Scarlett Rose: The First Year

This is a little ode to Scarlett – a compilation of photos from the first year of her life that I have been working on.  I’ve watched it about a million times and it makes me teary every time!

This has been such a rollercoaster year.  It hasn’t always been easy.  I didn’t take to motherhood as instantly as I had always thought I would.  There have been hard times and dark days.  But she has always been amazing.  She is such a good, happy, funny little girl.  She has such a nutty personality and watching it unfold and grow is just amazing.

I would say that things have gotten steadily more enjoyable for me as a mum since about 7 months old, when she started being able to move around on her own.  Since then, I have found myself enjoying her more and more.  I genuinely love hanging out with her, she makes me laugh constantly, even when I’m grumpy.  I love the way she chats and babbles and giggles and dances and squeals.  I love that big cheeky grin.

Becoming a mum has been a challenge and a struggle and a massive learning curve for me.  But it has also opened me up to a level of love that I never knew was possible.  My heart bursts at the seams with how much I adore her.  Even when I’m struggling, I know that it’s me that’s the problem, me that has a lesson to learn – she is always perfect.  She is my teacher, not the other way around.

She has changed so much in just one year – I can’t imagine what life will be like in another year’s time, who she will become.  But I’m just so goddamn blessed that I get to go along for the ride 😀

11 Months: Chatting

In the past couple of months, I feel bubba’s main development has been in her language.  She’s more confident in pulling herself to standing and scooting along the edge of the couch, and then crouching back down to the ground again.  But her strongest steps forward have been in her talking.

Bubba has a chat with Dad

Not that she’s “talking” in the sense of using words with meaning yet.  A silly little pet peeve of mine is when people claim their child’s “first word” when actually they are still babbling.  Sounds like “dadadad” and “mummmmm” are just babies playing with their mouths and voices for a long time.  I personally consider a “first word” to be the first word a child uses with intent – consciously knowing that making this mixture of sounds is semantically linked with a specific object, person or meaning.

So I guess, in a way, Scarlett has kind of said her first word – “ta” (for readers in the northern hemisphere, we use “ta” to mean thank you, or in the sense of “ta to Dad”, meaning “give it to Dad please”).  She now says “ta” whenever she wants something, and that something is usually food!  Whenever she sees the punnet of strawberries (or as I like to call them, Scarlett-crack), she cracks a huge smile and starts expectantly chanting “ta! ta! ta! ta!”  The other day I was cooking her some fritters and I gave her a bit to taste.  As soon as she finished it, she looked up at me and started going “ta! ta!”  So while “ta” may not be a complicated word, and she may not be strictly using it in the sense of “thank you”, she has still figured out that a certain combination of sounds has a meaning that can be used to communicate her desires… so I guess her first word is “ta!”

Strawberry!!! Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta!

She also likes to babble away in her own Scarlett language.  I love to hear her chatting!  She makes sounds I’ve never heard a baby make before – she really likes to explore all the noises her mouth can make.  One of her favourites is “gud” (which sounds disconcertingly like “good”).   “Gud gud gud gud gud” never fails to make me laugh.

I like it when she sits with her books, telling her own little stories.  She is growing to really love her books.  I am a bookworm to the core and I have always derived a great deal of enjoyment from books, so I would love to be able to share that with her.  Her favourite book so far is Hairy Maclairy, a children’s book by a New Zealand author that reminds me of my own childhood.  I love it how she sits there listening, turning the pages and pointing to the pictures.

Reading a story with Dad

She has her moments, but she really is, for the most part, a happy chatty little girl.  I am incredibly blessed that most nights (touch wood!) she sleeps straight from about 8 pm to 7 am (sometime with the odd grizzle for the dummy back in, but resettling only takes a few minutes these days).  She loves daycare – hanging out with the other kiddies, getting dirty in the sandpit and eating lots of yum food.  She’s learning to give dad kisses on the cheek – well, they’re more like open mouthed slobbers, but still!

In two weeks it will be her birthday and I can’t believe it!  Life has changed so much and yet in some ways the time has flown.  I am so blessed to be mum to such a beautiful little girl.

Love my baby girl!

