Am I bad mother? Or just a different one?

I have found that one of the hardest and most unexpected aspects of motherhood is judgement.. from other mothers. When Monkey was a baby I struggled a lot with this as I had honestly never expected that I would be so judged by other women in the same position as me. Judged about how I am feeding, what our routine is, how we got our baby to sleep, what he wore… literally everything. As he has grown and I have become a bit more confident it doesn’t affect me as much.. but every now and then I will read something that does affect me.

Because it is happening all the time. Mothers judging other Mothers over their parenting methods just because it is different to the way they have chosen. And it drives me mad.

Am I a bad motherI am a huge believer that all babies are different and that different things work for different children. There is not one method that is right for all babies. The same goes for parents. We are all unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses so how can we possibly all parent the same? The point is surely that we are doing our best to raise healthy and happy children. I am sure we will all make mistakes along the way because we are human beings and we are imperfect. But we make the decisions that we feel are right at the time.

That is what bugs me most about all the judgement. The holier than thou attitude. The conviction of “I am right and you are wrong.” That somehow your choices make you a better parent than others. How can you possibly, possibly know this? You don’t live their life. You haven’t raised their child. You are living your life and raising your child. You are different so inevitably you make different choices. The right choices for you are not necessarily the right choices for others but that doesn’t make them wrong and it certainly doesn’t make them bad parents.

To illustrate my point I am going to highlight some of our choices, and the reasons we made them. These are choices we have made for us and our children and I am not saying that everyone should make the same choices, but I want to know if you think these choices make me a bad mother.

Natural birth vs Caesarean

I had two C-sections. I have a bicornuate uterus which meant that both Monkey and LM were breech and unable to turn head down. The medical advice was to have C-sections for the safety of both myself and my babies. I did a lot of research into natural breech births and learned that because most breech babies are delivered by c-section, that the skill of naturally delivering breech babies has fallen out of practice. Of course many midwives are skilled and capable of this but my research suggested that not all are and that it can be luck of the draw of who you get on the day. For me that wasn’t good enough and I chose the c-sections.

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This wasn’t what I wanted, I had hoped for a water birth with only gas and air. But sometimes what we want comes second to making sure my babies were safe. It turned out Monkey had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck 5 times, so I can’t regret the decision to have a c-section as I had my beautiful boy safely in my arms, whereas it could have been very different.

There have been some awful posters circulating the internet about women who have had c-sections being lesser Mothers, for taking the “easy” road. Some even go as far to say that we will go to hell because we have gone against God’s plan. That we should have had a natural delivery and if God wanted us or our baby to die then we should have allowed it to happen. I don’t even know where to begin arguing against this.

Do you think having C-sections made me a bad Mother?

Breastfeeding/Bottle feeding

Breastfeeding is seriously hard work. I persevered through some very difficult days when Monkey was a baby, mainly due to my own stubbornness and breastfed him until 6-7mths old. I stopped for many reasons. He had teeth from 4 mths and his lower teeth grazed on the underside of my breast giving me horrible sores. But mainly I stopped because I wanted my body back. I struggled with baby blues and needed to feel like myself. Selfish? Maybe. Human beings are selfish. I battled on for a while but eventually realised that my negative feelings about breastfeeding weren’t good for Monkey and I didn’t want to resent him.

With LM I breastfed for 6 weeks. With her reflux and (thankfully) temporary Lactose Intolerance, breastfeeding her was a nightmare and a lactose free formula was the right choice for us at that time. There are times when I look back and wish I could have breastfed her longer… but I couldn’t. I was at the end of my tether. Other women may be stronger and may have been able to persevere. But couldn’t and she was miserable and in pain. So I chose the next best thing for my baby. A happier Mummy and formula. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Babywearing or not

I love the idea of baby-wearing and always have. With Monkey we tried various slings and carriers but let me tell you he was not happy in there for long so it was a bit of a non-starter. With LM she did like our Beco Gemini carrier and so we did baby-wear to a point.

