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  • We are coming into Autumn, and also ending several celebrations of breastfeeding - breastfeeding week, breastfeeding month, world milksharing week, and black breastfeeding week.
    How fabulous that we have these great times where we talk about breastfeeding and congratulate everyone on their hard work and dedication!
    After all, it's a difficult balance and a thin line we tread when we talk about breastfeeding, due to the sorts of responses and issues that are current.
    What I mean is that we can talk about breastfeeding as being incredibly easy in relation to any artificial method, in that there is no external preparation or equipment or time spent preparing required, but if we talk about breastfeeding being hard work then we risk putting people off  - but this is simply due to our culture and the manner in which our society is constructed.
    If, as would normally have been the case thousands of years ago to ensure the survival of the species (and also in some parts of the world today), almost every human breastfed their young, then a discussion regarding difficulties would be met with a matter of fact response and ways to facilitate the parent, rather than a straightaway suggestion of cessation that has become pretty common. This state of affairs has led breastfeeding mothers to be pretty coy in the face of obstacles, difficulties, tiredness and whatever else.
    Juggling family, school, babies, jobs, and study can be a precarious teetering affair, today.
    Mothers can be afeared of those that utter sentiments suggesting that in this day and age it really is too much of a bother - worrying indeed when we are the same species now that we have always ever been!
    So, thank goodness that we now have cloistered support in the many closed groups and pages online, support from breastfeeding advocacy groups and networks, and helpful mamas who are there to lend a hand and reassure others.
    In such a climate it is incredibly important that we have delineated times where we can all come together in whichever way and celebrate our breastfeeding journeys; we need to pat ourselves on the back and acknowledge that in the face of aggressive marketing, of untrained professionals giving outdated and just plain wrong information, of practical obstacles such as work and lifestyle, and of unsupportive communities, we have done amazingly well for every hour, day, week, month and year that we have breastfed our children.
    For every utterance of cringeworthy phraseology, "weaning off", "drying up", "moving on", we can happily and joyfully latch on, snuggle down and feel triumphant that for all the mores and fads and trappings of modern parenting, the potent mix of motherly instinct and biological necessities will always prevail.
    Enjoy you journey!

    Love from us all at Neuners.

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    As the Summer holidays begin, and many of us gear up to parent 24/7, without the hiatus of the school day, we find we will have time to enjoy our older children being around, but also need to cater for all ages and tastes.
    Mothering. A perennial juggling act with benefits.

    So, as we put both feet firmly into holiday mode and march forth to August, I am turning to thinking all about mothering.
    How do we feel about mothering? How do others feel? Does the juggling go beyond the children?

    When I say does the juggling go beyond the children, what I mean is when we feel the need to keep others happy in addition - your partner, friends, and more so in the holidays, the various relatives that have their own ideas about how one should parent.
    I don't know about you, but I inwardly wince when I hear others address toddlers as "brave" and "big" or even "good" for not crying or showing signs of distress. This is shutting down emotions and responses, and teaching children that emotions are not welcome.
    This is also making all kinds of assumptions about the development about individual children, if the perpetrators are not the parents or carers.
    The bottom line, of course, is that we shouldn't have to justify hugging and kissing better - after all, it should be quite alright to cry when you're a child.
    While heightened emotions are stressful for others, they mustn't be quashed.
    And, we all know that mothers feel far more traumatised by the bumps and bruises that children brush off, eh?!

    This is just one small bugbear I have that resides within a whole ethos that says 'it's ok to care, and fine to be emotional'!

    Recently children are increasingly expected to show independence at an early age; this is apparently desired, and increasingly perceived as normal development by many.
    However, the attachment school of thought lauds close attachment, nurture, validation of emotions, and letting a child develop at their own pace - and the latest finds in neuroscience and psychology backs this up!
    Some children need a cursory dust down when they trip, while others need kisses, hugs, and a quick feed before they recover themselves.

    As mothers, we feel and know our children's level - we know where they're at and can read their signals intuitively and acutely; every expression and emotion we understand in the context of tiredness, bedtimes, frustrations, and them being that little individual like no other.

    What I am going to say next is becoming increasingly controversial, but I feel is also pretty obvious - mothering is not fathering.
    What mothers do cannot be filed under "parenting" and made the same as "fathering".
    Mothers nurture and bond with their children in a uniquely hormonal and chemical way that ensures optimal synaptic, emotional and physical growth beyond birth - our unique blend of oxytocin, nursing, and love builds those neural networks and secures future health.
    The closeness engendered between nursing dyads cannot be underestimated.
    We all love watching Dads do their thing, and kids love them, but we know it isn't the same. It's amazing, it's special, but different.