The Milestone Trap

As a first time mum, I try as much as possible to avoid falling into what I call The Milestone Trap.

At times it can seem like all around me there are babies who are rolling, crawling, walking, joining mensa… you know, reaching all those big milestones, while my own baby is nowhere near it.  As a first timer, it can make you start to question… “Is something wrong with my baby?” “Why isn’t my bubba doing that yet?”

When I find myself falling into that trap of comparison, I have to remind myself that there is a huge range of “normal” when it comes to children, especially babies.  Even physiotherapists have been known to say that “there is no abnormal under 1”.  I’ve heard of babies walking at 7 months, and I’ve heard of babies that didn’t crawl until they were 11 months and then were off and walking two weeks later.

The most important point to remember is that neither way is better.  Doing it earlier doesn’t mean the baby is cleverer or that the parent is somehow doing a better job.  Doing it later doesn’t mean the baby is slow or dumb or that it’s due to slack parenting.  All babies develop on their own schedule when it is right for them.

Some parents find themselves wanting to rush their baby along – to “teach” it how to crawl, to stand, to walk.  I think, if you do this, you run two great risks.  Firstly you risk pushing the baby out of alignment with its own natural line of development and pushing it into skills its not ready for.  And secondly, by always looking ahead and wanting your baby to be doing the next thing, the next thing, the next thing… you risk not being able to stop and appreciate your baby just exactly as they are right now.

So your baby doesn’t crawl yet?  Unless they’re over one or show other signs of developmental delay… who cares?  There are lots of advantages to having a baby that can’t get into the kitchen drawers!  Just enjoy it.  Enjoy who your baby is.  Enjoy watching your baby develop on its own timeframe.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Because the time will come when you look back on this age with a kind of aching nostalgia and wish you could go back and hold that sweet still infant on your lap again and smell their head… without being punched in the face.

This is a video I absolute love, of a baby called Liv as she develops the skills of rolling over and crawling in the first year of life.  What I absolutely love about this video is how it shows all the tiny little steps that lead up to the bigger milestone – placing her feet together, kicking the floor… little things that may go unnoticed but are actually crucial stepping stones in the learning process that eventually end up in the big action you’ve been waiting for.

Another thing I love about it is the look of absolute pride on her face when she learns to roll over.  Another risk of trying to teach a baby something it’s not ready for is that you deprive it of that proud feeling of acheivement babies get when they figure something out all by themselves.

At the moment, Scarlett has just learned to pull herself up to standing while holding onto the couch.  Every time she does it, she gets the biggest grin and laughs.  It’s the cutest thing ever!  She’s so proud of herself and so amazed at what she just made her body do.

And so I try not to get caught up in the big milestones.  They aren’t the only milestones anyway.  I remember the day she smiled for the first time, without it being followed by a burp or a poo…

Bubba’s first smile at 10 days old 🙂

I remember the day she lay and examined each individual finger one by one, as if just discovering that they were separate from each other…

Hrmmm, I found these little sausages on my hands…

I remember the first time she laughed at something because she found it funny, not because I was trying to make her laugh (I sat her up in the bath for the first time instead of lying her down – she slapped the water and thought it was the most hilarious thing ever!)…

Baths are fun!

I remember so many little funny gorgeous things… things that aren’t in most baby books or developmental emails, things only a mumma would notice.  And somehow that makes them all the more special to me, those little milestones, those tiny moments frozen in time.  And they’re all part of the process, all part of her learning about herself and her world, just as much as the big, well known milestones like crawling and walking.

Whenever I catch myself comparing her to other babies, I just use it as a trigger thought to remind me to appreciate her for exactly who she is, as she is.  She is my Scarlett, she is doing things her way (as is every baby), and why would I wish her any different?  She is perfect just as she is.

Oh Child Asleep Upon My Knee

When my bubba was very small, my mum sent me this poem she had heard years ago.  It brings tears to my eyes everytime I read it.  Screw the washing and the cleaning – my small excuse, you’re growing too fast.

