Do It Like A Crunchy Mother – DIY Deodorant

So for some crazy reason last week I decided to have a go at creating my own natural deodorant, and test it on one of the hottest week’s of the year… I mean, I could possibly could have chosen a better time of year to try this, but hey – in for a penny in for a pound and all that!

I’ve been using a natural deodorant (a salt crystal one) for over a year now after opening my eyes to the ingredients used in my previous deodorants which I chose for their promise of supreme sweat protection, they seemed to function well only there were negative effects which can come hand in hand with the high level of effectiveness these ingredients offer. The brand I bought most religiously contains these three ingredients which I didn’t feel comfortable to continue using after looking into them:

  • Aluminium Zirconium Tetracholohydrex Gly – used for its ability to prevent sweat leaving the body by obstructing pores.
  • Dimethicone – a silicone based polymer which forms a plastic like barrier over the skin, it is known to dry skin out over time.
  • Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde & Alpha-isomethyl ionone – fragrances which can care irritation to skin.

At times my skin would feel very irritated or stingy/itchy, other brands caused little pimple and redness, it was also difficult to remove the layer of product with gentle washing, so began to explore more gentle options. 

Also more recently I have become more aware of the questions surrounding the use of aluminium in products such as deodorant. Although there has been NO evidence based connection between the use of antiperspirants and breast cancer currently, it has been raised by some scientists that there MAY be a link. There has been research which suggests that regular use of aluminium based deodorants may have an estrogen-like effect on the body, and as breast cancers can be ‘fed’ by estrogen some scientists have suggested that aluminium based deodorant may contribute to the development of breast cancer or have a direct effect on breast tissue. The fact that there is no clear answer on this either way, leaves me preferring to choose not to use it until it is proven safe. (more info on this can be found at breastcanceruk.org.uk)

There is also research which shows that using antiperspirant deodorants can increase the smell causing bacteria living on your underarms whilst killing off the beneficial bacteria, so although you think you’ll smell less the opposite can be true, and at best you may not smell but are altering your body’s natural colony of healthy bacteria!

So decided to try making my own to reduce the nasties being put on my skin on a daily basis, and I figured I could reuse a glass jar and save myself some money in the process – win win if it worked! I’d already had a search for DIY deodorant recipes and there are loads, with varying ingredients. I opted for a super simple one with ingredients which can all (bar the optional essential oils) be found in most kitchens. I went for a small quantity to try in case it needed tweaking but it can of course be scaled up if you find it works for you:

5tsp coconut oil

4tsp arrowroot

3tsp bicarbonate of soda (you can use more if needed, or less if you have very sensitive skin)

And a few drops of your chosen essential oils

Simply mix all of the ingredients together! In warmer weather you may need to store it in the fridge / a cool place as the coconut oil can melt, then apply with clean fingertips as needed and leave to sink in for a few minutes before getting dressed.

The big question… DID IT WORK?!

YES!! We have had a mix of warm – hot weather recently (I think its been flitting between about 20-28c) and I have a chunky 16 week old who is worn in a sling quite a lot, so the potential for sweat is pretty high to be fair. I’ve found this to be just as effective as my last deodorant – perhaps even slightly better! On the really hot days, especially if wearing Lenny in the sling, I’ve sweated a little, and amount which feels healthy for my skin yet not uncomfortable – there have been no big underarm wet patches! And at the end of each day my underarms have either smelt of nothing at all, or slightly reminiscent of the essential oils I used. I’m calling this a successful first run. I may include a small amount of shea butter next time I make some to offer some moisturing/nourishing properties – I reduced the amount of bicarb compared to some recipes as it can be irritating to sensitive skin, I’ve not had any issue even after shaving, but I think it may be nice.

So that’s it – I guess I’m an official deodorant dodging hippy now haha Perhaps my little experiment will give some of you the push you need to try out making your own skincare products – I find it really rewarding to use things I have made myself for so many reasons. It really is super simple, and as someone who used to think I was a serious sweaty betty I’m very impressed with the results. Let me know if you try it, or have any other recipes/suggestions you like me to try!

 

