Barbie's 2016 Makeover

I thought I'd write a post and share my thoughts on the new revamped Barbie brand, as I've previously been relatively outspoken (understatement? Perhaps) on gender stereotyping in kid's toys and fashion, so it seems an obvious bit of news for me to comment on.
As it is, I think when we talk about gendered toys and the long term effects that those toys can have on our children, Barbie is a really obvious victim of aggressive attack, and it may surprise some to hear that I actually think that's rather unfair.
Yes, Barbie's branding is predominantly pink, I mean like, really pink. Is there a large amount of evidence from reliable studies to suggest that the use of the colour pink to reinforce a feminine segregation is dangerous? Yes, yes there is.
Sure, Barbie is kind of ridiculous when you consider her physical proportions and the fact that she is given to young girls as an image of positive feminine aesthetics. Is there a large amount of evidence from reliable studies to suggest that Barbie is making girls grow up to be more body conscious, unhappy and prone to eating disorders? No, actually, none.
Barbie didn't create our messed up ideals, or rather Mattel, the toy manufacturer didn't. Barbie is just a kind of sad reflection of the ideals that are already in place, reinforced by the media, celebrity culture, product advertising, and us - Mother's with low self esteem. We don't consider white faces with big eyes and small noses as pretty because of Barbie. Barbie has a white face with big eyes and a small nose because that's what we'd already decided was pretty.
Barbie's entirely unachievable proportions are only a reflection of the fact that society was placing value on women with long legs, round buttocks, tiny waists, perky boobs and slender shoulders. Mattel didn't create this idea. Body dysmorphia wasn't their USP.
I hate the use of "my parents did it, and I turned out OK", so it makes me cringe to use it, but I did play with Barbie when I was a young girl. I've really struggled in the past with body image, tied in with mental health stumbles, but I don't think Barbie is to blame, in fact, I know that she isn't. I had "Orca Training" Barbie to be fair and now I'm vegan.
I, like most women my age, have really fond memories of playing with Barbie toys when I was little. For me, the ultimate treat was going in to town to Woolworths (let's get really reminiscent right?) to choose a new Barbie doll with birthday or Christmas money from relatives, or as a reward for some achievement or other. I had rollerblading Barbie, dog grooming Barbie, some of the Limited Edition Barbies that came with a special stand and presumably were "for looking at" and who knows how many more, as well as a Shaving Ken who's leg kept falling off.
Barbie also had friends, when I was small. Of her two best friends, one had long red hair, and the other had dark, African skin. So the idea of the Barbie brand sticking exclusively to white blondes is ever so slightly unreasonable, they were offering a limited variety in the early 90's at least.
ANYWAY; last week Mattel unveiled a new line of Barbie dolls, supposedly to honour changing social standards, and, more importantly (for them), to address their depressing, plummeting sales figures.  
The new range of Barbies include multiple body shapes, including curvy (not fat dolls but there are some with a little more meat on them), petite, and tall designs, there are also multiple skin tones, and hair types/colours.
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a parent, I welcome a range of more relatable dolls for my children to play with. Would I buy from the new Barbie range for my daughter? Yes, I think I would.
 As a previous childhood fan of Barbie though, part of me mourns the passing of her ridiculous, unachievable, arguably damaging previous self, the Barbie that I knew. Will I be buying skinny, alien faced Barbie on Ebay for old time's sake? Yeah, probably.
I'm surprised, really, really surprised that it took Mattel this long (Barbie sales have been falling steadily for at least eight consecutive quarters) to launch a brand that challenged Barbie's previous relationship with negative body image. For as long as I can remember, people have been discussing the fact that her dimensions are obscene and the term "Barbie Doll" when describing an adult woman is rarely used as a compliment. But hey, I'm glad they've got there in the end. It would have been tragic to see the Barbie brand disappear altogether.
The next step for me would be an ad campaign that saw boys and girls playing with Barbie (and Ken, obvs) together. Am I asking too much? Perhaps.

I still got your back boo


Breastfeeding for 6 months!

I wanted party poppers to burst forth from your screen when you opened this blog post, but unfortunately, that isn't a thing. This is a hugely celebratory post though, because not only have I kept a baby alive for six months - but I've done so by feeding her breastmilk, and that makes me feel awesome.
To some people, this probably isn't a big deal, I mean, the NHS and WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months, so I've only done what I'm supposed to, but when you consider that only 1% of British babies are exclusively breastfed at 24 weeks (Quinn's 26 weeks now) - I can't believe that Quinn is one of that 1%, given that I was so so ready to stop breastfeeding at 2 weeks.
If you read any of my early breastfeeding posts (I'll link to them at the end for newer readers), you'll know that we really struggled. I was lucky to have amazing support from my boyfriend, but the physical pain of feeding a tongue tied baby, along with the emotional pain brought about by struggling to breastfeed when your body is full of post-partum hormones is incredibly overwhelming.
Am I blowing my own trumpet a bit here? Yeah probably. 
At 6 months, Quinn doesn't sleep through the night. I get asked quite a lot if she's a "good sleeper", and I get a lot of sympathy when I say that she isn't, but in the grand scheme of things, whilst I'm tired some days, I actually don't mind being up in the night feeding Quinn because every breastfeed is such an achievement for me. 
I really wanted to give Quinn the best start in life by giving her six months of breast milk. In that six months, breastfeeding has taught me lessons I didn't even know I'd missed before. Breastfeeding alone has set me on a completely new path, and I'm now taking the first steps on a longer journey to qualify as a lactation consultant - a career path I'd never so much as considered before. 
The bond that I have with Quinn is something spiritual and awe inspiring. Perhaps that would have been the case if I'd bottle fed her too, but I am confident that breastfeeding has helped us to carry on living as two separate halves of the same thing - I still feel some of that same relationship that I did when I was pregnant. She's her own person of course, but I feel so connected to her in a way that I never experienced when I bottle fed Seb.
Don't get me wrong, the amount that I love them both is the same. I'd have died for Seb in the moment that he was born, and that's never changed, but bond and love aren't the same thing, and Quinn and I are definitely better gelled than Seb and I were when he was six months old. 
When I started breastfeeding I just wanted to get here, to six months, that's all I focused on, that was the goal. When Quinn's tongue tie meant that my nipples were bleeding and I screamed when she latched on, I didn't think we'd get here. After her tongue tie was surgically divided and she had to learn, pretty much from scratch, how to breastfeed, I cried and cried with frustration and pain and exhaustion, and I didn't think we'd get here. The first time I was bed ridden with mastitis, the second time, the third time, the time I ended up in hospital on a Sunday morning, I didn't think we'd get here. When I was put on steroid tablets to try to tackle agonising ductal thrush, I didn't think we'd get here. When I realised that suffering from vasospasm and D-Mer weren't conditions that could be treated and that however long I breastfeed for, the symptoms would be there, I didn't think we'd get here. Yet, here we are, still breastfeeding every couple of hours, 24 hours a day, and training to help others to reach their own breastfeeding goals.
So... is that it? I've reached what felt like an impossible goal, does it stop here?
Hell no. I never ever ever thought that I'd be someone who'd breastfeed an older baby or toddler. I fully admit that the thought of feeding bigger children always struck me as weird, selfish and alarming - until I breastfed a baby, and now I'm like "how does anyone ever choose to stop breastfeeding?" So, despite the vasospasm, and the D-Mer, which are ongoing and will get their own blog post at some point, we're in it for the long haul.
I see how happy breastfeeding makes Quinn, like, not a satisfied hunger kind of happiness, but  a sense of safety, security, I see her latch on, and realise for the umteenth time that she is loved, it sends her to sleep, it makes her giggle to herself and when she's sad it stops her from crying. So yeah, there's no way we're stopping any time soon!
Thank you so so much to everyone who helped us get to 6 months, mainly to Boyfriend for his undying support and encouragement, and to all three of our boys, who've always championed their little sister's love of the boob! Thanks also to the Mother of Quinn's two eldest brothers, who's always been so understanding, even taxi'ing me up to the out of hours doctor with ductal thrush and blocked ducts. Thanks to my Mother-not-in-law-because-I'm-not-actually-married-to-her-son for bringing the coffee. Thank you to my best friends who've always been my breastfeeding cheerleaders, and their husbands, who've never cared about me whacking out a boob! And thank you to everyone who reads my blog and sent me messages, emails, tweets, commented on posts, or came and sought me out in person just to say well done. You guys rock. 
Thank you last of all to Quinn, for opening my eyes to something I'd previously shrugged off and never quite "got". Thanks for feeding every hour through the night to help clear out infected blockages and for the 26 week oxytocin trip! 
Our breastfeeding journey so far:
2nd August: The Early Days
5th August: Darker Newborn Moments
10th August: Tongue Tie Snip
24th August: Introducing Formula
31st October: Ductal Thrush
4th November: Breastfeeding in Public
23rd November: "Brelfies"

