Happy Mum

How To Be A Good Mother: I have the answer

How to be a happy mum

I reckon I know ‘How to be a good mother’.

Mind you I don’t reckon I get it right all the time.

But I do think I know what I did when I don’t get it right.

Ironically, I was approached for that Channel 4 program with Sharon Horgan on ‘How to be a good mother’.  I was hesitant initially, and then they decided that I didn’t match the bill.  I can see why I didn’t match it as none of my ideas would be extreme enough for them, which is what I expected initially.  But it’s irritating too as I’m sure I do know how, and so I question whether Sharon (or her producers) really wanted to find out.

How can I be that arrogant you might ask?  Dunno, but I am, so heh ho!

This picture holds the key.  I look pretty happy and contented don’t I?  Little Dimples is too.  I’m at a work event, so I’m not just being a Mum at the time either.  The key is; I’m being me.

That’s how to be a good mother; be yourself, because that’s who your kids want and that’s who they chose.

Don’t eat placenta’s because someone else told you to, unless it’s something you feel in your heart you want to do.  Don’t breast-feed or formula feed unless it’s in your heart.  Don’t home school if you’d hate it.  Don’t stay at home if you’d go crazy.  Don’t do crafts if you and your kids don’t enjoy it.  Don’t cook using Annabel Karmel’s cook book if it makes your baby cry because it takes ages and then they aren’t interested.  Basically, don’t be a freak who worries about what everyone else is doing, and makes decisions based from the worry/fear of the gut or the logic of the brain.

Follow your heart, that’s where your wisdom is.  It’s a kind of balanced, centred place (not a sentimental gushy place).  It’s there in us all, but the worry, guilt, fear and ‘grrrrrrrr’ means that we don’t hear it.  You can get to it though ….

  1. Instead look after yourself, so that you are strong, contented, and know yourself.
  2. Spend enough time with your kids to really know them well too.
  3. Then you’ll be able to hear your own intuition and balance and juggle your needs AND theirs (not just theirs)
  4. Stop worrying about how other people do it and how much better their lives or their mothering is, and remember that the grass is never greener.
  5. Do a bit of research and get a bit of knowledge, but not too much; use discernment about what suits you and suits your kids
  6. Think about why you are lucky to have your life and appreciate what you have, rather than wasting time on what ifs.

That’s my answer anyway.  What do you reckon?  Do you really think your kids want someone else as a Mum, or someone trying to be someone else?

 

Exhaustion Tips – Always start with Physical

I’m pretty much a past master at dealing with exhaustion, having not slept through the night for 5 years.  However, it’s not really as bad as it sounds and only sometimes gets as bad as I described a couple of months ago.  In my situation, it isn’t a case of changing the kids, it’s more about dealing with it, and still enjoying my life.

I know when I’m exhausted because I want to shout at people/kids or cry.  That is the sign that it’s gone too far.  The emotional side to it can get thoroughly overwhelming, so I always recommend that we focus on supporting our bodies first of all.  If the body feels as good as it can, considering the lack of sleep, then it will help us to keep our emotions more balanced as well.

I was particularly reminded of this recently, because things had improved, and so rather cockily I had stopped taking the supplements I listed below.  Suddenly things got worse (Little Dimples at 15 months has decided to develop molars; Oh joy), and I was absolutely knackered, like someone had let all my energy down the drain.  I was thinking which of my exhaustion tips to publish this week, when I realised that I hadn’t yet published this one, and oh yes, had actually not been taking my magic potion (see point 1) for a couple of weeks because Ocado has stopped stocking it.  So I’m back on it, and perking up already.

(Please note, I am not a doctor, these are not meant to replace being sensible and going to the doctor.  If you have any medical issues, please check with your doctor before trying anything that you haven’t done before).

