Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I miss it

For nearly two years, we were a home educating family. The kids and I would trek off to various locations for different events and classes; gymnastics, chemistry, tours of Roman forts and museums, etc. At times, the "home" part of home educating did not apply! We were busy and it was exhausting but very, very fun. I loved having them at home all the time and watching them play together. I loved chatting with them, learning things as a group or one-on-one when the others were occupied with different things. They grew so close as siblings and fought less. It was wonderful.

We played, nearly all the time. Learning was through doing, seeing, feeling, experiencing. There wasn't much sitting down, unless they wanted to "play schools" or I was reading chapters from Winnie-the-Pooh. I was constantly packing lunches and picnic blankets, slathering sunscreen or scrounging around for wellies that fit their ever-growing feet. Some days we didn't bother to come home until after dinner time; if we were lucky, I had put the slow cooker on before we left.

I loved it. Really, truly, deep-within-my-soul loved it. But, in time, their needs changed. So I sucked it up, put my ego and self-image as a home educating momma aside and sent them to school. For another year and a bit, I had my eldest and my youngest at home. My eldest was against the very idea of school for a long time. She refused to even entertain the notion. So we carried on as best we could, with trips out and classes and fun things at home. It wasn't the same - we were tied to the school run, and the bustle of our days wasn't as interesting (for me). Eventually I got pregnant and was sick for several months. I then felt better, and took my eldest to Greece for a week. That was wonderful. I came back renewed and ready to do fun stuff as a family again. So we went to the beach for the day, and I injured myself in the process. Flat on my back again, we were housebound for several weeks (I had to be ever so careful not to re-injure my pelvis). Once the baby was born, I was at home almost all the time. A month later, we were left carless as my husband's offices changed location and he needed it to travel to work. Incrementally, over the space of a year or so, our world shrunk to where we could get by bus or walking, within the hours of 9am-3pm. It limited us severely and school became a viable option for her.

Last month, she started school again, after being home educated for over three years. She loves it very much. It was a bit difficult for her to get back into the routine at first, and making friends has been a slower process than she expected, but she is doing fantastically well. She attends a different school than the younger ones, so she has to walk there and back again on her own. It isn't far, and it's on a route that we walk regularly in the course of our days anyway, so she's fine. She enjoys a small class and a friendly teacher; in many ways the experiences she is enjoying at school are what we would have done at home or at home ed groups back when we were all together and had the car. Her maths lessons included baking cakes; her art lessons included flinging paint all over the room; her literacy lessons included writing stories; she has been watching chicks hatch from their shells recently and has been reading stories to the little ones in nursery. The best schools mimic home life and this has definitely been the case recently.

So I am happy for her. School is giving her what I simply cannot provide these days, and she is blossoming into a lovely young lady. She is more active and interested in new hobbies and ideas. It's great stuff.

I am at home with the little ones now, and our days are a bit slow, a bit simplified. We do things like read stories, colour, go for walks, and so on. I don't have deep conversations with my three year old about life, the universe, and everything, but it's pretty close sometimes! She's a wonderful companion. As I slowly come out of the newborn haze, and blink in the sunlight of spring, I can see a different world opening up to us. One with days spent close to home, a world that can only be reached by walking or riding the bus between the hours of 9am-3pm, and it will be just enough. It will satisfy my pre-schooler and baby, and I won't have to worry about balancing their small needs with a nearly-11-year-old's larger needs.

This has been the right choice. Home education was brilliant and beautiful and chaotic and messy, and I loved almost every moment of it. Truly, I did. School is the right choice for all of my school-aged children right now, for very different reasons for all of them. We are not a home educating family anymore.

But I still miss it.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Five Things for Friday


Last week I ended up buying a smartphone. Believe it or not, it's the first smartphone I've ever owned. My husband is a techie guy (it's part of his job, but really, it's an essential part of his personality) but doesn't buy into the hype surrounding All The New Things. 

This means he knows how to sniff out a bargain. He settled on the Motorola Moto G as the best under-£200-phone on the market, with a top of the line screen and most up to date Android OS. And that's as techie as I'll ever get on this blog, because I really don't know what that previous sentence meant. I was just parroting my husband!

Anyway. Shiny things. It's fun, having a phone where I can touch the screen and make things go. It's like a grown-up's toy, isn't it? But after a few days, I kind of got bored. It's a phone; it makes calls and sends texts; that's all I really use it for.