A-Z of cloth/reusable nappies

Families choose to use reusable nappies, either solely, or part-time, for a number of reasons. For us, the environmental impact of disposable nappy use was our main reason for turning to cloth, as well as the chemicals in disposables which would constantly be against our baby's skin. Secondary to those concerns, were the fact that using reusables was a more cost efficient system, and of course - they look a lot nicer than a disposable nappy!
For parents who are new to cloth nappies, or trying to decide whether to invest for an impending arrival, I thought I'd put together an A-Z of basic fluffy-bum information. Of course, there are many more pros, cons and considerations that I didn't have space to include (when planning this post I ended up with four different ideas for what to mention under the letter "B" alone!) - but if you have questions about using reusable nappies, feel free to either leave a comment at the end of this post, email me at, or get in touch via social media, I'm no "expert" but as a full time cloth bum Mum these days I'm happy to have a chat. 

My fluffy bum! Quinn's wearing a Little Lambs Fitted Bamboo Nappy here with one of Little Lambs' Bombproof Wraps over the top in "Green Apple"

A - ALL-IN-ONE All in one nappies are just that, they have a waterproof layer on the outside, and a soft absorbent lining. You just pop a new nappy on at every change, just as you would a disposable.
B - BAMBOO Nappies can be made from all sorts of different materials. Bamboo nappies are my favourite. They're really soft and the bamboo fabric retains that snuggliness, even after lots of washes. Bamboo is one the most absorbent nappy fabrics, these nappies are super thirsty, and suck up lots of fluid (wee). Bamboo does take a lot longer to dry though, as a result of being so absorbent, so it may not be ideal if you aren't able to have many nappies on rotation, or have limited drying facilities.
C - COTTON - Cotton nappies are a popular option as they're quick to dry. They're not as absorbent as some other fabrics though, so will need more regular changes, and probably won't be suitable as a night nappy without serious boosting with additional liners.
D - DISPOSABLE LINERS - Lots of cloth nappies users opt to use a disposable liner in their nappies. You can buy rolls of disposable liners which, like a piece of tissue paper, are placed inside the nappy, against the baby's skin. Fluids pass through the liner, but any solids (poo) remain on the liner. When the nappy is changed, you can simply remove the liner, with the poo intact, and either bin it or flush it (depending on whether you're using flushable liners) - this limits the amount of poo that could stain your fabric nappies, and makes cleaning them a lot more straight forward.
E - ENVIRONMENT - There are a number of environmental reasons to use cloth nappies. Some people worry that the extra washing involved could create a larger problem for the environment than using disposables. Wet nappies can be washed with your normal clothes, so there's no need for all nappies to have their own wash. Only soiled nappies need to be washed separately, and you can limit these by using a liner (see above). If you do choose to wash all of your nappies separately from your normal laundry, you can expect to do two additional washes a week (nappies shouldn't be left dirty for more than three days as mould may begin to grow). If you wash at high temperatures and use a tumble dryer then this obviously increases the environmental impact of using reusable nappies. When you wash sensibly though (using an energy efficient washing machine, line drying whenever possible, using environmentally friendly detergents or an Eco Egg), reusable nappies are 40% less harmful to the environment than disposable nappies*.
A disposable nappy takes over 200 years to decompose in landfill. Every baby uses around 4000 nappies between birth and potty training, all of which end up in landfill. The manufacture of disposable nappies is also of great concern to the The Enviroment Agency, as it's a highly toxic process to make the things to begin with. It's suggested that there are 3 billion disposable nappies thrown away in England  and Wales alone every year. That's 400,000 tonnes of waste taking 200 years to decompose in landfill.
Basically, using cloth nappies whilst being energy efficient is significantly better for the planet.

*The Enviroment Agency, 2008
F - FLEECE LINERS - Instead of using disposable liners, some parents opt to use fleece liners. Like the paper options, these wick away moisture, whilst trapping solids which can then be flicked or scraped into the toilet or bin. Your fleece liners may end up stained but your favourite nappies will be spared, I use fleece liners though and breastfed baby poo washes straight out. Fleece liners are often better for babies with very sensitive skin.
G - GNAPPIES G-Nappies are one of the few popular UK brands of reusable nappies that I haven't tried. They have several unique features, including Velcro tabs on the back of the nappy, rather than the front, to deter little hands from getting themselves undressed. You get a reusable G-Pant, which you can fill with a disposable insert, to limit on washing. The disposable insert is biodegradable and more planet friendly than a disposable nappy, and you can use your colourful GPants as many times as you like. This tartan design is one of my favourites (though I'm not sure if that little patch on the back is leather). As I say, I've never tried them, but I have friends who absolutely swear by them, and it's certainly a good cloth/disposable hybrid option for those who are reluctant to ditch the 'sposies.

H - HEALTHY SKIN - We don't get any nappy rash at all using reusable nappies, not even a bit of redness in the morning, and she wears the same nappy throughout the night! Her skin "down below" is in lovely condition, and we're happy knowing that she isn't coming into contact with all of the harsh chemicals found in disposable nappies. Using a thirsty bamboo nappy means that the moisture doesn't sit against her skin any more than it would in a disposable and she's super comfy. Reusable nappies are a great option for babies who have sensitive skin or eczema, which can be irritated by disposable nappies, though they'd probably be better off with fleece rather than paper liners.