Love,

Steph x

Do It Like A Crunchy Mother – Dental Care Gone Green

Dental Care Gone Green

Twice a day, every day, we brush our teeth. Four or more times a year we replace the toothbrush we use. Our toothpaste of choice is scrubbed around our mouths around 60 times a month, and although it’s largely spat out, I bet over a year a reasonable amount is consumed – and with a child that amount will be much greater despite a parents best intentions! Why I didn’t question the ingredients sooner I don’t really know – I suppose like with many things its assumed safety / necessity, but I decided a while back that it was time to make a change. We only ever used a tiny smear anyway, but I began to wonder if there was a more natural, or healthy alternative.
The first one I tried was Lush Tooth Fairy – a powder which you dip your wet brush into and use as normal. I personally didn’t love this, I wasn’t a fan of the taste and if I’m honest its probably still stuffed at the back of my bathroom cabinet unless Matt has got rid of it!
There were a couple of others we weren’t won over by, then we tried Aloe Dent Whitening which has no harsh chemicals, and has a great taste and texture – so that’s what we have been using for a while now as we are really happy with it, but I’m now on the scout for something which doesn’t require a plastic tube – I think I’ll have an experiment with making my own and come back to you if I find something I love!
One of the main factors for investigating more eco friendly brushes was seeing a photo online which was captioned to explain that each and every toothbrush ever made, is still on the planet somewhere – many of them have made it into our oceans and are causing marine life harm. It was a real eye opener. I worked out that we would get through well over 300 toothbrushes in our life (all being well on the longevity scale!), and decided it was an impact I was no longer prepared to have on the earth.
So the search began. There are loads of eco friendly toothbrushes available now with widely varying price tags, from the more mainstream brand the Humble Brush, which is made from bamboo with nylon bristles. They are sold in Waitrose as well as other highly street retailers for around £4, so they’re a great easy to access option.
We have been using the Environmental Toothbrush for ages now as we are able to buy them in bulk for a really reasonable price (they work out at under £2 a brush! They’re available online for around £3 too), they come in soft/medium/firm bristles as well as a kids sized brush. Their bristles are also nylon – so they’re obviously not 100% degradable but as with the humble brush you can simple snap the head off to put in the bin, and put the main part of the handle into compost.
If you want a fully compostable brush (and aren’t vegan!) you could look at wooden / bamboo brushes with boar bristles such  as the Naturborsten brushes which come in adult or child size and cost around £8.
We also tried the Jack & Jill biodegradable kids toothbrush but found the bristles too soft and they frayed too easily so we have returned to the kids Environmental toothbrush.
For Florence we use Organic Children’s Mint & Aloe paste, I wasn’t keen on the Aloe Dent kids one – the strawberry flavour wasn’t very fresh smelling, and the orange bubbles left a right mess on her clothes if she missed the sink!

People often ask if they’re as good… now I can’t speak for everyone, but we have found our teeth are as healthy as before, with much less of a negative heath / environmental impact. My dentist looked worried when I visited last year as he asked about what we use – I told him and he said I should worry more about my oral health than the environment as it is important (of course!) and said I should think about swapping to an electric toothbrush to help, then he looked inside my mouth and said he was impressed as my teeth were great, as were Florences 😀 so I’ve stuck to the bamboo brush and have had no issues.

Fancy making the change? There are so many options available, have fun experimenting and finding what makes you feel good whilst keeping your family’s teeth sparkling clean!

Steph x

Do It Like A Crunchy Mother – Barefoot Shoes

I remember distinctly the childhood ritual of visiting Clark’s for supportive, well fitted school shoes. It was a big thing to my mum that our first shoes were ‘Proper Clark’s Shoes’ and the same went for our school shoes in our younger years. It’s a common misconception that we need support from our shoes to enable them to function at their best – to prevent fallen arches or to support young ankles, but in evolutionary terms this doesn’t add up – why would our bodies be built to need external support? Why would the muscles, ligaments and bones of healthy feet not function in harmony enabling children to walk when they are ready?

Anyway, when our first child was close to walking the inevitable question came up… ‘When are you taking her to Clarks for shoes?’ I mean its become such a ritual in our society now that they even provide you with a photo of your child modelling their first pair! But we had no plans to go, and found myself explaining our decision to many people who were surprised that we weren’t looking to buy her ‘supportive’ first shoes. Now I can’t even remember how or where I first heard about barefoot shoes, but once I knew of their existence nothing made more sense when it came to choosing her shoes!

What’s all the fuss about then?

For a start, we actually walk best when we are barefoot – our feet are extremely sensitive, and move at 33 different joints when we use them. These tiny movements and the feedback on our soles from the ground help our minds create a mental image of the terrain helping provide more stability, our toes can spread to help us balance and grip, and when we regularly engage the various muscles of the feet, it gives them opportunity to become stronger improving gait, improving body alignment, increasing strength and arch support, and decreasing the risk of joint problems.

(Image courtesy of VivoBarefoot)

Many of the issues people experience with knee and foot pain now begins with footwear choice. The standard shoes available for both children and adults now are narrow (especially in the toe box), rigid soled and heeled – yep, even men’s and kids shoes. I’m not talking stilletos, but most shoes have a degree of incline which puts an unnatural strain on your body. Over time this style of shoe actually changes the shape of your foot, causing the toes to bend inwards, leading to bunions and other issues.

(Image courtesy of VivoBarefoot)

There is even research which shows a positive correlation between walking barefoot and brain development. The feet are the most nerve rich part of our bodies which means they offer a lot of opportunity for children to build neural pathways increasing their brain power!

Most of us have probably noticed the change in a toddler’s ability to walk when they are in shoes (or particularly wellies!) vs when barefoot… they are far steadier when barefoot and able to utilise their body to its full capacity, to me it makes perfect sense to allow them to spend as much time as possible barefoot especially in the first year or two of walking. Of course there are times when this isn’t practical – in cold or wet weather, or when walking on particularly sharp terrain for example. So what’s a Mother to do when her child needs shoes, but she no longer wants to choose the typical restrictive shoes available in most children’s shoe shops?

Barefoot shoes allow the foot freedom to spread, flex and keep their natural shape within a thin soled, wide toe boxed, flexible shoe, and are the closest thing to walking barefoot when shoes are a necessity. Brands differ in width, flexibility, sole thickness and style, but all barefoot shoes meet the criteria of:

–        Flat – no heel rise at all

–        Flexible across the whole sole including the heel area

–        No structured arch support

–        Wide toe box allowing freedom of movement for toes

So called ‘barefoot friendly’ shoes may meet most of the criteria but not to the same degree, for example they may be a little less flexible or have a slight heel rise, they are still better than stiff structured shoes for young feet.

