Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Baby Friendly Restaurant: The Swan (Almondsbury)

Last week we had our first successful and enjoyable visit to a restaurant since Baby D was teeny tiny (when she’d easily fall asleep anywhere and be no trouble at all. She now grabs EVERYTHING and needs entertaining all the time).

We went to The Swan at Almondsbury for a family birthday meal. We booked a table for 7pm so it was dark outside but the car park was really well lit which made getting a Baby D in and out of the car much easier. Brownie points earned before we even got inside!

I noticed they had a small outdoor play area for younger kids which looked rather sweet and outdoor seating if it's a nice day. On arrival it was busy but not heaving and we were shown to our table complete with IKEA Antilop high chair - our favourite as we know Baby D fits and will be comfortable. With our past meals at other places having been disasters or at least extremely unrelaxing I did my very best to be prepared. I tried to get Baby D to have a nap beforehand...and failed dismally but she seemed perky enough. I brought her lunchbox complete with 'unmessy' foods: sticks of courgette, carrot and cucumber and strawberry flavoured rice cakes for dessert, sippy cup, wipes and bib plus a few toys. We did a bit of pass the baby whilst we browsed the menu and ordered.

It was fish night or 'Seafood Soirée' as I think they put it, made me chuckle a bit. All their dishes are seasonal and locally sourced where possible. There was a good selection on the menu and it changes week by week. I had salmon with chips and salad. It was absolutely delicious. You could not fault it in any way. Yum.

And everyone else I was with also had really good food, all super. My husband reliably informed me they had a good selection of real ales. And there was a kids menu but of course Baby D is a little young for that now.
Baby D tucked into her finger foods very happily and took great interest in what was going on around her. There was a gentleman sat on the next table who she kept staring at intently, poor guy!

The atmosphere was nice, it's clearly a popular place with just the right amount of hustle and bustle and we were seated in a low traffic area so we're able to watch the goings on without being in the way (me hopping up and down collecting food thrown everywhere by Baby D).
The bathroom was absolutely spotless. I really hate it when you go somewhere, have great food etc then go to the bathroom only to find it all grubby. None of that here, it was so clean! And the baby changing facilities were convenient with no steps to negotiate if you had a buggy or whatnot. 

We had such a nice evening, no stress at all. The staff were friendly and accommodating, the food was great and reasonably priced, the general vibe was good and we felt very welcome. We will definitely be returning. A great baby friendly restaurant. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Magic Cream

Ok maybe it's not magic but it's darn good! I use it every day.

At the beginning of my breastfeeding journey I used lanolin on my nips after each feed, it really helped keep them supple and eased the soreness. However I got thrush in my nips and Baby D’s mouth (due to IV antibiotics at the caesarean section killing off my gut flora) and lanolin is not a good thing to use at this point as it sort of seals in the infection and makes it worse. So, I had to find an alternative. There were lots of nipple creams at the chemist but they all had loads of chemicals in and I wanted something natural considering I was nursing Baby D so frequently some was bound to go in her mouth. I'd read that coconut oil was good for practically everything including it being anti bacterial and anti fungal so tried that. It worked surprisingly well. But, as it was a long hot summer and coconut oil melts at a very low temperature it frequently melted so much I'd spill it all over the place and make a right greasy mess. Then I had a brain wave. Why not make my own nipple cream? So, I took to the internet and did some searching. I came across a recipe on a blog called Just Making Noise: Sound Bites from a Deaf Mama. It's a lovely blog by a lady called Marillyn who is a missionary in Honduras. She blogs about parenting and healthy and natural foods etc, well worth a read - her recipes are especially good. I thought I'd give the nipple cream recipe a go.

I had to buy some of the ingredients online and it takes a few days to make as you have to infuse the oil but it's essentially quite easy. It smells like coconut biscuits and is lovely and soft. And it works brilliantly. It's extremely soothing and healing. I've never used lanolin since. Although I knew that lanolin is derived from sheep wool I’d never really thought about it much and reading the blog post with the recipe Just Making Noise opened my eyes and now I’m slightly dubious about it.