Oh Child Asleep Upon My Knee

Oh child asleep upon my knee
what will your memories be of me?
When you are grown and think of now,
will you stop and remember how
the floors were dusty as you played
and dishes seldom put away,
I rarely got to make those beds…
or all those books we read and read?
Will you remember on the chair
the pile of wrinkled nappies there
that seemed to stay forever, or,
the other things I had time for?
You might recall my face was plain,
hair unkempt and apron stained,
or how from school back home you’d tear
safe knowing I was always there.

Oh child asleep upon my knee
you’ve made my life such luxury.
If not for you I’d have to do
the cleaning and the ironing too,
I couldn’t move at my own pace,
I’d have to join in the rat race.
From nine to five in stiffened clothes
 with clipped-up hair and powdered nose.
You fill my life with many reasons
for being lazy through the seasons.
But with each autumn as you grow
I think it’s such a shame to know
my small excuse, you’re growing fast
this peaceful life, it will not last.
But perhaps when I am old and grey
my grandchildren will come to stay,
and with housework neglected then
my house I know will shine again.

9 Months: Clapping, Waving, Standing

Well, we are almost at the end of another month and bubba is becoming such a little person.  I feel like she has gotten so much bigger recently… not necessarily physically, just less… baby-like.  My little baby has gone!  In her place is this little girl who gets cleverer and more independent by the day.

Early in the month she figured out clapping all by herself – and decided to express her love for food by applauding every mouthful.

The daycare lady had been trying to elicit a wave from bubba for ages and drawing only blank “what the hell are you doing” stares.  But once she had discovered clapping, she soon decided waving was good fun too.  Although she doesn’t quite grasp the “coming and going” sense of it, more just that it’s a fun way to flail your arms around and get people to exclaim happily in high pitched voices.

And then a few days ago, we discovered that she could stand against the couch all by herself!  She has always loved to be held into a standing position – but one day I let go and she just kept standing there!  Holding onto the couch mind you, but still… she was pretty darn proud of herself and I couldn’t believe what a grown up little girl she looked.

The next day she even pulled herself into a standing position.  It’s only happened the once so far, but I was pretty surprised!  Clever monkey!

A funny thing happened the other night.  I’ve never really played peekaboo with her cos she never really seemed to “get” it – she would just look at me like “seriously?”  But then the other night, she was down the end of the couch and she started peeking over the top, cracking up laughing and dropping down again.  She did it over and over, it was so cute!

I feel like she has changed so much over the past few weeks and I feel like I’m settling more and more into motherhood.  As she grows and becomes more interactive and more like a little person, I find myself enjoying it more and more.  Yes, I still get frustrated.  But I’m learning that the trick is to alter my expectations.  If I don’t expect to spend an hour reading my book, if I don’t expect to sleep through the night without interruption, then I don’t have to get frustrated when those expectations/desires aren’t met.  And when I do happen to get a moment with my book or a good night’s sleep, then I can just enjoy them as happy little bonuses.  All in all, I’m starting to see what this motherhood thing is all about. 

The older she gets, the more rewarding it gets.  I would say I’ve definitely enjoyed this age the most so far.  The only thing I’m not quite sure of is whether that’s actually because of her age or because of my own personal growth.

4-8 Months: The Big Move Out West

It is beyond time for an update!
We survived the great move across the desert to the wild wild west when bubba was 6 months old and have spent a couple of months settling in.  The house was ready almost as soon as we arrived and we moved in after only just over a week at Daddy C’s sisters’ house.  I’m loving the house, the area, the city, the weather – everything!  I even have a part time job Mondays to Wednesdays now, which is great for a bit of grown up time… not to mention pocket money!  I’ve also met a few local mums.  Daddy C has a high falutin new job and it’s safe to say the move is suiting us very well so far.

We still have a bit of furniture to buy to kit the house out and the front and back lawns need landscaping… so it will be fun to get those things underway and see the house come together over the next few months.
Bubba has grown up a crazy amount.  The difference between 4 months and 8 months is immense and amazing!  Seeing as I have let this blog lapse for far too long, I thought I would do a little month by month update of the last little while.
Baby on a Plane!

