All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Lucky apes can't read!

Or this one would surely be worrying endlessly about the MASSIVE rod for her back being made huh?  No doubt she would have been advised to let him cry it out, long before the baby thought it was acceptable to go to sleep ON his mother?

How will this Ape ever learn good sleep habits?

Will he ever settle alone?

Perhaps instead of the nest mum and baby share for sleep, she should crack on and move him into his own nest - to ensure he's independent?  (Interestingly apes only begin sleeping alone once weaned, so perhaps she should introduce a bottle too?)

That behaviour in the picture is surely only going to make him clingy?

Mums are told repeatedly that holding/feeding/comforting/sleeping with their baby to sleep will result in (say it with me) "bad sleep habits".  The baby will wake for the breast, unable to self soothe and is perfectly set up for a potential lifetime of sleep issues.

Where is the evidence young infants should be able to self soothe?  Who assumed an infant completely reliant upon us for everything else, has the skills to put themselves to sleep?  How do parents decide if/when these skills have developed, or is the assumption that babies are born with this skill - because their sleep is so different in the early months and infants appear to self soothe then?

I began pondering this post around 1am on Monday.  I had crazy insomnia because I was very overtired - hectic weekend, not enough sleep generally and so although I had been in bed over an hour, I was wide awake, yet shattered!  I began thinking about the Apes I had watched years ago in Florida, we chuckled as the mum repeatedly tried to settle her baby - who was having far more fun performing for visitors.  Perhaps in hindsight I should have lobbed a parenting manual or two into the enclosure, just on the off chance.

Anyway luckily being an adult, I can get up and make a drink - perhaps some hot milk and read a little until my eyelids feel heavy; unfortunately for babies, they can only cry and hope someone comes.

Sometimes they cry so much they are sick - and if they're super unlucky they will have a parent who has read one of the "hardcore" sleep books and clears it away without a look, or a cuddle, or any wonder of why their infant can't sleep and is distressed to the point of vomiting.  A few nights ago I had an awful dream, and prodded my other half awake just to tell him it was awful and get a hug; so seemingly most babies are expected to have better sleep skills than I!

Despite years of reading I've found nothing to suggest babies should or indeed have these skills at a particular age - beyond some random (99% of the time completely unqualified) persons opinion.   In fact research suggests the opposite - this is from a page I really found quite disturbing:
In contrast, careful scientific studies have found that parenting methods do affect whether or not children wake and signal at night. Three separate studies have found that if parents follow simple steps in how they care for their babies, then their babies are more likely to stop signaling in the night by 12 weeks of age. Two other situations have been found to predict continuation of infant night waking and signaling. They are: breast-feeding (versus formula-feeding) and bed-sharing through the night (compared with an infant sleeping in a separate crib).
Right, so what this actually says is that breastfeeding and co-sleeping have been found to predict continuation of infant night waking and signaling. Given infants are without doubt meant to consume breastmilk as a basic norm - and a heap of evidence also suggests co-sleeping is as normal to humans as it is to those apes (our closest genetic match) and in turn increases breastfeeding success rates;  this actually confirms normal infant behaviour is to night signal and rouse. Not that I could find references for the three studies mentioned!

Therefore when veering from the norm, it's surely important to prove there are no risks to these changes?

That infants who are not breastfed and sole sleeping, and thus stop signalling at 12 weeks are not at increased risk of SIDS.  Do infants stop signalling because they learn there is no point?  what is the psychological impact of this? (much harder to measure, especially long term)  Or is it something lacking from formula, which in turn hinders their rouse/signal pattern?

Babies are born reliant on their parents for everything, and yes this includes help to go to sleep - in fact this may be a factor in protecting against SIDS.  Breastmilk changes composition so that at night it includes more "sleepy hormones" and helps to create circadian rhythms  - as my other half pointed out, why would they be there if babies didn't need help with sleep?
RESULTS: The tryptophan in the breast milk presented a circadian rhythm with acrophase at around 03:00. This affected the 6-sulfatoxymelatonin circadian rhythm with acrophase at 06:00 in the breast-fed infants, and also promoted nocturnal sleep. Assumed sleep, actual sleep, and sleep efficiency were significantly increased in the breast fed infants with respect the formula fed infants.
Most sleep literature seems to assume children don't want to sleep - that they will manipulate (not that they're capable) vomit, "tantrum", anything to avoid sleeping.  What's this assumption based on?   What if actually human infants, just like that Ape really do want to sleep, but find it is disturbed by everything from developmental bursts to teething to being separated from mum?  What if instead of "waking for the breast", they actually just wake and the breast is the perfect soothing tool they turn to?

