Five things I learned on a trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park

img_4578-jpg-wallabie-big

I wish I could start this list with number 1 being ‘To manage my own expectations of family days out’ but I’m afraid it’s a trick I’m yet to learn. I’m an obsessive planner, and I like my fun to be organised. If there isn’t an itinerary I’m basically not going to enjoy myself, okay? Unless you feed me alcohol. Not really zoo compatible.

Small children, are, of course, allergic to planning. And mine essentially seem to enjoy being miserable precisely when I’ve gone to most effort to ensure we’re going to have an awesome brilliant day of memories. Knobheads.

Add this to Dadonthenetheredge’s own natural barriers to wearing remotely suitable clothing or footwear for any given activity, and his inexplicable hostility to having his down time mercilessly driven to within an inch of everyone’s lives, the day was fraught with risk from the outset.

Fortunately, every time I do persuade Dadonthenetheredge and the small people to embark on a glorious family outing, I do learn something from the experience. Sometimes the things I learn are even vaguely useful for the future. So I thought I’d share five things I learned at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

  1. Weather forecasts are wank

Look, all I ask is that people at the Met office please predict the very future with some degree of puffin-twonking accuracy. Is the act of efficient and effective prophecy really, really that difficult? Zip it, meteorologists, I don’t want to hear it. You told me it wasn’t going to rain until 3. I therefore do not expect the heavens to open at 11.

In hindsight leaving the waterproofs in the car was a rookie parenting mistake. Which only made me crosser. Lesson re-learnt. It doesn’t matter how heavy the bloody picnic is – add them to the sodding (sodden) bag.

1.5 Related to 1, it turns out my cag in a bag isn’t as waterproof as I had hoped.

Ggrrrffttt.

  1. The zoo paradox IS REAL

Obviously you don’t want to go to a zoo where the animals are trapped in tiny cages, rocking and miserable. This will trigger not only your own personal discomfort and impotent guilt, but possibly awkward conversations with small people.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park is not like this. It is a conservationist type of zoo, with large enclosures stuffed with environmental enrichment.

By which, of course, I mean many of the animals are far, far away and obscured by logs/trees/mounds/ditches so you can’t bloody see them. Certainly if you are under 5, you don’t have the mental or optical focus to look at and appreciate tiny slivers of distant wildlife through copious foliage. Sorry, enrichment.

While most of me knows that this is OBVIOUSLY what’s best for the animal, the rest of me wants you to dress them in tutus and make them dance for my children’s amusement.

Ta na! The zoo paradox.

  1. It is not furry in a wallaby pouch

This is sort of the opposite of the zoo paradox. This is what happens when you get too close to the animals, which you can also do at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. You can actually go into the enclosures with the lemurs, and with the wallabies.

I have always loved marsupials – I mean what’s not to like? Those cute fluffy little babies peeping out from their pouches, safe and snuggly in their little furry homes, always hugging their Mummies. Sooooooo cute!

No.

I have now stared at point blank range into the pouch of a wallaby (when her baby had hopped off elsewhere) and I saw things I’ve not seen since I first battled to insert a tampon, with the aid of nothing but pubescent flexibility and a Holly Hobbie hand mirror.

Yep. Basically it’s a pink fleshy vagina in there.

Now look, I’m not in the least little bit offended by vaginas. I’ve got one. I rather like it. It’s so far proved to be both useful, and indeed rewarding. But I have always questioned the aesthetic of the design (not to mention the inadvisable proximity to the waste outlet), and it was the SHOCK more than anything else. I mean, who knew??

What’s more, this one looked somewhat raw. I’m not sure what the baby had been doing in there, but it made me very glad that once the Small Small Person was out, I didn’t have to stuff her back up there for safekeeping. (There are occasions, however, when she’s so incredibly clingy and pawy I have to question whether this isn’t actually her end goal).

It was a reminder that there are in fact some advantages to the zoo paradox, because in reality animals (like children) tend to be pooier, fleshier and generally ickier than one supposed when one was able to maintain a decorous distance.

This may not be one of the day’s lessons that will come into much use in the future, but basically if I have to have my rose-tinted, marsupial-loving illusions shattered, so do you.

