Friday, 25 March 2016

Photo Friday Week 1: Tulips

The best way to become a better photographer is to experiment. Light, angles, colour and distance all make a creative impact on photographs regardless of the camera. I love my DSLR and the ability to control so much of what the photograph looks like through aperture, exposure and shutter speed, but since learning how to use my camera on manual I have had to face it that to become a good photographer I need to improve the composition and contents of my photographs. I am starting to challenge myself to explore and experiment with the aim to become a better photographer.

The pictures below were taken on my iPhone. I used a LED light directed into the tulips which I held over a black dining room chair. I love the contrast between the flowers and the black background as well as how some parts of the flower seem to glow.

2 pink and 1 white tulips against a black background

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Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Date Night: Becoming a Silversmith

There is something pretty satisfying about making something yourself and then being able to wear it. Not only is it unique, but you can do that whole smug “I made it myself” thing when people ask you where you got it.

In less than 3 hours at London Jewellery School I made my very own silver ring. The teacher  took us through it step by step. From cutting the piece of silver to creating the design to polishing then shaping it.

My boyfriend bought us a gift voucher for the course as a Valentine's present. With hammers and tools it should keep most men happy even if they aren't keen on wearing the finished item. It resulted in a Valentine's Day present I could keep and a date to remember.
A silver wrap around ring

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Monday, 21 March 2016

Why have people been so annoyed with Jamie Oliver?

When asked what he was going to do next now the sugar fax has been introduced Jamie Oliver said he was concerned about breastfeeding rates being so low in the UK. He admitted he was still researching it, but he made the following points:

  • “We have the worst breastfeeding (rates) in the world”
  • “If you breastfeed for more than 6 months you are 50% less likely to get breast cancer. When do you ever hear that?”
  • “It’s easy, it’s more convenient, it’s more nutritious, it’s better, it’s free”.
  • He went on to suggest that improving breastfeeding rates would help tackle childhood obesity.


Ok so saying it is "easy" was a red flag, but I have to agree with him: once breastfeeding is established it is easy. And I say that as someone who spent months in tears of pain feeding their baby, as someone who had to walk around the house topless for weeks due to the open wounds on my nipples which hurt too much to have anything touch them. And who went on to breastfeed my daughter into toddlerhood.

I'm not writing this as a righteous mother saying "I did it, you can too if you try hard enough" because I don't believe that. I recognise that for a while variety of reasons breastfeeding isn't for everyone, but it frustrates me that the facts about breastfeeding always have to be said with caution for fear of upsetting people. Why do people get so upset?

There are a number of women who choose never to breastfeed their babies. I have a friend who knew she would never try because the idea made her feel queasy. The relationship between mother and child is hugely important and if breastfeeding is going to have a negative impact on that it is sensible to choose another option. Those who decide breastfeeding isn’t for them after starting also fall into this group.

These ladies shouldn't have a problem with information improving to help new moms make an informed choice or those struggling to breastfeed getting better support. They've made their decision and they should own it. Everyone else should respect their decision.

I choose to continue to eat too much sugar and too much generally with the knowledge that this will have a negative impact on my health. It's my choice and I accept the consequences.

There is another group of mothers, a very small percent, who are believed to be genuinely unable to breastfeed. It's not known the exact figures but it's thought somewhere between 2 and 5 per cent of women can't produce enough breastmilk to sustain their baby. This group needs sensitivity, but they shouldn't feel any guilt. They had no more control over their milk supply than over their eye colour. These women should be helped to accept the situation if they need support, something which would probably be provided if breastfeeding support was better funded.

The 3rd and largest group of women who I suspect have an issue with conversations about breastfeeding are those who wanted to breastfeed, who tried, but had to stop for a reason outside of their control.

Through volunteering as chair of my local NCT branch, blogging and generally talking to a lot of mums I have heard a lot of stories about why people stopped (or were never able to start) breastfeeding and they make me angry. I sit there silently seething. The women have a huge range of emotions about it from feeling totally ok to really upset, from guilty to feeling a failure, but I feel just one: anger. Ok maybe I feel a bit sad too.

The reason for my anger is that in their stories I can often hear the little things which were said which made their journey more difficult. Actions or words by others which undermined the new mum’s ability to get feeding established. Midwives, doctors, health visitors, friends, family and advertising all have a huge impact on if a new mum can establish breastfeeding successfully. Comments such as "he's a lazy baby, he can't be bothered to suck", "he's not following his weight percentile", "try stopping breastfeeding for a week" have all been told to new mums by professionals. Even the question "how often does she feed?" feels loaded. What's the correct answer? Replying "I feed my baby as often as she wants it, sometimes that's 3 hourly, but in the evening or in a growth spurt it can be hourly or more often" has been met with the loaded "as long as you are ok with that?". My baby’s behaviour is normal, very normal, but the question makes me feel I'm doing something wrong. Why? Because ultimately there isn't enough information out there about what is normal. 

