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 mummy’s 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!


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 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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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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Breastfeeding – Friends and Foes

I had a really interesting morning at toddler group, today. My usual side-kick has gone back to work so Maya and I were flying solo. Time to make some new acquantences! 

There’s a lady at the group, I have actually noticed in previous weeks, due to the fact she reminds me so much of my older sister. Doesn’t really strike you as a mum. Very glamorous! Full make-up, flowing, and might I add, perfectly highlighted, hair. I don’t know, just not quite as tired as rest of us. This one definitely looks after herself. Makes you slightly jealous. In a good way! 

What’s her secret? 

Where does she find the time? 

Cue dreaming of days gone by, where you would spend a good hour, at least, pampering yourself every morning, not a care in the world. 

Anyway, I noticed her again, once more, today. She was trying to settle a crying baby in a car seat, in the corner of the room. I couldn’t help but sneak a few looks and I noticed, what looked like, a bit of cry-it-out session, going on. I wondered, why? – Not in a judgmental way. Becoming a mother has made me realise you never know what is going on in someone else’s life. But, in a genuinely curious way. 

She’s right there, I thought. It’s a playgroup. I wonder why she’s trying to keep him in the car seat? Perhaps, it’s nap time? 

The crying got pretty bad and the lady just kept holding him down, as he tried to wriggle his way out. I really couldn’t watch it. The sound of a baby crying, goes straight through me and makes me feel a bit sick. So, I left the area and moved over to the forming circle of mums and little people, in preparation for Song Time.

Just as we sat down, Maya began tapping my boobs and whining, so I got comfortable and started nursing. 

Just as we had started, the lady and the baby came and sat next to us. “Don’t mind me! Just keep doing what you’re doing!” I laughed and thanked her, as she moved her chair out of my way, noticing she was now cuddling a very distraught little boy. 

“He’s not mine, he’s a friends.”, she said. “She’s trying to get him off the boob so, I’m helping her out.  He’s 8 months old. He doesn’t need it anymore, he just uses her for comfort, he’s not getting anything from it.” 

It blew me away.

I couldn’t believe this person had just sat next to me. My heart started to race a little. 

I’ve prepared myself for this for a long time, meeting someone who knew so little about breastfeeding, yet felt compelled to voice such a strong opinion on it. 

Having only just met her, I didn’t feel I could correct her, just yet. 

Of course, he would still be getting something! Human milk doesn’t just stop being nutritious because a baby is over 6 months. I mean, what would it be replaced with, formula? Cows milk? Of course, if dried-up cows milk is nutritious, then human milk most certainly still is! 

I stayed quiet, though. Gave her a half smile. Enough to be friendly but not too much. I didn’t want her to think I agreed with her.

Song time pursued and after joining in for 5 minutes, Maya wanted more milk but a few minutes into feeding, everyone started singing her favourite song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” At that, she popped off and shot up, with a huge grin on her face and began clapping her hands. The lady tossed her hair back, laughed and said, “She prefers the music to the boob!” I laughed again, nodded, smiled. Trying to work her out. Was that friendly or a dig at breastfeeding? Am I being paranoid, here?

On the one hand, I love people who are relaxed about me breastfeeding. On the other hand, it was clear she knew very little about it and had some judgements of her own. I know this type of person and I prayed she wasn’t about to fit the stereotype. 

Song time ended and off we went to play again. I noticed the baby boy’s mum had returned. She was walking and hugging him tight. She looked very stressed! 

I wanted to go over and offer my sympathy and support. Perhaps, some advice. I could tell her about the Breast Buddies group on Facebook, I thought, and she could get tonnes of advice on gentle-weaning strategies and maybe, then, she wouldn’t be so stressed. 

I almost went over but stopped. What if she thinks it’s none of my business? What if the other lady shouldn’t have been telling me what she was doing? I thought it best to leave it. 

I regret that now. 

