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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As one door closes, another one opens. 


Our almost 2 year old big girl, decided to have a day of exploring some independence, today.
On leaving the house to attend our favourite playgroup, instead of climbing into her pushchair, she announced, “No. My can walk!” So, today, for the first time, she walked. 


She was so good at listening to mummy. She held my hand, stayed on the path and let me hold the reign when she wanted a bit more freedom. 

She stepped onto the bus, all by herself, and even sat on her very own seat, which she was thrilled with and told everyone, “My seat!”, with a huge grin on her face. 


When we got off the bus, she walked passed the workers, fixing the broken road, and watched as she held my hand. No jumping into my arms, scared of the big noise. Instead, her eyes stayed fixed in curiosity, as I explained, as well as I could, what it was all about.

On the way home, she learnt how to wait on the path, when the red man shows and only to cross when the green man shows. 
I think crossing the road was her favourite part, as she repeated “Cross the road!” every 2 minutes, each way! 😁

Yesterday, she didn’t have this hunger for autonomy. Today she explored a new world and I was left feeling a mixture of both sadness and pride. As one door closes, another one opens, they say. 

It’s crazy how your love develops for them, every step of the way. 

I think I’ll remember this day forever. 💗

How a Modern Day Village is Helping Me Raise My Child

  

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve read many articles that explain how important it is to recognise that humans, by nature, are supposed to raise their children as a communal effort with their extended family. But in our modern day society, villages are pretty hard to come by. 

I often close my eyes and try to imagine what an old time village of help might have looked like. Big houses full of people, laughter, good conversation. Children running around playing together. A big pot of soup on the stove, bread in the oven. It brings a smile to my face, at the thought. I imagine during spring and summer, children would be out in the garden, helping their elders grow the food that will be one day cooked up for them to eat and in Autumn they all go out to collect fruit for pies. I imagine mums, who can always take 5 mins or longer, to breathe and take care of themselves, while another member of the family watches the kids. And the joint effort that would go into the general care of the house. I like this place. Something in my blood misses this place.

But now, in a world that focuses on each person being as productive for industry as possible, we find that the people in our “village” are gone. Simply too busy to take part. 

Grandparents, aunties and uncles, our closest friends, all have jobs to commit to. Unless one person in a single family earns enough to take care of the family finances, alone, all parties must find themselves a job in order to contribute and sustain their way of living. This leaves new parents in a bit of a pickle when it comes to sourcing help and support from their village. New parents find themselves alone in the home, to take care of not only the children but the other jobs that need taking care of in the home. Again, something that in days gone by, would have been a shared responsibility. 

We power through, often struggling to raise our children in the way we see fit, whilst trying to understand why this whole parenting thing is so bloody difficult! 

It usually leaves us feeling like we are incapable or like we are failing at parenting. 

Some become anxious, depressed and find themselves needing medical care, either in the form of medication or counselling. Many others don’t even get this far. As a result of poor mental health education and awareness, many continue to struggle through, without ever taking care of their mental well-being, leading to many more problems in their lives. It’s a huge problem!

I don’t have the answers to this. I’m aware that if our government spent a little more time focusing on the importance and value of care in the home, whatever form that might take, then we might not be finding ourselves in such a pandemic with maternal or family-related mental health issues – You can follow Mothers at Home Matter Too to see how one organisation is trying to change government policy on this issue and also The Politics of Mothering to join discussions that surround these issues. – For now, all I can do is hope that many will see the merit that a politician like Jeremy Corbyn would bring to our government, and carry on. But what I do recognise, is that I seem to have created my very own, modern-day village. And many other parents seem to be doing the same.

It’s not as traditional as the villages we humans were once used to. The grandparents are still there, on certain days. The friends still exist. But in this village, there is a special group of other parents, who are all going through the same dilemmas. They are all helping eachother out with advice and personal success stories. They are there when a mum needs breastfeeding advice, when they are struggling to get sleep but don’t want to leave their tiny baby alone in a room to cry, or when they want to deal with their raging toddler without losing the plot. They are there for moral support, when someone has argued once again with their husband or the house is a complete mess and they feel they have no one else in the world to turn to. They are there to support eachother through things like Postnatal Depression. There’s even a library in this village, full of cookbooks, breastfeeding books, weaning books, attachment parenting books, self-help books, a book full of ideas on what clothes they can wear to breastfeed in. It’s quite amazing! 