I used this cream on my nips after each feed for weeks, but now I don’t need to use anything at all. But I’ve found its great for all sorts of things. I use it on Baby D’s bottom and she has never had nappy rash since. I also put it on her skin when it gets dry and it has got dry a lot recently with the weather as we’re out in the elements a lot walking the dogs. I even use it on my caesarean section scar! And hubby uses on psoriasis. I’m sure its great for lots of other stuff too. Why not give it a go?!

Dawn x

Friday, 13 March 2015

Some say I'm obsessed with slings!

I am a little obsessed with babywearing - I've been through quite a few different slings and things. I'm not a fan of buggies, I find them big, heavy, cumbersome and steering them is a skill that alludes me. I do however use a buggy now and then. Most of these occasions (though not all) I end up wishing I'd used a sling instead. I find wearing Baby D so much easier! She is perfectly happy cuddling up to me as I walk around, she can look around and take in the surroundings or snuggle in and take a nap. I have two dogs to walk every day and I’ve seen the struggle some parents have with dog leads and buggies. There's far too much potential for dragging over of buggy or tangling with leads not to mention getting the wheels stuck in the mud. We are very happy to go off road with a lead in each hand and venture out to the local fields and nature trails. Plus carrying an 8kg baby whilst walking at a brisk pace does wonders for losing baby weight and building fitness. And bear in mind I'm a tiny 5ft slight built lady, carrying Baby D on my front (I haven't ventured into back carries yet) is extremely comfortable and doesn't hurt my back or shoulders at all. People ask me all the time "isn't she heavy?" Or "doesn't it hurt your back?" Actually no! I wear slings that suit me and distribute the weight evenly including over my waist or hips. On chilly days we keep each other warm and on warmer days we just have to wear a few less layers and we are fine.
Shopping in the supermarket is easier as I push the trolley around with Baby D on my front - she's too small for the child seat on a trolley and I'm too short to see over the car seat platform trolleys. Or going to the shopping centre I don't have to keep finding the lift, I can simply take the stairs or escalator. And I don't have to navigate around displays and racks like I do with the buggy. I'm always crashing that thing into corners of display units or having troubles negotiating  clothes rails.
The only drawbacks really are carrying a changing bag (I use a small rucksack) and getting Baby D into the sling in a car park in the cold or rain. Oh and getting weird looks off people!

I always knew I'd want to babywear. I’m not sure how or why but it seemed rather natural and normal to me. I had lots of brilliant advice from my friend Lucy about starting off with a 'stretchy' and maybe moving onto a 'buckles' when baby got heavier. She gave me some makes and models to check out and suggested I visited a sling library.

So, whilst I was pregnant I started off by doing lots of reading...not unusual for me as we know!
I found lots of people talking about high street carriers being more affordable but not very comfortable on their shoulders and backs. And when talking to the hospital physiotherapist I mentioned that I'd like to wear my baby and she told me that as Baby D was a breech baby and therefore prone to hip problems (she had to have 3 scans when she was teeny to monitor the development of her hips and to ensure she didn't have hip dysplasia) I should make sure she is carried in the 'froggy' or 'M' position with a knee-to-knee carrier rather than a dangly one and she should face me rather than out. Here's a bit more info on the subject via the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