4 MONTHS: At four months, she was definitely still a baby.  She couldn’t sit unaided, roll or move and still hated tummy time.  We started a bit of spoon fed solids around 4.5 months which she absolutely loved.  Vocalising consisted mainly of squeals and some giggles.

4 months old and not to sure about this whole Christmas thing…
5 MONTHS: Right toward the end of five months, she started sitting forward a little bit when propped to sit on the couch.  However, she was definitely still way too unstable to sit on her own unsupported and there was still no rolling or movement.  She was still enjoying her spoon fed mash and was starting to try to steal the spoon to do it herself.  At the end of the month, we packed up the house in Melbourne, shipped our stuff, and then went to New Zealand for the week.  Her sleeping started becoming very disturbed during this period – I’m not sure if it was an age thing or if she was sensing all the changes happening, but we started having difficulty going to sleep and night time wake ups again (after sleeping through since 9 weeks old!).

5 months old and gorgeous 🙂
6 MONTHS: Bubba had her 6 month birthday on the plane from New Zealand to Perth!  For the first week and a half, we stayed with Daddy C’s sister and niece while the house was being finalised.  During this time, a lot of things happened in bubbaland!  She started to prop herself up with her hands in a sitting position, although was still a little wobbly.  She learned to roll from back to tummy and started sleeping in a side-lying position.  And she got sick for the first time, with a head cold.  That was a particularly awful few days, all she did was cry and sleep and her nose was all stuffy.  She would sleep for only 30-40 minute periods before needing cuddles and consoling again, right around the clock.  It was exhausting and heartbreaking at the same time.  Luckily it only lasted for around 3-4 days until she was back to her happy self.  This was also the time that I weaned her from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, which was surprisingly easier than I expected, but I plan to write about this separately soon.

My poor sick baby 😦
By the end of the month, she was starting to sit better unaided , although still tended to fling herself backward without warning and get upset when she hit her head!  She was also rolling happily both ways.  We also got a highchair and began a fully Baby Led Weaning approach, with her eating only foods she could pick up herself.  She absolutely loves it and it’s surprising her manual dexterity in getting food to her mouth.

Beautiful clever girl at 6 months old
7 MONTHS: During this month, bubba’s sitting became much more confident, so that towards the end of the month, she was easily able to be plonked down in sitting position without fear that she would fall backward or sideways and hurt/stun herself.  She started moving around in circles while on her tummy.  And finally, a few days before her 8 month birthday, she figured out the inchworm maneouver!  This move has come in leaps and bounds from the moment she figured it out and she now scoots all over the place, mostly in attempt to get at the power cords and playstation controllers, which are far more interesting than her actual toys!

7 (almost 8) months old and learning to inchworm… all because she wants the power cords!

At around 7 months , Mum got her part time job and bubba started going to family daycare three days a week.  This is where another mother takes some children into her own home during the day, as opposed to using a big childcare centre.  I am really happy with this smaller, more one on one approach, the lady lives just around the corner from us, is absolutely lovely and I feel her approach to caring for babies is similar to mine.  I feel really happy leaving bubba there and I actually feel that she is thriving on all the stimulation and contact with new people and things.

Enjoying her food at family daycare!

8 MONTHS: Well, now bubba can commando crawl, there’s no stopping her!  She may not have figured out the “all fours” concept yet, but her funny little dragging frog-swim motion gets her surprisingly far!  If it’s on the ground, she’s gonna find it… and probably try to eat it.  Speaking of eating, she loves her fingerfood and eats like it’s going out of fashion – she prefers solids to a bottle most of the time!  She now has four full teeth and four little half-teeth inching their way out of her wee gums.  Her babbles consists mostly of “Dadadadad”, “Mummmm!” and “bubub”.  She loves a good chat!

My very cheeky monkey at 8 months old

 Some of her favourite things include: fresh plums and strawberries, power cords, harrasing the cat, turning down the surround sound while we’re trying to watch TV, pulling mum’s hair (and dad’s!), trying to play with the Wii remotes, trying to eat paper… and basically anything that involves being a cheeky little wriggler or eating food!

