Monday, 27 January 2014

All you need is love...

When I became a mama I never for a moment imagined that one of my major battles would be that of love. The battle that I face daily to give my daughter the unconditional love, support and nurturing that she so deserves, the unconditional love that every child deserves and that I, as her mother, long and crave to give in the face of society's disapproval and scorn. I know that might sound a little strong worded or dramatic but I'll try to explain... I'm not just talking about the judgmental looks should I chose to feed my child in a public place, should I chose to feed her at my breast as nature intended. I'm not talking about friends and family's dismissive comments about "plugging her on" the breast or questions about why, at eight months, we are "still" breastfeeding. Just a note; I do understand breastfeeding is hard and for some practically impossible, especially when people are often not given the best help or advice when they have difficulties: I myself had issues which I will blog about later with ideas for help and support that worked for me. I also do not judge the choice to use formula either, I just wish to be given the freedom to feed as I choose also!

Sadly it seems that in modern society there is an unconscious disapproval of the little day to day acts of love and kindness mothers want to give their babies, echoed in that most insidious of phrases: "you don't want to let them get too used to it." Heard that one? I'm sure as a new mother you did. And how sad it makes me to hear those words. How cold and limiting and unloving those little utterances become, a barrier between parent and child if you let them be....

...Don't let them in your bed, they might "get used to it". Heaven forbid they get used to the feeling of utter safety and security snuggled with mama and papa. Don't pick them up and carry them too much, they might "get used" to being cherished and close. Don't play with them too much, they might "get used" to you freely giving love and time. Don't breastfeed past six months, don't babywear instead of pushchair, don't soothe and comfort those tears: they need to learn to 'cry it out!' (I'll also write about why I chose not to leave my daughter to cry in a later article.) The fact is that at this point in life a baby's brain is too primitive and unformed to make these connections and that is why they need to rely so heavily on their parents.

These are just a few of the don'ts that I've had parroted at me over the past eight months; the suggestion being that if I give too freely of my love my little bean will depend on it. Or worse... Expect it! Heaven forbid! Perhaps I better buy her her own place now and be done with it?! ;) 

Mama Amore xxx

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Belly beautiful!

Dear Mamas,

I want you to know that your body is beautiful and here's why...

As we all know pregnancy massively changes your body. We gain a good few wonderful kgs of precious baby and baby supporting weight; as we should! From swollen ankles, bigger bottoms, puffy jaws to blown up feet: thank goodness it was summer so I could happily wear flip flops for the last two months! For most of us it's a time of enormous body change and not just the big and beautiful bump we all carry so proudly. 

Then we give birth and for a few days/weeks have that lovely, sweet, little tummy pouch; the skin slightly looser and a little more rubbery. Then maybe just maybe things go back to normal. Some of us might be considered the "lucky" ones and are just a few months later back to our pre pregnancy weight or lower. Some  might be up and down or some, like me, might not know or care.  

Really I don't care. And I'm not just saying that, I actually don't care and I will explain why you shouldn't either! You see I see my body differently now; how could I not? Like many of us I'm sure my once fairly flat stomach now is a little less flat, the skin not quite so taught, a little soft, the muscles not quite so strong.  BUT that's the beauty of it; I look at that little tum and I see my baby's home. I see the space that created, supported, nurtured and kept her alive. The linea nigra, the dark line across it, my "little b stripe" as I call it. I love that stripe, the reminder of my beautiful bump and little girl; Papa B loves that stripe. How could we not?! It's the story of our little b. Just like any stretch marks are part of your buba's story too or as I've heard described before a mama tiger's stripes!

Looking at my beautiful baby girl how could I do anything but be in awe and wonder of my body?! It made her! It made (with important help from Papa b!) and grew my little bean. And for that I thank it! For that I think it's wonderful, incredible and something to value, love, cherish and adore. As should all of you!