  1. Slides best beasts (if you’re under 5)

It turns out my delightful children couldn’t give two flying fuck-a-roonies about any of the wildlife, so it’s a bloody good job that Yorkshire Wildlife Park anticipated this and is well equipped with other small person entertainments. Most of these are slides, and most of them are pretty awesome. (Apart from the one that gave me a friction burn on my arm. YEOUWCH).

In the end I was forced to try and go with the flow (not my forte) and to forget that my local park, also endowed with slides, doesn’t charge the same entry fee. Instead I shifted my focus to attempt to get as many pictures as possible of my disinterested offspring in the vicinity of wild beasts as proof for later life that we enjoyed family days out together, dammit.

  1. Beware of baboons

Some of the fabulous slides at Yorkshire Wildlife Park are hosted in a frankly brilliant play centre. (We spent some time here because of the arse-bombling rain. See no 1). Forget your primary-coloured plastic-padded climbing frames; this is a wooden wonderland with tunnels, ropes, swings, bridges and fake grass. It’s basically like a giant zoo enclosure itself.

This feeling is intensified by the fact it shares one glass wall with the baboon enclosure next door. The problem is, their enrichment is SHIT in comparison with the play centre. (This is the first and only sign of animal cruelty/baiting/torture in the whole Park).

Judging from the icy death stare levelled at me by one baboon inhabitant, they know they’ve been shortchanged. And believe me, friends, they are NOT HAPPY. There was not just death in the depths of those eyes: there was the promise of vengeance. Annihilation. DOOM.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Plant of the Apes. (To be honest I don’t know if I have). But I’m pretty sure this is how it starts. If those baboons ever make a break for freedom, Doncaster is fucking screwed.

The beady-eyed evils I received so unnerved me that I finally surrendered to the moaning of my ungrateful family and consented to let the ‘fun’ end ahead of schedule. We left. Hastily.

Look, all I’m saying is that now summer is mostly over I’m going to let my personal body hair grow out for a bit, and save up the blue and red face paint for my arse cheeks, just in case the worst should happen.

I can only suggest you do the same.

 

Mumonthenetheredge

Goodbye baby, Hello Big Girl

Well, it’s finally here. The Big Small Person starts school. And despite my best intentions (and indeed my disgust) I’m an absolute WRECK. I know it’s just school. I know it’s exciting. I know she’ll be fine. But if I’m going down, dagnammit, I’m taking you all with me. Through the medium of mediocre poetry…

 

Goodbye baby, starting school
Decked out in uniform –
So big and strong and different
From the baby that was born.

Goodbye baby, four years old
So small and yet so wise.
I still see you as my baby,
Through your gingham disguise.

Goodbye baby, off you go
To start a brand new chapter.
I’ll be here, my mind aspin
With memories I can’t capture.

Goodbye baby, always active –
Finding your new groove.
But I know the flutter deep inside
Of your first flickering move.

Goodbye baby, whose tiny foot
Once fit inside my palm
Whose soul burned mine forever,
Both tinder and then balm.

Goodbye baby, suddenly
Turned into a young girl.
Whose pudgy thighs and gurgles
Disappeared in life’s cruel whirl.

Goodbye baby, and forgive me
For I know you still exist!
But time is moving far too fast
One blink, and so much missed.

Goodbye baby, my chest hurts
With pain and joy and pride.
I told the world I would be fine,
But now I know I lied.

Goodbye baby, you ARE ready –
It’s me lagging behind,
Astounded by your beauty
And the quick twists of your mind.

Goodbye baby, please don’t cling
I don’t think that I can bear it.
You’ll love it here, I know you will –
Like I know that I can’t share it.

Goodbye baby, I will smile
And keep the tears inside.
Because this is yours – it isn’t mine
I’m just here for the ride.

Goodbye baby, don’t be scared
It’s new, but that’s okay.
Those butterflies are helping you
Feel light enough to play.

Goodbye baby, I see you
Put on your bravest face,
And battle with your body
To keep the mask in place.

Goodbye baby, I am sorry
You have my fears and woes.
They’re heavy, but I promise
You’ll have highs as well as lows.

Goodbye baby, feeling wobbly
Just always think of this –
The brand of love you wear all day,
From every goodbye kiss.

Goodbye baby, good luck too
But I know you’ll find your path –
Because you are bold, brave, kind and true
With sunshine in your laugh.

