Sunday, November 27, 2016


Another indoor photo, this time with bubbles.


We have a book in which the main character is devastated by his balloon bursting, until his friend suggests blowing bubbles, which are supposed to float away and pop. It's often nice to follow it with bubbles of our own and Jamie loves them. I have to be outside the railing, otherwise he just wants to grab the bubble wand. It's much more successful than outdoor attempts - wrangling a powerchair and a just-walking child and a bottle of bubble mix and a wand and unpredictable wind currents was no small task!

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Our days continue to hold lots of trips to parks - or failing that, around and around our back yard - investigating leaves and twigs and mud, and practising walking.

But this photo record of Jamie also needs to include the great love of his life, which is his books.

Jamie with books

Jamie adores books and is getting the hang of taking a book to an adult and gazing up hopefully at them so that they'll read to him. But he also likes to spend time "alone" with his books, by which I mean under supervision but without me interacting or interfering. He opens up several all around himself, as if he's cross-referencing. Occasionally there will be some obvious common denominator between all the open pages, like they all show different depictions of the same animal, or they all have similar colours. Other times, if there is a link I can't see it. In this picture,for instance, we have "that's not my badger! Its paws are too rough," Pip and Posy trying on clean clothes after a Little Accident, Mr Horse going clippety-clop, faster faster with Cat and Dog and Pig and Duck riding on his back, and Little Owl falling out of the nest at the beginning of A Bit Lost. Suggestions of what the link is will be welcome in the comments.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Breastfeeding Myths

All other things being equal, breastfeeding is best for babies. Current WHO advice is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, and then alongside other foods for as long as you and your baby both want to, which they suggest could be two years or beyond. There are many good reasons to choose breastfeeding.

There are also a lot of bad and misleading "reasons" that get spewed forth with the good ones.

1. It is cheaper because it doesn't require special equipment.

Unless, of course, you want to be at all comfortable and retain any dignity while doing it. In that case, you will need a full set of nursing bras, which means sleep ones and daytime ones, and because your body and breasts will keep changing size and shape, you need to get re-fitted every few months. It will cost hundreds of pounds and comes as quite a shock to those of us who, pre-pregnancy, were small enough that bras were more about decoration than support.

Then you need breast pads, to avoid getting massive wet smelly circles of milk soaking through those expensive bras and making stains on clothes and upholstery, and also to try and stave off the risk of infection. A box of 60 decent ones (like other feminine hygiene products, value-brand ones are false economy) is about £6 and lasts 15 days (you use two pads at a time, obviously, and if you have a day bra and a sleep bra that's two sets per day) so for the two years the WHO recommend you breastfeed, that's about £300.

You'll probably want some nursing tops as well, if you want to feed on demand and intend to ever leave the house. In summer it's not too bad, you wear a vest that you can pull down underneath a lightweight shirt or top that you can either open or pull up. The other 40 weeks of the UK weather year, I for one want my shoulders and back and tummy to stay covered. Not just for modesty either, although that's part of it. But hoicking up a winter jumper on one side means trying to feed the baby around a huge amount of smothering, view-obscuring cloth while half of your back muscles scream in lopsided agony from the chill. It's not a nurturing experience! So you need tops. At least eight, to start with, because you need to account for laundry turnaround time and additional changes due to vomit and other fluids. At £20+ each that's another couple of hundred pounds. But eight tops won't see you through two years. I'm embarking on my second winter and the tops I wore last year are... well... they look like they've had a year of hard wear and are nothing like as warm or as presentable as they were at first. Also, after a few months, while a body might not be quite what it was, it's not post-partum shaped so anything that was marketed for pregnancy *and* nursing looks ridiculous, with armfuls of cloth over a bump that no longer exists. People ask me when I plan to stop nursing Jamie and I'm only half joking when I say not yet, I've spent £150 on nice warm nursing hoodies so it'd be a terrible waste of money if I stop now!

You could get a nursing cover, although I wouldn't recommend it. And you're expected to take breastfeeding vitamins as well, at about £15/month that's another £360 over the two years.

Basically I want to bang my head off things when people assert that breastfeeding is "free".

