least 2,000 years; getting around the sex-makes-babies equation takes quite a lot of science and time and effort (usually, ho hum, effort on the part of women, messing around with thermometers and pills and placebo pills and the indignity of infertility treatment).

So it stands to reason that most women with at least one child have had sex at least once. I'm sure you'll agree.

And women with two children of different ages, that is to say, not twins, have had sex atleast twice. Yes?

Wow!

And what proportion of the adult (as in, of childbearing age) female population of the planet, until now, has been women who had at least one child?

I don't know, but I bet it's more than half. That's a lot of mothers having sex. Wahey!

But nonetheless we have this big blanket over the whole thing, like the discretion blanket people drape over their babies heads when they breastfeed in public, so that everyone can tell at a glance what they're doing but can't see anything.

(Breastfeeding is not a sexual act. Breasts are not primary sex characteristics. Someday the world will earn to cope with them. There will be no more breastfeeding in this thinking-aloud.)

And the discretion blanket shows everyone that there's sex there, but that it's at the very least extremely private, and posssibly shameful and secret, too.

So when I toddle off to the doctor and say "Hello Mister Doctor Person I had a baby and now I can't have sex," the doctor just isn't programmed to think "Oh goodness, that's appalling, we must try and fix it." No, the doctor is programmed to think "Oh well, sex isn't all that important to people like you, so we'll just send you on your way."

I get a little more sympathy when I say "But I want to have another baby!" - and I admit, that is the truly devestating part of the whole affair, but it's not the ONLY part - because mothers are supposed to want more babies. I get a bit of understanding when I say "And that means that my husband can't have sex," and the Health Visitors all ask me "Oh, dear, how is Rob coping?" - and they mean "Is he being nice to you or does he hate not having sex so much it's ruining your relationship?"

But almost no-one (the most recent Health Visitor is a counterexample) thinks that it's a terrible thing that I, a healthy 26-year-old married woman with no hormonal problems or disease problems or anything like that just cna't have sex.

Even when I want to.

Possibly ever again.

Because I'm a mother, and because I'm a woman, and I'm not sure which of these is the primary reason.

ailbhe: (red shoes)

What the hell is a Yummy Mummy? Is it like a Breeder? Or a Moo? Am I one? Some days I look very smart, well, maybe not smart, but funky as hell, with excellent jeans and orange tshirt and tie-dye headscarf and a daughter in orange and tie-dye looking very coordinated and slightly piratical, and her buggy has a funky coloured polyester cosytoes and we swan around the shops buying organic this and fairtrade that and recycled the other, looking at amusing socks and stopping for lunch in the park or maybe in Pret if I have Luncheon Vouchers and I generally feel top of the world and leisurely and very, very trendy and young. And rich, on those days, because I never actually want to buy anything I can't afford, on those days.

And some days - today is one of them - my hair is greasy and my clothes have poo-stains and my eyes are sunken and I have circles around them from crying so much. But my daughter still has a homecooked organic produce banana muffin for her snack. And I hosted the NCT toddler coffee and no-one realised how truly manky I am. And the house is hoovered and I have plans for dinner and I'm still knitting this winter coat for the baby, I think it's 38 rows now but I'm not sure. I look like hell and I've been picking a spot on my chin until it bleeds and I am beginning to fear for the stability of my marriage and I probably have PMS as well.

So what's a yummy mummy? Does anyone ever say anything including the phrase "yummy mummy" without being massively patronising? Ever? And how can you tell when you've seen one? How can you tell it's not just me on a good day? And how the hell else can I keep some sense of identity, if I can't even try to look mildly fabulous without being lumped in with idle ladies who lunch?

