Monthly Archives: November 2013

You’ve been framed!

Following on from my post about placentophagy, I recently came across this article courtesy of the Daily Mail app. I read it at night and in the morning thought maybe I’d dreamed it all. But no: apparently the new thing is to make a photo frame out of your placenta “bits” following birth!

After chatting with her midwife housemate at university and realising that many placentas are just chucked out, sustainable design graduate Amanda Cotton has cornered a rather neglected gap in the market by harvesting “the entire placenta to make a frame, first boiling it and then grinding it into small pieces before placing it into a mould with resin.” The idea is that you can then put an image of your little darling – maybe the scan photo – in the frame, and keep it forever and ever.


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Take your daughter to work

Harriet recently pointed me to The Guardian’s coverage celebrating your friend and mine, Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, and her daughter Vittoria’s two year stint within the European Parliament.
Ms Ronzulli certainly deserves respect for wrangling an infant and then toddler while still doing her job – I am not sure Elphie and I are quite cut out for it…

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Use of nipple shields is controversial in the world of breastfeeding and for good reason – you shouldn’t need them. Nipple shields should be a short term solution – if your baby can’t latch or breastfeeding is painful then nipple shields help in that they allow the baby to latch and allow the nipples to heal, but they can’t resolve the problem and that problem really does need to be identified and resolved. And I think that is the crux of the problem not so much with nipple shields themselves – in reality they are an amazing device which would otherwise have prevented me from breastfeeding – but because they are recommended without due care and attention.
I was told to use them because my nipples were flat, I used them and it was only six weeks later when I thought I should wean Elphie off them that it was discovered that my nipples in fact were not flat, Elphie was tongue tied. But by then it was too late – Elphie was hooked on them and although physically she could nurse normally after the revision, she didn’t want to – she was used to the silicon nipple and didn’t want this weird fleshy nipple that required a slightly different technique (wider mouth, less just sucking it in).

I battled to get her to breastfeed normally – tears were shed (both hers and mine), breastfeeding drop-ins were attended, we reverted to skin to skin, and although sometimes she would latch on most of the time she wouldn’t and she would cry until I gave up and went for the shield.

I started questioning myself – why was I so desperate to wean her off the shields? She was feeding well on them, my milk supply seemed fine and she seemed to hate breastfeeding without them. The advantages of normal breastfeeding over doing so with the shields would be less sterilising and less risk of meltdowns if I forgot the shields and less of a dent in my pride due to an inability to breastfeed. But were these really reasons to upset her? Wasn’t I just being selfish trying to get her off them? I was trying to be responsive to my baby and led by her and yet here I was doing precisely the opposite, trying to get her to do something she obviously didn’t want to do.

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Perchance to wean

One session of my recent NCT postnatal course was devoted to the topic of weaning our babies.

What is weaning?

I think the word “weaning” in this context is slightly misleading, as it often tends to be paired with “off”; for example, “I weaned myself off cake”. The definition according to Google (my new favourite dictionary) is indeed a bit contradictory:

wean wiːn/ verb

  1. accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother’s milk;
  2. accustom (someone) to managing without something which they have become dependent on: “the doctor tried to wean her off the sleeping pills”;
  3. be strongly influenced by (something), especially from an early age: “I was weaned on a regular diet of Hollywood fantasy”.

In the case of weaning a baby, it does not mean automatically stopping breastfeeding, unless you want to or need to for other reasons. A baby is not supposed to have cow’s milk as a drink until they are a year old, due to digestive issues, so if you remove breast milk from the equation at any point in their first year you will have to replace it with formula. Weaning a baby means moving them “ON” to solid food, which is ingested alongside – not instead of – milk. I for one didn’t understand this until I became pregnant, and a couple of people I’ve talked to since have also assumed that any breastfeeding beyond six months is for kicks rather than any real nutritional purpose (one source of confusion might be the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of “exclusive breastfeeding” for the first six months – the key is in the word “exclusive”!)

When to start?

The class leader asked us when we thought a baby was ready to start eating solid food – in other words, an opportunity for her to explode some apparent myths around the subject:

“When he shows interest in me eating.”
Reaching out for and staring at your food looks he wants to eat, but babies show interest in everything you do, and you eating is no more exciting for a baby than you washing up or drying your hair. It’s also true, I suppose, that a baby would not necessarily connect your eating activity with hunger being satisfied. This does make me feel better that at the moment I usually eat breakfast while Pip himself feeds and grab lunch while he sleeps. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that babies also love to copy, so when weaning starts you can eat alongside your baby to encourage them.

“When he starts waking more at night.”
Understandably, one of my classmates suggested a baby starts needing food when milk does not seem to sustain them through the night any more (if it ever did!) – but the teacher pointed out that in terms of calorific content, the foods a baby eats at first are far less filling than milk. Bites of fruit and veg and maybe a spoonful of baby rice aren’t going to tank up your baby enough to make a difference. Apparently it isn’t until a baby is around 8-9 months old that the amount and nature of the food they eat can actually fill them up to the point where they do start to need less milk – more of which later.

