Thoughts on World Breastfeeding Week

As a formula feeder, you’re probably imagining my thoughts on National Breastfeeding Week to be anything but positive. A week that promotes breastfeeding? Surely that excludes me in every way? Some will be of the opinion that I have no right to voice my thoughts on the matter – but I do.

Babies are more than bottles or breasts. Babies are more than the milk they’re fed, or the teat they get it through. They’re more than the arguments over EBF vs. expressing vs. mix feeding vs. formula feeding. They’re more than patronizing suggestions of nipple shields and La Leche League. They’re more than dirty looks in cafes, and requests to ‘do that in the bathroom instead’. They’re more than midnight cluster feeds, and they’re more than standing in the kitchen at 3am, waiting for the kettle to boil and the bottle to sterilise.

Happy, healthy, successful babies are not made by the milk that drink.

Those babies are made with love. They’re made with encouragement. They’re made with care and attention and happiness. They’re made with people around them who want the best for them. They’re made with breast milk and with formula, one or the other or combinations of the two.

They’re made by having happy caregivers who feel that their choices are supported.

So I’m using NBW to celebrate babies being fed. However it’s done, if it is being done then you are doing great. I will never advocate for a breastfeeding mother being made to feel uncomfortable for feeding. I will also never stand for a formula-feeding mother being made to feel inferior. Formula is inferior to breast milk, we get that. But FF mothers are not inferior to those who BF. Their babies are not inferior now, and will not be in the future.

To all mothers and parents everywhere, however you came to have parental responsibility and however you feed your baby, I stand by you. Less shame, more support – for ALL mothers.

The ‘Other Moms’…

Despite my earlier post about being lonely as a new mum, there is one part of this lifestyle that is an unavoidable constant – other mums. Whether they’re starting out on the scary path of tiny-new-human ownership alongside you, or have done it all before and can’t wait to tell you, there’s a cast of mums ready to impart their pearls of wisdom upon you… whether you want them to or not…

 

THE ‘COMRADE’ MOM

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She’s your ally in tiredness; your companion in crankiness. Feeding marathons, endless nappies and sick-stained t-shirts? Yep, she knows it only too well. These mums are worth their weight in gold – even if you don’t feel like seeing other human beings, the sight of another woman struggling out of the house with drooping eyelids and un-brushed hair will reassure you that you’re not alone. 

 

THE ‘BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, DID IT BETTER’ MOM

‘Oh, your baby cries a lot? Mine had SUPER colic. The doctors have never seen anything like it. They marvelled at how well I dealt with it. I was working at the time. And writing a novel. And setting up my own business from home’. This is the mother you’ll describe to your partner as a ‘know-it-all bitch’. And you’ll be correct. 

 

THE DEVELOPMENTAL GUIDELINE FANATIC MOM

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‘But ‘What To Expect’ says she should be rolling by now! She’s three months old! All the other babies are reading Shakespeare! I’m a terrible mother! My baby will be developmentally behind forever! I need to call the local primary schools and tell them we’ll be holding her back a year!’. Just smile, reassure and point out that her baby hasn’t read the books, no baby is reading Shakespeare at three months, and not rolling yet is perfectly normal. And maybe confiscate her baby books. Then burn them. 

 

THE ‘MY BABY IS SO MUCH MORE ADVANCED THAN YOURS’ MOM 

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With the ability to turn even the most confident, level-headed mother into a Developmental Guideline Fanatic, this mother’s baby is helping old ladies cross the road, writing a PhD thesis and curing cancer at the tender age of four months old. She’ll tell you all about his sparkling, rose-scented poop and incredible conversation skills. Strangely enough, when you saw him last week, his ‘conversational skills’ amounted to blowing bubbles at you and chuckling at his own farts. You smell bullshit – but that may just be his anything-but-rose-scented nappies. 

 

THE ‘HAVE IT ALL AND MORE’ MOM

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You consider it a good day if you can get through baby group without falling asleep halfway through ‘Wind The Bobbin Up’. For her, anything less than turning up half an hour early with sleek, immaculate hair and organic, freshly-baked cookies is failure. She may seem smug, but often, she’s just proud of herself. It’s tough to admit it, but anyone who can have perfect hair AND time to bake alongside trying to get a tiny wriggly baby ready can have a little bit of a boast, I suppose. Not to be mistaken for the ‘Been there, done that, did it better’ mom – there’s a difference between deservedly proud and undeservedly smug. 

