Pantene, the Olympics and the Beauty Industry


I am annoyed.  I am annoyed that the Olympics is sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, who conduct disgusting animal tests.  I am annoyed that animals will be used in the opening ceremony.  I am annoyed that there is usually alot more focus on the male athletes than the female athletes, and that in the last Olympics in Beijing, even LESS television coverage was given to female competitions compared to male competitions than in the previous Olympics in 2004 or 2000, so it's getting worse rather than better.  But what has really annoyed me today is seeing Pantene's latest adverts featuring female Olympians.  


The first advert I saw was on TV, featuring 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin.  Natalie is an American international swimmer, who was the first American female athlete to  win six medals in one Olympics, the first woman ever to win a 100-metre backstroke gold in two consecutive Olympics, and is the first woman to ever swim the 100-metre backstroke in under one minute. Wow! She is an incredible female role model. 


So, how did the advert present this role model? .... Firstly we see Natalie swimming in the pool, with music on in background (no people watching or cheering.) 
She says in the voice over  "I was born to swim, but my hair wasn't so lucky." Oh, right...ok.  "Hours and hours in the pool damages it." Natalie gets out of pool, takes off her swim cap and squeezes out her hair, frowning, focusing solely on her hair whilst looking really worried and concerned.  The colours of the advert are greyer. 
"That's why I love Pantene Daily Moisture Renewal."  Crappy made-up product words blurb by narrator.  Then Natalie shakes out her now-dry, bouncy, glossy, glamorous hair, whilst a crowd cheers her beauty.
Her face has been made up.  Everything is golden, cameras flash, Natalie glows.  "I want to win as an athlete, and shine as a woman." ... ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! Why can't she shine as a woman if she doesn't have 'perfect' hair?! Why is her hair of ANY value at all to how she is perceived as a woman? Why is she being cheered only when she is conforming to society's ideas of beauty and not when she just did some pretty awesome swimming in the pool there? She is an awe-inspiring athlete, who is considered one of the best in the world, and she is being judged on her FUCKING HAIR! 


I'm sorry, I know I never swear, but this issue has made me really angry.


Similarly I have seen an advert featuring Victoria Pendleton, a British sprint track cyclist, who is the reigning Olympic and World Champion for the sprint and who has represented Great Britain and England in international competition, winning nine world titles including a record six in the individual sprint competition.  Oh and she's also a former European and Commonwealth champion.  She makes me want to go cycling.  Here she is:
And here's her advert:
WHAT?! What the FUCK is that?!! It makes me HULK angry! 1) Why have they made her look more like a model than like an athlete? She's not even dressed as an athlete 2) Why isn't she sweating? Would that be so weird? 3) Why is her hair moving in such an unnatural way? 4) Why is she wearing a sequined evening top to ride her bike? 5) Why have they airbrushed her skin so it look so smooth and like it's been painted? Why can't we see realistic skin? It's not even a foundation advert! 6) Why have they airbrushed her thighs to make them look thinner? 7) Why is she in the classic "passive, beautiful woman with eyes glancing upwards adoringly and lips parted like an innocent virgin but a virgin who might be having an orgasm" face? I have never seen an athlete make this face whilst competing or training in their sport.  Why isn't it sexy and beautiful to see her doing what she actually does? 
The advert in the magazine says "Hours and Hours of Training and I'm Staying Ahead of Frizz.", so we are told that her gruelling athletic training, which has made her one of the world's top athletes, is worth nothing compared to beating frizzy hair.  It makes me sad.


Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with Natalie or Victoria.  I think they are amazing.  And they are beautiful (every woman is beautiful).  I WANT to see strong, female role models.  I think it's really important that we see women in the media who are famous for their talent, strength and determination, and that female Olympians should get equal airtime to male Olympians.  But I think it's really damaging to talk about their appearance.  What Victoria Pendleton looks like should be of no consequence, we (and the media) should value her on her achievements.  I wouldn't care if she looked like a bag of smashed frogs.  


So why are Pantene doing this? Because they want you to buy their products of course!


Proctor and Gamble are sponsoring the Olympics, so of course they have Olympic athletes in their ads, I'm sure it was a done deal.  Last year P&G (who make Pantene) spent £200,000,000 (that is two hundred MILLION pounds) on advertising beauty products.  They want us to buy their products.  The way they get us to buy their products is very insidious.   The beauty industry works by making us feel like we are 'failing' to be what their advert shows.  If I watch a TV ad or look at a picture in a magazine, then look in the mirror, there is a VAST difference! Poreless, smooth skin.  Endlessly long eyelashes.  Models in adverts have heavy makeup, lighting, lash inserts and are airbrushed to the point where it would never be possible for any woman to look like that, and even the original model doesn't look like that.  Adverts show this as the epitome of beauty, and consequently society goes on to believe this is the beauty norm.  If you're not that, you're not beautiful.  If you grow body hair, your skin has pores, and your natural eyelashes aren't 1 inch long, you must need to buy the advertised foundation/mascara/razor to 'fix' you and make you look 'normal'.  When in fact no bodies look like that and our bodies are completely normal.  Our bodies do grow hair.  We have pores in our skin.  