Oh, yes, sorry, I forgot, I don't work. I forgot.

ailbhe: (thinking)

  • Any refined sugar
  • Any added salt
  • Too much banana
  • Too much citrus
  • Too much potato
  • Peanuts
  • Gluten
  • Cow's dairy produce except milk
  • Cow's dairy produce except live yoghurt
  • Live yoghurt
  • Soya products
  • Pickles
  • Especially olives with garlic and chili
  • Baby rice
  • Adult rice
  • Wholegrains
  • White / refined grains
  • Too much fruit
  • Too much meat
  • Too much starch

Also, many toddlers have not enough fat in their diets, apparently. And not enough fruit. And not enough meat. And not enough fibre. Just about the only thing everyone agrees on is salt and sugar. Oh, and peanuts. People are pretty sure about peanuts.

Luckily, it's hot enough that babies aren't all that hungry anyway, round these here parts...

ailbhe: (happy)

Linnea has been asleep just over an hour now. We went swimming this morning -

Start again. I overslept this morning, because somebody woke up for a feed shortly after two, and enjoyed it so much that she more or less didn't stop. I can sleep through it, but it's still a bit tiring. So when Rob left the house at 08:00 (Oh, it's lovely that he stays so late now!) he locked her in our bedoom with me, so that I could doze while she tore up books, ate laundry, and knocked down supporting walls. Eventually I got up and went downstairs.

I managed to get us both dressed, brush some of her teeth, brush all of my teeth, wash both faces, prep dinner and get it into the slow cooker, assemble the swimming kit, take the cositoes off the line and hang it in front of a gas fire to dry, wash the dishes, and tidy the three downstairs rooms. And in passing I wiped the cat-prints off the back door because I had a wet cloth.

Then we went swimming. Linnea adored it and is swimming more and more on her own - she doesn't mind the sinking part, but hates the fact that she can't surface at will. I keep having to lunge after her and grab her swimsuit (togs, we called them when I was a kid - no-one had a swimsuit, we all had swimming togs) because she pushes off against my stomach and paddles like crazy. She's a bit slower in water than on land, thankfully. Very quick at peeing though, during the All-Berkshire Junior Changing-Rooms-Chase Championships.

She almost fell asleep during her lunch at the pool so I got her clothes on and took her into town. She fell asleep on the way. I've caught up with livejournal, ordered some slit-eye sewing-machine needles for a friend of my mother's, and had my own lunch. My headache - have I already mentioned the headache? I've had it since I woke - is almost gone. If it's not totally gone by the time I get to Boots, I'll buy paracetemol there.

We're bringing disposable nappies all the way to Aran with us because it's easier than trying to buy them while we're there. This is a car's car's car's car's world. By the time Linnea is 5, we'll be the only people in the developed world who don't have a car through choice.. or, worse, we'll have caved in and got one. Icould weep.

Only, you know, the baby's asleep, so I'm going to drink another cup of tea that hasn't gone cold yet, and read some online cartoons. Greetings to you all from The Biscuit Tin Cafe. That's not a great link but I can't be bothered to look harder.

ailbhe: (family)

Today was one of the days I dreamed of when I was 14 and first decided I wanted to be a stay at home full-time mother when I grew up (when I was 14, I thought that meant when I was 17, but hey, I was a teenager).

We had breakfast, and afterwards Linnea and I did our usual washing - teeth, and hands and faces, and big towel-wrestling rub-a-dub drying off afterwards. She tagged around while I did my morning housework and then she brought me some books to read to her, so I did. We went to the playground with the tricycle and the big ball, and she asked to go on the swing and on a peculiar springy rocking device designed for older children to stand on. She also tried to climb the climbing frame but the bars are all at least 9" apart. I stood in the sun, listening to my solar-powered radio, and knitted.

We came home and sat quietly indoors for a little, then she had a feed and a nap. After her nap we had lunch out in the back garden and she decided that egg mayonnaise is so good, the cats ought to get some too. She lines mini rice cakes spread with egg mayonnaise up on the back step, right side up and very nicely presented. Then she told the cats to eat them.

We found a ladybird (ladybug for Americans) and watched it until it walked past a very exciting stick. Then she picked up the stick and played with it.

At some point she played in the paddling pool full of balls.

