#DressDownFriday is six months old!!!

I can hardly believe it as the months have just flown past, but my little ‘bug-bear’ of a campaign is now officially six months old!

I didn’t really have any specific goals or a grandiose mission when I set it up; I simply wanted to vent my frustration at lingering and pointless stereotypes that I was encountering daily when it came to the clothes my daughter was wearing.

I aired my frustrations via the blog and decided I would embark on a one-woman mission to kick-back at gender stereotypes.

It turns out that many parents harboured the same frustrations at supermarkets and shops that seem to lazily perpetuate the same tired gender-genres through kids’ clothes.

Before long, we became a global unit of hundreds of parents who post their #DressDownFriday pictures of their kids sporting clothes that challenge gender stereotypes every week. Our mission is a simple one – we want to normalise the idea that a girl can be more than ‘pretty’ and a boy can be more than ‘tough’.

In the last few months, #DressDownFriday has been supported by some wonderful kids’ clothing companies including Zac & Bella and The Green Flamingo Co, and I was chuffed to bits when fashion-icon Gok Wan got in touch and gave his own personal backing to the campaign.

Since I first scratched the surface of this issue six months ago, I can’t help but see these inequalities and outdated gender-norms every day; in shops and high streets and supermarkets, online and out and about. I guess having an opinion on this sort of stuff makes you more heightened to it, but it’s undeniable that our society still has some serious issues with how we guide our girls in one direction in life, and our boys in another.

In the last six months, our collective of awesome parents have done incredible work in spreading awareness and helping parents to consider the potential impact of the clothes they dress their children in. But in my opinion, one ‘pretty like Mummy’ / ‘tough like Daddy’ shirt on sale is still one too many!

Having been pulled in a million different directions over the last few weeks, I’m now renewing my impetus to eradicate gender stereotypes! And I’d love your help! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Post your #DressDownFriday pictures on social media each week to spread the word!
  2. The next time you go shopping for your children, whether it’s at Liberty of London or Lidl of Leeds, try and choose one outfit that doesn’t conform to ‘pink or blue’ or that goes against traditional gender norms.
  3. If someone passes comment on what your child is wearing, especially if they’re questioning your decision to give the traditional boy/girl clothes a miss, respectfully put them in their place! This sounds far-fetched, but I’ve had swathes of parents share their anecdotes of family members –and even strangers – commenting that they’ve dressed their daughter ‘in a boy’s coat’ or that letting a boy wear Peppa Pig wellies will ‘turn him gay’. The only way to quash these outdated points of view is to politely, but firmly, challenge them.

And that’s it! The more people that take up the challenge, the more of an impact we will make together!

I’d like to say a bloody great big ‘thank you’ to each and every person who has posted their own #DressDownFriday picture over the last six months. We’re slowly but surely chipping away at outdated gender ideals and making the world a more kick-ass place for our kids. Here’s to many more Friday gender-slays!

What if we’re not The Gilomre Girls?

Working in the coffee shop near mine, I’ve just seen a mum bring over two cupcakes to the table her young teenage daughter was sat at. Looking eagerly for her approval, the mum said ‘these really are ‘instagram-worthy’ cupcakes aren’t they?’, to which her daughter rolled her eyes and looked back down at her phone.

Aside from being a real ‘of its time’ comment, it got me thinking that in 10 years or so, I too will likely come up with cringe-worthy statements to try to endear myself to my teenage daughter.

I find this scenario of struggling to build connections with Emily a completely alien concept. Ever since she was born, I have been her number-one favourite person in the whole wide world. I’m the first person she comes to when she’s pleased with herself for completing a new task for the first time, and I’m the person she runs to when she’s upset and in need of comfort. Presently, at this point, I can do no wrong.

As this is all I’ve ever known, I’ve never considered the fact that in a few short years, I’ll probably be secretly reading the messages on her tablet to just get a glimpse into a life that she tries to keep hidden from me. I shudder at the thought of me accidentally catching a few minutes of Radio 1 during school drop-off time and saying ‘I really love this track! Who is it again? Justin Bieber?’, to which I’m told to shut up and stop being so embarrassing.

I’ve always thought I’d be the ‘cool mum’, the Lorelai Gilmore to Emily’s Rory. But what if it doesn’t pan out that way? What if she’d rather die than talk to me about a boy she likes in her class?  I don’t think I could deal with that.