The best kept parenting secret you won't find in any guru's book (because it doesn't make any money - people buy into sleep solving solutions) is that all infants will outgrow this need in their own time, without any "training"! Ultimately early security and responsiveness result in - guess what?  Healthy sleep habits!  Not for a week or a few months, but for a lifetime...

The consequences of passive breastfeeding support...

"Keep at it and things will click..."

This seems to be the new buzz phrase in my area at least.  It seems to come into play when a mum has a problem that the midwife/health visitor/peer supporter/even breastfeeding counsellor or infant feeding advisor (IFA) can't seem to help resolve; standard "positioning and attachment" support don't work (the key to solving all lactation problems apparently, besides the just wait approach)  and they're stuck at where to go. 

But even I've been taken aback recently by just how passive some of the care provided is - and what could often potentially be the consequence.

I've seen mums with scabs covering the entire tip of the nipples, coming out misshapen post feed.  Very very low weight gain or static (to the point of being of concern to me - but weirdly in this situation nobody seemed too concerned that at three weeks baby had remained static since the day 3 loss.) Babies never showing signs of sation after mums have been sternly instructed to only use one breast.  Who have all been told to "stick at it it will click".

For some mums, should they not contact alternative support - I often don't see how things will resolve.

One mum in particular lived a long way from me, I contacted (with mum's permission) her HP's myself to ask if they could please refer her to their IBC:LC Infant Feeding Advisor (IFA) - because the weight situation made this a clinical case that needed to run alongside specialised HP's (and I knew an IFA covered that area, but mum was getting nowhere asking her health visitor!).  The reply was that she had never done that before so wasn't sure.  It was only when I expressed concern at the weight situation, the health visitor sat and worked out the weights - right before panicking!

Place your bets on what comes next?

"OK it's time to give a formula top up", mum was told.  "You've tried this and stuck at it long enough now - but baby clearly needs "more"."

So it went from "stick at it", with no other effective help - to top up....And I see this over and over....Often before weight loss has got so significant, but not always; there is a massive gap in effective care at this crucial time.

I see growth charts not completed, because mums have (incorrectly) been told the charts are based on bottle fed babies and so there's no point.  I see weight recordings that alternate between metric and imperial measurements  - making a quick assessment of how things are progressing weight wise impossible.  I see mums that have spent four/five weeks plus dealing with conflicting advice, spending hours doing things that realistically are never actually going to improve anything!

For those who say mum can't have tried hard enough - let me tell you that I've seen mums who have seen no less than five, six or seven, health care professionals in total to specifically help with breastfeeding.  These ranged from a peer supporter to midwives (and "breastfeeding specialist midwives"), and health visitors.  Mums who are on the phone constantly asking for help - yet was persistently told things were "fine" or to "stick at it and they would improve" or the gem of the lot "this is what breastfeeding is like".

In reality what is often happening is that due to baby feeding so ineffectively at the breast, supply by now determined by baby's appetite - dwindles fast.  But at this crucial point nobody notices that...

In the end I located the IFA myself and fed the mum back into the system.

The trouble is if nobody finds the cause of the problem, but keeps treating the symptoms - no amount of "persistence" will improve things if there is an unresolved underlying fundamental issue.  Mums are left with a reduced breastmilk supply - because of all that had gone before!  We also know that more evidence now suggests those first few weeks of breastfeeding can be crucial in supply later ie 4-5 months.

The trouble comes when nobody finds this cause.  Some mums express with ease and can up supply and top up with this milk alongside breastfeeding; other mums really struggle to express and increase supply by expressing  - even with continued persistence, determination and very frequent expressing.  It can be soul destroying.  So if the root cause isn't found - where can this mum go but an alternative milk?

For some mums, even if they get past the initial pain, or weight issues - other problems may remain; a forever windy/unsettled/refluxy/colicky/never settling infant, often not resolved by swapping to alternative milk and a bottle.

I can see how women can believe they truly couldn't breastfeed - that they tried everything they could think of yet nothing worked; that they reached a point they simply couldn't take anymore trying.

Let's always remember that we don't know someones back story or what they endured trying to breastfeed.  That it's not always a case of just "trying harder" or "persisting longer"; in the above case persistence alone would never have resolved the issues - it's about effective help, emotional and mental support and accurate information - and most importantly it's about getting it at the right time.