Oh, except for the pictures. Now THAT'S fun....


As can be seen by the last picture there, my eldest officially needs glasses now. Both my husband and I wear glasses, so it would appear that our kids have no hope. Her eyes aren't bad (yet), but it was bugging her that she couldn't see the board at school or the numbers of hymns at church. 

She's super excited. She chose some bold, funky style glasses. Gotta love that kid's style. She's pretty awesome - at ten years old she is confident and proud of who she is. I seriously need to follow her example.

However, I have a feeling that she's going to find wearing glasses a bit more of a hassle than she thinks it will be. Hopefully they won't slip down her face or pinch her temples or anything. We'll see how it goes!


A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the baby seemed to have some tummy troubles. Lots of poo, the wrong colour, etc. She didn't seem particularly upset by it all, but I was getting tired of changing so many nappies. As an experiment, I thought I'd try a bit of elimination communication with her. It's an interesting way of baby raising - the parent (in this case, just me) keeps an eye out for any signals the baby sends out when she needs to void bladder/bowels. 

I even went an entire 24 hours without changing a single poopy nappy! Got 'em all in the potty all day long! That was fun. Now that her tummy has settled down, she doesn't poo as often, but she's starting to get used to me pottying her. She squirms around or cries when she needs a wee, or gets upset when I don't get to her in time and she's in a wet nappy. 

Sometimes I can't be bothered to strip her down and hold her over the potty, but then I feel guilty because she's clearly signalling the need to "go" and she's looking at me with a significant gleam in her eye, waiting for the potty. I know that sounds kind of crazy if you haven't done it, and believe me, this is my fifth baby and I've never thought in a million years that I would do this with a baby, but it really works. It's a real thing. She can wait long enough for me to undress her and pull the nappy off - she's rarely in the middle of a wee while doing this. 

The need to poop is a bit harder for me to gauge, especially since she doesn't do it as much anymore. Sometimes I miss and she goes in the nappy, sometimes she's just starting to go and I manage to get her on the potty for the rest. Oh well! I often don't wake up in time in the morning for her early morning ablutions so we get half in the nappy and half in the pot. But I'm cool with that. It's a learning process for the both of us, but I'm hopeful that we can encourage her to use the potty independently at a younger age. Maybe. That's not my main goal for now. Right now, I'm just focusing on the communication part and finding it pretty cool when I get it right.


So we're no longer a home educating family! It's totally weird, but I think it's the right choice right now. My two middle children started school in the Autumn term of 2012, but my eldest was adamantly against going back to school. For a while, this worked fine. We managed to get her to different home ed activities, we did things at home together, she worked independently and we had tutoring. It all started going downhill during the latter half of last year, when I was too tired in pregnancy and then had the baby. My husband's offices changed location which meant he could no longer use public transportation to get to work. We only have one car, so we were carless during the day. This wouldn't have been so bad - the bus into town is regular and easy to use - but with the baby having feeding problems in the early weeks, I was kept home because of pumping schedules and the need for transporting milk in bottles. It was just too much of a hassle. 

My attention on her education slipped considerably, and we finally decided that school was a better place for her to be right now. She started a couple of weeks ago and is enjoying it so far. She is attending a different school than the other children, so she has to make her own way there and walk home alone as well. This is exciting and fun for her, so that's good. She is finding it challenging in some ways, being back in a school setting, but overall it is a positive experience. I'm happy that she is happy - she is meeting new people, getting fresh perspectives on life, and isn't bored by the limited scope of our daily life with a baby and a three year old. 

I feel refreshed by the change as well; I feel like I can focus on more toddler/preschool activities for the three year old without worrying about boring the 10 year old. We can go to the local library singing time and have fun together, bake fairy cakes and do all those fun things that my older children have long outgrown. (well, to be fair, everyone else likes to bake, too, but they don't need much help anymore!)

I'm still keeping a toe in the Home Ed community because we don't plan to send our 3 year old to reception this year. She's a summer baby so will barely be four by the time the government expects her to attend school full time. No thank you. We're going to send her to a local preschool as an alternative, probably just a couple of days a week and see how it goes. I'm taking her to home ed activities and events and just carrying on as always. She is looking forward to preschool quite a lot. 

