Two Years with a Girl Called Maya


Two years ago today, you came into our lives. Like the whirlwind that you are, you flew into mummies arms. 

Eyes wide open, keen to see this new world. Your curiosity never left you and into discovery you hurled. 

Within a few weeks, your legs were strong enough to stand. I think we knew, right then, that soon we would be letting go of your hand. 

And you made sure that pretty head of yours had the strength to turn, with a world full of wonder, around you, you had so much to learn 

You kept us on our toes. It wasn’t easy, lord knows! But we worked on our bond with our poorly little girl. We listened to your hurt. Never gave up and ignored the world, when they told us not to spoil you, and to leave you to cry. They should have known that would never happen with a baby of mine! 

Time ticked on and stronger you grew! We blinked and there you were, crawling, out of the blue! 2 whole months you had been trying, so much determination, unwinding! 

Not long after, you took your first steps. Such a proud moment, when from my arms you leapt, into the world, all on your own, – Bye bye, mummy and daddy, I’m such a clever girl now, all big and grown.

From that moment on, not a soul could stop you. From one thing to the next, our amazement continued, with new words, new actions, kind gestures and your funny ways. We knew right then, we had been blessed for all our days.

Because before our eyes, was a strong little girl, bringing so much joy and kindness into an often cruel world.

So the tough times were worth it, we know that now. Thank you for showing us exactly how, to have a little patience, when things don’t go our way and to reach for the moon, as we wish for brighter days.

And now the days have come, you crave your independence. Here you go darling, it’s all yours for the taking. 

And when you need us, we’ll always be there, to hold your hand when you get scared, pick you up when you’ve fallen down, to love you with every piece of our hearts, even through all your frowns.

Each day you bring us more pride than you could ever know. Happy Birthday to our big, little girl, how quickly two years can go! 

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Why Does My Baby Cry? 


This must be one of the most common questions asked by parents in the West and yet, while many around them are quick to answer with suggestions such as colic or reflux, not many can explain exactly why and what to do about it. 

I hear time and time again, from mums who visited their GP or health visitor and were told, ‘It’s *just* colic.’ and ‘Baby will grow out of it in a few weeks.’ What this blanket response fails to do, is look at the possible health issues, that science is rapidly discovering, could in fact be the true cause. Health issues that aren’t just mild, rare and manageable but are so common and so severe that they could be one of the main causes of Britain’s current crisis of male and female Post Natal Depression, along with other mental health illnesses.

For years parents have been robbed of sleep, peace and feelings of pride and accomplishment that should come a few times, each day, as a new parent but for many, is not. Western culture, has taught us that babies cry and we just have to deal with it but this isn’t the case in all countries. In fact, it is widely reported that babies in Africa don’t cry as much as Western babies. One blogger reports on her interpretation of why this is, in telling her story of when she returned to her home town of Kenya to give birth to her baby. She noted that in Kenya, “The understanding is that babies don’t cry. If they do – something is horribly wrong and must be done to rectify it immediately.”

Ignoring babies’ cries is extremely common practice, here, in the UK and something that most people don’t tend to have too much concern over. Yet, many mums are feeling in their gut there is something wrong when their baby cries. Otherwise known as, instinct! But time and time again, she is told by everyone in her world to ignore it. That very important, fantastically evolved human ability that helps us to monitor our baby’s health and wellbeing, allowing us to attune ourselves to their needs, their hunger, their fears and their tears. Yes. That’s right. Ignore it! Because babies just cry.

What fascinates me the most, is that the science is clear on this one. A baby crying, is a baby communicating a need to his caregiver. That need may be hunger, thirst, comfort, reassurance, protection, or illness, all of which need to be met by the caregiver. Yet, when a parent raises a concern, they are met with apathy and told not to worry. You can’t imagine (or perhaps, you can if you are a parent reading this) what kind of affect that has on a mothers’ primal instinct. Well, I’ll tell you. When the world tells you your instinct is wrong, you learn not to trust it. When you don’t feel like you can trust your own instinct, you question your entire parenting capability. When you don’t trust your capability as a parent, your mental health stops looking so good and problems start to arise. 