I - INEXPENSIVE People do worry that the initial outlay, which can be several hundreds of pounds, is a lot, and worry whether they'll really save money by using reusables, especially given the increased energy costs with extra washing. If you do all of your nappies in their own wash, with a poorly efficient machine, and then tumble dry, then yes, you'll notice a leap in utility charges, but these can be avoided by being sensible. Reusable nappies last years and years and can be passed on and purchased second hand very cheaply. We bought lots of pre-loved nappies from Facebook selling pages before Quinn was born, which gave us the opportunity to try lots of different brands without splashing much cash, and allowed us to identify the brands we were most drawn to using everyday. You can also save by attending The Baby Show (either Birmingham NEC or London Excel twice a year) where most brand exhibit and have great show offers, or wait until the post-Christmas sales online if you can. Unlike your disposables, you can sell your cloth nappies once baby is potty trained, or use for future children - recouping some of your costs!

J - JOIN THE CLOTH NAPPY COMMUNITY There are lots of great cloth nappy groups on Facebook, which are really useful for asking questions, getting recommendations, buying and selling nappies, and finding out about new product launches.

K - KEEPING UP WITH WASHING - Extra washing is one of most parent's biggest concerns when considering switching to cloth. You can do one nappy specific wash every three days if you have enough nappies to keep you going. Remember wet nappies can go in with your normal wash. Just don't use liquid detergents (including liquid-tabs) or fabric conditioner, as these can effect the absorbency of your nappies. I'd use a good "green" non-bio washing powder (we use Ecover) or we use an EcoEgg sometimes instead. If cloth nappies are part of your everyday routine you quickly get used to the washing rota!

L - LITTLE LAMBS - Another popular brand of nappy in the UK, Little Lambs are my most used nappies. We own a lot of their fitted bamboo nappies, which work as a two part system, you put on the fluffy nappy (they also come in microfibre, cotton and organic cotton) which is your absorbent layer, and then you put on a waterproof wrap over the top. The waterproof wraps will usually last all day, and you just change the fluffy nappy inside once it's wet. Little Lambs are one of the cheapest nappy systems available but, in my experience, probably the best performing. I love love love them!

I've included this photograph to show a Little Lambs bamboo nappy before I've put the waterproof wrap on over the top, but, let's be honest shall we, it's all about THOSE LEGS!

M - MICROFIBRE - Unlike bamboo, microfiber is super super quick drying, the perfect material to have nappies made from if you can't have too many nappies due to lack of storage facilities, or you're in a small flat with very few drying options.

N - NAPPY NIPPAS - Some parents use squares of fabric, such as terry towelling or muslin cotton, to make their own nappies. There are lots of tutorials online to show you how to fold your fabric to create a leak-proof nappy, and gone are the days of securing with a giant nappy pin. Nappy Nippas are little plastic grips which snap to your folded nappy to keep everything in place. You'd then need a waterproof wrap on the outside to keep any liquid from soaking through on to clothes, but this would work in a similar way to any other two part system, like the Little Lambs nappies (above).

O - ONE SIZE FITS ALL - Many reusable nappies, unlike disposables, come with a "one size fits all" or "birth to potty" promise. You can adjust the size of these nappies, usually with a series of poppers, so that they can grow with your child from newborn to potty training. Sometimes a baby might be a bit too teeny weeny to actually fit in these at birth though.

P - PREFOLDS - Prefolds are large pieces of absorbent fabric which can be used in place of a nappy. You don't usually need to use a Nappy Nippa with these, simply fold the fabric as per instructions, and place inside a waterproof wrap, then pop the nappy on to the baby. At change time, you can remove the folded fabric, prepare another, and pop it into the same wrap. These are particularly popular systems for newborns, as fresh babies don't wriggle about too much and only do tiny wees. You may find that they don't stand up to the toddler test though!

Q - QUESTIONS - There are a lot of brands out there competing for business - and they'll all give you a different pitch as to why their nappy products are better than the rest. Never be scared to ask questions. Email brands directly or via social media and find out as much as you can about a product, and if you don't think your nappies are performing as they should - get in touch with the brand and find out what might be the problem. Ask other cloth nappy users questions too, that's when it's important to join the cloth nappy community (see above) to draw upon other's experiences.

R - REUSABLE WIPES AND OTHER CLOTH PRODUCTS - Many cloth nappy using parents don't just stop at nappies. There are lots of great cloth wipe systems on the market too (start with Cheeky Wipes) - these offer all the same benefits as cloth nappies. They're kinder to the environment, save you loads of money, are better on your baby's skin, and aren't full of scary chemicals. For women, there are also reusable sanitary products (towels and panty liners) to deal with monthly visitors in a more eco-friendly manner. Sanitary towels present the same problems as disposable nappies in terms of their landfill legacy, so switching to a reusable system is a great idea. Reusable towels are also better for delicate skin than the disposable products which can cause irritation.

S - STAINS - Even if you're using liners in your nappies, there will come a day when nothing is going to stop a Grade 10 poo from absolutely destroying one of your favourite nappies. Baby poo can be potent stuff, especially during teething or weaning, and stains can crop up. It's advised not to use harsh stain removers on your nappies as these can effect the absorbency. The best advice is to remove any solids and then to soak the nappy before the poo has a chance to dry on. Wash as normal but if there are still visible stains, hang your nappies outdoors. Rain water can be particularly good in this instance so don't bring your nappies in from the line if you see some threatening clouds looming overhead, but allowing your nappies to dry in the Sun should bleach out any poo stains effectively. If it's a really bright sunny day it's a good idea to empty your nappy drawer and get all of your nappies hanging on the line, even if they're clean, just to get some zingy white back in to the fabric.

T - TOTSBOTS - TotsBots are one of the most popular brands of nappy in the UK. They're made in Scotland, and tend to have the monopoly on the Birth-To-Potty All-In-One market. Their EasyFit nappies are a traditional All-In-One nappy that comes in lots of really cute colours and designs, including special edition prints to commemorate anything from the Queen's Jubilee, to the birth of a Royal Baby, and Wimbledon. Highly collectible, new designs will often sell out initially on the day of release, and discontinued prints are highly sort after on the preloved market. TotsBots also produce TeenyFit nappies, using many of their most popular prints to produce nappies in newborn sizing. TotsBots have also recently brought out a two-part nappy system, similar in many ways to Little Lambs and GNappies, but with a pop-in pad, which they've called the PeeNut. You simply attach your PeeNut pad (not dissimilar to a reusable sanitary towel) to the inside of a waterproof wrap using poppers, and put the nappy on to baby. When it's time for a change, you remove the pad, pop in a new one, and reuse the outer wrap.

I can't resist a cute TotsBots design - this hedgehog pattern is a TotsBots collaboration with Cornish Organic Cotton clothing company, Frugi 

U - USING SKIN PRODUCTS - Not all nappy creams are suitable for use with cloth nappies, as they can effect the absorbency of your nappy. Sudocrem, for example, should be avoided (I'd avoid it anyway as it's tested on animals and not as great for skin as everyone makes out!). It's worth checking with your nappy's manufacturer, if you're typically only using the one brand, which products they would recommend. However, if your baby isn't prone to skin conditions such as eczema, you probably won't need to use a product daily, as irritations are uncommon. I don't use any nappy cream on Quinn because she doesn't need it. If you want to use a bit of moisturiser on your baby's nappy area, I recommend just using some coconut oil.

