Extended breastfeeding:
Who is it benefiting anyway?

Extended breastfeeding: <br> Who is it benefiting anyway?<br/>

I’m in the 0.5% of mothers in the UK who is breastfeeding their baby beyond a year. I didn’t plan to be in that group, I didn’t aim to breastfeed for this long. I wanted to breastfeed, sure. I put the effort in. I sacrificed some of my ‘freedom’. I got jealous when my formula-feeding mama friends could seemingly come and go as they pleased. I got frustrated. I got sick of the sight of nursing bras. I shared and am still sharing my body and I’m not in any hurry to ‘get it back’.

After an initial tough start, breastfeeding became second nature. I think back to those long nights and days that we struggled with it and they seem a very distant memory.

Being totally honest, I’ve wanted to give up breastfeeding many, many times. But just as soon as I felt sure I wanted to stop, I’d change my mind again. What me and my toddler have is precious and it felt silly to give it up because she was pulling on my hair too much (which let’s face it, she’d do anyway) or because my pre-period hormones would make my let down reflex so frustratingly slow that feeding became arduous for about a week, each and every month.

I kept telling myself that this wouldn’t be forever. In the grand scheme of things, even if I fed her until she was two-years-old (or beyond!), it’s not a very long time. One day, it too, would seem a distant memory. And I’d miss it, I’m sure.

How long one should breastfeed their child for is a highly debated topic. (What isn’t when it comes to mothering?) There is no definitive answer. The WHO recommends “exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

I’ve heard people say that it becomes ‘wrong’ to breastfeed as soon as a child can ‘ask for it’. Which seems odd, to me. I mean, when you think about it, a child would have been ‘asking for it’ one way or another since the day they were born. Lip smacking/boob nuzzling/crying – that’s all OK… but as soon as a child can verbally ask to be breastfed, that would be deemed as ‘wrong’? *shrugs*

Another phrase I hear often, in regards to extended breastfeeding is ‘it’s probably more for the mum’s benefit’. Insinuating that the toddler is an unwilling participant, being force-fed boob to satisfy a mother’s selfish desire to prolong their breastfeeding journey. Which, let me tell you, is bloody ludicrous. You absolutely can not force a child to breastfeed! A breastfeeding relationship has to be mutual in order for it to work, especially long-term. I often giggle when I think of the ‘more for the mum’ type comments, usually because I’m feeding E, whilst she’s pulling my hair or scratching my neck. Much in the same way a kitten kneads at a lap with it’s sharp claws whilst being stroked because it feels utterly content. ‘More for the mum’, my arse!

Does that mean I’m not benefiting from breastfeeding my 1.5 year old? Of course not. Like I said, it’s a mutual relationship. When I’ve had a stressful day, feeding E is sometimes the best way to calm me down. As I feed her, before bed, I can physically feel the surge of oxytocin flowing through my body. I feel completely relaxed and content. I wonder how I ever managed without this daily 5 minute mood booster. It can turn the toughest of days on it’s head – suddenly all is well with the world again.

And you know who else is benefiting from mine and E’s extended breastfeeding journey? My 4-year-old, Jasmine. Even though she didn’t get any breast milk from me beyond six weeks. I still feel my positive experience with her younger sister will benefit her too. How? She is growing up in a home which normalizes breastfeeding. The longer I feed E, the more likely she is to grow up remembering that is how her mama fed a baby. She knows breasts produce milk to feed babies – that is their main purpose. And all of this is giving her a great advantage, if one day, she has her own babies and decides, she too, would like to breastfeed.

I don’t know how much longer I will breastfeed E – we’re just doing as we’ve always done and are taking it a feed at a time. But for as long as we continue our feeding journey, the relationship will be mutual and it will benefit us both.

Jenna xx

NB. Here’s a fab link to more information on breastfeeding beyond a year and the benefits to both mother and child.

Is your home ready for your new arrival?

Is your home ready for your new arrival?

Having a baby is one of the most incredible, exciting and terrifying things you can do in your life. Your world changes forever, and you change forever- you truly get to understand love in its purest form. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it’s difficult at times too.