But the truth is I have a bad back and so does hubs, so baby-wearing hurts. It’s alright for a while but gradually it started wearing me down. I started suffering with my knee too from the jiggling and bouncing it usually took to get her to sleep in there. We found it exhausting and being exhausted does not make us better parents. We were more irritable and snappy with each other and our children so we realised it had to stop.

Does this make us bad parents?

Co-sleeping or not

Co-sleeping, quite simply, is not for me. I’m not the greatest sleeper at the best of times and have a bit of a weird claustrophobia type thing where I hate being cuddled or touched when I sleep. I find it suffocating and have to have my own space. I would rather sleep on my own on the floor than with a child on me. Obviously there have been nights where I have had a poorly child sleep on me in a chair so I can comfort them and they can sleep, but I don’t sleep. Again perhaps it is selfish but I just can’t do it. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Sleep Training

DSC_0552When Monkey was born I couldn’t bear the idea of cry it out, controlled crying, progressive wait, whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t bear the sound of his crying. So we did anything and everything else we could to get Monkey to sleep.

And we failed.

It got to the point where Monkey would spend around 4 hours every night crying in our arms.

We had a bedtime routine around 7pm and then we would spend the next few hours rocking him to sleep, shushing, patting, cuddling, singing letting him suck our fingers…. Taking it in turns to do whatever the hell we could to get him to sleep. Occasionally something would work but we could never make it work consistently and in general he would pass out from exhaustion around 11.

We would then be up regularly throughout the night with either hubs or I leaning over the cot with our little finger in his mouth to suck as that was the best way of keeping him asleep (yes we tried a dummy, many times, but he wasn’t having any of it). This led to me getting mastitis 3 times as I spent so much time pressed up against the side of his cot, crushing my milk ducts so I could reach his mouth to let him suck my finger. (Anyone who has had Mastitis will know that the pain and delirium is not a pleasant experience).

He also woke up miserable in the morning and was grouchy much of the time. In desperation we read Ferber’s book (it was one of many methods we had tried) and as I have said before, we liked the tone of the book and we gave it a go.

The first night it took 20 minutes. 20 minutes of him crying in his bed, with us going in every few minutes to comfort, reassure and soothe. 20 minutes of hell and soul searching and self-doubting and crying and chocolate eating as his cries hurt my soul….

But then he fell asleep.

It took 20 minutes rather than the 4 hours we were used to. He slept through the night and then woke up happy. For the first time since he was a newborn.

The next night it took a bit less time and so on for the next few days until he didn’t cry at all. He has been an amazing sleeper ever since and now when he cries in the night we go to him because we know that something is wrong.

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If Monkey had been content to fall asleep in our arms and then be transferred to his bed then I doubt we would ever have felt the need to try the technique. We have repeated the technique with LM as we have had similar struggles with sleep and it has worked for her. We didn’t try every other technique that we tried with Monkey and maybe we should have. She is a different baby and maybe a different technique would have worked for her. But we made the decision we felt was right at the time and she now loves her bed and falls asleep very easily at naptimes and bedtimes.

Does this make me a bad Mother?

I could go on and on. There’s weaning – purees or babyled? I know someone whose friend told her she was “disappointed in her” for not babyled weaning, even though she weaned her baby at 4 1/2 mths under Drs advice. Then if you do choose purees there’s whether you make them at home or use jars. I’m not even going to begin going into the whole being a stay at home mum vs being a working mother. You can read about why I made that choice here but just because I am a SAHM I certainly don’t think that everyone else should be.

Think what you will about my choices, but my children are happy, healthy and know they are loved. We are not perfect parents by a long shot and we are not raising perfect children, as that is impossible (though I do think they are pretty perfect I suspect I am slightly biased), but we are doing the absolute best we can.

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I just don’t understand why some Mothers feel they can only justify their choice by disparaging the choices of others., because I don’t see why you need to.