V - VELCRO OR POPPERS? Many brands of nappy offer a choice of either Velcro or popper fasteners, whilst others produce nappies with one of the other. Personally, I always prefer Velcro to poppers as you can get exactly the right fit, rather than having a baby who is in between popper settings.

W - WRAPS - You'll need a waterproof wrap if you're using anything other than an All-In-One nappy such as the TotsBots EasyFits (see above). You don't necessarily have to use a an absorbent nappy and an outer wrap by the same manufacturer though. Some wraps suit different babies based on body shape, it's often a trial and error thing to find a design you love. 

X - XS-XXL - Birth to potty nappies are obviously the most cost efficient way to bulk-buy reusable nappies, as you won't have to replace outgrown purchases, as long as your child has potty trained before they're too large. However, as I mentioned earlier, at birth many babies are a little too skinny to get a decent fit with a birth to potty nappy. There are lots of great newborn nappies on the market including the TotsBots TeenyFits, or you can simply use muslins or terry towelling squares and a nappy nippa to make your own tiny nappies for the first few weeks, then move into birth-to-potty nappies once your baby has chunked up a little. If you still feel you need to use a nappy or training pant when your child has outgrown their birth-to-potties, there are lots on the market, up to adult sizes for older bed wetters, or those with disabilities. Shop around and do some research, it helps to ask other cloth using Mums in those situations.   

Y - YUCK! - As well as the washing issue, the most common objection to cloth nappies is that it's somehow disgusting in comparison to a disposable nappy. Personally, I find disposable nappies repulsive, especially when you imagine them rotting en-masse in landfill sites for the next two centuries, but there are obvious hygiene concerns where handling poo is concerned. Nappy liners are great, if you're using disposable liners then you can simply lift out the liner, with the poo on it, and bin or flush the whole thing, which is far less yuck than putting a whole blooming nappy in your kitchen bin. If you're using fleece liners, then once your baby is producing solid poos they're pretty easy to just flick down the toilet, again, no need to actually touch the poo, and it's flushed away just like the rest of the family's waste. The wet nappies go in their own lidded nappy bucket which is emptied directly into the washing machine, so it's not like you have stinking, pee filled nappies laying about the house, and yes, you wash wee soaked nappies in the same machine that you wash your clothes in, but unless you don't understand how a washing machine works, this is not the same as washing your clothes in wee. I don't find reusable nappies disgusting at all. We haven't weaned Quinn on to solids yet so we're still dealing with very typical. exclusively breastfed baby poo. The winner here is obviously that breastfed poo doesn't really smell, but I just run the fleece liner under the tap for a few minutes before it goes in the nappy bucket = easy peasy. If you've ever had to undress a baby who's projectile vomited down their entire outfit, then you can definitely rinse off a poo splattered piece of fleece fabric.

Z - ZZZ - Reusable nappies are totally suitable for use overnight. You can buy additional boosters to bulk up your day nappies to make them extra absorbent, or simply use super thirsty nappies, like I do. A bamboo Little Lamb nappy will last us 12 hours over night with one of their Bombproof Wraps - easily. 

I hope that this post has served as an interesting introduction to cloth nappies, but as I said, please do get in touch if you want to chat fluffy-bums!


Why the phrase "Fed is best..." can do one.

It's a phrase most commonly banded about when two set of parents attempt, in the same breath, to defend their decision to feed their baby in a certain way, and also to stress how non judgemental they are and supportive of the opposing method. 

It is almost impossible to share an article, fact based or otherwise, on the positive aspects of breastfeeding, without someone feeling judged negatively for feeding formula and calling you out for being mean (not all formula feeding Mums do this by the way! Shout out to the happy, contented formula feeding Mamas) - and if you see such an article shared on social media, you probably only have to go four or five comments deep before someone has said "Fed is best! I don't care how a baby is fed, as long as they're looked after."

Well you know what? Bullshit.

And before anyone pipes up to say that I'm making them feel bad for formula feeding, that's  not what I'm setting out to do here. I'm not looking at anyone and judging them, negatively or otherwise, on their parenting choices (not my circus, not my monkeys) - I'm only looking, in particular, at that phrase.

We would never use those words to discuss anyone other than a newborn baby. If someone shares an article on Facebook about how to encourage your seven year old to get at least five portions of fruit or veg in a day, you're unlikely to see anyone else say "This is really unfair. My son has cake for breakfast, and every day, I take him to KFC after school. We've had the taps in our house modified so that they only run Pepsi. But at least my son is fed. I want the best for my son so I make sure he has something to eat. Not everyone can feed their child vegetables, it doesn't mean we're bad parents."

Equally, you'd never suggest to any of your adult friends that it genuinely doesn't make a shred of difference, to their health or well being, what they eat, as long as they eat something.

Bizarrely, however, that's considered the kindest thing to say about a baby. 

Fed is not best. Fed is the minimum required for survival - "fed is best" is a mindless thing to say, about a baby or anyone else. If fed is best then a parent is totally cool with giving their newborn a McDonalds milkshake... 

Oh so, that's not what you meant? You meant that as long as a baby is given either breast milk or formula then that's better than starving them? Well...duh. I don't think a single Mother I've come across has said "I had a really hard time breastfeeding, so I just let my baby starve to death." Or equally "When I was pregnant I knew that I didn't want to breastfeed, so I accepted that my baby wouldn't survive very long as I would have to starve them."

Nobody is suggesting that starvation of a child is the third option here. What they're saying, when they say "Fed is best." is that whatever you choose to do, it's OK. OK, and best. are not the same thing. So "Fed is best", whilst true, is a completely pointless, nonsensical statement, in the context that it is usually used. 

There are lots of things we can say which actually represent the message of "fed is best", and make sense. 

For example:

"Infant formula is alright."
"A baby can survive perfectly well on infant formula."
"Infant formula isn't a poison, it is acceptable to feed it to a baby."

You can even say, if you like:

"Lots of people have healthy, formula fed babies who thrive."

I'd like to add that I was formula fed from birth and I am very much alive and well as I write this. Equally, my five year old son was formula fed from birth and he is doing great. I know lots of people who breastfed their babies and those children struggled against a number of health complaints, so it's cool, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence of formula fed babies growing up strong and healthy. 

Fed is not best, fed is the minimum required for survival. 
Breast is not best, it is normal, it is the only food stuff on the planet ideally suited to human babies.
Infant formula is OK. 

There's a whole other side to the "Fed is Best" row, and that applies when it is used as a term of reassurance. Rather than defending their own decision to formula feed, or trying to convince someone that they're supportive of formula feeding, sometimes, people use the term "fed is best" to comfort a Mum who, for whatever reason, is about to give her baby formula, and doesn't feel great about it.

If the Mum in question is one of the 1% of women who can not breastfeed because she doesn't have enough breast tissue... then please do comfort her with the knowledge that her baby will absolutely have a great shot at health and happiness, being raised on infant formula. Chances are she lives in a relatively wealthy country, with access to clean, safe drinking water, and whilst there are still risks associated with formula feeding, she is able to minimise these by preparing bottles safely.