    So, we need to mark out and delineate what we as mothers do, but we must also recognise that our incredible work needs validation, needs acceptance and a sense of worth in broader circles, praise and support.
    After all, one cannot be the mother one wants to be without a great support network? We all know the importance of taking a break and a breather now and again. Sometimes we need only five minutes and a cup of tea... Other times, we need a good few hours off, a movie , or precious alone-time.
    But, we feel and know when it's possible to even do this, we know when our children won't mind if we slip off for an hour or so, and will be happy to hang out with friends or family.
    And there it is - we know.
    Whether it's relatives wanting a "hold of the baby", or a "sit on the knee", and we really don't want our children to do something which makes them uncomfortable, and the "kiss for Auntie Mary" with a grimace, we read the signs and should be able to say, "I don't think she will be comfortable with that, just now".
    So, we are back to the knowing. We can see, can sense, can read our children in a way that no other can, and others must accept that this is ok. It is an intensely micro-emotional bond that ensures an optimal experience for our children.

    Others need to respect and give space for our work, make room for each child's needs, trust the child and the mother to make each call as it presents itself.
    That respect and space might start with one's father or partner - while they are being dad, they also need to accept the different strategies and to support our choices. Another adult needs to lighten the load, and family life is a shared and balanced responsibility.
    Those adult family members supporting the mothering process must be aware that their needs are sometimes perceived by mothers as an addition to caring for children.
    So, we might say that it's fine to express these wonts, but in a positive and caring manner - the last thing mama wants is an extra child!
    Further afield, we need to know that relatives accept our parenting strategies - we might not want them to ply our children with cake, expect them to do things beyond their comfort zone, or  for others' entertainment.
    We all know how difficult it is to traverse the gaps and navigate the "treats" bestowed.

    One also might consider something I recently came to realise - all things are not the same for every mother, by which I mean that the same situation might be a breeze for one mama, but tough for another; everyone has different concerns and different coping abilities and strategies. Meeting friends at a school fair, I realised that some mothers found juggling babies while keeping track of older siblings amongst the throng and bustle was difficult and stressful, but for some a breeze with an ice-cream thrown in.
    We can all give a gentle friendly, sisterly, helping hand to a struggling mother, if we are able. We know that some days are harder than others.

    Whether we're camping, seasiding, or just hanging in the park, mamas are never really on holiday in the way that they were before the little ones came along - but that's not to say that holidaying means a time without care; holidaying can be really amazing and rich with our children's input - seeing any destination through their eyes is to enjoy experiences in a multifarious fashion not possible on one's own.
    To ensure mums have fun, we must always look to lend a hand and give them a reassuring smile!

    Mothers do intensive work in the holiday times, and need acknowledgement for the many hours of fun and frolics.
    So, here's to the holidays!
    A time for family closeness, togetherness, nurturing and making memories.

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    Following our blog focussing on the green aspects of breastfeeding, we thought we would continue the theme, such was the fabulous response from our readers!
    Being green is popular amongst our eco-conscious tea suppers!

    This month we will look more broadly at some of the ways in which parents can lead family life in a responsible and caring manner.

    Just as with all things that have a comparatively small footprint, the benefits are manifold, with populations, habitats and landscapes reaping the rewards.

    Beginning at the beginning, so to speak, with the advent of a new baby there are often a huge number of items suggested to be "essential" and "necessary", when in fact, as mothers with several children will have learned, many of these items go unused or don't "fit" with a particular parenting style or are disliked by baby.
    Some parents find that a sling in organic cotton is all they need to get around, while others find a pram indispensable - you know what you will need, but research first to avoid mistakes and useless purchases.
    Many families purchase cots, rockers, bouncers, and walkers, only to find that their baby is happiest in their arms or on a play mat.
    Before you go all out with equipment, you could borrow an item or two from a friend to see how they work for you.
    Modern accoutrements tend to engender separation, and sell themselves as items that will occupy your baby and enable you to "get on", when you actually might find household chores simpler while baby-wearing - besides which, you might just want to sleep alongside baby, and enjoy baby sleeping on you!

    The essentials for baby are now relatively simple to find in eco-cotton and sustainable fabrics like hemp and bamboo; even high street stores feature these items, nowadays.

    When it comes to personal care, the early days need the very gentlest of plain water, delicate oils, and the gentlest bath time routines.

    If you are clued-up and very well-supported, you might opt to skip the nappies, altogether and go for EC - or, "elimination communication"; there are several books that explain how to work the "diaper free" option. A small pot and a bit of application and ingenuity will save you and the earth a small fortune, but it takes time and perseverance, and isn't for everyone, dependent upon circumstances and personal capacities.

    The next option is 'washables', of course, which are a long-term saving, and a natural option. There are so many styles, fabrics, and systems out there that you might want to research online and get advice from friends.
    You can either buy and wash your own, or use a nappy service - they collect, wash, and deliver a new set however often you need.
    Baby's awareness is also much more improved with washable nappies, and the potty will come earlier and easier, generally, who have a better awareness of wet and dry.

    This in turn will be an ecological benefit, as you will find there is less laundry to do, saving water and energy!
    What we use at changing time also impacts the environment, of course, so be looking to use washable wipes where one can, and natural creams, from caring companies, that haven't cost the earth to manufacture.