Of course we compare ourselves to each other and we questions our choices and their choices, because we all want to be the best we can be. But before you cast aspersions or treat someone who has made different choices to you like they are a bad mother, stop. Think about why  they may have made the choices that they made. Remember that they have made those choices in an effort to do what is best for them and their child. Remember that their child is not your child and different things work with different children

Also remember that they are not you and they have their own strengths and weaknesses. We don’t become perfect when we become a Mother. We don’t miracuously turn into selfless saints. We do love our children above all else and while many of us try and put everyone else’s needs above our own many of us find that is not sustainable and that to be the best Mother we can be we actually need to put ourselves first sometimes too. So sometimes we make the choice that is best for us as well as our children.

Maybe you disagree with this, maybe you disagree with a lot of what I have said here, and that’s fine. Because you are you and I am me and no doubt our life experiences are very different. If you are happy with the choices you have made and convinced that you are right, then good for you. I’m happy for you, honestly. But please don’t make other women feel bad or less than you because something different works for them.

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Moving from breastfeeding to formula

About a month ago, after umming and ah ing for quite a while, I made the decision to move from breastfeeding to formula feeding. It wasn’t a easy decision but for us it was definitely the right one.

Why we moved from breastfeeding to formula

WP_20141022_16_24_10_ProWhen Little Miss was born, she latched on straight away and fed really well from the get go. In complete contrast to the difficult journey I had with Monkey I was so relieved and very optimistic about being able to feed her until around 6 months, much as I had been able to do with Monkey. But within a couple of weeks the problems had started. LM was spending hours every night screaming, she was a nightmare to burp and she developed colic, far worse than Monkey had ever had it.

I had an oversupply of milk and every time I letdown I was in agony, but also it was almost drowning her. She would choke and splutter and it made feeding a nightmare. I tried numerous methods to reduce my supply, which helped with some of the pain and speed but still the problems continued and the screaming worsened. I was still getting soaked at every feeding with the excess milk and it was all incredibly stressful.

LM was then diagnosed with reflux in addition to colic and was prescribed Gaviscon to be given at every feed. They came in sachets which had to be mixed with water or milk and given from a syringe or bottle before every feed. It hugely helped her reflux and pain and made nighttimes bearable all of a sudden… but getting her to actually take the Gaviscon was a bit of a nightmare. She hated it in water and for a while we syringed it in, until she learned to store it in her mouth and spit it back out again. I then got some great medicine dispenser teats*, which definitely helped, but again she would often spit it out or just refuse to drink it.

So then I started collecting some of my excess milk in a shell at every feed so that I could store it and mix it with Gaviscon to give her at the next feed. Bearing in mind she was feeding 6 or 7 times a day and we only had 2 shells and 3 medicine dispensers, there was a huge amount of washing and sterilising going on. Plus the fact that I still had an oversupply of milk meaning I was walking round half the day wet and she still bobbed on and off the boob at every feed and was often coughing and spluttering. Never mind the times I forgot to take the shell out and spilt all of the milk all over myself thereby wasting it completely!

She also still had terrible colic. The reflux was hugely improved but the colic was still there. I had noticed early on that her colic was always much, much worse whenever I had had any milk, so I cut that out of my diet. Then followed anything with dairy in. So no cheese, chocolate and, well it’s amazing how many things contain dairy. Then followed eggs as she seemed to react badly to them also.

It  affected our family mealtimes. Because Monkey has always been a fussy eater we always eat the same meals as a family and the rule is that we all have the same, you either eat it or go hungry. Obviously I didn’t want to cut dairy or eggs out of his diet so all of a sudden we were having to prepare 2 separate meals some days, 1 for me, and another for hubs and Monkey. Confusing for him but also miserable for me having to limit my diet so much. It was a bit tortuous seeing all the foods I loved but couldn’t eat and I began to eat really quite poorly, often resorting to toast or pasta because I just didn’t have the energy to work out what else I could eat. It was worth not eating any of those foods for her sake but it was, very, very hard

I was not very happy in general and I actually began to hate breastfeeding. I think because although everything we did lessened some of the problems, none went away entirely and there were still others. The Gaviscon helped  with the reflux, cutting out dairy helped with the colic, reducing my supply helped with feeding, but none of them were a miracle solution and all of it was hard work. Every feed felt like a rigmarole trying to get her to take the Gaviscon, making sure I had a shell sterilised to collect more milk, trying to feed her without choking her on my supply and without soaking both myself and her. Then having to prepare the gaviscon for the next feed and wash and sterilise another shell. The cycle continued.