I guess that decision isn’t up to me though. I can do my best to maintain openness and honesty with Emily by respecting her, listening to her and leading by example. But if Emily doesn’t want to let me in, there’s not much I can do about that. It’s a natural and normal part of the growing-up process. But that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.

Until that time comes, I’m going to savour being her ‘number 1’ for as long as it lasts. And when she does cut me out of her life, I’ll console myself by eating a ton of ‘instagram friendly’ cupcakes.

How Soon Is Now?

Today Emily was watching TV when an ad break came on. She pointed at the TV, confused as to why her film had disappeared. She looked at me and said, ‘TV broken!’.

Imagine living in a world where all you know is entertainment on-tap with no interruptions. Whatever you want to watch right there and then at the touch of a button. Anything that isn’t immediate and completely gratifying is deemed as ‘broken’.

At the risk of this turning into a ‘in my day…’ rant, I just couldn’t believe how different her entertainment experience is to my own as a child. I remember how excited I would get when The Broom Cupboard came on the BBC for that brief period each afternoon.

The closest I got to constant media entertainment was when we got our first VCR player when I was about five. My mum took me to Woolworths to buy my first video. The sheer choice and variety was overwhelming, and I just couldn’t decide which one I wanted. Then my mum spotted a video and said, ‘oh Charlotte, let’s get this one. I watched it when I was your age and I loved it.’ Trusting her better judgement and her ability to actually make a decision, I (foolishly) went along with her choice.

When we got home I was so excited to watch it. We pressed the play button on the VCR and then…what the fuck is this? It was in black and white. There were puppets on strings with stupid hats dancing around a pathetic looking flower. It was ‘Watch With Mother’. The 50s version of CBBC. The insufferable puppets were Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men. This actually passed for entertainment when she was young. Jesus. That was the first time I’d ever felt sorry for my mum. But because of a lack of other options, I watched and re-watched that one video until I was word-perfect. I even adopted a posh 50s BBC accent when I would mimic the presenter.

But now as I sit with Emily as she instantly switches between watching Minions, Zootropolis, Moana and Sing on her iPad that at 20 months she can already control, I can’t help but think about how Emily would react to what passed as ‘entertainment’ for me 30 years ago.

She would most likely stare blankly at Phillip Schofield talking to a rodent puppet in a studio the size of her wardrobe, and after 15 seconds she would expect to be able to turn on to another, more interesting and preferably CGI option.

Kids who grew up in the 80s didn’t have options, and they didn’t have immediacy. Instead, they had to wait agonisingly for the kids’ TV shows to start, then you just watched what was on, and that was your lot.

Even the very few kids’ TV shows that are still on air and have been running for decades have had to bastardize themselves out of all recognition to appeal to children today. Each new Postman Pat episode is like a cross between Emmerdale and Lethal Weapon. And seriously, a postman with a fucking jet plane? My postman doesn’t even have a van; he has to push a trolley of post around like a bloody homeless person.

Patience and the joy of experiencing something you’ve been waiting what feels like a lifetime for, is something that Emily may never experience. This worries me.

Aside from patience being an essential attribute to save her from growing up and turning into a total prick, there is something really exhilarating in the anticipation of having to wait for something you truly want.

Boundaries and time-limitations on how often she watches TV might help to some extent, but in a way, a narrower window of ‘online entertainment’ means that the need for immediacy in her eyes will be all the more acute.

If she begins to get insufferably impatient with things as she grows up, I may have to make her watch Bill & Ben in black and white as a punishment. Now that would really freak her out!

Girls Run the World

Raising a daughter and helping her fine-tune her emotional and social intelligence is a complex business. And for me, a huge part of helping my daughter learn about herself and the world around her will be framed within the context of feminism and equality.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and you may disagree with my approach, but this is how I see it…

My daughter will receive every support and encouragement in achieving everything and anything she wants to in life. I will bring her up to know that with hard-work and self belief, she can do anything.

However, I won’t sugarcoat anything. I won’t pretend that getting what you want is easy. I won’t shy away from telling her about the disadvantages that face many, many women. She needs to have an awareness and an appreciation of the hardship and struggle that the ‘fairer sex’ has endured for a over a millennia, and how this impacts her as a woman today.

She will know though, that this isn’t an excuse to hide behind, nor is it an opportunity to admit defeat. In fact, I will encourage her to use this as ammunition to work harder to achieve what she believes in. It won’t be easy, but she will know she has all the love and respect in the world from me.

Maybe a ‘girls run the world’ t-shirt is just a bit of fun. Maybe it’s a manifesto for tomorrow.