Adjusting to parenthood has been a hard road for me.  I think I didn’t realise in the beginning, having never spent much time with babies, how rewarding it would become.  She is such a little person now, and getting so big.  She is so funny and makes me laugh every day.  It’s still hard and I still get frustrated every day too.  But she is beautiful and fun and crazy.  And now that I’ve walked the path, I even miss her snuggly little newborn days, despite the lack of sleep it came with, and wish I could go back and appreciate her more rather than be so wrapped up in my own struggle.

But I can’t go back.  So I just love her now.  I’m not perfect… but she is, even when she’s not.  She’s growing up so fast, I can’t even imagine what it will be like when she’s walking and talking… but I guess I’ll find out soon enough!

Where did my little baby go?!

Introducing Solids

I believe in evidence based parenting.  This means making each decision along the way on the back of your own independent research, not just because it is “the done thing” or because other people do it or someone told you so.  This external influence can come from all directions, which is why I think it is dangerous to label your parenting style.  Whether you consider yourself a “mainstream mum” or a “natural parent” or whatever other labels are out there, there is a danger of making choices based on what the current buzz topics in your circle are, rather than your own independent thinking.

This was brought home to me by the issue of solids.  I considered myself a baby-led mum, striving to take an instinctive approach and make choices based on what was developmentally appropriate for my baby, taking her cues.  Nothing wrong with that in and of itself.  Therefore, the idea of baby led weaning seemed logical and appropriate to me.  The basic tenets of this philosophy are to wait until the baby is sitting unassisted and is able to put food into their own mouth before starting solids.  It also rules out purees and the like, advocating giving baby only whole foods in their natural state, such as sticks of soft veggies to start with.  Generally, this means waiting until at least 6 months to begin solids.  In fact, even the World Health Organisation advises waiting until 6 months to introduce solids.

Purees are a no-no under the baby led weaning approach

However, once Bubba reached 4 months, I started to get the feeling she would like to try some food and was ready for it.  No she was not sitting unassisted (still isn’t) and wasn’t stealing food from our plates, but I still got an instinctive feeling from her that it was something she would like to try.

So I started to do my own research, using Google Scholar and focusing on medical journals and research.  I was interesting to find that the WHO recommendation to delay solids until 6 months is actually based on very limited research.  In fact, the main conclusion I draw from their evidence is actually that it is detrimental to introduce solids before four months of age.  This study found that later introduction of solids did not have a protective effect against allergies, and this study actually found that delaying introduction of cereal grains until after 6 months may actually increase the risk of wheat allergy.  If you are wanting to extended breastfeed, this study found that “breastfeeding duration was not associated with infants’ age at introduction of solids.”

This 2009 literature review sums it up neatly:

Recommendations in developed countries of reducing this risk [of developing food allergies in children] by avoidance of allergenic foods until the child is of varying ages past 6 months have been challenged by recent population studies. Where the risk of allergy is a key consideration, currently-available research suggests that introducing solids at 4-6 months may result in the lowest allergy risk. When all aspects of health are taken into account, the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding and age of introduction of solids were confirmed to be 6 months, but no later. (Anderson, Malley & Snell, 2009).

 My overall conclusion from my research on the topic was that 4-6 months was an ideal window to begin slowing introducing my baby to solid food.  For me the focus was on fun and the experience of tastes and textures, not giving her a “meal” per se.  And really, for me, I feel happy with this approach.  We don’t wait until a baby can put the boob in her own mouth before we give her breastmilk.  Being baby-led is all well and good, but at the end of the day, babies are unable to do a lot of things for themselves that we do for them until they develop the ability to do it themselves.  As parents we have to make a lot of decisions on behalf of our children every day.

I have absolutely nothing against baby led weaning and think it can be wonderful choice for many families.  I still intend to incorporate some of these principles when Bubba gets to about 6 months. I do believe in the value of babies handling food in its original state, not always mushed to oblivion.

But for now, we are really enjoying mushed food.  Right from the start, Bubba has enjoyed exploring food and has never coughed, gagged or spat food out, which to me was a good indication to continue.  In fact, she very quickly learnt what the spoon was all about and began excitedly kicking her legs and opening her mouth when she saw it.  As soon as she stops opening her mouth for more, I stop the feeding.