It's hard for women to be around these images, how can we feel good about ourselves if we are constantly being told we don't measure up?  Girls should feel like they can do anything and not that they are the sum of their looks.  It could have been great to have athletes in adverts, to show normal, sweaty, strong bodies, determined women at the peak of their game.  But the adverts are the same as any other and make us feel like we must be failing even MORE! "If Natalie Coughlin has hair like that and she swims every day in a chlorinated pool with it in a rubber swim cap that would give me loads of split ends, why is my hair not that shiny and glossy? I must be subnormal.  I definitely need Pantene".  It's so damaging to self esteem, and it's so subtle that you have to take a giant step back from everything you've ever been told about beauty (which you will inevitably have been told BY the beauty industry in their adverts, and in magazine feature pages where the company's PR have sent in their products to be shown in features in return for a large sum paid for advertising) to be able to see it.


I don't want to be bulshitted and controlled anymore.  I want to see realistic adverts featuring a diverse range of women, who put the product on and say "as you can see, this concealer covers up my spots a bit so they are slightly less obvious".  "This mascara makes your eyelashes look a wee bit longer and blacker." How awesome would  a bit of honesty be?! And in this case I would feel less insulted by an advert where they interviewed female Olympians, showed us how they trained, what spurs them on, how we can get to the top of our game ourselves, how to be confident, how to succeed in your career, how to do something amazing...with a tiny 'Sponsored by Pantene' in the corner. I'd be WAY more likely to buy Pantene! Though still not at all likely as I will never by a product from a company that tests on animals.


I think it's high time we judged women on their achievements, their talent, their strength, their intelligence, their sense of humour and their beautiful character traits, not on the state of their hair.

Breastfeeding Toddlers

This is my last post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, which you can read about here, and the posts this week are based on the theme of 'Breastfeeding Beyond'. 



My first breastfeeding goal was to get to 6 months.  6 months seemed like a realistic achievement and the 'normal' time to stop.  But at 6 months I felt like everything was just starting to go really well so why stop now?! I definitely didn't feel ready to stop breastfeeding, the thought of a feed being his last was heartbreaking.  It would have felt cruel to make Eric stop breast feeding when it was so important to him.  I also felt like I didn't want to switch to formula milk when breast milk is so much healthier.  So my goal became to feed him until he was 1.  However, Eric's birthday came and went and all my other mummy friends had stopped breastfeeding, but I still didn't feel we were ready.  Breastfeeding had become so easy, natural and enjoyable, with Eric only feeding once in the morning and once at night.  I wondered if I 'should' stop, so I read the research and found out that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until "up to two years of age or beyond", so my next goal became to feed him until he was 2!


Eric is now approaching his 2nd birthday, and I don't plan to stop feeding him then.  My ideas about having breastfeeding 'goals' have mellowed.  I'm happy to feed him until he wants to stop, whether that's next week or when he's an older child.  I am more led by Eric and what seems best for him, and have now read lots about breastfeeding and think it's awesome.  I want to wait for the day when nursing isn't important to him anymore and he feels ready to wean himself.  Before I had a baby I had opinions on what age it was acceptable to breastfeed until and used to say that "when a child can ask for breast milk then you shouldn't breastfeed any more as it's weird" but I couldn't disagree with that more now.  It seems cruel to take something away from my son that is healthy and comforting just at the point when he has made so much effort in learning to communicate verbally with me that he needs or wants it.  Not forgetting that babies communicate their need for milk by rooting, crying, etc. so they are 'asking' for it too, just not with words yet.



I think many people's negative views on breastfeeding toddlers are tied in with our society's sexualisation of breasts.  We see pictures, videos and adverts of breasts in sexy bras, on page 3, on TV, in men's mags.  We judge and value women on their "nice rack".   Everything is about sex.  We don't see people breastfeeding that often.  Mothers are urged to be 'discreet' breastfeeding in public.  Pictures of mothers breastfeeding are banned on Facebook.  Breasts are about sex so people worry that breastfeeding a toddler is a sexual thing rather than a natural thing.  Breastfeeding isn't about sex! At any age! It's about love.  You breastfeed your child for their health, comfort, nutrition and it is NORMAL! It is what our breasts were designed for (and also the reason babies and toddlers have those cute full lips and upturned noses, perfectly designed for breastfeeding). Not because you want to get in their pants or because you get off on it or because your child fancies you.  Really, it is quite insulting that people might perceive extended breastfeeding as a sexual thing.  In other countries and cultures, breastfeeding toddlers really is seen as normal.  By writing about it,  taking part in this scavenger hunt, talking about it, being an advocate myself and sharing my experience etc., I hope I am doing my tiny part in normalising breastfeeding in our society.  


Other opinions on breastfeeding toddlers that I have heard or been told are that older children don't 'need' breast milk as their main source of nutrition and that it becomes for the mother's benefit and not the child's.  I think most mothers who have breastfed will agree with me when I say you cannot 'force' your child to breastfeed when they don't want to! Eric's gone off his milk a few times when he was ill, which was such a worry as I wanted him to be having fluids and all the health benefits of my milk to help him get better, but if they won't latch on they just will not latch on!


As for the health benefits of breastfeeding toddlers, there are many.  Breast milk might not be the main source of nutrition, but it's a pretty amazing extra.  Breastfed toddlers get ill less often and recover more quickly.  The same immunological factors that benefit newborn babies continue to make a huge positive difference to your child's immune system for as long as you breastfeed.  Studies have shown that many of the immune factors passed on through your breastmilk actually increase in concentration in the second year.  The risk of developing allergies remains lower.   Breastfed toddlers are less likely to become obese as an adult.  And there is improved cognitive development.  Breastfeeding also provides emotional comfort, security and a constant and consistent 'safe base' from which your child can explore, meaning that instead of making your child 'clingy' (another negative opinion on breastfeeding toddlers) it can actually make them more confident.