Breastfeeding Tips for the Big-Titted Mama!

Breastfeeding is hard. For the ‘most natural thing in the world’, it’s trickier to get right than the FT cryptic crossword with a hangover and a broken pencil. What seemed to make it even harder for me was the fact that I have tits. Contradiction in terms, right? Alas, no.

It seems that the more you’ve got going on in the chest region, the trickier it is to master proper positioning. Also, the bigger the norks, the harder it is for you to not accidentally smother your newborn in all your extra flesh and skin when they’re feeding.

What used to be a tremendous boon in my hay-day for guaranteeing a drink offer at a bar, was suddenly a pain-in-the-arse complication in an already very confusing and painful new endeavour for me.

However: ample-mammary-mums-to-be, fear not! It is still possible to successfully breastfeed! After 18 months of feeding my daughter with my ma-hoosive melons, I’ve worked out a few ‘pointers’ to ensure lactation jubilation! Here are my top tips:

  1. Positioning. Most experts will advise mums-to-be to start feeding with the cross-cradle position. It’s supposedly the easiest. But for new mums with giant breasts, this one is not all that easy to master. I also just couldn’t get the ‘lying down’ method to work, my boobs would just flop over and I couldn’t establish a good latch lying down. After trying (and failing) with dozens of methods, the best one to accommodate my chesticles was the underarm, or football / rugby hold. It squished my breasts less, which enabled a ‘free-flow’ and reduced the risk of pressure across my chest that could result in blocked ducts or sore spots. I was also able to better control and adjust the positioning of my daughter’s head to ensure her nose and air-ways weren’t restricted. All in all, it was the most comfortable position for me until feeding was properly established. Plus it’s also great for twins!

  1. Wait til that mouth is nice and wide. Then shove them on. The bigger the boob, chances are, the bigger the nipple. It’s important that as much of the areola is in the baby’s mouth when feeding, so it’s really important to wait for them to open their mouths as wide as they can. If it’s not quite right, detach and try again until as much of it is in their mouths as possible. A bad latch hurts more than someone taking a lighter to your nasal hair. When in doubt, take them off and try again until you get it right.
  2. Nursing bras make all the difference. If you’ve got huge boobs, it’s trickier to find a suitable nursing bra that fits properly. If it’s slightly too small, or fits before your milk is established, you could end up with a bra that squishes your assets, and this can lead to complications like mastitis. I always found Bravissimo the best for a really well-made, supportive bra in ample sizes. M&S have an OK collection too – just ask for a fitting to ensure it is suitable. They’re expensive I know, and not particularly attractive – you might look like Les Dawson in drag when you’re wearing it – but I would happily re-mortgage my house if it meant I could afford a comfortable, supportive bra.
  3. A little lift. If the process of gaining / losing weight has resulted in your nips gradually facing in the direction of the carpet, it makes it even harder to be able to see what you’re doing to make sure you’ve got a good latch. I spent weeks holding up my breast to the baby, rather than finding a natural position that worked for the both of us. This meant that I was squishing my boob with the hand I was holding it up with, and also meant I didn’t have a free hand to browse on my phone with. Anyone who has latched on a newborn and then subsequently realised they haven’t got their phone on them will tell you that it can be the longest 40 minutes of your life. A spare hand with which to peruse facebook whilst feeding is almost essential for your sanity. After deciding I couldn’t carry on ‘lifting’ my breast myself, I discovered an amazing product that does the job for you – the Booby Booster. It attaches to your bra and basically acts as a sling lift which raises your breast slightly, making positioning easier (and freeing up a hand to read / eat / text). A DIY version can be created by using a large piece of muslin that ties around your neck and lifts your breast. Alternatively, a natural sponge that you can cut to fit under your breast will also give it a bit of a lift.

  1. Pump it up. You can now get different size breast-pump funnels, and this can make a huge difference to the success of your pumping, if you have large breasts. I never managed to find a pumping bra that was designed for the large-chested mother, so I made my own by cutting holes in an old nursing bra! Nothing beats a bit of hands-free pumping.
  2. Feeding outside the house. I was always self-conscious of feeding the baby in public, because there’s nothing discreet about whipping out a 3lb lump of fatty tissue in the middle of a coffee shop. If you don’t give a shit about doing this, then that’s fantastic! If you do, however, don’t let it put you-off feeding out and about, and absolutely don’t let feeding make you feel like you’re a prisoner in your own home! Discreet feeding is achievable for the busty mamas! I would wear a nursing bra, a strap top, and then an over-sized top over this. It enabled me to ‘drape’ the extra fabric over the exposed boob skin when I lifted my top up to feed the baby, without covering-up the baby’s head. You can also use a light scarf, or invest in a nursing apron. Those sometimes these can look more eye-catching than sitting there with your tit out. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. So long as you’re happy and comfortable.

