Good boy

I’m just on my way back home from a gorgeous wedding of close friends, Jake and Ash.

It was lovely to have a few hours away from parenthood as my husband and I danced up a storm and didn’t have any parental responsibility for an afternoon.

But despite being away from my little poppet, I was still thinking about him.

More specifically about the phrase ‘good boy’.

I’ve heard Jenson’s nursery workers use that phrase when praising him for something he’s done and I’ve heard others tell him that he’s a ‘good boy’ for similar circumstances.

But it sticks in my throat when I hear someone say ‘good boy’ to him and it’s not something I say to him when he’s shown skill or kindness or compliance.

Because I want to know that he is intrinsically good.

Regardless of his skill, kindness or compliance with my desires.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’ll give him a free pass to do whatever he likes or that I don’t acknowledge what he’s done well.

If he does something out of line, I’ll say ‘that wasn’t nice’ or ‘be gentle please’.

And I say ‘bravo’ (I speak to him in French, this isn’t a reflection of my gentleman’s english!) or ‘bien fait’ – well done when he’s done something well.

I say the behaviour is out of line instead of saying he is out of line for doing something I disapprove of.

And I say the behaviour good instead of telling him he is good for doing something I approve of.

It’s semantics, but I think it’s important nevertheless.

Because I want him to grow up knowing that he is good.

Regardless of what he has done or not done.

Words do not do justice to the strength I feel for these words and the intensity of desire I have for him to know that he is good.

Because I believe this is a foundation – the belief that he is good – which is key for him to stand strong in life.

To feel able to follow his heart instead of hustling for the approval of others.

To not overly question his decisions but to trust his instincts.

To be happy in his own skin knowing that he is ok just as he is.

Part of me thinks ‘is this really important enough for me to raise this with his nursery?’

It’s just semantics.

And it’s not the only thing that will decide whether he has good self-esteem or a knowledge that he is fine as he is.

It’ll be Gregg and I showing him that we love ourselves, trust ourselves, believe we’re intrinsically ok.

It’ll be us respecting him and giving him enough freedom as he makes decisions for himself.

It’ll depend on us engaging in dialogue when he questions our boundaries.

Not to bend to his will, but to show him that he has a voice, is important, is intrinsically worthy of love and respect.

But stopping the ‘good boy’ comments seem like a good start.

And my gut tells me to raise it with his nursery.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, dear friend.

Self-care

I’m finding it really hard to write this post. I’ve written and deleted, written and deleted but still nothing seems to be coming out right.

My words seem mundane, I’m worrying about who might take my words personally and read into them more than I intended, I question whether these are words to share or if they would be an overshare.

And this all points in one direction – I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should have recently.

It’s been a mentally and physically exhausting time and the effects are taking their toll on me.

You see, the start of this year has been wonderful – celebrating my son’s first birthday, having two full weeks off work to spend with family – but it has also been trying beyond my limits with my routine out of kilter and, most distressing, Jenson not settling into nursery.

It was hell to leave him screaming with distress at our nursery ‘settling’ sessions and difficult to come to terms with the fact that our little monkey might not be ready for being separated from us. For a week Gregg and I were left in the unknown of whether we would both need to reduce our hours at work to provide full-time care for our son since he was finding the transition to nursery too distressing.

And as life as we knew it hung in the balance, it was unbearably hard.

Did we parent him in a way that made a transition to nursery more difficult for him? Would Gregg still be in support of all the parenting decisions that are so important to me – co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, sling carrying – with his desire to support Jenson to be ‘independent’? How would our lives be if we were to cope on one salary? Would this impact plans that I dream for us as a family – plans that rely on our savings.

And the stress was too much for me.

Despite the fact that we turned a corner, he settled into nursery just in time – I’ve been left feeling broken and out of kilter.

My back was agony since I was carrying so much tension and I turned back to my old habits of eating too much.

Eating for comfort when things were too much.

Eating sweet stuff at work when this is something I’ve rarely done over the years.

Supplementing my lunch with crisps and other food that I didn’t need for hunger.

Eating more desserts than I usually would.