Things that keep the body going are:

  1. Floradix – this is a magical iron and mineral supplement, which makes a huge difference to me.  Pricey and for some reason it’s no longer available from sainsburies or Boots or Ocado.  But you can get it from a health food shop and other chemists (My local health food shop in Radlett sells it)
  2. Blueberries – seriously, I had a mate who visited once every couple of weeks, and I found that although we worked all day and I was tired, I seemed to be fine the next day.  Then I realised that she came with a big packet of blueberries, and I got the same results if I bought my own.
  3. Drinking water/squash – if your body doesn’t get it’s 8 glasses of water a day it thinks it’s in a desert: enough said!
  4. Bathing in Epsom Salts – you buy a huge bag from a health shop and pop 2 cup full’s in a bath.  It helps MASSIVELY with the sense of overwhelm.  It also helps to ensure that you get 1hr alone each week.
  5. Not too much chocolate – If I eat too much I get a headache and feel worse.  I’m not cutting it out, because it works for me right now, it’s just about limiting it daily, just as it is wise to limit caffienne and fizzy drinks.
  6. 15 min walk – I mentioned last week how fresh air always helps.  I’m not talking about running or anything strenuous that might tip your body over the edge, just a brisk walk every day.
  7. Massage/Reflexology – I’m a big proponent of massage or reflexology.  Even if you can only afford it once a month or less, you can do some yourself or find people in training you are cheaper.
  8. Omega 3,6 and 9 oils keep my brain more in order than it is without!
  9. Vitamins – as I’m still breastfeeding, I am taking pregnacare, because as much as I love Little Dimples, I know that she is basically a parasite sucking all the nutrients out of me.
  10. 5 fruit/veg a day – it takes a little effort, but is worth it, and I can feel the difference when I don’t manage it for a couple of days.

Not all of these things are cheap, but I suppose that being nearly 42 I’ve prioritised my health a bit higher up my list now, so it just means not doing something else.  Feel free to add your recommendations for people below, every little helps!

For more ideas …..

You might like to check out the rest of my tips on dealing with exhaustion.

UPDATE February 2012 – I’ve also just started a whole series on ‘Healthy Eating For Rubbish Cooks‘ which will take you through the most simple and basic nutrition that you need to know and some simple recipes.

For a whole life makeover, check out my book ‘The Mummy Whisperers Six Steps To A Sparkling You and Enjoying Being A Mum‘ – only 99p and you don’t have to have a kindle to read it.

Hope for Mums with PND from a little black bear

I watched an amazing TV program a couple of weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about it for ages.  It was all about black bears in America, so it had big time cute factor.  But then it had the most incredible story about a Mummy bear.

I’m particularly fond of black bears having accidentally ended up on one of those ‘working’ holidays, counting acorns in Shenandoah Virginia for Earth watch (it’s a long story, we were meant to be picking up orangutan poo in Indonesia, but someone got kidnapped and their head chopped off the week before, so they sensibly moved our trip!) .  We saw lots of very unattractive deer (they aren’t like our cute english Bambie look a likes and they smell when you weight them), but hubby got a video of the cutest baby black bears climbing/falling down a tree).

Anyway, back to the TV program; A black bear called Lilly abandoned her cub, the kind of sad animal watching event which we often see, which ends up in sentimental music and them cutting to a sad picture without showing us the poor dead cub.  But this time the people involved couldn’t bear to see the little cub die, <big cheers> so they helped it along a little, so that it tried to survive on it’s own and then held their breaths with little hope of a happy ending.  Suddenly something AMAZING happened.  A couple of months later they found the cub back with it’s Mummy; They were together, playing, hugging and loving each other.  big tear shedding time!

Even more amazingly, the mummy bear had managed to re-lactate.  Now I’ve read about this care of the Breast Mates posts from the lovely Aly at Plus 2.4.  But I’d never heard of an animal doing it.  But there it was, clear as day, feeding the baby bear.  So it shows how even in the animal kingdom a Mum can change it’s mind and go back to breast feeding.

So if you are a Mum with Post Natal Depression, or even just feeling a bit knackered and wanting some time to yourself for a bit, I’m hoping that this little story might give you some relief.  It is possible to get over it and come out the other side, and your child doesn’t have to be damaged by the process.  It’s a ‘normal’ condition that even animals suffer from (i.e. feeling separate from our babies is something that many experience).  And when you overcome it, you can have a great relationship with your baby.  It’s only guilt (which the bears don’t feel like we do), which will get in the way.  Try to enjoy being back, and keep the image of a big black mummy bear rolling in the leaves with it’s baby.

If you are a Mum who has given up breast feeding and is now feeling that it is premature; for a start I don’t believe in mistakes, do don’t beat yourself up, but if you want to learn more, check out the breast mates posts for information on relactating.

The program was called ‘The Bear Family and Me’ on BBC2 with Gordon Buchanan a wildlife cameraman.  It all ended up happily, with the baby bear eventually building up enough fat to be able to go into hibernation just after all the others (it was a little underweight for a while), and with them surviving the hunters; phew!