There are many reasons as to why this became such a popular cultural practice. The main culprit being a product of old-fashioned Victorian values. During this period, it was widely believed that if you gave into your babies demands (needs!!!) then you would not be able to raise proper gentlemen and women. By giving into their demands (needs!!!) you would, in fact, spoil them. All these years later, and while second-wave Attachment Parenting (or as I like to call it, Parenting) comes back around, and some are realising that limitlessly holding your baby, breastfeeding them to sleep and allowing them to sleep in your bed, actually doesn’t create spoiled brats and, actually, as many are finding, creates strong bonds and children that grow to be kind and compassionate human beings. While this is the case for some parents, many are being left behind, as a result of old, cultural beliefs refusing to shift and also, a glitch in the training of our health proffessionals.

Health professionals, those wonderful, reliable, only people in the world who can help you during this horrible, painful time, who are so wrongfully misinforming parents with outdated advice and ignoring clear symptoms of illnesses such as dairy intolerance or tongue tie, on such a huge scale.

What is most concerning about this kind of response and lack of investigation, is the impact the failure to discover the true nature of the symptoms can have on the entire family, most specifically on their mental health. 
So, what can you do if your baby is crying and you don’t know why?

Know what is normal and what isn’t!

  1. The first thing to do is to research what is normal! One big reason mums get so worried, is because they don’t know a thing about growth spurts and how this can affect feeding. Both breastfed and bottle fed infants will require an increased amount of milk when they hit a growth spurt, because their bodies are growing at such a rapid rate. Makes total sense, now! But if you don’t know what to expect, you’re not going to get very far. Most parents, today, believe that when a baby cries to be fed more, this must be a sign to wean them early or move them onto a ‘hungrier baby’ type milk. Wrong! Just increase the amount of milk your baby receives. Follow your baby’s lead. He will let you know when he needs more and when he doesn’t but he will never say, ‘Erm, mummy, I think I need some mushed up vegetables, now.’ when he is 4 months old. 
  2. Research what is normal infant sleep! Another great mistake our culture makes, is the repeatedly asking a mother, after only a week (and forever, thereafter) of her baby being earthside, if the baby is sleeping through the night, yet. This gives the impression that babies actually sleep through the night. Ok. Some wonderful, amazing babies do in fact sleep through the night but they are in the minority! The majority of babies wake at night, because it is in their biology to do so and, for many, no amount of sleep training will change that. Not only this but studies show sleep training is bad for babies’ brains, as well as bad for breastfeeding. Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night but when they don’t do what the parent expects them to do, the parent blames no one but themselves. ‘It must be something I am doing wrong, everyone’s baby sleeps through the night apart from mine’. Even health visitors are asking this question to new mums. The pressure becomes so intense that parents start to lie. *NERVOUS GIGGLE* ‘Oh, yeah. He sleeps really well, we get loads of sleep!’ When other parents hear this, they too believe they are the only ones in the world who have a baby who won’t sleep through and the cycle continues. Thankfully, a little research on websites such as the wonderful Infant Sleep Information Source show, through lots of evidence, that this isn’t actually the case!
  3. Look into Attachment Parenting and find your closest APUK branch for support. For generations, we have believed that separating ourselves from our baby is a good thing, when, in reality, has probably lead to a lot more problems than it has aimed to solve. Attachment Parenting offers real solutions to why your baby may be crying, as well as solutions to sleep deprivation without going against your natural instincts. 