While I hung laundry on the line, she sat in the swing, singing to herself. The sun got too hot so we came indoors and played rolling over on the floor games, and tickles, and chasing and catching - she clearly understands "I'm gonnagetcha gonnagetcha gonnagetcha!" although sometimes it's so exciting that she just stamps her feet and can't run. She brought me more books to read - she can bring the book I ask for now, if it's one she's already familiar with, though she will hand it to me and then stop me reading it if she doesn't want to hear.

A friend with baby called in the afternoon, having collected baby from nursery, and the two toddlers played alongside one another while we had a fairly adult conversation. The friend left and we had dinner. I was washing up in the kitchen and she was banging pots on the floor when Rob arrived home - she walked out to meet him, and turned to walk ahead of him back to the kitchen. Then she accompanied him to the bathroom. When he put his hat back on to take her out to the garden she became quite distressed and clung to his legs - in the mornings, she waves cheerfully when his hat goes on. Clearly, there are rules.

She demanded a feed as soon as she was out of her bath, and insisted on being put to bed by 8 pm. We tried to extend her bedtime last night and she still woke at 5, so she was pretty tired today. I guess we all need to get more sleep before midnight, since after midnight is pretty much set. Perhaps more light than we're aware of is getting through the blackouts.

ailbhe: (smiling)

I was out in town with my mother and my sister. I was about 13, ish - it's hard to know really. We were in a department store, but I don't know which one. In the underwear department.

Forgive me, this brings great hilarity and at the same time great "It's difficult to talk about this so. I'm going to do it in. Staccatto. OK? Ok. *deep breath*. OK," type feelings.

Anyway, I was trailing along, all four-foot-six of me, and looking longingly at the bra display. I was the only girl in the class who didn't have a bra. I had received a crop top for my thirteenth birthday, which I was very proud of until I got to PE class, where it was revealed to be not really a whole lot better than the woolly vest that preceded it. And as for the school trip where there were communal showers for after windsurfing - oh gods. I shudder even now.

Mum turned around and saw me, wistful and languishing, and said "You don't want a bra, do you?" very loudly. Or at least in normal, conversational tones, anyway, which is impossibly loud when you're discussing a first bra. I nodded as invisibly as I could. "But you don't need one," she bellowed, heartlessly. My eyes filled with tears. My feet dug little holes in the tatty carpet. I burrowed into the concrete floor.

I don't remember what happened next. The next thing I remember is standing in a changing cubicle with a horribly inadequate curtain, having worked out how to get the bra on, knowing the one I had was the smallest size in the shop. It was white cotton, 32AA, and the cups were empty. They flapped. Flap, flap, flap. It was awful.I think my little sister was there - if she was, she was sympathetic, because I don't remember any additional humiliation - just that I was the only girl in the school without a bra, and the smallest one available was miles too big. It burned. It flooded me with shame and self-loathing (I was a teenager, remember).

I don't think I told my mother it didn't fit, but she probably knew. She bought it anyway. She did know that there's more to a bra, when you're thirteen, than a support undergarment.

Ever since, I have worried about how I will deal with my own daughters' first bras.

(Comparatively recently, my mother was despatched to buy a 38DD or larger bra for me. I felt a little triumph.)

ailbhe: (Default)

There's yet another study showing that cloth nappies are no better for the environment than disposables. And yet again, the sample size for cloth nappies is about a tenth the size of the disposable users. Alarmingly, within that sample, they only used terry nappy users, which was a tenth of that again - so while they used 2,000 disposable users, they used only 32 terry nappy users for most of the survey.

They keep talking about "the energy used to wash and dry the nappies" but I know no-one who habitually tumble-dries cloth nappies, especially terries, because it takes too bloody long. Most people line-dry them whereever possible, and many people hang them in the house on radiators or similar during the winter.

They mention the energy used transporting the cotton to manufacture the cloth nappies, but not the energy used to drive the petrol-guzzling car to the shop every week or fortnight to buy new disposables.

The study only covered first-child environment costs, ignoring the fact that cloth nappies can be reused by second or subsequent children.

It assumed washing at 90 degrees C which isn't reocmmended by any of the re-usable nappies I've seen; 60C is the usual. And it assumed that you soak your nappies in a strong bleach solution prior to washing them. That's a bit crazy. Most people dry-pail because it's less hassle.