However, if the Mum in question is one of the 99% of women who is physical and anatomically capable of supporting her child's development with breast milk, and that is what she wants to do, and she happens to be struggling, "fed is best" is, quite literally, the worst thing you can possibly say.

I am lucky, despite giving birth to a tongue tied baby with a dodgy shallow latch, and suffering from vasospasm in both breasts which makes breastfeeding painful (and always will), and D-Mer which is a weird breastfeeding based anxiety disorder thing... I am capable of breastfeeding. I decided during pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed and in the long run, these hurdles wouldn't have stopped me from achieving that goal. However, I had really dark days. I mean, the deepest depression I've ever experienced kind of days; triggered entirely by post-partum hormones, and breastfeeding. 

I called my boyfriend in tears almost every day for Quinn's first month on the planet, telling him that I was going to have to accept that breastfeeding wasn't for us, as I could no longer cope with the pain. All I wanted him to say was "fed is best", I desperately wanted someone to tell me that breast milk wasn't all it was cracked up to be, that actually, formula might be a good idea - because the most important thing was that my baby was fed (she was being fed anyway, I was just going through Hell). I wanted someone to basically invalidate my struggle, my physical pain, my emotional trauma... and suggest that I was going through it all for nothing because "fed is best". I was desperate for that.

But nobody did that, least of all Boyfriend, who never once suggested that I stop breastfeeding, even when I wailed down the phone that I'd totally had enough. He reminded me how great it was to do what is normal and natural for our daughter.

Six months on, I have an exclusively breastfed baby, and I'm so proud of myself, I can't begin to describe how great I feel about my own breastfeeding achievements. I look back at those first six weeks and barely recognise myself. If someone had said, "fed is best" back then, I'd have hugged them, and thanked them, for taking away the guilt that I felt at finding breastfeeding so damn hard, and I'd have stopped breastfeeding.

I'd have stopped breastfeeding and I'd probably still struggle with that today. Breastfeeding was my goal, and whilst I hate the use of the word "fail" when we talk about Mum's who didn't realise their breastfeeding goals, it would still have been a goal I didn't meet, and one that I won't have an opportunity to try for again "next time" (no more babies). 

"Fed is best" is probably the cruellest thing anyone could have said to me back then, in terms of how it would have effected my long term parenting experience with Quinn.

So if you're a formula feeding Mum, and you see a conversation about the positive aspects of breastfeeding - just remember, it isn't for you. It isn't an attack on you for formula feeding, it doesn't exist with the sole purpose of making you feel like a substandard Mother, it isn't an opportunity for you to defend yourself. When you comment on these articles saying "fed is best", and that your babies are just as healthy on formula, or that your breastfed baby is always sick so pro-breastfeeding messages are incorrect, or that it doesn't matter how a baby is fed - you're wading into territory that isn't your own, and potentially encouraging a struggling breastfeeding Mum (who this article probably is aimed at) to turn her back on a goal. Don't be that person. 

Fed is not best, fed is the minimum required for survival. 
Breast is not best, it is normal, it is the only food stuff on the planet ideally suited to babies.
Infant formula is OK. 

I just CAN'T

We jump on to the bus to school and once we are sat down, the first thing Seb wants to do is play 'I Spy With My Little Eye'; but it's 8:32am and I have an itch on my brain already, from cajoling two children into weather appropriate clothing.

My patience has been thoroughly tested, and I've already had to talk him out of taking a handheld fan with him 'for the walk'; it's mid-January. I've watched him deliberately put his shoes on the wrong feet because he wanted to wear slippers instead. I feel "end of the day" tired and we haven't been out of the house any more than ten minutes.

I think I'm a good Mum. I find myself lacking in many areas of life, but I'm not kept up at night worrying about my parenting. Seb is clever, intimidatingly so at times. He is head strong, and can be bullish, but is also so so sensitive, and what I refer to as "a young five". He, like most young children, has a tireless need for affection, stimulation and reward.

"I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with Q... And it's peach." He says, looking at me expectantly. 

"Quinn?" I respond with a vapid lack of enthusiasm. And that is how it goes on for a short while.

"I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with C... And its blue, orange, black and white."


Eventually I tell him we have to stop the game as it annoys other people on the bus. Actually it just annoys me, but I like to project my lack of patience on to strangers rather than face up to it myself.

Quinn is squirming and whinging in the carrier strapped to my chest, so I stand in an attempt to make her more comfortable.

Seb stands.

"Sit down in your seat please." I say.

"Why, you're not?" And today I really can't be arsed to discuss safety on public transport, or why he has to listen rather than imitate, or what gives me the 'right' to hold a position of authority over him.
"Just sit down." I say.

Half way through our journey, Seb takes out his school reading book. We have read it together at home, although I didn't get time to leave any comments in the 'Reading Record', and Seb uses this as evidence to support his insistence that we have not read it at all. 

I want him to love reading, I want him to enjoy books, and together, at home, we read endlessly to one another; but this morning, with this book (it's a Biff, Chip and Kipper dull-fest) I have lost all interest. He struggles with the word "It's" - a three letter word, and I hear myself groan. I try to explain that the letter I is only a pronoun if it stands alone, the rest of the time it's just the letter 'i' - but I think he knows my heart isn't in the lesson.

We reach our stop.

It occurs to me that I need to reboot. This morning has left me tired and unresponsive, when in fact he's been nothing but sweet, inquisitive and interactive. I promise, to myself, to be better this afternoon. I need take a break from the unrelenting questions, the challenges of caring for a 5 year old, even a lovely one.

The baby has fallen asleep, and I kiss Seb and ruffle his hair, waving him into school, and accepting that I feel relieved to have the opportunity now to breathe, drink coffee, and try again in six hours.

Seb is an easy child to love, and easy to live with. He doesn't want for very much at all, and as his Mother, I love him unconditionally. These days are rare and I'm always left hoping that he hasn't picked up on my struggles - that he doesn't wonder if he's bad, or believe that I am.

Sometimes I think I share a lot more insight into my parenting experience with a small baby - and we all know how difficult that can be at times - but as children grow, that desire, and almost certain failure, to be a perfect parent, doesn't really go anywhere.

My Breastfeeding Experience - Training as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

When talk turned to volunteering, at my regular breastfeeding support group, I knew instantly that I wanted to get involved.

Voluntary peer supporters are Mums who have breastfed in the past or are still breastfeeding their children, and their role is to provide other breastfeeding families with up to date, evidence based information, and to signpost them towards relevant help if it's needed. As a peer supporter you may lend a sympathetic ear to a Mum who is exhausted by the demands of breastfeeding, or suggest positions and techniques to improve a baby's latch, among a range of other services.

Peer Supporters have made an enormous difference to my breastfeeding experience. For one, they've been friends when I didn't have anyone else with breastfeeding experience to confide in, but it was a peer supporter who first made sure that I got a referral to a lactation consultant for Quinn's tongue tie, without which I would never have breastfed for as long as I have.