Goodbye baby, go explore
And laugh, and learn and TRY
You’ve crawled and walked and run along,
But now it’s time to fly!

Goodbye baby, time to go
And learn to change the world
As step-by-step and thought-by-thought,
Your potential is unfurled.

Goodbye baby, please be kind:
Be the best you you can be.
I can’t wait to hear about it,
Counting down to half past three.

Goodbye baby, I LOVE you.
Remember on weekdays,
That part of you lives in my heart
And me in yours, always.

Goodbye baby, once for all
Because when you come back home
You’ll be my babe in arms no more,
Less mine and more your own.

Goodbye baby, please just promise
You won’t grow up too fast.
I still need my baby in my arms,
And not just in the past.

Goodbye baby, hello big girl –
Look back once in awhile.
Because I’ll still be here watching,
Just waiting for your smile.

Home Judgement Teacher Visit

Has anyone else with a new school starter got one of those Home Judgement Teacher Visits this week? These are a bit like the Home Judgement Midwife Visit you get when you’re pregnant, basically to check whether your abode is fit for infant/Small Person occupation.

Anyway, the Home Judgement Teacher Visit is now a THING, which I gather happens across the country, not just in Sheffield on the Nether Edge.

I’d convinced myself I was totally fine and cool with this, until I remembered that I’m pretty much never totally fine and cool about ANYTHING, and that my visit takes place VERY SHORTLY.

Oh, I know it’s all about smoothing the transition for my child, etc etc, but I STILL feel like I have to frantically prove my worth as a parent.I have therefore found myself making the following To Do list for today, by way of preparation. Feel free to use it yourself, if you too have to endure a Home Judgement Teacher Visit this week.

  1. Reduce debris and increase visible floor-space by creating skyscraper piles of miscellaneous crap.
  2. Apply hoover to newly exposed carpet.
  3. Fail to find air freshener and spray old perfume around house instead.
  4. Open windows to reduce lung-clogging, boudoir musk.
  5. Run baby wipes over toilet and check bowl for residue/s.
  6. Ban everyone from further toilet use.
  7. Realise Big Small Person may wish to show off its room, and throw everything into wardrobe.
  8. Inform Big Small Person large monsters now live in wardrobe and they MUST NOT OPEN IT.  
  9. Make a note to deal with this fall-out before bedtime.
  10. Locate educational jigsaw-type toys from the bottom of toy box, and assemble neatly on table.
  11. Attempt to prevent Big Small Person from throwing these novel items around in excitement.
  12. Attempt to prevent Small Small Person from eating them.
  13. Run dishcloth over both children in lieu of flannel, which keeps inexplicably going missing (Baby?).
  14. Ignore complaints they now smell of old cabbage.
  15. Consider spraying children with perfume.
  16. Change stained clothing and make futile request that children not dribble, draw or splodge on themselves for at least the next two minutes.
  17. Park them in front of TV in desperate attempt to achieve 16.
  18. Locate remote to switch TV off as soon as doorbell goes in case of screen-time based judgement.
  19. Promptly lose TV remote.
  20. Check for teabags and fill kettle.
  21. Try and find biscuits which aren’t made by Organix and don’t taste of cardboard.
  22. Dig through miscellaneous piles of crap for child artwork, to display on fridge.
  23. Battle magnets for a wasted 20 minutes, swearing under breath and getting a bit of a dab on.
  24. Brainstorm list of Qs for teacher, including what to take on the first day (PE kit? Does this involve plimsolls or bare feet? Change of clothes? Snacks?)
  25. Consider how to broach the fact the Big Small Person still refuses to wipe it’s own bum, and my own personal fear of skid marks, (the biggest worry for all new-starter parents after nits and worms).
  26. Frantically try and get the Small Small Person to nap, so it’s not too much of a dickhead and allows adults to momentarily converse.
  27. Do final sweep of the living room for cat sick, errant slut-Barbies (why do they all end up looking like this??), and stray cheerios.
  28. Dismiss the idea of medicating social anxiety with wine before lunchtime.
  29. Repeat, repeat, repeat: I shall not be intense and weird; I shall not be intense and weird; I shall not be intense and weird.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong???

Good luck, folks.

