The ‘W’ word

Weaning that is. Oliver has stopped feeding.

I’m not sure when exactly he stopped – he’s been reducing his feeds for months. He’d feed a couple of times in one day, then nothing for a day, then a feed, then another skipped day. More gradual than Izzy from what I remember, but earlier than I’d originally planned/expected. He asked for a feed roughly 2 weeks ago, but gagged on the breast and then dropped down laughing and shouting “no”, so has probably lost his latch (Isabel did v. quickly too.) I thought there’d be a resurgence in requests after last week’s first full week at nursery but he rejected my offers.

As I predicted, I’ve not had the 2 weeks of mourning like I did with Isabel (and is quite common in nursing mums) although I’ve still got milk, so not sure if that will come later…

Another ‘end of an era’, anyway.

Mumma-led Weaning

I took the decision a few weeks ago to start refusing Oliver feeds overnight. The idea I had was that if he cried when I said no, I would feed him anyway, but that if he lay back down and went to sleep: win win.

It goes against every part of me that supports baby-led weaning – from the introduction of solids down to the ultimate ending of breastfeeding – but it got to the point where I was finding Oliver’s latch so bad that I was having to bite my lip and dig my fingernails into the palms of my hands just so that I didn’t just throw him off me. He has always had a much worse latch at night, but it’s been particularly awful since the first set of molars came in. I held on for improvements and they’ve not been forthcoming!

Fortunately most feeds were quickly replaced with a sip of water (and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can night wean or sleep train using water … now he wakes for that instead) with minimal/no crying.

I’m trying to console myself with regular reminders of the fact that a) Oliver gets to feed in the day when Isabel didn’t at this age, b) if he was that desperate he would have made more fuss about feeding. Truth is, I feel just as guilty as I did when Izz weaned just before her second birthday if not more so… he is only 15.5 months after all.

My goal was to reach 2 years with Oliver, the milestone we missed virtually by days last time ’round, but the reality is that if he weaned tomorrow I don’t know if I would grieve the loss of the breastfeeding relationship this time. Guilt but no grief? I hate that.

I am so angry

I have a doctors appointment Tuesday 13th which I will be attending armed with a list of symptoms as long as my arm. Things like persistant exhaustion but complete inability to sleep when I am actually in bed (even when Oliver’s not thrashing about) and ‘brain fog’ – hence the list. And then in the middle of the list, in caps and underlined twice so he gets the point, I’ve written:

ANGRY

…because I just can’t stop being angry. Angry because there’s crap on the kitchen side, angry because Isabel said something a little noiser than I would like, angry because Oliver wants to feed, angry because he doesn’t, angry because I have too much work but no motivation to sort it, angry because the cats got hair on my sofa, angry because it’s raining, angry because it’s too hot. Angry at stupid things, all the time. Shouting at people ALL THE DAMN TIME.

What worries me is that if I look back, I can see that I’ve been angry since not long after Oliver was born. Angry because he couldn’t latch on to feed, angry when he did and it wasn’t comfortable. Angry because he needed me when he was supposed to be the baby who got the things right that Izz didn’t (how horrible does that sound?) Angry because I needed to work when I should have been fixing my baby’s feeding problems.

I thought at one stage it was some sort of post natal depression, esp. when his feeding issues then problems with dairy were at their worst, but the weight that was pulling me down down down lifted when we cut out the dairy. Things got even better still when Karl went part time and I had some proper dedicated work time so I didn’t have to work til 10pm. I’ve been HAPPY for months, just happy AND ANGRY and I don’t know why.

I’m trying to fix it myself. This is why I want to start running again (although keep making excuses not to) and I’ve been better at turning down work to reduce stress (even though I’ve still got a backlog of bits dating back to last November); I’ve been getting out of the house more; I’ve been working on reducing sugar in my diet and am thinking of naming September as my sugar free month because that’s supposed to help?

But I’m still fucking angry.

The Bravado Embrace

The people at Bravado were so impressed by the description of my boobs in the review of their nursing tank top that they have been sending me lavish gifts ever since.

OK, that’s a big fat lie, nobody is that impressed by my boobs any more ;) I was offered the opportunity to test run a brand new bra though and given the state of some of my old ones I didn’t want to pass up on that!

I received the Bravado Essential Embrace nursing bra on quite a warm day so when I took it out the pack I was a little concerned that the material, which felt quite substantial between my fingers, was going to be too hot. I assumed the luxurious feel to the bra was at the expense of keeping cool, but I was totally wrong. I’ve been wearing the Embrace a lot over the past couple of weeks in temperatures 26-27 degrees with no complaints at all.

embrace-bra-side-supportOne of the features I like the most about the bra (which I’m surprised isn’t emphasised more on the website) is the side support ‘structuring’ — like underwiring but without the harshness of an actual wire — this prevents my boobs from making a break for it sideways which is a blessing when your boobs don’t exactly point forward and up any more (or in my case, ever)

The Embrace is truly a proper nursing t-shirt bra, completely smooth under t-shirts (which I live in) with a light padding to the straps. It stretches lightly so is ideal for those of us who start the day as one size and end it as another even after all these months of breastfeeding(!) What with the embrace, the nursing tank and my original Bravado that I bought when I was pregnant with Oliver I have a complete collection: something for pretty much every occasion.