It was exhausting. I wasn’t enjoying being a mummy and I wasn’t enjoying LM’s early months.

Hubs was very keen for us to move to formula. With all the sterilising and preparation going on, breastfeeding was actually more time-consuming than preparing formula would be. The Gaviscon could be mixed straight into her bottle so there would be no need for extra dispensers. Using formula would also mean I wasn’t limiting my diet and I think that was hubs’s biggest motivation. He was worried about me and what I was eating and worried that I wasn’t taking care of myself.

I could understand the rationale but I was worried.

Worried that we would be no better off with formula.

Worried she would still have all of the problems she had.

Worried how her system would react to formula.

Worried how she would take to the bottle.

Worried about the pain and engorgement stopping feeding would bring.

Worried that I would have given up breastfeeding without a good enough reason.

Worried that I was taking away the best available nutrition for my baby and that our hopes of a solution would be dashed.

Worried that it would all be for nothing and that there would be no going back.

Worried about the judgement I would get for feeding her formula.

Worried people would think I hadn’t tried hard enough to breastfeed.

Worried that if I talked it through with any healthcare professionals that they would tell me that I should carry on breastfeeding, even though I knew, deep down, that it wasn’t what was best for me and my baby.

In truth I was a mess. I knew that many of LM’s problems were probably temporary, that she would grow out of them after a few months, but at only 6 weeks old, I couldn’t bear the thought of going through it all for another 6-8 weeks. We talked about expressing, but I didn’t feel I could manage it. I had expressed some feeds with Monkey and I found it exhausting and double the work as you have to express every feed as well as actually feed them and I felt I would be spending all of my time doing that when I also have a toddler to look after. We talked about trying colief to help her digest the lactose and hopefully help with colic, but it is another remedy that needs to be mixed up and given at each feed and I didn’t have the energy to do that twice at every feed!

Thankfully we had a very supportive health visitor who happened to come for a check-up on a day when LM had been screaming for 5 straight hours that morning. When she arrived I had just got LM off to sleep in her bouncer with the white noise on full and we had this as a soundtrack to our meeting. I cried a few times as we talked about all of the problems we were having and she was hugely supportive. She didn’t try to tell me I should continue with breastfeeding as I had feared. She said that formula may not solve all of our problems, but she put forward the same argument that hubs did, that even if she still had colic and reflux, that at least by not breastfeeding anymore I would be able to eat what I wanted and could look after myself better, putting me in a better position to look after LM, and Monkey for that matter.

We talked through different formulas and though I had heard of formulas with less lactose in, I hadn’t heard of any with no lactose in, which she did advise me were available. This helped lessen some of my fears. The Dr early on suspected some of her problems were caused by a (hopefully temporary) lactose intolerance, which seemed to match with her adverse reaction to dairy in my diet. With the lactose in formulas I was concerned that this may make things worse rather than better. With the potential of giving her a lactose free formula I was hopeful this would help her.

How we moved from breastfeeding to formula

So when LM was 7 weeks old, we started the process. Substituting a formula feed for a breast feed one at a time, seeing how she got on for a couple of days before moving onto the next. We started with a feed in the evening, then one in the morning, alternating feeds so that my body could adjust and get used to producing less milk, without too much of the engorgement that cutting off entirely would have caused. We felt it would be better for LM this way too, to allow her digestive system a bit of time to adjust. She took the bottle with ease and didn’t seem to have any problems digesting the formula.