We'll probably send her to school eventually; my 7 year old never went to reception and settled into year 1 very quickly. I'm sure the 3 year old will do the same.


I could blame my lack of consistent blogging on being busy with five children, which is often very true, but I think it's more down to lack of brain space. I just don't have anything particularly interesting to say, beyond a couple of paragraph's worth! I could blog about our parenting choices, but *yawn* everyone does that. I could blog about home education, but that part of my life is kind of finished right now. I could blog about crafting, but I don't really do that anymore these days....

To be honest, a lot of my free time in the evening is taken up with washing dishes/laundry, straightening up, and then passing an hour or two watching old episodes of Star Trek. We started with Voyager, and I'm just now finishing up The Next Generation. Next is all the TNG movies, then I'll start Deep Space Nine. I admit this makes me totally nerdy, but when the entire series is on Netflix, it's difficult to pass up the opportunity. These shows are mostly harmless, inane entertainment. I sometimes watch with the kids, too. 

I lead a glamorous life, I tell you.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Choosing to Forgive

Corrie ten Boom has long been honored as an exemplar of Christian faith in action. (In my mind, she is a true heroine, and someone I hope to emulate.) Arrested by the Nazis along with the rest of her family for hiding Jews in their Haarlem home during the Holocaust, she was imprisoned and eventually sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp along with her beloved sister, Betsie, who perished there just days before Corrie's own release on December 31, 1944. Inspired by Betsie's example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel widely as a missionary, preaching God's forgiveness and the need for reconciliation. Corrie's devout moral principles were tested when she came face to face with one of her former tormentors in 1947. The following description of that experience is excerpted from her 1971 autobiography, The Hiding Place.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. ...
And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. ...
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me.
"But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ..." his hand came out, ... "will you forgive me?"
And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." …

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.
The Lord said,
28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When we choose to forgive, we are handing our burden to God and receiving peace and rest in its place. Christ took upon Him ALL our pains and infirmities. If we allow him, he will make our burdens light.

Forgiveness is a choice.

Corrie ten Boom called it “an act of the will.” Choosing to forgive can be the hardest choice we have to make.

Forgiveness is letting go of blame, releasing great burdens, and moving ahead with our lives. It is not allowing harmful behaviour to continue, condoning a wrong, or forgetting what happened to us. Lewis B Smedes, a renowned Christian author, ethicist and theologian once said, “Forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

Without forgiveness, our future may look very bleak indeed. It can be bogged down by pain, sorrow, grief, and anger. James E Faust said, “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harbouring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

Forgiveness is a commandment.

The Lord promises us rest from our heavy burdens. Anger, resentment, guilt and bitterness are but some of the fruits of an unforgiving heart, and are incredibly heavy burdens to bear.

Let me tell you about a man. In this story, his name is Malcolm Tent, but perhaps you know someone just like him. When he was a boy, he started a rock collection. This was not a collection of beautiful or interesting stones; this was a collection of grudges. For every time a person was unkind or thoughtless to Malcolm Tent, he would find a rock and put it in his pocket. “I’ve got to remember how angry I am,” he would tell himself, “I don’t want to forget in the morning.”

Over the years, as his rock collection grew, his life became smaller. Rocks spilled out of his pockets as he walked. Rocks spilled out of his cupboards, shelves, and closets. He kept rocks in his coats, in his trousers, even in his bed! It was always so easy to notice someone being mean to him, and he vowed to never forget it.

Malcolm’s rock collection was the talk of the town, and one day a geology enthusiast asked to view his collection. This surprised Malcolm - nobody talked to him much anymore - but he agreed to a tour. Much to the geologist’s surprise, the rocks weren’t magnificent specimens of rare beauty, but ordinary pebbles and stones (some were even chunks of concrete). Malcolm Tent tried to explain why he chose these particular rocks for his collection, but found it difficult. Was this particular rock chosen for the time the taxi driver failed to pick him up? Or was it when he didn’t receive the correct change at the corner shop? Maybe it was the time when his paper was left in the rain….

The geologist thanked him for his time, and left. Malcolm Tent looked around at his piles of dusty, ordinary rocks scattered around his home. He suddenly saw them for what they were - cold, hard and unpleasant.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonishes us:

9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to aforgive one another; for he that bforgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will aforgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to bforgive all men.
Now, he didn’t say WHEN we need to forgive, but I imagine it is much easier to throw one rock away and forgive immediately, than it is to store them all up over a lifetime and try to change a habit of holding grudges that has been nurtured for many years. As Malcolm Tent discovered to his dismay, that could very well end up being a LOT of rocks.