It’s called the internet. 

As if by magic, this new world has opened, in protest and mourning, at the loss of our physical villages. People are digging through pages and forums, to find a new community that can help them with the hardest job on earth. And these relationships have become some of the most important in our lives. 

There’s a part of me that feels sad at this realisation. There’s a part of me that wishes my village could be filled with the people I love most, in the physical world. But there is also a part of me that is hugely grateful for those who play such an important role in my online life because without those special people, without the library of information, I dread to think of how I would be getting by with my day-to-day life. 

However, this in itself is not a sustainable model. Why? Because behind our screens, these people are alone too and far away. 

One solution I found to this, was to set up a local parent support group. I recognised the need for realtime people, face-to-face support and friendships. And you know what? It’s going pretty well. 

There’s around 200 members in this group and around 30 volunteers. As volunteers, we aim to come together and help any parent we recognise to be struggling on their own. We make batch meals and deliver them if a parent is too tired or too busy to cook. We arrange playdates in eachothers houses, so that no parent ever has to feel isolated. We go for walks in the park together, meet up in coffee shops and at playgroups. We wash pots and hold the baby so mum can take a shower. And we’re also there for that all important online support. 

I’m really proud of what the group has achieved and feel it’s a great attempt to claw back a little of what has been lost with our sense of community. I urge any parent who feels the same to do similar. Find your village! Find that help and give it back. There’s a huge community of parents out there, just like you, feeling alone, stressed, believing they aren’t capable of this job. But they are. YOU are! We just a need a little help. We just need to find our village. 😉

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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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Messy Moments

We had a brilliant day, yesterday. The day after Boxing Day. The day of confusion, when no one quite knows what to do with themselves. The rush of Christmas is over, the stretching out of which, otherwise known as Boxing Day has been and gone and we’re all left scratching our heads, wondering what to do? 

Well, it was an easy one for me. My Secret Santa (Mother-in-Law) was fab this year and brought me some stunning rainbow wellies! With my feet itching to get in them and dirty them up, there was only one thing for it. MUD PIES!! 

So, I got the kids ready (Maya and her cousin, Sofia) and headed for the mud! 

We’re currently down in Somerset, for the Christmas period, staying with my husband’s sister in their big farmhouse. They have so much land and it’s right in the middle of lots of lovely countryside. Perfect for mud pie making. 

We headed down to the field, where I had earlier spotted a huge patch of grass-free, sloppy mud!

The first thing we did was get to know the mud. From experience, it’s never a good idea to jump into new sensory activities too soon, with modern day, domesticated little ones. Last time I did that, this happened..

  

As you can see, she was less than impressed with the homemade, organic, orange jelly-pool, I had spent all morning making for her, so that she could have a great sensory experience! 

Lesson learnt. 

Maya has spent many days outdoors and we’ve done baby-led weaning with her, in the knowledge that, with it, we would also be treating her to a bit of daily messy-play that would help to enhance her sensory development, amongst many other things. But what we haven’t had much of, is getting butt-naked and launching ourselves into pools of unknown textures. Babies and children are very sensitive to new sensory experiences and what can be a great learning curve, can also be just downright terrifying. 

I realised I was keeping my small, domesticated human a little too wrapped up in the “comforts” of the home and not getting stuck into the outdoors as much as we should be. So, we’ve been spending a lot more time outside, lately, getting to know nature. Picking up sticks, stones, leaves, flowers etc… Many got eaten. Many were brought home and played with until there was no life left in them. And over time, Maya has got used to exploring the different objects and textures of the outdoors. 

So, we were definitely ready for some mud play! 

I was a little uncertain with how Sofia would react. As we don’t see eachother very often, and all children are so different, I was secretly crossing my fingers and toes that she would enjoy it and get stuck in. Well, she did! She loved it! Learning from history, I introduced them both slowly to the mud. Maya is going through a great stage of observation, especially where ‘big kids’ are  involved. She learns so much from them and just loves to sit and watch them. So, along with some helpful supervision from Daddy, Maya was conveniently placed on the gravel, while Sofia and I took the plunge. 