Some of the benefits for mum continue for as long as you breastfeed too, such as a reduction in the risk of osteoporosis and breast, ovarian, uterine and endometrial cancers.


The only downside I feel there is with breastfeeding a toddler is fielding other people's negative and usually uninformed opinions, and this is what I hope to change.





Breastfeeding Eric as a toddler has made me love him and love breastfeeding even more than in the first year, and the more I read about the benefits of continued breastfeeding the happier I am with our decision.


For more posts about 'breastfeeding beyond' check out:
Fi Peacock
Life, Love and Living With Boys
Tales From a Cornish Blonde
Attachment Mummy
Life Happens So Smile


And don't forget to check out Boobie Milk! Thank you so much to Karen at Boobie Milk for organising the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt to raise awareness for breastfeeding and for letting me be a part of it.  Writing blogs for the Scavenger Hunt as been quite emotional.   I've learned so much and it's cemented my beliefs about breastfeeding.  I've really enjoyed reading people's comments on my blog and reading other blogger's posts too, it's been amazing.  You could win a £50 voucher to spend at Boobie Milk as part of the Grand Prize, so don't forget to enter below. 




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Breastfeeding 101 and Support

Hi readers!



As I'm sure you will know from my previous posts, this month I'm taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, which you can find out about here.  This week the blog posts are based around the theme of support, so as well as sharing organisations that helped me on my way, I thought the best place to start would be my breastfeeding basics. 


Breastfeeding is a natural, normal thing to do, but that doesn't mean it always feels natural or normal to start with.  You put the baby by your boob and they suck it, right? Well, sort of.  It's a skill that both you and your baby have to learn, and learning new things can be really hard! I felt like an idiot because it didn't feel natural, and I just didn't understand what I was physically meant to do.  So don't beat yourself up if you're not finding it super easy, I've been there too.  You will get there, practice makes perfect, and remember your baby won't be judging you or worrying about it as they don't know any different either.


One of the things that I would have found soooo helpful, and would have liked to share with my partner and family, would have been a step-by-step guide to how to position and latch on your baby in the most basic, detailed terms.  When I was absolutely exhausted after labour I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, how to latch Eric on, what that even meant, what day it was etc.  If your loved ones also know how to 'do' it, then they can give practical help and support rather than just replying "I don't know" to your anguished howls of "is this right? Is it working?!"  So if you are confused, unsure, or just plain not getting what the heck is going on, then in the spirit of sharing and support, here is my 'what to do' guide.
  
First things first, decide which boob to feed on.  When you feed your baby offer the first breast, then when they have finished feeding offer the other breast.  I did not know to do this for the first couple of weeks, and then I was terrified that doing so would mean Eric would 'use up' the second boob and there'd be none for the next feed and he'd be hungry and unhappy and get skinny and die of starvation! Fear not, this doesn't happen, feeding often and alternating sides helps build up a good milk supply rather than using it all up.  It's like a steady stream that's being constantly replenished, not like emptying a bucket.  Some women can tell which breast to feed on next by copping a good ole feel of them.  The fullest, hardest one is probably the one! If you're a bit more organised like me (for 'organised' read 'crazy control freak) then you might prefer to write down the side you last fed on (and in my case the length of time fed on each side, time and contents of nappy changes, time and length of naps and every meal written down for the whole first year!) You can also buy breastfeeding bracelets which you can swap onto opposite wrists so you know which breast to feed on first, and some have numbers so you can move a charm along to show what time the feed was.  I love these ones :)
First things first...get comfy.  Have a special chair or bit of the sofa where you can surround yourself with supportive cushions, a drink, a snack, a magazine to read, etc.  Try to relax! For night feeds I would prop myself up with my pillows and doze a bit whilst Eric had his milk, though obviously be careful not to fall too deeply asleep and smother or drop your baby. Obviously! Some people can breastfeed lying down which makes things easier and more relaxing at night.  I could not do it!  There are some great ideas for positions here, but I will write about the position I found easiest (i.e. the only one I could do).


Next, bring the baby to the breast rather than your breast to the baby.  This means not hunching over trying to dangle or force your boob into their mouth, but rather cwtching them into you which is more comfortable and works best for everyone involved, believe me.


One of the first things I was taught about breastfeeding at a midwife-led Breastfeeding class was "Tummy to tummy, nose to nipple".  We had it drummed into us, chanted it, and I had it down! However, when Eric arrived I had no idea what this mantra really meant or how to put it into practice! So I shall explain in great detail:  With the opposite arm to the boob you want to feed on, hold your baby with your arm underneath them and supporting their head.  You can put the same-side arm underneath the opposite arm for extra support and comfort when your baby is latched on.  Level with your boob, curl them into you so their TUMMY is facing into and resting against your TUMMY! Genius! Your baby should be 'lying' slightly more on their side, rather than on their back, with their head and neck supported but free to tilt back a bit.  


With your baby in this position place their nose right by your nipple which should trigger them to tilt their head back and open their mouth wide so you can then....