And there was no mention of the lock-away core in the centre of disposables, the bit that gives off that weird sickly smell when it's wet, the bit that gives nappy rash to Linnea as soon as she uses a disposable.

Unless they were only studying eco-friendly disposables, the biodegradable ones, because they are actually not half bad and I can see how they'd be environmentally comparable to cloth nappies regularly bleached and washed at 90 degrees and tumble-dried. We use them ourselves with no qualms whatsoever.

I could also rant about the habit many folks have of encasing their plastic-coated raw-sewage-containing disposable nappies in scented plastic nappy bags before putting the nappy bag in a plastic bin-liner and sending the whole lot to landfill. But I won't. I'll just, you know, mention it. Because cloth nappy users send all the sewage to the sewage treatment systems. Not plastic-encased in a landfill.

ailbhe: (working)

Breast is best.

A mother's own breastmilk is the healthiest possible food to feed a baby.

Every mother should try to feed her baby this way. An honest, wholehearted try.

I need to say this because it's true, and I didn't mention it in my last big entry. The evidence is there. It's the best thing to do. And, for most of the world, it's the normal thisng to do.

I don't have statistics to hand, and no-one pays me to write this stuff, so I'm not taking the time to look it up. But I have heard - and I find it upsettingly easy to believe - that almost a third of babies born in the UK never have their mother's nipple in their mouth. Even if I'm wrong, and it's only a tenth, that's just so sad. The numbers for babies whose mothers do try aren't great, either - by the time they are nine months old, only about 10% of babies are still being breastfed. That's sad, too. The biggest fall-off is in the first two to four weeks, I believe - because that's when it's hardest.

We've sort of been lied to. We're told that birth is a beautiful natural sharing caring bonding experience, and it is, yes. But it's also hard, painful work. This doesn't mean that a natural home-birth isn't worth working for. It does mean that it's going to be work, and it will hurt, and even afterwards it will hurt at least some, even days afterwards. And we've been told some very similar lies about breastfeeding.

I say that I had no trouble learning to breastfeed. That's not entirely true. Linnea had no trouble learning to breastfeed. I had less trouble learning to breastfeed than, say, sitting up after the birth. But it had its downsides. It hurt - my uterus hurt, my nipples hurt, my wrists hurt from the weight of a baby. And as I learned to do it better, it didn't hurt any more. It helped a lot that I had small breasts and nipples, and Linnea had a big mouth and a strong suck.

While it hurt, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I grew up assuming that everyone breastfed their babies all the time. I knew that babies had bottles, but I had no clear idea of where in the picture they fitted in - a bit like my early ideas about pantyliners, as distinct from sanitary towels, actually, but let's not go into that. And I had my mother, who breastfed 5 babies for increasingly longer periods of time as she gained confidence to defy her doctors, to tell me that the levels of pain were pretty normal and that it would get better.

And we knew Linnea was getting enough because she spat gallons back out again, at least until we sorted the milk intolerance thing.

And after a while - not a long while, but I can't remember when it was - breastfeeding became the high point of my day. I would sit watching her, waiting for her to wake up so that I could feed her, alone in the room with my baby and the spring sunshine coming in the window, maybe watched by a cat. It was idyllic. Now it's maybe not the high point, but it's wonderful to me. She comes to me hungry and thirsty, tells me with her hands and her face and her little pre-speech noises (Hands: milk sign, and vigorous waving. Face: Outright greed and anticipation. Noises: "Ada! Mama! Mum mum mum mum. Mum.") and even climbs onto my chair and pulls up my shirt, if I think it's amusing to make her work that hard for it.

She looks at me during feeds; she'll look sideways up at me as she lies across my lap, and, her mouth full of nipple, laugh while trying to maintain feeding. It doesn't always work, but it's always gorgeous. She pulls away and looks at me with intent, questing eyes. I don't know what she's looking for. She puts her hands in my mouth to try to find it. Then she latches on again. She turns around mid-feed to see why Rob has suddenly left the room; "Dadda!"; and settles back down when I tell her "Back soon." She pulls away and slides down when she's full, and blows raspberries on my tummy.