We began by taking steps in the mud. There was some big pools of water, so we chatted about how there was lots of mud but also lots of puddles of water in the mud. Then we challenged ourselves to find the puddles and splash in them. This went down a treat! Sofia loved splashing and sploshing and got mega excited with every puddle. We observed the sound the mud made when we squashed it with our feet and how our feet sometimes got stuck in the mud and it was difficult (and funny) to pull them out.

Once Sofia was acquainted with the mud, using large wooden spoons, we began filling our big bowl with the lovely stuff. This was fun. I felt like I was making a big sloppy chocolate pie (…wishful thinking). Sofia, thoroughly enjoyed the task. She could do it well. 

At this point, I gave Maya a bowl of mud to play with and she sat, dipping her fingers in it. I dipped my fingers in and showed Sofia. She gasped, slightly horrified that I had intentionally dirtied my hands. I explained that it was ok, I meant to get my hands dirty and asked if she wanted to try it. It was a firm “no”. I explained that it was ok if she didn’t want to and we continued to fill the bowl with mud.

   
Next, we needed our pie to be a little bit firmer and less watery. So, we poured our mud into a collider and we watched how the water drained and separated from the mud. We then noticed how the mud was now nice and “hard” and less “sloppy”. Then we poured our mud back into the bowl. At this point, Sofia got some mud on her fingers. “Ooh, no!” She looked at me and showed me the mess. I smiled and said, “That’s OK. We’re making a mud pie. It’s ok to get your hands dirty when you make a mud pie.” She wasn’t sure. I took my own hands and demonstrated by grabbing the mud in the bowl, letting it run through my fingers and playing with it, which she found hilarious! But still, wasn’t ready to get her hands dirty. “That’s OK”, I smiled and we continued. 

Sofia was sat stirring her mud pie, when I realised there was a wooden fence right next to us that would be great for painting on. So, I took to the fence. 

  
Sofia and Maya were both engaged with their mud pies, so I took it as an opportunity to allow them a bit of independent play and tried not to disturb them. 

It didn’t take them long to realise I was doing something quite fun and they came to investigate. I showed them both how I was dipping my finger into the pile of mud in my other hand and using it to paint on the fence with. I asked Maya if she wanted some mud on her hands, to which she looked at me like I was crazy and shook her head. I laughed, “OK, Maya, no problem.” I turned to Sofia, who smiled sweetly and, also, shook her head. “No problem”. I continued to paint. 

Sofia had been watching what I was doing and was getting really excited about it. She started brushing the fence with her finger, in an attempt to paint it too but noticed that there was no picture when she did it. I showed her again, how I was dipping my finger into the mud, first, which then allowed me to paint pictures. I started painting the alphabet, to demonstrate. She watched and we both recited the alphabet together, which was lots of fun. By the time I got to “Z”, she was ready to take the plunge! 

  
  

We began with some mud hand printing. I demonstrated first and Sofia copied. She got great pleasure from seeing the print form and ended up really enjoying getting her hands dirty! 

   
   
Shortly after, Sofia’s Mummy joined us and I got chance to escape to the field for a few minutes. There was a tree at the back of the field, which was full of black birds and I had been dying to investigate. I wondered why the birds had chosen that particular tree. What was so special about it? There was loads of others trees for them to perch on. What was so good about this one? As I got closer, I realised how loud the birds were churping. They were singing! Every single one of them and the sound was amazing! I got my phone out to record the sound and a minute later, they fell silent. Just at that, a huge cloud of them flew up into the air, from the neighbouring field, and soared right over my head. It was a wonderful sensory experience that I’ll never forget. I felt so at peace and free and apart of the natural world, something I haven’t felt for a long time. It reminded me of the days I used to feel like that, all the time, when I was a child and got me to thinking.

