6

Grounds for instant divorce in baby’s first year

It’s For The Baby is proud to published new official criteria for divorce in baby’s first year. So daddies, beware and take heed!

Baby’s first year – us mums are tired. No, exhausted. No, we’re undergoing physical torture while learning to look after another life. Our limits are being pushed to the brink and, quite frankly, we don’t have the tolerance or patience to put up with any sh*t – from any source. Unfortunately, daddies, you’ve drawn the short straw. As you spend the most time with us, we often take out our tired grumpiness on you (sorry).

So to make life easier, here are some ground rules of what we’d ask daddies not to do in baby’s first year. Break them, and they’re official grounds for divorce.

1. Saying “I’m a bit tired”. You may be tired. You may have woken up during the night feeds too. And you do work hard. But seriously, you have NO idea.

2. Calling to say “I’m going to be late home”. Some days, we feel like we’ve been at home for a hundred years with a crying baby and constantly feeding. Daddy’s return home is literally the highlight of the day and we count down the minutes until you come in the front door. Just the very thought of you being late home can tip us over the edge. So we reserve the right to over-the-top go mental over this call. Even worse is not calling at all though so that’s not an alternative!

3. Coming home and saying “I’ve been working all day, I just need a break”. Sometimes, we haven’t eaten, haven’t showered, haven’t dressed, haven’t had a cup of tea, haven’t been able to put the baby down all day. Daddies please help us and forgive us for pouncing on you the second you walk in.

4. Waking up and commenting “They slept well didn’t they?”. Never assume baby has slept through when actually you’ve slept through and your partner has been up all night. Alternative – say “How was your night (would you like a cup of tea and pack of Hob Nobs)?”

5. Saying “I think they’ve done a poo”. If you smell it, change it.

6. Spending quality time with baby to give mum some relaxation but then saying “come and see this” every two minutes. I do feel mean about this one. We know you’re excited to discover what baby can do. And we do really want to share it. But we also need to eat, sleep and wee alone. So let us do that – we’ll be back pronto.

7. Changing the baby without doing up all the buttons on their grows / trousers. Just grrr.

8. When we do go out, not listening to the million instructions mums dish out. Look, we are barely a moment without our baby and we are a bit neurotic when it comes to leaving them for the first time. Please listen to the instructions and nod – it will make us feel better.

9. Never saying we look great. Okay so we may be a bit bedraggled, exhausted looking and still in need of our maternity jeans but this means that we feel awful and very un-sexy. Your compliments will genuinely make us feel awesome.

10. Telling friends you’re “babysitting”. Does not apply when it’s your own baby.

Anyone got any others?

Caveat to daddies – don’t take this personally, we do love and appreciate you really. Refer to this blog post which sings your praises. We’re just really really really tired. And grumpy. And irrational. And we’ll stay that way until we can sleep again. We know that us mums aren’t perfect either so if you want to submit your grounds for divorce, please get in touch *braces herself*.

Happy Mummy & Daddy

Happy Mummy & Daddy

5

Campaigning for better breastfeeding support #BreastfeedPressure

Nearly two weeks ago, I wrote a very personal story for the Daily Mail about my horrendous breastfeeding journey. The following day, I was invited on the sofa on ITV This Morning with Eamon and Ruth Holmes debating the amount of pressure there was on new mums surrounding breastfeeding.

Talking about breastfeeding on This Morning

I desperately wanted to breastfeed but it made me very ill. Under the advice of 17 health professionals and breastfeeding advisors, I persevered for three months. When I asked if I should stop, I was encouraged to continue and even when I said I wanted to, my reasons were argued against. Eventually when I did stop, my recovery was almost instant and my baby – and I – were happy. Our trips out of the house weren’t confined to hospital visits while our days weren’t filled with tears, screaming, continuous feeding, expressing and setting round-the-clock alarms to take pain relief before it became too much. In fact the first time I gave my baby a full bottle of formula, she was content. Instead of crying, she lay in her pram and gurgled as we went for a stroll around the park. It was only that moment I realised how wrong things had been. If you haven’t read it, my full story is here.