We have now gone through a fair few pairs of shoes, most of which have been barefoot, or barefoot friendly (I’m not gonna kid you that she’s never worn a pair of less ideal shoes – she wanted Nikes like her Daddy’s for example, and has had some smart shoes which were for weddings / parties only etc but for the most part I try not to allow those to be worn often) and have tried shoes from as little as £5 to as much as £50ish and surprisingly they’ve all performed well.

I’ll be coming back with some more detailed reviews for you at a later date, but I’ll leave you with 3 of my fave brands for kids today. Not all shoes from these brands are BF or BFF, but the ones we checked for the criteria above, have performed brilliantly!

H&M – many of their baby / toddler shoes are BFF, especially their little summery pumps/canvas shoes. We paid about £6 for a pair last year which were brilliant, lovely soft flexible soles, wide toe box, adjustable ankle Velcro. They washed well in the machine too.

Livie & Luca – a pricier option, but especially for girls they have some lovely smarter / dressier options. They’re actually a little too wide for Flossie’s narrow feet but they’re adorable!

Kinder Feet – my absolute faves. 100% barefoot and handmade in the UK with ethical & eco-friendly materials. They come with the thinnest of Vibram soles on their new outdoor version (Gummi shoes), and soft leather soles on the original shoes which are best suited to new walkers or as indoor shoes. Flossie’s very first shoes were all leather Summer Moccs made by Eva who runs Kinder Feet, and I was so excited to trial soled shoes after asking several times if/when she would be making them. She’s just outgrown her last pair and is already requesting new yellow ones to replace her ‘comfy heart shoes’!

And as a little extra I have to add that I LOVE my Vivo boots!

Hope this gives you a good starting point… Happy shoe shopping,

Steph x

Do It Like A Crunchy Mother

I’m not one to pigeonhole myself into a box, however it’s becoming clear that I am currently the more ‘crunchy’ branch of the DILAM tree. I’m loathe to put myself in this box because there just isn’t any one parenting style I feel I fit 100% – as with everything if life there is a spectrum and we take what works from different approaches….however I definitely fall more into the crunchy side than not!

So ‘what the heck is crunchy anyway?’ Well, I found load’s of definitions online and they varied from gentle, to condescending, right through to laughable! I think the best description I’ve been able to find is this – “A crunchy mom is a woman on a quest for more information.  A mom who is environmentally, health, and socially conscious. She cares enough about her family to question the status quo. She recognizes that there are a variety of approaches to individual problems and refuses to be locked into a single perspective. She seeks to learn more about why things happen and tries to discover the root cause of the problems she observes. With this knowledge comes responsibility, to our families, other moms, and our communities. When we know better, we do better. She is not afraid to speak her mind when necessary to help or protect someone. A mom who fosters a strong, positive bond with their children through natural living. “ (Thanks www.crunchymoms.com). Or as my friends and family might say of me (in what I hope is a loving way!)…  ‘an eco-warrior / hippy mum’

Crunchy is going to look different for everyone – I guess for me it encompasses: empowered birth, homebirth, breastfeeding, bedsharing, babywearing, cloth nappying, choosing barefoot friendly shoes, shopping locally and ethically where possible, actively trying to reduce our waste and eco footprint, using natural remedies where possible, providing gender neutral options for clothing / toys / books etc, exploring alternative education options and generally questioning if ‘normal’ is best for our individual family – often it is, but not always. For others it may also include placenta consumption, elimination communication, growing produce at home/an allotment, vegetarian/veganism and more.

At first I was worried that letting this out would quash our super cool, approachable, and open to everybody vibe at DILAM. Fearful that people would see this as me preaching, or thinking that I would be judging them if they didn’t have an interest in making the same choices that I am… But what I am doing is working for us, and I figure that aspects of it will work for other families too if its is brought onto their radar.

And for the record – there is no judgment. I’m well aware that some of the stuff I do (at least initially) requires research and/or planning ahead, commitment, and can be more time consuming – and in our busy lives as mothers, we have to focus on what is most important to us and our families! At the same time, the more I speak about the things which are important to me, the more I see sparks of interest amongst people who currently feel that these choices are out of their reach for various reasons (when usually they aren’t!). My aim is to talk about what works for our family, and other families, and give you ways to make these things easier to try, should you want to.

I also want to point out that although there are choices I make to try and live in alignment with the way I feel about the world, that I’m far from ‘perfect’ at it, if there is such a thing. I’m just your average mother who is busy working and raising a family whilst also growing, learning and changing our families habits slowly as I go, because that’s really the only way. I understand that not everything here will be for everyone – there are so many things which on paper are great but do not work for our family, at least right now, so don’t be afraid if not everything works for you either. Cherry pick and enjoy the experience! Once the initial barrier is broken, most changes are super easy to maintain (trust me it’s true – I don’t have the time or energy to add difficulty into my life!)

So here’s to discussion, questioning, alternative approaches, reducing waste, raising our babies in a way which is ethical, collaboration and supporting each other in the process. Lets Do It Like A Crunchy Mother!!

I’m currently available for Private Hypnobirthing Courses in the Southend area to support you on your journey to an empowered, positive birth.

For Pregnancy Relaxation Saturdays 11-12 at The DILAM HQ in Chalkwell.

And for Cloth Nappy Workshops which run one Saturday a month 1.00-2.30pm at the HQ.

