28.7.15

BREASTFEEDING CORALIE: our journey






This post has been a long time in the writing. I wanted to write about our breastfeeding journey second time around as my post about my experience breastfeeding Josephine received so many comments and emails from Mama's who had experienced the same thing. I attempted to write it when Coralie was a few months old and I felt I had got to grips with the whole breastfeeding malarkey but, your know, life with two kiddos got in the way. Then I thought about writing it as Coralie turned one and our journey came to an end. But, well, life with two kiddos got in the way. So, better late than never, here's our story...

I hate to use the word 'closure', but I knew that the only way I'd truly get over and lay to rest all my feelings around my first breastfeeding experience would be to try and succeed in breastfeeding our next baby. And so it was one of the things I was most excited about when we found out we were expecting Coralie. But of course, it was also one of the things I was most nervous about. My milk stopping after ten days with Josephine rocked me to the core. I grieved for a part of motherhood I wouldn't get to experience with her and it took me a long time to get over it.

Of course it in no way affected my relationship with Josephine, or how wonderful, healthy and intelligent she is. But it knocked me - my confidence and my self-belief. By the time Coralie was born I had come to terms with it in most ways, but I knew in my heart I wouldn't completely heal until I had succeeded in breastfeeding her. It was all about me, and knowing I had conquered this.

This time, I had prepared myself too. Not just mentally, but practically. I had tubes of Lanolin nipple cream and the most expensive nipple shields I could find at the ready, and no midwife was going to tell me not to use them this time.

Coralie's first feed was glorious. She latched right on and settled down for a 45 minute feed. I was so happy, and I honestly felt the weight of my last traumatic breastfeeding experience lift (and it really was traumatic. I don't think anyone can fully understand the disappointment and sadness that can come from wanting to breastfeed your child and not be able to unless you've been through it too). As the days went on, I started to get sore and Coralie was often so frantic about feeding that she struggled to latch on. As I tried to work out with the midwives why this was, and use different methods to ensure Coralie was latched on properly, the fear and panic of the same thing happening again set in. I was constantly messaging my best friend Laura (who had had her third baby boy, George, just 3 weeks before I had Coralie and who had also been unable to b'feed her first two boys but was now successfully breastfeeding George) asking for advice.

Around day three I pumped enough milk for Josephine and Ben to feed Coralie using a bottle and to give my sore nipples a rest and then I sterilised the nipple shields. As I went to use them for the first time, I realised they were huge (who knew they came in sizes?!) and Coralie just couldn't get any milk out with them on. I messaged Laura and she sent her husband straight over with an envelope full of different sized and shaped nipple shields that she had collected while attempting to feed her eldest, Oliver. Thank goodness for best friends (and their obliging husbands!) I found a couple that fit perfectly and got straight on to feeding Coralie.

Pain-free. Almost. I sat back, relaxed and she happily drank, drank, drank. The relief was palpable.

Within a couple of days the cracks had begun to heal and we settled into a beautiful rhythm of feeding. Coralie was going 3-4 hours between feeds and then feeding for an hour or so. She was content and happy and sleeping really well for stretches of four hours or so through the night.

And after an initial and substantial weight loss, she was putting weight on too. Despite the midwives advice against them, I felt confident in feeding with the shields - and Coralie was thriving.

Once the cracks and pain were but a distant memory, I tried the odd feed without a shield. But Coralie just couldn't get the latching on. She was frantic and impatient and when I did finally get feeding, she'd quickly pull off and we'd have to start the whole process again. It was stressful for both of us, and I felt sure the poor latch and constant coming off and on wasn't helping her Colic. It seemed like a pointless thing to do when I knew that if I popped a shield on, we'd both be happy within seconds. So I did.

And I fed Coralie with nipple shields every single feed, give or take one or two here and there, for the whole year I breastfed her. They were quick and easy to put on, small enough to carry out in their little case with no problems at all and, as we were sterilising dummies anyway, that process was no extra hassle.

I can wholly and honestly say that without nipple shields, I don't think our breastfeeding journey would have been the same. Whether or not it would have turned out the same way as Josephine's, I'm not sure - but I do know it would have been stressful and painful and could have taken away from those blissful newborn days. I loved every second of feeding Coralie. Each feed in those first months especially, healed the pain I still felt from my first breastfeeding experience. I loved that Josephine would breastfeed all her babies too, and that sometimes she'd even pretend to use a nipple shield.

I've had a few emails, and IG and blog comments, from women asking about how nervous I was about being back in that 'first time' zone. That they too had suffered similar problems with their first babies, but the idea of not knowing what to do with their second was scary. And I agree. It was, in a lot of ways. But it was still SO much easier than being a first-time Mama. I knew everything else I was doing; I knew what went wrong the first time and prepared for it to happen the second time too and most importantly, I trusted my instincts over those of a midwife I had only met five minutes ago and had the confidence to ignore their 'advice' about not using shields.

