Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Reflections on four years of tandem nursing | SeasideBelle

I have been tandem feeding for four years!

I am astounded by this.

When I first entered the realms of motherhood, I imagined breastfeeding for six months (or until my baby got teeth) before weaning.

I had never heard of natural term weaning and I would have certainly done a double take if I'd seen anyone breastfeeding a toddler, let alone a pre-schooler.

And I would have never even dreamt that mothers could feed a baby and an older child. Yup - I'd have thought I was a bit of a weirdo.

But, here I am. I'm on my second tandem pairing and I'm currently breastfeeding a 14 month old and, as of today, a four year old.

So, how the hell did it happen?

To be honest, I don't really know. I've just followed my instincts, responded to my children's needs and muddled through.

Breastfeeding through pregnancy

I was lucky that I had a very easy pregnancy and that Beatrix didn't seem too bothered by any dips in supply. Some children self-wean, typically around halfway through the pregnancy, as they aren't getting as much, if any, milk. And Beatrix actually stopped feeding for around 10 days. I wasn't upset, as it was her choice. However, fate stepped in and she contracted Slapped Cheek Disease and returned to breastfeeding - her main comfort and nutrition and an easy way for her to boost her immune system. She then carried on nursing throughout pregnancy.

My first tandem feed

I remember my first tandem feed vividly. Four years ago today, I gave birth to Wilfred in a beautiful home birth. He latched on pretty much straight away and I made sure he had a good feed. In fact, he was feeding when I introduced him to my older two. Beatrix was just shy of her second birthday and very attached to the breast. We'd spent the past few months talking about the fact that the new baby would need to breastfeed, and we'd role played with an assortment of soft toys and plastic dinosaurs, but I was nervous about her seeing someone else feeding from me. But she was immediately besotted with her new brother and fascinated that such a small thing could actually breastfeed. She kept saying "Baby an mulk" (Baby having milk). And I promised her that when he had finished, she would be able to have some too. 

A little later, I settled on the bed and began feeding Wilf again. Beatrix climbed up next to us and I managed to position her next to me so she could feed too. At this point, the midwife walked in to check we were OK before she left. She smiled and commented: "What a lovely sight and what a beautiful family." She will never know the power of those words and how they filled me with confidence and swelled my heart with pride. Our tandem journey had commenced.

In fact, I very rarely feed both of my nurselings at the same time. It's a real faff to get positioned right and I feel like I'm exposing far too much flesh! But every now and then, it seems the right thing to do. Mostly, though I feed my little ones separately. They've definitely learnt about taking turns from a very young age!

The end of one relationship and the start of another

Beatrix self-weaned around Christmas time after she started school. It was a gradual process and it took a while for me to realise that she had stopped breastfeeding. At this point, I was about halfway through my pregnancy with Oswald, so I suspect the dip in supply may have been a contributing factor. Wilf, however, continued to breastfeed. This time, it was easier as he was older than Beatrix had been when I was pregnant with him, so he was not feeding as frequently as she had done.

Wilf played an important role in the birth of Ossie. I'd been for a sweep that afternoon and had been uncomfortable ever since. I knew my body was gearing up for labour and it was feeding Wilf to sleep that kickstarted the contractions. We lay in his bed at 8pm and by 8.25 the tightenings had settled into some very regular contractions. Ossie arrived less than two hours later in another beautiful home birth.

The future

Ossie is now nearly 15 months old. He breastfeeds a lot. Wilf is pretty much down to bedtime and occasionally during the day if he is hurt, upset or knackered. Wilf starts school in September and I suspect our nursing journey is drawing to a close. I'll try and follow his lead. I've had terrible nursing aversion this time round (mostly due to tiredness I think), so I've had to set some limits on our breastfeeding, but we've reached a place now that we're both happy so we can continue until he is ready to wean.

It will be very strange to be only breastfeeding one child. It's been a rollercoaster ride that I never dreamt I'd embark on, but I wouldn't change it for the world. As with all my parenting decisions, I've done what I thought was right for my family and circumstances based on the knowledge I had at the time.

