Clarity.

As you will have noticed, I have been on a bit of a blogging break. And, like any good break, I have come back with a clear mind and having learnt a few things about myself. As this blog acts as a sort of diary on this journey of self-discovery that is parenthood, I thought it was necessary to write it all down. It might seem a little over-analysed to you, but that is because it was, and that’s OK.

I recently went to visit a couple of Montessori nurseries, with the view of completing my dreaded 420 hours work experience in order to gain my full diploma that I have been working so hard towards for what feels like forever. I had been putting this off knowing in my heart that I didn’t want to leave Poppy, but with the 2016 deadline for completion on the horizon I thought I had better face reality if I wanted to reach graduation day. I decided that maybe it was a good thing to do something for myself now that Poppy is getting that bit older. The idea was that she would attend the same nursery I worked at (in a different room) and seeing as I am passionate about Montessori I started to tell myself that perhaps this environment would help her to thrive even more. I convinced myself that I was excited about the extra work I would be subjecting myself to. I started to imagine how much Poppy would love it and that maybe by the end it would be hard to leave the wonderful place we had grown to love.

Montessori is a method of education, but I believe it is so much more than this. It is respect for the children, love of nature, trust in the human mind and body and it’s natural ability and overwhelming urge to learn and a focus on hands on experiences to satisfy those innate driving forces. Parents and teachers alike can adopt all of these principals, and much of Montessori’s philosophy fits so perfectly into our home environment, even though we are planning on going down the ‘unschooling’ route of home education. So I felt hopeful, despite our choice to stay away from school and our ‘alternative’ approach to parenting, that a Montessori environment might just be the only place I would be happy to leave Poppy. Perhaps all of my worries about how often she still breastfeeds, how accustomed she is to having me near her every minute, every day, how well I know her better than anyone else could and how when she isn’t with me I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something is missing…perhaps all of those worries would just fade away when we walk through the doors of that beautiful, idyllic, understanding and gentle Montessori environment. Of course they didn’t.

I was open-minded. At least I tried to be. But it dawned on me pretty quickly that a classroom, Montessori or not, was still a classroom, and a teacher, loving, caring and gentle or not, was still not Poppy’s mummy. The picture in my head of the perfect Montessori setting quickly disappeared when I noticed some fundamental ‘rules’ being broken. The baby rooms full of plastic, a teacher reprimanding a child in front of the whole class, the shelves cluttered and verbal praise being thrown around left, right and centre. To the untrained eye this might seem like no biggie, it happens all the time in regular nurseries and schools, but it goes against the most basic of Montessori principals. Being so passionate about Maria Montessori’s work – her methods and the reasons behind them – I hated to see it not being implemented in these well-regarded schools. I started to feel disheartened; my own efforts at creating a Montessori home environment weren’t looking too bad at all! But I tried to remain open-minded and told myself that it was unrealistic to expect everything to be perfect.

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Poppy playing in her Montessori inspired bedroom

As I spoke to the teachers showing me around I tried to gauge how similar their views were to my own, whether or not our alternative parenting style would fit together with the way they ran their nursery. I didn’t really care about where I did my teaching placement, but if it wasn’t right for Poppy, it wasn’t going to happen. I smiled and nodded when they said things that I didn’t agree with. I tried not to recoil in horror when I looked at their menu and saw junk food and a lack of wholesome nutrition (unfortunately true for many settings these days it seems). They answered my questions about things that they knew I felt strongly about, and their friendly voices and sympathetic eyes almost made me feel like they really did know best and I was living in cloud cuckoo land. After voicing some of my concerns over leaving Poppy, one of the teachers introduced me to the staff as somebody who was ‘very precious about her daughter, and her daughter is probably very precious about her’. Wait a minute, aren’t all Mum’s precious about their children? She said it in the nicest possible way but I have worked in childcare; she didn’t realise I knew that it was code for ‘This woman is an over-protective psycho and is going to make our lives very difficult’. The thing is I remember telling anxious parents the same thing once upon a time, that their very attached child who cries every time they leave them will be just fine, as soon as you are gone they won’t even remember why they were sad. I believed it, and sure, it may have appeared to be true. But how do we know how they are really feeling inside? Especially when we hardly know the child. Don’t get me wrong, Poppy is confident and increasingly independent and very sociable. She would be fine. And the comfort she would have gotten from a member of staff would be fine. And the reduced milk feeds would be fine. And the way that people would have spoken to her, in a tone that I wasn’t quite comfortable with, would be fine. And the fact that she would have had a biscuit as a snack everyday instead of her usual green smoothie, would be fine. It would all be fine. I suppose. But what if ‘fine’ just isn’t good enough?

I came home from the second nursery almost feeling convinced that I was being an over-the-top, paranoid, too-hard-to-please, obsessive mother who absolutely had to relax if I wanted us to fit in and be classed as almost normal. But then I realised that spending just one hour in an environment that was so far from what we now consider our normal, I was being sucked in and questioning myself where I never had before. I am so happy with our parenting choices, our life is amazing and Poppy is thriving; why should I change that to fit in somewhere we don’t even belong? The fact is, being in a nursery even for just four hours without me is most definitely not the best possible situation for Poppy right now. I knew it I just couldn’t quite acknowledge that my reasoning’s were important enough to ignore the influence of others. I had to speak to someone who would tell me I wasn’t crazy before I started to believe I was. I messaged one of my lovely friends who I know completely ‘get’s’ me when others might not. And after I had spoken to my wise friend everything was clear again. No matter how many nurseries I visit, I will never find the right one, because as she put it, Poppy and I are still one. No one can ever love and care for her like I do, understand her needs entirely, or accept and work through her overwhelming frustration and tears when her sock is just ever so slightly bunched up by her toes which means she feels it every time she steps down on that foot (this happens everyday). Most Mum’s will relate to that, and yet we are constantly given the message that we need to break away from our children, give them the opportunity to be independent or they will never learn how to be; stop holding them back, smothering them, spoiling them, molly-coddling them and learn to let go. Stop being so ‘precious’. But this isn’t a natural way to teach independence. Why is attachment so feared in our society? Since when was it so terrible to love your child so much that it hurts to think of leaving them with someone who won’t do it as well as you can. As my friend pointed out, it is human nature to protect and nurture our young, and that protection covers all manner of things, including the emotional stress of separation and all of the things in the world that you, as a parent, decide might be harmful, in any capacity, to your child, their development or well-being. Yes I go above and beyond to make sure I am doing this at all times, from the diet I feed her, to the medicines I choose to use, from the techniques I use to teach her to the way in which I communicate with her. And I will avoid anything that I believe could be detrimental to these efforts, to the most important years of her life and to our strong, secure relationship. If this means that I come across as an obsessive weirdo at times, then so be it. These little details, and the niggling issues I had with the nurseries, may be small and seemingly insignificant to others but to me they make up the beginning of my child’s life, and that is huge.