My breast mates guest post

I’m not here!

I’m very excited to say I’ve done my first ever guest post over at Aly’s ‘Plus 2.4’ blog for her ‘Breast Mates’ posts. The reason why I like her posts is because they show how amazingly different the experience is for everyone, and don’t push the ‘everything else is wrong’ attitude which some breastfeeders can.

So check out my post here and the rest of the posts here.

Baby is Eating: To Puree or Baby Lead Weaning?

So ‘Little Dimples’ (I’m trying out new nicknames for my kids, as I’m getting a little superstitious about using their real names), turned 6 months last week and is now onto FOOD, yay!

The question is of course, ‘To Puree or not To Puree’.  My decision is to go the rather laxidazical route of the second child, which is to make it up as I go along and see how it goes.

With ‘Curly Headed Boy’, I didn’t know much about anything asI ‘d had so little warning about the ‘baby thing’, so I just assumed I’d go the puree route.  But after a couple of weeks of baby rice, he had a nasty stomach bug and then refused anything pureed.  I’m a pretty rubbish cook, so I was tearing my hair out making stuff that he then refused, especially as he wanted to be held all the time, so the whole cooking experience was a nightmare.  Then I went to a local Mum’s for coffee who passed him a strawberry when I mentioned my worries (I think that actually anyone with potential allergy issues is meant to avoid strawberries!), and heh presto he munched it down.  So I ended up sort of ‘Baby Led Weaning’, even though I don’t think it was even named at the time.  Which means, I cooked normal food (healthy, no salt etc), and let him help himself off my plate.

The downside is that obviously they can’t get lots of food into their tummies for quite a while (i.e months).  But as I was breastfeeding, it wasn’t too worrying.  The upside was several months later, when Curly headed Boy was munching on anything pretty much, and other Mums were having ‘lump refusal’.

So with Little Dimples, I’ve been letting her munch on cucumber for some time and suck my apples.  This week, I’ve given her baby porridge in the morning and evening, and let her munch on my crusts or some pitta bread.  At lunch time, I’m letting her munch on a slice of apple, or suck my banana into a big mush (she doesn’t like it squashed up); apparently fruit ferments, so it’s best during the middle of the day, which I didn’t know, but luckily was doing things the ‘right’ way around.

For a baby who has only had milk so far, it’s amazing to see her munching on bread, I really wouldn’t have imagined that it was possible.  But she can sit up really well, and has a couple of teeth; and one of my mummy blogger mates (muddling along mummy) said that is a good indication that a baby can manage baby lead weaning.

She is VERY keen on her food!  I’ll let you know which way things go and how she manages over the next couple of months.  My body is already a bit relieved, as I’m pretty sure her demand for milk has reduced just a little.

Arrival Of Baby No2 – A Very Different Experience

Willow Phoebe Rose Pearson arrived on Saturday 13th February at 13.25, at a chubby 9lbs 3oz, at home in our lounge after a very relaxed 7hr labour, lots of chatting and a short dip in the birthing pool.  Hubby and 4yr old son were downstairs during the process, watching films or playing computer games, and popping up to see how I was doing every now and again with more tea for us.  So it all worked out to be a very calm and un-stressful experience.

Now, if you fancy more detailed info, here you go, but feel free to stop here; I know that some friends will be wanting the full monte, and others will be interested in the home birth side, but some of you won’t want to know ;o)

So Much More Relaxed

It was so different this time around, with her picking a daytime arrival (6.30am-1.25pm) versus Max’s evening one (6.30-10pm).  Max was really full on, with me going straight into ‘transition’ 24hrs after my waters broke, no pre-warning contractions, just straight into 1 min contractions every minute.  The rather scary (and noisy, because I’m not good with physical pain!) roller coaster 4hrs included a mad dash for hospital, finishing off in a birthing unit.

Instead, this was a relaxed affair, with the Doula (Nicola Wilson – like an old fashioned midwife who gives additional support during the birth and post-natally) arriving an hour in, and the community midwife (Sarah Loveday – very lovely and relaxed) an hour or two after that.  There was lots of chatting, which I found helped with the pain as it relaxes the jaw (which relaxes the pelvis), along with remembering to eat, drink water and breathe (which I forgot to do first time).  I can see now why those women on YouTube were singing during labour, which might not be my cup of tea, but I definitely recommend humming to music or chatting!