  4. Are you breastfeeding? Does it hurt? Question it! So many mums will be told, ‘The latch looks fine.’ but if that baby is making your nipples burn, that’s a sure fire way to tell you that the latch isn’t fine and something needs fixing or tweaking! Seek REAL breastfeeding help. Most GP’s, Midwives and Health Visitors in this country, receive minimal training on breastfeeding and very often give out bad advice to mums. That’s not to say all health professionals are complete novices when it comes to breastfeeding but it is a really big problem in this country, at the minute, and all mums should be aware of that when seeking their help with breastfeeding. Find your local breastfeeding support group on Facebook and in your local Sure Start centre, where you will find trained breastfeeding peer supporters. Find your local La Leche League, who will also have a Facebook group or page, as a point of contact. Source a breastfeeding counsellor (NCT offer this service for free!) or an Internationally Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). If any of this isn’t possible, read the websites I have linked in the text above, including the amazing Kelly Mom website. I personally use Kelly Mom as my main go-to for any breastfeeding questions but use whatever works for you. Try to stay away from google and mumsnet boards. We are one of the worst countries in the whole world for breastfeeding myths. This is the best way to avoid them! 
  5. Bottle or breastfeeding. Does your baby cry excessively despite seeing to all of his immediate needs and all the above mentioned? Has your baby been checked for tongue-tie or a food allergy/intolerance? My best guess would be, no. This is such a grey area, currently, within our health system. Evidence is still emerging for tongue tie and food intolerances, and so, health professionals are not fully informed on all of the new information, yet. So a trip to your GP with concerns in these areas, could well leave you disappointed. Again, research! The links above will help you gain insight into food intolerances, as well as this website http://www.cowsmilkallergy.co.uk. Join the Facebook support groups available by searching ‘CMPA’ and ‘CMPI’ which stands for Cows Milk Protein Allergy/Intolerance. You will find a wealth of information and support and gain advice from mums who know exactly what you are going through. As for tongue tie, the wonderful Milk Matters will tell you all you need to know. Milk Matters are independent Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants, in West Yorkshire, who specialise in treating babies with tongue tie, as well as other difficult to resolve feeding problems in both bottle and breastfed infants. They are very passionate about their work and raising awareness on tongue tie and will often answer many questions for free, from their Facebook page. The founder is also the writer of a famously successful breastfeeding blog, Analytical Armadillo, which is another great source for information on all things infant feeding. Both tongue tie and food intolerances (as well as some breastfeeding problems, such as oversupply/fast let-down) can produce very similar symptoms, including excessive crying or fussiness! 
  6. Lastly, I want to mention Osteopathy. Something that until I had friends with tongue tied babies, I had never heard about. I am still learning about them but one thing I do know is that when it comes to babies, they work wonders! One mum I know had a baby with tongue tie but his neck muscles were so complicated that they would sometimes hide the tongue tie. When the mum drove to the tongue tie clinic – although previously the same IBCLC had witnessed the tongue tie- today, it was no longer visible. The mum took a trip to an osteopath and when she returned to the tongue tie clinic, as if by magic, the tie was visible again and the IBCLC was able to revise it.

So, I guess what I want for you to take from this is that if you feel in your gut that something isn’t right when the world tells you it’s fine and starts to make you feel a like you are going crazy. Stop! You are not crazy. You are a mother who is in tune with her baby’s needs and there are other options you can look into, other that “colic” and “reflux”. This list is in no way comprehensive, either, but I’m hoping it will give you a starting point to finding the correct solution to your problem.

I hope you can find the support that you need and I hope you can always trust in yourself and be guided by your instincts. 
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What?! You’re sending your child to school? 

 

Those of us who home educate, or who plan to, get a little too tired of hearing the same old grilling questions, every time we even MENTION that we are doing it. We don’t necessarily want to have a full on discussion on the pros and cons, every time we come into contact with someone who has never met a home educator before. But, sure enough, time and time again we find ourselves in this situation. A forced situation that we don’t particularly like to endure and would rather tear off our arms than stand smiling, confidently and sweetly, while we try to convince another person that we aren’t about to destroy our children’s lives. 
So, I thought it might be interesting to offer a different perspective for a change. Turn this discussion around a little bit and see if you still think it is appropriate to question others like this.

Please note, for the record, I would never actually speak to another person like this.  All families are so wonderfully different and unique and it’s absolutely no ones business how they conduct their lives!