Keep your eyes on Instagram and Facebook for more exciting things to come,

Steph x

 

Feeding Friday – Rhiannon

An interview with Rhiannon about her experience feeding her babies. Sometimes just knowing that the hurdles can be overcome (or will pass in time!) is enough to help you complete another day when things are feeling hard.

What did you know about breastfeeding before got pregnant?

That my mum had breastfed me & my brother successfully. that it was always something I would do and a lot of people are unsuccessful for various reasons. I wanted to do it due to the bond with baby, benefits to baby and convenience to me.

What did you learn whilst you were pregnant?

It’s very demanding in the early days. it does feel like you are constantly feeding but due to size of baby’s stomach, this is normal.

What sort of start did you have?

Ridiculously sore nipples. they were black from blisters, bleeding, skin falling off. my mum got me nipple shields, which made me feel like a failure, but within 2 weeks, my nipples had toughened up and I continued without until my first was 14 months. second time round, I had no problems with nipple pain, but the after pains when feeding was like contractions for about a week.

When, if ever, did you feel like things settled down?

First time round, by 2 weeks when nipple pain had eased and I felt more confident in feeding positions that I could feed discretely in public eye.
second time round, I feel straight into it without any problems.

Were you well supported by…. midwives partner family etc?

NO. It’s always been a question asked so a box can be ticked on paperwork and then no questions. the tea lady in hospital when my son was about 16 hours old asked if she could offer a piece of advice and said to put more of the ariola in his mouth, which was a great help and I was very appreciative. Second time round, my midwife did ask at my home visit if I was having any problems to which I replied no.
The midwives and health visitors at home praised me for feeding well due to both of my baby’s weight gain.

Did you worry about feeding in public? How did you overcome any issue with that?

First time round it took a few weeks to find clothing and positions to feed discretely before I felt 100% confident in public. I was always well prepared with a speech should anyone comment on me feeding, however hardly anyone ever noticed. I found wearing a vest top with adjustable straps underneath my bra line under a baggy top meant I could keep my saggy belly covered and helped feeding discretely.

What was the best / worst piece of advice you got about breastfeeding?

Ensure you are kept well nourished and especially hydrated to maintain milk production. Baby’s bellies are size of a marble at birth so will feed little and often; this does calm down after a few weeks.

How did you find the experience emotionally?

Loved it. The bond and convenience is amazing. I didn’t begrudge being the only one able to feed my babies. I felt it meant there was never a delay when they became hungry. that feeling when they latch on and stare lovingly into your eyes is something that no one can ever understand.

How did you know it was time to stop?

Honestly…you just know. They become settled into a routine with food and cups of drink and they would go to sleep at night without crying out for the comfort of the boob.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the very beginning?

Using nipple shields in the early days doesn’t make you a failure…it just means your nipples aren’t used to being sucked so vigorously.

Would you do anything differently if you were to have another baby?

Nope. Managed to successfully breastfed twice now and would do again. Perhaps try expressing with a bottle earlier to make returning to work a little easier.

If you’d like some support along the way, we have groups available the HQ – just follow the facebook page here for details of the sessions. If you’ve got a story you’d like to inspire another mum to be with, just get in touch with me at steph@doitlikeamother.co.uk

Feeding Friday – Steph & Lenny 12 Weeks In

How can my baby boy be 12 weeks old already?! It has flown by in a mixture of hazy newborn love, sleeplessness, toddler tantrums, family time and my return to work… actually, when I see it written down like that I CAN see how that time has slipped by!

So as most of you know Lennox was born on a sunny Friday morning 12 weeks ago. We are grateful to have had a perfect mix of health, environment, support, and a dash of good luck for his arrival, and we welcomed him into the world at home (if you want all the deets, you can read about it here).

Unlike Florence, he came out eager to feed. He latched on for the first time exactly 6 minutes after he was born and I was hopeful that things would be easier this time than last (if you’ve not heard me talking about the tough start Florence and I faced, you can read about it here to see how we overcame the challenges we had, and why I was hoping for an easier ride this time!), but unfortunately it’s not been quite as smooth as I had hoped.

A First Day Feed

Although he was far more interested, and better able to stay latched than his sister, even before we cut his cord both my Doula and I noticed he was clicking whilst feeding, I was also feeling a familiar pinching discomfort when he latched. In my heart I know he was likely to be tongue tied – it’s hereditary anyway, plus these early signs… anyway I mentioned it to the midwife who didn’t seem concerned, and with some help to latch better, he fed quite well in terms of him being happy and remaining attached for the duration of a feed. After his initial check over, and his NIPE check we were assured he wasn’t tongue tied, but I wasn’t satisfied – the sensation of they way he was feeding was all too familiar – a chomping suck more than a tongue wave to extract milk. Our Doula Lynsey* (a breastfeeding peer supporter to name one of her many hats) also agreed his latch didn’t seem as good as it could be, offered me help with positioning and tips to try and I decided to give it a few days to see if it was a case of us needing to work on positioning and attachment more. After about a week I knew that things weren’t improving: he wasn’t really opening wide to latch, my nipples by then were hurting a lot and starting to crack, he was choking & spluttering with a familiar uncoordinated sucking pattern & he was showing a lot of signs of reflux – mainly lots of vomiting but also coughing and struggling to breathe especially when laid down at night.