Eating more in social situations to squash my awkwardness or just because I was not being mindful of what I was eating.

And I’ve been worried more about what other people think of me.

I’ve clung onto the things that haven’t gone well at work and with friends and family.

I’ve pulled out all the things from my past that I didn’t do well to beat myself up with.

I’ve worried that I’m going to be ‘found out’, found wanting and that people will see me for the failure I am.

I’ve felt not enough.

I feel like my internal axis has shifted and suddenly I feel intrinsically ‘not ok’. I feel like my foundations have been shaken with the force of an earthquake and are full of cracks.

So how do I get back to where I was before all this happened?

The first thing is admitting that I’m not ok. I’ve been telling people – speaking to friends, telling my mum about how I’m feeling this weekend, sharing with my sister about what’s going on, speaking up when topics are causing my anxiety to spike to protect myself, talking to my husband about it all.

The second thing is reminding myself that food is not the issue. It’s the manifestation of what is going on underneath. And so, while I need to pay attention to the food stuff and try to not stuff myself silly, the most important thing is what’s going on underneath – not loving myself, not expressing myself, not having a release for the emotions that I am feeling, not being kind to myself while everything is a bit trickier than normal.

The third thing is remembering that this is just a moment in my life. It’s a hard moment, but just because I’ve gone a step back doesn’t mean that life will always be like this. It feels all encompassing at the moment when it’s just a short period of my life.

The fourth thing is that I need to put my self-care at the top of my priority list. I need to take a lunch break at work, find some sort of exercise (apart from running around like a headless chicken to get everything done in life!), I could benefit with doing some short meditations, writing a bit more than I have recently, painting my nails, reading a good book, cuddling up more with my husband, checking in with close friends, spending time with my son doing nothing but playing, putting down my phone more, having some ‘cave time’ cooking alone in the kitchen with a podcast on.

And finally I’ve requested some counselling through work to try to work out how I can be kinder to myself and how I can cope with my anxiety when everything feels a little bit harder than usual.

I hope this post can help you if you’re going through a hard time. I hope you can take comfort from knowing you’re not the only one who has a dysfunctional way of coping with hardship – I’m in the same boat as you!

It certainly feels better to have everything out in the open – to say I’m not ok, but that’s ok.

Life is full of ups and downs and just because this bit is down doesn’t mean that it always will be.

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Taking my own advice

I’m sat here, quickly typing away at this post before I go to London for my birthday weekend. I thought to myself this morning, as I was looking after Jenson at 5:15am, “what a different place I am this year compared to last year”.

In some ways it’s the best different in the world but in other ways, I desperately miss my old life. Miss being able to lie-in. Miss hours at cafes to blog. Miss having time as my own when I get home from work. Miss having more energy for things. Miss not having to feel pushy to have some time to myself.

Motherhood is beautiful but I’m also finding it brutal.

I want to do the best thing by Jenson – want him to have the best start in life – but I also know that this comes with a price for me as his needs stand firmly above my own.

For now at least. 

And so I just quickly looked back at my birthday post from last year and couldn’t believe that what I had written there spoke so clearly to me. 

I had written about how great my life was – job I loved, happy place with relationships, feeling I was starting to let go of people pleasing and start prioritising my own wellbeing – and shared my wisdom from when I had been in a darker place:

  • Reach out to someone
  • Take steps for the better but accept the present
  • Find gratitude
  • Know that this will pass

I couldn’t have known that I, a year later, would so desperately need these words of encouragement and support.

But my advice was spot on.

So I’m going to reach out and share that I’m struggling a bit – I suppose even writing this is me doing that.

I’ll think about what ‘steps for the better’ look like  – I think it means taking more time at the weekend to take care of myself, continuing to work from home as much as I can to have longer in bed and a gentler day, perhaps having one evening a week where I don’t snuggle down to watch a TV programme with Gregg but do something that is extra specially nourishing for me.

I’ll spend some time on my trip to London with Gregg reflecting on the gratitude I have for being a mum and for the lives that we’ve got. We’re pretty damn lucky. 