Latch your baby on.  This means bringing your baby in closer as their head tilts back and their mouth opens so they get a big mouthful of breast.  Like a hamburger!  If your baby doesn't seem keen to open their mouth just by being placed in the right position try stroking their upper lip with your nipple.  MAKE SURE AS MUCH BOOB AS POSSIBLE IS IN YOUR BABY'S MOUTH, NOT JUST THE NIPPLE! This will stop your nipples getting sore and cracked and will make sure your baby actually stimulates the let down reflex and gets milk.


These are just the tips that I found helpful, but every woman is different, so if they're not working for you then try other positions and don't give up! With proper support and information most women can breastfeed successfully.


Unfortunately many health visitors, midwives and GPs have not had extensive breastfeeding training, and so can give conflicting and even incorrect advice.  As they are health professionals women trust their advice, and many stop breastfeeding unnecessarily, or before they might have liked to stop.  We were given 1 breastfeeding class as part of our antenatal classes, but weren't told about the need for support and other sources of support and information were not signposted for us, which would have been really helpful and I think is imperative if we are to help women to keep breastfeeding.


Sources of support and information that I found most helpful were:


My partner, just for encouraging me and telling me I was doing ok.


The NCT breastfeeding helpline,  0300 330 0771 (7 days a week, 8am-10pm); or one of their local counsellors (look on the 'In Your Area' section of their website).  When I was having some real difficulties and pain breastfeeding (you can read the story of those earlier days here) I talked to a local breastfeeding counsellor called Jenny, and she gave me the correct information that I needed (that it sounded like I had thrush, which I had never been told you could get in your boob before, by any medical professional or in our breastfeeding class!) and the medication I needed (two doctors prescribed the incorrect medication before I finally got them to give me what she suggested, which made it better and pain free really quickly! I rang at several other points, and each time felt more relaxed and confident about breastfeeding.


La Leche League


Lactivist


The Breastfeeding Network


Local breastfeeding support groups (try your local Children's Centre).  


There are also lots of fantastic blogs that offer support!




For more Scavenger Hunt posts check out the following blogs:
Fi Peacock
Attachment Mummy
Mummy Constant
Radical Ramblings
Mama Geek
Mamajewels make really beautiful breastfeeding bracelets and necklaces, I love this Indian Pink bracelet!  They have kindly donated a prize for the scavenger hunt... so make sure you enter below!


Please complete the following Rafflecopter to enter the competition for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Grand Prize.

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Idea: Mouldy Bath Toys


Eric loves having a bath, and has lots and lots of squirty bath toys, but unfortunately after a while they always go mouldy on the inside and spray disgusting black mould into the bath! Which is bad.  But throwing them away seems really wasteful and bad for the environment, so here is my step-by-step guide to reinventing your mouldy bath toys!




1) Cut out the bottom of the bath toy (be careful!)




2) EWWWWWWWW!




3) Scrub the toys inside with a mixture of hot water, eco-friendly washing up liquid and tea tree oil.




4) Enjoy your exciting new bath pourers! 


My Favourite Breastfeeding Accessories

Hi readers!


The theme for this week's Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt is Mum-to-Mum sharing, where we can share our top tips etc., so I want to share with you my favourite breastfeeding accessories.  The really brilliant thing about breastfeeding is that you obviously only actually need one thing - your boobs! But there are a few things I bought that I found helpful, some I wish I'd bought, and some things I bought that were completely unnecesary!  


I Loved:

1. Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra.

I loved these bras as they are soooooo comfy.  When I first started breastfeeding I could hardly bear anything touching my boobs as they were really sensitive and tender, so I lived in cotton crop top-style, night nursing bras until I found these! They're much better for daytime! The fabric is very smooth so they go under clothes well, and they have a thin layer of padding (which you can remove if you prefer) which hides nipples and breast pads.  They are supportive and my favourite thing about these bras is that they only come in 3 sizes: small, medium, and large, which then stretch to fit you, and stretch as your boobs fill up with milk/are emptier after a feed.  They're just so comfortable!

2) Muslin Cloths.  


I use these for everything ... stuffing in my bra when breastfeeding, draping over your shoulder when burping baby, mopping up, as a bib, as a warm liner on a cold changing mat, as a sunshade, and some people use them as a cover up when breastfeeding.





3) Grandad tops. I lived in grandad tops (the ones with a button placket at the neckline) when I was still feeding Eric in the day.  You can easily unbutton the neckline and get your boob out without exposing the other boob or your tummy, and as they're not special nursing clothes they're not that expensive.  I also liked blouses with pussy bow necklines for the same reason - easy access! Oh and surprisingly cream is actually a great colour with babies that aren't weaning yet, as their milky sick doesn't show up as much as with dark colours!




4. Medela Swing Breast Pump. 


I looooooved my Medela Swing pump. It was so, so comfortable, quick and easy to use.  If you are hoping to express some milk for your partner to give your baby a bottle, so your baby can still have your own milk when you go back to work, or to ease your breasts when they are too full when baby drops a feed etc. I'd highly recommend this pump.


5. Fennel tea.  


I was worrying about my milk supply and whether Eric was getting enough milk (I think this is a really common worry as you can't actually see how much is going in!) but I started drinking a couple of cups of fennel tea a day, and since then Eric has stuck to his growth centile line in his red book, and I feel more confident, so I can't be sure it was definitely the tea but I certainly feel like it helps my milk supply!


