Experience: Breastfeeding

I wanted to write a post about breastfeeding, as I would love to share our personal experience of what it has actually been like for us, provide information about problems there can be that I wasn't told about, and to encourage more people to breastfeed if they were considering it or were unsure about it! I'll write a separate 'how to' post about breastfeeding :)

As recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) I breastfed Eric exclusively until he was almost 6 months old, and then started feeding him solid food whilst continuing to breastfeed. He's now 10 months old and still breastfeeding twice a day, alongside eating 3 solid meals and 1 snack per day.
I had some problems during the birth - a prolonged second stage and then a heavy bleed, so was given antibiotics on a drip for 8 hours. When Eric was first born he was very sleepy and had difficulty latching on to the boob, he wasn't hungry and only fed a few times in the first day. The midwives weren't happy about him going for more than 6 hours between feeds so would try to help get him latched on after that time, or would help me express milk (well, colostrum) into a syringe to give to him.  Expressing by hand was painful, embarrassing and difficult.  I was exhausted and emotional after the birth and felt like a failiure that couldn't look after my own child and was worried it was because my breasts are small. 
After a few days my milk came in which was really uncomfortable, my boobs went like huge, rock hard balloons, and looked like I'd had implants! They felt really sensitive and the slightest movement would be painful. I managed to get Eric latching on 3-hourly (you measure from the start of one feed to the start of the next, so when the baby feeds 2 hourly and takes half an hour to feed this actually means you feed them every hour and a half!) We were both really struggling though resulting in us both being distressed and him not managing to get a good feed as he would be crying too much as he was hungry before the feed and then would be upset afterwards due to all the stress.  Some midwives at the hospital were very helpful and sweet, but some were rude and treated me with no dignity.  One midwife reduced me to tears in the middle of the night by suggesting that it was the vegan meals I was eating (that were balanced meals provided by the hospital, e.g. bean stew) that were making his tummy hurt as 'babies need meat and milk', which is obviously not true! And then she even suggested that the midwives look after him in their office for me that night as I obviously couldn't do it. I was devastated (and didn't let her, of course!). 
I was kept in hospital for 5 days as Eric was slightly jaundiced and had to go in an incubator under a lamp for a day, which was why he had been sleepy and uninterested in feeding to start with.  The midwives also wanted to be sure I could breastfeed and wouldnt let me go home until I could prove I could do it! So I would buzz a midwife for every feed so they could watch me do it then I wrote down every feed on a chart, making a note of the time the feed started, how long he fed for and on which side, and also when he had a wet or dirty nappy.  Breastfeeding 
was painful when he latched on, but I persevered and we got better at it, with Eric learning what to do, and I thought the pain must be normal.  

We finally got discharged from hospital and went home, and got more and more used to feeding.  However, it was still painful and after many weeks was getting worse, with sore nipples that felt like razorblades cutting them when he latched on, and then stabbing pain deep in my boobs between feeds.  Feeds took 45 minutes to 1 hour and he was feeding 2-hourly, so I only had an hour off between feeds, and the pain was horrendous. I frequently emailed a friend who I had met in ante natal classes and we compared stories of our difficulty breastfeeding, and it felt so much better knowing I was not the only one having problems, it was a huge help. 
In the end I rang an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and cried down the phone, and explained the pain, and she said she was sure it was thrush. I had had no idea it could be thrush, I didn't know you could get it breastfeeding and no one had ever told me about that in our antenatal classes or even in the special breastfeeding workshop I went to! I went to the doctor who gave me cream for my nipples and drops for Eric's mouth but the symptoms didn't go away.  I went back after two weeks and was given a low dose of tablets and a gel for Eric's mouth instead. The symptoms got better for a week, but then got worse again! So I went back to the doctor and took along the Breastfeeding Network's leaflet about thrush which the NCT breastfeeding counsellor had told me about on the phone and I printed off from their website. The doctor prescribed a higher dose of tablets and the same gel again for Eric's mouth and this time the symptoms got better and stayed better! I was so relieved and breastfeeding was finally pain free! Apparently thrush can be very common if the mother has had antibiotics during delivery, but nobody told me this. 
Breastfeeding stayed pain free, and started to be enjoyable time to relax with Eric whilst watching tv, reading a magazine, or just enjoying watching him adoringly! As the months went on Eric has got better and quicker at feeds.  In the newborn days I would feed him on one boob then swap to the other boob for the next feed, but after one weigh-in his weight gain wasn't as good as I would have hoped, so I started offering the second boob at each feed then swapping round for the following feed, and he took more milk like this.  
I was feeding him 2 hourly still after a few months, and he would often fall asleep on the boob, so we introduced more of a routine where I fed him 3 hourly and put him down for naps 3 hourly, which worked brilliantly. I think I was mistaking 'tired' cries for 'hungry' cries, and was feeding him more often than he needed.  So offering both boobs and spacing the feeds out for us meant more time to build up enough milk for the next feed. And he is now massive! He's learned to suck strongly, and now takes 3 or 4 minutes on 1 boob then 1 or 2 minutes on the other, and has gradually spaced out from every 2 hours when he was little to every 3 hours when we put him on the routine, then every 4 then every 5 hours when we increased his solid food and now just once in the morning and once at night.