Mumonthenetheredge

We need to talk about returning to work

Return to work

This week’s report about the rise in discrimination in the workplace against new and expectant mothers comes as no surprise to me. It probably didn’t surprise you either.

Unfortunately, though, this is not just a simple matter of recognising injustice and redressing the balance. I’m afraid it’s far more complicated than that – and goes deep into the very fabric of our society – not to mention biology and psychology.

And that means we’re going to have to have some potentially awkward, and unnervingly contentious conversations.

Returning to the workplace after having children is HARD. Waaaay harder than I thought it was as going to be.

It’s hard for everyone. (It’s clearly hardest – as the report points out – for those in low-paid jobs on zero hours contracts forced to go back before they or their babies are ready).

I naively thought I’d slip back into my work shoes and carry on pretty much where I’d left off. I forgot that my feet – quite literally – grew an entire size during my pregnancy and didn’t shrink back down. (Yes this is a thing). Anyway, for whatever reason – those work shoes didn’t fit quite as they had done before.

The truth of the matter is that whatever your role, whatever your level, whatever your industry, when you return you are NOT the same employee that left. You can’t be – because you’re fundamentally not the same person in the same place.

That doesn’t, by any means, take away your talent, experience or expertise. It doesn’t necessarily make you any worse at your job – it can in fact make you better if you get the chance to be better – but it certainly makes you different. And amongst other things, we need to talk honestly about that difference.

We need to talk about the fact that return to workers have new priorities and commitments. They may not have the hours to throw in for that big pitch or urgent deadline. They may not be able travel anymore. They may have to drop everything at a moments notice for a sick dependent. Their job – shock horror – may no longer be the be-all and end-all of their lives.

We need to talk about the UK’s prevalent long hours culture, and the level of commitment employers require and reward. That unwritten expectation that people will go above and beyond if they want to go far – which basically precludes primary carers.

We need to talk about what we can’t change – like it being women who physically have the babies, and then the boobs to feed them. Making them often, ergo, the primary carer.

We need to talk about why since legislation came in to allow parents to share parental leave, so few families have taken this option.

We need to talk about the cost, quality, and availability of childcare.

We need to talk about the lack of funded support services for new and expectant parents.

We need to talk about school hours and holidays and how that’s supposed to fit in with the expectation parents will work 9am-5pm +

We need to talk about the army of unpaid grandparents taking up the care slack and plugging the gaps in the system – and what on earth you do if you don’t have any.

We need to talk about the lack of part time roles or job shares at all levels, and across all kinds of industries. We need to talk about why it is so hard to excel in part time work, and advance a career.

We need to talk about why and how females  – despite performing better than their male counterparts at school and university – face discrimination in the workplace even before they have children. Why they are paid and promoted less.

We need to talk about why girls are choosing subjects and careers that are ‘worth’ less and paid less than boys. (Why, for instance, having been instrumental in early computing, they are now under represented in the modern tech world).

We need to talk about the fact that in so many UK households the male still earns more than the female, making it financially sensible for her to make the career sacrifices for their family.

We need to talk about the reality that parenting is a choice which inherently involves sacrifices – of all kinds. That no one can have it all, and that ALL families have to juggle to find their balance – to keep all the balls in the air.

We have to talk about what some of those sacrifices really look like.

We need to talk about how much harder that balance is to achieve for single parent families. And why the majority of those single parents are women.

We need to talk about how such a big life change can change someone’s perspective, and with it their career aspirations. We need to talk about how that’s okay, too.

We need to talk about the impact sleep deprivation has on the cognitive functions, personal performance and even personalities of new (and old) parents.

We need to talk about the wider impact of parenthood on mums AND dads. We need to talk about hormones, postnatal depression and mental health.

We need to talk about why rearing children continues to be so undervalued in our society. We need to talk about attitudes to stay at home mums, to working mums, to mums on benefits, to young mums.

We need to talk about why as a society we SHOULD be collectively supporting the growth and development of the next generation – the workers (and carers!) of the future – by supporting their parents. (Because people clearly aren’t getting it).

We need to talk about the legislation and loopholes that are allowing – and indeed encouraging – employers to save money by avoiding their obligations to parents.

We need to talk about the fact that even organisations obeying the letter of the law still aren’t really supporting or empowering their female employees.