 

THE ‘AT LEAST YOU’RE TRYING’ MOM

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The name of this category of mom is deceptive. She is constantly not-so-subtly judging your every move. You bottle-feed? JUDGING. You breast-feed in public? JUDGING. You use a pram? JUDGING. You co-sleep? JUDGING. Every judgemental look will be accompanied by an enthusiastic explanation of how she is doing the absolute opposite (which, of course, is the only right way to do it).. but, she’ll add – with a pat on the shoulder that if you close your eyes and use a lot of imagination, could almost pass as sympathetic -, ‘you’re trying your best’.

 

THE ‘NO MORE BABY WEIGHT’ MOM

I’ll probably end up doing a post about Maria Kang (the mother in this photo) eventually, as it caused so much controversy when it first came out. This type of mom wouldn’t be so bad if it was just about the weight loss – sure, you’d eye her svelte figure with vague envy before turning your attention back to your Big Mac, but you wouldn’t out-and-out hate her. It’s the smugness that does it. The unabashed air of ‘you could have this too… if you had any willpower’. And you know, deep down, that yes, you could have that too… but you’d rather have nice food right now. Happiness is worth the stretch marks. 

 

THE ‘THIS IS MY ENTIRE LIFE NOW’ MOM 

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It’s okay to admit that you either have, or would like to have, a life outside of your children. It doesn’t make you love them any less. Except for in the eyes of the ‘children are my entire life’ mom. She doesn’t just abandon her childless friends from back in the day, because they ‘couldn’t possibly understand what love is!’ – she wants you to do exactly the same. The truth is, she’s probably trying to adjust to juggling her old life and her new one. 

 

THE ‘FACEBOOK QUOTE-MASTER’ MOM

So your partner was really just a sperm donor, then? This mom is the much more annoying cousin of the ‘Children are my entire life’ mom, who spends her time trawling Facebook for quotes to tell the world just how empty and void of meaning their childless lives are. Unable and unwilling to comprehend the fact that people can lead fulfilled lives before they have children – and, indeed, can have great lives without having children at all – this mom uses Facebook to show you just how much she loves her kids… y’know, at the expense of using real life to show her kids how much she loves them… 

 

THE ‘MOMMY-BLOGGER’ MOM

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There’s no such thing as oversharing in the eyes of the Mommy Blogger. Running quirky little ‘online diaries’, with cutesy names like ‘The Speed Bump’ (oops)? She won’t just tell you about her child’s latest poop, she’ll go ahead and tell the rest of the world too! If she’s not blogging, she’s sharing her blog posts with the rest of the world via social media. It makes you wonder how she has time for all those hilarious parenting moments she posts about. A word of warning – she’s so used to talking about herself on her blog, it may spill over into real life. A quick slap around the chops tends to sort it out. 

 

YOU

You may be wondering where you fit in all of this (that or you’ve recognised yourself in one of these stereotypes, in which case, I can only apologise half-heartedly). I think most of us fit into more than one category – I can recognise aspects of myself in most of the ‘types’ I’ve just spoken about. The moms that really stick in our heads, though, are the ones who define these categories – usually for negative reasons. If you recognise a bit of all or some of these moms in you, don’t fear! There’s nothing wrong with getting your figure back after having a baby, there’s nothing wrong with your child being the centre of your universe. As long as you aren’t expecting everyone else to do or feel exactly the same, you’re doing great. 

 

Before I have anyone remarking on how sexist this post is, I fully intend to do a post about the different types of dads you encounter – although I may leave that to D, who will be guest-blogging for me soon! 

 

Taking the rough with the smooth…

In the immortal words of the ever-funeral-ready Coldplay, ‘nobody said it was easy’. And now I wonder if, although I listened and took their words to heart, I maybe didn’t take it seriously enough? I’ve hit a definite speed bump (pun totally intended) the past few days. I don’t know what’s brought it on, but I’m over-sensitive and feeling alone – it’s led me to cut off avenues of support; leaving one parenting group I was part of, and temporarily blocking notifications for another until I’m ready for it again. Maybe it’s not the best decision, but it’s one that I felt the need to make. 

It’s making me make impulsive decisions that I regret later – something as trivial as today, we went shopping. I got halfway around and, even though I’m not struggling for money right now, I abandoned my basket because I felt like I shouldn’t spend money. When I got home I sobbed, because I’d found a beautiful necklace with SB’s initial on it, the very last one. It had been tossed aside with the rest of my shopping basket, and it was only when I got home that I realised just how bastarding much I’d wanted that necklace. I’m dreading leaving her in the nursery, and I’ve been looking for a necklace with her initial on for ages, to keep with me during lectures. This one was perfect, and I know that when I go back to the shop, chances are it’ll be long gone. 

