Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘breastfeeding’

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in / my heart)

When alt.D1 was tiny, she cried a lot. She cried in the day time and the night time.  She cried when she wasn’t being fed, she cried if she was left alone for a second. She cried if you tried to sit down when you were holding her.  We put her in the pram and we went for walks, mostly she cried, sometimes she fell asleep.  We paced the floor with her chewing on one of our fingers, we bounced, we rocked… you get the idea.  She was LOUD and SAD.
I would push the pram down the hill to baby groups, and they would hear us coming.  “Oh we heard alt.D1, she’s git such a sweet cry!”  I would grit my teeth – it wasn’t so sweet at 2.30am,or 2.50, or 3.20…  People arriving after us would say “We knew you were here already, we could hear alt.D1, she’s got such a sweet cry…”  Sigh. 
There were nights spent watching reruns on TV through cordless headphones while we wore tracks into the carpet trying to get her back to sleep.  There were days when nothing was achieved, having been spent trudging round town with the pram in an attempt to get her to sleep, and when that was achieved, I daren’t go home because the eyes, those big brown saucer eyes, would pop open as soon as we crossed the threshold.
Then, when she was about four months old, we had a revelation.  We bought a sling and it changed our lives.  I am never more evangelical than when I am talking about my sling!  Seriously: Our. Lives. Changed.  
Suddenly, we could wrap up the baby, and within five minutes she would be asleep.  We could do the pacing around bit, or we could mow the lawn instead, baby in tow!  Dinner could be prepared; better yet, actually eaten whilst it was hot!  Wow – who ever would have thought!
I ordered the sling online, having tried putting Alt.D1 into a borrowed one at someone else’s house.  We’d been given a baby carrier with webbing, buckles and straps, and although it was complicated to put on the wearer, Alt.D1 had liked it and seemed more settled.  She had fought it (loudly!) when turned in towards my chest, but on turning to the outside world, she had been absorbed and fascinated, and, it seems, sometimes bored to sleep! I had read on the internet about the risks of hip dysplasia in such kinds of carriers, and realised it wasn’t putting her in the most comfortable position.  A different kind of sling, a long stretchy wrap which is tied to the adult, not involving buckles or straps was the answer.  And we all loved it.
She would sleep in the sling where you would never have thought it possible.  Suddenly our lives had changed for the better.  We had a portable child, and more to the point, a settled child.

Jean Liedloff recognised a huge impact on children’s development when they are carried.  She calls it “the in arms experience” in her book The Continuum Concept.  Liedloff noticed that the babies of the Venezuelan people that she studied were carried by their parents all the time.  They were, as a result, easier to hold, because they were used to it.  They didn’t fuss and stretch and go stiff as a board like Alt.D1 when I tried to put her in the car seat.  They didn’t bend backwards in the middle, striking out towards the floor.  We noticed a change in Alt.D1 immediately we started to use the sling.
So, when Alt.D2 was born, we didn’t need to think about it.  She went in the sling straight away.  I can’t imagine how I would have managed with two small children without it, to be honest.  The baby would sleep, cosied up on my chest, and I could play with the big one.  I could prepare food, walk to town, play dragons and princesses, or hide and seek, while my baby was contented and snoozing.
Even now at almost eight months old, Alt.D2 loves going in the sling.  She’s a bit heavy for the stretchy wrap, (although we both still prefer it if I’m honest) so now she’s in an Ergo Baby Carrier, a more structured version, similar to the traditional “mei tie” carriers used by asian people for many many years but with a modern twist.  She can go on the gront or the back, and everyone’s happy.  She can even nurse in there (obviously not on the back though!!)
Alt.Father is pleased to wear the sling, too.  I deliberately chose a plain navy colour, which just happens to match his favourite jumper.  In town one day, two teenage girls did a double take in the market while he was out shopping with Alt.D1.
“Oooh, I thought that man had two heads!” one said to the other.  Alt.D1 was peeping out of the sling, apparently suspended from her dad’s top!  He’s even had one on the front and one on the back on more than one occasion!
There are more benefits than just the practical.  In the early days with Alt.D2 I was finding it hard to really appreciate her.  I was bonding more slowly than I had with Alt.D1.  But by wearing her on my body for long stretches of time, hours while she would sleep, wake, feed and sleep again, all without being parted from me, our bond strengthened immeasurably.  She was always within kissing distance, our hearts close together.  She was comforted by the sounds she had heard within the womb; my muffled voice and my heartbeat.  I got to learn her ways, the rhythms by which she lived, and her cues for hunger, tiredness, and so on.  We enjoyed what has been termed “the fourth trimester”.  I now have a happy, confident almost-eight month old, and she and I are as in love with each other as we could possibly be.
So as I said earlier, I am positively evangelical about babywearing.  I will enthuse to any new parents, or parents-to-be about how a sling changed our lives and saved our sanity.  You can borrow slings from local “sling libraries” before you invest, and there is a host of different designs, patterns and colours to choose from.  Among some friends of mine, slings are talked about in the same way and with the same enthisiasm as the latest designer clothes.  We are “sling geeks” if you will!
Carry that baby, you won’t regret it.
The title of this Post comes from a poem by e e cummings: 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

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All The Very Best

Sometimes when you are passionate about something, it’s hard to remain objective.  Especially when the “thing” is something that only 1% of the UK population do, and when you wish everyone could do it because the benefits are so great.