And I melt into a big maternal pile of lovestruck goo.

Sigh.

And that's how we'll persuade people to breastfeed. By letting them know it's normal. By showing them the good sides as well as the bad sides from a totally selfish perspective. Not from a think of what's best for your baby perspective. Anyone who was going to start because of that has already decided to start. The remaining third aren't being convinced by the science.

But this'll convince them: breastfeeding is so much fun, I gave up chocolate ice-cream. And I'd choose breastfeeding again, any day I was offered the choice.

ailbhe: (family)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately [No, really? We'd never have guessed - Ed.] because someone I care about is having trouble feeding her baby the way she hoped to before the birth. This woman is, apart from fabulously intelligent and caring and hard-working and funky, the very first person to ask if I was ok after Linnea was born.

And I wasn't, and she asked, and she cared, and I am still all teary-eyed thinking about that.

And now she's having trouble feeding her baby. She's just like the other three women with babies I'm closest to - they were from my antenatal class. She's just like lots of women. They want to breastfeed and it's hard. So I'm going to talk about all of them as one person.

She is breastfeeding. When her baby was born, she put him or her to her breast, and the baby sucked, or didn't suck, and if he sucked it was excruciatingly painful, and if she didn't it was terrifying. She is pumping every day, sometimes every hour. She is bleeding; she's bleeding lochia, because childbirth is messy and bloody, and she's bleeding from cracked and chapped nipples. Her baby is losing weight, or not gaining weight, which in a newborn amounts to much the same thing - after the initial weight loss, babies are supposed to grow fairly rapidly, really. She's still pumping. She's waking every 90 or 120 minutes during the night to spend 30 to 120 minutes awake trying to feed or pump or both.

A woman I know attached her baby to the breast for four-hour periods, using the breaks at the end of these periods for going to the loo and eating. She did this for weeks. Her baby continued to lose weight. She kept trying every waking hour to do what felt right and natural and what the scientific evidence told her was right.

I am related to someone who kept breastfeeding even when she found her own blood in her baby's nappies; her nipples bled that much. Have you ever found blood in your baby's nappy? It's scary.

And the thing that all of these women also have in common? They all, at some point, gave their babies formula. In a bottle. More than one bottle, even.

And the babies grew, and got fatter, and cried less and smiled more, and started to play with their toes. And on the one hand, the mothers were overjoyed! And on the other, they were -

Guilty.

They were failed breastfeeders. They gave up. And people like me, who had a certain amount of chapping and bleeding and mastitis, but who never seriously thought "My baby is starving to death! My baby is starving to death!" reacted in various ways to these women desperately trying to believe that they were still good mothers, that they hadn't irretrievably damaged their babies, that they shouldn't call a trusted relative RIGHT NOW and have the infant adopted by someone with enough love to relactate using drugs and electric milking machines and barrels of lanolin nipple salve.

"I didn't quit. I bled. I pumped. I kept going as long as my baby wanted to."
"I know someone who never fed from her own breast at all - she pumped for her twins and donated to the milk bank while running a 24-hour trucking business and baking all her own bread from organic wheat she grew on top of her trucks. Which she drove herself. With one leg. Her twins won the Olympic High jump two years ago - joint first."
"I suppose, if you don't really want to breastfeed, it must be pretty hard."

And it doesn't matter if for every one of those responses, she gets five that say "Aw, honey, how sad. You're doing fine. Keep it up." Because she already believes the voices that say she's doing wrong.

This is why the entries on "How to be a bad parent" and so on aren't actually all that funny. Because all the time women need to reinforce their beliefs in their own way of mothering, and the easiest way to do this is to look at how other people's ways don't work so well, and condemn them, preferably without thinking "Well, maybe there was some difficulty I can't see here." Because every formula-feeding woman who tried to breastfeed sees every breastfeeding woman as a slap in the face, a personal reprimand. And every breastfeeding woman sees every bottle of formula as a statement that her contribution is worthless, that she gave up nights of sleep and moments of human dignity (have you ever used a breastpump? You need a well-attached sense of humour and a hot compress) for no really good reason, especially if the breastfed baby has, ooh, conjunctivitis, to pick a random one, and the formula-fed baby is in rude health. Or vice versa.