There are no constraints placed on forgiveness. We are required to forgive as often as is necessary. When Peter asked the Lord how often one should forgive his trespasser, he may have been thinking of the law of his day that only required a person to forgive three times. The Lord, however, pointed out a better way:

21 ¶Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I aforgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until aseventy times seven.

Forgiveness brings freedom and peace.

Nursing a grudge by carefully stoking the fires of anger and hostility ultimately only harms the grudge holder. Perhaps this is why God has commanded us to forgive those who hurt us - those miserable feelings drive away the Spirit and pull us away from God’s presence.

President Gordon B Hinckley counseled: “If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. There will come into your heart a peace otherwise unattainable.”

Guy de Maupassant, the french writer, tells the story of a peasant named Hauchecome who came on market day to the village. While walking through the public square, his eye caught sight of a piece of string lying on the cobblestones. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. His actions were observed by the village harness maker, with whom he had previously had a dispute.

Later in the day the loss of a purse was reported. Hauchecome was arrested on the accusation of the harness maker. He was taken before the mayor, to whom he protested his innocence, showing the piece of string that he had picked up. But he was not believed and was laughed at.

The next day the purse was found, and Hauchecome was absolved of any wrongdoing. But, resentful of the indignity he had suffered because of a false accusation, he became embittered and would not let the matter die. Unwilling to forgive and forget, he thought and talked of little else. He neglected his farm. Everywhere he went, everyone he met had to be told of the injustice. By day and by night he brooded over it. Obsessed with his grievance, he became desperately ill and died. In the delirium of his death struggles, he repeatedly murmured, “A piece of string, a piece of string.”

Do you have your own version of a string in your pocket? Do I? It is worth examining ourselves and taking the time to root out any embittered feelings, lest we find ourselves following a similar path as Hauchecome.

Corrie ten Boom spoke of watching camp survivors in her rehabilitation home who withered away from the weight of bitterness and anger towards the perpetrators of the cruelty they had endured. Although the war was over and they had lived to be emancipated from the camps, these people were not truly free - bound with the chains that only forgiveness would loosen.

.I have found this to be true in my own life. I experienced hardship at the hands of my father; his emotional abuse created scars in my psyche that took years to work through. It has been difficult to find the strength to forgive him, but when I finally completed that step, I felt such peace. The helpless anger melted away and I was truly able to free myself from the binds that the abuse created. It was only when I recognised the need for the Saviour’s atonement in my journey towards forgiveness that I was able to truly forgive. His perfect love for me helped me to heal from my pain and recognise the good that has come from my past. I can safely say that I am grateful for all my experiences, because they have formed me into the person I am today.

Forgiveness is Godly Love.

Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts. President Hinckley, always so kind and wise, said “A spirit of forgiveness and attitude of love and compassion toward those who may have wronged us is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us has need of this spirit. The whole world has need of it. The Lord taught it. He exemplified it as none other has exemplified it.”

More wise words from Alexander Pope, the 18th century English poet, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ who said, “blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

44 But I say unto you, aLove your benemies, cbless them thatdcurse you, do egood to them that fhate you, and gpray for them which despitefully use you, and hpersecute you

We can find peace when we choose to forgive. The experience may not be as heart-wrenching and immediate as when Corrie ten Boom forgave her prison guard, but we are promised that it will be just as profound and life changing.

Lastly, do not forget to forgive yourself. Repent of your sins, apply the soothing balm of the Atonement to your aching heart. Then arise once more to a new day filled with hope and promise. Do not allow yourself to become attached to yesterday’s mistakes or let them define who you are. Seek for the peace that will surely come when you choose to forgive everyone.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The best Christmas present ever!

It just goes to show that everything can change in the blink of an eye with babies - as of Thursday, Rosie hasn't needed any more bottled milk!

Last week, I was giving her about 13 oz of bottled expressed milk each day, but starting from last Sunday her intake started reducing. She had 9 oz on Sunday and Monday, 8.5 oz on Tuesday, 4 oz on Wednesday and then nothing from then on! I tried to give her more, but she just wasn't interested. Usually, she would need a bottle of milk before 8am in the morning, but by 10.30am on Thursday she was still completely satisfied after her breastfeeds.