So, I've now begun training, and by the Spring I should graduate as a peer supporter, and will be running a breastfeeding drop-in clinic within my own neighbourhood once I have finished the course.

I really hope that this gives me the opportunity to boost the confidence of just one other breastfeeding Mum. If I improve or save one single other family's breastfeeding journey then I shall be happy!

Over the past 6 months I have become so passionate about supporting women who want to breastfeed, it's certainly a really dominant part of who I am these days, that I can't wait to put that into practice, and really improve other peoples lives by empowering them to breastfeed their babies.

I'm also allowed to take Quinn along to the training which she appreciates! There is a crèche provided, but Quinn wants to remind me that it's somewhat contradictory to our gentle/attachment/no cry parenting philosophy to use it if she complains about being left there!

Very Vegan Problems: The Parent Company Dilemma

What a lot of people tend to forget about veganism, is that it is not a diet - hell, it isn't even a lifestyle; it's simply a moral stance, the same as "child molestation is wrong" is an ethical stance. As such it is applied to all areas of a vegan's life. Veganism is simply the belief that it is morally corrupt to harm or exploit animals, unnecessarily, for human gain - and within that, vegans dismiss any form of speciesism (the notion that any one species is more important than another). 

So, not only do vegans seek not to eat any animal's flesh, blood, reproductive secretions or other parts of a creature, but they also attempt not to use them in other areas of their lives too. Unfortunately, because the use of animal products is the norm, it's almost impossible to avoid these products altogether. By using public transport for example, one steps inside a vehicle whose tyres contain parts of a cow. However, there are animal uses than can be easily avoided, in cosmetics and household products for example.

A vegan cosmetic product is one which contains no animal products what so ever, but that also has not been tested on animals, or party to any other form of animal exploitation. There are products out there that do not contain any animal ingredients, but are made by companies who test on animals. There are also products which are not tested on animals, but do contain animal products. Neither of these types of products would be suitable for a vegan. 
However, things get a lot more complicated when you begin to consider parent companies. The Body Shop, for example, are a brand that many recognise as cruelty free. They've always been outspoken about opposing animal testing, and sourcing fair-trade ingredients; and whilst some of their products do contain animal ingredients, such as honey, they do have an extensive list of vegan friendly items.

However, it isn't just the fact that their product inventory isn't 100% vegan that might put some off - The Body Shop are owned by L'Oreal - who themselves are part of the Nestle family, companies which are recognised as being essentially unethical in their practices. 

L'Oreal have a long history of involvement in barbaric animal testing, and still use Chinese governmental laboratories to test their products on animals. Nestle, as a huge parent company, are one of the greatest corporate violators of human rights on the planet. So, whilst The Body Shop continue not to test on animals, and to ethically source all non-animal ingredients, can they be considered a cruelty free brand when they're owned by companies who clearly contradict vegan philosophy?

The Body Shop is a common example, but there are many more. L'Oreal also own Urban Decay, who again, are very anti-animal testing, and go so far as to indicate on packaging all of their vegan products. Superdrug, who are celebrated by the vegan community for making all of their own-brand products vegan friendly and cruelty free, are in fact part of the A.S Watson Group, a Japanese owned health and beauty giant that allows for extensive Chinese testing on animal subjects.

It's a tough call. Vegans generally fall in to two camps on this subject;
  1. the smaller "cruelty-free" brands should be avoided because by purchasing their products you directly contribute to the parent companies and fund their unethical practices.
  2. the smaller "cruelty-free" brands should be supported, because by buying from them, we send a message to the larger parent companies that these brands are in demand.
Personally, I fall in to the second camp. I believe that every pound we spend can be considered a "vote" for the type of world we want to live in. Where possible I love to shop with 100% vegan companies, but they're really few and far between (though absolutely do exist). In the mean time though, I'll buy from The Body Shop and hope that Nestle are listening. I'll also buy vegan products from shops like LUSH, in the hope that they realise that vegan is in demand, and convert their non-vegan products to cruelty free alternatives. 

I think unless you're almost entirely self sufficient, growing all of your own vegetables, fruit and grain, textiles and so on, it's very difficult to live by the first of the two philosophies above. Every time I buy a block of tofu, I invariably walk in to a shop which sells meat. I buy my plant based milks from supermarkets which fund animal agriculture. I can't avoid these companies altogether, but I can show them that they need to continue to develop vegan lines because I intend to carry on buying them. That's where I stand anyway!

I think it's very important for all vegans to remember, but especially the "new" vegans taking part in this year's Veganuary "challenge", that it's almost impossible to live an entirely vegan existence, because of the cruel and rather corrupt world that you live in. There will always be one arsehole saying "yeah but they use cows to make tarmac so you can't leave your house if you're vegan", or something equally tiresome. Being vegan is about limiting suffering, across the globe, it's a compassionate movement that seeks to avoid harm - and any intelligent vegan knows that it's impossible to live a cruelty free existence in a cruel world. We can speak out against the cruelty though, and buying vegan products from non-vegan companies is just one way in which we can try to make our voices heard.

Co-sleeping - the What, Why, How, Where

When Quinn was born we used an Amby baby hammock in place of a Moses basket or crib for her to sleep in. I reviewed the hammock a while ago, but it's now gone to live at my best friends house, ready for the arrival of her baby later this year.
When Quinn outgrew the hammock, we bought a cot. She didn't like the cot. We took the side off of the cot and put it against our bed so that we'd basically create a co sleeping environment but nobody would lose any space in the bed. She didn't like the cot.
It would be fare to assume that because she's spent a significant amount of time sleeping in a hammock, she doesn't like laying flat on a mattress, but I can confirm that this is utter rubbish, as she sleeps soundly on a flat mattress, as long as it happens to be my flat mattress.
Since birth we've partially co slept because I'm breastfeeding, and believe me, it's a million times easier to roll over for the seventh time in one night and offer your baby a boob, than it is to drag your arse out of bed to retrieve them from whatever they're sleeping in, before desperately trying to return them to said sleeping arrangement without waking them up. After the hammock was packed away for the last time though, we've unintentionally become a full-time co sleeping family.
How not to co-sleep. This picture represents a pretty unsafe co sleeping arrangement but was taken during daylight with me in the bed next to her blogging! I can't take pictures of her actually sleeping at night due to lighting!