Random Parenting Thought 2 - Behaviourism v Unconditional Parenting

In Random Parenting Though 1 The Basic Motivation,  I covered how a couple of concepts in Unconditional Parenting really influenced how I thought about parenting, and outlined the first.  Today I want to move on to the second - for anyone who hasn't, please check out the overall introduction too :)


Many popular parenting techniques are more closely aligned with a school of thought called "behaviourism" than they are unconditional parenting (UP).  Behaviourists focus exclusively (as the name suggests) on behaviour - something you can see and measure, and:
"Furthermore, all behaviours are believed to start and stop, wax and wane, solely on the basis of whether they are "reinforced".  Behaviourists assume everything we do can be explained in terms of whether it produces some kind of reward, either one that is deliberately offered or one that occurs naturally."
As Kohn points out, this seems to be an often made assumption - even for those who have never even heard or read about behaviourism:
When parents and teachers constantly talk about a child's "behaviour", they're acting as though nothing matters except the stuff on the surface.  It's not a question of who kids are, what they think or need.  Forget motives and values: The idea is just to change what they do.  This, of course, is an invitation to rely on discipline techniques whose only purpose is to make kids act - or stop acting in a particular way.
He then goes on to give a specific example, he talks about forcing a child to apologise.
"Now what's going on here?  Do parents assume that making children speak this sentence will magically produce in them the feeling of being sorry, despite all the evidence to the contrary?  Or, worse, do they not even care whether the child really is sorry, because sincerity is irrelevant and all that matters is the act of uttering the appropriate words.  Compulsory apologies mostly train children to say things they don't mean - that is to lie."
 Kohn discusses how this isn't an isolated example, we see it in everything from potty training to sleep:
"From the perspective of these programs, why a child may be sobbing in the dark is irrelevant,  It could be terror or boredom or loneliness or hunger or some other reason.  Similarly, it doesn't matter what reason a toddler may have for not wanting to pee in the toilets when his parents ask him to do so.

Experts who offer step by-step recipes for "teaching" children to sleep in a room by themselves, or urge us to offer gold start, M&M's or praise for tinkling in the toilet are concerned not with the thoughts and feelings and intentions that give rise to a behaviour, only with the behaviour itself"
But behaviourism alone doesn't explain some of the base assumptions we now seem to have in society about children.  Many parenting techniques often make the assumption that children will be wild, rude, naughty and never sleep given half a chance!  As though this is the default setting and we have to instill otherwise as we go along.

The example Kohn uses is a situation where a new baby has not long arrived, and they have agreed that after dinner his elder daughter will take a bath, then have a story before bed,  His daughter refuses to get in the bath and in shouting her objections, wakes the baby.  When asked to be quiet she shrieks again - once things calmed down, should he have proceeded with the normal routine of snuggling and stories?

The knee jerk (behaviourist) reaction of many is no!  The positive attention of stories and cuddles will only reinforce the "bad behaviour" and make her more likely to act that way again.  Instead she should be told calmly but firmly what consequence was being imposed and why.
"The unconditional approach , however, says this is a temptation to be resisted, and that we should indeed snuggle and read a story as usual.  But that doesn't mean we ought to just ignore what happened.  Unconditional Parenting isn't a fancy term for letting kids do what ever they want.  It's very important (once the storm has passed) to teach, to reflect together - which is exactly what we did with our daughter after we had read her a story.  Whatever lesson we hoped to impact was far more likely to be learned if she knew that our love for her was undimmed by how she had acted.
UP asks us to consider that the reasons for what his daughter did may be more "inside" than "outside".
Her actions can't necessarily be explained, in mechanical fashion, by looking at external forces like positive responses to previous behaviour.  Perhaps she is overwhelmed by fears that she can't name, or by frustrations that she doesn't know how to express.

Unconditional parenting assumes that behaviours are just the outward expression of feelings and thoughts, needs and intentions.  In a nutshell, it's the child who engages in a behaviour, not just the behaviour that is important.  They act this way rather than that way for many different reasons, some of which may be hard to tease apart. But we can't just ignore those reasons and respond only to the effects (that is. the behaviours).
UP reminds us that the child's goal is not to make us miserable or to be malicious, - but the opposite; children do well when they can.  It of course acknowledges that children must be guided, but not that they need "taming":
They have the capacity to be compassionate or aggressive, altruistic or selfish, co-operative or competitive.  When young children pitch a fit, or refuse to get in the tub as they said they would, this can often be understood in terms of their age - that is, their inability to understand the source of their unease, to express their feeling in more appropriate ways, to remember and keep their promises.
Perhaps the most worrying message behaviouralist thinking potentially sends out is that the child is only lovable, and loved when they're acting in the way we want.  Kohn goes on to discuss the research demonstrating how this actually may make things worse.
In important ways then, the choice between conditional and unconditional parenting  is a choice between radically different views on human nature.

Random Parenting Thought 1 - The Basic Motivation

In the introduction to this section, I mention a book called "Unconditional Parenting".   It was this book that really got me thinking about parenting on a different level.  If you haven't read the introductinn page - please do!

Two particular concepts in his book (which I really am reducing to base level here!) in particular I found interesting.  The first I will cover here, the second in the next entry.