So, I started off with a 'stretchy' Moby with help from the lovely knowledgeable ladies at Born on Gloucester Road. I struggled a bit with it to start off with - I wasn't very good at getting the tension right and Baby D screamed her head off the first few times I used it! It really knocked my confidence but I really wanted it to work for us so I took a few photos of me wearing Baby D in it and posted them on a brilliant Facebook page: Bristol Natural Parenting and Sling Group. I got some really helpful feedback and was invited to go to my local sling library Avon & Bristol Sling Library for some help. The ladies there (Katie & Chanel) were so helpful and practical - Katie showed me how to get Baby D in and out easily and how to get the tension right. To my amazement Baby D snuggled in and went to sleep for the first time there and then. Hurray! However my husband wasn't quite so enamoured by the Moby as he found it fiddly and annoying. So, Chanel showed us the Close Caboo . It's similar to a Moby but already tied and to you tighten with rings - so I hired one from the library to see how we got on. I preferred the Moby and hubby preferred the Caboo so we ended up buying a Caboo too and having a sling each.
Me and Baby D learning at the Sling Library
A few months later, Baby D asleep whilst I do housework
As Baby D got bigger she got too heavy for the stretchy material (as I knew would happen). We already had an Ergobaby Ventus from Born that we'd been bought by my parents when I was pregnant so I popped her in that. But, as I'm so tiny I found it was too big for my little frame and the straps slipped off my shoulders - We got it when I was 8 months pregnant so wasn't able to try it on. It was however perfect for hubby, he found it super comfortable and suitably masculine. So, with limited funds I found a secondhand buckles carrier - a Rose & Rebellion with a lovely owl pattern called What a Hoot. What a lifesaver. Super comfortable, pretty and fitted me although I had to tighten it as small as it would go. 
Us with the Rose & Rebellion on a dog walk
After a few months of using the Rose & Rebellion I started to think that maybe I would like to try a woven wrap. This is something I originally completely discounted on the assumption that I'd not be capable of something so seemingly fiddly. But, a fellow mummy at breastfeeding group wrapped her baby one day and as I watched I thought 'I can do that!' They are so much more versatile as you can do all sorts of different holds on your front and back, quick ups and downs and ones for longer trips. But they are a steep learning curve. I did some reading about them and got rather confused about sizes, different fabrics, breaking-in etc. But at the same time my friend was also thinking the same as me and wanted to try a woven wrap, so we went back to Avon & Bristol Sling Library. Chanel helped me and showed me how to do a couple of carries. She also explained about sizes and fabrics and I hired a size 4 cotton wrap. 
My first attempt at wrapping at home
It's now 10 days later and I am converted! Wrapping is no where near as hard as I thought. Every day I'm getting more confident. Each time I've been for a walk Baby D has fallen asleep all cuddled up, it's rather lovely. And I've found it even more comfortable than buckles as it moulds perfectly to your shape. The only thing is wrapping in a car park...I haven't braved that yet. I found a preloved wrap that has been broken in and is super soft and am looking forward to learning new ways of wearing Baby D with that. I'll keep you updated!

Dawn x

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

My Breastfeeding Journey So Far...

My breastfeeding journey wasn't easy to start off with. We got off to a fantastic start on the first couple of days then it all went downhill. Thanks to my amazingly supportive and understanding partner and the kind words of encouragement, advice (some amazing advice) and love from my friends Lucy, Rildy and Abbey I was able to get through the hard times...of which there were many. Reading the following post back to myself I'm surprised I made it through! It just goes to show how support from other people is so important in those first weeks.

Straight after the caesarean section in the recovery ward Baby D was put on my chest skin-to-skin and within 30 mins of birth she was suckling lovely. It was truly amazing that this tiny little thing knew exactly what to do. Over the next two days in hospital she/we got on better with it and because of success with feeding were allowed home. Then...my milk came in.

We got home early afternoon. By late afternoon I noticed my boobs were starting to feel uncomfortable. I then woke up in the night with the most uncomfortable, painful, rock hard, lumpy, absolutely huge engorged boobs. I went from a B cup to a DD cup in a matter of hours. My boobs were so hard that my nips went hard too and Baby D wasn't able to latch at all. Much screaming (from me as well as Baby D) ensued. Trying to feed her was extremely painful and sore and she became upset as she wasn't able to get any milk. On top of this my hormones 'crashed' and I felt utter despair and wretchedness. It felt like what was happening to me was the end of the world, that I was a horrendous mother and this was never going to get better.