This sounds like a complaint, but here's the thing - I love it! I quite often start statements with "If I had another baby" and then feel the need to massively reiterate that I am not having any more babies, but, if I had another baby, I would definitely just cosleep from the word go, with the hammock because it's nice, especially for naps.
Quinn doesn't really settle until somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 at night at the moment which is totally normal for a 5 month old baby. Some babies go to bed of their own accord earlier than that - the one thing I don't agree with is enforcing a "bedtime" on a baby of this kind of age. Quinn goes to bed when she falls asleep, and she always falls asleep on the boob. Falling asleep whilst breastfeeding is a really important, healthy, natural behaviour on babies part. A baby should never fall asleep if he/she doesn't feel safe, secure, and protected - and a baby feels ultimately safe, secure and protected whilst breastfeeding. So anyway, she falls asleep on the boob between 8:30 and 9:30 and depending on what needs doing, I'll either tuck her down in the bed and get some jobs done (sometimes this involves actually eating something if I haven't yet managed to do so!), or sometimes I'll stay in bed with her and read, watch a movie, do internet stuffs etc.
The advice provided by the likes of NHS health visitors is that babies should be sleeping in their own cot/crib in their parents bedroom until at least six months of age, and health professionals have varying responses to co sleeping, but for the most part, they are required to advise against it. We co sleep after making sure that all risks of suffocation and falling from the bed are removed from Quinn's area. Practicing safe co sleeping is perfectly safe and may actually decrease a baby's risks of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), as opposed to co sleeping without taking appropriate safety measures - which may increase SIDS risks. There is lots of advice about co sleeping safely (removing pillows, not drinking or using drugs, not letting baby sleep next to Daddy) available from trusted organisations such as The Lullaby Trust and the National Childbirth Trust.
Quinn wears a baby sleeping bag to sleep in, over her sleepsuit, so she doesn't need to use our duvet or additional loose blankets. No baby should sleep with a pillow.
Co sleeping is, for one, the best chance I get of sleeping well, as Quinn will not last an hour in her cot without waking and needing to be breastfed to settle her back to sleep. She's feeding a lot during the night at the moment as the rate of her development is absolutely off the scale - she's pretty much mastering significant new skills on a weekly basis at the moment - but it's definitely easier to offer her short, comforting feeds during the night with both of us still half asleep when we're in the same bed. At 5.5 months she's finally at the point now where if she wakes, she can find a boob herself and latch on so that whilst I'm aware of her, I don't actually have to "get up".
I love the closeness that Quinn and I have, it's bordering on clingy by most people's standards (and that's me, not her), she isn't really held by other people (because I rarely offer and because she doesn't particularly like it), and I've never left her with anyone other than her Dad, so she doesn't really know anything other than me. Co-sleeping is an extension of that really, I'm her safe place, and being close to me is normal - anything that doesn't involve being close to me, is not normal, and as such, is quite daunting. It's lovely to have her snuggle up in to me all happy. The other night I got up to get myself a drink and came back in to the bedroom to find her, still asleep, but patting around with her hands trying to find me (very cute), I got in next to her and held her hand and she laughed in her dream and fell still again - it's moment like that that I realise co-sleeping is improving my parenting experience, not taking away from it.
It's incredibly rare for a healthy Mum to harm her baby in any way when co sleeping, and especially difficult to do so if appropriate safety measures are taken. Yes, there have been really very sad stories in the news in the last year of infant deaths occurring during co sleeping but it's important to consider that co sleeping alone wasn't to blame for these losses of life, and that further safety precautions could have been taken in all cases. We practice safe co-sleeping and I've never rolled on to Quinn or punched her in the face or anything of the sort. Co sleeping isn't generally recommended for formula feeding Mums of small babies, as when we stop breastfeeding we do lose an element of that "instinct" that means breastfeeding Mums remain aware of their baby in the bed. When children are bigger and more robust, there are no real concerns if they've weaned from the breast at 2+ years and decide to continue co sleeping. It's also not recommended for Dad to co-sleep next to a baby as he doesn't have that same built in awareness that Mum does of where the baby is for the duration of the night.
I'm in no rush to move Quinn out of my bed and have absolutely no idea when this will happen but it isn't something I've scheduled and definitely isn't something I'm keen to push whilst she's still breastfeeding several times a night. The cot still has it's side off up against my bed, not that she'll use it, and it's become a huge, padded bedside table!

Is it safe to be vegan and breastfeed?

This post is prompted by someone recently telling me how their own Mother had informed them that they need to consume cow's milk in order to make breast milk of their own. I don't know that everyone holds the same, bizarre theory, but actually, a lot of vegan Mums come under criticism for avoiding animal products during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Just to confirm, the NHS and the WHO (World Health Organisation) absolutely support the fact that a healthy plant-based diet is not only suitable, but could be highly beneficial, to pregnant and lactating women, as well as to babies and infants, as long as that diet is well balanced and nutritionally complete.
The WHO, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations state:
"Households should select predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses or legumes, and minimally processed starchy staple foods."
It's worth considering that cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) is the most common allergy in children and babies. If a breastfeeding Mum consumes dairy, and has a cmpa baby - she'll definitely know about it!
"Before Matilda's cmpa was diagnosed we tried everything, thinking she had really bad colic, then silent reflux. but medication just made her constipated and even more difficult to settle. We saw a chiropractor to see whether she had any birth injuries and the chiropractor suggested I cut out dairy as her symptoms (constant screaming, vomiting, sleeplessness) could be cmpa. We stuck it out for a few weeks and when we went back to the chiropractor after a month she was a completely different baby. I had some dairy again as a bit of a test, and Matilda was obviously in pain that night. So now we're totally dairy free and have been for three months." - Jen, Mum to Matilda, 7 months
Babies are no more designed to drink milk intended for a baby cow than adult humans are, and there's nothing hugely beneficial for them in it.
Most people's concern about dropping dairy is that they'll become calcium deficient, and that their breast milk may therefore be low in calcium. In fact, most dairy-consuming people are already calcium deficient, and studies have shown that the consumption of animal proteins (found in high quantities in dairy products) actually prevent the human body from being able to adequately absorb calcium. So: whilst cow's milk does contain a lot of calcium, it also contains a lot of proteins which prevent your body from being able to access that calcium, leading to a calcium deficiency. The best way to get enough calcium from diet, is to consume lots of vegetables - green leafy veg is a great source, whilst avoiding animal products, so that your body is able to absorb the calcium from the veg.
The belief that what we eat directly effects our breast milk is largely misplaced. It's important to eat a healthy diet whilst breastfeeding, because making milk uses up a huge amount of energy - and you need to be in good health to keep up with the demands that breastfeeding places on your body - but someone who eats a lot of fat, doesn't necessarily make fatty milk, and equally, a high sugar diet for Mum, doesn't necessarily mean more sugar in breast milk for baby. However, many allergens, such as cows milk protein, and egg, can make their way into breast milk and cause a reaction if baby is sensitive to these ingredients.
A vegan diet is an optimally healthy diet, the human body is not designed to consume animal products, in particular, meat and dairy, and people are often in tip top condition when these foods are avoided. As such, the breastfeeding Mum is at her healthiest when she is following a well balanced vegan diet.
All vegans need to supplement their diet with Vitamin B12, and all breastfeeding Mothers, regardless of their diet, need to take a Vitamin D supplement. A complete vegan multi vitamin such as those sold by Holland Barrett are ideal.