And so it was decided. I am completing my exams to be awarded a certificate but I won’t be graduating and gaining the full diploma. It was difficult for me to accept that this is not failure but another turning on our journey. I have learnt so much, and will continue to do so, and it will enrich Poppy’s childhood for sure. But for now, I need to focus on family, and just be a Mummy to Poppy…because I am the only person who can be.

As I am sure you can tell, this post isn’t just about deciding not to send Poppy to nursery. It is about the realisation that it I do not have to compromise in any area of my parenting. The truth is, I often feel awkward or embarrassed when voicing yet another opinion, or explaining to family why we don’t do things this way, or requesting that they try to do things that way. I spoke to my Dad recently about why we don’t use verbal praise like ‘good girl’ in the same way we don’t use punishment or any other conditioning techniques (I will write a post about this soon). I found myself feeling a mix of guilt and defensiveness before the words even came out. I don’t want people to feel like I am criticizing them; especially people who I know love Poppy so much. Incidentally, my Dad was, and has been with many things, very understanding and open-minded, which made me realise that I didn’t necessarily need to feel so worried. I am no longer going to protect other people’s feelings or indeed my own feelings of being judged as over-reacting, if it compromises Poppy’s chance to the best possible start in life. I have taken on that label of being a bit whacky or weird because we do things differently, but in reality I am simply passionate, dedicated and motivated to do the best I can. There is nothing wrong with that. I need to realise that so that other people can too. This post is about realising that you are perfectly entitled to be unconventional, you are allowed to want complete control over how your child is raised and you have the right to say no. This post isn’t about anybody else’s choices; it is about me not apologising for mine.
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Thank you to my friends who are there when I need that clarity, who give me the confidence to write things like this, who I would be lost without. You know who you are.

Breastfeeding to sleep: creating bad habits?

P1040506I am feeling really proud of Poppy right now. For the third night in a row she has just fallen asleep all by herself, after her milk, rather than during, and with me just lying next to her. I know people whose babies did this at 12 weeks old, but at 13 months this is a big achievement and significant milestone for us.

Up until now I have breastfed Poppy to sleep every single night, and never considered doing it any other way. At times I might have wondered if I was really doing the best thing, but these thoughts were very fleeting and I didn’t take any notice of them. Breastmilk is designed to make a baby sleepy, in fact it changes during the day so that the night time milk contains a much higher concentration of the sleepy stuff, and our bedtime feed is a lovely, peaceful time where me and Poppy get to reconnect after even the most manic of days. Luckily for me no one has really questioned this decision and told me I was making a rod for my own back, but I know that many mum’s are told exactly that, and perhaps pressured into teaching a baby to ‘self-soothe’. Although I wasn’t worried about our bedtime feed, I did once try to reduce her middle of the night feeds, which I wrote about here and here, so I understand this idea about self-soothing and worrying that your baby will take forever to do so if you don’t actively encourage it. But although Poppy did start going back to sleep on her own, the whole process was far too emotional (despite us taking a ‘gentle’ approach) and more exhausting for us so we gave up after 3 weeks and welcomed our old ‘habits’ with open arms.

I let go of all of any doubts and just went with it. I find that we have ups and downs and sometimes, yes, I wish she slept through the night, but that is usually when we have other stresses in our life and I am emotionally tired rather than physically. The majority of the time, the night time wakings are more than bearable, sometimes I even enjoy them. Sometimes. At 13 months I would say she is waking on average 5 times a night (between 6pm and 6am roughly), a few weeks ago she only woke twice, a few days later she woke every half an hour.

So how is this all relevant to tonight’s events? Because as Poppy lay in the dark chatting to herself and kicking her legs I got a little impatient that she wasn’t falling asleep quick enough. I picked her back up and tried to offer her more milk, in the hope it would relax her some more and speed things up. She arched her back and made such a fuss; she refused milkies! She got herself back onto the bed, snuggled up beside me and was asleep within 10 minutes. It was as if she was saying “I can do this on my own!” And she did just that. I feel hugely proud of this step towards independence, as well as a little emotional (everyone always tells you how you will miss the little things when they are gone!) It honestly feels as significant to me as her first steps, because I know that she has got there on her own, without any expectation from us, and this is her natural progression towards independence so should be celebrated just like all the other big firsts. As well as that it has proved that letting your baby fall asleep on the boob every night does not mean they will never self-soothe. It may have taken 13 months but this feeling is amazing. It has given me hope that her night time feeds might reduce as she learns that she can get herself back to sleep when she wakes, she doesn’t need me, but I am there if she wants me. That light at the end of the tunnel is enough for me to keep feeding her during the night for as long as she wants, as much as she wants. And I know when the day finally comes that I close my eyes at 11pm and open them at 7am (yeah right, more like 5.30am!) I will feel so much pride for my precious girl, it will all be worth it.

So keep feeding mama’s! All the way to dreamland!

Routines and responding respectfully

For those of you who missed my recent post, we decided that it was time to make a few changes to our night time parenting in order to ease the pressure on myself. Poppy is essentially being taught to self settle. It is tiring, but it is a gentle approach designed to respect Poppy, it is not a quick fix. We had a couple of wobbly nights but things are back on track. I said I would post about exactly what we have done to change Poppy’s sleeping habits so here goes (the “sleep training” element is at the end):

Routine: WP_20140604_023I know it is the oldest trick in the book, and considering the number of books I scanned through during pregnancy I really should have been a bit stricter with this one. I am talking about the bedtime routine; bath, massage, book, breastfeed, bed. We started off well, but gradually we dropped one thing at a time until it was just bath and feed to sleep. No wonder she was still pretty wired and wouldn’t instantly go to sleep! No more skipping steps. It has been amazing how quickly this took effect, and even when she still seems wide awake during the story, as soon as she is in my arms feeding she starts dropping off. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but she isn’t getting that second wind just as I think she is falling asleep, which seemed to be happening so often before.

Black out blinds: I told myself this was the reason for her difficulty in realising it was bedtime, and maybe it played a part, but I think the routine was more important. The blinds have helped, but they don’t quite cover our windows!! Even so, there is enough of a transition from lights on to lights off that helps reinforce that routine.

Introducing a lovely: Poppy now sleeps with the same teddy (cat actually) every night. I put it in her arms as she feeds, and she has started to grasp it, so I think it is working. The cat is currently nameless – ideas on a postcard please!

Moving her into her own room: This was the saddest change, as it came way before I thought it would. But realistically I knew that I was unlikely to make the other changes, like reducing her feeds, without it. We wanted her to learn to settle with Tim, and eventually alone, but when she is at arms length and we are half asleep I act on auto pilot. Tim wouldn’t have had the chance to even try to settle her, he probably would never have woken up at all. Amazingly she didn’t seem to protest to the move, I think she realised very quickly that we were still there for her, all she needed to do was ask.