After seeking advice from my totally lovely midwife I managed to express a little milk for Baby D but not enough to satisfy her hunger and had to supplement with formula so she didn't starve. This broke my heart a little bit. Not being able to provide for my baby made me extremely sad and I felt like a failure. Luckily for me I am very determined, when I put my mind to something and with amazing support was able to get through it. 

After 36 hours of semi successful breastfeeding my left boob softened up and I was able to feed Baby D properly again but it took a further 24 hours on the right boob as it was particularly engorged - I had to do hot compresses and massage to ease the hard lumpiness.

We got back on track but still had to give her a couple of servings of formula a day for 5 days as I worked on increasing my milk supply (I'll write about that another day). My partner had a big part to play in helping me in the first weeks. Baby D had a very frustrating habit of putting her hands in front of her mouth just as she was about to latch on, so he would gently hold her hands away to enable her to latch on. He was always telling me what a great job I was doing and encouraging me plus reminding me of what I said to him before Baby D was born "don't let me give up on breastfeeding". There were points where I could easily have given up - I just needed that support to keep me going. I had days where I'd dread feeding her because of the pain in the first few weeks but with his help we got through it.

We had a setback when Baby D was two weeks old. Due to having copious amounts of IV antibiotics in surgery my gut flora was killed off and I developed thrush in the nipples, Baby D got it in her mouth and made her bum sore too. It wasn't a pleasant experience for either of us but after a couple of visits to the GP, some help from the trusty book The Food of Love by Kate Evans and a load of pre/probiotics it cleared up.

The first 4 or so weeks it was quite sore to latch on (although I think it would have been less sore had I not got thrush), then it became just ‘pinchy’ then at about 8 weeks no discomfort whatsoever. I did however find that the letdown sometimes was semi-painful but I'm used to that now and hardly notice. Also each time Baby D fed as is normal my uterus would contract and sometimes would be quite painful - like period or early labour pain in the first few weeks. But I felt quite happy about it as I could tell my body was doing its job and starting to shrink back down.

I'd heard people talk about the 'letdown' but had no idea what they were chatting about! I thought it was just a weird turn of phrase and didn't really think about it. I now know that it's the surge of milk you get 30 seconds to a minute after baby starts suckling - if they pull away at this point (Baby D does this all the time!) you can get milk squirting all over the place and it's surprising how far it can go.

I knew about 'milk coming in' and the 'hormone crash' but had no idea it would be so horrible and hard. I especially didn't know about the boob discomfort. I wish I had been prepared. I thought there was something wrong with me and couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel for a good 24 hours - and as a new parent this is a very long time. That said I totally adore breastfeeding now. In fact I'm a tiny bit obsessed by it. It's such a lovely and special thing to do. It's also free, no sterilising necessary and easily portable. 

We are now 7 months in and had been exclusively breastfeeding since that first week until 6 months when we started baby-led weaning. It's a wonderful way to calm Baby D down if she's upset, over tired or in pain, sends her off to sleep in the day or at bedtime and helps her fight illness. We are going to keep going with it for now and the plan is to let her continue with it until she's ready to stop...I have no idea when this will be. Watch this space!

Dawn x

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

My top tips on maximising chances of success with breastfeeding.

If I were to go back and give myself some advice before embarking on breastfeeding for the first time this would be it:

- Do your research. Read about breastfeeding and watch some videos of getting the latch right whilst you're pregnant. The more you know beforehand the less you'll have to find out when you're exhausted after the birth. I found the book The Food of Love extremely helpful - it was leant to me by a friend and was a great recommendation. It's written in cartoon format which bemused me at first but actually it's brilliant and so easy to follow. The last thing you want when reeling from pregnancy and/or birth is complicated wordiness. The troubleshooting section is especially good and got me through a few problems.
Knowing how to ‘latch on’ is the key at the beginning. I watched this video over and over (it's only a few seconds long) until I had it cemented in my mind - you’re exhausted after labour/birth so you don’t want to do much thinking.
Many people talk of nose to nipple positioning which worked okay for us but I found just ensuring Baby D's chin rested on my boob first and then she would automatically open her mouth and I could get the nip in there super quick and her nose would be completely clear of breast tissue ensuring a good deep latch.
Also read about oxytocin the love hormone and its role in milk flow. 