As well as making sure everything is OK with yours and your baby’s health, you have the practical things to consider. For example, are your finances in order? You certainly don’t need to be rich to give your child a good life, but there are significant costs to cover and so getting yourself in the best position with money that you can makes sense. Is your car up to scratch? If you currently only have a two-seater car for example then you won’t have space for your partner as well as the car seat. Maybe you only have a two door model which would make getting a car seat in and out a bit of a pain. Perhaps the safety features aren’t as modern as you want- either way, a new car might be on the cards. Your home is another thing to get right, and before you get pregnant (or before your baby arrives) here are a few things to consider.

Location

If you moved into your home before thinking about having children, then things like how good the local schools or parks are probably didn’t cross your mind. You might live in a place that has a high crime rate, but decided to take the risk because as a couple it was close to work or generally made sense at the time. However when a baby comes along that can change, and you will probably want somewhere safe and family friendly. If you decide to move home, be sure to look into the amenities you might need nearby- soft play centres, nurseries, schools and parks. Check out the crime rates and make sure you’re not in a dangerous location such as on a very busy road.

Practicality

You might have a good house in the right area, but perhaps you don’t have enough bedrooms? Maybe the layout feels cramped and doesn’t make sense? You could get around this by having an extension built, a loft conversion or re-jigging some of the walls. You could even have a company like County the home improvers come in and refit everything for you. Spacious rooms with hard wearing and easy to clean flooring is no bad thing when you have little ones.

Accessibility

If you live in an apartment block which can only be accessed via stairs, or if your home has lots of steps outside then think if this would be practical with a pram. Life with a young baby is already difficult enough, not being easily able to get in and out of your home is only going to make things worse. If you can’t make the changes that you need to, then it could be worth looking for something new.

This is a collaborative post.

Introducing the latest Smyths Baby Catalogue…

Introducing the latest Smyths Baby Catalogue…

When I think of Smyths, I think of children’s toys. That’s what they do, right? They sell toys.

But that’s not all. I recently found out that Smyths have their very own baby catalogue which has 84 pages filled with the top baby products and brands. Everything you’d need for a new baby, including car seats, bouncers, pushchairs and highchairs. You name it, they’ve got it.

I’ve been browsing the Smyths baby catalogue myself and thought I’d share some of my favourite picks:

ClevaMama ClevaCushion 10-in-1 Nursing Pillow – Grey

A good nursing pillow was so useful to me, particularly in the early days of breastfeeding. Mine wasn’t nearly as clever as the ‘Clevacushion’ though. This pillow can not only be used to support baby whilst nursing but it also has an insert designed to transform the nursing pillow into the perfect baby nest. The ClevaCushion’s ClevaFoam technology has been scientifically proven to reduce the pressure on the back of baby’s head by 50% and increase support by an incredible 80%. Genius! It’s no wonder this product has won several awards.

Babylo Milan Glider Chair and Footstool – White/Grey

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that the above glider chair and footstool is just £179.99?! I mean, look at it! It’s gorgeous. I’m trying not to think about how many hours I’ve sat on the floor or on my husband’s wobbly office chair whilst feeding E. Is it too late to buy it now?!

Graco Teatime Bow Time Bear Highchair

If you’re in the market for a highchair that’s easy to clean, looks nice and has a slim fold then this one looks like it ticks all of the boxes. We have the Ikea highchair and as much as it was a bargain, I do wish I could fold it up when we’re not using it as it takes up so. much. space.

This design is also much cuter…

 

So, whether you have a baby on the way and need to buy the essentials or you know somebody who is expecting and want to find them the perfect gift, pick up your free copy of the Smyths baby catalogue from your local Smyths store.

What was/is your most essential baby product?

Jenna  xx

Is it time to bring in a sleep trainer?

Is it time to bring in a sleep trainer?

My firstborn, Jasmine, was a fabulous sleeper. Ever since she was around 10 weeks old, she slept through the night. We were very, very lucky. And only now do I realise how lucky we were.

When I was pregnant with E, people warned me “Oh, you won’t get another one like that!” and I would roll my eyes. How on earth were they to know how my baby would sleep?! Well, it turns out, in this case – they were right.

Elowen is almost 15 months old and has never once slept through the night. She has bed-shared with us pretty much since birth and I’m still breastfeeding her. She wakes up every 3-4 hours at night for a feed and fusses, sometimes for hours, before going back to sleep. She doesn’t use a dummy or a soft toy as a comforter. Oh no, she uses me – more specifically my hair. She pulls it and twiddles it with one hand and sucks her thumb on the other hand. I wake up some mornings to find clumps of my hair on my pillow case. And aside from anything else, it’s really rather painful!

I realise it’s normal for infants (particularly breastfed babies/toddlers) to wake up frequently during the night. It’s why we’ve just carried on doing what we’ve been doing up until now. I figured she will grow out of it at some point. But also, I wouldn’t even know how to go about changing things up. I don’t know how to stop breastfeeding or how to get her sleeping in her own bed without her screaming the house down. I’m not prepared to do use any kind of Cry It Out methods – no judgement on those who do, that’s up to them, but I’m personally not comfortable with it.

It’s not just night times that are the problem either – she’ll only nap in the pushchair or in my arms and never for very long. This, I’m sure, is a big contributing factor to our night time woes.

Lately, I’ve found myself perusing the websites of local ‘sleep trainers’. These people claim that they can work with parents in order to get their child to sleep through the night. And perhaps, in my sleep deprived state, I’m just desperate for somebody to come in, work their magic, and give me back my 8 hours of sleep a night. But it sounds too good to be true.

I keep telling myself that some kids are good sleepers and others aren’t. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I keep telling myself that this won’t last forever. I’ll probably miss E tugging on my hair, one day.

I keep telling myself that the days are long but the years are short.

But honestly?

I can’t cope with the lack of sleep any more. Something has got to give.

Hubby and I dread going to bed every evening because we know we’re in for a sh*t night. We just don’t know how sh*t yet.

15 months of broken sleep as taken it’s toll on me.

I’m too exhausted to function properly. Simple daily tasks are a struggle.

I spend all day snapping at Jasmine and I feel awful that she takes the brunt of my tiredness. It’s simply not fair on her.

And this is why, I’m seriously considering hiring a ‘sleep trainer’.

I’ve looked at the prices of consultations and they can be hundreds of pounds. It’s an expensive option but feels like the only one I’ve got.

And even if it means I have to eat beans on toast for the rest of the year, it’s the price I’m willing to pay for my sleep and my sanity.

*Photo is an old picture of E. She’d never fall asleep on the floor now. Not unless there was a tranquilizer dart involved. (Ooh, now there’s an idea!)

Have you ever hired a sleep trainer?

Jenna xx

10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding

10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding

1. Nobody told me that… my periods could return whilst I was still breastfeeding.

I know that breastfeeding has lots of benefits for my baby but one of the perks for mama is that your period stops. AMAZING! I’d heard of ladies going years without a visit from ‘Aunt Flo’ due to breastfeeding their babies/toddlers. Naively, I just assumed I’d be free from periods for as long as I was feeding E. Nope, at 8.5 months post-partum my monthly cycles returned! Gutted.

2. Nobody told me that… breastfeeding can be a little isolating.

0.5% of mums are still breastfeeding their babies at 12 months (in the UK) and whilst I truly am proud to be one of them, it sometimes feels quite isolating to be the only breastfeeding mum in the room. Don’t get me wrong, nobody has ever said anything negative (see point 5) but it would be nice to be able to discuss the trials and tribulations of feeding a toddler with somebody else who is also going through it.

3. Nobody told me that… some babies will only drink their milk from the source!

I thought the odd night out with my friends would still be possible whilst breastfeeding. I’d just express some milk and my husband could feed her using a bottle. Simple, no?

Except E won’t drink milk from a bottle, or a beaker, or a cup with straw, or from a silver chalice encrusted with rare diamonds. Nope. She’ll only drink her milk from the source.