And I will take heart that this will pass. Jenson won’t always be so reliant on me and I’ll be able to be a bit more independent. Breastfeeding will end one day, and while I love nourishing him, it will lead to more independence for me. Just this moment too will pass. I’ll feel less loss for my past life and will be swept up in joy of my son’s laughter, love for my family as we cuddle and play together, pride as people remark what a sweetie he is. 

Relief

I’m part laughing to myself writing this – as soon as I took the pressure off myself and said that I wouldn’t be writing to you until my Christmas break, I have something that I want to get off my chest…the relief I’m feeling about Jenson’s feeding.

I’ve been fretting for a while now that he isn’t eating enough. He just doesn’t seem that interested in a lot of food and isn’t fitting into the pushed mantra that he should be eating three meals by now and two snacks.

We’ve seen a nutritionist partly due to Jenson’s vegan diet and partly due to the small variety of food that he’s eating…and it’s been on my mind more than it should.

Why won’t he eat?!

In my head, every other baby I know is eating. I see babies stuffing their faces with roasted vegetables, full-blown meals and fruit pieces when Jenson is just not there.

He eats a massive breakfast and then picks at this and that throughout the day.

It had got to a stage where we were almost forcing food into him (despite the alarm bells ringing in my head that this was not respectful to him as an individual) and were putting so many thoughts on him:

  • He is mistrustful of the new food we’re giving him
  • He’s holding out for sweet food
  • He isn’t open to trying new food
  • He’ll never get better at eating

But then a few things happened.

My good friend, Charlie, recommended a book called ‘My Child Won’t Eat’ which has been so interesting and a real relief, talking about the realities of childhood eating.

She shared with me that eating is not always easy for her with her son – making me feel not alone in this.

Another good friend, Jess, talked about how her son doesn’t fit into the NHS approved regime. She’s spoken before about how her son loves pasta (something that Jenson has no interest in) and I’d envisaged him eating it by the bucketload and eating everything in sight while I’m at it. It turns out that it’s not the case – he’s a bit particular too.

I suddenly felt not alone and saw the ‘three meals and two snacks a day’ exactly as it is – a framework, a guideline, a theoretical model which will not fit every baby.

What a relief!

And so I’m sharing this for all the mamas and papas out there who are maybe worried about their baby’s weight (or future mamas/papas) so you know that you’re not alone if you go through this.

Not the perfect mum

I’ve had a lovely weekend. A good friend of mine took Jenson for a few hours and this allowed Gregg and I to have an afternoon to ourselves. Time to reconnect, which is so important. It used to be a given. We could go out on dates, spend time together late into the night (not worrying about a certain someone who might wake up at 5am), have impromptu weekends away and spend so much time together.

It was wonderful to have time together, but as a result, I don’t feel like I’ve spent loads of time with Jenson.

And I’ve got the guilts about it.

I don’t want to be the ‘perfect mum’ but I find myself judging my choice to make lunch for Gregg and I for the week instead of rushing to spend hours watching and playing with Jenson. I feel less than adequate because I asked Gregg to get into the bath with Jenson tonight so that I could have a few moments alone, not doing any tasks, to write this.

And as I’m reflecting on all this self-judgement, here’s what comes up for me:

  • I am someone who needs time alone to process and reflect and breathe. And that didn’t stop when Jenson came into this world. So it’s natural that sometimes I’m going to want some time alone.
  • We went to a birthday party today – our first of many baby parties – and it was lovely. But it involved a lot of small talk with people I don’t know and that tires me out. I’m reminded that needing extra time alone hasn’t been a need in isolation. It’s partly because of the surrounding circumstances, needing a bit of time to boost up my energy and resilience after spending 3 hours with lots of people I don’t know.
  • The ‘perfect mum’ doesn’t exist. She doesn’t have to deal with tiredness or full-time work. And so she’s not someone I want to judge myself against.
  • I don’t have to find each and every experience with Jenson fascinating. I love the boy – he is my world and I’d be adrift without him. But watching him play with a plastic ride-on toy is sometimes (ok, mostly) boring. I don’t have to be in rapture at everything he does and it’s ok if I’d rather watch a film or read a book instead sometimes.