It took a good 2 or 3 months to find out what was wrong to start with and why it was painful, and to get it sorted and I wish I'd had more information about thrush so I could have been diagnosed and treated more quickly! Breastfeeding should not be at all painful. It's a skill to learn and can take a bit of time, but it shouldn't hurt. If it hurts something IS wrong, and you can get help! I love breastfeeding Eric now, it's such a lovely, quiet, bonding, close experience, and I feel very, very proud that I feed him myself and didn't give up.  His weight is fantastic (on the 91st centile whereas he was on the 50th when he was born) and I love to see him looking up into my eyes during our night time breast feed, and his little hand holding mine. I'm SO glad I persevered and now I plan to breastfeed him until he weans himself, which will hopefully be when he's about 2, which is what the WHO recommend.

I also remember the first time I fed Eric in public, I was really nervous and was dreading it. It was embarrassing as he used to take such a long time to latch on so my nipple would be out and I used to be thinking "quiiiiiick! Just get on there! Everyone will see!", But I used to cover up with a pashmina, and you can even buy special breastfeeding covers, but to be honest no one has ever even batted an eye. Sometimes people have even come up to talk to me and thought we were just having a cuddle! Some cafés have 'Breastfeeding Welcome' window stickers or head to cafés where you can see other mums feeding, to help you feel relaxed, and places like Ikea, Mothercare and certain shopping centres have private feeding rooms.  Nowadays I don't even worry about covering up, it's totally natural and most places are fine. Try not to be embarrassed, there's nothing wrong with feeding your child yourself when they are hungry, it's the most natural thing in the world, and if anyone ever did say anything to me I'd ask if they would prefer to have him disturbing them with his hungry screaming! After the Equality Act of 2010 it's actually illegal  now for anyone to ask you to leave or discriminate against you in any way for breastfeeding. 

So don't give up if you do find it difficult! There are people that can help you. Ask:
-Your friends, particularly mummies who are also having problems or mummies you met at antenatal or postnatal classes as the likelihood is they are going through the same thing
-Your health visitor. Health visitors have had specialist breastfeeding training which your GP probably won't have had, and they can watch you do a full feed and offer help and tips if you ask
-NCT breastfeeding counsellors. They were a lifesaver to me! I've rung my local counsellors several times and they've been unfailingly kind, friendly and extremely helpful, often telling me things I hadn't been told elsewhere. Click on hhttp://www.nct.org.uk/in-your-area and find your area, then you can look for the phone numbers of your local breastfeeding counsellors
-Support groups. We also have a local weekly breastfeeding support group at our SureStart centre where Breastfeeding Peers who have had specialist training run the group, and any breastfeeding mum can go along whether you have any problems or just want a chat!
-Other people who can help that I don't have experience of are hospital lactation counsellors and La Leche League.

Good luck, and enjoy feeding your baby, you are amazing!

Restaurant Review: Jamie's Italian Bristol

I visited Jamie's Italian in Park Street, Bristol to celebrate my birthday last night and thought I'd do a little review! The restaurant is at the top of Park Street so I started off feeling exhilarated after the uphill walk! The restaurant looks really smart from the outside and I was really excited.

We were greeted at the door and told there would be an hour and a quarter wait for a table! We arrived at 8:40pm, so were very hungry already! When I had looked at previous reviews the wait was 45 minutes during the opening week, so this really did seem excessive. You can't book in advance unless you have a party of 8 or more people.

I had phoned in advance, once two weeks before to enquire about whether there was anything vegan on the menu, and once on the day (as they suggested) to let them know I was coming. When I rang on the day the staff member I spoke to was extremely helpful on the phone, and said they would let the manager and the head chef know that I was coming so they could prepare and there would definitely be something I could eat.   I was really happy and impressed, particularly that they knew what 'vegan' was and that they were going out of their way to be helpful, and so I had high expectations. 

