Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Introducing: Southern Natural Parenting Network

The eastern side of Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne - from the bayside suburbs out to the Dandenong Ranges and down through the Mornington Peninsula - is a wonderful place to live and raise families.

As a family that practice many facets of natural-styled parenting - full term breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, modern cloth nappies and more - we have noticed that whatever group of mums we join, some familiar faces keep popping up!

In fact - the wide variety of online and face to face groups supporting our style of child raising is almost too great. Connecting with like-minded parents relies on word of mouth and a good deal of time searching Facebook and Google. Too often, individual mums feel isolated and unsupported among more mainstream parenting groups and family circles and unaware of a parallel community where they would feel so much at home.

When a mother I knew reached out to find a new mums group when one wasn't facilitated by her local council and another confessed her group had never really come together for that face to face support we know is important, I offered to hook them both up with other mums in the region looking for the same thing. A few status shares later, with several mums confessing they were in the same boat, I decided to put into action an idea that had been brewing and a new Facebook group was born.

I believe community is essential for mothering and the lack of a traditional village leads to many of the problems we face today. For parents for are swimming upstream against the norm, this rings true even moreso.

Southern Natural Parenting Network is intended to connect women with groups, services and resources which support their parenting choices. From neighbourhood mums groups to larger organisations, its purpose is to make those connections easier.

Raising the adults of the future is a responsibility of the whole of society. This is one way I can do my part.

Southern Natural Parenting Network

Breastfeeding in public: it's LAW!

Really happy to have my photography, daughter and granddaughter as part of this!

Check out The Brave Breastfeeder on Facebook for more great support for mums just trying to do what nature intended.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Velcro Babies: Separation anxiety in the older baby

Around 9 months of age, babies come to an amazing - but alarming - realisation: their mother is not a part of them, she is a separate entity.

This huge leap in awareness is a total surprise. For nine months in the womb and around nine months out, the mother is just like some parts of the body: you can't always see them, but they are there all the time.

Realisation that in fact, the mother could abandon the baby at any moment is a huge shock. And leads to the only reassurance possible: constantly keep the mother in sight. Suddenly, baby is no longer content to lie awake in bed, play on the floor or even be held by other people unless her mother is in close physical and visual contact.

Strap on the velcro - where you go, baby goes too!

Charlie has been in the midst of this development stage for a while now. At ten months, she is working hard on walking and it won't be long until she moves to the next stage of management: following mum everywhere!

Because we knew Kaitlyn would have to return to work at some time in the second half of Charlie's first year, she and I have worked hard to cement a strong attachment between Charlie and I so being in my care without mum would be less distressing. This has worked just as we hoped - to the extent that Charlie applies the same separation anxiety to me moving out of sight as she does with Kaitlyn! Even when Kaitlyn is right there beside her!!

We have learned it is sudden, unannounced movement which particularly triggers the momentary distress and that making eye contact, saying bye bye and waving  allow her to prepare for the separation: even if just walking into the other room to get something. Talking to her from the other room is also helpful and reassuring.

Interestingly, Charlie is quite as ease with Kaitlyn leaving to go to work and sometimes barely interupts what she is doing when she returns! Provided she is either involved in - or unaware of - the moment of separation, being apart is not a problem.

Other developmental changes occur around the same time that are related to this awareness of being out of sight but not gone forever: Peak-a-boo becomes THE game for babies at this stage, so they comfortably see someone disappear and reappear over and over, learning this is normal and reliable. Waving bye bye reinforces people go away and waving hello that they return. And the awareness that something out of sight still exists means looking into bags, boxes and buckets for toys is meaningful - out of sight isn't out of mind.

Babywearing comes into its own during this stage if you wish to do anything without holding a baby who won't leave your side. Taking them with you when you shower, use the toilet, collect the mail, load the washing and all the other quick tasks you could previously leave them playing while you go, now only get done with them in your arms or at your feet.