I could go on about how terrible today has been – it’s involved a lot of bad luck, a few bad decisions and a big lack of self-confidence –  but I’d rather look towards tomorrow, and just hope and pray to whatever god, higher being or chance that has pissed itself laughing at me today, finds someone else to pick on tomorrow. 

Feeling the heat…

The UK is in the grip of a ‘heatwave’ at the moment (I use the inverted commas, because the rest of the world would scoff at us calling it a heatwave – the temperatures are just about pushing 30C – but for a country where anything above 10C is t-shirt weather, and when it reaches 20C it gives all men the right to take their t-shirts off and walk around flaunting their – usually unattractive – bodies, this really is a heatwave), and something I never really appreciated is just how much difficulty the weather can add to the already-difficult task of parenting. 

 

Things they don’t warn you about parenting in hot weather

  1. There is so much conflicting advice about the right temperature and what to dress your babies in. The general advice is one more layer than you’d be comfortable in, but when I’d gladly peel my own skin off if it’d make the heat go away, that’d mean having SB in just her nappy, and I’m not sure that’d go down too well in the supermarket. 
  2. You constantly compare what your baby is wearing to what other babies are wearing. When SB was quite happy in her vest, t-shirt and shorts, I felt like I’d cracked it – she was an alright temperature and seemed happy enough. And then we walked past a baby of about the same age as SB, all wrapped up in a fluffy pramsuit and blanket. That sows the seeds of doubt, making you wonder if everyone walking past is gasping at your poor, freezing baby. 
  3. Night times only get more stressful. All the parenting books go on and on about how the ideal temperature for baby’s room is 18-20C, and you should do your best to get it to that temperature. That’s fine and dandy if you have air conditioning, but when having the windows open and a fan blowing all day still only gets it to 30C, you can’t help but feel a little nervous. And then there’s the issue of what you dress them in at night. 
  4. Hot times are never a good time to implement a change for your baby. We picked this week to try her in her cot. Because it’s too hot for her to wear her 1-tog GroBag sleeping bag, and far too hot to tuck her in with blankets, we’ve found her in a number of ‘interesting’ sleeping positions, including at a 90 degree angle to where she began, and with her legs hanging out through the bars. Needless to say she’s back in the Moses basket.
  5. Normal parenting tasks are so much harder in the heat. This heatwave has coincided with D getting extra hours at work, so a lot of the feeding, changing and general baby tasks fall to me – which is fine, I love doing them. But in the heat, sitting there and feeding when all you want to do is move about to cool down is so bloody uncomfortable. Plus you sweat everywhere, so public feeding becomes all in all a very embarrassing situation. 
  6. If it’s too hot to focus in general, it’s too hot to focus on tasks like making bottles. The potential for mistakes opens up, so you need to be careful that you’re not putting more powder in than you should, or putting the nappy on backwards. 

Will going back to uni make me a part-time mum?

Something that exists solely in this little ‘parenting bubble world’ is the ‘battle’ between stay-at-home parents (SAHPs) and working-out-of-the-home parents (WOHPs). In the interests of the ‘battle’, I’m currently a stay-at-home mum (as it’s the uni holidays, which I’m counting as my maternity leave), but come October, I’ll be a WOHM, and SB will be going into nursery – she’s now all registered, and at the minute she’s registered for a full-time spot – all day, every week day. This may change according to our uni timetables when they’re released, but we have no idea, so it was best to register her for full time. 

The problem is, there’s another phrase that some SAHPs use to describe themselves – ‘full time parent’. This is often seen in the ‘career’ field on Facebook as some variation on ‘Full-time yummy mummy and loving it!’. Which is fine, it’s up to you what you put on Facebook, but please – can we stop with the full-time mum bullshit? 

When I go back to university,  I won’t stop being a full-time mum. I won’t just be a mum to her part-time, and no-one else is going to become her mum. I won’t be staying at home to exclusively look after her, that’s all. I won’t be a stay-at-home mum, but I will still be a full-time mum to her. I don’t stop being the one who gave birth to her when I go into my lectures. 