Have you or are you tandem feeding? What are your experiences?
Hot Pink Wellingtons

Monday, 27 June 2016

Things I learnt at BritMums Live 2016 | Seaside Belle

Yesterday I attended my first ever blogger conference: BritMums Live. Before I went I was a bag of nerves: would I be exposed as a bit of a fraud among the big league of 'proper' mummy bloggers with their beautiful sites and regularly updated posts? Would anyone talk to me? Would I ask stupid questions? Would I overshare something hugely embarrassing?

I needn't have worried, I had an absolute ball. I learnt loads, I met lots of lovely people and I came away inspired and with a little bit more of a concrete plan for taking blogging forward in the future. Oh, and whoops, I did kind of share something hugely embarrassing in front of the whole conference - although I did get Cherry Healy's new book out of it!


There was so much to absorb, so I'm going to list some of the key things I learnt at BritMums Live while they're still fresh in my mind. In the coming weeks, I plan to expand a bit on some of them, so watch this space. I'll also mention some of the lovely bloggers I met, so you can be inspired by them too.

Setting goals

  1. Set goals and believe in yourself. Once you've set your goals, create good habits to keep you on track. And build a team, if there's stuff you really struggle with, pay someone else to do it for you. Julie Creffield, Too Fat To Run.
  2. We're in control, we're in charge of our audience, so we set the rules...and we have the power to break all the rules if it works for our blog. Vicki Psarias-Broadbent, Honest Mum.

Your blog's niche

  1. If you are looking to work with brands, your blog needs to have a defined niche and audience.
  2. Having a clear niche also helps in developing a content plan. Jess Dante, Socially Jess.

Design

  1. If you want to start earning money from your blog, your blog needs to look slick - well designed and with an email address that matches your domain - and you need to be consistently posting quality content.

Content

  1. Clarify who your audience is and what your niche is and use that information to develop a plan for what content to post that will be useful for your target audience. Jess Dante, Socially Jess.

Vlogging

  1. Think about where you film your vlog: the environment (kitchen, bedroom, lounge, outside) can add to the story you are trying to tell. Nigel Camp, The Video Effect.

SEO

  1. ALT text for images is not about SEO, it's about ensuring your site is accessible, something that is required under the Disabilities Discrimination Act. It also helps your images appear in Google Image Search. You should NOT be using ALT text tags to try and boost your SEO by including spammy key words (unless those keywords are useful for image search or describe the content of the image for people with little or no sight). Judith Lewis, DeCabbit Consultancy.

Analytics

  1. Useful areas of Google Analytics for bloggers are:
    1. Audience - helps you decide what content to include
    2. Behaviour - what are they doing, where are they going and how long are they spending on your blog? What do you need to adjust to change this behaviour?
    3. Conversions - what are your visitors worth to you? Are they doing what you want them to do?
  2. Break down the data to decide where to take your blog and what content to post. Gori Yahaya, Digital Garage at Google.

Meeting other bloggers


  1. One of the reasons lots of bloggers go to BML and other events is to socialise. I'll be honest, it wasn't top of my wish list. I'm massively sleep deprived at the moment and, as a result, I can be a bit anti-social. But the atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly that I couldn't help but get chatting to others. It can be a bit freaky to half recognise someone from having seen their picture on their blog and then think you know them in real life before realising you don't and they probably don't know you from Adam. But a smile and a hello is usually enough to spark a conversation.
  2. For me, the most valuable session for getting to know other bloggers was the round table on content. It was really helpful to listen to others talking about their blogs and their audience and then to collaborate to suggest ways of taking the content forward. In fact, it was so good that we stayed past the end of the session to learn more. So many thanks to: BattleMum, Mummy's Gin Fund, No More Shoulds, Only Girl In The House, Morgan's Prince, Classlist, and the others I've forgotten to include.