So now I love that little tum. I nourish and support the body that gave my beautiful baby girl life and even now sustains her on the breast. I don't see it as a weight but the wonderful creation that it is, the incredible power that is has to sustain and give life. A mama's body really is truly incredible no matter what shape or size it now is.  So I'm here to tell you to embrace your body, love your body and love that little tum for after all it made your little one! You made and gave life with that body, for that you and it are amazing. Love that body and be proud of it, it's done you proud! ;)

Love Mama Amore xxx

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Why I love babywearing

I’m a committed babywearer through and through. To the point that my pushchair is gathering dust in my car boot and hasn’t been used since October. Honestly not once.

Why? Well for many reasons; the first, but of least importance to me, being the convenience. I live in London, have a dog and live in a flat. Shops are usually too cramped for a pushchair, I like having my hands free to carry shopping, text, play with little bean etc.  Supermarket shops are in all honesty a nightmare with a pushchair, I'm sure most mamas will agree with this. (Really though use Ocado, they have an App, come at times to suit you and bring your shopping up the stairs; if only I'd known sooner!)

Then there was walking the dog.  Being the daft dog he is, he was constantly getting caught in the wheels, he nearly strangled himself the first time we went out. Eek! So that’s when the rise of the baby carrier was born. I wanted freedom to be out and about but didn’t like/want to use a pushchair. My babywearing journey has since evolved and I am now a committed wrapper; really it’s easy once you know how. It just takes a bit of practise but give it a few days and you'll be wrapping like a pro.  See Youtube for step by step guidea, Boba provide a number of videos. My wrap is in fact a Boba and I love it! I really could not recommend it enough, and no I'm not being sponsored to say this! ;)

Then there’s the stairs, little bean often falls asleep out and about, carrying her up the stairs to our flat in a pushchair was onerous to say the least and ALWAYS woke her up, the sling does not, a bonus for sure. In fact it’s actually how I usually get her to sleep, something I wish I’d known as I paced the flat for hours rocking a howling baby back in the early days of parenthood. And that my friends is the beauty of the wrap/sling; babies fall asleep, quickly, peacefully and easily and the more you use it the easier it becomes. Little b is in fact falling asleep in the wrap, on the boob, as I type! Multitasking made easy :) I also pop her in the wrap just before a nap and whilst she's winding down use the time to do a few quick jobs, a blessing now that she is so mobile.

But convenience aside, I actually babywear for the benefits that it provides and this I am passionate about. Babywearing is, by expert opinion, good for both mama and baby. In the early days it can help to prevent postnatal depression, promotes bonding (especially if you can manage skin to skin) and breastfeeding (indeed I tend to feed Little B in the sling- something I learnt to do when she suddenly refused to eat in any position other than sidelying. I will write more on this later) and allows baby to feel safe and secure in a new and alien world. By being close to mama a baby is able to regulate their irregular systems; especially important in the first few months in what is known as the ‘fourth trimester'. (Papa B studied genetics and so fills me in on the science parts). The theory of the fourth trimester is based on the idea that the human baby is born roughly three to four months too early. In short, the female pelvis became narrower when we evolved to stand on 2 legs while at the same time the brain became larger to cater to our more complex thought processes. In this new design a full term baby's head would be too big to pass through the birth canal; just imagine giving birth to your four month old's noggin! Ouch! ;) If you're interested in this you can read more in this article at .This means that a baby is not really ready for the world; their little systems being too underdeveloped. Being out of the womb is therefore a big shock to a tiny, helpless baby and that's where babywearing helps!

In the sling the womb environment is simulated, the rocking and heartbeat reminiscent of being close to the mother, whilst the mother’s breathing and heart rate help to regulate the baby’s own. This sense of security as well as the mother's own systems at work can also help the baby regulate cortisol levels (the hormone released as part of the bodies stress reactions) and thus leads to a calmer, more contented little one - no Gina Ford required! ;) As an individual's cortisol levels are set within the early months of life, by keeping them low at this time you are also helping your baby to grow into less stress prone adult where they will hopefully not be predisposed to many of the common mental ailments of modern society, such as depression and anxiety disorders.  (As a side note "Crying it out" may actually do the opposite - making the body unresposive to anything but high levels of cortosol, which is why it could actually be damaging).  By calming them in this way you also help to teach them how to self regulate; an important skill for life (you can read Sue Gerhadt's 'Why Love Matters' if you want to find out more.) 
A mother’s body will also cool or heat up according to the baby’s needs; indeed in summer I actually found little b cooler in the wrap than in her pushchair.  Also with the wonderful selection of wraps/slings and carriers around today you can find something for every type of weather. A woven wrap is great for summer, whilst a knitted wrap more cosy for colder months.  I also find layering little b and myself works well so if we are going in and out of shops I can add/remove layers to keep us at the right temperature without having to disturb little b's slumber. 