There’ll be some of you who read this and say ‘It’s a turn of phrase, it’s just a term, get over it’. To that I say…. no. Stop using the term. It’s designed to make parents who work feel bad. I don’t judge you for your choice to do what is right for your family; don’t judge me for doing what is best for mine. It seems like some people would rather I drop out of uni and do nothing, rather than staying on, qualifying and (hopefully!) getting a job some day. 

Why is this? Is it something to do with the stereotype about young mums, or unplanned pregnancies? You may be surprised, considering how liberal a lot of people are these days, to learn that some people still need people like young mums, the unemployed, those without a university education etc, to be the detritus of society. They desperately need for someone in society to be below them, because otherwise, where does that leave them? So when someone from these groups does something out of the ordinary; something that goes against the stereotype, these people can’t cope. If you have a place in society, you should stick to it – apparently. 

I have admiration for stay-at-home parents – for me, as much as I love being a parent, it’s lonely and the days seem very long, but they also seem to melt into one big day that’s lasted since April. I’m dreading leaving SB in nursery, but I’m looking forward to the routine that uni brings to my life, and the socialisation. There’s nothing wrong with describing someone as a stay-at-home parent, or a working-out-of-home parent – the trouble starts when we get into this part-time/full-time mum bollocks. There’s no such thing as a full-time mum. It doesn’t make you superior, nor does it make you a better/more devoted/more bonded parent. You are a parent, the same as any other parent – you’ve just made a different parenting choice than others. 

 

Poorly Babies (or, ‘When even the sling won’t do’)

I may have been very disparaging about the sling to begin with, but over the past few weeks, I’ve gone through begrudging acceptance, and into holding it up as the pinnacle of modern parenting methods. Step aside, Gina Ford! Go away, Ferber! I have a sling – I am a babywearer, and my baby shall never be upset for as long as it is held against my body by a strip of fabric. 

Until last night. About half an hour after D left for work, she woke from peaceful sleep with a scream of epic proportions. I can sort-of laugh about it now, but at the time, I was on the verge of calling out the ambulance, the police, the fire brigade and the army. My tiny little human was making a sound like an animal being hurt, and nothing I did could soothe her. I fed her, I changed her (twice!), I checked every little bit of her body for any sign of a rash or cut – I even checked her babygro to make sure there was no hair or skin caught in the poppers of the sleepsuit. I cuddled her, I shushed her, I read to her, I offered a dummy, I offered Emily doll, I offered Sophie the giraffe, I put the mobile on, I put socks on, I took socks off, I tried to let her sleep, I tried to let her sit up, I did bicycle legs – if you can name it, I tried it. Half an hour later, she was still squealing unconsolably. 

Arrogantly, I grabbed the sling (after calling D in a hysterical mess to demand he told me where it was), thinking this would solve everything. Did it work? 

Of course it didn’t. Because you can set as much store by slings as you like, but at the end of the day, they’re still just a piece of fabric and some safety clips. They’re great for fussiness, great for when your baby is just feeling a bit fragile and clingy, but when your baby is full-on poorly (as we discovered she was, one poonami-to-end-all-poonamis and several hours waiting to hear from the doctor later), very little will do. 

I think the worst thing about knowing your baby is ill – I used to scoff at the idea of mother’s intuition, but you just know when something isn’t right – is the fact that you know it, but others don’t seem to. It’s an unreasonable thing to be annoyed about, because they don’t have that same intuition or knowledge of the baby, but when you know this is out of character for your baby – even at their absolute, raging colic, hungry and tired and dirty nappy and overstimulated, just-being-a-little-mard-arse worst – someone suggesting ‘colic’ or ‘just a bit tired’ can be enough to push you over the edge. 

The only thing you can do in that situation is a deep breath, and understand that people just want to help. Most of the time, they know that you have the intuition, and to listen if you know something is wrong. Most of the time, it’s a good-natured intention to make you relax, rather than jumping to the conclusion that you’re going to lose your perfect baby. So although you know that you know your baby better than anyone else, act on your instincts first – and then listen to the people who suggest alternatives. Even though your instincts may be right, they’ll do a great job of keeping you calm. 

After the epic poonami and a little bit of grizzling, she seems right as rain again today – and I know that next time, not only can I keep calm until I’ve explored all the possibilities I’ve thought of, but that there are people I can ask who may offer other possibilities I haven’t thought of. 

The moral of the post – if you’re looking for a miracle cure, the sling ain’t it. If you’re looking for something to stop baby grizzling, to keep him or her close by and to let you get on with housework/uni work/Facebooking, it’s great.