I absolutely didn’t want to go down the route of medicating the reflux as a first step, and already knew TT can be a cause of reflux. even though he was worn in a sling a lot, burped regularly, kept upright after a feed etc it was getting worse not better as he took more milk as it came in, and I knew it was time to seek further support. Our doula Lynsey was able to give me the details of a local Tongue Tie Practitioner who was able to see us the next morning when Lenny was 11 days old.

As with Florence it was horrible making a tiny baby hold off for a feed to ensure he was hungry, and willing to show off the underside of his tongue (euphemism alert – I mean crying). It was quite a bizarre experience to have him examined on our dinner table, but Paula was lovely and was quickly able to diagnose the ‘short, tight and 90% restrictive’ frenulum, and even more quickly cut it. There was a bit of blood and unhappiness but thankfully it was short lived – he quickly latched on and seemed to take a deeper mouthful of breast and was happy, and the reflux seemed less problematic. He was quite unhappy for about 24 hours though, we even gave him a tiny dose of paracetamol that evening which is something we rarely use in our house as he seemed so uncomfortable. The next day he was much happier and things seemed better for a few days before starting to feel trickier again. I continued trying to ensure he had a good latch – taking him off to start again if it didn’t feel right, seeking support from peer supporters and using all the knowledge I had from last time, but I already knew we would be likely to be seeing Paula again, especially as the vomiting was back with a vengeance, but I was reluctant to rush back in case we could work it out alone.

Taken between the first and second divisions – it was quite obvious when he cried!

After trying everything, I got back in touch with Paula who agreed it sounded like the tie could need revising if it hadn’t been fully cut, or had healed back together.** She was able to see us when he was just over 6 weeks old and once again he needed it cut as she noted it was still very restrictive for him. This time he needed a few snips as it was so thick and there was much more blood, I felt awful and doubted my choice when he was simultaneously sobbing, breastfeeding, and dribbling blood down us both afterwards, but again his feeding was better. This time the wound was much bigger and in the evening whilst he was sleeping on me I noticed it had started to bleed again (this is a known risk, but something I’d not experienced with the previous 3 divisions – Flossie’s two and his first) and I panicked! I put him straight on the boob knowing the milk and action of feeding can help stem the bleeding and made Matt dig out the aftercare notes given to us in case we needed to try anything else – thankfully we didn’t!

Again the immediate improvements declined slightly (though it never went back to the initial level of pain / reflux either time) after about 5 days, I read a leaflet written by a Lactation Consultant named Sarah Oakley explaining that this can actually be quite common as scar tissue forms and baby can develop muscle fatigue after using their tongue in a new way after it having been restricted so I decided to just hold fire and give him the chance to strengthen his tongue and allow the new tissue to soften up.

Since then he has slowly improved and the reflux has pretty much completely subsided – he is still sick occasionally but its much more of a rare occurrence and most babies bring up some milk occasionally! He still splutters fairly often and tries to latch on as though slurping spaghetti rather than opening wide a lot, it can be a bit uncomfortable when he first latches, but overall things are okay and I know we are in it for the duration!

So here’s to the coming months or years – I’ll be back with updates as our journey progresses. There will be ups and there will be downs, but I know we are over the worst now that feeding is well established! He is gaining weight brilliantly – at least I assume so as he keeps outgrowing clothes (and has earned himself the nickname The Beast haha) but he’s not been weighed since his 6 week check, generally very content and alert, and I’ve even managed feeding in a sling this time which definitely wasn’t manageable by 12 weeks with Flossie!

If you would like breastfeeding support, information, signposting or solidarity there is plenty available at the HQ – Cake Club on a Thursday, and The  Motherhood Movement on a Wednesday. Follow the Facebook page here to stay up to date with what’s going on.

* Of Mothering Matters and The Motherhood Movement

**Tongue tie practitioners are not in agreement over the reason for second divisions being necessary sometimes – some feel it heals together again, others that it wasn’t cut as far as needed initially, and others still question if the initial release allows further restricted membrane to move forward needing dividing later on.

 

Amy’s Story

Welcome to another instalment of Feeding Friday, this week we have Amy sharing her experience with tongue tie and using nipple shields  showing once again the tenacity of a mother seeking the support she needs.

After a traumatic birth (ventouse, third degree tear, haemorrhage and blood transfusion) I could see immediately that my son had tongue tie. We’d had the session at NCT about it, seen the pictures, and heard about the problems it caused. But not a single medical professional in his first 24 hours diagnosed it, recognised it or gave any sympathy to the fact that he wasn’t latching at all, and I wasn’t producing any colostrum. Along with every other emotion a new Mum feels, I didn’t expect frustration to be on the list. Eventually, a wonderful midwife whose own child had tongue tie made me feel like I wasn’t crazy and when we finally went home, she sent me off with a piece of paper with a name and number of somebody at the hospital who ran a tongue tie clinic and could help.

In the meantime, my son needed feeding and my boobs were as empty as my uterus, so we were happy to give him formula. At first from a syringe(!), and then, of course from a bottle. In the back of my mind was the NCT mantra: “he’ll get nipple confusion”, but instinct took over and he needed milk, in whatever form. I kept trying to breastfeed, and had a lot of skin to skin contact, but still no milk and still no latch. The first night back at home, our NCT course leader came round to help with the latch and we tried all sorts of positions. It sometimes worked, but 95% of the time didn’t, and the pain was incredible. Someone had suggested nipple shields, and as soon as the shield hit the roof of his mouth he latched instantly. Amazing! I felt complete relief. My milk eventually came in around day 6; where we’d been giving him formula, I’d been pumping round the clock, every 3 hrs, and I think it worked wonders for my supply (along with porridge for breakfast and drinking gallons of water during the day). I’d spoken on the phone to the most incredible woman from the breastfeeding support team who gave me so much helpful advice at a time that was hugely emotional and needed all the help I could get. I was so vulnerable but so determined; I didn’t know how much I wanted to breastfeed until it came down to it.