We need to talk about the fact that meeting maternity requirements can put small and even medium-sized enterprises under extreme pressure, and how that might be mitigated or subsidised.

Look, in short, this is not an easy subject. It IS quite an emotive one.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do believe the very first and most important step towards solutions must be just to talk about it, full stop.

This week’s report gives us that opportunity. And I’d really love to hear about your experiences.

 

Mumonthenetheredge

9 things I have learnt about breastfeeding

IMG_4237.JPG world boobs

This week, in case you missed it, is/was apparently World Breastfeeding Week. (Go Le Boobs!)

I personally met this news with relatively mixed emotions, as I am reaching the end of my own breastfeeding journey.

Yes, as the Small Small Person wobbles into toddlerhood, her interest in the boobies is waning day-by-day, and things are definitely getting generally emptier and dryer. (Apart from my throat and eyes, which need no encouragement in getting fuller and wetter).

I’m going to miss it. A lot.

So I thought this was as good a time as any to share with you 9 things I have learnt about breastfeeding.

 

  1. FED is best

I had one baby that I was determined to breastfeed. It tried to starve itself, got hospitalised, and I ended up bottle feeding it. I then had one baby that I swore to bottle feed from the word GO. I mix-fed for a bit, and then ended up exclusively breastfeeding it.

Meh. I know this: Breast is not best. Fed is best. Whatever is getting you all through the day is best.

And aren’t we bloody lucky that some genius out there invented formula so if and when things go tits up, so to speak, your baby can eat, and grow and thrive?

2. It’s hard.

Nope, harder than that. And IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS.

When I first thought about breastfeeding in an NCT class more than four years ago, I thought I knew it would be painful etc, but that I was strong and tough enough to power on through it.

Ha ha ha ha ha! I was so cute. Stupid, but cute.

The bleeding nipples. The thrush. The mastitis. The hot and cold chills, the hallucinations, the sweats. The bullshit cabbage thing. All of that. But then also the fact it’s a knack – a physical trick of coordination – that for someone who can’t throw, catch or even hold a pen properly – was never going to come particularly easily or naturally.

Instinct? PAH! I have no instincts. If I’d have been born in a time where people needed basic instincts I’d have been strangled at birth, or I’d have eaten the wrong berry, cuddled the wrong sabre tooth or fallen off the wrong cliff. And the baby IS RELATED TO ME. By, like, birth.

Basically, neither me nor the Small People had a Scoobie Dooby Do what we were doing. I expected the babies not to sleep. I expected them not to want to be put down. I had no expectation at all that they would not eat.

Which brings us to 3.

 

  1. There is no right way to do it.

Nobody else will tell you this. When things got hard, you see, I sort of expected there to be actual answers, and for people in the medical profession to give them to me. You know, in order to do the best for me and my baby and stuff.

NOT SO.

In fact I received so much conflicting advice from the endless rounds of midwives, health visitors, healthcare workers, Doctors and breastfeeding support workers, based on so many different organisational, social and personal agendas, I – a relatively intelligent and heavily educated woman of some maturity and experience – couldn’t make head nor tail of it.

Here, you try.