I mainly stood up and leaned on a leather chair, for 6.5hrs, by the french windows (curtains shut obviously!).  It was a beautiful day, and when I got a bit hot and flustered I could open the doors.  It wasn’t where I planned to be, as I thought I would use the big fit balls or a bean bag, but they were useful for the midwife and doula instead!

I also thought I’d go straight in the pool, but things were going so well, that we decided to keep it for when I really needed it, which was only the final 30 mins.  The pool was a blow up ECO small one, which was perfect.  I wouldn’t want bigger, it kept it’s heat all the way through from the beginning, was quick to fill, and very comfortable to be in (both leaning on the sides and kneeling).  Things really ramped up when I got in, which although painful, was NOTHING like the traumatic pain I remembered from before and totally bearable for that short time, especially as I had help from the Doula and Midwife.

Pain Levels

I suspect this is the difference in pain levels is down to some prior preparation about fear of pain, plus being in a much more relaxed environment, with no mad dash for Watford.  I didn’t do ‘hypnobirthing’, but did use some relaxation techniques in the 6 weeks prior (I’ll do another post with information about that), which meant I was well rested. I also did some practical looking at the value of the pain with some of my associates beforehand, which meant that I wasn’t worried about making noise or it hurting again.  Plus with a more gentle build up there was less shock, and I wasn’t lieing on a hospital bed or ‘sitting on her head’ as the midwife called it.  I couldn’t have done anything other than lie down first time round, but now I know a little more about these things, I could have been lieing on my side, rather than on my back.

First time round it felt like someone had a couple of hot pokers and were mixing my stomach with them (sorry for the gruesome details!), whereas this time the contractions were in my back (like period pains are).  It was fascinating as they moved down my back as she moved, which is quite an encouraging feeling.  Plus, we tried an old fashioned tip, which was to check my legs to see how dilated I was.  Apparently, your legs starting getting cold at the ankle, and the higher up towards your knees it goes, the more dilated you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like that model recently who didn’t feel a thing.  That last 20 mins was very intense, but this time I managed to not scream (waste of energy) and keep the noises lower in the back of my throat (which is where you want them).  I didn’t even get heard by the neighbours, unlike last time when I couldn’t speak for a week and could have been heard miles away ;o)

I owe huge gratitude to the fact that I live in St Albans, where home births are pretty much matter of fact, and the midwives get plenty of leeway to make it the best possible experience for mums, that it can possibly be.  Plus in hertfordshire we have loads of Doula’s including really experienced ones like Nicola, which is definitely the answer to the problem of no local family, siblings that need taking care of, potential help after the birth, and additional support during the birth hence taking some pressure off hubby.

Her Arrival

I was leaning forwards at the end, so the funniest thing was as they popped her on my back, and I suddenly realised how come she had taken longer, because blimey she was heavy.  Max had been a little 6lb 10oz baby, and she is nearly 3lb’s heavier at 9lb’s 3oz!  She was also very cute looking as she was delivered in her waters bag, so her head was all cushioned throughout, with no funny squashed look.

As expected she has dark hair, dark eyes (slate grey at the moment, but likely to go brown), and dark skin.  In fact her skin is really dark at the moment, which is because of giving birth at home and having no rush to remove the cord, so she got a lot extra blood etc, than a baby whose cord is cut quickly in hospital.  Whereas Max was obviously red haired, pale skinned and blue eyed, right from the start.  He was whipped off quickly to be measured etc, given a quick feed, and then passed to Daddy while I had a couple of hours of stitching (don’t worry, gas and air is fabulous, it didn’t hurt a bit!).  This time, despite her being a ton bigger, there are no stitches, which is really good news.

The only similarity between the two was the lack of drugs.  Not my plan!  But first time round there wasn’t enough time for them to have taken effect, and this time, I didn’t really need anything until then end, and there wasn’t much point by then.  I was given some homeopathic remedies by the Doula in the pushing stage, which I did think helped me through the last bit.

It was weird to be so much more conscious and able to follow instructions at the end.  I’d seen women give birth on YouTube, and they had seemed so much more involved and able to understand the midwives, but I just couldn’t understand how that could be, as first time around, I was so incapable of understanding anything.  This time I could understand instructions, and move when told to (with a little bit of complaining!).