When we arrived we told the front of house I was vegan and they made a note next to our table. All the staff were smartly dressed.

We waited in the bar area which had a lively atmosphere and was full of young, beautiful Cliftonites. I felt common and like I should put on my posh voice! One barman was friendly and one was a bit snobby and told us to move to a different bit of the bar if we wanted to be served! We started a tab and got some drinks, and got a table.When we started the tab our card was locked into a safe box which was reassuring. I started to feel relaxed and comfortable and enjoyed looking round at the decor whilst chatting to my friends and boyfriend Alex, and after a little while were offered free nibbles - There was proscuitto, an Italian cheese, and the one vegan option - ciabatta with gremolata which was absolutely delicious and I'd recommend this to anyone. I'm going to look up Jamie's gremolata recipe so I can make this, as it was fantastic. We also ordered some of Jamie's 'Best Olives in the World' and they were actually really good and yummy - huge and garlicky, and served with olive tapenade and crisp, thin slices of a bread. 

After an hour our table was ready so we went through to the back of the restaurant where there are three storeys. On each floor there was an open kitchen area, with hanging produce (a bit off putting for me as there were giant animal legs hanging up and dead fish on ice) The basement area was alot more spacious compared to the upper two storeys (we were sat on the upper storey) which felt quite crowded as the tables were very close together. The interior design of the restaurant was beautiful, a great mix of old and new, lots of muted green, natural textures like wood and brick offset with gold, purple spray-painted chairs, perspex chandeliers and metal tables. I really loved it. The tables were lit with old fashioned desk lamps and candles, which gave a flattering light.

When we got to our table we were greeted by our waitress, who was friendly and professional to start with, and she took our tab number, entered it into the electronic pad and was ready to take our order.  She also knew alot of information about the Specials. She knew I was vegan and mentioned this, and let me know that the head chef could do either a pasta, though she did not specify which, or the prosciutto, pear and pecorino salad (without the proscuitto and pecorino!) for me. We were given menus and though the light was flattering and atmospheric it was quite dark so I had to hold my menu quite close to the candles to read it! The food sounded really original and interesting, much better than your average Italian where all I can usually have is Bruschetta and Spaghetti Neapolitana. I ordered polenta chips for my starter and the Cockle linguine minus the cockles for my main course as the sauce sounded the best out of all the pastas...here the problems started! The waitress was a bit confused about whether I wanted cockles with my pasta, and I had to explain a few times that I just wanted it to be vegan, and in the end I asked for just any pasta as long as it was vegan please!

After about half an hour our starters arrived, and I was at this point absolutely ravenous as it was so late! I normally go to bed at 10pm because of Eric! Unfortunately though my polenta chips arrived covered in parmesan, and the waitress had scarpered so I spent five minutes trying to catch someone's eye so I could get some without cheese on top. I finally managed to grab a (VERY handsome!) waiter and he explained that there is also cheese inside the polenta mix of the chips. I have no idea why our original waitress did not tell me this as she clearly knew I was vegan, as we had just been talking about it and there was a note against the table number! The male waiter was helpful, apologetic and extremely professional. He took the chips back to the kitchen and asked if I would like something else instead, so I ordered 'any chips or in fact anything at all as long as they are vegan'. My boyfriend and our friends finished their starters and I had to wait another 15-20 minutes for my replacement starter. I received Jamie's 'Funky Chips', which were ok, kind of like chips you'd make at home, with garlic and parsley. They were slightly underseasoned and undercooked, but they were ok. The presentation was really good. Alex had Smokey Mozarella Arancini which he really enjoyed.

I nipped to the loo and they were brilliant. Spotlessly clean and really well decorated. 

After this we waited another 20 minutes or so for our main course, it was about 10:30pm when we got our mains. Unfortunately the first dish I was given was full of prawns! So I AGAIN had to send it back! Luckily this time it was just a serving issue where the wrong one had been picked up, so I didn't have to wait long at all to get the correct pasta. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the dish looked really colourful and appetising. Instead of just a plain pasta with tomato sauce like the usual fare people unfortunately prepare in many Italian restaurants the dish was imaginitive and packed full of seasonal veg like courgette and asparagus, and a sauce with garlic, tomatoes, chilli and rocket which was tasty, although slightly salty and overseasoned! But only slightly :) The one thing missing for me was a bit of protein, and I think fagioli beans would have worked really well in the dish. Alex had gnocchi which he said was excellent but that he could have eaten half of the amount again. It was a really small serving. When the waitress arrived to clear the table she dropped cutlery on me THREE times! Which honestly was quite ridiculous! 