Put yourself in this situation. Home education is the norm and sending children to an institution to receive formal education, is rare. Almost, unheard of. You announce to a stranger you plan on sending your child to school. 

You’re sending your children to school?!

Said with a deep, heart wrenching concern. 

But, aren’t you worried they will be bullied? I mean, most children are physically or emotionally abused in school at some point. Either briefly or for many years. Some adults never get over it and spend years in therapy. They become quiet, oppressed, suffer terrible anxiety and depression, as a result of the low self-esteem they developed due to their bullies constantly putting them down for their individuality. Crushing any confidence to ever feel comfortable with truly being themselves and forever comforming to the crowd. Oh. Well, you know your children best! 😊

Followed by an obviously uncertain and agreeable smile. 

Hmm…aren’t you a little concerned about their social skills? I mean, school can be a great place to make friends but it can also be a terrible place for forcing children to interact with people they don’t want to interact with, on a daily basis. Yes, I think that would concern me. 

Getting annoyed yet?

Are you sure you will be able to handle it? I mean, it’s a great idea but don’t you think it will be hard, forking out for uniforms, shoes, bags, making sure their uniforms are washed, dried and ironed every day, getting them up and dressed with breakfast eaten and out of the door by 8.30am every single morning! Making sure they eat their tea and are all in bed early enough to make sure they get enough sleep, to get up on time the next day. And the arguments you would have everyday. And when would you see them? On a weekend? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s something I could do. I really admire your strength, though!

Ready to punch me in the face, yet? 😬

You say, you want to do it because you think your children will get a better education but how can you be so sure? I mean, don’t many children who go to school, hate going to school, hate learning and leave with poor qualifications, tired from forced learning? Do you think your children will be different? I’m not so sure. It sounds like a bit of a gamble, to me. Oh, I don’t know that much about it, anyway. You obviously know better than me! 😊

Have you started to feel sick, yet? Tired? Frustrated? 

I debated continuing this but I genuinely don’t want to offend anyone who send their children to school. We all have our own reasons for the decisions we make for our children. The point is, if you ever come across a home educator, it might be a good idea not to assume your choice is a better one than their’s. That they haven’t thought this through till they’re blue in the face and are absolutely sure it will be a good decision for their family. 

Leave questions like this at the door and support your friends/family in their exciting new venture.

This world offers something different for everyone. We don’t all have to take the same path in life. And we don’t all have to go to school to get an education and live a happy life. 

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Stop Waiting for Your Milk to “Come In”. It’s Already Here!

Ok Ladies, it’s time we had a little chat about your lovely boobs!

I spend a lot of time frequenting breastfeeding support groups online. I’m also currently training to become a breastfeeding peer supporter and attend breastfeeding groups regularly around my home town. And it’s come to my attention that a lot of hard working milk mamas are getting their nursing bras in a bit of a twist about when their milk will ‘come in’. 

I just need to clear this one thing up with you all, here and now!

From the day your baby is born, YOUR MILK IS HERE! (Actually, technically it’s been there for weeks!)

That lovely juicy, creamy stuff that drops from your breasts, the minute your baby starts sucking, is milk!

Yes ladies, colostrum IS milk. Newborn milk. And it’s some good shit!

Colostrum is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates, protein and anti-bodies, which all work to make your baby super healthy. It’s also very easy to digest, making it the perfect first food for your little angel – Colostrum literally means “first milk”. 

It’s often referred to as “The Good Stuff”. And for good reason! It’s what builds your baby’s immune system from the go, ensuring their little bodies can have a good chance of fighting off anything that might attack it, early on. Something that no breastmilk substitute can replicate!

Following frequent breastfeeding, from the offset and on demand, your milk will slowly start to change, each day. What was once a thick, yellowy substance, will start to become thin and white. And this, I believe is where the confusion comes from. 

Around day 3-4, after your baby has been working hard to let your boobs know he is growing and he is hungry, your awesome milk factories begin to produce more and more milk, increasing in quantity. THIS is known as, your ‘milk coming in’. 