The Rest Of The Family

Max and David had fun playing computer games and watching films.  David did a fab job of keeping everyone fed and watered, meanwhile Max would pop up to check on us, announce something funny and then disappear back downstairs.  I did suggest that they go out near the end, but unbeknown to me the Doula counteracted that, which I am really grateful for.  I was worried I might make noise and scare Max, but in fact they hardly heard anything, and it meant that they arrived in the lounge, almost immediately after her entrance into the world.  Willow and I cuddled for a quite some time in the pool, with Max leaning over.  He was really chuffed, not bothered by the pool being a slightly bloody colour at all.  In fact it was only later on that he got slightly upset, but we discovered it was just because he insists that she should wear pink or cute stuff, and he didn’t like the outfit that we had picked!

The dogs got treated to a lovely long walk by our dog walker, so they were pretty exhausted that night.  However, the Labradoodle noticed her immediately, and is already watching over her with great concern if she issues the smallest of squeaks.  The Spaniel took 2 days to notice her, and is just a little annoyed that she tends to take up space on the sofa, but thinks that she smells nice.

Afterwards

Once the cord had stopped pulsing, we decided to get out, and were put in a lovely cocoon of towels, while I fed her.  An hour later, I popped off to the bathroom and the placenta arrived very quickly, so there was no need for an injection.  Then I had a lovely shower, and got all cleaned up.  Meanwhile the Doula and two midwives (the second midwife didn’t arrive until just after she was born, because once she decided it was time to push, she only took 20mins, so there wasn’t a lot of notice) had tidied everything, fed me, and the pool had already been emptied and disassembled by David and Max.

It’s a lovely feeling to be at home, in the peace and quiet and not have to go anywhere.  Despite it being pretty easy, I did feel a little shaky afterwards for a couple of days, so it’s lovely to be all snuggled on your own sofa, with your baby and family.

The Next Week

Willow ‘mewed’ her way through her first 24hrs, with lots of little squeaky noises whether she was asleep or awake.  She has a set of lungs on her, but her wail is gentle in comparison to Max’s, which would go from 0 to 100 decibels in a matter of 5 seconds.  She wasn’t impressed by bodily functions like puking (delicately of course!), or pooing, but has found that if she sucks my finger it is a much more lady like way of winding herself than burping.

Max is a little sensitive, but has been wonderful with her.  Having no younger siblings myself, I’m amazed at how genuinely he loved her immediately, and how gentle he is when he holds or touches her.  Although it is half-term, he has been attending drama camp this week (same days as nursery), which has given him some normalcy, plus he got invited out for a ‘play-date’ on his own, which he adored (thanks Clare!).  We are co-sleeping just as he planned, and at the moment he would prefer Willow and I to stay in the room, even if she is being a little fractious; we’ll see how that goes.

David has had a tough time, as the day after Willow was born, it was announced that his company were shutting down the division that he had moved to 14 days previously.  Despite him supposedly being on paternity leave, he has repeatedly had to work late into the night, and attend teleconferences during the day in order to help out the different factions.  It would definitely be kind of fun to get a chance to be locked in a room with his main boss at the moment, what with the hormonal soup that week1 after a baby is born can be.  But don’t worry about us, David was made redundant 6 weeks after Max was born, so if the worst possible scenario happens, it just means that he gets the same opportunity to spend time with Willow.  Meanwhile, the Mums at Max’s nursery have all kindly offered to help with the nursery runs next week, so I don’t have to handle the a total return to normalcy when David goes ‘back’ to work, or in his case, actually has to go into London to work.

David’s parents turned up excitedly the night that Willow was born, and the next day were joined briefly by his sister and her 2 teenage kids.  But since monday afternoon we have had a quieter time of it, and are gradually getting our heads around how a family works with an additional pink bundle (she is definitely a rather cute bundle, whereas Max was nick named ‘alien bug’ for the first few weeks of his life!).  Hopefully, one of my brothers will be able to make it to meet her next week.

With Max I remember the first two weeks being totally cocooned with him for the most blissful weeks of my life.  That’s not a possibility with paternity leaves being cancelled, and reappearing, and then cancelled again, along with the reality of already having a 4yr old.  But generally, just as with her birth, it’s a slower, more relaxed if less intense experience (so far, that is!).

Note: Every couple of months I’ll post another blog on our progress and the differences/similarities second time around (mainly as a diary for me, but it might be interesting for people thinking of having a second), so if you fancy keeping up to date with our journey you might want to subscribe.

Breast Feeding, Why Doesn't it Work Out?