I’m actually a rather private person. Talking about my boobs in a national newspaper or live on air would normally be something I’d never do but in this case, there was a greater purpose. I’m emotionally scarred from my experience. It was one that no mum should ever have to go through and I was compelled to speak out in the hope that I could stop another mum from becoming embroiled in such a negative and painful downward spiral.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far. Dozens upon dozens of mums have spoken to me privately as well as via my blog, Facebook, Twitter and through This Morning and the Daily Mail. Breastfeeding is an emotive and controversial topic which people are incredibly vociferous about. I was prepared to be attacked – accused of putting people off from breastfeeding and generating bad publicity. And yes, there were people who were very nasty towards me. I tried not to engage with them – even though I had a valid answer for each one of their accusations.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the torrent of sadness. Mums who said my story made them cry because they understood the situation I was in only too well and empathised with my pain. Mums who felt they’d been forced to breastfeed under some shocking conditions. Mums who were consumed with guilt because they physically couldn’t breastfeed. It was almost an outpouring of grief from all the mums who were desperate to do the best for their baby, who wanted to breastfeed more than anything but were prevented from doing so for genuine reasons and instead of finding support, felt they were failures. I can only thank these mums for joining in the conversation and speaking out.

Reading these comments brought me to tears. I was moved at how many other mums have endured physical, emotional and mental torment along with what can only be described as an appalling level of pressure when they were at their most vulnerable. However it has also inspired me. I’m not content to rest at just getting exposure about breastfeeding pressure for a couple of days. I want to make a real difference. I want to reach out to any mum who is in a similar situation to help them understand that it’s okay if you can’t breastfeed and to take away the all-consuming guilt that eats you up as you look at your newborn baby who you only want the best for.

I want those people who label themselves breastfeeding “experts” to see people as individuals – to help them breastfeed through support not by force. And rather than be obsessed with the ‘breast is best’ mantra, to put the health and happiness of baby and mum first.

By telling my story, I’ve been criticised for not making my own decisions and not standing up for myself. Yes I take responsibility for my own choices but you have to bear in mind that as a new mum you are a physical wreck after labour and childbirth, you’re completely exhausted and you have a cocktail of hormones racing through your body. You naturally look for advice from the “experts” as you have no experience and worry that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing – surely they know best?

It’s only now that I’m strong enough to look back in anger at how I was allowed to become so ill for so long when I was begging for help. But this had made me all the more passionate about the issue and wanting to make a difference to help other mums.

Through my blog, I’d like to create a support community where mums can support each other through their breastfeeding journeys and I’ll be working on ideas for this over the next couple of months. If you want to be part of this, or if you know of any other opportunity where we can make a difference, please get in touch via the comments below or by emailing me: itsforthebaby@hotmail.co.uk

10

Breastfeeding – when to stop

This is a very personal story about my breastfeeding journey and the horrific experience which ensued when things went terribly wrong. So many people advocate breastfeeding – which is entirely right as it can be so wonderful. However, what a lot of people don’t see is the insurmountable pressure on new mums to breast feed when sometimes it isn’t best for them.

I want to start a conversation to raise awareness about this pressure and about the myths that I believed that breastfeeding is natural and those who quit only do so because they’re not doing it right. It’s featured in today’s Daily Mail and here’s my story:

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Within two weeks of giving birth to my beautiful baby girl, I was taken into A&E. I was experiencing the worst pain of my life – worse than labour. And what had been the cause? Breastfeeding. Or should I say bad breastfeeding.

At only 5lb2oz, my baby was too weak to latch on after the birth and struggled to feed. I’d wanted to breastfeed so I vowed I would do whatever it took to feed my own baby. A week on, we were improving but still having problems so a breastfeeding consultant visited the house and helped me practice. I found a lump in my right breast which she told me was “fine” and that I should just “give it a rub”. After this I didn’t worry about it but it didn’t go. The lump was actually a blocked duct and within days I had mastitis.

The next day feeding from my affected breast brought me to tears. Exhausted, I went to bed and woke up disorientated, dizzy and with a raging fever. This was the night I ended up in hospital and was diagnosed with a breast abscess; 4cm in width and depth.

As it was the weekend, the specialist breast clinic was closed so I had to wait. That day was horrific. I had to express to remove some of the pressure from my building milk supply but the abscess was growing and the pain was excruciating despite taking round-the-clock pain relief.