I’ll be honest, and no pun intended, that kinda sucks.

I’d love to go on a night out with my friends once in a while. Or spend more one-on-one time with my eldest girl. But having a baby who requires boob on demand has made those things difficult.

4. Nobody told me that… I’d sometimes feel envious of formula feeding mamas.

Due to the combination of points 2 and 3, I do sometimes look at formula feeding mums and feel a tad envious.

14 months of…

…being the only person who is able to do night feeds (and fyi they’re still happening 3-4 times a night).

…not having a date night with my husband.

…or a evening out with friends.

…or having more than a few freakin’ hours to myself.

So yeah, for purely selfish reasons, I sometimes wish I didn’t breastfeed.

5. Nobody told me that…I don’t *need* an array of expensive breastfeeding clothes.

Breastfeeding clothes are expensive and (generally) pretty darn ugly. However, I thought without a wardrobe full of nursing clothes I’d struggle to feed my bambino in public without flashing my breasticles to all and sundry.

Not the case. Admittedly, I am a ‘t-shirt and jeans’ kinda girl so my outfit choices are relatively simple. But I’ve never had any trouble feeding my daughter whilst wearing my normal clothes. My advice? Invest your money in some good (non-wired) nursing bras as these do make feeding easier and help you to avoid getting blocked milk ducts.

6. Nobody told me that…. generally, other people are very supportive.

In the real early days I was nervous about breastfeeding in public. I’d heard so many stories about women being asked to leave shops and restaurants because they were breastfeeding (even though that’s totally bloody illegal). I’d heard tale of people, tutting and making rude remarks towards women who were simply trying to feed their baby. And I’m not saying that stuff doesn’t happen, because clearly it does, but in the 14 months I’ve been breastfeeding I’ve never experienced any negativity.

Instead I’ve found that, on the whole, people are very supportive of breastfeeding mums. I’ve had people bring me over hot drinks and glasses of water. Or help entertain my toddler whilst I wrestled with my hungry baby. I’ve had other mums (breastfeeding and formula feeding alike) cheer me on and tell me how well I’ve done.

There will always be those who disapprove of breastfeeding in public, but they are few and far between. Just remember, everybody else has got your back. :)

7. Nobody told me… not to bother with a cot!

Co-sleeping is, of course, a personal choice. But in my experience, when you’re exclusively breastfeeding, having bub in the same bed as you makes night feeds SO. MUCH. EASIER.

I mean, you don’t have to get up and go make a bottle… so why get out of bed at all?!

After several months of E’s cot gathering dust in our room, I sold it and used the money to buy a bed guard instead.

8. Nobody told me… I’d regularly ‘touch up’ my own breasts in public.

Let me tell you an easy way of spotting a breastfeeding mum in a room. She’s usually feeling up her own boobs.

Keeping track of which breast you last fed your baby from is tricky – especially if you’re feeling hazy from night feeds or busy looking after your older children. So, the easiest method to know which breast to feed from next is to give them a good ol’ squeeze. One will be soft and squidgy, the other will have rock-like characteristics. Feed from the rock-like boob.

9. Nobody told me that… I’d become a human punchbag

Breastfeeding is often portrayed as this calm and relaxing bonding time between mum and baby. And sometimes it is.

The rest of the time I’m having my hair pulled, or being slapped, punched, kicked and pinched and on the odd occasion, bitten.

All I’m saying is, it’s a good job I love you, kiddo.

10. Nobody has ever told me… how to stop.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve reached our 14 month breastfeeding milestone. I honestly never thought we’d get this far, or even planned to breastfeed for this long.

The main reason I’m still going? I don’t know how to stop.

This was never covered in my breastfeeding classes and at the time it wasn’t something I thought to ask about.

I’ve Googled it, of course, many times. But I’ve yet to find any useful information on the best way of stopping breastfeeding. Most websites make you feel guilty for wanting to stop (useful, thanks) and others give very vague ‘advice’. “Just drop a feed each week…” If only it were that simple.

Is there anything you wish you’d been told about breastfeeding?

Jenna xx