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Cutting down the feeds: This was my main aim of the transition. I didn’t make a plan, not really. I told myself I would see how she reacted if I just didn’t feed her, and to my surprise it was really not that bad. She grizzled a little but then dropped back off. So I tried to resist a few times. I realised her cry was different when she was really hungry…more about that in a minute. I found she needed a feed at around 3am every morning, sometimes earlier, sometimes later, I am still being led by her in that regard. At the moment we are down to a feed to sleep at 6pm, a top up ‘dream feed’ before I go to bed (although I am sure she wakes up for this) and then the 3am fed.

Listening to the cry NOT cry it out!: You know that study about how stress hormones wash over a crying baby’s brain? The one that makes us AP mums feel guilty every time we hear our pumpkins sob? Well did you know that when they are being held or even if they are next to you that the stress hormones could be almost non existent? Just being there through the tears makes your baby feel safe and by the end of that crying session they could have even learned a thing or two; that they are able to regulate their emotions and that their feelings valid because you stuck around and showed them love when they felt sad. That is very different to leaving them to cry themselves to exhaustion on their own and eventually give up on anyone coming to them. We knew that Poppy would cry to start with. She had no idea why she was suddenly not getting what she had been used to for 8 months! But I honestly thought it would be much worse than it was. We agreed to be with her when she cried and try to comfort her but not desperately try to fix it immediately. First we would listen to the type of cry and ask ourselves what Poppy really needs. Just like other stages in development learning to fall asleep on your own can be frustrating, and we would be there to support her through that. If this was the sort of emotion she was expressing, what does feeding really do? I am all for comfort feeding, but I can’t do it whenever Poppy faces something challenging or when things don’t go quite the way she had planned or hoped. We quickly learnt the difference between her cries and when it was frustration we lay with her, stroke her head and talk to her calmly and lovingly. She falls asleep within minutes. And if she doesn’t, we know that she really needs me instead of Tim or she needs a feed. If it is getting towards 3am and her cry is intense and builds I feed her straight away, and some nights she does still refuse to settle without feeding, but those nights have been few and far between. She is sometimes able to fall back to sleep during the night with no more than a quick rub on the back to know we are there, or even a ‘shh’ at the door. There are still times when she needs more and we are with her for 20 minutes or so, but the point is we know that she can do it. She is only waking once or twice, tops before her early morning feed, which is an improvement, and Tim is able to share the responsibility. I think this is good for their bond as well, although not so good for the dark circles under Tim’s eyes!

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There have been a few downsides to this change. The biggest being that for some reason she is waking up earlier, 5am most days, and I don’t really know why. I have even tried to feed her back to sleep despite my better judgement in a desperate plea for a lie in, but she enjoys the feed and then wakes up anyway! It means we have all started napping at about 7.30am, which is a nice way to make up for the lack of cosleeping. I am also finding it harder to switch off knowing that I might have to get up at any moment to go into her room. But it is getting easier to relax as time goes on. We are quite tired from going back and forth to her room, but it has lessened. Even if things stay as they are for the time being, it means I have my evenings without interruption, the nights are becoming more predictable, I probably have longer chunks of sleep even if the waking up is more effort, and Poppy has come a long way which is great. I have loose aims of what will happen as we go forward, but I am not going to put any pressure on Poppy or get my hopes up too much. I might try this weekend to drop the dream feed before my bedtime, because I don’t really know how long she would go into the night if I didn’t give it her. If it turns out she doesn’t really need it then that would be ideal because it would free up my entire evenings! (oops I said I wasn’t going to get my hopes up!) If that doesn’t work and she wakes up at midnight each night, hungry, then I will revert back to the original plan and perhaps aim to gradually push the 3am feed later and later, until she is going through from our bedtime until her ridiculously early waking up time. That sounds wonderful! Of course the biggest bonus would be if she decides that other than the hungry feeds, she doesn’t need us at all to help her settle, and we could go to sleep every night knowing that we will get ‘x’ amount of hours In before she wakes. But that sounds far too structured for otherwise chaotic lives, and I am sure those babies don’t really exist.

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One step forward, two steps back

Following on from my last post about our new sleeping arrangement I am calling out to anyone who has tried anything similar. For advice, reassurance, wisdom…As I said before Poppy was settling herself to sleep without feeding fairly often in her new room. During the evenings I simply had to go in and put my hand on her back and give her a little shh and she was back to sleep. Leading up to her middle of the night feed she was a little harder to settle and she always cried more if Tim was settling her, but it was a frustration cry and she went back to sleep without my heart breaking.

The night I published that post everything changed! Tim just couldn’t settle her. She cried but it got more and more intense until I went in and she started to settle again. One time she had got herself too worked up and needed the boob to relax again. I ended up waking up at 3.30am that morning, listening to her cry as Tim attempted to get her back to sleep (I had aimed for no feeds before 4am as she had a late one at 11.30pm) He eventually succeeded only to hear her wake again 15 minutes later. This time she didn’t accept him and I had to step in. She woke up fully and started smiling at me and stroking my face (“Aww how cute!” you say…not at this time in the morning!) There was no convincing her it was the middle of the night so I tried to feed her into drowsiness again. Long story short I got her back to sleep at 5.30am and fed her more than planned, and by the time she was asleep I was too wired myself to go back to bed. So yesterday I was a zombie. Last night I had to decide what to do, seeing as she refused Tim again twice in the evening and I ended up feeding her at 9pm. With Tim away all weekend I needed sleep so I pondered weather sleeping in her room would be enough to give her the comfort each time she woke and stop her getting herself worked up to the point that she needed to comfort feed. After all I knew she could fall asleep without the feeds, but she still needed a little support. I gave it a go, and our night was even worse. I was so tired when she woke up I could hardly be bothered to try (hence why I moved her out of our bed in the first place!), and her cry just didn’t sound like that frustrated cry, it sounded more distressed, and I cannot listen to that for too long without feeling like the worst mum ever. Coupled with the fact that she was putting her hands down my top I felt like I was completely suppressing my natural response and not listening to her. So I gave in, multiple times, and fed her throughout the night. I convinced myself that she must just be hungry, but her fluttery, lazy sucks proved otherwise! She decided it was time to get up at 5am, and as well as that her morning nap is all out of sync for the second day in a row. Back to square one?

Feeling confused, annoyed, disheartened and guilty. Go with the flow and hope she decides to play ball again sometime soon? Or push on through the heartache knowing that at least I am there with her as she cries? But what if she just doesn’t stop?! Is this her way of telling me “Yes I figured out your plan, and I gave it a go, but I don’t like it so you had better stop right now because I’m not having any of it!” I have had enough of thinking about who needs what…I have no idea what I need anymore, apart from a strong coffee.