The Essential Embrace is out today, so if the mental image of my beautifully restrained side boobs hasn’t put you off I would definitely recommend checking them out.

Breastfeeding a tongue tied baby (part 2)

In September last year I spoke about breastfeeding my tongue tied baby. I’ve been meaning to write a follow-up for a while and as it’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week I figure maybe now’s as good a time as any.

In my last post I complained that post-snip things got much worse in the weeks that followed. By the time Oliver was 9-10 months old (snip was at 3m/o for context) we’d seen some major improvements in my comfort levels with the majority of feeds being pain free (still varying degrees of gagging, slippage and discomfort but nothing insurmountable). It was a very slow improvement, and one which I’d love to attribute to the snip but actually think was caused by the introduction of solid food.

We started solids around 6 months going down the baby led weaning route as we did with Izz. Oliver was very gaggy and I wondered if he wasn’t ready, but he seemed to really like experimenting with his food. I think (and this is pure speculation but makes sense) that because Oliver has never been able to pull the nipple as far back into the mouth as he should to feed effectively, combined with his high palette, meant that he had a very enthusiastic gag reflex. As he got used to moving food around his mouth, the gagging at the breast reduced too.

I do wonder how much this could have been helped with proper post-snip support and tongue exercises and I’m really angry that the practitioner who cut Oliver’s tie did not respond to any of my calls/emails asking for further help and advice. Yet again I was reliant on Google, breastfeeding blogs, twitter and my lovely local friend Louise who has had to deal with far, far too many of my late night moany emails.

I don’t know whether publishing this today is the best idea ever. National Breastfeeding Week is about encouraging people to breastfeed and this is a fairly miserable tale that tells a story of maternal stubbornness more than the beautiful, peaceful way of feeding babies that breastfeeding can be. But I guess that’s important too: knowing that problems don’t always have to mean the end.

Asking for it

At some point in the past month Oliver has started ‘asking’ for boob by not-at-all-subtly smacking me in the chest. Of course each time I show him how to do “gentle hands” and I think that it’s finally sinking in as now he gently prods a few times and THEN smacks me (well that’s an improvement, right?) but it occurs to me that we’re now at the point where some folk start to scowl. You know the old chestnut: “if they’re old enough to ask for it they’re too old”.

Of course this ignores the really important fact that a newborn baby can ask for it by crawling up their mother to the breast, by rooting, mewling, and of course crying…

Amusingly with his realisation of the power – that he has virtually instant access to the milk bar – he has massively ramped up his demands. Last month I was offering and being refused except at nap/bed times and I sensed early weaning on the cards. I’d forgot they go through these phases; it’s quite sweet :)

So with his first birthday coming up in less than a week and the forays in communication I guess I’m now heading into “extended” breastfeeding territory again. I think about the future a lot, whether we’ll make it to 2 (the milestone I missed by days with Izz) and indeed how I feel about that given that his latch is still mostly bloody awful.

One day at a time.

I have a nursing tank top that makes my boobs look great

I couldn’t think of a better way to title this post because it’s such a huge occasion for my boobs to look anything other than … actually, it’s probably better for all of us if I don’t finish that sentence.

I recently got asked if I’d like to review a Bravado nursing bra or tank top. Now, I own a Bravado nursing bra already so it seemed like a no-brainer to accept something I knew I would probably like, especially as my existing bra has seen better days. However, I also have had my eye on nursing vest / tank tops to keep the chill off my jelly belly when I’m out and about (you’d think this wouldn’t matter in May – someone forgot to tell the weather fairies) or in bed and have the duvet pulled away from Oliver.

So anyway, I went for the Bravado “Essential nursing tank” which is basically just a vest / tank top (what’s the difference between a vest top and a tank top?) with nursing bra clippy things. They sent me the brown in huge-wobbly-norks size which I had to guess at because things have changed a bit on the chest front since Oliver was born. Damn kids.

At first I didn’t think it was going to fit because I was struggling to get into it, but once I’d got it over the twins (how many euphemisms for breasts can I fit into one post?) and I’d done the boob dance, everything was in place… and then I gave myself a black eye with the protruding cleavage!

Jokes, jokes.

Seriously though, it did something magical with my boobs. Instead of being somewhere in the vicinity of my knees, they were now UP and controlled and where they should be (in theory). And, because like that’s not good enough, I stuck a top on and the smooth cotton-spandex-y material smooshed my belly into something smooth and flat (ish) and I swear I looked like I’d dropped a dress size.