I've been keeping a close eye on her wet and dirty nappies, and her output has been completely normal. Rosie is doing great!

I spoke to a lactation consultant yesterday and she mentioned something about the "magic 10 weeks". Apparently a lot of infants with latch issues turn a corner at 10 weeks. Whatever it is, I'm happy about it!

Seriously. This is an amazing turn of events for me - I had accepted the possibility that I would be pumping and bottle feeding for the next four months, until she started solids. Even in my secret hopes, I didn't expect her to be strong enough to move off the bottles until the beginning of January.

So suddenly, without any of my input, Rosie is feeding straight from me all of the time. I am free to go out with her without planning for pumping sessions and bottles. I don't have to stress about my milk supply anymore either - I have plenty of it, especially now that the baby is driving my supply! I seem to have more than ever now.

Life is good.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Making mistakes

Feeding my baby is not a simple process. To help keep my milk production going, I try to eat oatmeal/porridge every day (usually with a boost of brewer's yeast in the mix) and take a dose of herbal supplements - fenugreek, blessed thistle, and marshmallow root. I also need to express milk several times a day in order to keep up supply for the bottles she needs.

I aim to give the baby between 13-16 oz of expressed milk each day. The rest of her intake is "straight from the tap" as it were. Due to her tongue tie issues, she really can't take in all the milk from that she needs; she gets tired out after a while and can't seem to suckle strong enough to get the second milk let-down. The first one is easy and she copes fine, but after the initial flow slows down, she can't seem to manage it. This is, apparently, typical behaviour for a tongue tied baby.

She can't cope very well with a bottle feed,either. We do the best we can for her - keep her sitting upright, limit the flow of milk into the teat to just a trickle so she can regulate the flow herself, let her take breaks to get her breath back and ensure that she only takes in the amount she wants for herself (not what I've decided). She still coughs, splutters, and gets overwhelmed at the bottle during every feed. Her little eyes bug out and her nostrils flex in utter concentration as she tries to protect her airflow and drink at the same time.

So it's not all roses over here. I mean, it is what it is, and there isn't anything much we can do about it aside from wait it out and hope she gets better as she gets bigger and stronger. She's gaining weight nicely now, and is definitely looking pudgy, so that's good news! Eventually, I will try to reduce the amount of bottled milk we give her, but only in tiny increments to encourage her to work harder at breastfeeding. If we reduce the supplements too quickly, she will lose the progress we have made so far. To be honest, I'm nervous about it - I probably won't start reducing until her weight gain puts her onto the 75th centile or so. When she was born, she was at the 98th centile, and she dropped to the 25th at her lowest. She's on the 50th centile now, which is fantastic! We are getting there, slowly but surely.

As you can imagine, this feeding regime sort of takes over my life. I've gotten into the swing of things now, and it's becoming habit, but I've become an obsessive reader/researcher on baby feeding topics. I plan to attend a conference next year that discusses tongue tie, even. I recently read a book entitled The Politics of Breastfeeding, and it was a real eye-opener. The fact is, infant formula companies have systematically destroyed cultural and societal knowledge of breastfeeding to the point that it is completely out of the norm to breastfeed a child in many parts of the world. My experiences are not unique - a baby that is losing weight, with a seemingly good latch, and a decreasing milk supply - but the fact that I've received support and knowledge from people who know what they are talking about is pretty rare. I am in a privileged position to be able to stay at home with my baby, have the time and resources to express and store milk, and am able to seek out the knowledge and expertise I need to achieve breastfeeding my infant.

This shouldn't be a privilege, it should be the norm. It is not acceptable to me that women are faced with untenable situations where they don't have anywhere to turn or anyone to help them overcome breastfeeding difficulties. The use of formula has had terrible repercussions on the health of mothers and babies worldwide, for many years. Reading about these affects in the book I mentioned above has filled me with such sadness for our world.

I am lucky that my body responds well to a pump and galactagogues. I am lucky that my breastfeeding troubles happened with my fifth child, after my body already had the chance to create milk production cells in my breasts with previous babies. I do not expect other people's experiences to be the same, and I certainly can't say "If I could do it, then so can you!" because it's blatantly not true.