5 month body update

A few days before Christmas, my pre-pregnancy wardrobe came down from the loft. This was mainly because I specifically wanted my Christmas jumpers, but it meant that I revisited all sorts of previously much loved items... not least of all a ribbed satin crop top, size six skater dress, and a selection of lace bras in a 34A... so depressing. Boyfriend laid in bed with Quinn whilst I hopped and wiggled around the room trying on all of my old jeans... none of which could go much above the knee.
Turns out, I'm neither a size six, or a 34A any more! Having had an epic sulk about the fact that for some bizarre reason I don't have chiselled abs 5 months after giving birth... I did at least have a chat with Boyfriend and set myself some realistic targets.
As Boyfriend quite rightly pointed out, I had a baby 23 weeks ago, and he wouldn't, nor would anybody else, expect me to have the same body I had before I fell pregnant. After he'd suggested that I shouldn't really expect to fit in to those clothes until this time next year, I managed to accept that this is going to take a little longer, and perhaps a little more effort, than my weight loss after Seb was born.
Since going vegan a little over a month ago, I've actually lost a fair bit of weight, so I know that things are already moving in the right direction. I don't want to be so obvious as to go on a weight loss diet in January so I'm just going to carry on with a plant based diet and lots of breastfeeding, and revisit my body in the Spring.
It makes such a difference having a supportive and loving partner in terms of post partum body image. It would be so easy for me to grow increasingly distressed and upset by the fact that I'm heavier and a lot softer than I ever was, but I have to admit, having him constantly talking sense in my ear helps me to stay grounded.
After all, my body gave me a healthy, active pregnancy, a pain free and straightforward labour and birth, almost immediate post partum recovery, and is still exclusively breastfeeding my baby - so I should really try not to knock it. I want to try to make more of an effort to see myself more as Boyfriend does, and less how I think he does!

"She Looks So Much Like You!"

When I was pregnant with Quinn I used to fancy that she (or he, we didn't know that she was a girl until she was born) would look like her Dad. Seb has a very heavy dose of my genealogy, my large eyes, fair complexion and round face. Boyfriend however, is about as dark as Caucasian men come, with relatively small brown eyes that look black until you're right up in his grill.
Alas, it wasn't to be - once again, my DNA triumphed and Quinn has many of the same characteristics as her half-brother. Her eyes are blue, but the same shape as my green eyes - and as Seb's didn't begin to turn green until after his fifth birthday I suspect that her's might do the same. Her hair is somewhere between the softest brown and true golden blonde (not ginger, another disappointment) and she has my wide face.
Of course, like every parent, I'm only grateful that I have two healthy children, and couldn't genuinely give a toss what colour their hair is, or how big their eyes are; but it's funny to observe how much both of my children take far more after me than they do their respective Father's, and as such, could easily pass for full siblings. 
Since Quinn was very little people have commented that she looks like me, or like Seb, or like both of us. I do feel quite sorry for Boyfriend - whose features are pretty much the opposite of his daughter's!
It makes me smile how quick people are to try to find similarities between babies and one or both of their parents. Even if there's no particular likeness to either Mum or Dad people seem to find something to compare (I'm as guilty of this as the next person!) but I think I do have to accept a likeness between me and both children. Given how bright my red hair is though, I must admit that I'm surprised (and OK, slightly bummed) that I didn't make any ginger babies. I can only hope that that gene lurks and re-emerges in some grandchildren one day!  

5 month Update

Quinn is now 5 months old!
I had in my head that 5 months had been one of the stages in Seb's development that I'd particularly enjoyed, although I couldn't especially remember why that was, so I was arbitrarily looking forward to reaching Quinn's fifth month.

As it is, she hasn't disappointed, she's really growing in to her own little person and is finally becoming slightly more confident in exploring the world without clinging to me.

She's still "clingy" by other people's standards, I guess, and can be slightly reluctant to be picked up by strangers, but I take that as testament to her having a great, secure attachment to me and I'm happy about that. She's now sitting unaided, which means that I can pop her on the floor on her play mat, surrounded by a few toys, and she'll happily amuse herself whilst I pop and make a cup of tea - which is huge progress, as she'd previously wailed as soon as I even looked as though I might be about to leave the room.

Sitting up on her own has definitely given her a little more independence and she seems very pleased with herself!
The other milestone that I've noticed very recently, is that you no longer have to "try" to get her to laugh, by playing peek-a-boo, or tickling her. She's now laughing as a response to things that she sees, whether it's her brother racing about playing with new toys, or the cat eating his dinner. Yesterday my friends visited with their daughter, who's a day younger than Quinn, and when the other baby was tickled - Quinn would laugh. It seems like a big developmentall leap from just chuckling out of over-stimulation!
Quinn was weighed at 22 weeks, and had managed to get up to 18lbs 14ozs. She's now 24 weeks, so I assume well over 19lbs, and absolutely none of her 3-6 month clothes fit! I managed to get some adorable new baby clothes from Mothercare and Frugi in their post Christmas sales though. We're moving in to Size 2 nappies now (reusable - I realise that a disposable size 2 is tiny!) and she no longer feels like a small baby, with so much more control over her own body and being sack of potatoes sized, she feels far more robust these days!
Quinn's first Christmas was a pretty overwhelming affair to be honest. She loved Christmas morning, sitting in bed with me, Seb and her Dad. She could appreciate Seb's excitement, although she didn't understand what was happening, and loved watching him unwrap presents - but in the afternoon we met up with the rest of Boyfriend's family and she found the chaos and the sheer number of faces to be too much. In the end, we cut celebrations short and brought her home, as it just didn't seem fair to keep her in an environment that she found really distressing. It was a shame, as everyone just wanted to be around her and to enjoy her first Christmas with her - but she just found that really stressful! Boyfriend and realised how calm and laid back we typically are around her, even though we have four children between us, the atmosphere at home is always pretty chilled, and being breastfed on demand, Quinn tends to dictate the pace for everyone else - so being thrust into the hustle and bustle of a big family Christmas must have been really daunting for her!
Unfortunately, the four month sleep regression never really left us. I'm still up every couple of hours at best, breastfeeding, although, Quinn can now pretty much find a boob and latch herself on, without me having to do any more than shuffle in to position - which means night feeds barely wake me up any more. We're exclusively co-sleeping now which makes our night time breastfeeding routine so much easier for everyone involved. I have to admit that although she can be a right pest at times, I love having her in bed with us. Because she and I are so close it feels right to sleep together.
The best thing to have happened in the last month though, really, is the development of Quinn's relationship with her Dad. Being an exclusively breastfed baby has meant that she's been more of a Mummy's Girl than you'd expect from a bottle fed baby, where feeding is shared between parents and potentially with siblings, friends, grandparents and other members of the family. For the first few months of her life Quinn would occasionally grace her Dad with five minute cuddles before complaining and needing to come back to me. It was really quite difficult on Boyfriend and I might write a separate post on that at some point, as I know it's something that a lot of Dad's of breastfed babies struggle with. At last though, she's a lot more interactive with him, and he's definitely her secondary attachment, in that, if she's with someone unfamiliar, and there's the option to go to her Dad, she is comforted by him, and she'll stay with him whilst I shower, or make dinner etc. without complaint. On two occasions in the last month, Boyfriend has taken her for a walk whilst I've had my hair done, and on both occasions she's happily fallen asleep in the pram, aware that I'm not around - which is a big deal for Quinn!

She's also very fond of all three of her brothers, which is so precious to see. She responds to, and recognises, all three of them, and as they all have very different characters, so the dynamic of her relationship with each of them is slightly different, which is lovely to see developing. Her eldest brother turns 16 next week so there's a big gap between the two of them, but he's brilliant with her and it's great to see her little face light up when he walks in to the room.

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for us as a family of six!