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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I Just Got Kicked Out of a Breastfeeding Support Group for Supporting Breastfeeding!

I just got kicked out of a breastfeeding support group for supporting and trying to protect breastfeeding mothers. 

A lady in the group posted this.

 
Seems harmless enough, right? Shouldn’t we all support this kind of feeding. Just because it’s not breastfeeding, doesn’t mean it’s not ok, right?

We’re all mothers just trying to do our job. 

The problem, here, is that this is exactly the kind of thing that breastfeeding mothers are trying to escape by joining A BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT GROUP. 

All throughout my first few months of breastfeeding, a time when I needed the support to breastfeed, from the people around me more than ever, all I heard was, “Just give her a bottle.” It was said with the best of intentions, I understand that. It was always well-meaning but it was also always said by people who bottle-fed their children. People who knew nothing about breastfeeding, whatsoever. So they couldn’t understand that, as well-meaning as it was, it was the very last thing that I needed to hear. 

Breastfeeding is MY RIGHT! It is my BABY’S RIGHT! I wanted to breastfeed. My baby wanted to breastfeed. I needed breastfeeding support. I did not need more people telling me to just give up and put her on a bottle. 

So, as you can imagine, I found huge comfort and relief in my local, online, breastfeeding support group, Breast Buddies Teesside. It was, literally, the only place I could go where no one would tell me to just put my baby on a bottle. I found all the encouragement, correct information and support that I needed to continue and, here I am, still breastfeeding today! I can guarantee that would not have happened, had I not found that group. 

Further to this, there was never any imagery of bottle feeding in there. Instead, women were posting beautiful pictures of their baby’s breastfeeding, bursting with pride that the latch was ‘finally right’ or that they had finally plucked up the courage to feed their newborn in public, without receiving any negative comments. This kind of thing, helps us women to feel supported because it makes us feel NORMAL. 

Images of the bottle fed baby are, literally, everywhere. In our adverts, on tele, in our magazines, on our TV soaps, our parents bottle fed, our sisters, friends, HECK even our children’s dolls all come with a bottle. Bottle feeding couldn’t be more normal, in our culture, if it tried! So there is no greater feeling, for a breastfeeding mum to find herself in a place, free from bottles and full of lovely boobs. No one to make her feel bad for her shameless brelfies or tell her that her baby might not be getting enough milk. 

Imagery like this not only adds to the normalisation of bottle feeding but it works to undermine a woman’s ability to breastfeed. Seeing images like this reinforces the idea that breasts are not good enough to feed babies and can sway a mother to give up the fight, when she didn’t need to. 

So, forgive me, if when I see a picture uploaded to A BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT GROUP that basically tells women that all their hard work trying to breastfeed their baby doesn’t matter, because ‘being fed’ is all that matters, I don’t jump up and celebrate that message. 

I understand, this kind of message can help those women feel better about themselves, whose baby could never latch. I’m sorry you were not supported enough to breastfeed. This is why I am training to become a breastfeeding peer supporter, so that I may help prevent that from happening, to future mums.

I understand this kind of message can help women to feel better, who had to stop breastfeeding for medical reasons but I’m sure they would understand the reasons why this kind of message isn’t appropriate to those currently struggling to make breastfeeding work for them. 

I even understand it could help mothers feel better, who chose to formula feed, however, in that case, shouldn’t this kind of thing be posted in a formula feeding support group? 

Another reason I dislike this, is that it reinforces the idea that there is a large number of mothers out there who are judging bottle/tube/formula feeding mums. I’m not saying those people don’t exist but I think we have a much bigger problem with people tarring all breastfeeding mothers with the same brush. 

Most breastfeeding mothers don’t judge. Most have had to give their formula, themselves, at some point! And, more to the point, breastfeeding mothers are a minority group. If only 17% of UK mothers are still breastfeeding by 3 months, then that means a whopping 83% of mums are formula feeding by the time their baby is 3 months old. That number increases rapidly as the baby gets older. So, who in their right mind, would judge a formula feeding mother, when they themselves formula feed? Because the only people with the opportunity to judge would be a very small minority of breastfeeding mothers, most of whom, are bloody lovely and would never judge another mum for formula feeding.

So, then, where did this idea of ‘The Mommy Wars’ come from?

You guessed it! The formula companies, of course!! 

It pays to make formula feeders feel judged  by breastfeeding mums, for the way they feed their babies. It prevents breastfeeding mums from talking about the benefits of breastfeeding, for fear of being labelled as “judgy”. This is why one major brand of formula has, recently, spent a lot of bloody money creating adverts about ‘The Mommy Wars’, reinforcing the idea that it exists. It’s all very clever, but then, formula didn’t become a billion pound industry for being daft, did it? 

So, imagine my surprise when after, very diplomatically, explaining to the admin team of UK Breastfeeding Support, my reasons for believing this meme to be inappropriate, I am met with this…

  
They kicked me out! 

Thankfully, this group is not the group I was talking about, which helped me so much in my early breastfeeding days. And I am now informed that it is very well-known for giving out and allowing bad advice (Although, not as well-known as I would hope, with over 5,000 current members). 

I am told, in an attempt to counter the poor and risky work of the admins, over at UK Breastfeeding Support, a new group was created in its place. This group is UK Breastfeeding and Parenting Support and it is full of lovely, supportive mums and peer supporters, alike. Free from the norms of bottle feeding! A safe and comfortable environment for all mums, wishing to vent about the pressure to bottle feed and to be FULLY supported on their breastfeeding journeys.

Another fab breastfeeding support group, which, to my knowledge, has never supported this type of language or imagery, is Breastfeeding Yummy Mummies. If you are a breastfeeding mother, or aspiring to be, I would recommend these two groups very much and hope, from the bottom of my heart, you find them first.

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