We need to change the way we work. We need to encourage breastfeeding, sure, but not because it's a heinous evil duty that we owe our babies. Not because they will die if they get formula. But because it's great!

No, really, it is. It's fantastic. I know. I do it. When it works, it's fabulous. Everyone loves it. Mother, father, baby and siblings all go all squooshy. People who've breastfed happily feel a huge rush of hormonal happiness when they see another woman breastfeeding happily. It's cheap, it's lazy, it's got a high learning curve but it's learnable for most people, and, as an added extra bonus, it has some scientifically proven superiorities over formula.

Here's what it's not: It's not a good enough reason to dread every time you may have to feed your baby for six months. It's not a good reason to ruin your health, your baby's health, your relationship, your job. If you can't do it, however hard you try, it's not a good enough reason to feel like a failure for the next 5 or 50 years.

I breastfeed like a pro - I always have. Total walkover. I get to feel like a failure because I had a high-intervention birth experience that left me doubly incontinent [we know, we know - Ed.] and I breastfed while taking non-trivial amounts of codeine. Like 240mg a day for 9 months, more or less.

Later I can feel like a failure because I homeschool, or don't homeschool, or fail to recognise the indicators for Aspergers or ADHD or dyslexia or whatever else might make my baby not quite fit in. Because, you know, by the time I notice them, I will have not noticed them for a while. Check back in 6 years and see.

No-one wants a mother who thinks she's a failure. It can't be good for them. So let's start being nice to each other. Let's start trying to feel good about the way we've ended up doing parenting, without assuming that other people haven't achieved the same things through lack of effort. Let's assume that they all tried really hard. Because, you know, they did.

And if they didn't, you're not going to guilt-trip them into trying harder. You'll just make them defensive and miserable, and they'll talk your methods down until they feel sure they're doing it right again.

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Your mother told you so. She was right. Mothers usually are.

ailbhe: (family)

It's very, very easy to be a bad parent. Especially if you're a woman. Especially if you're a mother. Especially if you're a birth mother. Because that's the kind of bad parent I'm being, and if I can, anyone can! I should know; I've read a lot of how-to books.

Do you breastfeed? Yes? You're creating a dependent child, a rod for your own back, a needy person. No? You're a neglectful mother, failing to give your baby the best start in life - after all, even adoptive mothers can lactate and breastfeed, if they only try hard enough.

Do you use a pacifier / soother / dummy? You're creating a dependent child (see above).

Does your child sleep in a cot? Abandonment! In your bed? Neediness and possibly even cot death.

Do you carry your child around during the day? Maybe even in a sling? Backache, neediness, dependence, and inhibiting development by not letting them learn to play on their own. Do you leave your child to play alone, possibly even in a playpen, while you go to the toilet or cook dinner? Abandonment, neglect, child abuse!

Cloth nappies and disposables both reliably cause more nappy rash than each other.

Your child is wearing too many or too few clothes.

Your child has too many or too few baths, and you're using too much soap and drying out the skin, or not enough and risking infection.

Your child is exposed to too many or too few other children, encouraging aggression either through too little socialisation, or through too much competition. Also, infections - too many or too few, depending on what the top theory is right now.

I refuse to cover vaccinations in this list. I am Not Going There.

Your child has too many or too few regular caregivers, either developing too many strong attachments or losing stability and continuity.

Your child is eating all the wrong things, and at all the wrong times. Trust me on this.

And if you breastfeed, you don't have enough milk unless your child is sleeping through the night at 8 weeks and going at least 4 hours between feeds during the day.