While we’re here, I have another thing I would like you amazing ladies to know. It’s not rare, when a mum is concerned about when her milk will arrive, to see other mums tell her, “Oh, you will know when!” Well, actually, it’s not always so obvious for some mums. 

While many will wake one morning, feeling like someone came in the middle of the night and swapped her body for Pamela Anderson’s, wondering why the bed is so wet, others will hardly notice the change. Sometimes, the milk change is so smooth for a mum that it causes her to pause and question what is happening. Well, mamas, don’t you worry! 

YOUR MILK IS HERE! 

It’s also important to remember, while you are worrying about the quantity of your milk, that your baby’s tummy is seriously tiny! Meaning that in the first days, they are incapable of taking in more than 5-27 ml’s per feed. It’s not until they reach week 1 that their stomach becomes big enough to hold around 45-60ml, so there really isn’t any need to worry about having a huge amount of milk, just yet! 

  

You don’t need to be asking yourself when your milk will turn up because, you guessed it, YOUR MILK IS HERE!

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Patriarchy for Mothers

 

So, I’ve just finished watching that video with Jada Pinkett-Smith and her reply to her daughter’s question, “How hard is it being a wife and a mother?” 

Her response was astounding and admirable. Her voice feels like one of survival, as she reveals the biggest lessons she has learnt as a wife and as a mother and wow, is it emotional?

As a mother myself, who is currently learning just how important it is to remember yourself in this game, I could really relate. And I think I’m not the only one. 

However, one of the most important aspects of this lesson for me, is how this problem that we face as mothers, is one born out of habit within our culture, rather than simply the messages that float around, within in.

It’s interesting she blames “messaging”. I think it can seem that way because we feel so judged for our actions as mothers.

In fact, I believe, it comes from our patriarchal culture.

We come from a country where men were, first and foremost, in control of women. Women were slaves to their own society. They had no rights and were oppressed and taken advantage of and any work they did was largely devalued. 

Much of that still remains today. While women have been given certain “freedoms”, ie. in the workplace, voting, the right to divorce her husband, the right not to be abused by her husband etc… many attitudes still remain as a by-product of those horrible Victorian ways. 

I still don’t believe that the work we do as mothers is valued enough. If a woman chooses to stay home with her children, then she’s seen as having an “easy life”. If she is on benefits, as well, then she really needs to sort her act out and get a job and stop being “lazy”! If a woman decides to work, she is criticised for not being a “full-time mum”. Where are the men in all of this? What part do they play? Who is criticising them for not being a stay-at-home dad or for going out to work? How guilty do they feel about their choices as parents? 

Women have so many burdens, both physical and emotional, to carry as mothers and I don’t believe those burdens are being either valued or shared equally, in partnership. 

So, it’s easy to look at it as a problem with the “messages” we’re sending out but I think that is only a result of a culture that has always heavily criticised and judged a woman’s work and life, and all-around general self. Women can’t seem to win. And women are even turning on each other. 

I would like to see attitudes changed in this culture. I would like to see more women taking what they want and making themselves happy. Standing up for themselves and realising they matter too. They are important. ❤️

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My Letter to MP Andy McDonald Regarding APPG for Infant Feeding and Inequalities

  

I think it’s fair to say that issues surrounding infant feeding are some which are very close to my heart.  

The opportunity to create a group in parliament that can help tackle the issues mother’s face while attempting to breastfeed their babies, has arose. 

However, the wonderful people trying to get this group off the ground are struggling, as our MP’s are currently not aware of how important it is as a public health issue and are therefore not supporting the group in parliament. 

Therefore, I feel it is our duty to help raise this awareness with them and wrote this letter to my own local MP, asking him to represent me in parliament on this issue.

I hope you will find this inspiration to write to your own MP and let them know just how important this is to you.

Has your family suffered as a result of bad advice from your HCP about infant feeding or because you were unable to access good breastfeeding support?

You can be apart of preventing women from experiencing those same problems, in the future.