The three main things you do need to ensure are in place before commencing weaning are:

  • Good head control;
  • Can reach out to something, pick it up and bring it to their mouth;
  • Baby is around six months old and definitely no younger than 17 weeks.


Essentially, there are two types of weaning, commonly known as parent-led and baby-led.

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The most important job

“How insulting is it to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I’m betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.”
Why have kids, Jessica Valenti

If you’d asked me six months ago what I thought of the above statement then I would have probably said that I wholeheartedly agreed. If I had the potential within me for greatness in some field then I wanted to achieve that greatness alongside having a family. Gone should be the days where only men with families can be successful.

But now, four months into motherhood, I am a lot more conflicted.

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Teething troubles

Why aren’t all babies born with teeth? It would surely save all the grief of painful teething. The answer? What else but breastfeeding! In fact, most mammals are born without teeth in order to comfortably nurse; as with us, their milk teeth emerge later (exceptions include the platypus, which never develops any teeth at all!)

For infant mammals of the human type, the average age for teething is around 5-6 months old, but some babies don’t get their first teeth until much later, and other little nippers are born with teeth. The usual order is the bottom front teeth, followed by the top front teeth. Then, the teeth either side appear, and on it goes until the back molars come through (apparently the most painful as they are the biggest). Most children have a full on grin of milk teeth by the time they are two and a half years old. Yes, teething lasts for TWO years! The photo below shows a tooth beginning to emerge at the lower right hand side of the baby’s mouth (and check out the beautifully untied tongue too!)Teething_2

How do you know it’s teething?

At nearly four months, Pip doesn’t actually have any teeth yet, but he has recently appeared to be in the “pre-teething” stage which commonly happens around now: babies can experience symptoms for a couple of months before they get anything to show for it. Signs of teething include the following, all of which Pip has shown so far:

  • red flushed cheeks or face
  • heavy drooling
  • gum rubbing, biting or sucking
  • rubbing the ear
  • irritable and unsettled

Other common things to watch out for include fretfulness at night, and disturbed feeds: fortunately, we haven’t had either of those (yet). However, one side effect Pip has had is a bit of nappy rash. This is not an official symptom of teething as the link hasn’t been proved; notes that “it is unclear why teething can lead to nappy rash although it is thought that it is due to your baby producing more saliva.” Certainly, in terms of nappies, Pip has gone from a once-a-day baby (occasionally even missing a day) to a three-or-four-times-a-day baby. It can’t be a coincidence! Anyway, Metanium seems to do the trick.

So what can we do about it?

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You make me tongue-tied…Part II

Although Lactation Consultant No.1 had informed me I needed a whole new appointment to get Pip’s mouth checked, before we’d even started drinking our tea Lactation Consultant No.2 whipped on her rubber gloves and delved right in there – a process which took approximately 20 seconds. No.2’s hunch had been correct: Pip had a posterior tongue tie.

I won’t go into detail about what tongue tie is, as if you have been paying attention you should already know all about it thanks to Elly’s post on the topic!

Like Elphie, Pip’s tongue had been checked early on by the midwife and health visitor and we were assured that his was untied. It had therefore never really crossed my mind that my continuing issues with breastfeeding could have anything to do with that. However, it all started to make complete sense: as his tongue couldn’t extend over his lower gums and cushion my nipples, his gums had been repeatedly chafing against me which caused the soreness. The thing is, Pip had been latching on well in his own way and always opened his mouth wide, so people who had checked my breastfeeding had reassured me that it looked like we were doing it right! LC No.2 also noticed that when he cried (which surprisingly enough, happened shortly after she’d been poking around in his mouth with a rubber glove) he didn’t raise his tongue up which is apparently another sign – but I didn’t know this was something we were supposed to look out for. No-one told me his tongue was supposed to be so rock and roll!


Other symptoms we experienced were as follows (taken from the comprehensive Milk Matters list also linked to by Elly in her post):

  • Persistent very sore or damaged/blistered nipples
  • Compressed nipples (change in shape) and/or blanching after feeding
  • Excessive sucking need – baby wants to feed or suck very frequently/constantly.
  • Baby only swallows infrequently or swallows well for initial “milk ejection” (letdown), but then swallows become less frequent/sporadic.  In young babies this may result in falling asleep quickly at the breast.
  • Mammoth feeds – or falls asleep quickly and then wakes hungry as soon as breast/bottle is removed.
  • Very frequent feeds
  • Mastitis/blocked ducts
  • Tongue tremor whilst feeding
  • Unable to protrude tongue
  • Displays stressed body language when feeding – hands up near face, fingers splayed.
  • Restricted tongue elevation when crying.

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