1.  What are your longterm aims for your child?  
Kohn discusses common answers:
Happy, balanced, independent, fulfilled, productive, responsible, functioning, kind, thoughtful, loving, inquisitive and confident.
He then asks us to consider whether what we are doing is consistent with these aims.  Are our everyday practices likely to help them grow into the kind of people we want them to be.  Imagine yourself hearing someone describe your child, what would it give you the most pleasure to hear?  Would it be:
"Boy, that child does everything he's told, and you never hear a peep out of him!"

Do we want out kids to obey unquestioning?  to do what we tell them without question and not think for themselves?

Kohn discusses how this can impact longterm:
Author Barbara Coloroso remarks that she's often heard parents of teenagers complain, "He was such a good kid, so well behaved, so well mannered, so we dressed.  Now look at him!".  To this she replies:
"From the time he was young, he dressed the way you told him to dress; he acted the way you told him to act; he said the things you told him to say.  He's been listening to somebody else tell him what to do....He hasn't changed.  He is still listening to somebody else tell him what to do.  The problem is, it isn't you anymore; it's his peers."
It was this single thought that kicked off the cogs for me.  I want my children to think for themselves, to feel they can refuse or disagree - and teach them the appropriate way to do that.  I want them to be confident and to nurture that naturally enquiring mind children have.  What I think is the key phrase for me is to parent with respect.
The more we ponder our long-term goals for our kids, the more complicated things become.  Any goal might prove to be objectionable if we consider it in isolation:  Few qualities are so important that we'd be willing to sacrifice everything else to achieve them.  Maybe it's wiser to help children strike a balance between opposing pairs of qualities, so that they can grow up to be self-reliant but also caring, or confident yet still willing to acknowledge their limitations.

The point I want to emphasise is that however we think about these goals, we ought to think about them a lot.  They ought to be our touchstone, if only to keep us from being sucked into the quicksand of daily life with it's constant temptation to do whatever it takes to get compliance. 

Random Parenting Thought 2 - Behaviourism v Unconditional Parenting

If mothers don't value mothering, who will?

I'm going to open this entry with a joke I heard a couple of years ago....
One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.
The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room, the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.
He ran up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened. He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled up in the bed, still in her pajamas, reading a novel.
She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.

He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened here today?"

She again smiled and answered, "You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world I did today?"
"Yes," was his incredulous reply, half shouting.

The smile remained, "Well, today I didn't do it."
Many mums can "get this" - when chatting with parents the assumption mum has all the time in the world because all she is doing is staying home with the kids, certainly rears it's head more than occasionally.

But what got me thinking about it in more detail was a family column in my local paper.

I should say the column in general is not really my sort of read - the mum who writes it "timed out" her two year old (she hit her brother with a mascara in frustration when he wouldn't open it) and most of the content is what they have done that week and how clever or funny they are; great if you know them, a tad dull otherwise!  Anyway in a recent issue the topic was working, and how she had returned full time with her first but now she had a second childcare made only part time feasible.  There was lots of explanation about how of course she had worried but in fact the baby loved it - great.  But the killing comment came at the end, that she felt her working was important to set a positive example for the children.

Now I've been a working mum, I've been a "stay at home mum" - and a range of things in between; but since when has being a mum at home been a bad example?  Is mothering really valued so little it's so bad for her kids to think of her as "just a mum"?


I had a Google and here are some comments I found:
"I have been a SAHM for three years now and I love my kids and really want to stay at home for them, to enjoy them and be there for them, but lately I have been feeling very low in this role, very unworthy. I feel like a nobody."
 Or this, from a woman who returned to work after seven months at home:
"I can't be a full-time SAHM. I felt worthless and being dependent just did my head in. I am at work and I had to take down the photos of bubby because I am feeling very emotional."
To be fair much of society is the same - Back in 2003  Ms Hewitt, Trade Secretary & Minister for Women admitted that:
"Mothers who remain at home rather than going out to work had been undervalued."
"The Labour Party had mistakenly given the perception that it was better if all women got jobs. Changes to tax credits to give more money to mothers who stayed at home had helped correct this. However, the government had failed to persuade the public to value women who stayed at home.
"We have got to move to a position where as a society and as a government, we recognise and we value the unpaid work that people do within their families."
What I turned up online often reinforced this polarised view.  Would you respect a mum that was just a stay at home mum? one student debate forum asked; but perhaps most surprising was what I found on a Feminism forum.  To me "Feminism" is about strong women and a belief in women's rights - yet several thought motherhood was a waste of a woman and it took no skill to be a mother, even a stick insect could do it!  They felt women should be in the workplace making a contribution to the economy, using the rights they were given.