2. It saves a lot of messing about with bottles and steriliser and so on.

True, but only to a point. If you have any intention of outsourcing even one feed over those 730 days, whether that's for your return to work, or to allow you to have a drink, or when you are sick, or to give other caregivers a bonding opportunity, you need a steriliser and at least one bottle set. These cost the same and take up space whether you use them three times a day, or three times a year.

If you want that bottle to be full of breast milk rather than formula then you also need a pump, hand or electric, and storage containers. We got a "breastfeeding support set" which was about £150. You need to find time to pump while also making sure the baby is fed - no good emptying yourself out in the half hour before the baby wakes! The baby probably won't sleep through the noise of the pump if you're in the same room, and once they're bigger, then trying to find a solid fifteen minutes do anything without their interruption is impossible. Finding time to pump if you don't already have childcare is a fine art. And then you've got to scrub and sterilise all the pump components as well... Once you enter the world of pumping, the "messing about with bottles" argument flies out of the window. As soon as there is a bottle, formula is infinitely quicker, easier, and involves less washing up.

3. It's more convenient.

Again, true up to a point. Yes, in the middle of the night it's a marvellous thing to not be trying to mix or warm up a bottle, instead just sleepily undoing your nightie and latching the baby on in seconds. But the real winners here are the dads. Not only does the baby stop crying sooner, they are off the hook for night feeds, because even if there's expressed milk ready to go, no breastfeeding mama is going to be able to lie still while her baby does the Hungry Cry while waiting for daddy to warm a bottle. Quite apart from the noise level, the sound of the hungry baby causes a physical response of milk production. Bottle-feeding parents can share night duties, when the family is sick then bottle-feeding parents can alternate shifts to each get a solid eight hours of rest. Breastfeeding mamas have no such luxury. Exclusive breastfeeding from source is wonderfully convenient for daddies.

4. Breastfed babies don't need burping and don't have reflux.

Bollocks. Go on, ask me how I know.

5. Almost any mother can breastfeed!

Also bollocks and a really nasty line to pull on women who want to breastfeed but cannot. Note please that I'm avoiding the even more awful caveat "for genuine/valid reasons" because, as with disability, who the hell is a stranger to decide what counts as valid? There's so many factors at play.

6. There's lots of support available!

True, but it would be more useful if it was at all consistent. New mothers get conflicting advice even before leaving the hospital, as different midwives have their different ways of doing things. Websites, breastfeeding counsellors, friends and relatives, everyone has an opinion and at least half of them will believe that whatever you're doing is wrong. The price of "support" is a lot of pressure. At least formula has unequivocal correct instructions on the tin.

Don't misunderstand, I feel very fortunate that I've been able to feed Jamie. I believe, even if I can't prove, that it's been instrumental in turning him into the happy, healthy, secure little boy he is. I feel like I've achieved something significant and that I've done right by him. But I feel like the pro-breastfeeding gangs devalue their message by diluting the genuine advantages with silly half-truths that don't stand up to scrutiny, and this fanatical belief that breastfeeding is the only important duty of a mother.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Much as I love the green and blue jacket Jamie has been wearing for the last couple of months, the clocks have changed, the days are shortening, and now there's every possibility of us being outside at dusk or even when it is properly dark.

Combine that with Jamie's growth, and his ever-increasing mobility, and it was time for him to get more visible.

Bright orange Jamie

So, one dazzlingly bright orange jacket in size 12-18 months. What surprised me is how much more relaxed I feel even in the middle of the day, having him this visible.

I am still trying to work out the correct combinations of outerwear: the full body waterproof (but not warm/lined) splash suit, the full body warm (but not waterproof) snowsuit with button-on mittens and soft bootees, or the wellies, or the properly fitting how expensive?!?!? shoes, and when is it time to put tights/leggings under the thick fleecy trousers if he's not wearing the snowsuit and... at this rate I'll need a team of Sherpas to carry Jamie's wardrobe options to go places.

Sunday, November 06, 2016


We're out and about trying to squeeze out what we can of the natural light and fresh air before it becomes too cold/miserable to be fun, but the dim light combined with the ever-expanding walking skills mean it's a tad tricky to get photos that aren't just a blur.

This week's photo, therefore, is of an exhausted lad in his new car seat (which, thankfully, he loves and on occasion fights to get into it), clutching his prize leaf even as he snoozes.

Worn out with leaf

I also present a video of Jamie enjoying autumn leaves in exactly the correct way: