3

It’s not all about you baby – but shouldn’t it be?

I’m sad to say that I’ve heard a lot of parents shouting at their children this week. I don’t mean shouting for their temperattention or the panic shout of NOOOO when a toddler tries to poke their finger into an electric socket. I mean really shouting. And there’s been one phrase I’ve heard more than most – “It’s not all about you”.

I’m not sure why this phrase has been particular prevalent. Maybe the amount of tempers I’ve heard flaring is more to do with the quantity of parents and children crammed into soft play centres and parks with it being the Easter holidays. But I do find it uncomfortable when I hear some parents telling off their children. I’m not perfect and at times I do lose my cool with my toddler’s fiercely independent and tempestuous nature – such as when she refused to hold my hand on the zebra crossing last week so decided to have a tantrum and lie down in the middle of the road with an audience of oncoming cars.

I try not to judge any parent and I understand how frustrating parenthood can be but there are some incidents that I think are totally unnecessary and I do pity the child. Such as when I saw a parent grab their little girl and drag her whole body by the arm across the pavement and into a Greggs shop because she was dawdling instead of walking and had fallen down. Or on a packed train when a mum screamed at her boys: “shut the hell up and sit your bum down”. I could see other passengers visibly wince and bite their lip from intervening. I don’t know what the boys were doing but the screaming was constant and the fact that it was loud from the other end of the carriage says it all.

Maybe these parents had their reasons. Maybe they were having a really bad day. But how are we supposed to expect these children to respond after being treated like this no matter what they’ve done to “deserve” it? I appreciate it’s difficult to think rationally when your temper is frayed and you’re being led by emotion but does anyone really think these children will respond well? That they’ll suddenly stop playing up and act angelically because they’ve been screamed at or dragged down the street? Can you imagine how you would act if someone treated you like this and we’re adults who are capable of processing and understanding the situation?

When did we start treating other humans – and most importantly, our own babies – without the respect that they deserve? Maybe this is naive of me but I can only hope that when these parents calmed down, they apologised to their children for their violent reactions.

As for the phrase I’ve heard so often this week; “it’s not all about you”. Two of these occasions were in response to very young children calling to their mummy to watch them whiz down the slide or to chatter to them while the mum was trying to read OK! magazine at soft play. As I’ve said, I’m sure there were reasons for not wanting to engage with their children at that moment. Maybe they’ve been up all night. Maybe all they want is one minute of peace in the mayhem of a hectic day. But if they saw the disappointment in their child’s face like I did, I think they’d reconsider. Because surely as a child, it is all about you. All they know is their world – and they are at the centre of it. They don’t have the comprehension that someone might want to do something selfish, even when it’s as simple as visit the toilet by themselves or sit down and eat a hot meal or sleep for more than two hours straight. It’s our role as parents to embrace this, be patient and nurture our children as they learn and grow. I’m probably being a bit too preachy but I’ve been so touched this week by this phrase. I look at my toddler and I don’t mind that she thinks life is all about her at the moment. Because to me, it is.

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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:

mum and baby bf

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

When to call a mum

Sometimes I look at my phone and I wonder when the last time I spoke to some of my friends. We text each other and bemoan how long it’s been since we’ve had a good old chat. Then they ask me when’s a good time to call me. The trouble is, I’m not sure I actually know the answer. When is the best time to call mums?

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Before 8am: Do not call because the day you do will be the day baby sleeps in and it will have been ruined. For everyone!

Before 10am: We can’t answer because we are trying so hard to leave the house. See that door that you can just walk through with your handbag after a quick shower and a leisurely breakfast? For us it’s like a magical portal that we are fighting to reach alive each day. We’re lucky if we make it clean, fed, without being dragged down by bags of everything we may or may not need (just in case). And we’re probably running as that extra nappy change or tantrum has waylaid us yet again.

Between 10am-12pm: You could call but we will literally have our hands full of babies, prams, food and other paraphernalia as well as running after our toddlers who want to poke, jab, grab, suck, kick at something new every three seconds. This is the perfect time to actually come and meet us. However if you expect us to be able to hold a conversation or even offer you eye contact, think again. Just bring tea and cake. But keep both out of reach so it isn’t thrown and smashed across the room. We won’t forget about it – we know it’s there watching and taunting us with its heat and deliciousness. We will down it when it’s lukewarm and practically inhale the cake as soon as physically possible.

12pm-1pm: It’s feeding time at the zoo. If you call, expect the phone to be grasped by the baby who will otherwise scream for it. Not only will you not get any sense but the phone will probably get covered in yogurt and smashed on the floor.