Hopefully, these tips will come in handy for the ample-chested mum-to-be. It is possible to control those beasts and make breastfeeding work. If you have any other tips like this, do comment below. Likewise, if you’ve tried any of these tips, give me a shout and let me know how you found them. Happy feeding, busty-mamas!

Gok endorses #DressDownFriday!

At this exact moment in time I’m stood in my kitchen doing a happy dance – We got Gok!

I’m so thrilled to announce that the #DressDownFriday campaign has now been officially endorsed by none other than fashion legend, Gok Wan!

Having seen the campaign online, I was invited to meet Gok last week after his Fashion Brunch Club in Cardiff. Gok has kindly lent his support to the movement to help spread the message of the power and influence of clothing and the impact that this can have on kids.

He said: “Fashion should be empowering, not restrictive. The #DressDownFriday campaign is encouraging parents to opt for clothes for their kids – one day each week – that promote variety, individuality and equality. I’m thrilled there’s a campaign like this out there!”

With the campaign launching just three months ago after I got sick of comments from a range of people about the fact a ‘pretty little girl should be in a dress’, I’m so blown away by how far we’ve come. So many incredibly supportive parents and kids’ fashion designers have adopted the campaign and post photos of their gender-stereotype-busing outfits each and every week.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many of you and I’ve loved bonding over a mutual agreement that our kids shouldn’t be confined by gender norms when it comes to what they wear, what they play with, what they do, and who they are.

I am so unbelievably grateful to Gok and his team for taking the time out to learn more about #DressDownFriday and offering to help promote it to a wider audience. Here’s to many more empowering Fridays ahead!

If you’d like to learn more about the campaign and take part, click here.

Why you should never tell someone to ‘smile’

This week when I was filling up the car, a bloke at the petrol pump opposite looked over to me and said, ‘Cheer up, love. It might never happen!’ I was so flustered by his comment that I think I might have laughed back at him to show him I wasn’t always a miserable cow – I was just struggling with the lock on the petrol cap.

Almost immediately afterwards, I was kicking myself at my lame-ass response. I basically obeyed an order from an intrusive stranger. I let him judge me, without a hint of a clue as to who I am and what I might have to frown about, and I chose to please him rather than defend my situation.

Thinking back, this has happened to me on a few occasions. I don’t think I’ve got a particularly severe ‘resting bitch face’, and even if I do, it doesn’t give complete strangers the right to think they can control me, my mood and my actions with one simple command.

Telling a woman to ‘smile’ is patronising and incredibly condescending. For that moment, it reduces her worth to no more than her ability to please the person that demands a smile from her. How incredibly messed up is that, when you really think about it?

When you ask someone to smile, it isn’t really about cheering them up, it’s about you being happy that the world around you looks that way you want it to look. It can be completely unintentional, but off-the-cuff comments like this are casually thrown about every day and women are generally just too damn tired, or embarrassed or scared to disobey or challenge them. I know, I’m bloody one of them!

What is really depressing about all of this is that from birth, we say ‘smile’ to girls all the time. And when we’re not saying it to them, we buy clothes to remind them to smile, just in case they feel sad about something and they drop the happy façade.

I recently walked through the clothes section at my local supermarket to pick up some bits for my daughter, and there were no less than three separate t-shirt designs that ordered girls to ‘smile’. Want to know how many there were in the boys’ section? None. Why is it that we encourage girls to smile and not boys? Why are we still so obsessed with the notion of a passive, smiling female? And why would it be interpreted as a weakness or out of the ordinary for a boy to smile?

If you want people to smile, you need to give them something to smile about. Make more people happy, do more nice things for the people around you. But don’t always expect a smile. A smile needs to be earned, and it’s not yours to demand. We need to spend less time encouraging people to smile, and more time doing ‘smile-worthy’ acts.

Have you ever had a stranger tell you to ‘cheer up’, or ‘smile’? How did it make you feel? I’m genuinely interested in how widespread this is, and how it impacts the people that have experienced it.