But I do have one complaint. Sorry, I’m trying to not be a miserable bugger here, but it’s got to get a mention: the supposed one-handed clips? Totally not intuitive at all. Most nursing bras, including my existing Bravado, work by lifting the clip up away from the bra. The tank top is the opposite, and you have to sort of tip the back of the clasp forwards instead. It’s hard to explain, and took me several attempts to get the hang of. I mean it’s not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re a new mum doing your first feed in public, you’ll want to have practised the unclipping part a few times so as not to look like a loon fiddling with your underwear (as I frequently do … look like a loon that is).

It really is a nice – lovely and warm – tank top though. I’m thinking of getting another one, possible the “Plum”, for when (if) the sun eventually arrives to pair with some jeans (get me, acting like I know how to match clothes up, haaaaaa).

Still Boycotting Nestlé

As my post on my decision to boycott Nestlé is doing the rounds on Facebook again (and I mentioned it on twitter this week) I thought I’d write an update on where I am with it.

Firstly, it’s important to note that I’m not just sitting on my computer moaning about unfair marketing. I support Baby Milk Action with paid membership, and by buying their anti-Nestlé / pro-breastfeeding products. BMA are responsible for keeping Nestlé on their toes by campaigning against their unfair labelling of artificial milks in developing countries, as well as leading the way on campaigning against companies targeting health workers with misleading advertising, etc.

Anyway… the actual boycott. I have completely cut Nestlé purchases out of my life, having not knowingly bought a Nestlé (or Rowntrees, L’Oreal, Body Shop, etc) branded product in over 2 years. I accidentally bought some Buitoni pasta not knowing it was a subsidiary of Nestlé but that, I think, is my only slip up. Considering that — prior to the boycott — I would purchase several Kit Kats a week, drank Nescafé coffees almost exclusively, regularly bought Nestlé cereals, ice cream, etc I am quite pleased with how easy to cut the company out of my shopping basket when I put my mind to it.

Of course, even if we assume that I spent £1000 a year on Nestlé products, that’s little more than a pebble in the ocean for this huge multinational monster. But… my post has been seen by over 30,000 different people in 2 years. Who knows how many of those people have removed even just one product from their lives, or talked about the boycott with someone else. I know of several people who now boycott Nestlé because of my post.

Every time someone thinks twice about buying a Kit Kat, I feel like I’ve achieved a small victory.

The Nestlé boycott is the longest running boycotts worldwide and Nestlé are one of the most boycotted brands in the UK. It continues to be necessary because they continue to use underhand techniques to market their artificial milks (not translating safety information on labels in foreign countries, trying to weaken baby milk legislation in a country where thousands of babies die because of inappropriate artificial milk feeding etc).

As well as the baby milk issues, they are also boycotted because of their testing on animals, use of child slave labour to harvest cocoa, rainforest destruction etc

Why aren’t you boycotting them yet?

Update: Wikipedia has a full Nestlé product list including country-specific brands.

Breastfeeding a tongue tied baby

Oliver turned 17 weeks yesterday – 4 months old. He had his tongue tie officially diagnosed and snipped a month today.

Immediately after the snip, there was a big improvement. Then it got worse, much worse. Then it started to improve again.

It still hurts (anything from minor discomfort to more uncomfortable pinching/rubbing) during around 50% of feeds. He still struggles to stay latched. He refuses to be fed in the cradle hold which makes feeding in public a pain in the butt. It also means I’m sat hunched over, which is agony on my back. Recently, he will only feed from the right hand side in the rugby hold (under my right arm) which makes the latch even more shallow unless I hold him and my breast very still.

I believe that his tongue tie has at least partially re-healed and that his lip tie contributes to the slipping off the boob.

But… we’re still going. He is still exclusively breastfed. His latch has improved, albeit not as much as I hoped it would. He is less gaggy, and using the tongue exercises we were given I can see he is able to take my finger further into his mouth; he’s getting better at pulling in with his tongue instead of pushing out. I am hoping this means we will see further improvements to the latch as time goes on and he adjusts to take more breast into the mouth (which allows the nipple to reach the soft palette which ensures pain free feeding).

I’m concerned that, unless the gagging/tongue thrust improves, he will have issues when we introduce solids at ~6 months, but that is 9 weeks off so things could be hugely different by then. I’m also concerned that my “choice” of feeding position is placing a lot of strain on my back, but I just don’t know where to go with this… placing him in the cradle position causes him to arch his back away, twist his head either deep into my arm or in the opposite direction. Some people recommend cranial osteopathy for post-TT division to resolve issues like this but I’m struggling to find any evidence that this is genuinely effective (I’m not a “woo”/homeopathy/alternative medicine sort of person).