Over the course of the next week  or so, we stopped breastfeeding entirely. It wasn’t totally plain sailing, though I didn’t suffer with engorgement and pain to the extent I had when I weaned Monkey at 7 months, it was still painful and it took a good few weeks after we had stopped before my breasts felt normal again.

As for LM, she was like a different baby. We still had some sleep troubles with her but the colic basically disappeared and she fed so so so much better on the bottle than she ever had from the breast. She was just so much calmer at feeds and a lot more contented afterwards.

Moving forward with Formula

Over a month on, she has suffered a bit with constipation – due to the combination of Lactose Free Milk (which is high in casein apparently) and the Gaviscon. Over the past few days we have been reducing her Gaviscon to see if her reflux has improved to the point where she needs it less, as that should  help lessen the constipation. It is early days with it but so far, so good on both fronts. The idea is that once her reflux is manageable without Gaviscon, then we will at some point introduce a normal formula, to see whether she can handle the lactose better.

As for me, I am eating better and feeling a lot better in myself. I have had to deal with some hormonal ups and downs now that I have stopped breastfeeding, my hair (which stops falling out during pregnancy) is now shedding. I have a lot of hair so unlike some women do I am not worried about it all falling out, but I still hate it because it is so knotted and tangled it feels like I have a bird’s nest in there! I spent about 15 minute this morning just trying to de-tangle it all and pulled out a huge wad of hair! Plus there is hair everywhere in the house! My monthlies have reappeared now too with all of the hormonal ups and downs they bring with them but things should hopefully start to settle down from here on in.

Formula feeding itself is a whole different ballgame to breastfeeding – we are much more aware of how much she is feeding and constantly trying to work out how much milk she would like at feeds. There is a lot of faff with the cleaning, sterilising and preparation of bottles (though a lot less faff than we were experiencing previously). There are different guidelines from the NHS and WHO about how long you can store formula for in the fridge, with the NHS stating that you must always prepare a bottle fresh for every feed, and the WHO saying you can store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours. We have found the NHS rules completely impractical if you ever want to leave your house so are following the WHO guidelines and getting used to having to prepare with freezer packs and flasks of hot water whenever we go anywhere! We are getting into a bit of a routine with it all now thankfully!

As for judgement, I guess I have just had to get over it a little. Friends and family have all been completely supportive as they knew what a hard time we were having. If anything I was constantly trying to justify it to myself as I felt guilty and that I was somehow failing as a mother for not coping with all of the problems in order for her to have breast milk. Like I should sacrifice myself for her sake. But then I realise how much it was affecting the rest of my family. Hubs and Monkey matter too. And actually, having seen her on formula, she is so much better on it. I cannot feel guilty about choosing the option that causes her less pain.

As for people who don’t know us, whenever I see judgement in someone’s eyes, it is tempting to explain the reasons but I don’t because it’s not worth it. It just isn’t their business after all. At a postnatal yoga class (post to follow about how good it was!) that I attended recently, I was the only formula feeding mum there. There is a little residual discomfort I have to be honest as I want to say “I tried, I really did!” but again I keep it to myself, I am sure they aren’t judging me, just as I never judged other formula feeding mums, it is just me, judging myself.

Though I did internally chuckle, the instructor, who was very lovely, made a big thing about how ok it was to formula feed and how it was proven that you could still bond just as well with bottle as with breast, and she was very kind, but also she went a bit ott about how fine she was with it. Do you know what I mean? I think I would have believed she was ok with it a bit more if she actually hadn’t made quite such a point of how ok she was about it. I’m not criticising her as I know it must be hard to find a balance but I did chuckle and I guess proved to myself that am ok with it, as it didn’t bother me that much.

I am obviously not recommending bottle over breastfeeding but wanted to share my experience as there are times when it is worth considering it as an alternative. I wish I could have breastfed LM for longer than 7 weeks but I know that this was the right decision for us as a family and that is all that matters.