  
There’s been a huge trend in creating sensory experiences for our children, lately. Parents all over the world have been taking part in the new craze, that is, Messy Play! Tuft tray sales are soaring and supermarkets are cashing in on sales in their pasta and food colouring products, so that parents around the world may treat their children to things that excite their senses and enhance their development.
If there’s one thing I have taken from today, it is that maybe we don’t need to be so hasty with our purses and, equally, our time, planning these indoor sensory experiences. Maybe, all we need is to take a few steps from our homes, into the wonderful outdoors and let our children explore everything that Mother Nature has on offer. What better way to excite our children’s senses, whilst saving a few pennies and giving ourselves an opportunity to relax by getting out of planning all these spectacular activities. 

Our original plan was simply to make mud pies. I didn’t know how we would make them or how it would evolve, I just collected a few kitchen bits and headed outside. We ended up learning a bit of science, art, English, construction and even some music when we sung the alphabet. The opportunities are endless! All it took was a bit of creativity and a lot of mud!

The day was finished off with a lovely co-bath for the girls and, for myself, a nice glass of red. It was so successful that I think, once we get home, I’ll make sure we get down and dirty outdoors at least once a week, from now on. There really is so much to learn. It’s relaxing, therapeutic, educational and it’s, quite literally, the best sensory experience on earth! 

  

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How Not to ‘Mess’ Up Christmas.

  
  
Messy and sensory play, is so great for our little people, isn’t it? Letting them get their hands sticky and their feet muddy, nourishes their minds and their souls. It helps develop their physical skills, enhances communication skills and allows them to be creative until their little hearts’ content! We know that. But what we seem to be forgetting, as parents, is how good a bit of messy play can be for us, too.

This year, like many before it, has brought with it a few learning curves. This is my second Christmas as a mother and I’m already learning bigger lessons than I did last year. 

Last year was great! I mean, Baby’s First Christmas? Only 6 weeks old? It was, of course, very special! But I won’t lie, it was also very hard. 6 weeks in, after lots of initial feeding problems and an oversupply, disguised as “colic”, life certainly wasn’t without stress. Last year, my concerns were for the physical pressures I was faced with. This year, I’m more focused on the social and psychological pressures, especially for us mums. 

Christmas is an amazing time of year and I’ve always loved it. I’ve especially looked forward to Christmas with my own children. But everywhere I look, all I see are stressed parents! Parents who are trying so hard to get things right and still feeling like complete failures. Don’t get me wrong, some people are absolutely nailing it. Their houses are perfectly prepped! Their doors, draped in holly, they’ve had their Christmas shopping done since June and had their gifts wrapped since July! But if most of us are honest, most of us aren’t nailing it. Or at least, that’s what we think! 

The problem is, the parents who truly believe that Christmas is a huge failure, are the ones that stand out to me as good parents. They always have their children at the heart of everything they do. They work hard, to bring in extra money for holidays or to set a good example. They’re always talking about their children, posting photo’s of them on Facebook and trying to cram as many festive activities in, as they can. They are great parents! So, what is missing?

I’ve come to the conclusion, it’s a matter of perception. These parents are trying to achieve perfection and perfection can not be achieved by anyone. 

It was once explained to me (in therapy) that being a perfectionist doesn’t mean you are perfect at everything you do but that you try to be perfect at everything you do, which would literally be impossible. We are not super heroes. And what is perfection? Well, I guess it depends on what you’re talking about but, mainly, perfection is a matter of perception. It isn’t achievable and is very self-destructive to attempt it. 

Putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect at absolutely everything, does nothing but lead us to, well, feel pressure! 

Do you really think your kids care that the gingerbread house fucked up? That the painted Rudolph foot didn’t look anything like Rudolph or that the minced pies didn’t taste quite as fruity as they should have?

Next time you sit down to a bit of messy play with your little ones, watch how free they are! Watch how absolutely nothing else matters but getting messy and watch how much fun then are having. Do you think they care that they are getting messy? That their hair isn’t perfect or their clothes are dirty? No. Because they are free.

How about, this Christmas, we take a leaf out of our children’s books and let ourselves get a little messy. Or a lot. And let ourselves know that it’s ok. We’re still great parents! Possibly even better ones.. 😉

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