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(Less Than) Perfect Parenting

When I was pregnant I started reading about attachment parenting and it resembled what we would have done naturally anyway. It opened up a new community to me and got me thinking about other things, such as elimination communication and home ed, which I may not have considered without the Facebook groups, blogs and small collection of AP books on my bookshelf. It made me think about more general aspects of parenting, such as the way in which you speak to your children, and how you choose to deal with specific situations, and I believe the new perspectives I have gained will benefit Poppy for her entire life. For that I am grateful for the books and the groups, but there is an element of this community that needs addressing.

Mother’s who choose to parent this way are often mother’s who have very high expectations of themselves. From socialising with many like-minded Mum’s I have noticed a few things. We over think everything, believing that all of our choices will have a life long impact on our children. We are labelled as ‘alternative’ (or other more amusing names like ‘crunchy’) and so begin to label ourselves. By doing this we inadvertently label others, which is something I never wanted to do. At first I felt like mainstream parents were judgemental of my choices, but I am starting to feel that the alternative community do most of the judging. By believing so strongly in doing everything for the best of the child, it is too easy to believe that any other way is wrong, or worse still, damaging for the child. To make sure you don’t get it wrong you seek information about every aspect of parenting from those very books that made it all sound so blissful and simple (despite the fact that at the very core of natural parenting is trust in your instinct). I have lost count of the amount of times I have read that a baby cry’s because they have an unmet need. So what if your baby just cries and you have done everything you possibly can?

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When Poppy was a newborn and suffering from her dairy intolerance, I did not know at first why she was crying. Yes she had an unmet need of sorts because she needed me to adjust my diet, but it was not something that could be solved instantly. She was fed, changed, warm, well rested, secure and in my arms, but she could not always be soothed. I had to relax and just make it easier for her by holding her, but in that moment I couldn’t make it stop. Similarly when Poppy became over tired she could not shut down, she seemed to fight her sleep to the point that she was so over tired she would scream for 4 hours until she finally gave in and fell asleep from exhaustion. There was nothing else I could have done, that was part of who she is; she was fascinated by the world and didn’t want to miss a thing, and at times even half an hour of being awake was too stimulating for her. In those early days everything that I had read rushed around my head; I didn’t think babies would cry if they had everything they needed? They don’t cry in Africa! What was I doing wrong? I tried everything to stop her from becoming over tired in the first place, abandoning my social life completely, but we still had episodes. All I could do was be there with her through the tears, letting her know she wasn’t on her own and that she was loved. There was nothing in the books that made me feel I was still doing a good job. The way I read it was that AP parenting should mean the baby has no reason to cry at all after you have responded to their needs. Maybe I over exaggerated that expectation, but being the stereotypical alternative mama I am sure I’m not the first.

Poppy settled soon enough, and now at 8 months old she is pretty easy going. She can still be distracted, but the majority of the time getting her to sleep has become easy, and we never have prolonged crying fits anymore for any reason. I am happy with all of our choices; I have completely and utterly devoted myself to her. It has worked very well for us, it has actually made life really easy, and I believe we have a very securely attached, happy little girl. But about two weeks ago I suddenly felt a page was turned. Poppy is no longer a newborn whose wants are the same as her needs, I believe they are starting to blur and she is gaining more and more understanding. There are certain things that she could probably learn not to need anymore, even if she does still want them. With our busy lives my constant devotion to her was starting to feel less natural and more forced. With Tim working longer hours I had no time left for me, and as a result I wasn’t being as good a parent as I can be. I never want to resent my child, so it was time to make some changes.

I need a bit of the old me back, and for those of you who know me well you will know that I need to really let my hair down from time to time. Rather difficult when your baby feeds to sleep, wakes up 3-4 times before you even make it to bed and then feeds throughout the night. And will not, ever, be comforted by Daddy in the night. So am I suddenly a bad mum for considering forcing my baby to change these expectations that we created just so that I can have a night out? I scanned a few forums and was guilt ridden to read that no one else would consider leaving their cosleeping, breastfeeding 8 month old baby for one night and their comments reminded me that her needs had to come before mine. But what if by compromising your own needs your child’s need for a happy and healthy mother is not being met? That was a more important long-term need in my mind.

In my confused state of mind I even typed the following into google: “Sleep training with attachment parenting.” I found blogs written by people in my position. I also found more hating from the AP extremists. I felt like there was no middle ground; you either leave your child to cry it out, which I never wanted to do, or give up your whole life for them. And then I came across something called RIE parenting which encourages listening to the type of crying and not immediately trying to fix it when it could simply be an expression of emotions. You can read more about this here and here. Suddenly something clicked. I have always known it and told Tim numerous times; there is a big difference between leaving a baby to cry on their own and letting them cry in your arms. Just like when Poppy was a newborn and I had no choice. This changed my whole perception of so called sleep training or simply teaching your baby to fall asleep alone, and I became more open minded to the gentle approaches. I will write another post about exactly what we have done and why I am happy with it soon.

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It has been just over a week since Poppy moved into her own room. I would have happily carried on cosleeping but wanted to drop the constant feeding, and I didn’t think that was easily achievable if she was in our bed. I miss the cuddles with her but am thrilled that she is now self-soothing and accepting Tim as a comfort during the night at times. She is still feeding to sleep in the evening, having a feed before I go to bed and one during the early morning, but that is massive progress. And she I not being traumatised, she has never been left on her own to cry, not even for a minute, and if she had protested too much I wouldn’t have continued.

We are still very much following a natural parenting style, but it is what is natural to us right now, not necessarily to every other AP advocate I will meet. Nor have I been converted to RIE or (heaven forbid) to baby training methods! We are simply finding what works and evolving as Poppy grows up. And I am doing my best, whilst realising I can’t be perfect. If you are a confused mama who has a tendency to put yourself under so much pressure to do the right thing, remember that there are no rules. You can, and should, allow yourself to compromise on your beliefs at times for the sake of your own sanity (even if some AP devotee on some forum somewhere has raised 6 kids back to back and tells you otherwise.)

I admit that right now I am more exhausted than I was before because this is requiring some effort! But I know that we are heading in the right direction, and I have booked a celebratory night out later in June, guilt free, knowing that Poppy will be happy in her Daddy’s arms.

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Poppy at 7 months

I thought my family and friends were due an update on their favourite baby (sorry about the first blurry photo!) I have an essay due Tuesday so blogging is taking a back seat but seeing as said baby is curled up asleep on my lap and all I have to hand is my phone, I thought it was a good time to write.