- Go to a breastfeeding support group. Talk to other mums about how they got on and what helped them. It was suggested to me by my antenatal class teacher that I should visit my local breastfeeding group before baby's arrival. I felt a bit silly and didn't go along. I wish I had taken that advice and gone along. I now go to one every week, the mums there are full of helpful information and are very supportive with no judgement at all. There are always trained breastfeeding peer supporters who have extra knowledge and sometimes a lactation consultant comes along. I love to pick her brains. I've made some great friends there and we have a nice cup of tea and a natter together whilst the babies feed, sleep and play.

- Have a lactation consultant's phone number at hand. If you get expert help (not all midwives and health visitors are great with breastfeeding help, some are but not all) at the beginning when encountering problems they can be nipped in the bud. You do have to pay for a consultation but many mums I know said it's the best money they spent - and far cheaper than formula in the long run. Find your local lactation consultants here.

- Ensure your partner knows what they are in for and what your wishes are before baby arrives. Mine knew that I personally desperately wanted to breastfeed and had instructed him to not let me give up when the tough times came. On the sore, tired, bad days I was sometimes tempted to give up and if he had 'given me permission' (for want of a better phrase) I could well have stopped months ago. But he reminded me of my wishes at these times and helped me through.
Breastfeeding makes you extremely hungry and thirsty - so your partner will need to bring you snacks and drinks, pass you the remote control and for us Baby D kept sticking her fingers in her mouth when I was trying to latch her on so he had to gently hold her hands away!

- Get a good nipple cream. Lansinoh HPA Lanolin is great. A little bit goes a long way. It's very soothing and healing. (It shouldn't be used if you get nipple thrush though as is sort of seals it in). However if you're a vegan you may not want to use lanolin it as its derived from sheep's wool. In which case a coconut oil based one will be just as good. In fact coconut oil is naturally anti fungal and anti bacterial which helps keep the nasties away. There's lots of hand made ones on etsy or you could make your own like I do (use search engine to find recipes). In the first 8 weeks or so I used nipple cream after every feed and stopped using/needing at about 4 months.

- Have some comfortable breast pads at the ready. I've tried every brand of disposable pad I can find - most of which have been scratchy around the circumference or leaked. There are only two that I like: Lansinoh a Ultra Thin Stay Dry Nursing Pads which are lovely and soft and never seem to leak but are a little pricey and Johnson's Baby Nursing pads which are smaller (fine for me and my little boobs).
Many people use cloth washable ones - I've tried a few but none have been able to contain my terrible leakyness.

-Get some nipple healing/soothing things. As the soreness can get a bit much in the first weeks there are things other than just nipple creams that can help. There are compresses and such. I like Multi-Mam Compresses but there are other things available in all good chemists.
I also got some nipple shells. I like the Avent Comfort Breast Shells. You place them over the nipple inside your bra (only for 40 minutes at a time) and they prevent anything from touching the nipple which gives them a bit of relief. You wouldn’t wear them outside the house though, they look very obvious and weird. In this set you get 2 with air holes which are great for relief and healing or there are 2 that are sealed which are great for collecting leaking milk. I used to find during a let down when Baby D was on one breast the other would also have a letdown and release a lot of milk. This way I could collect it for later.

Other things to consider are:
Nursing bras
Nursing nightwear
Nursing chair or pillow

I hope some of this is of use!

Dawn x