It was a long two weeks of bottle feeds of expressed milk, and feeds using nipple shields; multiple phone calls and sessions at the local breastfeeding cafe, but finally we had an appointment to get the tie cut. All went well: he screamed, they did it, he latched and off we went, and I thought “great, I can bin the shields”. But in those two weeks, as annoying as they were, I’d got used to them, and he’d got used to them. It was working, he was feeding well, and putting on weight. I was enjoying it and he was too. When he was about four weeks old I gave it one last shot at the breastfeeding cafe for help with the latch – what had happened at the hospital immediately after the tongue was cut was a fluke and didn’t happen at home. I’d been reading about how the nipple shields can hinder supply, so really wanted to nail the latch. I might have just been looking for the ‘easy’ way out, but the breastfeeding consultant looked at me using the shields and said “if you need to use them the whole time, use them. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last”. And that was it. I just needed that bit of reassurance. It wasn’t an easy journey – they’re faffy, need washing and look weird when on the nip – but he thrived, and I ended up exclusively breastfeeding for 9 months. And my supply never faltered. In the early days I sometimes felt awkward when I whipped a boob out and put a shield on it, but it became second nature and I loved every second. You have to do what works for you and your baby, and although I’d probably try to work on the latch when/if number two comes along, which, let’s face it, will be easier with already desensitised nipples, I wouldn’t change anything and I’d happily go through the exact same journey all over again (minus the tongue tie!)

 

If you would like to contribute to the Feeding Friday blog, I would be honoured to receive your story – simply get in touch at steph@doitlikeamother for more info.

If you are in need of breastfeeding support we have two groups running at the Do It Like A Mother HQ each week, head to the facebook page’s for more details:

Do It Like A Mother HQ

The Motherhood Movement

Cake Club

Feeding Friday – Holly & Rory

WOW – what a display of the power of a determined mother! This one may call for a box of tissues nearby… an absolute rollercoaster of an entry to motherhood and breastfeeding, thank you for sharing this inspirational journey with us Holly.

Our twin boys were born at 30 weeks, the pregnancy had been difficult as we knew one of our boys would heartbreakingly die shortly after birth from Edwards Syndrome and that I would surely go into premature labour. Whilst Rory was born tiny but healthy, his brother sadly passed away after birth. Rory was immediately admitted to NICU where we knew he would be for at least 6 weeks.

Since finding out I was pregnant it had always been our intention to breastfeed, my Mum was an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and me and my siblings were all breastfed, I knew that I wanted to try to do it for 6 months but wasn’t adverse to formula and have never held any judgement about formula fed babies in the slightest.

Rory being so tiny did present obvious complications but we also knew that especially for premature babies, breast milk was by far the best thing I could do for him in the early stages. As he was so little and underdeveloped and needed to spend 23 hours in his incubator in the early days, he had a nasal gastric (NG) tube for feeding. The nurses encouraged all the new mums of babies in the unit to hand express and then pump (even if you had no intention of breastfeeding for any length of time), and it immediately became a bit of an obsession for me. I felt enormous pressure from myself to ‘pump enough’ as really the expressing was the only thing I could do for my tiny baby. Skin to skin was encouraged but I didn’t get to hold Rory for two days, and once we did he was attached to so many wires and tubes that fear took over for me and I’m not sure how much I could really let the oxytocin do it’s thing. The advice from the nurses was to pump every 3 hours to keep my supply up, and pumping did not come easily to me. It would be a slow painstaking process and now with hindsight I never experienced a ‘let down’ when pumping. The sound of the monotonous pump would drive my husband mad, especially at night (though he was incredibly supportive of my choice to feed right from the get go!) and as the amount of milk Rory could take down the NG tube increased I found it hard to keep up with what he needed.

However I did persevere and at 34 weeks he started to display the rooting reflex and the nurses encouraged me to start to attempt to feed him myself. Their support during this time was monumental. I cannot explain how vital they were to me actually being able to transfer from pumping to breastfeeding. They made sure I ate and drank and reminded me to pump. They sat patiently with me behind a screen each time we tried to feed. My boobs were 5 times the size of my tiny baby’s head and I would get flustered and hot and upset that he just couldn’t seem to latch (or fit my seemingly giant nipples into his mouth). But their relaxed, encouraging and patient approach meant that at two weeks later (with a tongue tie also resolved) he was feeding well from me and we were ready for discharge. The pumping experience was so so different to feeding him. Yes, I had problems with discomfort, he clicked when he fed and needed constant repositioning due to being so small, but I finally felt the ‘let down’ and that my milk was actually coming in fully, which gave me a little confidence that we could make this work at home.