From luscious-locks to bonkers baby-hair. Pregnancy does some crazy things to your barnet

Everyone knows pregnancy and birth does some weird and wonderful things to your body. For example, I had a real problem with excess saliva and dribbling when I was pregnant (I bet Beyoncé isn’t a pregnant dribbling mess). And when it comes to pregnancy hair growth, mother nature seems to give with one hand and take with the other.

Around four months into my pregnancy, my hair felt glossier and thicker. It took all my restraint not to flick my hair at strangers whilst saying ‘because we’re worth it’ in a Geordie accent like Cheryl.

Cruelly enough though, the pregnancy didn’t just effect the hair growth on my bonce. I was a bridesmaid for one of my best friends when I was six months pregnant. I was already feeling self-conscious about looking like a sea-cow in my bridesmaids dress, but when I was getting my make-up done, the girl frowned and said to me, ‘do you mind if I just tweeze out that long hair on your chin?’ I could have died of embarrassment. I’d never had a chin-hair in my life, and I had no idea it was there. For some bizarre reason the baby hormones had surged in one direction through my body, pushing a grotesque, straggly hair out of the bottom of my chin. I was the bearded bridesmaid. We tweezed, moved on, but the humiliation of the moment never left me.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy meticulously checking my face for follicle intruders and tweezing from places I had never anticipated; my ear lobe, my neck, and from my widow’s peak that seemed to be traveling down my forehead to hang out with my eyebrows.

By the time I gave birth, I was rocking a full-on Frida Kahlo brow, and a hairline like Eddie Munster. It’s probably a good thing that babies’ sight is poor at birth, otherwise my daughter might have taken one look at me and crawled back into my uterus.

And the hairy fun didn’t stop there. Roughly eight weeks after birth, I started shedding like an Alaskan Malamute in the desert. Huge, terrifying clumps of hair would come out in the shower and patches of bare skin appeared on my scalp. Tying my hair up was a total no-go as the patches were so visible, so the days where I didn’t have time to wash my hair became my designated ‘hat or stay indoors’ days.

Luckily the hair-loss slowed, and it was replaced with strange, unsightly re-growth hair. My hairline started to travel further and further forwards around my head, around my ears, down my neck, and lower on my forehead. Now, with a mini-fringe that runs all the way around my hairline, I’m one facial Immac session away from being a Wookie.

I naively thought my pregnancy would turn me into Rapunzel, but instead it turned me into Sideburns Lady from The Wedding Singer. But with extra dribble.

The Pramshed

I have invented a new work-out for parents – ‘Baby Gate Gymnastics’

Fucking baby-proofing. I’m sorry for the Big Swear but I needed to get that off my chest. I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home. I’d open a bottle of vodka to calm my nerves but it’s bloody locked in a cupboard behind a sophisticated and incredibly fiddly child lock, and I can’t be bothered with the faff.

The truth is, the baby is no longer really a baby at all. In fact, she appears to be a toddler-come-amateur-parkour enthusiast. Today I found her precariously balanced on the top of our fire guard which, ironically, we installed to keep her safe from the fire. I’m contemplating the need for a fireguard-guard.

With her gymnastics skills reaching new heights – literally – my husband and I have set about barricading sections of the house into ‘baby-safe zones’. With the introduction of baby gates seemingly everywhere, it’s currently easier to escape from Belmarsh Prison than it is our living room.

The weekend that we installed the gates culminated in a text-book passive-aggressive argument between me and my husband. He was sick to death of me nagging him about it, and when I asked through gritted teeth for the twentieth time how much longer he would be putting them in place, I got the ultimate tradesman’s spiel in return; “Look love, it’ll take as long as it takes, OK?”

The one-size-fits-all stair gate turned out to be a one-size-fits-most-but-for-some-inexplicable-reason-not-my-stairway-gate. These contraptions seem to have been invented less for the safety of a toddler, and more as some sort of cruel aptitude test for new parents.

Now with the gates and locks finally all fully installed, getting around our house is like an automatic lock-in game on the Crystal Maze. As I’m trying to navigate my way through two separate gates and a flight of stairs from the living room to the bedroom with a sleeping toddler, I half expect a leopard-print-clad Richard O’Brien to be loitering in the hallway with a sand timer, playing the harmonica.

It takes all the agility and cunning of Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment to successfully make it to one side of my house from the other without tripping up, setting off an alarm, or having to fumble with a stubborn child lock.