It doesn’t have to be as detailed as this letter. Simply providing your MP with the details of the APPG and asking them to represent you, will suffice! 

For more information on how to write your letter, please see this link. 

Together, we can make things better for all future mothers who want to reach their breastfeeding goals!

✌🏻️

Dear Andy,

I am writing to you today, as a mother, a breastfeeding peer supporter, in-training, and as a person who cares about the general health and well-being of the people in this country, in the hope that you will represent me on this very important issue.

I am writing to ensure that you will be attending the APPG for Infant Feeding and Inequalities, on Tuesday 19th January 2016.
I’m sure that you are already aware of the immense benefits breastfeeding has on our health:
– Lowered risk of gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Obesity, Type 1 & 2
diabetes and allergies in infants and also cancer in later life, in infants.

– Protection against breast and ovarian cancer, and hip fractures later in life, the longer a mother breastfeeds.

– Recent evidence also suggests a link between prolonged breastfeeding and postmenopausal risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CV) in mothers.

– The World Cancer Research Fund includes breastfeeding as one of 10 recommendations to reduce the risk.

All of these illnesses, with regard to the mother’s health, represent the greatest threats to women’s health across the ages.

Please see link for an overview of the evidence, including links to the most significant studies: http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/News-and-Research/Research/Breastfeeding-research—An-overview/ 

Aside from this and on a more personal level, I have to point to the humanity and positive mental health aspects of a family receiving sufficient support to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is something that I learnt about through studying an Early Years course at college, 13 years ago, where infant physical and mental health featured largely throughout. Ever since, I have always known I wanted to do this for my baby, no questions asked. 

However, I soon discovered that it wasn’t as simple as I first thought and not because breastfeeding is difficult but because our local area does not provide sufficient support to any woman who wishes to breastfeed but experiences problems. 

My education on the matter has continued and I am now training to become a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter, so that I may volunteer to support women to achieve their breastfeeding goals. 

However, while peer supporters do help people to overcome some problems breastfeeding, I feel this doesn’t look closely enough at why women experience problems in the first place, nor does it efficiently prevent those problems from ever occurring.

The South Tees Infant Nutrition Team have been a life-line for myself and many others, however, their services are limited and there is no International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working on that team. An IBCLC is the only person who is qualified to give out advice to the breastfeeding mother, as doing so unqualified can, and commonly does, contribute to the premature end of her breastfeeding journey. I am speaking generally, as, of course, the staff members who have worked for the team for many years, along with the other fully-trained peer supporters, obviously have a fair knowledge of breastfeeding. But support and advice on breastfeeding are two very different things and currently, there is no one person, fully qualified to give breastfeeding advice in the whole of Middlesbrough. So, you can understand why so many mother’s are finding their breastfeeding journey cut short. 

Research suggests a strong association to postnatal depression (PND) and a mother who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. Research also suggests a strong link to poor infant mental health and maternal depression. 

I hope you can see why this issue is one of importance in Middlesbrough. I would love to see an improvement to not only the health of our children in this area but to the health of mothers in this area, too. 

I believe that establishing a group, such as the APPG for Infant feeding and Inequalities can help overcome this problem.

Efforts have been made to establish the APPG for Infant Feeding and Inequalities in the UK parliament, recently. However, I was disappointed to discover that despite the group trying to form in November, there wasn’t enough cross-party representation, in particular, from Conservative and Labour MP’s. Unfortunately, this meant the group were actually prohibited from getting off the ground.

However, another opportunity has been formed for MP’s to help this group establish itself successfully, with another short meeting on Tuesday 19th January at 9.30am in W1 of Westminster Hall.

Will you attend this group on my behalf and ensure this group gets off the ground? Will you add your name to join the group?
As I have highlighted, this is an exciting opportunity to get involved in such important discussions and campaigns, which should be considered around the area of infant feeding, and I would be delighted if you, as my MP, could attend
and help raise the issue on my behalf.
I look forward to hearing from you, 

Yours Sincerely, 

Lucy Marie Cuzzocrea

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A Mother’s Rest

 

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