It is a frustrating stage at times, but necessary for your baby to move into more independence as a toddler. Soon, that separation will be a bonus for your baby, because life becomes a lot more interesting when mum isn't constantly by your side!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hubby's Head Update

Apologies to family and friends for not posting since I announced my husband needed surgery!

It has been a crazy almost-week, but today he came home from hospital. The surgery was successful and now all that is needed is rest so he can recover.

He needed this like a hole in the head

To say he has been lucky is an understatement: that initial injury could have killed him if he wasn't wearing a bike helmet. That he managed to go about life relatively normal for TWO MONTHS with his brain slowly bleeding is incredible. That he drove to and from Adelaide in the weeks before needing surgery is frightening!

The staff at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, our major trauma centre, are first class and knowing they are there when we need them at times like this is reassuring. Not wanting to ever need them again but if we do - best place to be.

After driving an hour each way to visit every day (except yesterday, when I had a breastfeeding class to teach) we are all looking forward to some rest!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

For family and friends not on Facebook

This afternoon my husband was admitted to hospital.

Tuesday night update:

We are home now, the surgeon told us to so we get some sleep. Rod  will go into surgery tonight, to have the blood clot removed. It is a sub-dural haematoma: they will cut a small hole in his skull. It is a good prognosis and better than if he had continued on without seeking medical assistance - he would have likely died in a couple of weeks. This is a trauma from the concussion he suffered in his second cycling accident, in late November. We had noticed he was a bit 'off" since he got home after nearly three weeks away but he had actually been compensating quite well until now. He saw the GP today because the headaches were getting worse and he was sent for an MRI.

The neurosurgeon will call me when he comes out of theatre, unless it is on the middle of the night (unless something goes wrong)

It is very possible - maybe likely - he will need a second surgery over the next few weeks. There will be some speech deficit because it is his left brain affected and his right arm and leg weakness will probably need therapy, so there will be rehab involved. He could be in hospital as long as two weeks but the doctor says he will hopefully be home next week.

I know family will be anxious to visit but I will ask you not to until we give the okay - he may be in ICU and his memory has been affected so he could be a bit confused and not need to be overwhelmed by people.

He is in the Alfred Hospital an hour's drive from home. At this stage, Kaitlyn is working tomorrow morning as planned and I will have Charlie. I expect we will probably go into the hospital in the afternoon, if he is up to seeing us. We will then take each day as it comes.

Your messages of support mean a lot. At this stage, I can't think of anything anyone can do to help but know I can ask if we do. Whether I can physically handle driving to and from the city daily I am not sure, but hopefully between the family we can juggle it.

Apart from being a little confused and forgetting things, he was in good spirits and under the impression this doesn't mean the end of cycling!! I would suggest he needs his head read!

We are actually quite calm and positive because he is in the right place with the right people and although there is risk, there isn't anywhere better to be taking that risk. The greater risk has surely been him carrying on as normal since December, driving to Adelaide and back and being on the road everyday for work!

I will update again as soon as I have news. (Facebook comes into its own as everyone except his parents is on here, so saves a lot of phone time.) keep wishing, praying, sending positive energy or whatever you are doing as I am sure it all helps.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Which baby carrier should you buy? Not as simple a question as you might think! Part one - Safety, comfort and quality

Its a question I get asked a lot: "You have lots of baby carriers - which one should I buy?"

Sounds simple. But isn't.

Choosing a baby carrier is a very individual thing. It will depend on the age and size of your child now - and how long you would hope to wear them into the future. Your body size and shape - and that of your partner and other family members who plan to use it. Your climate and lifestyle. Aesthetics. Your child's preferences and behaviour. Your budget.

The most important questions to ask are actually about the carrier itself - is it safe and is it comfortable?

For safety, the international T.I.C.K.S. guidelines have been adopted around the world to promote safe babywearing:

Everyone who carries your child in any type of baby carrier should be made aware of these guidelines. Avoid any product that doesn't allow your baby to be worn on your chest as shown. Obviously, wearing your baby on your back requires some modification but the key factors remain the same.

With regards to comfort, most people who ask me about that do so from the parent's perspective but the child's comfort is even more important! There are carriers that provide optimal comfort and support for your baby - and others that don't. 

