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This is NOT Breastfeeding Advocacy

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This evening I saw the most beautiful image of a baby breastfeeding. It was in pastels I think – the kind of picture that jumps out from your Facebook feed. Just stunning.

It was posted with the words… “If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an EXCUSE”.

I am so incensed by the tainting of that image that I’m struggling to express the many levels on which it is wrong:

  1. If breastfeeding isn’t important to you, then why would you bother making excuses? It’s not a priority for you. No need to justify.
  2. If breastfeeding is important to you and it doesn’t work out, then whatever it was that you couldn’t handle, be it mental or physical is a reason, not an excuse. No need to justify.
  3. The percentage of women in the UK who give up breastfeeding before they wanted to is high. So chances are they’ve tried bloody hard to make it work – probably harder than some women who manage to breastfeed for longer. Nothing they tried worked. No need to justify.
  4. Some women actually can’t breastfeed. Yes, we know that it’s a tiny number. But it doesn’t matter how important it is to them, they won’t “find a way” to feed their baby themselves. No need to justify.
  5. Some women could have breastfed, but needed support. Sometimes the right support isn’t forthcoming even when you know to ask for it. In that scenario, you may as well be physically unable to breastfeed. No need to justify.

The bottom line is, there is never any need to justify. We all know that breastfeeding has benefits for your baby and breastfeeding supporters will do everything they can to help you succeed. But if you don’t feel it’s right for you, or you hoped it would be and it doesn’t work out then so be it. It is your decision and your right to make that decision without guilt or fear of judgement.

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Win a Contented Calf Breastfeeding Recipe Book

Breastfeeding Cookbook
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Breastfeeding and diet can be an emotive issue – it’s damn hard to cook or eat with a newborn in tow and often the priority is calories rather than nutritional value (I survived on a diet of chocolate buttons for weeks despite Mr MilkChic’s best efforts!).

Breastfeeding Cookbook

Milk supply can be a major concern for nursing mothers and particularly those who give birth prematurely. While, unless extremely malnourished, most mothers can produce adequate amounts of breastmilk, the food you eat does affect your milk and more importantly your own energy levels (a poor diet is more likely to affect you than your baby). Breastfeeding places high demands on your stores of energy and protein so it makes sense to eat well where you can.

Elena Cimelli’s Contented Calf Cookbook aims to support nursing mums with lots of tasty and nutritious recipes focusing on lactogenic ingredients (foods which help promote milk production).

lactogenic/ lac·to·gen·ic  /?lakt??jenik

(of a hormone or other substance) Inducing milk secretion.

Being honest, I have mixed feelings on lactogenic foods. The evidence definitely points to certain foods having milk boosting properties which can be helpful to new mums. However, I’m also inclined to believe that for many there are times when the pressure to eat the right things, use the right nappies, wean at the right moment, have the perfect sleep routine etc. etc. can lead to unnecessary insecurities. I know Elena agrees with me that for the vast majority of us, who are lucky enough to have the physical ability to produce enough milk for our babies, fear and insecurity are far greater dangers to the breastfeeding relationship than a less than perfect diet and the Contented Calf approach is definitely not about increasing the pressure.

So… while neither Elena or I would not want you to start obsessing about your diet in any way, shape or form (for some perspective, read some reassuring facts here), I wholeheartedly recommend this book – it’s a really good recipe book that just happens to be aimed at breastfeeding women. It’s also offers some great ideas for vegetarians and vegans and for gluten-free diets and frankly I love it.

Rather than giving you a list of “good” and “bad” foods, it actually tells you what to do with them to make an enjoyable meal. In fact, the recipes use similar foods to those I enjoyed during pregnancy which did made me wonder if that was one of the reasons I was so lucky in the early weeks. I also like that a lot of the recipes are freezable and perfect for filling the freezer in preparation for the new arrival. Maybe the answer is to build up your reserves while you have the chance?

The book is helpfully split into breakfasts, lunches, dinners, sweet things and drinks. While you might need to rethink your store cupboard a little – nuts and seeds are particularly useful – they are meals that will work for all the family with old favourites such as stew and dumplings and fishcakes reworked to include breastfeeding friendly ingredients. You can try one of Elena’s recipes for Thai Coconut and Chicken Soup here to see what I mean.

If like me, you aren’t supermum enough to make ahead, the meals are designed to be prepared in a naptime. Although I did find the list of ingredients a little daunting at first, the recipes I tried were easy to follow and gave tasty, reliable results. As a cook of limited ability, the thought that I could realistically have been knocking up “proper” meals in a naptime while small one was an even smaller one is very appealing, not least because the thought of me making something decent for dinner would have blown Mr MilkChic’s mind!

Our favourite so far is the chicken, almond & apricot casserole, something that will definitely become a staple in our household. We made this for guests, not one of whom was pregnant or breastfeeding and everybody loved it.

To be in with a chance of winning your own copy of The Contented Calf Cookbook, please leave a comment below. For a bonus entry, either share the competition on Facebook or tweet the following:

I’ve entered to #win The @ContentedCalf Cookbook with @milkchic http://milkchic.co.uk/66224 #food #breastfeeding #pregnancy

Terms & Conditions: Entry open to UK & Ireland only. Closing date: 2nd November 2013 Extended to Monday 4th November 23:59 due to website issues. Winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries. No cash alternative. If the winner cannot be contacted after 7 days, an alternative may be chosen. Disclosure: I received a review copy of The Contented Calf Cookbook: Nourishing Recipes for Breastfeeding Mums for this post so that I could try some of the recipes.