– No, love, use the cradle hold.
– Don’t put your hand there.
– Support the head.
– Make sure she can move her head.
– Don’t put your fingers there!
– Use the C shape.
– Support her back!
– Try the rugby hold.
– Try it lying down.
– Don’t lie down! You’ll suffocate her!
– Make sure she’s got breathing room – press down just by the nipple to create a space.
– What are you doing? Get your hand out of the way!
– She’ll eat when she’s hungry, let her sleep.
– What? Why haven’t you fed her? Wake her up every two hours to feed her!
– Every three hours.
– Every four hours.
– Three hours from the last feed.
– Three hours from the end of the last feed.
– Three hours from the start of the last feed.
– Four hours from the division of the last hour of sleep you got, plus the number you first thought of.
– Feed her on demand.
– Babies don’t starve themselves you know!
– What do you mean she won’t drink anything?
– Your latch looks good to me.
– She’s not latching properly!
– Wake her up by tickling her feet.
– Wake her up with a cold cloth.
– Try an ice cube.
– What are you doing with that ice cube??? They don’t do that in Guantanamo Bay!
– Pump after every feed.
– Pump before every feed.
– What are you doing pumping before a feed? She won’t get the foremilk!
– Pump until you get to the hindmilk.
– Foremilk and hindmilk isn’t really a thing anymore, love.
– Why are you still pumping? It’s time to feed again!
– Keep it in the fridge for six days.
– No! Are you mad? Freeze it for six days, and keep it in the fridge for 24 hours once it’s been opened.
– 12 hours if it’s steralised.
– Take away another three hours.
– She’ll take as much as she wants.
– You’re not feeding her enough!
– Try a pipette.
– Don’t use a pipette! Try a feeding cup.
– Don’t tip it up so much – she’ll choke.
– She’s not getting any like that is she? You need to tip it further.
– Don’t obsess over the millilitres.
– What do you mean you’re not counting how much she’s had?
– She needs at least eight feeds a day.
– She’ll let you know when she’s hungry!
– If you use a bottle now you might as well give up – it’s a slippery slope.
– Why aren’t you topping up with formula after the breastfeed?
– Before the breastfeed.
– Halfway through.
– Just mix pumped breastmilk and formula in the same bottle.
– Don’t mix milks! Are you mad??
– Have you tried a Nuk/Nimby/Dr Browns/other expensive brand?
– You need a latex nipple.
– Boil the water first and refrigerate.
– No – the formula powder has to be made with boiling water to get rid of the bacteria!
– Let it cool on the side.
– Don’t leave milk on the side! Put it in the fridge!
– You’ll have to throw it out now.
– Let’s look at this latch again.
– Try flipping your nipple in.
– Not like that.
– No, wait for her to open her mouth!
– Open her mouth for her.
– Always bring the baby to the breast.
– Always bring the breast to the baby.
– Support the breast with your hand.
– Don’t lift the breast!
– Try and catch her bottom lip.
– She might have a tongue tie.
– There’s no evidence of a tongue tie.
– Try nipple shields.
– Nipple shields are the work of the devil! You’ll just end up on bottles!
– It’s not thrush.
– It’s definitely thrush.
– Go and see your GP about the thrush.
– Ask your midwife about the thrush.

Etc. Repeat to infinity.

Confused yet??? Well I was. Until I figured out that despite all the research and the science and the medical professionals etc, you basically just have to apply common sense and do what feels right for you and your baby.

Which sucks, as nothing feels right because you’ve just had a baby and three nights/weeks/months/years of ZERO sleep.

Big fun.

 

  1. It’s easy

If you made it through the above, this might seem nonsensical to you. But once you’ve cracked it, there’s no denying that breastfeeding really is very convenient.

The first time around, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was wrong with my formula fed baby to stop her crying. Or desperately trying to make, warm or cool bottles in time to stop the crying.

Second time, I just gave my breastfed baby a breast. Sad? Boobie. Wet? Boobie (and then change). Overtired? Boobie. Wind? Boobie.  It solved all problems, always. And life was much calmer and quieter as a result.

I’ll give you that it’s a bit of a tie. I’ve done all the night feeds, and all the early mornings. I’ve missed weekends away with friends and any opportunity for a real lie-in. But the fact remains, overall, it IS easier.

You’re programmed to have a sleep cycle that matches your infant (ACTUAL science, people), and for me that meant that getting up and getting out of bed didn’t feel as deathly as it did with baby number one and the bottles.

Literally, with the first baby, I was homicidal for the first five minutes of being awake, then suicidal for the following five minutes. And then just depressed forever.

Forget all the shit about having the baby weight sucked right out of you etc etc – the big sell pro-lactivists ought to be pedalling to women is this – you’ll find it slightly easier to get up and go back to sleep in the middle of the night.

And sleep – after your baby – will soon become THE  most precious thing in your life. (For approximately the next 5-10 years).

 

  1. Breastfeeding with big boobs (conversely) SUCKS

Having dragged my double Gs around for a good two decades (there isn’t enough alphabet left to explain to you what happened to them when filled with milk), and having spent years spending upwards of £30 on each ugly bra with two inch shoulder straps, I naively thought they would finally come into their own when it came to the real life work of boobs.

Nope. Turns out that that all the extra fatty tissue gives you no lactating advantage whatsoever, and can in fact get in the way.