We enjoyed snack time and before you know it, we bumped into each other again. I looked for her friend with the baby but they were no where to be seen so, I asked her, did she know if her friend was in the Breast Buddies group? 

She wasn’t sure so, I explained, it was full of women who could give her some great tips and that weaning didn’t have to be all or nothing. She could offer expressed milk or formula, along with food during the day and still offer the breast on a morning and at bed time. This might make the transition less stressful for the baby and for mum to endure the crying. There are also options to give milk in a cup, if he won’t take a bottle, I went on. I asked her to pass on the name of the group, as well as my name and if I see a post from her, I will link her up to some good articles.

She seemed thankful for my advice and promised to pass on the information.

Proud moment. I did good, I thought. I was just about to go about my day with that good feeling that changes everything when you’ve done a good deed, when out of no where, there it was. A plethora of breastfeeding myths and criticisms, rolled off her tongue one by one. 

“I’m all for breastfeeding but there’s a way to do it discreetly..”, “Some women do it just so they can get their boobs out.” I was quick to defend this one and said I don’t think anyone ever breastfeeds a baby just so they can get their boobs out. However, she was quite persistent and proceeded to explain she once seen one, in the shopping centre. “…and you should have seen the size of the kid, at least 2!” 

So, I’m stood here thinking, I’ve waited for this moment, say something clever, tell her about the World Health Organisation and that they recommend feeding until 2 and beyond! Tell her! 

I managed to push out that feeding until 2 or 3 is quite normal. Disappointing stuff. 

I fake smiled and pretty much gave up on trying to convince her. I just didn’t know where to start and figured it would take more than a few minutes to educate this lady on the truth. So, I just reminded her to pass on my message, smiled and said goodbye. 

To be fair, she was very honest and I appreciated her honesty. I didn’t, personally, feel offended by her opinions on breastfeeders. I’ve heard it all before, mainly in the comments section of breastfeeding articles, online. However, this lady represents a much bigger problem. It is seemingly harmless comments, like hers, that can destroy a mother’s breastfeeding relationship. 

Critisisms like “he doesn’t need it” or “he is using her for comfort”, suggests there is something wrong with a baby breastfeeding for comfort. Actually, it’s a very normal and natural thing and not only do I love that side of it but once they’re older, you get to use it as a great parenting tool! It’s literally the answer to everything. Anytime Maya falls and bumps herself, I get the boob out. Teething? Boob. Sick? Boob. Upset? Boob. You see where I’m going with this…

Yes, some women use breastfeeding as a means to provide their child with the comfort they seek from their mother. Much like a hug, a feed can provide security and help the child to feel loved and cared for. Very important to a child’s emotional development. Would you deny a child a hug? 

So, that was the last I seen of her. I tried to forget about it and carried on playing with Maya. We were just about to start getting ready to go, when a lady behind me exclaimed just how beautiful Maya was! 

We got chatting and as it turns out, I had managed to park myself next to the other breastfeeders in town. I suddenly felt at home! 

What lovely, ladies they were. We got chatting about breastfeeding and how there really isn’t enough support for those mums who really want to, but struggle and that many end up left, feeling failed and guilty that they didn’t do a good enough job or are now unable to nourish their baby with their own breasts.

Another mum interrupted at this point and explained that is exactly what happened to her and that she had failed to breastfeed. We all piped up straight away and told her she didn’t ‘fail’ she was failed by the people that were supposed to help her.

The conversation really lifted my spirits and reminded me that while there are still some uneducated people out there, contributing to the discrimination women face for breastfeeding, there are also the people like us. The ones who will never judge a mum on her decisions with feeding her baby, who will never throw such strong, uneducated opinions at vulnerable mums, looking for help and support and who will always offer ideas for gentle methods and give their support to a mum-in-need. 

Keep up the good work you people! It’s working. One boob at a time. 

And if you’re reading this, mum, please get in touch. I’d love to chat! 😊

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