It not only makes sense to make sure your baby is carried comfortably but it also important from a long-term health perspective. Babies hips are particularly vulnerable and frequent or long-term use of some styles of carrier could lead to ongoing issues. 

Once you have established that the carrier you are considering can be used in safety and comfort for your child, its almost time to start looking at your options! 

But first - you get what you pay for.

There are several issues in the unregulated, global nature of baby carriers that you need to keep in mind. Firstly, counterfeit versions of popular products are a huge problem and unwary parents buying bargains can end up with poorly made copies which are likely 
  • made with inferior material and parts – particularly the buckles
  • not product tested for safety standards
  • not covered by any Product Insurance
  • not covered by Product Warranty
Secondly, even with the best intentions, some manufacturers are simply unaware of recommendations for making and selling carriers. Simple products like ring slings or mei tais may look easy to sew and many a mum makes a small income selling online or at markets. The consumer who doesn't know what to be looking for or has no way of checking before the purchase is delivered may be at risk of hidden weakness in seams, unsafe hardware or incorrect fabric or thread used in sewing. The weight of a sleeping baby or heavy toddler may lead to failure of the carrier and risk of accidents.

It simply isn't worth the risk

If you are buying a hand-made carrier, be aware of the key points of the construction and ask questions until you are happy you are buying a safely made product. For example - mei tais generally have an internal layer where the weight is borne and should be triple-stitched in an "X-box" where the straps join the body. This will be beneath the decorative layer in most cases and you may only be able to determine it is used by asking.


If you do not feel confident to determine safe construction before buying online, then sticking with the name brands from reputable retailers may be safer in the long run.

The US baby carrier industry now has mandatory regulations for anyone making and selling ANY baby carrier. In Australia, the ACCC is currently assessing the industry and it is likely similar regulation will come into place. These actions are in direct response to infant deaths and are intended to protect both consumers and manufacturers/retailers.
DEC 2013: Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is undertaking a consumer survey on parents’ perceptions on using baby sling carriers. The survey is being overseen by the Queensland Consumer Products Injury Research Advisory Group, of which the ACCC is a member. For more information and to participate in the survey, visit the QUT survey website.
When your budget doesn't stretch to the cost of a brand-new, reputable brand of baby carrier - consider instead buying a used one through buy, swap and sell groups who insist on validating not only the products but the people offering them. eg Babywearing Buy Swap and Sell Facebook Group

Before your baby is born, perhaps ask for contributions towards the cost of your carrier in place of sundry small items at your baby shower, as a workplace leaving present or as a large item gift from family. 

So - you know about safety, comfort and quality - next: What types of carriers can I choose from?

Disclaimer: This information is offered as a guide only. Ultimately, your choice of baby carrier and how you wear it is your responsibility. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Around Six Months - the experience of avoiding premature introduction of solids

The NEW ABA info sheets - See below to order!
(Who is that gorgeous baby bottom left? ) 

My last post Around Six Months, which discussed why premature introduction of solids, was almost four months ago and, since then, my granddaughter Charlie has made the transition to eating foods alongside her ongoing breastfeeding. So I thought it only fair to update on our family's experience of starting solids in a new generation.

Charlie had her first experience of eating food on the day she turned six months. She was thriving on breastmilk alone and - despite warnings to the contrary - "delaying" solids had not led to her seeking extra feeds during the day or night.

It is frequently suggested that babies need to start solids because they are "too hungry" on breastmilk alone - this really makes no sense, as solid foods are not introduced to supplement the breastmilk diet, rather they are educational only. Breastmilk remains the primary food until at least 12 months: to use the popular rhyme "Food Before One Is Just For Fun!"

Whilst babies iron stores begin to be depleted from around six months, this is a slow process and the iron in breastmilk is the most easily absorbed. Rather than feeding babies the paste-like rice cereal that is fortified with iron, simply including iron-rich foods in their diet will support that which they get from breastmilk.