Just getting all this out in the open is enough to shelves the guilt. It reinforces that I don’t want to be the perfect mum and reminds me that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t be her.

So I’m going to enjoy the remaining time of peace whilst Gregg and Jenson are in the bath together.

No judgement whatsoever.

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Tender

I shared with you recently about a lot going on in my life. Connecting so strongly with the grief in my heart, feeling the call to more, returning to work after the life changing event of becoming a mum, learning all the lessons in store for me about mothering my beautiful, spirited son.

I was lying next to him tonight, feeding him and missing Great British Bake Off (thanks, my little joker. You knew I was wanting to watch it, I’m sure!) and once I accepted the reality that I was going to miss it, I stopped fighting the frustration and tapped into what I was feeling.

And here’s what I felt – a tenderness inside me like a bruise.

Being bashed around so much with exponential personal growth, changes to everything I know and the uncertainty and unpredictability of being a mother and not knowing what the future holds for me.

I am tender and a bit battered and a bit bruised.

There’s no denying how I feel – if just is. And there’s no real changing what’s going on for me – it’s my journey.

What I do know is that I need to show myself kindness and gentleness. I need everyone around me to show me the same gentleness and kindness too as I live this season of my life.

I know if won’t always be this way. But it’s this way at the moment.

There’s no great reveal or revelation about what I can do about where I am. But just expressing it – sharing it with you, dear friend – lightens the load and helps me walk the path that I’m on right now.

It’s not the easiest of roads but I’m sure it’ll lead to somewhere great.

Six months

I’ve been a parent for six months…bloody hell! How did that happen and how did this time pass both at a snails pace and in the blink of an eye?!

From a sleeping, crying, mewling little baby to a little being looking more and more like a toddler with each passing day. It’s incredible to see how much he has changed and how much I’ve changed during this time.

He now stands (sometimes unaided when he’s holding onto something), sits with such core strength, grabs anything in his reach, beams for us, strangers and for the camera…and yet some things don’t change. He’s still as determined as ever to sleep curled next to me, to feed or be rocked to sleep.

And he’s still as spirited as the very first day when he screamed the hospital down. The loudest, most determined baby on the block.

What about me? My changes are less perceptible, more internal but life changing nevertheless. My ability to be patient has increased, I now know I am stronger than I could have ever believed (from pushing his 4 kilo heft out of me to surviving on little sleep and getting twice done what I would have before), I have less tolerance for bullshit and for getting involved in those silly games that people play in life (psychological ones, not things like buckaroo or uno 😜).

And I feel a new steeliness inside me. If I’m going to leave my little person in someone else’s care, it better be for a job I am passionate about – something that lights me up. Otherwise why would I leave my little one?

And my decisions have more weight than before. Staying binge free and dealing with what’s going on underneath the surface is not just for my own good but for him too. So he doesn’t take on the practices that have been so harmful to me in the past. Sure, he’ll have his own struggles, but as much as I’m able to, they won’t be passed on from me.

And I’ve found joy in the small things. Seeing him smile, making him laugh by singing silly songs, watching Gregg being a better father than I could have ever dreamt him becoming, seeing the love of our families for Jenson.

I’ve also learnt to reach out and ask for help, to maintain boundaries and say no. To ask for what I really want instead of just wishing people could read my mind.

All in six short months.

And I find myself asking what the next six months will bring for both myself and my little half-Birthday boy. Adding in work to the mix for me, him spending most of the time with his father who will be on shared parental leave…

What I do know is that it will go by in the blink of an eye and that I will share what is happening with you, dear friend.

Only a few days left

Just shy of a month ago I started an adventure of my dreams – a trip around Asia with my husband and five – now soon to be six – month old baby boy. I’m now sat in the north of Vietnam, surrounded by beautiful rice fields and mountains with only a few days left of this trip and am reflecting on what this time has given me and my family.

I think that I’ve mostly enjoyed the space that these travels have given me. Time away from the normal humdrum rhythm of life where there is washing to do, cleaning to avoid and constantly things to do or fix around the house. With Gregg by my side, it has been lovely to co-parent our son instead of being chief in charge of his care, snatching minutes to do little things for me or my coaching business here and there when Gregg gets back from work.