We’d had some upsets during his final weeks in special care, Rory had severe GERD which in its extremes caused him to struggle to breathe and on one occasion he’d needed oxygen revival. It also meant if he fed too enthusiastically he would turn blue and vomit and splutter. We were sent home with baby CPR training. In the early days at home I would start to dread to feed, for fear of the reflux and what this might mean post feed. I remember nights of tears from all three of us when I couldn’t get Rory to latch, my husband would be gently holding his flailing hands whilst I tried to get him on, sometimes for hours, for him for to feed for 6 minutes and then vomit the feed up again. It really felt like such an incredible challenge during those first weeks and even months. But we just persisted, talking to everyone we could for advice, being choice about the advice we took and largely staying in the house to focus on making the feeds relaxed and eventually we all got into a rhythm with it, albeit an awkward one. The reflux became the norm and manageable, and the feeds gradually became more relaxing for us all. I was able to go out and feel comfortable feeding in public, though honestly, I’d always prefer to feed in the car or out of sight just so I could fully relax.

I ended up exclusively feeding Rory until he was 18 months. With hindsight I feel incredibly proud of all of us for overcoming the hurdles we had at the start, but also so so incredibly lucky that I had access to the support from the NICU nurses, my mother and my husband. It was a team effort and there is no way I could have established feeding without this invaluable help.

Looking back, I found my own lack of confidence my biggest obstacle, during his stay in hospital Rory was weighed every day and I found it hard not to obsess over 10g gains or losses when we got him home. My husband eventually took away the baby scales
I bought. I was constantly fearful that feeding wasn’t going well and I think that without support I might have switched to formula in order to have more control over the oz or ml he was consuming. The only thing that built my confidence was to see him develop, his shining eyes and chubby rolls eventually convinced me we had cracked it.

As we started weaning I decided to gradually stop offering feeds one by one during the day and only feed if he asked for one. By 16/17 months we were down to one final feed before bed (as well as multiple at night) and for various reasons we decided to see if he was ready to stop at 18 months. We’d done Sing and Sign from an early age and Rory was also quite vocal so I gently communicated ‘all gone’ before bed, offered water and then cuddled and rocked to him to sleep and he stopped pretty easily. He’s now 2.9 years and doing great! His reflux resolved by a year old though he still needs cuddles to fall asleep – we don’t mind this, he’s making up for those he missed at the start.

My advice to any mums but especially those with premature or poorly babies is to first and foremost, be kind to yourself. I have always said that my relationship with breastfeeding was love / hate. I need to be honest and say that there were days (maybe weeks) when I absolutely hated it, resented the overwhelming sole responsibility of keeping this baby alive, and there were times where I felt totally touched out with it all. I also had days where I loved it, the clawing hands and little smiles between us were the truly special moments I’ll always remember. I’d tell any Mum that breastfeeding can be hard, it’s a team effort that’s not always an easy option and requires commitment and support from those around you just as much as your own desire. Seek help and support wherever you can. Look at the baby and not the charts and trust your instincts.

If you would like to contribute to the Feeding Friday blog, I would be honoured to receive your story – simply get in touch at steph@doitlikeamother for more info.

If you are in need of breastfeeding support we have two groups running at the Do It Like A Mother HQ each week, head to the facebook page’s for more details:

Do It Like A Mother HQ

The Motherhood Movement

Cake Club

It Won’t Just Land On Your Plate

dont-just-hope

Seriously. You can’t just expect a good birth to come and land on your plate!

After my first baby was born I heard the phrase ‘you’re so lucky’ a lot. I would listen to other women – some who I had been friends with for years, some I’d never met until that conversation, and every variable in between – share their own experiences of birth, and I’d feel like I had to tone down the sheer joy, pride and elation I felt when speaking about my experience of birth for fear of rubbing salt in their wounds or appearing discompassionate.

I almost started to believe my own experience was purely down to luck!

But I also noticed a theme amongst many of these women (and I have to add here, that most of these women are generally not afraid of a challenge, they are strong, self-sure women who face the world with courage). But the theme was a lack of preparation.

Many felt there was no point in preparing. In attending any classes. Even writing a birth plan… why? Because they didn’t believe in their ability to birth. Their underlying deep rooted ‘truths’ about birth, included:

  • Having to hand over control to somebody ‘more knowledgable’.
  • That it is ALWAYS agonisingly painful.
  • That we have to suffer pain and indignity to get to the end prize; our babies.
  • That birth plans are a waste of time, as they just go out of the window on the day.
  • That someone else would tell them what to do and when, as they wouldn’t know what to do themselves.
  • That there wasn’t much their partner could do to help with the birthing process.
  • That some women just get lucky and birth goes smoothly.
  • That there is no way they could, or would want to, give birth without an epidural.

WRONG!

I accept that there is an element of luck involved. Some things are beyond our control, medical complications are something none of us would choose, but they are a fact of life and we are so very fortunate to have wonderful NHS staff to help care for us in those eventualities, and access to good quality information to enable us to make decisions about them. And there is so much you CAN control, in just about any given situation…. IF you prepare!!

And this is when I realised I wasn’t just lucky, and that actually the very phrase ‘you’re so lucky’ detracted from my absolute awesomeness, and from the fact that I (like many other birthing goddesses I’ve known and read about!) had put a tonne of effort in over a period of months, to prepare mentally and physically for labour, and with a dash of luck for good measure it paid off!

How can you possibly expect to know what to expect from labour, and how to facilitate it’s progress yourself, if you don’t ask about how it is when it’s undisturbed?

How can you effectively use powerful tools like breathing, light touch massage and affirmations if you don’t know about them?