You might have read my other blog about choosing what would suit you between breast feeding and formula feeding, (or remember, there is always the choice of both as well!).

I thought I would write about how come it doesn’t always work out for a Mum to breast feed.  Now it might seem a bit weird for me to do that, as it did work out for me (first time – who knows if it will work second time), but I do have friends, and many didn’t manage it, or only did so for a while.  There are many reasons, so I’m going to chat about a few, but would love your views and experiences as well.

1) Lack of Understanding – I’m going to start with this group, but I do think that it is a SMALL number of Mums.  There is no doubt that there are some Mum’s who don’t read books about pregnancy, don’t search the internet and have no interest in the fact that breast feeding is good for the baby.  Everyone else around them formula feeds, and so they are going to as well.  They may be affected by a couple of the other reasons as well.  I also, don’t think that this group is always socio-economic, as I have met the most well-read Mums in the worst areas around me, and the most ignorant in the best.

2) Traumatic Birth – I’m not considering a painful birth traumatic, thats parr for the course really (unless you are a fab meditator!), but it can be traumatic for a Mum when it is longer/shorter than expected, or if medical/surgical interventions happen when not expected.  I kind of get what that very controversial male midwife was saying when he said that pain can help the Mum to adjust to becoming a Mum.  But I don’t think it is just the pain.  I think that it is more wether whatever happens gives the Mum the feeling that they have been through a rite of passage, and if it doesn’t then it does seem to affect their ability to breast feed.  A friend of mine had a very long birth, which ended up with an emergency caesarian.  She bravely attempted to express her milk for 6 weeks, as she hadn’t been able to BF – I’m a rubbish expresser, so I was amazed at how she did.  But at the end of 6 weeks, it was too much and we (her friends) where relieved when she stopped.

3) Lack of Teaching on how to do it – I often wonder what happened in ‘ye olden days’!  There was no option then, so I’m assuming that Mums always found a way to BF.  The fact that I got 2 lots of tuition on how to BF is definitely one of the reasons that I succeeded.  So I’m pretty sure that if a Mum doesn’t get help, and then ends up with INCREDIBLY painful bleeding nipples, then it’s a brave woman that keeps going.  I suspect that in ‘ye olden days’ there was a community of Mums who would help out, but that there were also babies that died from ‘lacking to thrive’.

4) Lack of Milk – Now I’ve got plenty of ‘spare me’, eat plenty and drink plenty of water, but even I have noticed how what I eat disrupts the supply.  (I never had a plentiful supply, like some Mums who can literally hit the opposite wall with the jet stream!).  There are definitely some Mums who don’t realise how much they have to eat and drink to keep it going, or they don’t have anyone around to help them (I was planning at one point to pay the teenager next door to come in & make me a cup of tea every day after school, it’s not easy to feed yourself with a new baby!).

5) Stress – This is probably the biggest culprit of them all.  A Mum who desperately wants to BF her baby, because she thinks that she ‘Should’ and that otherwise she is a ‘bad mother’, can get really stressed in those first few days.  As you know, my whole premise is that when the Mum is balanced and content, the family tends to just settle around them, and this is particularly true in this instance.  If you happen to be reading this and feeling soooooo guilty, then do me a favour.  Sit down and think about the advantages that your baby will have if you end up formula feeding (there are as many benefits to BF’ing as there are to FF’ing).  For example, ease of going out into public, involvement of other members of the family in the feeding process, comfort in being taken care of by other people, a more energetic mum (there is no doubt about it BF’ing is tiring).  Keep going until the stress reduces and then make the decision that works best for you and suits your family (see my other blog).

6) Exhaustion & Pain – It is a painful experience in the beginning and it takes a certain degree of determination to continue.  Someone promised me it would stop after 6 weeks, and I just held out until then.  But I can understand if a Mum didn’t.  I certainly wouldn’t have continued if the pain hadn’t reduced!!!  The stomach cramps are lovely, because you know it’s making you slimmer, but I used to get really painful ‘let down’ pains too – ooouch!  I went to the doctor in exhaustion and he didn’t give me any assistance at all.  As I left, I was in tears, and a neighbour of mine, who I hardly knew at all, saw me, took one look at said a magic word ‘Floradix’.  It’s a liquid iron supplement for pregnant and nursing mothers, and for me, it has been incredible.  There are several on the market and you can get them from chemists and supermarkets.  Then at 6 months, away for a family funeral, I again hit a wall, because I was attempting to do the ‘right thing’ and keep my baby in a cot.  But he didn’t want to be in it!  My husband turned round to me and said ‘why don’t you just sleep with him’, and after reading some fab books about it, I realised why it would suit me, hubby and the little one.