The logistics themselves are challenging. The sheer ratio of boob to newborn head (approx beachball:apple) is a physical nightmare. The nipple angles and positioning of baby involves both contortion and a lot of propage.

Plus, it is completely impossible to breastfeed discreetly. You are not flashing a sliver of mammary here, you have to drag an entire boob clear of your clothing in order to get your nipple pointing in a direction that’s vaguely latchable.

There’s a word for this process.

And that word is Flollop.

No one want to have to Flollop out a boob in front of their father-in-law. It’s undignified, to say the least.

That of course meant a lot of time sneaking off to the car/bedroom/back room, or planning my day around places with enough cushions, camouflage or other breastfeeding women to feel vaguely comfortable.

Of course it was really terrible for a extro-introvert like me to have to go off on my own all the time for baby cuddles, Facebook time and naps. Awful. Terrible. I don’t know how I got through it, really.

 

  1. Pumping rocks

One of the things that ended my breastfeeding journey with the Big Small Person was how utterly gross I found the process of pumping. Seeing my nipple pulled into an inch diameter and rhythmically sucked two inches down a tube, was not how I thought of my breasts or wanted to see them.

It was ugly, and it was graphically reminiscent of a school trip to a Dairy when I was about 7, which I also found pretty disgusting. (In fact to this day I can’t drink milk and think about udders at the same time. I bet you can’t either. Try it and see).

I also went with a cheap handheld version which only did one boob at a time, which cost 40 minutes I didn’t have in between the two hourly feedings, and which had to be spent with my baby cuddling someone that wasn’t me.

Second time around I hired a hospital-grade pump which did both boobs at once in under ten minutes, I got over my udder phobia, set my alarm for two nighttime pumps on top of nighttime feeds, and I built up my milk supply until demand and supply finally evened out.

Pump up the jam, baby. Or milk. Whatever.

 

  1. Everyone has an opinion: Ignore it.

Breastfeeding provokes strong, strong opinions. People will share these with you, whether you wish to hear them or not. Some will be pro. Some will be anti. All will be influenced by their own personal choices and experiences. (They often will wish to tell you about these, too).

I am opining about breastfeeding in this bloody article.

My very best advice to you is to stop listening – hell stop reading – and do what you want, where you want, how you want.

This is harder than it looks (are you still reading???) because you’re tired and weak and want definitive answers that don’t exist, and the people telling you stuff are often medical professionals and friends or family that you respect and want the best for you.

I’m yet, for instance, to have a conversation with my (lovely and supportive) Dad that doesn’t include the phrases ‘You’re not still breastfeeding that baby are you?’ and ‘It’s time to knock it on the head, love’.

I’ve found it incredibly hard to articulate to even my husband – even to me – why winning at breastfeeding the second time around was so very important to me. And how much it’s meant to me all these months on to be able to do that for my baby.

Because 8.

 

  1. It’s wonderful

Yup, I’m going here, despite no 7 on this list. Sorry, not sorry.

I have loved, loved, loved being able to breastfeed my second daughter.  

The fact is that breastfeeding is an incredibly easy way to bond with a baby – the skin-to-skin contact, the pleasure/pain of the love that you can literally feel ‘let down’ and swell your breast with milk, the instinctive need your baby has for you, just you, and the succour and comfort only you can provide.

It is not by any means the only way to bond with a baby, but it’s instant and it’s easy and it’s amazing.

You can definitely also bond with a baby over bottle feeding. You get the same eye contact, the same closeness, the same reward for satisfying a need, and the same milk-drunk, floaty-eyed bliss and gratitude.

If I have one regret about breastfeeding it’s that Dadonthenetheredge didn’t get to spend as much time with this baby, in the long, dark, terrible/wonderful hours of the night, the hours your souls touch each other.

Just you, your baby…

…and your smartphone.

 

  1. Smartphones are the real key to breastfeeding success

What THE FUCK did breastfeeding mothers do at 3am in the pitch black with a baby stuck to their boobs, chronic sleep deprivation, and burning isolation, self-doubt and hormones?

These must have been dark, dark times indeed.

Now we can all Google ‘green poo’, laugh at the passive-aggressive dickheads on Mumsnet, cry at the news, read trashy books, and Facebook our friends.

Happy World Smartphone Week, everyone!

 

Mumonthenetheredge