In a nutshell

I could go on and on about everything I learnt at BritMums Live. I've got loads of inspiration for things to work on to improve my blogs and take the next steps on my blogging journey. But if someone was to ask for a 30 second rundown on what I learnt, this is what I would say:
  1. Nail your niche - what exactly is your blog about, how is it different to other blogs and what makes is special?
  2. Clarify who your audience is - once you know exactly who you're writing for, you'll find it a lot easier to come up with content, develop your style and sell your blog to advertisers.
  3. Decide on a key message for each piece of content - what do you want that content to achieve? This helps with measurement and growing your blog by giving it a purpose.
  4. Have fun - enjoy the ride and don't be afraid to take on challenges - even if that means sharing your most embarrassing stories with a room full of strangers!
What are your key takeaways from #BML16?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Celebrating Elliot's First Holy Communion

You know it must have been a good day when your son tells you the next morning: "I wish we could do yesterday again."

Yesterday, Elliot celebrated his First Holy Communion.


For girls, First Holy Communion is probably the only opportunity apart from when they get married that they get to walk up the aisle wearing a stunning white dress. For boys, the dress code is a bit more vague.

Luckily, we had been given a gorgeous white suit - trousers, jacket and waistcoat - which was extra special because it was worn by my nephew at my sister-in-law's wedding. So the outfit was sorted.



However, we added a couple of special touches. In the morning, we gave Elliot his First Holy Communion present from us: a pair of cufflinks featuring a cross and Elliot's initials. As well as being symbolic of Christ sacrificing his body and blood for us, the cufflinks were a lovely way of marking Elliot growing up and his being able to play a full role in the Mass. My husband also gave Elliot a St Christopher on a gold chain that he had been given as a boy. To go with the shirt, my mother-in-law gave Elliot a smart shirt he could use with his cufflinks.

The service was amazing: beautiful singing and just a feeling of warmth from the Parish family as the fifteen children received their sacrament.

We were joined by my grandmother, my mother-in-law and her partner, my mum, my two sisters and my two nieces so it was a really lovely family day.

Afterwards, the children had some party food and we all shared a cake made by Carole, who serves on the alter and also runs Carole's Cupcakes.

First Holy Communion cake by Carole's Cupcakes.
Not only was it Elliot's First Holy Communion, but it was also Father's Day and an opportunity to celebrate my mother's birthday, so we headed off to The Elizabethan Inn for lunch. The children's portions were huge and we were very impressed with the choice on the menu. I had the Roast Beef, which was cooked to perfection.

The birthday girl and Elliot
I'm so pleased Elliot enjoyed his day and I'm sure he'll remember it fondly for the rest of his life. I am a very proud mummy.

Monday, 13 June 2016

First Holy Communion Gift Ideas

Elliot will be making his First Holy Communion on Sunday.

As Roman Catholics, it's a pretty big deal. It's the third sacrament after baptism and reconciliation. It's a sort of coming of age and enables the child to play a full part in the Mass and to welcome Jesus to be fully part of them.

As with all celebrations, a thoughtful gift can mark the occasion and provide something to remember the day.

Here are some ideas:

Mass and Prayer Book. As part of their preparation for the sacrament, the children learn all about the different parts of the Mass. A Mass and Prayer Book will remind them of this and guide them through the service each Sunday. Plus the prayers will help as they continue to grow in their spiritual journey.




Personalised First Holy Communion Candle. In the Roman Catholic tradition, a candle represents Jesus - the Light of the World. In Baptism, a candle is given to represent the receiving of the Light of the World. First Holy Communion is when you receive the Light of the World for the first time in regular workshop, so a candle is a lovely representation of that moment. 


A Rosary. This personalised football first communion rosary combines my son's main passions in life. I'm sure he'd be more likely to use this to pray because it's personal to him and his life, reminding him that Jesus is with him whatever he does -win or lose.


Personalised First Communion Picture Frame. What better way to remember the special day than with a picture frame featuring a photograph taken on the day? This wooden frame includes the words used in Mass as well as the name of the child and the date.


Personalised cross cufflinks. Making your First Holy Communion is a real milestone in the Roman Catholic church - a sign you are growing up and know your own mind. So why not reflect that with a grown up gift? These cufflinks not only reflect that Christ sacrificed his body and blood on the cross for us, but also mark that the child is maturing. And the initials add a personal touch to show that we each have our own connection with the Lord.
Christian White Cross Personalised Cufflinks
Christian White Cross Personalised Cufflinks by BudgetSymbols
View more Custom Pairs of Cufflinks

Now I just need to find a suitable card! And think of some small tokens of appreciation that I can give to the catechists and Elliot's prayer partner.