7) Medical reasons – Then of course there are some Mums who can’t feed their babies because of the medication that they are on.  There is an amazing Mum that I know, who has managed to BF her baby for over a year, despite having narcolepsy (sudden falling to sleep) and therefore not being able to take her pills.  Some Mums might not want to mix anti-depressants and BF’ing.  There are tonnes of reasons.  The most important thing for a Mum to think of here, is that baby would prefer Mum to be healthy and around, they don’t care that they are being fed formula.

8) ‘Sexual Issues’ – I forgot about this one when I first wrote this blog, so I’m cheekily adding it in!  This is a very ‘british’ issue.  Complaints about ‘boobs being for my partner’, or discomfort about a baby so close to something that has in the past been sexual.  I even knew someone who was totally freaked out by the baby looking at her – which is what so many Mums quote as being the ‘best’ bit.  Now this might be a bit trickier, but if you are struggling with this let me know and I’ll give you some ideas to overcome it (if you want to – no worries if you don’t).

So you can see, there are tonnes of reasons why it might not or doesn’t work out.  So please, don’t feel guilty if it didn’t work for you, and don’t get on too a high horse about the fact that it did work, sometimes it is just the luck of the draw.  Please do let me know if there are other reasons that I haven’t included, or if some of these ring true with you.

Update Jan 2010

A fascinating article has just been printed in the mail and BBC websites suggesting that breast feeding isn’t better for babies than formula, but that breast feeding is just a sign of a healthier time in the womb, which tends to create the ability to BF.  The research is based upon Professor Sven Carlsen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim who has found a link with higher levels of the male hormone testosterone during pregnancy, which makes it more difficult to produce milk, and tends to appear more in.  So Mums with PCOS, carrying a boy, smokers, small/premature babies, are more likely to have problems.  There is potentially still a slightly higher IQ average in BF babies, but they haven’t had a chance to review those studies yet.  So, although I loved BF’ing, and would thoroughly recommend it, I also recommend being grateful that we have an option.  Check out my other blog about how to make the choice: <click here>

Breast Feeding or Formula Feeding, What ‘should’ I do?

The whole breast feeding debate is often a Mums first introduction to the world of worrisome decisions that are about to land on their plates, and this one is particularly political and harshly debated.

Political Stances

One of the problems with any debate where people take a ‘stance’ is that the stronger they take their stance, the stronger the opposition takes the opposite stance.  To be honest, I do wonder how much the Formula companies created the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), and whether the NCT’s then strong stance has created the continued focus on formula feeding in new mums.  If possible, attempt to ignore any of the politics and focus on your family!

How Did I Tackle It?

To be honest, I had no idea whether I would manage it.  I decided to go for a goal set approach, of aiming for 6 weeks (people often say, if you can possibly do this then at least it is a ‘good start’ for baby – it gets a lot easier and less painful after this), then 6 months (WHO minimum recommended time), then 1 year, then 2 years (WHO recommended), expecting to finish before 4 years (The world wide average duration of breast feeding).  I was unlucky in that I had to stay in hospital for a few extra days after Max was born as the doctors were worried I might have the same blood problems as my Mum.  But this meant that I was lucky to encounter 2 breast feeding teachers, who were really helpful.  Plus, I didn’t have a caesarian or long traumatic birth, which appears to make it much more difficult for Mums to be able to breast feed.  The other advantage I had was that I’m good at using the internet, so could find info on the fact that you have to eat and drink well in order to produce milk.  (Beware parenting techniques that suggest anything other than feeding on demand, as that can affect your supply).

So How to Go About Making the Decision?

1) Will it work for you?

Breast feeding is incredibly easy once you are past the first few weeks.  I rather think that although it is sold as being best for baby, and very ‘earth mother’, it is actually brilliant for rather lazy Mums like me.  It worked for me, because I never had to worry about Max when he was sick, as it is much easier to BF them than give them formula when their tummies are upset.  You don’t have to worry about their weight, or constipation (horrid to see in a new baby, bless them).  There’s no getting up to make bottles at night, which would wake me up, and I’m not good at falling back to sleep.  I didn’t need to prepare anything to go out, and just needed to buy some pretty scarves.  Plus the nappies didn’t pong as bad as formula nappies.  It also meant lots of bonding and sitting on a sofa, and yummy hormones being released, which I probably needed after a rather stressful and sad pregnancy (we moved house, my Mum died, and my husband was made redundant when Max was 6 weeks).  So in all honesty, it was all about me, having the most relaxed time, and reducing the worries!