Basically, my main conclusion from all this was the importance of allowing yourself to be led by your baby.  So I guess, in a way, I do believe in “baby-led weaning”, but not in the sense that the baby has to do everything itself.  Rather in the sense that you can trust your mother’s intuition on what your baby is ready for.  Some babies under 6 months may gag, spit or get upset when tried on solids – I consider this a good indication to wait a little longer.  But if you feel your baby over 4 months is ready for a little taste, I don’t think there is any harm in it, and there may actually be some good.  Above all, trust your baby – if you can attune to their form of communication, they will tell you what they are happy with and what they aren’t.

Oopsie Daisy!

Yesterday, bubba was being a bit of a grumble.  Ok, a mega grumble.  So when I heard her grizzling in her cot, I didn’t rush up there immediately. (She wasn’t crying of course – I would never leaver her to cry – but grizzling is a whole other kettle of fish).  She was tired, had been grizzling all day, and I was hoping she’d grizzle herself back to sleep.

It wasn’t happening, so I went up to check on her… and found this:

I couldn’t help but laugh!  She hasn’t rolled over yet in either direction, so it was also kind of cool that she had gotten herself onto her side… 

… my silly ningnong!

I also noticed that when I propped her up against the couch in the evening, she started kind of leaning forward to sit with less support of the couch…

Come here giraffe!


I just wanted to eat the giraffe mum!

The grizzles that come along with these periods of developmental leaps might be rather frustrating  – but it is pretty cool, and pretty hilarious, watching her figure new things out 🙂

Four Months Already!

I can’t believe my bubba is over 4 months old already!  The first couple of months felt like forever, but since then, time has just flown by.  And we have come so far since “the dark days” of the first six weeks… I have come so far.

Slowly I have become acclimatised to my new life, my new role.  I think the biggest step for me has been getting used to no longer being a singular person, looking out for number one.  Somehow Scarlett has become like a part of me, an extension of myself, so that she no longer seems like an intrusion on my existance but an integral part of it.  I don’t even think of her as a “baby”, I just think of her as Scarlett – my constant little companion, my little person with a personality and presence all of her own with whom I share my day.

And what a personality! 😛

She’s such a character!

 I understand now why people say that motherhood makes you a great multitasker.  I always thought that the female multitasking gene had passed me by, but it turns out it was just a muscle waiting for motherhood to force it to be flexed.  I am getting used to starting things knowing that I may be interrupted part way through, I am getting used to being ok with that, I am getting used to letting go and giving in to the needs of the moment.  And I think that’s what the trick really is to enjoying this motherhood thing – learning to live in the moment.  That the dishes don’t matter if your baby’s hungry.  That your half written email can wait when your baby is feeling playful.  That everything else will still be there later if you want to take a moment to bathe in your baby’s smile.

Cheeky girl 🙂

It has been so amazing to watch her “wake up” from being a sleepy newborn to the funny little person she is now.  I look at newborn photos and can believe she was ever so small!

And there have been so many little firsts along the way… her first little laugh was a funny milestone, the first couple of times she tried out her laughing voice she laughed so hard she spit up and then got the hiccups!  Now she is slowly starting to laugh more often and without needing as much prompting – her funny little giggle is so infectious!

Funny bubba!

She found her hands around 3 months old and examined them with fascination…

Hrmmm, what are these?  Are they mine?

… and then closer to 4 months, she discovered her feet – the left one is her favourite 😛

Look Mum, I found this foot thing!

She’s always experimenting with funny little noises and vocalisations, deciding which ones she likes the best.  Currently it’s the squeal 😛

I’m incredibly lucky that, at around 9 weeks, she decided to start sleeping through the night.  I can’t tell you the secret because I didn’t do anything – I followed her lead in everything and fed her any hour of the day she wanted.  I think the most important thing is that I made a clear distinction between night and day – day sleeps in the pram in the lounge, where it’s light and noisy, night sleeps in the cot in the bedroom and night feeds in the dark with no noise or interaction.  It seems she got the idea and now I am a very lucky mummy who gets a decent sleep most nights (touch wood!).