It’s also given me a glimpse of the reality of going back to work as, even with his daddy showering him with love, Jenson constantly reaches towards me for comfort when he’s tired, restless, upset or feeling any difficult emotion. And it makes sense because I have solely fed him, spent 90% of his life with him, slept curled around him. So I’m aware that, as much as it’s right for me to go back to work in just over a week, it’s going to be brutally hard at times. For Jenson, for Gregg and for me.

The new reality of parenthood has firmly sunk in (even more than it had before – if that’s possible!). Our trip away has been wonderful, but it has been at Jenson’s pace. We’ve been tucked up in bed by 10:30 at the latest, I’ve only had a few sips of the delicious alcohol over here and there has been less time for personal reflection as I would have done before, no hours spent journaling in beautiful cafes or reading for hours on beautiful beaches. It’s not bad or lesser or not preferable. It’s just not the same. And even though life will go back to a more similar version of what was before as Jenson finds his independence and grows up, I firmly know that my life has been changed forever as a mum.

And the life change has been wonderful in ways as we have been welcomed by the Cambodians and Vietnamese people we have met so warmly all because of Jenson. We’ve been engaged with so much more, had Jenson spirited away into a person’s arms so we could eat a meal as a couple and at times couldn’t walk 10 meters without someone coming up to talk to us about Jenson. He’s been cherished, loved and has enthralled the people we’ve met and has opened peoples hearts to show us more of these countries than I could have ever hoped.

This time has also shown me all that is possible with a baby. How it is possible to travel with children. How it is possible to live life as a parent without being in constant state of fear about what might happen. How parenting is about trusting my instincts instead of some ‘how-to’ book. How I can write my own rules as a mum. And that has been refreshing and eye-opening.

Finally, this trip has shown me that I’m not finished adventuring. As I said when I left Cambodia, I’ve loved exploring this part of the world, seeing new things and learning about other people and myself. While Gregg has shared with me that he is ready to come home, I’ve got a few more countries in me still. I feel that I could continue onto Laos or spend another month going to China to explore different cultures and places. There is so much of this world to explore and I am keen to see more of it!

Oh how I could go on – there is so much more I could reflect on as this trip as brought so much richness into my life but for now, this is enough. I’m off for a final walk of the day around this beautiful area of the world.

Four months in

I’m sat here in the dead of night (my greatest blogging time since the arrival of my son!) thinking about parenthood. The four month sleep regression has hit my household with force, coupled with potential teething, and things are pretty tough.

Not a ‘I can’t cope’ tough but a ‘this is really unpleasant’ tough. I’m tired, it sucks being up in the night so much and am feeling slightly buffeted around from the tremendous highs of love that I feel for this little guy and the deep lows of feeling stretched beyond my means and super crabby from lack of sleep.

And here are some of my mid-night thoughts about it all…sorry if it comes across as ranty, but here it is!

You do what you can do

I spend a lot of time walking around with Jenson as that’s when he seems the happiest. Able to stare at the world and take it all in, he’s pretty content this way. I think that I’m setting myself up for years of having to be constantly on the go and already feel the pavement pounding in my knees. But as a good friend recently joked, he’s not going to be 16 and still need to be walked to sleep. You do what you can do to get through the current situation and that’s ok.

Parenting books are bullshit

Well, not all of them. I’ve read a lovely one that’s called ‘the kind sleeping book’ and is really helpful in thinking about sleep in general. But the ones I read before are irrelevant and unhelpful. They peg babies into generalised groups and is about as helpful as sweeping statements like “all men are bad at X” or “all HR professionals are ‘people’ people”. Nope, babies are individual and you need to treat them as such.

Intuition is key

How I parent is as individual as how I decide to dress or what beliefs I hold. As much as all babies are different, all parents are different. So there’s no manual that can tell you what to do. You just have to use your intuition.

For example, you’ll know if you read my blog about how Jenson has struggled to put on weight. He’s in the 9th percentile (9th lowest weight grouping based on all baby weight) but is as bright as a button, feeds lots and isn’t overly sleepy or lacking in energy. I’ve been worried by his weight but I know in my gut that he’s well. I know that he’s very vocal and if he was hungry would be constantly crying as he did at the start when he had a tongue tie and couldn’t feed enough.