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Firstly I am completely cherishing this moment; after spending the best part of Poppy’s life telling everyone that she is not the sort of baby who just falls asleep in my arms, she has done exactly that twice this week. The first time we were at a friends too, so plenty to distract her, but she happily breastfed to sleep without the usual fuss when she is tired but too interested in what’s going on around her! I tried again yesterday at another friends with no luck, she got all squirmy, but to be fair to Poppy her boyfriend was watching so she just couldn’t relax!!

P1020693She is in the process of dropping her late afternoon nap, completely of her own accord. Yesterday she was awake from 3pm and still had more energy than ever at 6.30, when she is normally exhausted! It changes often though, if she wakes any earlier than 2.30pm she doesn’t last until bedtime. She is coming to the village quiz with us tomorrow so I wonder how she will be! She did very well at Nan’s party, socialising until past 9pm (as you can see from the pic on the left she is going to follow in her Mummy’s footsteps!)

Weaning: Everyone loves to hear how the weaning is going, is she eating any more now? I’ll let you into a little secret: when we were ready to start baby led weaning, I thought she would just get the hang of it immediately…despite what I had read about it being a slow process. She was so interested in what we ate and she made chewing motions as she watched us, surely she wanted to gobble it up! But that hasn’t been the case at all! She plays with her food, although usually plays with the tray or spoon more, and she does put things to her mouth, but if she swallows even one teeny bit seemingly by accident I am amazed!

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I am making much more effort to give her two meals a day now instead of just offering her bits and bobs. She has porridge or fruit for brekky and whatever I have for lunch, or leftovers from dinner the night before. Her milk feeds haven’t reduced at all, because she really isn’t eating anything! But I am not concerned, I know she will get the hang of it sooner or later, when she is ready. I can already tell that she is very independent and will not be told what to do!

Anyway, here is a video of lunch yesterday, which pretty much sums up our meal times. If you are wondering where all the food is, it is on the floor. The bouncing lasted a good ten minutes at least.

 

On the move: Poppy has recently discovered that she can crawl to me, rather than just to retrieve toys or objects she shouldn’t have, such as my camera. It is really quite sweet when I leave the room and seconds later Poppy is frantically making her way towards me. I am sure the novelty will end soon! I have definitely noticed an increase in her separation anxiety in the last couple of weeks, but that is natural at this age, and a sign that she is securely attached… go us! Unfortunately it is very noticeable during the evenings after putting Poppy to bed on her own. I know that I should just continue to settle her back to sleep each time she wakes and she should learn that although I am not right there I am still there. But as we know from the last post, I can be a tad lazy at times and have ended up bringing her downstairs on several occasions to allow myself to relax!

She has been pulling herself up on anything and everything, the sofa, the printer, the stool, me and Tim, other babies…I have a bad feeling that I will be the mum constantly pulling my child away from poor victims at baby groups as she claws at their faces and tries to sit on their laps…in a ‘let’s be friends’ kind of way of course. She is constantly wanting to stand up and can get very grumpy if you insist it is sitting down time. I thought tantrums came much later?! She had to pause in this video to chew the sofa, and she is a bit whiney as she is tired and wants to get her hands on that copy of Juno on the sofa, which she has already eaten the corner of (she will eat that but not my delicious cooking?!)

 

Potty power: Today is the second day we have had a completely dry nappy having caught all wee’s!! (so far) I am so proud of myself and Poppy, but also feel a bit frustrated with myself that I am so inconsistent. Being home all day and focusing on Poppy so much shows me just how capable she is of cueing us, but when we are out and about I hardly bother trying. I am starting to wonder if this inconsistency is worse than not doing anything at all. Maybe she is cueing me on those busy days too and I just don’t notice? Or maybe she gives up because she doesn’t expect us to take her. This morning I started off taking her regularly to see if she needed it, and by lunch time she was clearly signaling by starting to fuss during her play, and sure enough I took her every time and she went, every time! I am going to start taking a potty in the car at least so that we can give her the chance to go more often when we are out of the house. At least I know that she definitely understands the concept, and I know that in the long run it is going to make life so much easier. Poppy isn’t the one who needs to improve, we are. But we are certainly heading in the right direction…

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Socialite: We have been busy meeting up with other babies and friends as most of you will have seen on my facebook, our social calender is always full! We know a few people with babies of a similar age to Poppy, and we still go to baby groups when we get a chance. We are also hoping to meet some more home educators soon as there is a good community around here. Yesterday we went to Aylesbury to visit Mia and Noah and Poppy and her (boy)friend Noah were properly chatting to each other. One of them would say something whilst the other listened and then either giggled back or responded with babbling! It was the cutest thing. I love this age, she is just becoming such a sociable baby, she ‘talks’ to me and Tim all day long.

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Pearly whites: Her first tooth seems to be taking things slow. It has definitely fully cut through the gum but barely noticeable still. Her gums seem swollen again, so I wonder if there is another on the way? Oh and for anyone who wonders what breastfeeding is like with teeth (I get asked what I am going ‘to do’ when she has teeth quite a lot!) – so far so good, despite the fact that the toothy peg is insanely sharp!

In other news she is blowing raspberries non stop and showering us all in spit. Happy Friday! ❤

Attachment parenting is lazy parenting

No you did not misread that. But let me explain myself.

A few things that people have said to me since I have become a Mum:

“You give so much to Poppy but what about you?”

“I worry about you because you do so much.”

“When do you get any time to yourself?”

“I couldn’t do what you do, I don’t have the time/patience/energy.”

“How do you manage to stay so positive and energetic?”

“She will be fine if you leave her to cry for a bit, you need to rest.”

“She still wakes that many times a night? You must be shattered!”

I thought about this the other day when my lovely Mother In Law said she worried about me, and I couldn’t explain why but I told her that 99% of the time I feel great, despite still feeding at night, carrying Poppy for all of her naps, breastfeeding on demand, scheduling our life around her and not ever having a break…

Well I understand why that is after Poppy and I became sick last week, and I was completely exhausted. Poppy was crying, clingy, irritable, restless, tired and I was losing patience. Now that she has recovered I have suddenly realised that she is happy almost all of the time. Unless of course she is tired or hungry, she is generally smiling and laughing and our days are stress free. I started to appreciate how easy my parenting choices have made my everyday life.