At around 4 months, we moved her cot to her own room… I was reluctant to do it at first, but it has actually worked out well, it is nice to have our grown up bedroom back and she sailed through the transition.  I couldn’t have done it without my movement monitor!!!  It’s a sensor that sets off an alarm if the baby stops breathing or breathing slows below a certain point – I love that thing, I couldn’t do without it!  Soothes my mummy paranoia no end!


The first four months have been a rollercoaster and a massive adjustment… but we have been blessed with such a happy, beautiful baby, I am becoming more and more comfortable in my role as mother and my heart burns with love for my little chicken nugget.  I’m so excited to see how she continues to grow and discover the little person she is growing into.

Most beautiful girl in the world 🙂

The Truth About Breastfeeding – My Breastfeeding Journey

During my pregnancy, I never doubted the fact that I was going to breastfeed.  It wasn’t even a question in my mind.  Breastfeeding is natural, normal and was the default option in my mind.  My mum breastfed all of us, my youngest sister in fact until she was 3 years old, and I had never even seen anyone bottle feed.  One of the first gifts my mother gave me when I was 8 weeks pregnant was “The Art of Breastfeeding” by the La Leche League.  It is a lovely book, full of wonderful information about breastfeeding, and it is what planted the seed of homebirth in my mind.  However, despite all the troubleshooting tips and discussion of the difficulties, I still got the overall impression that breastfeeding was going to be all amazing bonding with my child while angels danced around me singing hallelujah.
Haaaaaalelujah!! (image by Kate Hansen)
 Pretty much as soon as my baby was put on my chest, she started seeking out the breast, which was amazing to see, that pure natural instinct.  But my first surprise in my breastfeeding journey was that she didn’t know how to latch on – and I didn’t know how to help her.  She didn’t actually end up feeding until hours later as I was about to be discharged from the hospital – the midwife luckily asked me if we had fed yet and as we hadn’t, showed me how to do it.  My second surprise was that teaching her to latch involved holding her head and basically shoving it firmly onto my nipple.  The roughness of it was not what I expected.  For something so “natural”, it wasn’t that intuitive to begin with.
Bubba tries to find boobie
 Luckily my baby was a born breastfeeding pro (and not all are!) and we soon got the hang of it.  She had a strong sucking reflex and latched well right from the beginning (not all women are this lucky, some have a great deal of difficulty establishing correct latch).  However, despite her excellent latch, my virgin nipples were soon excruciatingly painful.  Every time she latched on was absolute agony for about a minute and I began to dread every feed – given she was feeding every 1-2 hours, that’s a lot of agony!!  By the end of the first week I had had enough and was honestly ready to give up breastfeeding if a wonderful friend hadn’t come to visit bearing breast shields.  Breast shields are little plastic teat-like things that you put over your nipple while your baby drinks and provides a bit of a barrier to give your nipples time to heal.  These were absolute sanity savers for me, made a huge difference and saved my ability to breastfeed.  After just a few days, I was able to get rid of the shields and breastfeeding never hurt again.
Breast shield – your nips will thank you!
 My next surprise, however, was how I felt about breastfeeding.  I had been concerned during pregnancy about how breastfeeding would feel, as my breasts have always been an integral part of my sexuality, and the thought of having a baby suck on them was a little hard to get my head around.  I kind of just assumed, though, that because it is so “natural”, that when the time came, it would be fine.  Turns out, making that shift is really not so easy.  I felt very uncomfortable with breastfeeding for quite a long time.  It did not feel like bonding.  I didn’t like it at all.  I didn’t sit there gazing at my baby full of love – I just felt weird and uncomfortable.  It was just a chore.
My first turning point came when I realised that maybe it was ok for it to just be a chore.  Maybe it didn’t have to be all love hearts and kumbaya – maybe it was just like changing nappies… I don’t love it but I do it because it has to be done to care for my baby.  It is cheaper and more convenient than formula feeding, and maybe that was reason enough.
It wasn’t quite enough though, as I continued to feel very uncomfortable with it.  There is a lot of stigma around bottle feeding these days, with breastfeeding pushed heavily, but at the end of the day, in no other part of life would a woman be stigmatised for saying “no” to a use of her sexual parts that she felt uncomfortable with.  I did a lot of research on the topic of breast versus formula feeding and a lot of soul searching, and decided to try a bottle of formula with her when she was about 3 weeks old.  Just to see how it went.  I knew that if it felt like immediate relief feeding her with a bottle instead of my breasts, then maybe formula feeding would be the right choice for me.  I truly believe that a happy mum equals a happy baby, and that if breastfeeding is impacting negatively on the mother’s mental/emotional health or on her ability to bond with her child, then breast in that case may not be “best”.  The most important thing is that a child is loved and fed by a happy mum.