Perhaps I'm a bit dim but forcing women into the workplace seems to me just as bad as not allowing them in it!

We end up with a situation where some women are feeling pressure to go out to low paid jobs, to pay someone to look after their child who has a lower paid job - often with little left over to show.  We know that on the whole the best outcome in terms of the child is to be at home with a primary caregiver (the whole nursery teaches them social skills and essential socialisation is nothing but propaganda in a small infant)  Sure many children are fine in their childcare and as I say I've worked; but we also know not all childcare is great and it impacts long term.

Even Ms Hewitt found these barriers:
Although the women and equality unit within her department had said women should go out and work to help the economy, Ms Hewitt argued that parents who stayed home contributed to the long-term health of the country as well.
Katie's Daughter Princess with false eyelashes
Perhaps the icing on the cake is the media and how they view mothers.  The biggest cheers go to those who can be seen partying or working ASAP after birth.  Previous Celebrity Mum Of The Year winners include Kerry Katona - criticised for smoking and drinking alcohol during her pregnancies, taking cocaine and also investigated for assault,criminal damage and a public order offence.  Kate Moss, known for her party lifestyle with Babyshambles' Pete Doherty, filmed snorting Cocaine and who moved her mother in 2008 to provide some stability for her daughter.  Not to mention Katie Price A.k.a. Jordan, quoted in Aug 2010 as saying:
"Any child that has parents who are divorced are lucky. They get extra Christmas presents, birthday presents and extra trips,'
 Oh ok so two out of three have used a drug known to cause gang violence, death and suffering in the countries it is grown and trafficked, but hey they contribute heavily to the economy ergo they are amazing parents!  Obviously.

Only judging mothers on the strength of their contribution to the current economic status is extremely short sighted.  Most have paid into the system for many years and those who do choose to stay at home do so for a wide variety of reasons - to suggest mothering is a waste of a woman, underestimates the massive impact a mother has.

With a society more violent than ever before, depression rates through the roof and life for some children becoming more toxic by the day - perhaps it's time we started measuring the worth of a woman based on more than a few pennies in a pot.  What's more if mothers don't value mothering, who will?

Further Reading:
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The Icecreamists do breastmilk ice cream BADLY!

In my humble opinion of course *cough*.

Lady Gaga threatens legal action over 'Baby Gaga' breast milk ice cream

Dum dum dum!! and so the saga continues.
I thought at first the action was just based on the name - but reports have since stated the ice cream is served by a waitress dressed as Lady Gaga.  So, to be fair I can kinda see her issue!

Don't get me wrong, I find it ironic that someone who wears an outfit made of raw meat could call breastmilk ice cream "icky" (did anyone tell her it's screened and pasteurised and so very likely contains far less "ick" than a typical bovine based ice cream?) but hey maybe she's just not a fan of frozen desserts!

But I have bigger and (to me) more interesting problems with "The Icecreamists", the company responsible for "baby gaga" ice cream".

Ya gotta wonder how the in house discussions went - mmm how shall we present the breastmilk ice cream?  I've got it!! Let's add a shot of Bonjella or Calpol and a bottle!

I'm not really sure what it says about our society that the three obvious items were two pharma meds and a bottle; and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who raised an eyebrow at the fact the brand of bottle shown is from a company reported as not adhering to code of breastmilk substitutes!


If a milk bottle is a must, at least something like this resembling a breast is in keeping ;)

The biggest problem is (to me) that of paying for breastmilk.  "Good on the mum", some have said or " would be happy to donate at that price!"  It's claimed "The Icecreamists" pay £15 per 10oz and therein I think is the potential problem.

Some mums can express say 8oz per session, several times per day - nice little earner; however there is also the risk that at this price some mothers will express and donate for money, whilst buying much cheaper breastmilk substitutes for their own infant.  Some exclusively pumping mums boast 40oz per day  - that's £60 in cold hard cash, or £300 per week.  I wonder if donating mums are required to declare and pay tax on the sale of their bodily fluids ? ;)  Will donors have to watch their backs for "breastmilk pimps" with those rates of pay?

I for one would have been more impressed to see a pay rate of half that, and half donated to a charity or organisation.  Perhaps the Association of Breastmilk Banks (UKAMB) or even a breastfeeding support organisation.

There is of course the risk that breastmilk banks could suffer in this whole human ice cream revolution.  "Mums can donate where they want" and "not everyone can donate to a breastmilk bank" are two replies I have heard a lot.  Both of which are of course true, to the first I would say they absolutely can, however is it a level playing field when one is a faceless donation and the other offers financial gain?