I am proud to say that my second daughter is among the 1% of UK babies who have been exclusively breastfed to the age of six months.  This has been a journey for our family which started before the birth of Alt.D1, and which will continue until, for now, Alt.D2 decides she’s had enough.  


Yesterday I came across this article in the British Medical Journal, wherein the authors detail their findings in research on how the idealistic “breast is best for 6 months” message compares with familes’ experiences in the real world.  It’s a fairly hefty article, but the comments made by the women and their families (partners, mothers, sisters) make interesting reading.  The conclusion drawn by the authors is that despite the all pervading “Breast Is Best” message given to parents, there is not always the support available to enable breastfeeding to be confidently established and continued. 
I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.  BBC3’s excellent documentary “Is Breast Best?” summed up the presenter’s own experiences:
“If you’re experiencing incredible pain, it’s not okay to go through that.  It’s not something you should just swallow and suck up.  I wish I had asked for help. I wish, I wish, I wish I had gone and asked for help and not just suffered in silence.”

It is noteworthy that this investigation centred on families, rather than just women themselves.  For me, and I know that if you ask Alt.Father, he will say the same, support for breastfeeding involves the whole family.  That is not to say that the decision necessarily involves the family, despite well meaning titbits of advice (no pun intended!) from elderly relatives!  What I mean to say is that the father’s role in a breastfeeding family should never be under-estimated.  Without the unending support of Alt.Father, I would not be where I am today.
I’d like to share the story of our journey, and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
My mum told me that when I was born, a nurse held me up and said 
“This baby will never breastfeed, look at the shape of her mouth!”
This was 32 years ago, to a stressed out, confused new young mother, who was trying and struggling to feed her new baby.  Yet despite this blow to her confidence, Mum struggled on and succeeded, managing to feed me for 9 months, and subsequently both of my younger siblings.
So it was with her in my mind that I tentatively pressed the buzzer in the hospital ward time after time during the first 24 hours of Alt.D1’s life.  I called for help, and each time someone different arrived at my bedside, giving me different advice, or no advice at all.
“Is this your first baby?” asked one nurse, “you’re very confident.”
I didn’t feel very confident.  I felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!  My baby was waking every hour, making a noise in an overheated room full of other women without babies (mixed ante-natal and post-natal ward).  I couldn’t tell if she was getting anything from me.  I was sore, tired and lonely.  At 4am, when I hadn’t really slept for 2 days, a heathcare assistant asked me
“Have you got bottles at home?” and fed formula to my baby from a cup.  Alt.D1 slept.  In tears, I sent a text message to Alt.Father:

They just gave her some formula.  I didn’t want to do that.  I feel like the worst mother and she isn’t 1 day old yet.” 
In 30 years, nothing had changed.
I was lucky though.  The following morning, Alt.Father collected us from the Big Hospital and took us to our local midwife led maternity unit.  Still sore and sad, I was shown by my trusted community midwife how to hand express the rich golden colosturum and give it to the baby.  Over the next five days, I was given so much help and support by wonderful women who knew about breastfeeding.  I pressed the bell 100 times, maybe 200 times and I didn’t feel guilty, I felt supported.  I was struggling, but I was supported.
We left the unit with a medical grade pump and Alt.D1 on bottles of expressed milk.  As fast as I was pumping, she was drinking it.  We supplemented with formula, and I spent hours each day in tears, hooked up to a machine.  Alt.Father fed the baby, who cried a lot.
Then the day came of our local Breastfeeding Support group.  The three of us toddled along, and were made welcome, despite the bottles we were reliant on.  We tried “biological nurturing”, allowing the baby to seek out its own feed.  We all felt more confident.  Alt.Father commented at the time that it’s all very well telling us breastfeeding is best for your baby, but nobody had told us just how hard it could be.
With perseverence and the aid of nipple shields (sometimes controversial as they can affect milk supply) we mastered it.  Alt.D1 went on to breastfeed past her 2nd birthday, as if she had read the World Health Organisation guidelines herself!
By the time Alt.D2 was born, I had become involved with the breastfeeding support group, and had attended a training course for Peer Supporters of breastfeeding families.  I was armed and ready to feed my new baby from the moment she was born.  Every squeak she made, I latched her on.  She and I got the hang of it and never looked back.  This time, I proudly read the words “confident mum” written in my hospital notes at the maternity unit, and was pleased that I did indeed feel quietly confident with the breastfeeding aspect (if nothing else!).
So it was with a little sadness but without surprise that I read the BMJ article.  New mums, dads and babies need support.  Healthcare professionals need more training.  They need to care about this.  We are the “alternative” 1% of a population that exists because their forebears did something that like it or not is natural for 100% of the human species.  It’s up to us to encourage our children, daughters and sons alike, to get these figures up.  Let’s hope that in another 30 years’ time, something will have changed.




If you are reading this blog and wondering where you can get help near you, here are some useful links:

NCT Breastfeeding Helpline:  0300 330 0771
Open 8am – 10pm, 7 days a week
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers helpline:  08444 122 949
Open 9.30am – 10.30pm, 7 days a week
Breastfeeding Network Supporterline: 0844 412 4664
Open 9.30am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week
www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk

La Leche League: 0845 120 2918
www.laleche.org.uk

  

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