Unfortunately, I have made mistakes in trying to convey this information to other people. I recently started a discussion about formula feeding on a chat forum and it (obviously) blew up in my face. I have thought about what I said, and I am sorry that people felt attacked by my words. I don't know how to bring up this topic without hurting others -- how can you discuss the negative affects of formula feeding with other people when the majority of the population has either fed their babies formula or been formula fed themselves (like me)? This is a genuine question; I didn't handle the on-line forum situation well, and want to do better. But I also feel like there needs to be more awareness of the negative impact formula companies have had on our world. It is no accident that breastfeeding rates are low in every country that allows the sale of infant formula - the companies have systematically destroyed breastfeeding knowledge over the past fifty years. Lack of maternity leave, hospitals that don't allow for "rooming-in", doctors who are courted by the formula companies .... all of these elements and more create an environment that makes formula use an easier, or perhaps only, option in the face of breastfeeding difficulties.

People accused me of preferring a child die than be fed formula. That stings. I am not an extremist - I think it's possible to recognise the need for formula while at the same time point out that much of that need is manufactured and orchestrated by the formula companies themselves. They are not manufacturing their product out of the goodness of their hearts.

I don't know if anyone on that forum reads my blog, but if they do, please accept my sincere apologies for any hurt I caused. It was not intended - more of a clumsy effort to open a dialogue based upon new information I have recently learned. It was the wrong way to do it, and trust me when I say I will keep my mouth shut unless specifically asked to discuss it in the future. I do not judge other mothers for how they feed their babies. If anything, I point a finger of blame and accusation at the governments and business that have not valued breastfeeding and allowed it to be eroded out from under us.

As it stands, I am too emotionally attached to this issue to go back to that internet forum. I walked away a couple of days ago when I was being ripped apart by some very angry mothers, and the accusations they were making genuinely hurt my feelings. I don't feel up to dealing with that, and I probably won't go back. My life is full of stress and worry over feeding my baby every single day (will I have enough milk? have I pumped enough to make milk tomorrow? etc) and I can't willingly take on more stress. I sometimes think this is the coward's way out of it, and I should log back into the forum and wade through the vitriol to make my point, but I just can't face it. I'm done there. But I'm sorry for it.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

This is my life now

I should probably update all 4 of my readers on how things are going with me and baby Rosie. :)

As it turns out, I have low milk supply. This is not a surprise, considering her tongue tie prevented her from sucking effectively from the very beginning. I have never had any engorgement issues, I barely leak, and I rarely feel that tingly, let-down reflex that happens before or at the beginning of a feed. All of this happened regularly with my previous children, so I know it isn't my fault! (poor baby gets all the blame)

Getting the tongue tie fixed was an important step in rectifying the situation, but it wasn't a magic panacea that I had secretly hoped it would be. She was gaining weight, but far too slowly; in a four day stretch, she had gained 9 grams, when babies should be gaining 20 grams per day, at minimum.

This wasn't good, and was a clear indicator that my supply is low. The next step was procuring an electric pump, pumping milk at least 8 times a day, and feeding her the expressed milk afterwards. After a weekend of the new regime, Rosie gained 60 grams! What a huge difference. We're still not at her birth weight, and she's not gaining the minimum of 20g/day, but we're close to both.

Unfortunately this is kind of a long-term arrangement. She needs a good 4-6 weeks of this treatment before we can start considering ourselves out of the woods, weight-gain wise, and for my supply to be enough for her to take 100% straight from the tap, as it were.

The good news is that all this pumping is doing good things for my supply. I am able to pump a bit more milk each day, but I can't always get the milk into her tummy! She prefers milk from me, which is good of course, but she also needs extra calories that she can't always drink on her own. She sometimes will take a bottle of expressed milk, but it's not reliable. I have a tube for an SNS system, and I've heard that you can make your own out of a regular bottle, so I'm going to look into doing that. When I'm not tired and overwhelmed, maybe? Ha haha!

I've read a book about making more milk, and the suggested mathematical equation to work out how much supplements a baby needs gives me a figure of 10oz a day for my baby.

I honestly don't know how I'm going to manage that! I am almost able to pump that amount, but if she won't drink it, then what? More questions to ask my health professionals, I guess.

As for galactogogues, I am eating oats like crazy. Porridge, granola, flapjacks, etc. I add brewer's yeast to my porridge, and I was taking fenugreek over the weekend, but it made the baby constipated. Woops. I'm going to try again with the fenugreek, but with the addition of blessed thistle. Taking them both together helps with effectiveness, apparently. Fingers crossed.