So I’m learning that I need to trust my intuition because there’s so much in the world, so much contradictory information, that could cause me to worry if I don’t trust myself and follow my gut.

Sleep when you can

I can’t really sleep in the day because Jenson usually naps while I’m I’m on the go, walking somewhere around town. But with sleep becoming rarer and rarer in my life I’ve started to go to bed earlier. And when my bedtime creeps to 10:30 or later I invariably regret my decision to watch one more episode of whatever it is I’m devouring.

To get through the next few months, especially the return to work with a baby who is still co-sleeping, I’ll need to put my sleep first. Even if that means I do little other than just be.

Opinions aren’t facts

A friend of mine, as I was telling her about not feeling able to be physically affectionate to Gregg as much as I used to be, indicated that I should be putting more effort in with him.

And I should.

But I didn’t need to hear those words from her or feel judged during a really trying period of life. As my good friend Charlie said to me yesterday, it’s still so early on, I am allowed to feel ‘touched out’ after a day of carrying, cuddling and holding Jenson close to me in a sling.

This time will pass and we’ll get back to where we were in time. Yes, I should make more effort with Gregg, but I know he understands the pressure I’m feeling and it’s ok if I can’t be the perfect wife at this time in my life.

Selfishness is ok

I’ve dragged myself out of the house sometimes when I’ve felt I would have preferred a day snuggled up or when Jenson was napping. And when I’ve been around friends and family who have taken Jenson off my hands for a bit, I’ve been on edge, hoping they’re ok and coping with my little diva prince.

I also probably let people visit far too soon when Jenson was born. Time when I was trying to get my balance as a new mum and was still feeling vulnerable and unsteady and needed to just cocoon.

During these first few months, my one regret is that I haven’t been selfish enough. I haven’t said ‘no’ enough or put my needs and those of Jenson first.

It’s strange got me to think “I wish I had been more selfish” but is also really telling of how hard it is to be a new mum.

Even at 2am, one smile from Jenson makes the world right

Being a mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The simplest thing – play, feed, burp, change a nappy, sing to, kiss and cuddle, sleep, repeat – but also the hardest.

It’s all made worthwhile though when I see his cheeky grin at 5am, when I hear him coo or take a new step in the world.

I’m head over heels for him and no sleeplessness or challenging times can take that away from me.

My supply

So before I start getting into this properly, I want to put a big caveat on this post – I’m talking about breast milk and all the things I’ve done to increase my supply so if it’s not your thing, please feel free to stop here.

I also want to caveat that I don’t think that breastfeeding is the be all and end all. Some mums make their choice to bottle feed and if that’s your choice, good for you! I just knew that I wanted to breastfeed from the moment I got pregnant and have continued to want to do so despite being faced with some challenges. Especially because Jenson will rely on breastfeeding to have immunity from disease when we’re travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam in June. Yes, breastfeeding has some great benefits – supporting your baby to get over sickness quickly, the beauty of relaxing while your baby is slowly feeding, not having to faff with sterilisation, supporting your body to return to its pre-baby state. But it’s a personal choice and I support anyone to do what is best for them whether it’s the bottle or boob.

I’m hoping to write this to partly come to terms with what has been a really hard journey and also to put my experience out into the ether to hopefully help other new mums who want to persevere and keep on feeding their babies if things get tough.

And for a lot of people it does get tough. I think I heard that less than 10% of mums are breastfeeding when their babies are 3 months old. It is challenging – a skill you and your baby are having to co-learn when you’re at your most vulnerable and exhausted. And it takes the perfect cocktail of hormones for the milk let-down reflex to be triggered and for your baby to latch on properly.

I wasn’t told that it could get tough before I had Jenson but I wish I had been.

Why was it hard?