ImageParenting is tiring full stop, and yes I have days where I feel particularly shattered. But what is the alternative? Let me look at a few different scenarios. The easiest one to explain is our sleeping arrangement. We co sleep and Poppy wakes up on average 3 times a night to comfort feed. She has always slept amazingly well during the night since birth though, meaning she will not fully wake up and she will fall back into a deep sleep very quickly, allowing her to get 12 hours sleep each night. By lying right next to her I simply roll over, let her latch on and we both fall back to sleep within minutes. In the morning I can hardly remember if I woke up at all in the night.. Of course I look forward to the day Poppy is sleeping through in her own room, but aside from the fact that I don’t feel comfortable with sleep training methods, I actually just cannot be bothered to even try to encourage the transition. Not now and possibly not ever. She will choose to go into her own room eventually, definitely by the time she is bringing boys home! Our current arrangement means that we are both well rested and happy the next day. I am sure I could find a suitable no cry method in the future that may result in Poppy sleeping in her own bed after a few weeks, but even just a few weeks of implementing that is too much effort for me to be tempted! See, pretty lazy of me!
How about the baby wearing during the day? Poppy used to go down for naps in bed every now and then, until I became super lazy and decided that the half an hour it took me to get her to sleep that way really bored me. Now she has every nap in the sling or carrier, because I can carry on with what I am doing and most of the time she will drift off peacefully all by herself. She also sleeps for much longer in there so I am getting a longer break and she is getting more valuable sleep and wakes up happier! Doesn’t my back hurt? Sometimes, yes. Enough to make me want to go to the effort of ‘teaching’ her to sleep longer on her own? No.

ImageBreastfeeding. I plan to breastfeed for a long time. A large reason for this is definitely the health benefits. But also…you guessed it…I can’t be bothered to wean her! I have no problem with our current arrangement and Poppy loves it! So why would I go out of my way to try to put and end to it, potentially leaving Poppy feeling confused and upset which in turn presents daily challenges and could leave us both exhausted? I have heard of Mum’s who have multiple children who have said that they simply do not have the time to even consider weaning their babies, so they just let them wean themselves and barely notice that it is happening. When I merely think about the process of fully weaning Poppy I am filled with anxiety and stress at the prospect of such a difficult process; I wouldn’t even know where to start. This is especially true of night weaning, considering Poppy is only settled by me during the night I can’t even begin to imagine the impact of night weaning on our general sense of happiness! Of course lots of Mum’s wean with no problems and there are times when you can take advantage of your babies natural reduced interest in breastfeeding. You can gently encourage it, but that still involves a considerable amount more effort than doing nothing at all. So I choose the latter.

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Baby led weaning is an interesting one, as most people think you are super patient for doing this and putting up with the mess. Me, I think it is really lazy. I don’t have to prepare any purees for a start. And at the moment because Poppy isn’t all that bothered about swallowing her food, and is still getting all of her nutrition through milk, it is incredibly easy to skip a meal if we are busy or out of the house one day. Obviously this is not going to last for long! But my point is that I don’t have any worry about whether she is eating enough, or that she has suddenly lost interest in food, or that the health visitor says she should be on this many meals, or she won’t take the spoon, or when I am going to fit in meal times, or what I will do when we go to someone else’s house at lunch time. I can’t really be bothered to spend half an hour each meal time trying to shovel food down her throat, I would rather enjoy my own lunch, because we all know I love my food, whilst she makes a mess and I can worry about that later, like when she is in bed. It only takes a few minutes to wipe the high chair and the floor, and it probably balances out when you think that I don’t have extra washing up from making the baby food in the first place.

ImageAs for elimination communication, leaving them nappy free helps everyone get the hang of it, but sometimes I admit she is really nappy free because it seems easier than getting a fresh one and getting her all dressed again, and I am definitely too lazy to be washing nappies more than once a week. Now that she goes so often in the potty I have less washing, and barely have to wipe a stinky bum from one day to the next. It really doesn’t require that much effort of my part and will certainly make the complete potty training transition one big lazy fest for me because one day she will just be 100% ‘trained’ without me doing anything different from now.

There is a theme that is very apparent when you are responsive to your babies every need, all around the clock. They are happy! Seems obvious but I have seen in the past Mum’s despairing because they feel their baby should be putting themselves to sleep, sleeping through the night, eating three meals a day, playing happily on their own…whatever they have read or heard from the ‘experts’ or interfering friends and family. The result of those concerns has been for Mum to get extra stressed trying to implement a sleeping routine that just doesn’t seem to be working, leaving baby stressed and crying and Mum tearing her hair out and feeling like a failure. Truth is that Mum is far more tired and giving way more in terms of her energy, sanity and independence than I am. She is burnt out, and baby is too. When baby is over tired or confused about what Mum is trying to achieve, they are not happy. And an unhappy baby is much harder to look after. And so the cycle continues. Stressful nights follow challenging days, because you don’t have the energy or patience to deal with a grumpy baby, and the more inconsistent you are during the day the more clingy your baby is likely to become. In the long run you become exhausted and resentful.

By ‘spoiling’ Poppy I am keeping her well rested and happy. She is happy enough that I don’t feel I am constantly seeing to her or cheering her up. A happy baby is a healthy baby and enjoyable and easy to look after. Which means I am not stressed out, or feeling unconfident about my parenting abilities or resentful about why my baby is the only baby who doesn’t seem to conform to what the textbooks say. Maybe she would be fine if I left her to cry a bit, but she would probably just cry more, and that isn’t my idea of ‘me time’. Yes I do give a lot to Poppy, but no more than any other parent, and I probably give less of my time and effort than a lot of parents who put everything into getting their babies into a routine in the hope that life will become easier. Mine is already easy and will get even easier but a lot more slowly. No I don’t get any time to myself, because the cost of it is not worth it. An unhappy baby makes an unhappy Mummy. Overall our well being is pretty positive and our quality of life is great. So until that changes, I will carry on being lazy and enjoy every minute!

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Hope you have all been enjoying the sunshine like Poppy has! I am not managing to fit much blogging in lately between studying, but I will definitely be posting about my super exciting weekend next week! 

Dairy Free Essentials

So I have had a few people request more information on my dairy alternatives. As I said in my previous post, it hasn’t been easy, but gradually you get used to what you can and can’t eat and food labels become a breeze. There are some things I use on a daily basis and a few other things I have found that have surprised me in that they are ‘safe’ foods. I am only human and so have discovered a few treats that I am allowed, although I have no excuse really seeing as there are loads of tasty healthy options that I can make myself! Always good to have a few options though, especially when you are having visitors over and want to put a plate of biscuits out! Of course most of the items below are soy free too as Poppy was intolerant to this too. If you are choosing to cut out dairy and/soy completely then make sure you familiarise yourself with all of the hidden ingredients that become out of bounds. It is not as simple as changing your milk and butter! Use google to find a list of dairy/soy ingredients to look out for, it is long, but amazingly you memorise is pretty quickly!

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Pure spread – I don’t tend to have butter in sandwiches, but this is the best thing for baking. In fact my mum has always used it even though she is not dairy free. I have never liked margarines; they are not good for you at all. I have heard this is much better, but seeing as I don’t have too many options and don’t use it all that much, I haven’t really looked into how healthy this is. It is good value at about £1.50 and it is often on offer, buy 2 for £2 or similar. It means that most cake recipes are no longer out of bounds, and even if you struggle with eggs, you can substitute these with an egg replacer (try orgran no egg from Holland and Barrett). I use an egg replacer in baking anyway because it is such good value for money and otherwise we would use way too many eggs! The Pure spread is also good for frying, as it is made with sunflower oil, and of course you could just use it as your regular spread on bread or toast. I have come across a much more extravagant butter, made with very healthy things, but can’t remember the name of it because it cost over £5 for a tub! Sometimes I have to draw the line on my health addiction and think about my bank account.