I was excited about the pudding as it's my favourite course! To start with when I asked what desserts were vegan the waitress suggested panna cotta (a wobbly set cream dessert, and I think the name actually means 'cooked cream'!) but when I asked she thought about it and realised it wouldn't be vegan, so she went to check with the chef what would be suitable. There were two things on the menu which were vegan already and so didn't need to be changed or anything for me (I am always happy when something on the menu is already vegan, and sadly there are often no vegan pudding options): fruit sorbet or pineapple carpaccio. I ordered the pineapple and was really excited, as it was an unusual and interesting option. When it arrived (fairly quickly this time, probably because most of the other diners had finished and were off home to bed!) it didn't disappoint. There were thin slices of pineapple with mint and chilli, and a blood orange sorbet. Fantastic. It was visually beautiful and I couldn't wait to eat it, and it did taste really, really good. If I had to criticise then I would say that there was slightly too much mint which became a bit dominant, and the pineapple could have been a bit riper. Less mint and riper pineapple and it would have been perfectly balanced, and a dish I am going to copy at home.

One last issue we had was when we asked to get the bill.  The waitress brought over the itemised receipt and we gave her the tab key so she could get our card. She then came back with the card and a second receipt on which she had added all the items we had put on the tab at the bar again, even though they had been automatically added on when she took the tab number and entered it into her handheld electronic pad! This added an extra £30 onto the bill, and had we not already checked the items we had ordered off of the first receipt we were given we may have thought this was right and paid the extra, which really is unacceptable.

The food itself was (mostly) very tasty and quite reasonably priced, and were it not for the issues mentioned it would have been a perfect evening! As I had spoken twice to the restaurant in advance and they had seemed so helpful about providing vegan dishes I expected a bit more, for example veganism to have been explained to waiting staff so they would know what food is suitable and for the chef to have planned some dishes in advance that he could have communicated to the waitress as they had made a 'vegan' note to our table etc. Without the problems with staff and the extremely long waiting time I would have given 8/10 based on the brilliant atmosphere, simple, tasty and original food and lovely decor, but due to the problems I will give 6/10

Diary: An Average Day as a Mum

Before I had Eric I didn't have a clue what being a mummy involved and had no idea what mums do, I honestly thought you got to sit around watching Jeremy Kyle drinking cups of tea all day long! So here's an example of my typical day:
6:30am alarm goes off. SNOOZE! I'm exhausted due to Eric still waking in the night. 
6:40am drag myself out of bed, shower and dress. No time to do my hair or make up
6:45am wash up the bunny rabbits bowls and water bottle, feed them and let them out in the run
6:55am make breakfast
7am Eric wakes up
7:05am cuddles and say good morning
7:10am breastfeed
7:25am play a few games in Eric's bedroom such as peekaboo
7:45am change Eric's nappy. An extremely challenging task as Eric won't lie still anymore, he instantly rolls over and wants to crawl off. He's very strong. It's a battle of wills.
7:55am Empty any poo down the toilet and fold nappy up, put in nappy pail to be washed
8am get Eric dressed. This is as difficult as nappy changing. Check weather on iPhone first to ensure appropriate layers so Eric won't be too hot or cold, outfit also depends on what we are doing in the day
8:15am make beds, put clothes in wash baskets or fold and put away etc.
8:20am get back downstairs. My cereal is now soggy and tea is cold. Remake.
8:25am, ravenously eat breakfast whilst trying to distract Eric from the interesting bowls, mug, grapefruit etc. Fail at this so he gets cereal and grapefruit all over himself, the sofa and the floor.
8:35am Clear up my breakfast things and the mess!
8:45am help Eric practice standing up and play with him. He loves noisy games like banging things so we do lots of that.
9am Prepare Eric brekkie
9:05am Feed Eric breakfast
9:45am Clear up and wash up the breakfast things. Mop floor as he gets food EVERYWHERE!
10am We often go to a playgroup, Sunday school or singing group at this time :)
10:15am Change Eric's nappy whilst out
11:30am Put Eric in bed for a nap
Whilst Eric sleeps rush around doing housework - sweeping up, tidying, putting washing on, washing nappies, drying nappies, making up nappies, folding laundry and putting it away. Try to have a cup of tea and reply to text messages!
12:35pm Eric wakes up
12:45pm Make myself a sandwich whilst Eric plays by himself, sometimes I don't have time for lunch
12:55pm Change Eric's nappy
1:00pm Make Eric lunch
1:05pm Feed Eric lunch
2pm Clear up and wash up lunch things, mop the floor
2:15pm We often go for a walk to the park, to the allotment or visit mummy and baby friends in the afternoon
3:30pm Nappy change and put Eric in bed for a nap between 3:30pm and 4pm
Whilst he naps tidy up toys and do any preperation for my dinner that I can do in advance
4/4:30pm Eric wakes up
4/4:30pm Go in the garden and see the bunnies
4:45pm play silly games with Eric like pretending to be a tiger, chasing, etc.
5pm Prepare Eric's dinner
5:10pm Feed Eric his dinner
6pm Eric watches some CBeebies whilst I clear up the dinner stuff and wash up, mop the floor
6:15pm Play with Eric with CBeebies Bedtime Hour on in the background
7pm Take Eric upstairs to his bedroom and read a couple of bedtime stories 
7:10pm Run a bath
7:15pm Undress Eric and pop him in the bath! He loves a bath so we play, pour water, wash him, brush his teeth, read bath books, practice standing up etc. 
7:30pm Breastfeed
7:45pm Cuddles, say goodnight and put Eric in bed
7:50pm Start cooking my tea
8:15pm Whilst my tea is cooking I feed the rabbits, sweep out their run and put them to bed in their hutch. 
8:30pm Eat tea
9pm Wash up, clean the kitchen
9:30pm Bit of time to watch TV, write my Blog, read, reply to texts
10/10:30pm Bath or shower and get ready for bed
11pm Go to sleep
11:30pm Eric wakes up for a breastfeed
3am Eric wakes up for a breastfeed