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The Duchess of Cambridge is Breastfeeding

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Royal Baby Newspaper CoverAs soon as baby George arrived, speculation moved to whether the Duchess of Cambridge was breastfeeding. Chances were she was going to – most women in the UK start out trying to breastfeed. In the latest Infant Feeding Survey (2010) the proportion of babies breastfed at birth in the UK was 81%. Breastfeeding was most common among mothers who were: aged 30 or over, from minority ethnic groups, left education aged over 18, in managerial and professional occupations and living in the least deprived areas. 3 out of 4…

When she was spotted in a rather nice nursing dress, it was a pretty sure thing. Apparently it is now officially confirmed that she has chosen to breastfeed the new Prince.

Of course whether she continues to breastfeed is something else. The same 2010 survey found that by 3 months the number of women exclusively breastfeeding was only 17% with another 31% mixed feeding. That means that nearly half of those women don’t get to the 3 month milestone.

You’ll notice I don’t use the phrase “give up” – too emotive and largely just not true. Some of those mums actively chose to stop breastfeeding because it didn’t suit their family – fair enough. But statistics show that the majority of breastfeeding mums wean before they want to, many battling through all sorts of issues (mastitis, tongue tie, bad advice, fear of breastfeeding in public…) without the right support for far too long and finally deciding with much heartache that breastfeeding can’t work for them. Giving up doesn’t come into it.

There is no one size fits all support or advice for breastfeeding mums – some need physical support, some need emotional support, some need medical support, some need someone to make the tea and feed them chocolate buttons… (thanks darling!), but we nearly all need something, and if that support doesn’t come in the right shape at the right time, then chances are the breastfeeding relationship will falter.

Royal sources are quoted in The Mirror saying, “…Don’t expect Kate to be photographed breast-feeding. She does not want to become a pin-up for the breast-feeding lobby.”. While Kate clearly doesn’t want the media pressure of becoming a breastfeeding advocate (and who would?), the reality is that her parenting choices will influence new mums around the world, regardless of whether she is ever seen breastfeeding in public. It’s a big deal.

Kate will be surrounded by supportive women (the Queen breastfed, as did her mother before her) and will I’m sure be given all the help in the world, but even with the best support available, the pressure to be this perfect can’t be helpful – my first breastfeed in front of other people was a nervous experience as I paranoidly assumed everyone was watching me. In my case they weren’t, but what if they all really were watching you?

Much as it’s great to hear that she is breastfeeding, being a Princess doesn’t make Kate any less a new mum. She has enough responsibility at this point looking after her baby and herself, without the stress of trying to please everyone else. I hope for her sake that she is getting the right kind of breastfeeding support for her, and whether she moves to formula within days or breastfeeds him until toddlerhood, she makes those choices without pressure or judgement. And in that respect, may you all be treated like Princesses!

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Breastmilk Jewellery?

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You can find breastfeeding jewellery all over the place… but I’d never seen jewellery made of breastmilk before this week! A number of sellers on Etsy have been producing designs from preserved breastmilk to commemorate your breastfeeding experience. You can even buy kits to make your own breast milk jewellery!

I wasn’t sure. “Preserved breastmilk” makes me think instantly of that sour milk smell that nursing bras get after a while no matter how carefully you wash them – not exactly the memory I would have wanted to cherish.

There are some really quite cute designs though.

©2002-2013 Hollyday Designs.MommyMilk® Creations Breast Milk Bead™ Pendants©2002-2013 Hollyday Designs.

Maybe I would have been tempted. What do you think?

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A-Z of Breastfeeding

G is for...
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G is for...G is for…

Gel pads – Little breast shaped sachets of gel which you can cool in the fridge to soothe sore breasts.

Glider chair (see nursing chair) – A chair with smooth forward and back gliding motion, designed to soothe baby while you breastfeed. Having never owned one, I don’t know how well they soothe, but they are very comfortable to breastfeed in.

Groups – Support groups can be a lifesaver when you’re struggling with breastfeeding or parenthood in general. Get to know your local groups before baby is born if you can and try not to prejudge the mums there – new babies can be a real leveller, and if nothing else it’s a relief to know that even the mums who look perfect aren’t coping as well as they seem!

Growth spurts – Babies don’t follow the gentle curves that most books show. They grow in fits and starts in order to keep us constantly concerned about their weight gain and food intake. If your baby suddenly turns into a bottomless pit and you feel glued to the sofa as baby feeds every hour, don’t panic and assume there’s an issue with your supply. Growth spurts traditionally occur almost constantly during the first 6 weeks, at 3-4 months, 6 months and 9 months. They can feel endless when you’re in the middle of one, but hang on in there, this too will pass.

Guidelines – The WHO infant feeding guidelines state that for optimum health, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. From then onwards they should be given solid food while breastfeeding continues for up to two years and beyond.

Guilt – Something parents seem to be good at. I’m not going to go into the whole “breastfeeding guilt” thing here. There is no reason to feel guilty when you’re trying do your best for your child and your family.

Gymnastics – If you find yourself breastfeeding an older baby or toddler, you’ll soon understand why this is in a breastfeeding glossary. Babies become very distractible and can end up in all sorts of strange positions.

Any more? Please add them in the comments!

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