If you are feeding frequently it's so easy to feel your baby isn't getting enough.

If your baby is waking frequently at night it is so easy to think that they aren't getting enough.

If they are fussy or crying for hours at a time it is so easy to think the cause is breastmilk or a inadequate supply.

With these concerns the suggestion is often to supplement or move completely to formula. Why is it that rarely the response is: "let's work on increasing your supply and see if it helps?". 

Those struggling to get breastfeeding established will seek advice from doctors, midwives, health visitors, peer supporters and breastfeeding consultants, but often the problem can be subtle and in the hugely complex world of breastfeeding a couple of days training may not be enough to help these providers to identify the problem. Do you know how much training they had on breastfeeding before providing that advice? It can be as little as a day and may even have been provided by a company which sells formula. How much research have these companies done to try and ensure women successfully breastfeed.

So I'm angry because while there is a lot of "support" out there, the number who have enough training to help complex problems is not enough. There also isn't enough support available at the right time (the first 24 hours and when the milk comes in) meaning that by the time help is asked for minor issues may have affected supply and become more significant. 

When I had my second child a couple of months ago the midwives were very busy and the 4 new mum's were left over night to themselves unless they called the midwives away from someone in labour. One mother was crying by the early hours and begging for formula because she hadn't got the support she needed. No mother should be in that position, but things won't change without a huge investment. The sort of investment a campaign by a well known figure could help support.

While Jamie Oliver has said he doesn’t plan to start a breastfeeding campaign (and who can blame him given the backlash) I think everyone should support the view that breastfeeding support and education needs more investment in this country. The long and short term benefits to health are huge.
To breastfeed or not? A personal choice, but one which should be respected 

Every women should make an informed choice and have that decision respected. They should feel confident enough in their decision that they are not upset or sensitive to conversations about breastfeeding. Every new mum should get the support needed to make that decision. The mother's who didn't get the support they needed should feel angry and join in to  campaign to change this so other women aren't in the same position. Every mother wants the best for their child and no mother should feel guilty for doing their best based on the information and support available to them. 


Side note: dad's play a huge part in getting breastfeeding established successfully, but the worst emotions and pressure are often on the mother alone hence my focus in this post.
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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Dairy cows (photography)


I love photography, both taking pictures and looking at them. To help push me to improve my skills I will be taking part in more photography links. This week I'm joining in PODcast's Black and White Photography Project.

This photograph was taken at the working dairy farm which is part of Lee Valley Park Farms.

 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg
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Friday, 18 March 2016

10 life lessons we should learn from newborn babies… or maybe not

Babies live using their instincts. Many of these behaviours we subsequently encourage them to change, but what if we are wrong? What if newborns are doing things the best way? Could it be that by following the lead of a baby we could all live happier, simpler lives?  

What every newborn babies seems to know:

  • If you want cuddles ask for them, if people don’t understand then cry until you get them.
  • Sleeping while being cuddled is the best.
  • Explore the world with all your senses: stare in wonder, smell, touch and taste everything.
Newborn baby girl looking at the camera
  • Don't worry where you are or what is going on do what you need to. This includes eating, sleeping, pooping, seeing, burping and parping. 
  • When you are full stop eating. You can always have more in 20 minutes if you are still hungry. If you are persuaded to eat more just regurgitate it.
  • A bit of comfort eating is ok when cuddles or rocking don't help.
Black and white photograph of newborn baby breastfeeding

  • When constipated or trying to poo grunt lots and windmill your arms.
  • When you miss your sleep window and are really tired fight it, do not give in to sleep.
  • Wee in the bath, preferably just after you get in.
  • It's good to be naked, enjoy feeling the fresh air on your bottom.


Ok so maybe not all of these are advisable, but nature must know something right?
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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

My fear of getting my haircut with the baby

When I was on maternity leave with my eldest I'm fairly sure I only got my hair cut once. One of my friends who  was a hairdresser came over and gave me a cut and colour. As she was putting the colour on my hair M started fussing and wanted a feed, but I couldn't get her to latch on. I don't know if she was distressed by the chemical smell or if she was confused because I didn't smell like me, either way it was distressing for both of us.