Furthermore, not many mums have (luckily) been in the position of being sat in an NICU, watching doctors work 24/7 on a 27 weeker and a beyond distraught mother who will soon be under immense pressure to express adequate amounts.  Or seen the tiny 31 weekers receiving breastmilk substitutes via iv tube because the banks are dry - especially when you know how vulnerable some of these infants are.  Or been in a position of having to sat hour after hour on the breastpump, day and night for their 34 weeker, desperately trying to get a feed ahead because there is an overwhelming panic that at the next feed he may want more than you have - which of course only serves to hinder the milk ejection reflex.  As the banks have little funding to get their message out there, they rely on those passionate to help.

The second point is right, not all women can donate to milk banks - but "The Icecreamists" aren't likely to only accept these donors.  Even if they were would this even be fair?  So it seems to me a financial donation per sale would be a sensible consideration - to hep protect the Nation's most vulnerable.

At the moment human breastmilk is all a bit shock horror - to a culture deeply entrenched in consuming the lactational fluids of a cow, not another person of the same species; the concept is mind boggling.  But this knee jerk reaction will change over time, the potential health reasons to eat alone are interesting - let alone those avoiding dairy or who want to make a positive environmental contribution.  Perhaps we ought to watch out, otherwise maybe the future will resemble this controversial billboard campaign that MAdGE (Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment) ran in 2003 ;)

Well for the first time in rather a long time, I've been censored lol!

I posted this blog piece on the Facebook wall of "The Icecreamist".  If I discuss anyone in my piece, I often send them a copy so they have right to reply - I feel it only fair; after all they may have a totally different point of view or want to correct some misinformation.

Posting it on their wall was tricky for a start - see they don't allow mmbers to start a wall topic.  So I replied under another thread linking them to the blog and saying I had posted the link where I did as the wall was limited to The Icecreamist only.

I received the reply:
"Ref the wall, oddly enough given this is The Icecreamist's Facebook page it tends to be restricted to Icecreamisst material." (yes he did spell his own company wrong!)
Followed by:
We are sure our donor mum Victoria Hiley will have a view on your post also!

Well oddly enough Mr Smarty Pants a whole lot of corporate pages allow their "fans" to start a new topic - so the sarcasm really misses the spot.  And of course donor mum is welcome to comment, I don't think I've said anything untoward?

I then found my link deleted and myself removed from their Facebook group! (for the record I have NEVER been removed from a group before, even when I've protested at Annabel Karmel or Nestle!!)  I rejoined to reply to the above comment, but found I have been censored and am not allowed to comment on the group...


Share your experience - Karen's story

This is fabulous, seeing all these different breastfeeding experiences!
My first child was born in 2004, and even after reading all the pregnancy & birth books and magazines I could get my hands on I was still nervous and unsure about everything, including breastfeeding. All I knew was that I wanted to do it, all I need to do is plonk my baby on my breast and away we go. I will suddenly give birth and become the closet thing to a cow!
How wrong was I and nobody seemed to know how to help either. The midwives didn’t seem bothered if I was a breast or bottle feeder. I had no idea about positioning and attachment and I just remember a midwife coming into my room in the hospital after me panicking as to why my baby was crying and feeding constantly and grabbing my tender boobs and trying to get my baby to latch on then giving up and said ‘your breasts are too big and your suffocating her’.......cue the SMA Gold and a serious lot of guilt. I had all the best intentions to breastfeed, didn't bother buying bottles, formula and sterilisers, but by the time i left hospital a rushed shopping trip to Mothercare to buy all the equipment was in order. The next year of feeding her was hell.
5 years later and pregnant with my 2nd child and what a difference, I was asked whilst i was still carrying my baby how i was going to feed her and had a chance to ask my midwife about my overly large breasts suffocating my first child to which she replied ‘what utter rubbish!’. Gone were all my books and magazines and all the ‘how to feed, look after and care for your newborn’ bumf and I knew exactly what I wanted. A natural birth, lots and skin to skin and my big massive breasts feeding my child.......perfect. 

I got the birth I wanted and the midwives that looked after me whilst having my baby were fabulous. There was no mention of formula just breast. My baby was passed to me straight after she ‘popped out’ for skin to skin and was feeding within half an hour. Everyone was very supportive and very encouraging. I was given all sorts of info sheets on breastfeeding and the support groups that were in my area and here I am 18 months after the birth still breastfeeding and half way through my Bosom Buddies Peer Supporter Course.
I’ve been lucky in the fact that i didn’t experience any problems whilst breastfeeding and any concerns i had were always answered. The only ‘blip’ i had was going back into hospital 4 days after the birth to have retained membranes & placenta removed, it knocked my confidence, scared me to death and my emotions were all over the place. It was hard to feed my baby at the time but the midwives helped me a lot as did my husband who has been my biggest supporter.
I still can’t believe the difference in attitude and support from the NHS in 5 years. I still feel guilty though about my breastfeeding experience first time round and wish i would of had the support I received in 2009, I only hope that the help, information and support for breastfeeding mums gets better.
Thanks for reading.