6. Hot Milk lingerie.  


Unfortunately Hot Milk don't do bras in my size now that they have gone back to their small, pre-pregnancy size, but when I did have fantastically big, bouncy boobs I loved the beautiful underwear from Hot Milk! Even when I was just wearing sweatpants every day (which was for at least the first 8 weeks after Eric was born, non-stop!) if I had pretty underwear on I felt more confident.  Check out their website here.  Hot Milk have actually donated a set of lingerie for the Grand Prize so make sure you enter at the bottom of my post!


7. Mamas and Papas nursing pyjamas.  
These pj's were really easy to feed in, and felt comfortable but smart enough to see visitors in! The quality is really nice too :)


8. Bamboo washable breast pads.  
I didn't want to use disposable breast pads as washable ones are so much cheaper and better for the environment! The best pads I found (and still use) are bamboo ones.  They are super soft, anti bacterial and anti microbial! I bought about 15 pairs and layered them up when I needed more absorbency when Eric was younger.  I wash them in a net bag in the washing machine (with any other loads of washing).


9. Boob nursing hoodie.  


One of the only 'proper' nursing tops I had was a sea green hoodie from Swedish brand Boob.  I got it on eBay as they're fairly expensive, but it was worth every penny.  They have a horizontal envelope style opening just under your boobs, so it's really easy and uncomplicated to use.  It was so comfortable and I could chuck it on over anything!  


10. Notebook and stopwatch to time and write down feeds.  
This helped me remember which side to feed Eric on at the start of each feed! I fed Eric on demand and watched for his cues so I didn't really feed him on a schedule, but writing down the times of each feeds helped me to be organised about when he might need to feed next and when would be better to go out, put him down for a nap etc.  I could spot any patterns, and it also helped when he was ill to be able to tell the health professional any difference in his feeding.  Mostly it just helped me feel more relaxed as I'm a very organised (OCD!) person!


11. My necklace.  


When Eric was about 4 or 5 months old he started to get really distracted during nursing, but I was given a beautiful silver necklace for Christmas with Eric's handprints, name and date of birth on it.  It really helped focus his attention in the right place and stopped him coming off the boob to look around wherever we were, which helped make sure he got a full feed as well as sparing my blushes in public!  He still plays with and looks at it when he's feeding now. 




I Wish I had bought:


1. Booby Tubes.  


I found these on the Earth Mama Angel Baby website earlier this year and really think they would have helped me ease the pain and engorgement when my milk came in.


2. Milkmaid Tea.  


I would have loved to try this, and when I decide to stop feeding Eric or Eric decides to self-wean I will use the No More Milk tea to ease the transition.


3. Bamboobies bamboo pads.  


As I said earlier I love bamboo pads as they're so eco friendly, and these ones are so cute!


4. Sling.  


I have a friend who uses a sling alot, and feeds her child in the sling, and I really admire this closeness.  I had a ring sling but didn't really understand how to use it or even think  about using it in the early days, and ended up passing it on to a new mummy friend.  If I have another child in the future I'll definitely plan to use a sling.




I Didn't Use or Hated:


1. Nipple shields.  I was given these and didn't use them at all or even think about using them!


2. Proper nursing tops, especially tummy-sucking-in vest tops that were supposed to help your mum tum look slimmer! Ow! I couldn't eat, or breathe, and they rode up annoyingly all the time! I gave up after just a few wears! I found most proper nursing tops too expensive and a complete faff to use.


3. Manual breast pump. OW OW! I had a Nuby manual pump which I got free with a magazine subscription. It was painful and ineffective (sorry Nuby).


4. Cover.  I liked the look of some of the breastfeeding covers that you can buy to help you nurse discreetly in public, but I waited a while to be sure I wanted to buy one and I'm glad I did.  In practice being discreet wasn't important to me after the first few nerve-wracking feeds, as my boobs are quite small so I think Eric's head was usually shielding me from view, and people rarely looked or seemed to even notice that I was breastfeeding.  We also both found it really stuffy and claustrophobic the few times I draped a muslin over us! So a nursing cover wasn't for us.


5. Nipple cream.  My early breastfeeding problems were thrush in my breasts rather than cracked nipples, so using nipple cream was unecessary for me (and would have actually made the thrush worse).  Lansinoh cream (the one most people recommend!) is also not vegan, so I didn't want to use that particular brand/lanolin-based cream.  I wouldn't necessarily buy nipple cream to have in your backup arsenal, as you might not need it, and you can also use breast milk on your nipples and let them air dry to heal them if they do get cracked, whilst you work on getting your latch right.


6. Nursing pillow.  We bought a Widgey nursing pillow which you can use to help support your baby whilst they feed, however I found it actually didn't get Eric in the right position at all, so we didn't use it.  It was great for wedging him in to support him in the sitting position and helping him learn to sit up when he was older though! 




I hope you've enjoyed reading my list of the good, the bad and the ugly of nursing products! If you'd like to read more posts on the theme of Mum-to-Mum sharing, please check out the following blogs:


A New Addition
Ponderings of a Doula
Smiling Like Sunshine
My Thoughts on Things
Fi Peacock






This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, which you can read about here

To enter into the Grand Prize Draw, please enter your details below!




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Benefits of Breastfeeding

Hi readers!
I'm taking part in a 'Keep Britain Breastfeeding' Blog Scavenger Hunt this month, read more about it here!