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Almond milk (unsweetened) – by far the best option I have found for tea and coffee. I now much prefer it to cows milk. I have it everyday on my porridge too, although you can use any milk for this really. It also goes in to many of my super smoothies. Almond milk contains 120mg calcium per 100ml, compared to 124mg per 100ml in cows milk, and the bioavailability of the calcium is no doubt much higher in the almond milk, so your calcium absorption would probably improve.

Coconut milk – You can buy cartons of coconut milk along with all of the other milk alternatives, and I do enjoy a lovely coconut milk latte at our favourite café, however I don’t tend to choose this at home as I find almond milk more palatable in tea and coffee. However the thicker coconut milk that you buy in cans is used regularly at our house. Since we can no longer eat the cheese sauce which seemed to accompany so many of our staple meals, we had to have a bit of a menu change (which is never a bad thing seeing as it is so easy to cook the same things week after week). I didn’t want to give up my warm, hearty, comfort foods and start living on salads and steamed vegetables (my appetite is far too big!) so I started making quite a few curries. We absolutely LOVE Thai green curry and use half a can of coconut milk and stock for the sauce. There are loads of variations for Thai curry but mine includes loads of fresh ginger, leeks, spring onions, spinach, garlic, lemon zest and coriander so it is pretty healthy. Serve with wholewheat noodles or brown rice for a wholesome meal.

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Oat drink – Just another everyday milk alternative. Oats are very healthy so this is a good one to include in your diet, use on cereal or in porridge if you don’t fancy it in your tea.

Rice milk – Same as above! Also good for rice puddings surprisingly.

Hazelnut milk – This is my favourite milk for when I am feeling indulgent. I make hazelnut lattes with this using all milk, coffee and sugar. You could also try Ferrero Rocher hot chocolate just by using hazelnut milk instead of normal milk! If you don’t have dairy free hot chocolate try using cocoa powder instead, adding a natural sweetener such as agave syrup or maple syrup, a drop of vanilla essence and a pinch of cinnamon.

ImageOatly cream – I use this fairly regularly to add creaminess to a dish, for example in soups, curries or risotto. A very quick risotto recipe is Arborio rice cooked in vegetable stock, with loads of chestnut mushrooms, garlic and chorizo and finish by oatly cream. It is really easy but very delicious. Can also be used in puddings. A quick caramel sauce to add to deserts is made with 100g pure butter and 150g soft light brown sugar melted together in a pan, add 125ml of oat cram and simmer until heated through. I never used to use much cream at all when cooking, but I feel that oat cream can’t be all that bad for you!

Bread – Not a dairy one but I have only included this because I found it difficult to find a SOYA free bread. Ideally it is best to make your own, and occasionally my lovely Dad brings me a fresh loaf from his bread maker, but the rest of the time I have found wholewheat pitta breads to be brilliant alternatives and one brand of multiseed bread to be safe; Wheatfield Bakery as pictured. Tip: Try buying fresh bread from farmshops which shouldn’t usually contain soy. I also found that the tesco organic white bloomer (not the brown one) has no soy in, so we occasionally had this as a weekend treat!ImageDairy free treats – Nature valley oat bars (the healthiest option in this list by far), Oreos (contain soya!) Jammy dodgers, Ginger nut biscuits and Nice biscuits. There are probably many more but I haven’t bothered finding many as we rarely eat biscuits. A lot of sweets are fine but watch out for soya, I found they were in starburst amongst other popular sweets! Of course anything caramely or buttery is a no go, I am yet to come to terms with the loss of werther’s originals.

Nakd bars – I haven’t put these under treats, although I do think they are delicious. But they are 100% healthy! Raw pressed fruits and nuts, no additives, no added sugar, no baking involved. If you are avoiding soy as well be careful as some of them do have soy and some don’t. My two favourite are cocoa delight and cashew cookie which is literally just dates and cashews. They are rather pricey though at over £2 for a box of 4.

Shortcrust Pastry by Jusrol – We don’t eat much pastry, even though Tim is a big fan of pies. But every now and then I love a homemade quiche with loads of salad. I was sad when we had to give this up, but then I read the ingredients on the pastry I used and was very surprised to discover it doesn’t contain any butter or soy!! Oh and yes this is lazy but I really don’t have time to be making pastry from scratch! I actually think this pastry tastes really good, even though I am not a big pastry fan (Tim always gets my crusts once I have eaten the best bits of the quiche!) You could also use this pastry to make jam tarts or apple pie to add to your collection of dairy free treats!

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Raw Cacao Powder – You can also use normal cocoa powder for baking. But I love this healthy chocolate ingredient, it gives you the same endorphins as that unhealthy bar of milk chocolate, with none of the guilt! You can use it in pudding recipes, cakes and smoothies, or even in your porridge! Try blending a handful of dates, oats, a tablespoon of cacao and a splash of water, then rolling mixture into balls and refrigerating: Healthy chocolate truffles! Yum.

Ice cream and yoghurts – I am yet to try any dairy free yoghurts, but there are plenty available, whether you choose soya yoghurts or the healthier coconut yoghurts. Ice cream will definitely be tried this Summer! I did struggle to find any without soya in them, although there are a few expensive brands available online, but I tried plenty of dairy free ice creams when I was younger in a poor attempt at going dairy free, and they were mostly delicious. All major supermarkets should stock these.

Cheese – I am afraid I am not much help here either. Cheese was definitely the hardest thing for me to give up. I had it on a daily basis! There are cheese alternatives out there (look online) but I just don’t know if they would cut it for me. I have got so used to it now that I don’t really miss it, but maybe one day when I am feeling flush I will invest in some vegan cheese. If you have tried it let me know what you thought! Goats cheese may be ok for some people, other people may still find this causes problems.

I hope that helps. If there are any other dairy items that you miss or do not know how to cut out of your diet then comment below and I will see if I can help! Remember the blogging world is rife with dairy free recipes for al of your favourite dishes! Do not assume you will never be able to enjoy puddings again!

Holy cow!

If I were to offer you some of my breast milk what would you say? I mean I would put it in a glass first. Or I could mix it with some fruit and whack it in the freezer to make some ice cream? Still a no? And yet no one seems to bat an eyelid at the fact that we consume the equivalent from a cow on a daily basis! Dairy is not designed for humans and the more I read, the more convinced I am that we shouldn’t be consuming it on such a large scale. 