1pm-3pm: It’s nap time. For everyone if we’re lucky. That’s after we’ve scrubbed porridge ingrained on the kitchen floor tiles, picked up a thousand toys, washed up for the umpteenth time, run around with a vacuum. And if we’re really really lucky, maybe eating a sandwich.

3pm-4pm: Prime meeting up time. Phone calls? Not so much. We’re at the park or on the top of a rope bridge at the play centre surrounded by screaming kids. Are you sure don’t want to meet us?

4pm-5pm: Feeding time again. See above.

5pm-7pm: Time for baths, torture time (hair washing), wet babies, dressing, milk, more torture (teeth brushing) stories and bedtime. Military operation required.

7pm-9pm: We’re usually still trying to get the baby to sleep. Of course if we have plans like eating a nice dinner, catching up with friends or leaving the house, baby will have their own plans for us.

9pm: We’ve just sat down for the first time today. Tired and starving.

10pm: We’re in bed. At the latest.

11pm-5am: If we are awake at this time, it’s not out of choice. For the times when sleepless nights are a frequent occurrence, this may be the time we need you the most. Unfortunately, we may only be capable of a rant, a cry or maybe even a scream of frustration at being up all night. There’s nothing like these early hours of darkness where you feel you and your baby are the only people on the planet awake and every fibre of your being longs to be asleep.

Hmmm, I wonder why no one calls anymore!? But please don’t stop calling. All of this doesn’t mean that we don’t want to speak to you – just the opposite. And seeing that you call makes us feel that you care. Just please understand when we can’t answer….

2

The mummy dating game

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I’ve been with my husband for more than a decade. I thought my dating days were behind me – and I hadn’t missed them at all. However, when I emerged from the safe cocoon of my house for the first time with my baby, I realised that I was embarking on a whole new era of dating. The mummy dating game.

I was never that great at dating. If I wasn’t slightly interested, the date would be ready to whisk me off my feet. But, if I actually remotely liked them, they’d run a mile. My problem is that I didn’t like games. If I was keen, I showed it. Seems like there’s something in that treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen mantra.

I wasn’t ready to start ‘dating’ again, but I did need some baby friends. Or at least needed to be sociable at the various mum and baby groups held in the area. So…baby as my wingman, I entered the bar playgroup. It was full of mummies all chattering away and laughing as I, the intruder, quietly assessed where was best to take my seat. But who to sit next to?

The leader: she welcomes you with open arms and a huge smile. You feel immediate relief and are smug at how speedy you’ve attracted a friend. But within two minutes, they’ve dashed off to greet the next mum. Warning, they are liable to usher you to the nearest spare seat, potentially miles away from the mummy bounty you had your eye on. And, as I quickly learned, you have to sit strategically otherwise you’ll be trapped next to your polar opposite and there’s no escape.

The know it all: want to actually speak today? You won’t with her. She’s too busy telling you about her brood of perfect children. You may be tempted to be in awe of her apparent awesomeness in raising multiple babies. But it’s just a front. She was a mess in the early days just like you are but she won’t admit it.

The cliche: akin to the popular gang at school, these guys act like they’ve known each other for years. They’ve done they hair AND makeup (bitches, when did they have time for that!?) and you can’t help but long to be their friends. Don’t bother, they may feign interest for a moment but this is their charitable act of the day. Once playgroup is over, they’ll be off for coffee and you won’t be invited.

The advice giver: From the moment you have a baby, actually, from the moment you announced your pregnancy, the advice giver has been everywhere. Sat across from you in the office, in the queue for your groceries, on the bus…EVERYwhere. Mummyhood is hard work and everyone wants to help with a bit of advice. What they don’t remember is how grit-your-teeth-and-smile-and-nod annoying it is as what worked for their baby will not work for any other baby in the world. Fact. Listening to the advice giver will just leave you feeling you’re doing everything wrong and must be a bad mum if you don’t do things their ‘right’ way. Keep your distance.

The mum who’s on a break: You’re a new mum so no doubt you’ve still got baby clutched in your arms or, at the most, laying a millimetre away from you. This mum, however, is a seasoned playgroup goer. She sits and chats, enjoying her free coffee and seems to let their tot run wild. Spotting your vulnerability, this tot will hone in on you, steal the one toy your baby has actually held in their hand for the first time ever (genius baby) and then kick a block flying to hit baby on the head.

What do you do? Can you tell them off? Can you touch their arm to move them off your baby without looking like you’re manhandling them? Can you reclaim the toy which will send them into despair and leaving you as the evil toy thief who makes children cry? This will be the moment that the mum looks over furiously.