When I was deciding how to feed my child, Eric, I was about 90% sure I wanted to breastfeed, purely because it seems natural to me.  You have boobs, they're there to feed your child! There is also no vegan formula milk available in the UK so I was really determined to be able to breastfeed so I could raise him vegan from the start.  The 10% uncertainty about whether to breastfeed was that I wasn't really sure how to actually do it, and was worried I wouldn't be able to. If this sounds like you, try not to worry, it is very, very rare that someone is physically unable to breastfeed with the right advice, support and lots of practice, so don't let that influence your decision! I'll be writing a post about the basics of breastfeeding and how to get the support you need in a couple of weeks.  I'm aware that people who've chosen to (or felt they needed to) bottle feed can feel pressured or criticised by anything pro-breastfeeding, but I feel that the aim of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt is to share experiences, help mothers make informed decisions, build confidence in their ability to breast feed if they choose to and hopefully change society's perception of breastfeeding.  If you are deciding how to feed your baby, and aren't sure whether to use formula or to breastfeed, read on for the positive benefits of breastfeeding...





Benefits for Your Baby's Health:
  • Your milk contains antibodies which help build your baby's immunity and reduce illness.
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cot death.
  • Breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity or being overweight or having high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, eczema, type 2 diabetes, leukaemia or asthma later in life.
  • Breast milk is custom-made by your body to contain the exact nutrients that your own baby needs at different times.  The breast milk composition changes day by day and feed by feed, to meet your child's changing needs.
  • Colostrum, your first milk, helps "seal" newborn baby's intestines which are permeable, which prevents harmful substances from penetrating the gut.
  • Colostrum contains growth factors and immune components that start to build your baby's immune system.
  • Colostrum has a mildly laxative effect which helps your baby pass meconium.  This reduces the risk of excess bilirubin causing jaundice. 
  • Breast milk has the perfect combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrate, and fluids that babies need.
  • The protein in breast milk is more easily and completely digested by babies than the protein in formula milk.
  • The cow's milk in formula milk can cause allergies and intestinal bleeding in babies, whereas they can't be allergic or intolerant to your breast milk. 
  • Breast milk is your baby's natural diet
  • Studies have shown breastfed children are more intelligent


Benefits for Bonding With Your Baby:
  • Oxytocin, the 'love' hormone, is released when you breastfeed which helps bonding and is also helpful if you have PND.
  • It's special quiet time with your child, when you are really in tune with each other.  Eric just fees once in the morning and once before bed now, and his night feed is my favourite part of the day, when we're all snuggly and cosy together. 
  • Feeding your child yourself feels very rewarding, you can feel proud of your body and what it can do.
  • It feels nice.
  • Eric strokes my skin when he feeds, which apparently babies do to try to make you love them even more. Awww!
  • It soothes and calms your child when they cry or are ill.
  • Your baby's natural reflex is to 'root' for the breast, so breastfeeding fulfils these natural instincts.


Convenience:

  • Your milk is always there at the perfect temperature.
  • You can't run out if you forget to go to the shop.
  • There is no preparation time, your milk is ready right away as soon as your baby is hungry and cries.
  • If you breast-feed, it is impossible to make any mistakes with the milk you give your baby.
  • It's free!



 
Benefits For Mummy:

  • Breastfeeding helps you lose weight after birth.
  • Breastfeeding is 'forced' relaxation!, where you can sit down, relax and enjoy one-to-one time with your child and have a cup of tea without worrying about anything else on your 'to do' list as nothing else is more important!
  • Breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • It can make your breasts bigger!
  • Breastfeeding a newborn burns an extra 500 calories per day which means that you could tuck into a nice, big piece of (vegan!) chocolate cake, which contains about 300 calories, and still lose weight!
  • Breastfeeding helps your uterus to contract after birth and to shrink back to it's normal size (which is especially important if, like me, you had a postpartum haemmorhage)
  • Breastfeeding is what your breasts were designed for!


Ethics:
  • Breast feeding is good for the environment.
  • There is no waste.
  • Breast feeding is vegan so it's kind to animals.


There are so many great reasons to try breastfeeding! If you're still not sure, why not try just breastfeeding once and seeing how you go? Or for one day, or one week? Your baby would get some great benefits and you might find that it's the right choice for you and you really enjoy it, and want to continue.  It is entirely your decision and you should feel happy and comfortable whatever you choose, so you can relax and enjoy your baby. 


For more Scavenger Hunt blog posts about the benefits of breastfeeding check out the following blogs:


Fi Peacock
Attachment Mummy
Mummy Constant
Radical Ramblings
Mama Geek



And if you're preparing for a new arrival don't forget to check out the Natural Nursery website. They have donated a prize for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Grand Prize!

Please complete the following Rafflecopter to enter the competition for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Grand Prize.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Advice: Anxiety


I have been wanting to write a post about anxiety for a while, to offer help for those suffering anxiety or feeling anxious about something, advice for their friends and family, and to refer to myself during any times of anxiety in the future (when I tend to forget things that help!).  I think it would be helpful to have everything I know about anxiety from reading about it, counselling and just personal experience, all in one place.  I think there is such a stigma around anxiety.  I know I feel really embarrassed and ashamed to suffer anxiety, and I am always conscious of talking to people about it in case they judge me, think I’m mental or get fed up with me 'going on' about it.  Sometimes I also worry that talking about it and engaging with the feelings will make it worse.  