How can your partner lower your pain levels, help you stay calm and make good decisions, and advocate for you and your baby if nobody has ever shown him how?

How can you ensure your preferences are adhered to wherever possible, even if things take a sudden unexpected turn, if you’ve not thought about them to know what is important to you?

How can you expect all of this to come together on the day without PRACTICE? Practice is key to all of the tools we give you on the course. You may find on the day that only one or two are needed, or you may want that whole damn toolbox and more, but if you’ve practiced you’ll know you used them to their greatest benefit, and that anything else you accept beyond that was an informed decision which is so important.

So don’t sit around just hoping it will land on your plate – take control and prepare for your birth. Head to the courses page to see the options we have available to help get you ready, we have something for every budget from £12 upwards. I am back from maternity leave now offering private courses from your very own sofa, as well as relaxation sessions Saturdays 11-12 at our Chalkwell HQ. If you have any questions just drop us an email and we would be happy to help.

Steph xx

Why Does Prenatal Bonding Matter?

When I talk to people about bonding with their babies before they are born, I find I can get quite mixed reactions. To some it comes completely naturally to talk or sing to their bump, engage in ‘touch games’ when movement can be felt, or spend time simply focussing on their bump in an almost meditative way. For others the process can feel quite staged or unnatural, as though they are talking with nobody there to hear, or overthinking WHAT to say in the first place. If you fall into the latter camp, don’t worry – there are ways you can slowly start to incorporate time bonding with your baby with ease, but perhaps you’re wondering WHY it’s important to push through that initial discomfort when you could just mill through the pregnancy knowing you can bond once baby is in your arms?

Research shows us that time spent bonding with your unborn baby can improve your birth experience both emotionally and physically. Mothers who have spent time connecting with their bumps generally have lower stress levels, and are more able to engage with their baby during labour allowing the hormones needed to facilitate labour to flow more easily, resulting in a faster, easier and less painful birth. We also know that the hormones mothers and babies experience during pregnancy affect the development of the baby, the way his brain begins to wire. The great Michel Odent covers in great detail the ripple effect that early hormonal balance can have in his book Primal Health – why not give yourselves the most optimal start by using your 9(ish!) months of pregnancy to connect, relax and begin the transition to motherhood?

There are so many ways you could bond with your unborn baby, and you may already be doing it without even realising. They are sensitive to your touch, your voice, your emotions and your reactions to the outside world. If it doesn’t feel natural to make time to focus on your bump perhaps one or more of the following might be enjoyable to try… and like everything, it gets easier with time and practice – soon you won’t even think twice about it! Try choosing quiet times and places to start with where you feel less open to judgement, for example singing to baby in the car on your drive to work will probably feel more comfortable than doing it around other people initially.

Massage / touch responsive games – one of my favourite things to do when pregnant with Florence was to play ‘touch games’ – giving her a nudge and seeing if she responded, or returning a poke when she kicked me. Sometimes this game would seem really interactive with the amount of taps, or strength of movement varying we played. Massage is another brilliant way to use touch to bond. Gentle, loving, strokes around your belly, feeling your baby move within and both of you enjoying an oxytocin boost.

Read / sing / talk to your baby – they really don’t care about what you’re saying, but some people struggle to just chat to their bumps. If you find that’s the case you could try reading your favourite novel, todays paper, or a childhood book you hope they’ll someday enjoy at bedtime -just the sound of your voice is enough to benefit them as they begin to learn about the world they’ll be born in to… studies have shown that babies begin to pick up the foundations for their native language long before they are born, and that babies can recognise familiar passages from books they were read in utero after they have been born! They are also not fussy with music – stick your favourites on and sing and dance, they have their whole lives ahead of them to find their own tastes!

Yoga / meditation – taking time to focus on your body, your breathing and your baby is such a positive thing to do during pregnancy. Slowing your mind and allowing yourself to focus on your bump can rapidly increase the bond you feel, and allow you to learn about your baby – perhaps noticing their favourite position to lay in, or their natural rhythm of movements throughout the day. A class can be a great starting point as you’ll be guided through a safe routine, and be able to enjoy some relaxation time before leaving.

Writing in a pregnancy diary – I confess, I did this religiously the first time, and didn’t even buy a book for my poor secondborn!! However jotting down a few things each week or day about how I was feeling, any antenatal appointments we had been to, baby’s movements etc was a great way to make time to notice and appreciate those things, connecting us further. With Lenny I found myself reflecting back on the book occasionally again giving me time to notice, compare and enjoy the different aspects of growing a baby.

Affirmations – naturally! We know the power of affirmations is huge, and choosing ones which embody the connection between you and your baby will have a wonderful impact on connecting you to one another. ‘My body and my baby are growing together’. ‘Every breath is a chance to relax and connect’. ‘I am already a mother’….

Rest together – naps can be a great opportunity to wind down, get some energy and notice your baby. Paired with our brilliant MP3’s you’re onto a total winner in terms of bonding with your baby, and prepping for a positive birth!

Try some things out and see what works for you, enjoy your bump as all too soon the are gone, and that special intimate part of your mothering journey makes way for the next stage.

Steph x

Do It Like A Mother provide hypnobirthing courses and pregnancy relaxation groups in Southend and Upminster. I am back offering private courses in the Southend area as of May, at the special rate of £275 whilst Lenny joins us. We also run an online Motherhood Mindset mentoring programme.

You can join our community group here. And check out some of our free resources here. #doitlikeamother