My second and most important turning point in my breastfeeding journey came the day when I decided to try a bottle of formula.  That feeling of relief and having my body back was what I was expecting to feel.  What I actually did feel was completely unexpected.  Having never had a bottle before, I wasn’t sure how she would take it.  I followed a recommendation to use Nuk bottles (which are great by the way!), and she latched on after only two tries and immediately started gulping the milk hungrily!  Did I sigh in relief?  Did I think “oh thank god, this feels so much better”?  No – I felt a deep ache within me, pulled her off the bottle after only two gulps and put her on my boob.  I felt jealous of the bottle!  Everything in me was crying “no, you’re supposed to get that from me!”  *I* was her source of nourishment,  *I* was the one who induced those sleepy milk smiles, *my* milk was supposed to be what she wanted – that was something special for just her and me.  I had never enjoyed feeding her as much I did during that feed.

Which is not to say it was completely smooth sailing after that.  I still continued to struggle from time to time with the feeling of being uncomfortable using my boobs that way, of wanting my body back after 9 months of it belonging to someone else entirely.  I didn’t start zealously loving breastfeeding, the light didn’t start getting all rosy and hazy every time I fed.  But I just knew that there was this deep part of me that needed to do it.  I needed that connection with my child, I needed to nurture her in that way.  Even if I didn’t always like it, some instinct in me needed to do it.
Mum, boob is so EXCITING!
 I did learn an important lesson in open mindedness though.  I learnt that there are a huge variety of reasons why a woman may chose not to or not be able to breastfeed, and that all of them are acceptable, and no mother should ever be judged for her choice of how to feed her child.  All women have the right to choose how to use their body and what they are comfortable with.  Some women would dearly love to breastfeed but, for various reasons, are unable to.  Some women simply don’t want to, for reasons of their own, and that is also ok.  I learnt never to judge another’s choices until you have walked a mile in their shoes – or even half a mile, or even just tried their shoes on.
I did come across this very interesting article, The Case Against Breastfeeding.  It is not actually “against” breastfeeding as the title suggests, but rather investigates more closely all the superlative claims made by the pro breastfeeding movement, such as ideas that not breastfeeding will make your child sick, fat and stupid.  Turns out, the much touted benefits of breastfeeding may not be as huge as much of the health literature and many “lactivists” would have you think.  I find it interesting though, that right at the end of the article, the author admits that despite all she found in her research, she herself still breastfeeds.  There is certainly some kind of instinctive aspect to it that no amount of research can remove.
I also came across a wonderful site called Fearless Formula Feeder.  It is a great place of support for women who chose to or have to formula feed for whatever reason.  It think it is fabulous for these women to have a positive, supportive community such as this, as I think mothers who formula feed are subjected to far too much stigmatism in today’s society.  We are all just trying to do the best we can by our babies, and I wish we wouldn’t judge each other so much.  I also think it’s worth checking the site out even if you are a committed breastfeeder – some of the stories may just make you think twice before judging that mum in the parent’s room heating up a bottle for her baby.
 Even now, four months on, I wouldn’t say that I *love* breastfeeding.  But I don’t hate it or find it uncomfortable anymore either.  It has grown on me.  I gave myself 6 months as a goal – but now I think I will most likely breastfeed her beyond that.  In fact, I think I might even be sad when I decide to stop.  ‘Cos I gotta be honest, nothing quite beats the way they look at you with those breastfeeding eyes…
… ok, maybe a little part of me loves it.  Just a little bit.