Breastfeeding didn’t get off to the best start for me. Jenson was tongue-tied (as I’ve shared before with you, dear friend) and while he was able to latch on, he didn’t feed effectively. This meant he was either feeding, sleeping or crying for the first three weeks and didn’t put on much weight. He didn’t drop into a danger zone but went from being in the top 75% of babies, weight-wise, to being in the bottom 9%.

And since he wasn’t latched on properly, my milk didn’t come in properly.

It wasn’t that the tongue-tie was undetected. It was picked up straight away but the protocol at the hospital where I had him was to not treat it unless it proved to be problematic. But the pity is that when it was apparent that this was the problem, the damage had already been done. To my milk supply and to Jenson’s weight which is only just starting to pick up 13 weeks into his life.

I don’t know for sure this was the problem. But I do know that it might have been the problem and I wish that I had spoken up more to the doctor who brushed off my concern and didn’t give me the option to treat it when I asked about the condition.

There were other issues at play too which impacted my milk supply – severe blood loss in labour, being treated with lots of IV fluid, anaemia, perhaps not resting enough when he was born…

So I don’t know why it was hard, all I know is that it was and has continued to be hard.

What I do

Since it became apparent that breastfeeding was an issue, I’ve done a number of things to increase my supply including:

Supplements

I take brewers yeast, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, fenugreek and marshmallow root supplements three times a day with food. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot, both in volume and in cost. I probably spend £30 a month in supplements but think I’d spend even more on formula if I was using it so I’ve come to terms with this.

Medication

I’ve been prescribed medication by the GP which is used to treat nausea/vomiting but has the side effect of increasing lactation. If you’re struggling, speak to your GP to see what help they can give you.

Food

I eat oats every day – porridge for breakfast and a flapjack whenever I can for a snack. I also sprinkle savoury meals with nutritional yeast which is meant to be good for milk supply.

I don’t drink alcohol (it can decrease milk production by 30% for the few hours following drinking alcohol) and have boosted my water intake as much as I can. I can’t wait to have a G&T but it’s not worth it at the moment for me.

Peppermint and sage can decrease milk so I also try to avoid these. Instead of peppermint tea, I have a new Mother’s tea that my friend bought me.

I’m also not trying to get back to my pre-baby body, although I personally feel pretty damn great in myself. The most important thing is to eat well so I’m having plenty of good fats, not skipping meals and have also started to eat locally sourced, free range eggs to get more easily absorbable omega fats. It was a hard choice to make with my veganism but I feel like this choice to re-introduce eggs is not at odds with my principle of being vegan to opt out of the large-scale and (often) damaging meat and dairy industry.

Skin-to-skin

I was told how powerful skin-to-skin is in increasing milk supply. Jenson doesn’t like snuggling close to my chest during the day as he’s a nosey little man who likes to look out to see what’s going on in the world. So instead we both sleep topless while co-sleeping to get the skin-to-skin benefit during the night.

Expressing

I have tried to express milk to increase my supply but find it a difficult experience. Having to make sure everything is sterile, finding time to sit alone to express and timing it with Jenson’s frequent feeds has proved difficult and I’ve not done this as much as I should. But I have done this where possible.

Seeking help

The best thing I’ve done is sought help from people. I’ve called the La Leche League hotline to get their invaluable help and advice. I’ve been to breastfeeding drop-in clinics. I’ve gone to my parents house to get some rest and a chance to express while they look after Jenson. I’ve spoken to my GP who has referred Jenson for further tests to make sure his slow weight gain isn’t the cause of an underlying health issue. I’ve stayed under the care of my health visitor to get support. I’ve asked friends for help and advice to support me.

I’m getting there

I’m happy to report that Jenson has started to put on weight at a more rapid pace. And I’ve taken steps to help myself feel more in control – I’ve written to the NHS trust to ask them to improve how they treat tongue-tie and have implemented the things above that fit into my life. So I’m not expressing as much as I could, but I’m keeping my sanity and hopefully making gains with lots of skin-to-skin and supplements.

It feels good to write all this to you and share my story a bit. It’s been a long road to get to where we are, but I’m glad I persevered and hope I can help people in the future.

I suppose the biggest advice is give you is that if you’re going through difficulty with breastfeeding, reach out. Get help. And know that things can get better.