Hmph. Books.

ailbhe: (smiling)

You're not still feeding her, are you?
No, I let her forage for her own food now. [Thanks, bopeepsheep]

She needs a hat! Why doesn't she have a hat?
Augh! no hat! I am a failure! Here, you take her! I'm unfit to be a mother! Oh nooooooo!

I'd never tell anyone how to raise their child, but...
You're going to anyway, yeah?

I couldn't bear to just look after my baby all day! How awful! How boring!
Yeah, well, my baby is good company.

Oh, you don't work?
[There is no witty riposte to this. The only reasonable response is homicide, which is irresponsible in someone who is a child's primary caretaker.]

Gosh, it must be nice, doing nothing all day.
It is.[No other response to this has the slightest effect in actually changing people's opinions. This one at least might make them jealous.]

When are you going to stop feeding her?
When are you going to stop eating?

Breastfed babies don't grow so well.
Good.

She'll grow up clingy and needy.
Just like me!

You shouldn't let her play with that.
Didn't your mother ever tell you that you shouldn't talk to strangers.

ailbhe: (footprint)

Breastfeeding: I breastfeed because I like it. Because my baby likes it. Because it never occurred to me not to, until it was mentioned in an NHS antenatal class - "Are you planning to breast or bottlefeed?" - when I didn't understand how anyone would plan to bottlefeed, since it obviously meant far more work - mixing, sterilising, washing... so I breastfeed because I'm lazy.

I breastfeed because I'm selfish. When I first saw Rob feed Linnea from a bottle of expressed milk, I felt rabidly jealous. It's a glorious ready-made excuse not to leave my baby when I don't want to - and, oddly enough, I don't want to. I don't enjoy socialising without her (though I do enjoy socialising when she's asleep, which isn't quite the same thing). I miss her when we're apart, even when I'm too sick or too tired to be with her. I'm unwell now, and breastfeeding her a few times a day has been a precious connection with her, going some way to make up for the fact that I can't play with her or look after her right now.

I breastfeed because I'm clutchfisted. Regular formula is expensive enough, but have you seen the cost of hypoallergenic formula? And Linnea has a dairy intolerance. And when we were out with friends, and we stayed out later than we expected, our friends would have to buy little cartons of ready-mixed formula for their babies, and they were extortionate. Wow.

And yes, I breastfeed because it's healthier for her, and for me, and because of all the health benefits it will give her now and for years to come. Sure I do. But I'm not kidding anyone - I never had to test my dedication to breastfeeding. It was never difficult, once we'd gotten over the first few weeks of chapped nipples and nipple shields and mastitis and so on. That really wasn't noticable compared to my real health problems at the time. I never found my blood in her nappies, never dreaded the agony of latching on, none of that. I was very lucky. Presumably, if breastfeeding had been hard, I would have breastfed anyway, for health reasons. But it wasn't, so they're not top of the list.

Extended breastfeeding: This is when you don't suddenly stop breastfeeding. I haven't suddenly stopped breastfeeding at a year, so now I'm an Extended Breastfeeder, which prompts frankly alarming images of racks and innovative uses for thumbscrews. I'm breastfeeding a baby old enough to walk up to me, climb onto my lap, raise my shirt, and complain when I'm not quick enough to get the goods out. That makes me an Extended Breastfeeder. Possibly even an Extreme Breastfeeder, though that makes me think I ought to be breastfeeding while climbing Canada Tower or ironing or something (I have breastfed while ironing. When she was "small", that was easy enough to do. I breastfed while washing dishes, too - and no, I didn't use a sling).

But none of this was supposed to be a political statement. I thought that's what happened - baby grows in mummy's tummy, baby is born through mummy's bellybutton (oh don't we wish!), baby feeds from mummy's milk. Baby cries, baby gets cuddles. Baby hungry, baby gets fed. Baby tired, baby gets snuggled to sleep.

It's not normal! It's a weird hippie cult middle-class spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child thing called Attachament Parenting or something, and it has its own One True Wayists and set of acronyms and everything! I'm a SAHM AP BF and my LO loves it, but I'm confused! I'm part of a movement!

You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant...

April 2017

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