According to Dr Sears (an invaluable source of knowledge in the early days) sling babies cry less and learn more. Always a plus and definitely something I’ve found. Babywearing also helps reduce wind; I really found this helped in the first few windy months. Days where we went out and about in the carrier definitely were less windy with a lot less bedtime tears (note infacol didn't work for little bean - while I've heard it works for some mothers it can apparently also disrupt buba’s intestinal flora which could make them more prone to gas and digestive disorders in the future; try babywear instead and see if it works for you!). It is also soothing - many baby wearers have found that if you take a crying baby, pop them in the sling on mama and your heartbeat, smell and warmth will quickly soothe in a way that is more powerful than simple rocking. This is why I moved onto the wrap. I tried a Baby Bjorn first as they simpler to get one - I know many mums swear by these but this actually just didn't work for us - little b howled for an hour straight - then I tried my lovely Boba, within minutes she was calm and falling asleep. Once I got used to tieing the boba I actually found it easier than the Baby Bjorn too. Apparently wrapping is also better for babies hip joints than the Baby Bjorns too.  Talking of crying and colic; Dr Harvey Knap (a baby soothing expert who wrote a book called 'The Happiest baby on the block' and formulated the 5s for overcoming colic) has found in other countries where baby wearing is common that colic does not exist! Indeed I found the intense crying periods stopped quickly once our babywearing ramped up a notch. AGAIN, I wish I'd known sooner!
Dr Sears also advocates babywearing as a good way of socialising your baby; in the sling/wrap they are experiencing life with the parent (rather than being removed from it in a cot or separated in a pushchair) are able to watch their facial expressions, experience their parent's emotions and actions and thus learn to be a part of their world. My baba said her first word at 5 months, which I'm sure she learnt from looking at my face while I talkted to her and other people as she was strapped in the sling. Even when you’re washing your dishes, if your little one is strapped to your chest, you’re still actually contributing to their overall development! :) I know when I’m walking about I often glance down to see little b gazing up at me and there’s the clincher; I can look down, chat to her, kiss her little face and still show her the world. And yes, I can also vacuum, clean, run errands and know she’s content, cozy and safe! 

So, why not go ahead and give it a try - what do you have to lose?! Wrap them up close, snuggle them tight and reap the benefits! :) 

Happy babywearing all!

Mama Amore xxx


What I wish I'd known in those early days...

1. Skin to skin matters. Babies benefit from being kept close. Like most new mums, Little b and I did a fair bit of skin to skin after birth and during the first few months. But knowing what I do now about the benefits of keeping a baby close- discussed at length in my babywearing blog (coming soon) - I wish I'd held and cuddled her even more. BUT, and here's why I didn't, when little b was first born I was pretty terrified when handling her as I was so scared I might break her! So that first night in hospital she slept mainly in a crib (beside me). Now I wish more of it had been in my arms. Those early months I was a bit wary to wear her, scared I might bump her, overheat her etc. This brings me to my next two points...
2. Babies are tougher then you think! Yes you need to protect their necks but you're not going to break them. Honestly! The first projectile vomit will terrify you but by the tenth you will barely blink and probably won't even bother to change your sick splattered jeans ;) Likewise the first head bump will have you dialling 111, but by the time they're crawling they're doing it up to 10 times a day and you'll barely blink.

3. Babywearing is wonderful! So good for your baby and so beneficial for their physical and psychological wellbeing. As well as yours! As I said, I was scared to at first, I now wear little b constantly. A good wrap or sling allows you to wear your newborn close whilst they get on with the very important and all consuming business of sleeping and allows you the freedom to use your hands, do jobs, Facebook etc. Most importantly wearing a baby will soothe them, reduce wind and help them sleep making for a much happier baby and mummy! (See my post on why I babywear for more info.) If they are crying uncontrollably try stripping you and them off, then pop them in a wrap/sling against you and feel them calm almost instantly.