Reasons to consider signing with your baby/toddler

Those who know me can testify that I love baby sign, I think it's fantastic on so many levels I even became a baby group class teacher for several years.  As I don't do it anymore, I have no financial incentive to "sell" signing to you, but I do think it's something worth considering.

What is infant signing?
Babies gesture before they can talk - often waving and clapping first.  Why? Because adults often wave and clap at young infants, and they can copy this before the pathways for speech are fully developed.  Really all baby sign is, is using more basic gestures to allow your child to communicate more, earlier.

  • Allows baby to express thoughts and needs before language is developed enough to do so verbally (i.e. talking)
  • Increased IQ, still apparent at age 7. (Acredolo and Goodwyn, 2000)
  • Reduces parent and infant frustration, increases communication and enriches parent-infant bonding - as baby begins to talk they often use the same sound for several things - "ba" could mean bath, ball or even sheep! Infants are often over two before they talk in longer sentences, but babies often mix sign and speech to say more. (Moore et al, 2001)
  • Increased interest in books. (Moore et al, 2001) Using signing alongside looking at books allows an infant to tell the story too.
  • Larger vocabularies and engage in more sophisticated play than non-signing babies. (Moore et al, 2001)
  • Signing can be great for older infants when speech is difficult because they are cross/frustrated/upset, or to really emphasise the point! Many keep the angry/sorry sign even once speech is fluent
  • Crosses cultural/language barriers and can help bilingual children connect words earlier.
  • Increased confidence in daycare setting as carers can understand and respond with sign too!
  • Encourages mum to talk to baby a lot, also known to be important to speech skills.
  • Helps infants process requests/directions/language.
  • If a child is later diagnosed with hearing problems or another reason to sign longer, they already have the foundations of communication.
How can it do that?
Signs "More"
Speech and language therapists have for years used sign to assist speech development.  Using both a sign AND the word (very important always to say the word as well as sign it) strengthens neurological connections and provides two pathways of recall for the child.  This is often obvious at toddler level when learning colours and the alphabet - if a child is stuck as soon as you start to do the sign they remember the word!  Many primary schools are now realising the benefits of sign and introducing it alongside key themes of early classes to help children retain information better.

Do all babies sign?
Of course the most obvious benefit to signing is they sign back - but this as shown above is not the only reason to sign, ie the above benefits aren't relative to how much your child signs back!

Development progresses in quite clear steps and many mums comment that first the infant recognises and responds to the sign eg signing "milk" results in grins and gurgles!  They then progress to using the sign themselves, maybe with a noise or sound and gradually the word becomes clearer.  But I have to be honest and say a small percentage of babies don't sign lots back, some stick with a few key signs; though if parents continue most will pick up more as toddlers eg as above for colours and alphabet etc.  On the other hand a lot learn oodles of signs and continue to mix them with speech to form more complex sentences.   One mum commented although her son didn't sign lots (he was 8 months), he understood her signs which had proved invaluable during a hospital stay to help calm and reassure him.

I found there are several factors influencing this:

Signs "Mouse"
Individuality - What does seem to be a common theme amongst those that don't use a massive range of signs is they are instead early talkers and thus simply don't have a need for many signs!  They are often putting several words together at the same age many are using signs and the odd word (or just the odd word if non signing).  Other mums comment their child uses more complex language/words than age comparable peers; as signing supports language development, their speech may well be so developed early because of sign.

How frequently the parent signs - This is a big factor.  If you sign every time you say a particular word, the infant will pick up the sign quicker.  Consistency is hard initially if you are not used to signing and often when speaking to mums in class, they realised they were not signing anywhere near as much as they thought they were.

Developing signs that are of interest - often signing programmes start with basic essentials like "eat", "drink" etc.  These are great as you can do them lots of times in a day to get you into the habit, but if your baby doesn't feel a need to sign these things (ie you regularly provide food and drink) they may not be the ones he wants to use.  A sign nearly every baby I know has picked up is the "more" sign, but once you are consistently remembering to sign, try to watch your baby to see what they are interested in and offer relevant signs (ie some love vehicles and might like the sign for "tractor" or "car", whilst others love animals and want to use "duck" or "bird" etc)

Patience - some babies sign back very quickly, others take a while then come out with lots at once! Babies have different development "schemas" and his mind may be busy with other things; there is a big communication burst for many infants around 8-10 months, when many are keen to develop this area.  If you begin signing with an older baby eg 12 months plus, some sign back amazingly quickly - even instantly!