    Washable nappies often come with launderable wet-bags, so you can do away with plastic (there are biodegradable bags on the market).
    When babe starts to signal readiness, you can try washable trainer pants, rather than the throwaway kinds, as this will save considerably on waste and cash!

    The last blog on breastfeeding covered most things related to nurturing the "littles", but maybe a comment on mama pads and cups deserves space.
    Breastfeeding, of course, bestows most mamas with a break, but when menstruation returns, you might want to check out a silicone cup, or the many designs of fabric washable options out there to choose from - or if you are handy with a sewing machine, you can even try making your own!

    Nowadays there are many options for choosing organic fabrics for the family, and sales ensure that being considerate with cloth won't break the bank.
    Choose gentle laundry options, eco cycles, eco balls or soap nuts for gentle washing and delicate young skin. These all minimise toxins and help our waterways stay fresh.
    Drying outdoors gives a freshness to laundry, and keeps your indoor environment more ambient.

    Mealtimes can be tough with children liking different things, and not taking well to set mealtimes.
    It is often less stressful to go with the flow, literally!

    Feed on demand, introduce foods when all the signs are there, when babe is ready and able to wean himself - the much celebrated style of "baby-led" weaning.
    Meals can be simple and adaptable to various tastes, and saved or transformed for further snacking.
    Healthy bits and pieces such as hummus or tahini dips with crudités can be saved for a day or so and kept on hand, and berries are simple and nutritious.
    Flapjacks are incredibly easy and nutrient-packed fillers.
    Many parents are surprised to find that their children actually favour strong tastes and exciting cuisine - toddler favourites can be things such as lemon slices, olives, anchovies, garlic bread and the like. Don't shy from offering big bursts of flavour - you are likely to be surprised! With a little ingenuity and a moment chopping and arranging simple foods, meals can gain instant appeal!

    Lastly, we thought a mention was due for toys.
    Engender a healthier environment by keeping plastics to a minimum; choose wooden toys, or look out the new slew of Eco, recycled, and safer plastics.

    You could even make your own by upcycling general household objects.....

    There are lovely toys made of tough card these days for construction and imaginary play.
    Throwaway ephemera is best avoided, although catches the eye of incredibly children easily - older children can be brought to understand the real cost of toys with a short life-span.

    And, for those toys that outlive their immediate use, they can be joyfully passed to others, or carefully packed away for the enjoyment of your children's children and future generations.

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    Spring is well and truly here, and we are all, doubtless, getting out and about in nature, basking in the sun, and smelling the roses, but you are probably doing more for the natural world than you know by simply breastfeeding your children?

    For all of us who decided to breastfeed and found that we could, we, in the west, are very lucky, considering the many obstacles that often present themselves inbetween us and a successful breastfeeding relationship.
    So, a huge round of applause to those who made it, and let's spare a thought for those who lacked support and help when needed.

    How about a few moments to think about how we are optimising our health and that of the next generation?
    When we feed our children, for every day that they receive breastmilk they receive priceless benefits - the nutritional, the immunological, the psychological, the physical, and many more...
    We give our children a perfectly tailored nutritional fix at any given feed, give them oxytocin, wonderful bonding compounds that ensure psychological health, along with long-lasting assurance, confidence, and security. We aid palatal and dental development, and guard against obesity and diabetes and other health issues of the modern age.
    Our children learn portion control, and a special humanity bestowed by the unique bond that is the nursing dyad.

    When we forego alternative feeding methods we ensure that our families do not contribute to environmental
    pollution  - manufacturing processes, packaging, generated waste, the impact and cost of resultant ill-health and resultant lifestyle, all are issues associated with artificial feeding methods.
    Breastfeeding generates zero waste, needs no energy for heating and sterilising, and neither does it buy into multinational corporations that seek to dominate markets and look to exploit mothers and children with aggressive marketing.
    When we breastfeed we turn our backs on all of the above, and in doing so are building a better future for the next generation.
    A long term strategy for ecology and health is a wonderfully empowering and positive thing to give to our children.
    By safeguarding our own health, too, as well as that of our children, we ensure that we can pose less of a burden on health systems, guard against pharmaceuticals, and have a maximum healthy input in our lifetime.

    Choosing human milk can also be kinder to the rest of the earth's inhabitants, because when children have access to breastfeeding for however long they need, they have no need of milk from other species or modified alternatives derived from other species.

    In addition, we are ticking the box of sisterhood, because empowering yourself through your ability to feed your children without recourse to external food sources, and being visible doing so, means that we empower ourselves and other women, as well as children around about, who see that this is possible and normal.

    Breastfeeding is most definitely the greener way to nurture your children; so, with zero waste, great resource savings, in both the short and long-term, and with a positive effect upon the animal kingdom, we can definitely applaud ourselves on a worthwhile job.

    There is much more to breastfeeding that meets the eye.

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