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Breastfeeding in Public

I’m not a very big fan of breastfeeding in public and I feel really self concious about it. I feel like people are staring and judging me even when they probably aren’t. Stories like the ones in the news this week play a big part in making me feel like this. From the woman in Claridges who was told to cover up with a napkin to avoid making other customers feel uncomfortable (?) to MP Nigel Farage saying that a woman should sit in a corner to avoid being ‘ostentatious’ about it. His comments and the actions of the restaurant reinforce the idea that breastfeeding is somehow wrong or offensive and should be hidden away.

You are judged whatever you do as a parent and I know formula feeding mothers experience judgement too for the fact they are not breastfeeding so I know you can’t really win… But if you are bottle feeding, I’m sure no-one tells you to go and sit in a corner, or a toilet (as one mum was in another story I read) to feed your child. I don’t think anyone should be judged for how they choose to feed their child to be honest as everyone has their own reasons for doing things. But it seems so crazy that in a world where breastfeeding is rammed down the throats of every parent with the “breast is best” slogan, there is the flipside where actually you are judged for doing it in public. We should all breastfeed, but sit in a corner quietly, or hide ourselves away at home to avoid offending anyone! Barmy.

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Am I causing my baby’s Colic?

Colic. Oh isn’t it fun? Watching your baby scream in pain while trying desperately to soothe them and calm them down. Depending on where you read it, approx 20-30% of babies have Colic. Yet both of my babies seem to be affected by it. I wrote a post a while back called Coping with Colic, and that is all well and good but when you’re going through it you can’t help but wonder if it is somehow your fault. Is there anything you can do to stop it? Or at least I do anyway.
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The Truth about… the early days of breastfeeding

WP_20141022_16_24_10_ProSo far all is going pretty well with breastfeeding Little Miss. A complete contrast to how difficult I found breastfeeding Monkey in the early days but that doesn’t mean that it is entirely plain sailing. This isn’t going to be a post slating breastfeeding, or promoting it particularly either. There are many positives to breastfeeding but I’ve always had problems with the portrayal of it as being ‘perfect’. As with anything, setting it up to be perfect experience only leads to problems (as perfection is unattainable) and feelings of failure or not being good enough when you can’t achieve it. Some of the things you read or are told about breastfeeding feel a bit like propaganda and heaven forbid you have a different opinion or suggest there may be any negatives to breastfeeding.
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Packing your Hospital Bag for a C Section

hospital bag for a c sectionWith the date booked for my C Section, the time has come to think about packing my hospital bag. Some of the things you pack when going for a C Section are the same as you would for a natural birth, whereas others are very different, as a planned C Section is obviously a different experience.

There are of course tonnes of sources online for hospital bag checklists which are all so so handy, but I don’t think they cover everything. With the benefit of going through this experience once before I am hoping that this time I will pack everything I need. So here is my list for what to pack in a hospital bag for a C Section, including some things you may not have
thought of!
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My Breastfeeding journey with Monkey

I wrote this post a while ago as it was intended to be a guest post on another blog, however the blogger actually stopped blogging so it was never published! It never really felt relevant to my blog before so it has sat, a little neglected and unpublished for a while. Now though, at over half-way through my second pregnancy I have been talking about birth choices and breastfeeding a bit more so decided to dust it off and publish it :)

So here it is, my breastfeeding journey with Monkey. It doesn’t sound at all positive to begin with, but bear with me as it does have a happy ending and I will try to breastfeed my second child too. 

We had a rocky start and unfortunately a lot of the ‘help’ we received turned out to be more of a hindrance. I always knew I wanted to breastfeed if I could and that I would try really hard to do so. I also realised that it wasn’t necessarily going to be easy, but I didn’t realise quite how challenging it would be. Once breastfeeding is established, it is wonderful and pain-free, but I was not prepared for how difficult it could be to get to that point and it never occurred to me that asking for help would leave me feeling lost and confused.

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