Have you given or received a special First Holy Communion gift?

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Bringing up boys: a trip to the barber shop

Being one of three girls growing up, there are some things about bringing up boys that mystify and slightly scare me. One of them is haircuts.


Although with girls, there seem to be a few choices, ultimately it's pretty simple:

  1. Grow the hair long and just trim it once in a while.
  2. Grow the hair long, but keep a fringe and trim it regularly; ideally before the hair starts needling the eyes.
  3. Cut the hair short. Basically, choose a picture from a magazine, or Pinterest, and take it to the hairdresser and watch as they do their magic.
You would think that boys would be far simpler! How many variations of close cropped hair can there be? And, until now, hair cuts have been a very simple affair. I have sent them to my mum and she has set to work with her comb and scissors until the hair seemed to be at an acceptably short length.

But over the past year, Elliot has become more interested in things like hair gel, styling products and attempting to copy the hairstyles of his favourite footballers - particularly Eric Lamela and his spiked up style. Unfortunately, his current grandma hairdo was no longer cutting it.

As his interest in his appearance started to develop, I felt the need to do a bit of research to try and help him develop his own style.

I resorted to Pinterest, started a boy hair board and discovered that boys' haircuts are not just limited to the 'short back and sides'. You can have floppy fringes, spiked tops, over the ears, swept to one side and any variation of these and more!

I then discovered a new problem: types of hair. My mother had often struggled to cut Wilfred's hair because it is extremely straight and very dense, so it seems that some of the lovely hair styles I had found would probably be unsuitable.


Things came to a head this week when I realised the school photographer was coming in to take some class photographs. My boys were in need of a haircut and something had to be done.

So, we went into town after school and visited Phyllis's Seaside Barber Shop, which is where my husband has his hair cut.

We were lucky, she was about to close up shop for the day, but she took pity at the desperation in my face and managed to fit us in. I didn't even need to panic about asking for a particular style - I just blurted out short back and sides and, after offering the children lollipops, away she went.

Phyllis's is brilliant. It's a small, very traditional barber shop. The price list is very basic and runs along the lines of: men's cut, boy's cut, beard trim. There are two traditional barber shop chairs and she uses a booster seat for the small ones. To keep people occupied while you wait, there is a fish tank and a bookshelf with plenty of children's books along with magazines and newspapers. The wall is full of Elvis Presley posters and she listens to 50s rock music on a small jukebox style CD player as she trims and cuts.

This was Wilfred's first visit to a barber shop and he was brilliant. He can be quite reluctant in new situations and it often takes a little time for him to be happy to participate in new activities. But, after watching his big brother have his hair done, he was happy to sit still in the chair an allow Phyllis to use her buzzy trimmer, even round his ears.


We are very happy with the results - two boys with the same haircut. And both were very happy that she styled their hair with wax.


Do your boys have a particular hair style?

Friday, 3 June 2016

Recipe: bacon, cheese and tomato pasta bake

Pasta bake is a firm favourite in our house - even with the eldest, who doesn't usually like any sort of sauce on his food.

Usually,  I am lazy and use a jar of sauce and just whack it in the oven. But last night I decided to try and make my own from scratch. I'm pleased to report, my home-made version was a success and probably tasted better than the usual jar version.



I based my attempt on a recipe from the Tesco website (view the original recipe here). However, as I was feeding 2 adults, 5 children and a baby, I increased some of the ingredients:

Ingredients

  • 250 g dry penne pasta (I used a 500 g bag of wholewheat fusilli as I was feeding the 5000 - well my family and my niece and nephew who I was looking after for the day in half-term).
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 rashers of bacon, chopped (I used a pack of 7 slices - again, because I had lots of mouths to feed)
  • Half an onion, diced (I used a whole onion)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 150 g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I only had 4 cherry tomatoes as Beatrix had snaffled most of them in her lunch, so I also added a tin of chopped tomatoes)
  • 100 g mushrooms, chopped (I didn't weigh them, but finely chopped around 4 largish mushrooms so they wouldn't be identified by all the children who claim they don't like mushrooms)
  • 1 400g tin of cream of tomato soup
  • 50 ml single cream
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Grated mozzarella (I used half a bag left over from when we made pizza the other day)
  • Grated cheddar 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas mark 5
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 10 minutes and then drain and place into an oven proof dish
  3. Fry the bacon bits in olive oil for a minute or two
  4. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon until softened
  5. Add the mushrooms and fry until they are soft
  6. Add the cherry tomatoes and the tinned tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until the sauce is bubbling
  7. Add the tomato soup and simmer for a couple of minutes
  8. Stir in the single cream and add the basil leaves.
  9. Pour the mixture over the pasta in the oven proof dish
  10. Sprinkled the grated cheese over the top and bake for 15 minutes or so, until the cheese melts.
This is definitely a recipe I'll repeat. I was really surprised about how easy it was to make and how delicious it was. I reckon the tinned tomato soup was the secret to the success of this dish. I doubt I'll be buying the shop bought sauce again.

What have you made recently?

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Why I volunteer as a breastfeeding peer supporter

 Not only are we in National Volunteering Week, but the start of June marks my four year anniversary of volunteering as a breastfeeding peer supporter.


 Pretty much every Wednesday for I go along to the local Children’s Centre Bosom Buddies breastfeeding support group and help mums along their breastfeeding journey. I also sometimes help out at the ante-natal class on breastfeeding.

Why did I become a breastfeeding peer supporter?

When I had my eldest, my local breastfeeding support group in London was a lifeline in helping me get established breastfeeding. And when I moved to Devon, the breastfeeding group is where I made some of my best friends. I got so much from the groups that I wanted to give something back and to help other mums benefit as much as I did. With huge budget cuts in social and healthcare, volunteers play a vital role in supporting mothers establish and maintain their breastfeeding journeys. I became quite passionate about breastfeeding and as I learnt more about the subject from personal experience, I wanted to share my knowledge with others. But actually, that’s not what being a breastfeeding peer supporter is about. Peer supporters should try not to share their personal experiences, because everybody is different. It’s OK to say something is normal behaviour and to reassure a lady, but it’s not always helpful to say, “Oh, my baby cluster fed for months.” If you do that, you risk getting into a competitive situation, which isn’t helpful at all.

How did I become a breastfeeding peer supporter?

When I found out that the local children’s centre was running a training course for mums to become breastfeeding peer supporters, I jumped at the chance. A group of around 10 of us attended sessions for around 10 weeks where we learnt about the physiology of breastfeeding, the barriers mother face to breastfeeding and, most importantly, about how to listen and how to facilitate a mother to find her own way. Our job is not to advise women, we are there to provide the information she needs to make her own decisions about how she feeds her child and to signpost her to additional help and support if she needs it.

What’s in it for me?

Well, apart from the satisfaction of giving something back and empowering mums to breastfeed, I have learnt an awful lot. I have gained a qualification, but I have also developed skills such as listening and asking open questions to draw information out and to discover the real issues that women are facing. I have learnt about safeguarding, which is useful in my role as a school governor. And I have learnt about personal development. I have definitely developed as a person, but I’ve also learnt about how to encourage others in their own personal development. I’ve become a lot more respectful of other people’s decisions and priorities. Ultimately, a parent will always make a decision about their child based on their knowledge and personal circumstances at the time. Who are we to judge from an external perspective when we don’t know the whole story? But that’s perhaps a topic for another blog post.

What does the future hold?

Well, for the foreseeable future, I’ll continue as a breastfeeding peer supporter. The role fits in well with my life. I can take my children to the group with me. I am actually lucky in this as there are many peer supporters around the country who are not allowed to take children with them when they volunteer – but how can you demonstrate you are a peer if you’re not sat there breastfeeding your own child? My youngest doesn’t start school for a few years yet, but even when he does, I imagine I’ll continue to peer support because I feel like I’m doing something useful.


Do you volunteer? How do you fit it in to your life?