It’s a good job I’m stubborn, though.

Vindication

When Oliver was born, I struggled a little getting him latched. I assumed it was the position I was lying in; the midwife assisted with his first feed and he fed like a champ. It didn’t take very long to notice he had a pronounced lip tie (see bottom of Oliver’s birth story) but I had plenty of techniques to manage that because of Isabel’s tie (if your baby has a lip tie, try the flipple).

Within a few days I was suffering from intense nipple pain. It was taking roughly 30 minutes to get him latched; I was fighting back-arching, screaming, chomping. By the end of the first week I had my first bout of mastitis (I went on to get it again, twice more).

I knew there was something wrong, something more than the lip tie. I sought advice from midwives, breastfeeding supporters and when that didn’t work, got in touch with the infant feeding coordinator at the hospital where I had Isabel. I was given some positioning tips but told that everything was fine. See for yourself, the comments left in Oliver’s red book (record of health in the first few years):

Further comments verbally from others… “The latch looks great, try a different position to make it more comfortable for you.” and “He’s putting on weight, it must be nothing”.

I persevered. My health visitor and a nurse assisting her added on yet more comments of “everything’s fine”, “he’s doing great”, “but he’s such a big chap” etc etc. They gave me the location of a local breastfeeding café and suggested I’d get on better with some like-minded friends. Nobody directly said “it’s in your head” but I got the feeling that’s what everyone was thinking.

I sent a follow-up e-mail to the IFC on the 18th August, explaining that problems were persisting:

[..] Though your positioning advice has got us thus far, I am still in varying degrees of pain / discomfort with each feed and Oliver’s latch is worsening.

He now clicks continuously through 90% of feeds (I can feel his tongue coming away from the breast and then sliding back under, it’s incredibly uncomfortable), milk dribbling out of the side of his mouth. He slips off the breast easily and will often drop the latch so that he is nipple sucking.

I strongly believe he has a tongue tie of some fashion as I can feel a significant bump under his tongue which seems to be bigger than before?

Oliver is now 11 weeks 3 days and I feel like I’m missing out on a decent breastfeeding experience. I really am stuck and don’t know how to proceed. I’m also worried that now my supply has started to settle
down Oliver’s weight gain may plateau.

Figured it was the weekend when I sent it, it might not get seen for a few days. I waited for a response. And waited. And waited. By the end of last week I was fed up. Fed up at the lack of reply, and frustrated at having spent most of the day feeding off one side because a red patch and soreness had reappeared. Worried that I was about to get my 4th bout of mastitis I shot off emails to every tongue-tie treating IBCLC I could find an email address for.

Ann Dobson replied within 12 hours. She asked for my address to confirm when she would be able to fit us in and then, completely out of the blue, turned up on our doorstep Sunday afternoon. This woman works in London and yet clearly feels so passionately about helping that she travels up and down the country to look at babies.

Within minutes she had diagnosed a 60% tongue tie (which she showed me; by applying a little pressure to the base of the tongue it stuck right out), restricted elevation and “lateralisation” of the tongue leading to a shallow nipple sucking latch with clamping during feeds. Also noted a high anterior palette (typical in tongue tie babies).

So much for “no tongue tie evident”.

Oliver was swaddled and the tie was cut in seconds. He cried a little then latched and fed better than at any point previous. After a little nap he spent nearly 3 hours sticking his tongue out, moving it side to side and laughing.

It shouldn’t have to be this hard to be taken seriously.

Breastfeeding Stories winner

Congratulations to Nathalie T., you are the winner of the ‘Breastfeeding: Stories to Inspire and Inform’ book. You won by following @Lonely_Scribe on twitter.

Want to win something cool too? Keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway of a family ticket to the LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre.

I get it now

A loooong, long time ago when it felt like half the world still blogged at Livejournal, the powers that be decided to remove avatars featuring breastfeeding women. All hell broke loose as mums and supporters alike caused a riot. I supported the protests at the time but said that, despite my position, I didn’t understand why mums would want to share pictures of breastfeeding on the Internet.

I get it now.

It’s not about sharing a picture of your breasts which just happen to be feeding a baby. It’s about sharing a moment in time, a glimpse into a relationship between two. The “breast” part is incidental; it’s a memory like any other. Like the picture of the baby in the cute sleepsuit/onesie, the picture of the baby which his first cuddly toy, the picture of the baby asleep with the family pet. Whatever.

My epiphany came this morning as I fed Oliver down for his nap. Despite our ongoing problems and the fact that 99% of feeds are still painful/uncomfortable, he finished his snack, pulled away from the boob and rested his head against it. His pudgy hand splayed across warm flesh. He sighed as he closed his eyes and went to sleep. In that moment everything was perfect, and I knew just then that were I more comfortable with sharing pictures of my babies with the world, that few seconds would be the ones I’d want to share.