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Since eliminating dairy from my diet over 5 months ago I have noticed a lot of positive changes. The biggest of these is the improvement, in fact complete eradication, of my chronic eczema on my hands, as well as much clearer skin on my face. I only really appreciated this when I tried reintroducing dairy for one day over three weeks ago; my hands are still healing as a result. I had dry cracked skin, open wounds that would not heal and tiny blister type things all over my right hand. I also broke out in spots. On top of that after consuming dairy I noticed stomach cramps and a severe headache, as well as feeling very lethargic. Having read up on the subject it seems I am not alone, and worse still dairy may increase your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other ailments.

Interestingly Poppy didn’t seem to react in the same way she used to, (crying in pain, struggling to pass stools and breaking out in severe nappy rash were a few symptoms) which was initially a relief, but I still believe that dairy will probably do more harm than good to us both if I do decide to reintroduce it permanently. Unsurprisingly our bodies struggle to break down the milk that is designed for the baby of a different species, a species that has a different digestive system, diet and nutritional needs to us. Cow’s milk contains way over double the amount of protein than human milk. If we look at the two proteins found in milk, casein and whey proteins, we see that cow’s milk contains a vast amount more casein than human milk, and a lower ratio of whey proteins. Casein is difficult to digest, it is even used to make glue, and it is linked with a range of diseases and allergies, including type 1 diabetes. Excess protein causes changes in a babies blood PH balance, weakening their immune systems and making them more prone to infections. It is clear too see why we are advised not to give infants cows milk. Cows secrete rennin which breaks down casein, but most adult humans do not, which helps to explain why many adults also suffer digestive problems due to dairy.

Let’s move on to lactose. Around 75% of the worlds population is lactose intolerant, which to me says a lot about the suitability of dairy for human consumption. Yes there is lactose in breast milk (so be careful if you are told that your baby is lactose intolerant, it is more likely the proteins causing problems), but most of us stop producing the enzyme that breaks down lactose at around 5 years old, suggesting that we should no longer be including lactose in our diets.

milkYou may still feel that dairy is perfectly good for you but then perhaps more worrying is the way in which cow’s milk is now mass produced. Like most types of non-organic farming you can bet your bottom dollar that these animals are not having the happiest of lives. Once you get past the disgusting living conditions that many of the animals are subject to, you are then faced with the reality of exactly how these animals continue to produce milk month after month after month. Well first of all they have to continue to be pregnant, and so are pumped full of hormones and artificially inseminated. They spend most of their lives pregnant, which you will know if you have ever been pregnant yourself, is going to put a massive strain on their bodies. They become exhausted from the weight and producing ridiculous amounts of milk which makes their udders unnaturally heavy, putting pressure on their legs. To counteract the problems that are obviously going to arise from this process, the cows are then pumped full of antibiotics to treat a long list of inevitable infections including mastitis. In the end the cows are rendered useless and killed at about 4 or 5 years old, many years before their natural lifespan. Cows today can give 25 times more milk per year than they did 50 years ago. This is achieved with drugs, hormones, antibiotics, forced feeding plans and specialized breeding. Would you be happy taking drugs, antibiotics and hormones regularly whilst breastfeeding your baby? Probably not, but we are consuming another mammals milk which potentially contains plenty of them.

Of course I’m not saying it easy to cut out dairy completely. I spent at least a month feeling very sorry for myself indeed. I was overwhelmed by food labels and going out to eat anywhere was a no no. But gradually I got used to it, I purchased a great recipe book, and found lots of dairy free versions or alternatives to our regular shopping basket items. I will write a post about these soon. The most common concern when eliminating dairy is where you will get your calcium from. Contrary to popular belief the calcium in cows milk is much less easily absorbed than calcium in other foods, and some people even believe dairy increases the likelihood of osteoporosis. I haven’t felt the need to supplement my calcium intake in any way; my healthy, balanced diet already contains plenty of easily absorbed calcium.

I admit I miss chocolate and cheese, I used to eat so much cheese! And no doubt when we are in Italy later this year I will indulge, but aside from the odd holiday I can see this being a permanent lifestyle change which I feel very positive about. I have enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen, I feel healthier and happier than ever before and am slimmer than ever before despite eating like a horse. A couple of my dairy free treats can be found here and here. I am curious to see if my hay fever is reduced this year on my diary free diet.

For more information I found this very interesting, but a bit of a long read, or look here for simple facts.

A note for breastfeeding mummies: The proteins in dairy do go into your breast milk, despite what your doctor may tell you, just like alcohol and other substances do (of course your doctor and health visitor may warn you about consuming too much alcohol, but dairy, no way, must be colic!) If you suspect that your baby has intolerances then trust your instinct and do your research, it is well worth the effort. Also, a lot of babies with this intolerance are also intolerant to soy which we soon discovered was the case with Poppy. This is called Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). 

Credits image (top right): Jelle (CC) Credits image (bottom left): saltaylorkydd (CC)

Welcome

Hi and welcome to my brand new shiny blog! I have been meaning to start one for a while, but now that we have finally moved away from the town we both grew up and our nearest and dearest, I decided it was time to put pen to paper (or the virtual equivalent) and give everyone we have left behind a chance to keep up to date with our family adventures. Of course those I am referring to know that they are always welcome at our new abode, but as you all know Poppy is changing everyday, so I will attempt to capture her growth and special moments so that you can all share our journey no matter where in the word you may be!

Those of you who know me well will probably already understand my reasonings behind the name of this blog. ‘Grown at Home’ not only conjures up images of an idyllic organic lifestyle but also sums up the natural approach we take when it comes to raising Poppy: providing her with the most nurturing environment and freedom to learn, from the people we believe are most capable of giving her the best education and experiences possible; ourselves!

Mostly this will act as a sort of diary, where I can write about our life but also anything that I feel passionate about. If my ramblings happen to reach a wider audience than friends and family then even better! Perhaps you are a Mummy or Daddy with similar ideas or interests? Or maybe you have some unanswered questions about a particular parenting topic or just want to hear about someone else’s experiences. As well as our day to day adventures I will cover all sorts of things including attachment parenting, breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding, elimination communication, milk soy protein intolerance (MSPI, specifically in breastfed babies), low chemical lifestyle, baby led weaning, home education, Montessori and more! All of the above are things we are experiencing every day or still learning about ourselves, so I am sure they will all crop up at some time or another. I will also post regular healthy recipes because I just love cooking and for some reason can’t help but photograph my creations! We have recently started getting organic fruit, vegetable and meat boxes delivered which I am super excited about and love the variation of the seasonal veg which forces me to experiment all the time. I welcome new ideas, Poppy is about to start solids so there is lots more experimenting to come!

But for now it’s time for me to relax in front of the fire with a fast asleep baby who is practically glued to me lately, and Tim who came home early as a treat. Happy Friday! Good night x