I have nothing but respect for most of the midwives we met during our pregnancy labour and post-natal period with Coralie (and midwives in general) - they were lovely and supportive and full of brilliant advice and smiles for both our children. But the breastfeeding advice in my experience still fell short, in most cases. Once again there was little preparation for anything but the ideal breastfeeding scenario, and as I got more and more sore there was little more advice than 'just keep going'. I asked about nipple shields in those first few days and was informed of only the negatives - that the baby will never take the breast again, wouldn't get the milk needed blah blah. We asked about expressing to give my boobs a rest, and give me the opportunity to sleep a little longer, but I was met with a stern 'why? It's much better to continue - battle through. There's no need to express. Your baby may not take the breast again after a bottle. She'll get confused.' I trusted my past experience, and the experience of my friends, and I ignored them. When the midwives came, I didn't feed Coralie and to all intends and purposes, kept my expressing and using nipple shields a secret.

Then, when we had our first home visit from the Health Visitor and I was feeding Coralie with shields, I was met with quite ridiculous claims about why I shouldn't be using them. Apparently Coralie would need weighing more regularly because she was likely to not put on weight as well with me using a nipple shield. Had I not been so determined to do this my way, and confident in trusting what I thought was best, I would have been floored by this. To be honest, I still was taken aback and concerned if she could be right. New mothers are so vulnerable, I think most women would have been. Despite this, I continued. 10 days later the Health Visitor popped round again and quickly had to eat her words when Coralie was weighed.

11oz gained in 10 days.

There was no fighting that, and our Health Visitor was blown away. I told her I felt that was good enough for me to carry on using the shields as and when I needed them, and she sheepishly agreed. I felt quite triumphant. But it shouldn't have taken such overwhelming proof that using nipple shields was not the negative most of the health professionals we dealt with had implied.

The reason I'm writing this post, the reason I've kept my word about putting this experience in our journal, is because I fear for those women who are getting the same advice as me and are being told the same scare stories when they bring up the possibility of using nipple shields and expressing. By no means do I think all midwives are saying these things (I know they're not - friends have had very different advice) and I understand that to an extent they're following guidelines. But surely a mother being able to breastfeed her child, by whatever means if that's what she wants, is what we should be striving for? Nipple shields and pumping, whether used for a few days or a few months, can ensure a breastfeeding journey continues when it would have otherwise been cut unnecessarily short, causing, if anything like me, so much disappointed and despair for the mother.

If we have a third baby, and I feel the need to express or use nipple shields again, I hope I have the confidence (in that haze of newborn hormones) to tell the midwives that I disagree if I'm met with the same advice; to tell them about my experience feeding Coralie and to question whether they should be saying such things. Because us Mothers need a break. We need to be supported and not shut down when we ask a question; we need to be told both sides of the story - the risks and the positives. We need to be granted the space to make the right decision for our bodies, and our babies and our families.

With regards to breast vs. bottle, and written by a mother who has fed each of her babies differently, here's my stance. There are so many positives to breastfeeding; it's free (woo!) and it's so practical - on hand, at the right temperature, ready to go as soon as you need it (particularly amazing at 3am!) but I hands down deny the assumption that you will bond better with your baby if you breastfeed. Do I have a better bond with Coralie than Josephine? Don't be ridiculous. Do I love her more? I'm mortified that anyone would ever think that - of course I don't.

The slogan of 'Breast is Best' is all well and good - and I'm most definitely an advocate of breastfeeding - but it's not that simple for so many women. If you choose to use formula, that's great. If you breastfeed with no problems at all - I'm genuinely so happy for you; you are truly lucky. But if, like me, you've struggled and fought and felt both the physical and mental pain of breastfeeding, I hope you find the support you need. And I hope that this post gives someone the confidence they needed to follow their instincts and try something different to give their breastfeeding journey the best chance it has.

Read about my first breastfeeding experience here.

Pictures taken by my lovely sister, towards the end of my breastfeeding journey with Coralie. They will be cherished forever.

27.7.15

SNIPS AND SNAILS AND PUPPY DOG TAILS


It's not just the boys who are into snails (and all things disgusting!) Last week, as this little angel was playing in the garden, she decided to eat a snail and as fast as I ran, I just couldn't get to her before she chewed on it.

So. So. Gross.

It took all my courage not to run away and be sick. But, being the good Mama I am, I retrieved the remains from Coralie's mouth - much to her disappointment.

I'm telling you...you can't take your eyes off this one for a second. And also, she'll eat ANYTHING!!

24.7.15

NO PLACE TO GO







The last few weeks have been so busy. Packed with wonderful meet-ups, nursery, errands and the everyday goings-on that punctuate the week. And that's awesome. It's lovely to have days bursting with such lovely friends to catch up with and to watch Josephine so happily run into nursery to find her little buddies and learn something new.

But this first week of the summer holidays have been bliss. Lazy days, with no schedules or deadlines or watching the clock. Strolls into the village, garden hangs, playtimes, painting times, cake-making times all merge into one and I've found myself relax - and the girls relax too. There's been fewer tantrums and tears and we're all loving this new gentle pace.