Before being treated at the clinic on the Monday morning, the abscess burst. Aside from the pain, the sight was horrifying to me. I could barely speak and was shaking with shock. Over the next three months, my family’s almost daily routine involved visiting hospital having my wound cleaned, dressings changed and having new fluid syringed out. As if one abscess wasn’t enough, I developed five more which were thankfully caught early on but I was in continual pain and fear. It was as if the abscesses were plaguing me and I’d never be well enough just to be a normal mum.

Throughout all of this, I continued to breastfeed. I was desperate to do it – my baby loved it and I did too. I kept asking if I should stop feeding and if I did would the abscesses stop. I spoke to health professionals, breastfeeding consultants, support organisations and visited support groups. Nobody told me to stop. My husband stood by me to support what decision I made but neither of us knew the right answer; I wanted to breastfeed but I also wanted to be well enough to care properly for my daughter. Even when I did ask for help quitting, I was encouraged to plough on. I just needed objective advice and support. I wasn’t strong enough to make the decision on my own and couldn’t argue against the argument that I was doing the best for my baby. I’d had fantastic medical care but the breastfeeding support was lacking. It was only when the hospital prescribed my 11th course of antibiotics and changed it to a type which would affect my milk that I eventually stopped. Almost immediately I was better. I made a magical physical recovery but emotionally, I am still scarred.

Telling my story, people ask me why I didn’t stop breastfeeding earlier but it’s hard to describe the amount of pressure I was under – from the health service, society as a whole and even from myself. Unfortunately, I am not alone. A Care Quality Commission report last year found that one in six women who talked about feeding were overwhelmed by the pressure to breastfeed, making them feel isolated and guilty.

In a new book entitled Guilt-Free Bottle Feeding, author Madeleine Morris describes how modern mums already face a “pressure cooker culture” without the intense guilt of choosing bottle over breast but also that we have forgotten that feeding should be about both baby and mother.

She said: “The pressure comes from all around – the medical establishment,  other mothers, media images of celebrities with their perfect bodies, breastfeeding their perfect babies. That leads up to pressure on ourselves. We don’t need anyone to tut-tut if they see us use a bottle.  We’re already tut-tuting ourselves. In our modern society, a mother’s needs have become so subservient to her child’s that she is expected to do whatever it takes to maximise every possible benefit for her baby, no matter the cost to herself.”

The external pressures to breastfeed are exasperated by the intrinsic internal pressure mums put on themselves. From personal experience, I felt that stopping breastfeeding meant I was a failure. From my first prenatal scan, I was asked if I would breastfeed. And the questions didn’t stop. Everywhere I went, people asked if I was breastfeeding; from baby groups to strangers in the street who stopped me to coo over my baby. These pressures built up and started to eat at me from within. When I did start exclusively formula feeding, I felt so guilty. I even ran out of a coffee morning with my baby crying with hunger because I was too ashamed to pull out a bottle.

From the beginning I was told that breastfeeding was easy, the most natural thing in the world and even that mothers who quit because it hurt just weren’t doing it right. This creates unrealistic expectations for new mums as any hurdle they then experience makes them feel like a failure. While my experience was extreme, the truth is that for many it doesn’t come naturally. It can hurt and it takes time and practice and when you succeed it can be wonderful. However, in some instances, breastfeeding just isn’t in the best interest of mum or baby. Looking back, I am angry at the experience I went through. I was a vulnerable new mum – sleep deprived, hormonal and desperately trying to learn how to look after a baby. Making the right feeding choice for my baby should have been easy. I saw or spoke to 17 individuals about breastfeeding but nobody truly helped me. What we must concentrate on is not necessarily providing more support to breastfeeding mums but the right support.

2

Maternity – your “time off”

Going back to work after having a baby isn’t easy. Not only do you have to get used to abandoning the little life you’ve spent every moment with but you also have to appear remotely intelligent and interesting again.

After a year off work, getting used to being in an office environment takes a bit of time. Initially, being able to sit still for more than a minute at a time and being able to drink a hot cup of tea was mind blowing. I likened it to arriving on my first all-inclusive holiday. Although I did then actually have to do some work.

You can imagine how I felt about my first night on the ‘work circuit’ – talking to grown ups with a large cold glass of wine in hand. Old acquaintances appeared delighted to see me after a year’s absence and I felt strangely popular. However, I quickly felt inadequate when they told me of everything they’d achieved in the last year professionally; promotions, pay rises, new jobs, new clients etc etc. For the first time, it hit home that the career I had obsessed over for so long had been on hold for a whole year.