So first off, if you are suffering from anxiety, please don't feel alone, or weird, or like a failure.  I have felt all of these things, but they're not true.  Unfortunately that's the anxiety making you anxious about the anxiety! Buggering anxiety. It's a bastard like that. Most people experience some type of anxiety in their lives. And those lucky few that don't will have other issues! If you're feeling anxious right now, know that many, many others are feeling just the same as you, and more importantly many, many others felt the same as you an hour ago but are now starting to feel better, and many, many others felt the same as you do now yesterday, or last week, or last month, but now life is more balanced and they feel ok. It DOES get better. Always. Although it doesn't feel like it, it really will.



Firstly I'll talk about the physical symptoms of anxiety, then the thoughts, and at the end will be advice for friends and family (although the whole post will be dotted with tips and reassurance for you).  

Anxiety is a normal physical response to a perceived threat.  So your brain thinks a thought that is stressful or scary, and your body reacts logically by releasing hormones and chemicals to make you able to fight or run away.  This physical reaction can make you feel really anxious because it doesn’t feel very nice! Which in turn makes your body produce more stress chemicals and it goes around in a cycle.  The good news then is that you can break the cycle and any one of three points! Either after your brain has the thought (by challenging the thought), after your body has kicked in with its response (by helping your body physically relax), or after your reaction to the physical symptoms (by accepting and not getting more stressed and worried about what is happening.)

The physical symptoms I get are that my stomach tightens, I feel sick, I lose my appetite, everything tastes horrible, I get a dry mouth, I get all sweaty, feel like I can't breathe very well with a tight chest, I get tingly fingers and toes, I can't sleep and if it's a full on panic attack as well as anxiety I get a ‘rushing up’ feeling through my body, I shake, get ringing ears, I feel dizzy, my heart races and I instantly get the shits. Good times! There are other symptoms if this doesn't cover yours, they are listed here and even better they are explained, so you can see exactly what is physically happening, why it’s happening, and that it's not something terrible.  It's common to really worry when you feel these symptoms that something is really wrong, that you're ill, having a heart attack or are going to die.  You’re totally not.  It's fine if you're worried, of course you are, it's shit to feel like that! But it's really not anything serious, whilst it is awful, it's just anxiety, and it will pass. 


Common thoughts I get are "I'm out of control", "I'm going mad", "I'm a failure", "I don't want this to happen again and "I'm never going to get better".  

One thing that can really help with the physical symptoms is breathing deeply and evenly from your stomach, which is called diaphragmatic breathing.  Put your hands on your tummy as you slowly, evenly, breathe in and out, and feel your hands rise and fall.  This helps your body calm itself down, realise there’s no threat and get all its systems back in order.  If you’re really freaking out, breathe into a paper bag (or into your cupped hands).  Count to 7 as you breathe in and 11 as you breathe out.

The next thing I do is see if I can have a jolly good cry! I find that bursting into tears (complete with massive, snotty, wracking sobs, red nose, etc. I am not a pretty crier!) can help get some of the emotions out.  You could also try screaming, punching something, running on the spot, dancing to some heavy music, throwing the anxiety away, anything to feel like you’re getting it out.

The next, and very important thing, is to try to just ‘go with it’. Fighting the anxiety or panic just feeds into it, making it worse.  Know that anxiety is just a feeling, like happiness, sadness, anger, joy etc.  When I get anxious I fear they it’s this awful ‘illness’ that I am ‘in’ and can’t get out of.  But this is not the case, anxiety is just an emotion.  Accept the feelings, feel them, don’t push them down. In my experience feelings just want to be felt and ignoring them makes them worse. They’re uncomfortable and horrible but they won’t kill you. Just go with it. I find that actually engaging with them in some form, whether by writing them down in a diary, or my favourite which is painting or drawing the emotion, purges them in some way. 

When I feel anxious I judge myself for having those feelings, and criticise myself, thinking I’m obviously failing or not doing very well if it’s happening again.  This is unhelpful and untrue.   Life isn’t one long up-curve where every day gets better and better, some days suck! For everyone, not just for people who feel more anxiety than others.  We all have bad days.  Don’t pressure yourself not to feel how you feel, as putting that pressure on yourself adds to the stress, and it’s ok to feel shit sometimes.  It’s awful to feel that way but it will go by itself, whatever you do. It will pass.  This is illustrated in a couple of children’s books which I have found really helpful: The Red Tree by Shaun Tan and Sometimes by Emma Dodd, which deal with emotions and that sometimes we do feel rubbish, but that it’s ok and normal.

If you can do anything at all to relax, do it! Relaxing your body loosens its grip on the stress, and the anxiety will in turn reduce, but don’t stress about trying to relax (or obviously that won’t work)! When I’m super anxious I make a hot cup of herbal tea and a hot water bottle to relax my tummy, lie on the sofa with QVC on in the background and do some internet shopping/fantasy shopping, I have also learnt some acupressure points to press or wear those travel sickness wristbands on (there’s a great app that will tell you where and how to press the points for anxiety, I had it on my iPhone but haven’t looked on Android yet)…whatever works for you! If you can’t relax ah well! That’s ok too. Try again tomorrow.