Recently I've got in the habit of booking my next hair appointment as I'm paying. This has the benefit that I get a discount and that in 3 months time when I'm thinking "my hair is a state, it needs to be cut", I receive a text from the hairdressers reminding me my next haircut is imminent.

When I got my hair cut at 8 months pregnant I booked the next appointment for roughly 2 months after my due date. I thought I could probably manage it by then. For some strange reason I thought that 9.45am would be a sensible time. Clearly in the 4 years since I had last had a newborn I had forgotten that getting up and out of the house could take a while.

I headed to the appointment yesterday full of fear about whether I would have to leave with half my hair cut and half in a tangle. To make it more of an adventure I took the buggy out in the car for the first time. I have been wearing Little in the sling everywhere, but I didn't think that was possible under the special hairdresser cloaks. Is the material breathable? What would happen is if she needed a feed? Was she going to have a hairy side dish to her milk?

Impressively I arrived at the hairdressers spot on time. We'll stay quiet about me not having had a shower. My hairdresser was halfway through giving a lady highlights so I immediately got wound up. It ended up being a 15 minute wait until she was available, given the cut would only take half an hour this was a big delay and meant I couldn't go to a baby group I had wanted to try out.
Baby asleep in Bugaboo Bee pushchair
Phew!
It turned out the 15 minutes was a good thing. As I sipped on my water and nibbled through a bowl of Lindor chocolates I rocked the buggy and got Little to sleep. Despite the music and the noise Little slept through the appointment waking only at the end as my hair was being blow dried. 


So I survived. My hair was bouncy and clean. The rest of me smelled and was several pounds heavier thanks to the chocolate.
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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Review: DisneyLife

DisneyLife always sounded like a great idea to me: lots of Disney films and programmes in one place, but we have Sky+ so at nearly £10 a month I didn’t think it was worth getting. Most of the films and programmes M is interested in are available from Sky+ instantly or can be recorded from Disney Junior on series link. When we had the opportunity to try DisneyLife for free for 3 months I discovered that there was more to it than I first thought.

We have DisneyLife installed on our iPad and my iPhone. Once logged in M can browse around and find what she wants to watch. Her favourite programmes are Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Sofia the First and Henry Hugglemonster, but she is exploring more programmes as well, and of course films. While there isn’t every Disney film available on DisneyLife it is a struggle to think of one’s which aren’t. As well as the classics my daughter has seen they have the spin offs which means she can explore more about her favourite characters. Searching for a film is a great way to find out what else is available.

Screenshot of DisneyLife search for Snow White taken on my iPhone

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Sunday, 13 March 2016

When only one thing will do

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday M only had two major meltdowns: one first thing and the second at bedtime. Like every young fashionista both were about clothes.

I'm pretty relaxed about what M wears especially at the weekend, but I was forced out of bed when I realised that the top she was wearing was the one item I didn't want her to wear. It was my fault: I had made the mistake of showing her the "big sister" t-shirt the previous evening. On a normal day she won't get dressed without lengthy persuasion and discussion, but yesterday she bounced out of bed and put on the new top.
4 year old girl in pink big sister t shirt and 6 week old girl in pink little sister t shirt
Big sister/ little sister t shirts by Simply Colors via Not on the High Street
I explained that I wanted to take pictures of her and her sister in their new tops so please could she wait until after I had napped and, more importantly, she had eaten breakfast, to put on the new clothes. The resulting meltdown made it clear this wasn’t an option.

Sometime later all was calm again. I had given up getting more sleep and M was eating breakfast in my fleece. Does your children stealing your clothes really start age 4?

When M had finished eating and the top had a chance of staying clean for 5 minutes she got changed. It stayed on only a couple of hours before she changed into another top which had been considered offensive earlier that morning.

Around lunchtime M changed into her 3rd and final outfit of the day (it was a slow day for outfit changes, on a normal day around the house we easily reach double figures). The item of choice? A swimming costume.

Shortly before bedtime M had an accident so I took the costume away to be washed. I suggested she go get ready for bed, but all she wanted to sleep in was the swimming costume. The last time she wore it was last summer on holiday, but now we were experiencing a meltdown because I wouldn't let her wear a wet swimming costume to bed. 


This morning I heard M get up quietly, go downstairs and guess what she put on? One, now dry, swimming costume.  We are going to a go-karting birthday party this afternoon, it’s a shame it’s not a pool party.
3 year old girl with arm bands in a bright blue swimming pool
Wearing that swim suit in the sun last summer

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