And we go on holiday week. Back to our second home, St Ives in Cornwall. Back to the sea, to the beach we've played on since I was little. Josephine and I talk about it everyday. About the icecreams waiting to be eaten, the sandcastles waiting to be built and the freezing cold sea calling our names. Oh, and did I mention the icecream?!

This time next week we'll be heading to bed, giddy with excitement...

More garden pictures. Because it's where we've spent most of the week.

23.7.15

WHAT PHINEY SAID

I can't even tell you how much I love talking to Josephine. More conversations that I just never want to forget...

"Mama, I was SO late. I looked at my watch and it was TEN PAST FOUR!!"
*Tuts, shakes head and walks away. Moments later, she runs in, shrieking.*
"IT'S TEN PAST FOUR. AAHHHHHH!!!"
*Runs out again.*

Refusing to get her other shoe and sock on...
Me: "Josephine, you can't go to nursery with only one shoe on."
Josephine: "Yes I can. I can hop."

Me: "I'm so lucky to be your Mama."
Josephine: "I'm so lucky to be your girl."

Josephine: "I had to paint my eye last night."
Me: "Why?"
Josephine: "So the spiders didn't eat it."

Me: "You look like a little Christmas elf."
Josephine: "I'm not the elf. I'm Father Christmas."

"Spiders eat bugs and flies and plants and...bogeys."

Josephine: "Mama, can I have a cuddle?"
Me: "Of course!"
Josephine: "I love having cuddles with you."
Me: "Oh! I love having cuddles with you."
Josephine: "And I love that you stay at home with me when Daddy has to go to work."

"I wish I was a Playmobil guy and could drive this helicopter and do the steering wheel. But I'm not. I'm Josephine."

22.7.15

US









When Polly took a few photos of me and the girls last week, I knew they'd be wonderful. Her work is an inspiration and she is truly a talented photographer.

I will absolutely cherish these photographs forever. I can't tell you what they mean to me, and I am so grateful to Polly for getting her camera out and snapping these special moments.

I'm more determined than ever to get in more of the photos, to step in front of the camera rather than staying firmly behind it.

Thank you sweet Polly xxx

21.7.15

FRIENDSHIP










It was with nervous excitement that I met one of my favourite blogging and IG friends, Polly, last week. It's such a surreal thing meeting up with people who you feel you know so well (we've been online friends for years) despite the fact this is the first time you've seen each other in real life. I've been lucky enough to convert online friendships into real life friendships a few times now, and it's one of the reasons I love the little community I've built myself through the crazy world of social media.

As soon as Polly and I met, any nerves melted away and we chatted as if we had known each other for years. She is sweet and funny and cool and inspiring and so supportive and it was lovely to watch our three year olds play so happily together.

I think we could have chatted for hours about blogging and IG, photography and mamahood, so a kiddo-free trip to London for a grown up lunch filled with talk, talk, talk is most definitely on the cards.

I managed to snap a few photos of Polly and her gorgeous girl Elsie (Raff and Phiney were far too enthralled in exploring the Botanical Gardens together to get involved!) and Polly took some of me too, which are incredible and which I will cherish forever.

Making new friends when you get older is hard, but I've been lucky enough to find a brilliant group of like-minded and beautiful women since I became a mother. Connected through the highs and lows of parenting, all there to lend an ear and helpful advice whenever it's needed. And I'm so grateful for them all.

24.6.15

IN THE FLOWERS







With Josephine now at nursery three afternoons a week, it's lovely to get some one on one time with Coralie. And there's nowhere she'd rather be than in the garden; exploring, tottering around and eating as many daisies as possible...

21.6.15

FATHERS DAY

Celebrating my beautiful husband, always the best Daddy in the world to our girls, and my own beautiful Daddy, who I wish with all my heart was here with us today.

Sunshine, BBQ and happy, fun times. So much love xxx 
 

19.6.15

I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND

 
 
 
 
I wonder if there is anything sweeter than little friends holding hands.

These pictures make my heart happy. For the beautiful friendship Josephine has found in Edie and for the innocence of childhood.

17.6.15

WHAT PHINEY SAID

A few more gems from the last couple of months. I could chat with Josephine all day, she amazes and delights me with the things she says...

On sitting at the table and me passing her her lunch... "It's so nice in this café!"

"It's exhausting walking in the rain, isn't it Mama?"

"That's hilarious!" (All the time!)

Josephine: "Our old house fell down!"
Mama: "Oh no!"
Josephine: "Don't worry, we weren't in it, and I've built us a new one, the same - look! Do you like it?"

"This milk is 20p. What a bargain!"

"You're good at chopping Mama, because you are grown. And cool. And Daddy and Coralie are cool. And I am cool."

After I've been singing along to Jay Z and Alicia Keys 'New York' in the car... "Oh! I really like your singing Mama."

Mama: "What do you like most about our house?"
Josephine: "That we all live here together. And Buzz Lightyear."

"Look Mama! There's Florence. Oh, no, wait...she has a different face."

"When I do quiet trumps, Mama, it tickles my bottom and leg!"