Would any of those things work for you?  Write down everything that you think will and won’t work for you, and then double check some of your assumptions in step 3.

2) Will it work for family?

Undoubtedly the scientific research is that ideally it’s best for your baby, but you are not going to ruin your baby for life by formula feeding them, even if they do get digestive or weight problems, it’s still not a ‘ruined’ life.  If you would love to feed or love not to feed, then the key here is to explain it to your partner in a way that makes sense to them, not in the way that makes sense to you!  So if your partner is worried about sharing your breasts, then pop to step 3, and find the things that will help him understand.  Perhaps there is a compromise?  Does your partner want you to feed and you don’t?  In that case, you need to explain it to them in a way that they will hear and understand.  A stressed mummy will cause greater problems for baby, than what they are fed on, so you are extremely important in the equation.

3) What Are You Worrying About?

There are some standard worries (read step 4 for some answers to the more scientific or physical ones) e.g.

– People will hate me feeding in public – actually I never encountered a problem, or if I did, I didn’t notice it.  I was mainly in coffee shops with lots of Mums and family restaurants.  If you are worried about this, think about this – do those people really matter?  Does it really matter if they stare at you?  I promise you, that whatever you do in life, only 50% of the world will agree with you or like it.  The worst thing that can happen is that they ask you to leave, which you could refuse to do!

– My partner will feel left out – if you can explain to him that it’s only a short time and will make their lives easier (if that is of value to them), then it may set their worries at rest.  Explain that your boobs will be back for them at some point!

– It’s yukky, because boobs are for sex – actually no, that’s a misunderstanding, as breasts were clearly made for making milk, as they are in animals.  What are you worried about?  That you might get turned on (extremely unlikely!!!)?  That your child will always remember your breasts (I’ve not heard of mentally scared children with this problem, and on average children are fed to 4yrs old around the world, so they must remember).  What is it?  Face your fear, and find out what it actually is based upon.

– I’m a bad mother if I don’t breast-feed – rubbish!  We are all ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers.  None of us do everything that we possibly could, and if we did, we would be so self-righteous and martyred, that no Child would want us!  Be a contented Mum, that is what is most important to baby and make a plan for tackling the downsides.  For example, keep a close eye on constipation, and get advice about it.  Make sure that baby gets held for long times, maybe use a sling.  Make eye contact with baby, and just cuddle them for hours on the sofa.

4) Have you read up about it?

I found this brilliant news article today, which summarises a great deal of the scientific research into breast feeding: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1201285/Sorry-breast-IS-best-As-leading-scientist-questions-benefits-mother-sorts-myths-facts.html

Check all your assumptions, because they may actually be incorrect.

5) Making the decision

Right, now you have all the information.  What I would like you to do is list all the Pro’s and Con’s (good & bad things) on a piece of paper.  It’s Ok if you keep coming back and it takes you a couple of days.  The key to this exercise is to keep going until you have AS MANY Pro’s as Con’s!  AS MANY.  It is only then that you can be sure that you are seeing it clearly.  You may wonder then, how to make the decision.  The point is that at this stage, you will see that one option works for you and the family better, and kind of ‘sparkles’.  You are aware of the opposite side to the story and can prepare for it, but your heart, feels that you would prefer this option.  It’s not logic of the head, or emotion/fear of the gut, but a heart centered feeling of sureness.  If you don’t feel sure, then keep going with the list, there is something that you haven’t included.

Conclusion

You are looking to be sure that you are informed, have cleared out the worry’s about it, and that the solution has been explained to your family in a way that works for them, and that the decision works for you and baby.

The above process is based upon the ‘Fun creation equation’, so you might like to check out my other blogs on that.  Obviously though, I’ve only brushed the surface of what can worry some Mums, or the problems of communicating with a partner.  So feel free to either pop a comment here for further clarification or post a question in the discussions on my facebook fan page.

You might want to check out my blog on why Breast Feeding isn’t always possible, to help reduce your guilt <click here>