When it came to my turn, I suddenly – unusually – felt short of words. What could I say about the last year to someone who didn’t have kids and wasn’t particularly interested in them either? I’d told myself not to gush all evening about babies and detail how I thought my little girl was a total genius because that morning she had picked up her spoon HERSELF, scooped up a tiny blob of food and put it IN HER OWN MOUTH! (I’ve already filled in her Oxbridge application).

Then came the assumptions; “oh you’ve had a year off, what a lovely break, that’s SUCH a long time, weren’t you bored with all that spare time? you must have got so much done”

I was guilty of this naivety once. Little did I know that the only thing there’s time for on maternity leave is caring for the immediate needs of your baby and NOTHING else. This literally takes up every hour of the ENTIRE day! I mean, I did have some great achievements such as surviving a week with only one hour’s sleep a night. And I felt pretty smug the time I remembered to put the TV remote on the arm of the sofa so that when baby finally napped (with me trapped underneath her), I could slowly sit down and watch daytime tele to distract myself from being unable to move despite being starving and needing the loo. You can imagine the (silent) celebrations the day I first got her napping in the cot. And when she was still a few months old, we made it out of the house – clean, dressed, fed and ready – before 9am. Boom!

So yes, I’ve had a year out of my working life and while some may think that all I’ve done is sunned myself in the garden, eaten cake and gone for yummy mummy lunches, the reality is that surviving this far has been more than a full-time job. It’s consumed every waking hour (and let’s face it, there are a LOT of those) of the day.

Of course I’ve enjoyed it and there have been many wonderful highs but maternity leave is anything but a year off work. Mums certainly shouldn’t feel like they’ve lost a year – our achievement in surviving and then thriving with a baby during that time is awe-inspiring NOT something that should be looked at with a tilted head and a half-baked “ah that’s nice”.

So next time someone gives you that look and asks about your time off, you can reply proudly with “yes I’ve been busy…but then I have created life”. It kind of puts everything into perspective.

By Laura; life creator

0

Do mums moan too much?

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Everyone knows that having a baby is wonderful. Fact. However, as parents cross into this unknown baby territory, we unfortunately find quite a lot to moan about. This doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our lot or that we’re not experiencing an unfathomable amount of joy, pride and happiness at the same time – we just didn’t realise how hard some of the new moments were going to be.

Before becoming a parent, you expect to be tired. You expect to have to clean up a lot of dirty nappies. You expect babies to cry. You expect things to change. But you have no idea of how much sleep deprivation can turn you into a crazy lady. You have no idea how much poop can explode out of one nappy to the devastation of everything around it (no doubt just as you’re getting in the car). You have no idea that babies can cry inconsolably for three hours. And you have no idea of the scale of how much your life changes.

As I said, it’s not that we’re not happy, just caught out and overwhelmed by some of the harder things that such a tiny seemingly helpless baby can throw at us. Sometimes literally.

What got me starting to think about all of this was when my husband came home from work a couple of weeks ago and my friend and her baby were visiting for a play date. We were laughing over the usual high brow intellectual topics of conversation – how often our babies had pooped in the bath that week, tallying up our night-time wake ups, debating whether to get a steam mop to tackle the porridge that had been formed a rock-hard immovable mass in between the kitchen tiles and eyeing up the last hob nob. Later that evening, my husband teased me about how much we’d been moaning and how it must make me a right hoot to hang out with.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have won an award for the most sparkling conversationalist of the year but it’s conversations like these that have kept me sane for the past year. Who would want to listen to me continually gloating how my baby is THE most beautiful and THE most genius baby on the entire planet?

There are moments as a parent when you feel you almost can’t cope anymore – when the number of hours sleep you’ve had in a week doesn’t even reach double figures or when you wonder what silence sounds like after bouncing/feeding/rocking/singing to a screaming baby for what seems like forever. Or you catch a look at yourself in the mirror covered in baby sick and sweet potato mush with scraggly hair and no make-up and you wonder what you’ve become. The only thing that gets me through some of these moments is knowing that there is a country full of other new parents who are going through the very same dilemmas and being able to share our mishaps together with laughter.