Who needs rice cereal? Charlie took to beef only days after starting solids!
We were encouraged to offer Charlie a full range of foods right from the start. Indeed, a dietician explained, when I asked, that it is important to expose babies to as many foods as possible by around seven months, including nuts (not whole), fish, wheat, dairy, eggs and other foods.
Unless the baby is already known to be allergic to a food, then all major allergens, including eggs, nuts and seafood (and dairy, wheat and soy) be introduced as soon as possible from when solids begin. This is regardless of family history  even if the baby has a sibling who is food-allergic.

There is no need to separate them by long periods of time - 2-3 days in between each should be fine unless there are suspicions about any of them. Then once introduced, give them to the baby regularly.

Obviously nuts should be in the form of pastes/butters or cooked into sate, crushed nuts in biscuits, etc and not whole. Nuts includes both peanuts and tree nuts.

Fish is particularly good for babies, possibly due to the omega-3s acting to calm the immune system from overreacting (anti-inflammatory). One study on timing of fish introduction found that babies introduced to fish before 8 months (they only had before and after 8 months in their study groups), had lower rates of allergy several years later, and this was *any* allergy, not just to fish.

Wheat is also important to introduce ASAP to minimise the development of coeliac disease. 
Joy Anderson AM B.Sc.(Nutrition) Postgrad.Dip.Diet APD IBCLC

Specialist Dietetics and Lactation Services

1A/5 Pensioner Guard Rd, North Fremantle, WA
Also phone and Skype consultations

Well, Charlie embraced that guidance with enthusiasm and experienced a wide variety of foods within those first four weeks. Quality over quantity, she was able to taste the best of the new seasons fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, nut butters, breads, yoghurt, cheese, red meats, chicken and more! At Farmers markets, we would delight stall-holders by offering the baby in the carrier taste tests of hummus, berries, breads and more. In cafes and food courts, she would sit up alongside us and taste whatever we had to offer, from salads to soups - the only things not offered were junk foods and sweet treats. In the early days, she didn't realise when we ate something without sharing but as she has become more experienced, it is hard to eat an icecream with her staring into your eyes asking for a taste!

Baby-Led is as much about learning how to eat as it is about eating!
At almost nine months, Charlie mostly feeds herself, having the occasional "fast food" option of organic pouches when something quick and easy isn't available. Spoons are used for things like yoghurt but mostly she controls what she eats and shows very clearly when she has had enough. She eats three meals a day, plus snacks, as well as her normal breastfeeds, which have not diminished. Water from a sippy caup was introduced around the same time, which she quickly learned to drink and she now uses a straw cup for both water and expressed breastmilk when she is away from mum.

Baby-Led Weaning (UK terminology, referring to introduction of solids, not weaning from milk feeds) wasn't formally around when I had my babies, although my third child tried to practice it!!! I pureed and mashed and spooned and prepared special meals from special cookbooks ... I did it all! 20-30 years later - I LOVE this approach so much! Charlie isn't a separate entity who needs to be fed, she is a person who eats with us, who shares meals with her family and friends and who has control over what she eats. Her foods aren't anonymous mixes but separate foods with different tastes and textures. Fine motor skills are honed by eating. Food is quite obviously that stuff  displayed in the market or store, where she eagerly looks over what is arrayed and enjoys touching and smelling what is on offer - and tasting it then and there if she can!

The second six months is a time of learning about food and indulging in its variety, tastes and textures. Ahead lie the battles of toddlers and food but this stage is just delight in watching them discover a whole world of wonderful things they can eat!



The Australian Breastfeeding Association South Eastern Suburbs group has a fabulous new group project fundraiser!

Introducing Solids Sheets — A4 pad of tear-off colour gloss sheets on introducing solids, including visual images of signs of readiness (consistent with latest NHMRC recommendations). The reverse side has detailed information on introducing solids, including signs of readiness, how to begin, allergies, risk of early solids introduction and ideas for first foods.

A fabulous resource for breastfeeding counsellors, breastfeeding educators, lactation consultants and health professionals.

Price: Pad of 50 $15 each plus postage