This is unchartered ground. There are no rules here. At first, I tried to ignore it, avoiding confrontation and just tend to my baby. But the more times this has happened, I’ve grown a bit tougher. Nobody messes with my baby. So…take a quick look around, make sure the mum isn’t watching and make eye contact with another sympathetic mum (immediately implicating them as a witness) and get that toy back! Tell them firmly but fairly that kicking bricks at baby is NOT nice!Victory can be yours!

So, now you know the main characters at playgroup but where do you fit in? Keep an eye out for mums who look equally uncomfortable and quiet as you are. Dish out the stash of new baby questions – age, name, weight, any siblings, how they sleep, how they eat, probably your birth story, can either of you reach the cake tray etc. Now pay attention. You have approximately 10 minutes before one of your babies will cry. In that time, you have to make a snap decision of whether you want to see that mum again. You’ve both made it out of the house by 10am today. The chance of this happening again next week are limited. Do you like them enough to see them again? If so, it’s time for the dreaded question about a second date – maybe even on your own somewhere. Then it’s the awkward suggestion of swapping numbers. Panic over rejection sets in….But relax, most likely they’ll say yes and be relieved. It took me a while but I discovered that most other new mums were actually keen to meet up with other mums.

I mean, it is the opportunity to talk to another adult who’s going through the same experiences as you. And yes, I won’t deny that it does feel pretty awesome walking out of that bar playgroup with a phone number and a date lined up for tomorrow.

2

Childbirth – secret or over share?

Shouting about childbirth

In my PB (pre-baby) life, I heard my fair share of birth stories. Some from friends and family who had recently become mums but most of the tales were from near perfect strangers who were eager to share some of the most personal details of their body and birth to my naive and unsuspecting ears.

I’m particularly squeamish and listening to the beautiful natural process (aka horror) of childbirth made me very uncomfortable. My friends knew this and would give me a PG-rated version of their experience. But it was those who I didn’t know well that spared no detail. And it’s not exactly easy to tell strangers to shut the hell up.

I recall being at a work event where a female member of the group talked to us all about her blood loss over a glass of Champagne – painting a vivid picture of what the delivery room looked like. There had seemed to be no stimulus to start this story; nobody had asked to hear it, nobody was pregnant and it wasn’t even something she had just gone through – her daughter was two years old. I nervously smiled and nodded, being too British to be rude enough to walk away from the conversation. On another occasion, this time I was at least pregnant, another acquaintance spent an entire lunch graphically describing their birth – no holds barred. By the end, I was nauseous and visibly shaking. I’d tried to laugh it off, explain that I was squeamish and that maybe it was best to leave me in ignorant bliss. But they just laughed at what a big shock I was in for…and continued.

Now I’m a mum too, my eyes have been opened. Birth is such a life changing, often long and traumatic experience – physically, emotionally and mentally – that you are compelled to talk about it. You are never prepared for it. You will never be able to predict what happens. It’s like watching the most intense, 24-hour movie that you can’t switch off with no precursor as to whether it’s a rom-com, drama or horror. Oh and you’re not actually watching it, you’ve got the lead role. Afterwards, you have to purge yourself. There is a need to expel the trauma from you body and sharing the story is the only way you can make sense of it. You’re also pretty amazed that you’ve achieved something so incredible. I certainly didn’t think I was capable.

However, while there is this need to purge, I do think that it should be accompanied with an element of restraint. One thing I learned from being the recipient of birth stories in my PB life, is the danger of over sharing and respecting your audience. When family and friends visited, I only spoke about the birth if I was asked. I didn’t volunteer anything. Or at least I hope I didn’t. Just because we go through such a physically life-changing experience, doesn’t mean that the social boundaries of communication are gone; do strangers want to hear about tears, stitches, blood loss and how long we had to push?

The best purging opportunity comes when you meet other new mums. This is where the rules change; anything goes. You’ve all given birth, you’ve all had a baby thrust in your arms and been sent home expecting to know how to look after it. And you’ve all suddenly been deprived of what should be one of your basic human rights; sleep. My NCT friends know more intimate things about me than nearly everyone I know. And this was within about eight weeks of meeting them. There were even times when I went to new mums meet ups which quickly descended into a run down of everyone’s birth – something that would have sounded dreadful pre baby. But this time I didn’t feel queasy because I’d already achieved the thing I was so terrified about going through and I needed to purge too.

While you’re pregnant, you’re told that birth will be a positive, natural experience and it’s easy in the early days to feel that you’ve let your baby down if it wasn’t because you needed intervention or drugs. However, almost every one of us around the room had some form of complication and had come out the other side with happy and thriving babies. It’s reassuring to share these tales, realise that your experience was totally normally and even to find humour in the midst of a delivery room horror movie. But spare a thought for those that don’t have a baby as a common denominator with you; do they want to hear the gory details?  Maybe save it for someone who does…

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.