4. One word. Ocado. Life changing. If you've tried a supermarket shop with a newborn you'll understand.

5. What babies cries mean; check out Priscilla Dunlop on Oprah. You need to watch a few times and then listen to the variations for your baby BUT it's a life saver. Made all the difference. It does work, trust me. Most babies have one that is the biggest cry causer; for little B it's tiredness.

6. Most babies like random things that will stop them crying almost instantly.  For little b, bizarelly, it's Elton John and no I didn't listen to him while pregnant.  Who knows why?! but it works! Before I discovered the powers of Elton I also found running the shower soothed her, turning the hoover or using the hairdryer. Also a light up glow worm (remember them?!) or light up alarm clock were very successful in stopping crying bouts, as was singing Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' at the top of my lungs (my neighbours must love me!) Nights spent rocking whilst standing by the shower however were no longer necessary once I started wrapping; so you may hopefully never need these random noises/objects! If however you do try a glow worm; I haven't met a baby yet that hasn't stopped crying when looking at them.  Also recommended by friends: Ellie Golding, Bruno Mars, Iphone White Noise App and 'The Wheels on the Bus'.
7.Infacol apparently kills gut flora so only leads to more problems. Many parents also think it doesnt work. Leg cycling, babywearing or a warm bath can be more effective.

8. A baby with a trapped burp can't eat or sleep (the cry is "eh, eh, eh"). Put them in the sling, bounce (gently!) whilst patting their back. Job done :)

9. Breastfeeding can be tricky at first. BUT there are people to help out there, including but not limited to La leche league, NCT or your local hospital has midwives. Seek help early to fix things fast. Otherwise google breatfeeding counsellors/ lactation consultants; there are lots of wonderful ones about. See Kellymom for any Breastfeeding queries, her site is fantastic. Inbox me if you would like details of a fabulous lady in the Queen's Park area.

Breastfeeding should not hurt, if it does seek help, you may need to fine tune your latch (again Kellymom explains how) or there may be an issue with tongue tie. Both can be fixed and more easily fixable earlier on.

10. Feed in more than one position, that way if buba (like little B) goes off one you have others that work to fall back on. The laid back or biological nurturing position is great.
Side lying is your best friend at night. Google positing so you avoid accidental rolling for your own peace of mind; basically lie in the recovery position.

11. You need to eat and drink to make milk. Your body needs lots if extra calories at first, so go ahead have that biscuit! Eat a variety of foods for good nutrition and to help little acquire a broad palate later. Foods good for milk are: oats, salmon, bananas, rice and foods with iron. I will blog about low milk days soon, until then see Kellymom.

12. Nearly all babies lose weight in the first few days, it's normal. They should hopefully reach their birth weight again within 10-14 days. 

13.Fresh air is magical! Nothing calms an unsettled baby like a good old dose of fresh air and is a sure fire way to send a baby off to sleep. Many a night little b would be crying, I would step out of the back door: instant silence. Wonderful! Again once I started wrapping I barely needed to do this.

14. Bed sharing is great, comforting and helps promote a good night sleep for all (I will write more on this later). But if you are nervous buy a sleepyhead 'deluxe bed guard' (John Lewis stocks them) for worry free co-sleeping from day one, it's basically a little dingy like bed that sits between your pillows. Little can sleep next to you both, you can reach in easily to feed and you get all the benefits of bedsharing but none of the worries. It also doubles up as a travel cot. If however you are happy to go straight into bed sharing go for it! But make sure you have a google for safety guidelines to make your night times as safe as possible for all. 

15. Baths help a baby sleep, reduce wind and when done together promote breastfeeding and bonding. Although little ones do tend to wee and poo in the very early days! Little b now loves her bath, she knows as soon as our clothes go off (we bathe together) that it's bath time and starts squealing, giggling and trying to throw herself into the bath :) Bathing together also saves your back and is a great way for mama to have a sneaky soak in the tub too!