I used to see one particular mum friend weekly on what we described as ‘Moaning Mondays’. We did put ourselves through the mill by attempting to go to TWO half-hour classes in the space of three hours. It doesn’t seem like much but the desperate panic to get babies napped, fed, changed and traveled for two whole activities was exhausting and highly stressful. Afterwards, we’d laugh at how much we’d managed to moan that day but it genuinely made us feel better – happier people and therefore happier mums.

So yes, maybe we do moan quite a lot. But we’re not sorry about it. We need it. Although I do appreciate that I’ve responded to a comment that I moan a lot by moaning…but I’d rather be a normal (and honest) mum who laughs with her friends about her mishaps than one that needs a slap in the face for only gloating about how wonderful and perfect my life is.

1

This is my baby – butt out!

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After I had my baby, I had to stay in hospital for four days.
Now I look back and think how long it was that I was stuck in a baking hot ward full of other mums and crying babies and being woken all night – not just by my own baby but the ‘helpful’ staff who had to take my blood pressure every four hours.
At the time, I was desperate to be there. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby or what I was supposed to be doing. I looked up to every midwife and nurse like an oracle – “please tell me what to do, I want to be good at this”.

The same naive yearning for advice stuck with me for the next few weeks as I struggled with breastfeeding. My midwife and a breastfeeding consultant visited me at home but I was so desperate for help that also took on a half hour trek, a train and then a bus journey just to get to a feeding drop-in session. Did I mention this was with a one week old baby and a walking ability best described as hobbling?

But I never felt fully reassured. What I couldn’t understand is that everyone was telling me different things. Different methods, different ‘facts’, different ways of doing everything from holding my baby to responding to her cries and interpreting what she wanted. What I now know is that nobody knew my baby and nobody knew the right way of doing anything for her. It was something that only I – and her daddy – could understand and would learn instinctively each hour and day that we were with her.

But that doesn’t stop people trying to impart their often conflicting advice. The ‘experts’ portray everything they say as FACT. Many were brilliant and just wanted to help me but so many others treat new mums as idiots over the simplest of things. One scoffed at me for the way I was winding my baby (the way which actually worked). Another acted shocked that I was changing a dirty nappy mid-feed (because the previous midwife told me I had to). On day three of our feeding struggles, another sighed at me when I winced in pain, shaking her head saying “it doesn’t hurt” (it DID!)

But it’s not just the ‘experts’ you need to watch out for. When you become a mum, you suddenly find that everyone is a baby expert. Relatives, friends and – worst of all – strangers on the street. All want to give you their opinion.

I remember on several occasions being told that my baby couldn’t possibly still be hungry after cluster feeding for over an hour. So, being inexperienced and lacking confidence, I listened to them and watched as my baby became more and more distressed as I desperately tried to comfort her. I ended up leaving to feed her again secretly – which is what she wanted. Being tired, hormonal and worn out in every way, I felt paranoid that I was being judged and that others thought I was doing it all wrong. And worse, that their opinion mattered more than my own.

Surprisingly, strangers – mainly grannies – would stop me on the street to coo over my tiny baby. I’m not sure how holding a baby gives strangers the right to ask personal, intrusive and quite frankly inappropriate questions on topics from if I’m breastfeeding and how I’m raising her to childbirth and my recovery. And, most helpfully, little gems like how their baby never cried and fed beautifully every four hours.

I understand that having a baby can be a bewildering experience and there’s so much that I wish I knew. I’m hoping that all the people who gave me advice did so with the best of intentions – aiming to guide me and give me tips to make my life easier. But as I’ve mentioned, every baby is different and what works for one baby won’t work for another. I also think that the older generation look back on their parenthood experiences with rose-tinted glasses and don’t remember all of the hard times or when their babies cried for hours. I don’t believe that there was a generation of babies that didn’t cry unconsolably for their parents and that breastfeeding problems are just a 21st century issue.

To be blunt, I wish I’d told all of those people to butt out. It would have given me the opportunity to learn my baby’s cues and how to respond to her much sooner and I could have put all of the energy I wasted worrying that I was doing a bad job into much more constructive things. When I speak to expectant and new mums now, I do my very best to not give any advice. To just reassure them and empathise with how hard the early days are. And that way hopefully they won’t feel that they are being judged, won’t feel paranoid and will find their confidence much quicker than I did.