When should you start and when can babies sign back?
You can begin signing as soon as your baby is alert and focusing - you talk to them then right?  I have several close friends who have signed from birth and their children have started signing back as early as 4 months.  Mine youngest signed "up" at 5 months actual age (born 6 weeks early) and "milk" a couple of weeks after - by 8 months he used lots of signs.

If mums start at 6 months, infants will typically start signing at 8-9 months - although as discussed they recognise the signs earlier and some are keen to communicate!

Similarly there's lots of reasons to start as late as toddler hood and continue even once speech is clear.  Once you consistently understand a word and they drop the sign, you can follow suit - but you can introduce new signs to help them remember more complicated words.

Another big reason to sign with toddlers in reinforcing concepts - for example if you have introduced your child to signs such as "gentle", and emotions such as "happy", "sad", etc from a young age, you can use them when explaining/discussing other scenarios when older.
Signs "Ouch"

As an example we always signed "pain" with my youngest when he bumped or someone else was hurt - he very quickly grasped this concept and it helped him understand easily he potentially could also cause pain; clearly demonstrated by a one day phase of him nipping me to cause a squeal, so he could quickly sign pain!

When he was 18 months he nipped when breastfeeding - I signed and said "ouch", "gentle" please; he signed back and said sorry whilst feeding and was extra careful for the rest of the feed.  Similarly it can be a very calm non confrontational way to point out their actions have hurt or upset another child.

You can use signs to reinforce your speech too - such as "must", "no" (a non negotiable situation), "stop" (ie running near a road type emergency halt) "hot"; it's also extra handy when in a busy location/your toddler is at a distance to save either yelling or "shadow parenting", and even useful I discovered recently during my 7 year old's Christmas show, when it meant I could tell her how much I was enjoying it whilst she was on stage looking at me nervously!

Overall it is a lovely way to increase communication between carer and baby from a young age; signs like change nappy/wet/dirty/clean can allow your child to express needs earlier, many use the pain sign to express teething - which can be a godsend to a mum wondering why her baby is screaming all night and wondering if it might be discomfort.  It also allows a window into their world, I can clearly remember a good friend telling me her joy when her toddler dragged her to the window and using a mix of sign and words communicated, "look, there's a bird eating!" 

There are lots of ways you can learn baby sign - books, DVDs, online resources or classes.  It all really depends what works for your learning style; I started with books but couldn't work out what the signs were doing from still images and so found the DVD worked well for picking them up.  My second attended the class I ran and many mums commented the weekly repetition and seeing other infants signing helped keep them motivated and remembering to sign!  I can highly recommend Sing and Sign classes, both from my own experience and from reviews from others - the catchy songs help you remember the signs and the class is interactive, hands on for baby too.  Most groups offer a free taster session for your to go along and see whether it's for you and your baby.

How do they stop signing?
Speech is easier than signing and so once the word is consistently understood, the sign drops away.  As mentioned above toddlers may hang onto one or two favourites signs used alongside words, if they want to emphasise their point - and it's surely a far nicer way to do that than shouting or stamping feet.  I've noticed signing babies seem to develop in two different ways - some quickly learn the words they've been signing, speak and drop the signs (at which point it can be good to add more challenging signs/words - even if your toddler only speaks them back).  Others learn the words first they don't have signs for and retain their use of signs slightly longer to mix them and say more - one mum pointed out her daughter still signed "more", yet could pronounce "apple juice" (which she didn't have a sign for) so she could use both to ask for more apple juice!  As language develops the remaining signs drop away.

Guidelines for signing:
  • Always say the word when you sign - if you sign in silence, so will your baby! As the aim for most infants is ultimately speech, your child will copy and attempt the word with their sign eventually.
  • Don't oversign!  If you try to cram lots of signs into a sentence, your speech has to become unnaturally slow to keep up - hearing infants need to hear and enjoy the natural rhythm and patterns of speech.  Pick the key focus of the sentence and sign that - would you like "more", would you like a "drink" etc
  • Have fun!  You can play lots of games with signs; in/out, fast/slow, go/stop - babies love to hide things, sign "where" and they play peekaboo, whilst a a favourite with toddlers is "stop/go" (you can dance/run/hop inbetween and then shout the action with the sign) which can provego/stop - babies love to hide things, sign "where" and they play peekaboo, whilst a a favourite with toddlers is "stop/go" (you can dance/run/hop inbetween and then shout the action with the sign) which can prove invaluable if you need your toddler to "stop" quickly, or be "quick quick quick" in a rush!
  • Watch for their version of the sign!  When they first attempt a sign, it can look a little different to the one you do - acknowledge their sign but remain consistent with yours (ie don't change it to match their attempt)
Did you sign with your baby or toddler?  Share your experiences here or on our Facebook group :)