16. A nighttime routine is your best friend, have 3 or 4 stages to help baba know it's bed time and wind them down gently- you may want to build these up depending on just how new your baba is. Baby massage is great for winding a tired baby down, reducing wind and helping promote a good night's sleep.

17. Sensitive/perfume free wipes work just as well as cotton wool and water. They are less messy, more portable and are less likely to give baby a nappy rash. They are also so much easier considering how often newborns need their nappies changing. Which brings me to 18.

18. You need LOTS AND LOTS of nappies! I'm talking hundreds here. You will go through masses in the first few weeks, let alone months. Newborns tend to poo whenever they eat (so change after feeding not before!) But if you have Ocado you can at least get a next day delivery in :) We like pampers dry the best, they do seem to be the most absorbent.

19. You have to do what works for you. So many people will tell you what to do or what not to do but at the end of the day it's your baby, you know them and you have to do what works for your little family unit (not your parents, his parents or your mates). A note on this; joint parenting decisions are best made when you're not too knackered (if possible!) and best avoided when buba is screaming unless you fancy a row that is! Which leads me to my final point...

20. It does get easier! Until then Mama and Papa be kind to each other, it's hard, confusing, new and wonderful and you're both learning to parent together so cut each other some slack. Neither of you means to be grumpy or unkind, you're tired and possibly overwhelmed. Try and treasure it as it goes so fast and know that it gets easier and easier and they cry less and less as they get bigger too! ;) Happy parenting all! 

Mama Amore xxx

My first blog :)

My first blog...
Wow! Exciting stuff!

I've been meaning to blog since our daughter, who we call ‘little bean’ (I’ll explain later), was born and now I'm finally here only 8 wonderful months later; little bean asleep on the boob as I type! I feel I’ve learnt so much in the past 8 months (17 if you count my pregnancy) and I really wish someone had told me these things much much sooner which is why I am putting them all out in a blog in hope that you will find them interesting and hopefully helpful too.

Since little bean was in the womb I've kept a diary to document my wonderful experiences of being a mama and as a token of our love for her. A keepsake so that she can look back through our memories and see how very much loved she is.  My diary has also helped me to remember the wonderful memories we’ve made, our experiences, the ups and downs and the things we’ve learnt along the way which I would like to share with you.  Papa B has also promised a few ‘men’s perspective’ piece; when he has the time!

So now here it is. All I've learnt in one place to see, share and maybe help you too. I’m not saying I’m an expert; far from it! But there are things I wish I’d learnt, so much sooner, that I can share with you and perhaps things you may want to share with me.

So let me introduce myself briefly -well briefly for me!- I was a teacher in a former life; Michael Gove, Nursery fees and paperwork putting an end to a career that I was no longer enjoying. So now I'm a full time mama/ slightly crappy housewife ;) turned blogger! Yay me! At some point I'd like to become a Breastfeeding Counsellor to help others with something I found difficult initially but now enjoy (I will share this experience soon).

I'm slightly different from the mother I expected myself to be. From a wine drinking, heel wearing, city girl, my parenting style as it's evolved is probably what you would call attachment - or some might say "hippy" ;) - parenting but really it's just what feels right and natural to us and what we (Papa B, little b and myself) have developed along the way. I do still wear heels (a lot lower!) and drink the odd (smallish!) glass of wine but now I'm also a proud and contended (but not THE contented!) co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, sling/wrap loving, babyled weaner BUT I do not expect everyone else to be.  Lots of my friends aren't.  As I said this is just what feels right for us.

This has been a journey of discovery, out with the Gina Ford (not that we ever did) and in with the sling and I'm happy to share every step of the way with you. You don't have to give up half your bed for buba (or more in Little B's case) or learn to tie a wrap- unless you want to. But you just might find yourself wanting to! ;) and if not you may find some useful tips for breastfeeding on the go, benefits of babyled weaning or how to get your baby to sleep... Finally!

So here it is, my Mama blog. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post and share your experiences or ask any questions you need to ask. (But please no trolls; this is for my daughter to read one day.) Here's to happy, healthy, hippy parenting to you all :)

Mama Amore xxx