Distraction is also key.  Watching rubbish (AKA really good!) TV, going on the internet, drawing, cross stitch…anything that uses some of your brain but not in a stressful way.  Going for a walk is brilliant, and when you’re out become aware of birds singing, flowers, leaves on trees, anything positive, and try to let it ground you.  Walk for at least 15 minutes to get the endorphins flowing. 

When I’m feeling anxious I transfer some of those anxious feelings onto food and eating, so again distraction is useful.  I cook whilst Eric is there to distract me, and eat in front of the TV so I’m not thinking about it too much.  I get worried about what I’m eating and how regularly, and as I lose my appetite, get tummy ache and feel sick it’s hard to eat! I make sure I eat at normal times, but let myself eat a third less than usual if I really am struggling, which takes some of the stress out of it, and if I don’t fancy anything I eat fruit which I can always manage.  Just eat foods you like, at fairly regular intervals, and remember that in a few days it will be getting back to normal so don’t let it add to your worry.

Also when I’m anxious I start to stress that I won’t be able to sleep because of the anxiety, and thus I can’t sleep because of the anxiety! So I do things to distract myself at bedtime…going on the internet, knitting, reading etc. until I’m so sleepy I just fall asleep.  I also do a meditation in bed to help me feel ready for sleep, either listening to one on my iPod (I use the Rainbow Relaxation I used to listen to when I was pregnant from Marie Mongan’s ‘Hypnobirthing’!) or do a full body relaxation where you tense each muscle in your body then relax them one at a time, starting at the top of your head and working down, really being mindful and conscious of each part of your body and the feeling of it relaxing.  And sleeping with the window open a crack helps for some reason! In a few days or a week your sleep will regulate again so don’t worry if it takes longer to get to sleep or if you wake up in the night just now.  If you wake up, get up and do something distracting until you feel tired again rather than lying in bed stressing about not being asleep! If you try that and it doesn’t work then even just lying in bed with your eyes shut, resting, is good for your body.   

When I’m anxious, general life can feel very overwhelming, and at times in my life I’ve avoided going out or doing things I thought would make it worse.  Instead of avoiding everything, give yourself a break and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but do things you would normally do, like going out to see your friends for lunch.  This will help ‘turn up’ normal life and ‘turn down’ anxiety.  Give yourself small challenges but take it easy on yourself too.

One thing I’m finding helpful with my anxiety is challenging the thoughts behind it.  I have been having CBT counselling for 4 and a half months now and it’s helping me unravel and address things.  I write a thought log every week, especially when I’m anxious, which involves separating out the trigger, the thought, the feeling, then seeing if I can challenge it.  Is the thought realistic? Am I catastrophising (making it into the worst thing ever)? Try doing this if you’re feeling anxious and see if you can identify any negative thoughts that you can challenge and make sense of.

Finally it can be helpful to make a list of positive things, to train your mind to focus on the positive rather than the negative.  Being a ‘glass half full’ person can be learned! When I’m feeling very low or anxious, if I can make a list of things that went well, e. g. anything I did well that day, however tiny, things that were happy or beautiful, things to be proud of or that I did that make me a great Mum, then the day doesn’t seem like a dead loss.  Over time this make you feel more cheerful and ‘in the moment’.  

Go easy on yourself, stay positive if you can, and remember you’re not alone.  You can and will feel better, and getting through this hard time will make you so much stronger.


I will finish up with some of my favourite quotes that have helped me alot:
"God never puts more on you than you can bear"
"It always seems impossible till it's done"
"You have to wade through the shit to get to the gold"
"A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor"
"When you're going through hell, keep going"
"Good things come to those who wait  Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up"
"This too shall pass"
""Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way.
I don't understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me." The Lord replied, "My precious child.  I love you and I would never leave you.  During your times of trial and sufferingwhen you saw only one set of footprints...That was when I carried you.""


(courtesy of friends, things I have read, Charlotte Brydon-Smith and Mo Cahill)

Friends, family and loved ones:

1.     Well, firstly, read this post so you can understand and empathise with how your loved one might be feeling.
2.     If your loved one says they’re feeling anxious, try to avoid saying “why?” as this can sound a bit critical or add to their anxiety if they are unsure of the reason they’re feeling anxious.  Instead try asking “is there any reason you feel anxious?” and if they say no then you can reply “well that’s ok, everyone feels anxious sometimes, it will be ok”.
3.     If your loved one desperately begs you to tell them it’ll be ok, tell them that! My partner has said before “well I can’t tell you it’ll be ok as I don’t know anything about it so I don’t know if it will be ok”.  It really, really will be ok! They will be fine, anxiety is just a feeling that will pass.
4.     Don’t dismiss their feelings though.  Anxiety is horrible! Talk to them about their feelings if they want to, and be sympathetic and positive.
5.     Don’t say “pull yourself together” or “nothing’s wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about”. 
6.     Remind them of their good points or things they have done well.
7.     Being supportive can be a question of finding the right balance. You need to accept the person as they are, and not push them into situations that are beyond them but at the same time try to help them to overcome small challenges. It will help them build up their self-confidence and feel in control.
8.     Reassure them that it’s ok and normal to feel bad sometimes and that it’s ok to cry or be down or feel angry or frustrated.  Encourage an outlet for these feelings.  Letting out their feelings can really help.
9.     Help them to have fun.  Do things that they enjoy that aren’t too challenging for them.  Laughter is the best medicine!
10.  Physical reassurance, like a hug, can be a great way of saying you’re there for them, and can really help.