I have 14 oz of expressed breastmilk in the freezer, as well. This is my "back-up" supply, in case something happens like yesterday when I was heating a container of milk for the baby and it tipped over in the jug of water and the lid wasn't on tight enough... nightmare! Water got into the milk, making it watery and unpalatable for baby. She absolutely refused to drink it so 2 oz went down the drain. Sigh.

This is a huge learning curve for me. I sometimes feel like my head is going to spin, with all the rules of safely handling breastmilk, juggling containers in the fridge and freezer, remembering to pump and desperately trying to get that milk into her tummy, and counting out ounces of breastmilk as though I am handling fluid gold. I am grateful I've never had to struggle with breastfeeding before now, and that I've been surrounded by so much positive support during these past few weeks.

So yeah. Feed, pump, supplement. Wash, rinse, sterilise. Feed, pump, supplement....

It's working, though! She's gaining weight and growing.

Also, she's smiling. *heart melts* She's worth it, for sure.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Baby update! Posterior Tongue Tie Edition.

It looks like my sweet little baby has a posterior tongue tie. A tongue tie is when the frenulum (the skin that attaches the bottom of your tongue to the floor of your mouth) is too tight and inhibits tongue movement. It's strange, because there were a few warning signs but because I'm not in pain when I feed her, I never really considered it.

But, here we are, at 4+ weeks, and she still hasn't achieved her birthweight. She gained a bit last week (hurray!), but didn't put any weight on at all this week. In a growing baby, this is not good at all!

I've done all that I can to get milk into her belly, aside from using a funnel (no, I wouldn't do that!), and we're treading water. Thankfully, even though the signs of a posterior tongue tie are subtle, we've been able to catch it. Warning signs include:

  • A flat tongue. When she cries, her tongue doesn't/can't reach the roof of her mouth, and it stays pretty much completely horizontal. It can't curl up on the edges like a hot-dog bun, either. In essence, her tongue can't flex and grip the breast tissue effectively, so there just isn't as much milk flowing.
  • Bevelled nipple shape. After a feed, the end of my nipple is shaped like a new tube of lipstick. My older children even noticed this one, but I had no idea it was a sign of problems!
  • Bubbly spit/drool. When I read this elsewhere on the internet, I was dumbfounded. We had all noticed that she had bubbles in the corner of her mouth sometimes, but I just wrote it off as a baby drool thing. Nope - another possible warning sign.
  • Losing weight/poor weight gain. This one is kind of obvious, because she just isn't getting enough milk to grow properly. I've been pumping and assisting her feeds by using breast compression techniques each time, but baby is usually better at getting the milk out than any other method. The poor dear just can't manage it with her tongue as it is.
There are other signs/symptoms, but they relate more to the fact that baby isn't taking in enough milk - frequent feeds, not enough dirty or wet nappies, and so on. 

The funny thing is, that once I started with compressions during feeds, her poo-and-pee count went up. From the outside, she really seems fine. But now that I know there is a problem with her tongue, I've realised that her latch isn't the best at all. I can feel her tongue sort of losing its grip during a feed, and she often makes clicking noises during a feed, when she loses suction. She is trying terribly hard to get enough milk, but her tongue just isn't cooperating! 

Just today I noticed that when I feed her at a certain angle, she manages to take in the milk much more easily. It seems like our reclining couch is the best place, with my feet up and my torso slightly leaning back. She is more on top of me rather than in front of me, and I guess her tongue doesn't slip and slide so much in that position.

Hopefully this challenge will pass quickly, however; we have an appointment tomorrow to get it officially assessed and hopefully snip the tight bit of skin to release the tongue. I am very excited about the prospect! I really look forward to watching those scales increase in numbers while her legs get chub rolls and my milk starts flowing faster. It isn't a magic cure; she will have to re-learn how to breastfeed essentially, since she's never used her muscles in that way before. But we'll get there!

I'm so relieved to have a cause for her struggles. The idea of a mystery ailment bothered me greatly, and made me worried for the future. Now, so long as everything goes well tomorrow, we can expect positive changes and turn things around for her.

As much as I love having a little baby and don't want her to grow up too fast, I really do want to grow bigger!