On top of this I have to cook a batch of breakfast purées once a week (although luckily he eats what I eat for lunch and dinner now), clean out the rabbit hutch once a week and do the weekly housework - hoovering all the floors, dusting, clean bathroom, clean kitchen, empty bins etc...it's a full time job! I wouldn't change it for the world though, I love my boy and looking after him :)

Review: No Muh Mildly Aromatic Cheese

I have found it! After nearly 3 years as a vegan I have found IT. The one. The holy grail of vegan cheese...a cheese that is 100% exactly like cow cheese! 

The No Muh Mildly Aromatic costs £4.70 for 200g from Alternative Stores (although it is currently out of stock because I BOUGHT IT ALL!), about the same as a really good quality dairy cheddar, and as it tastes just like a really good, strong, tasty cheddar I think this is super reasonable. I managed to make cheese on crackers twice, a jacket potato with beans and cheese, grated some on top of risotto, gave Eric some and ate a chunk straight from the packet, so it lasts longer than Cheezly for which I need half a block for a jacket potato or a full block for enchiladas, lasagne etc. 

No Muh Mildly Aromatic is the only vegan cheese I have ever tried that I would eat 'neat'! I would compare the taste to Seriously Strong or Cathedral City cheddar. The texture is the same as a strong cheddar that has been left at room temperature for a few hours (the best way to eat cheese!), it's firm like a hard cheese but not rubbery like a mild cheddar. 

No Muh also make other flavours, I tried the Piquant and the Melty. I like the Piquant as it was really strong and smelly although it was slightly garlic-y for my taste, but I wasn't a fan of the melty which was similar to Dairylea.  But now I have found the Mildly Aromatic I am in love and I will never eat another type of cheese again! 

10 out of 10!

Recipe: Vegan Spinach and Ricotta Canneloni

1/2 packet dried Canneloni tubes (Asda do them!)
1 packet fresh spinach
1 box Mori-Nu silken tofu (or vegan Feta cubes if you can find any!)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 block Cheezly Mozarella
Olive oil
Optional basil and oregano

Heat the oven to gas mark 5

Dice the onion and sauté for a few minutes until translucent

Crush in the garlic and lightly cook for a minute

Separate the onion into two pans.  In one add the tinned tomatoes and reduce down, add basil and oregano if using.  In the other sauté spinach until it's wilted. 

Crumble tofu into the spinach pan, season and add half a tsp nutmeg

Grease a lasagne/casserole size dish and then put a shallow layer of sauce in the bottom.

Stuff Canneloni tubes with the spinach mix (this involved using a teaspoon and the end of a table knife!) and put in the dish.

Cover with the rest of the tomato sauce

Top with grated vegan Mozarella

Bake for 45 minutes :)