This has led me to seriously consider setting up a post-natal exercise and mental aptitude training session, involving installing and then hurdling baby gates and opening a series of child locks with a pinky finger, all whilst holding a 15-pound sack of flour. Think a ‘buggy run’ will get your heart racing? Try child-proofing and then moving around your home with your partner without totally losing your shit at each other. I’m thinking of selling this idea to Joe Wicks or Davina McCall. I think I’d make a killing.

 

The Pramshed

Breastfeeding: Milky misery or lactose loveliness?

I love breastfeeding my baby. She’s 13 months old and we’re still going. It’s easily the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’m lucky enough that she still relishes feeds; her little eyes rolling back into her skull after her final gulp, like a tiny drug addict. That sweet, sweet hit of lactose.

Let me assure you now though, that this isn’t simply another rosy ‘pro-wabs’ post. All this symbiotic mushy stuff came at a huge price to both of us. I’ve been to the brink of depression with it, I’ve experienced physical pain that in all honesty far eclipsed the birth, and worst of all it nearly cost us being able to bond at all in those precious first few months.

‘Why the frig did you do it then?’, I hear you cry. Fair point. I’m not sure I’ll ever really understand my motives for carrying on back in those early days. It was such a haze of surging hormones, lack of sleep and utter shellshock. But I guess I felt that by stopping I would have failed at the one thing every woman is supposed to be able to naturally do.

All the pre-natal classes I went to, everything I’d read before, all those beautiful pictures of naked women breastfeeding their cherubic, doe-eyed babies, it all made breastfeeding seem as natural as breathing. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this was absolutely what I was going to do.

When it came down to it though, it just wasn’t working. We’d been doing it as a species since the dawn of our existence, I thought, so why the fuck was muggins here having such a hard time of it? Essentially, I felt like I’d ‘failed’ at being a ‘natural’ mother.

Of course I now know that’s all bollocks. Not feeding a baby breastmilk isn’t failing. It’s not even conceding. I’ve fed my baby formula plenty of times in the last 12 months and it’s a successful alternative for tons of women.

What I do feel is a real tragedy is that we are constantly bombarded with the ‘breast is best’ mantra, and yet there is often little or no consistent support past that.

Personally, I came across some wonderful individuals in the NHS who tried their best to help, but there never seemed to be any overarching strategy for post-hospital support, and little understanding of how to help when thing were REALLY going wrong. We’ve been told time and again how breastfeeding reduces the strain on the NHS and how all mothers need to do it. Yet they fail at every turn to facilitate educating women on how to breastfeed, how to deal with the NUMEROUS painful side-effects and how to emotionally support these broken, tired new mums that feel like failures because it isn’t working for them.

The truth is (and they never tell you this in pre-natal classes), breastfeeding is fucking hard. And that’s why so many people stop doing it. It isn’t because people are lazy, it isn’t because people are ignorant or selfish. It’s often because people go into it with the expectation it will simply ‘click’, and it’s a shock to the core when it goes wrong.

In all my travels, out of the hundreds of new mums I’ve met since having a baby, only a handful have found it a piece of piss. Those lucky bitches.

In all honesty, I’ve never known pain like that of trying to latch on an uncooperative baby to nipples so raw and tender you could cover them in rice and serve them up as sushi. By day three after giving birth, when I saw the baby’s ravenous mouth coming towards my cracked, bleeding nipples, it was as if a buzz saw was about to make a valiant attempt at breastfeeding from me.

The worst bit wasn’t the pain though, it was the dread of the pain. The dread that consumed me and made me fear the baby, and fear the pain that she caused me. It hurt to bend over and tie up my shoes, it hurt to lay on my side in bed, it hurt to put on a seatbelt, it hurt to unload the dishwasher, and worst of all it hurt to pick her up and hold her against me. I resented her. I felt guilty to the point of depression for resenting her. This was supposed to be easy. They all said it would be easy. Where is my doe-eyed, tranquil baby that’s supposed to lap gently at my breast like in all those bloody pictures? Why couldn’t she just do it properly?

The poor baby, try as she might to sustain herself from the trickle of milk she was able to squeeze out, was not gaining any weight, and a return to hospital was almost on the cards.

In those first nine agonising weeks I had managed to rack up a bevy of glamorous ailments including blocked ducts, mastitis, a bacterial infection and the little-known condition, called what-the-fuck-is-happening-to-my-nipples-they-feel-like-they-are-being-Jack-Bauer-style-tourtured. All of this before the baby was FINALLY diagnosed with a tongue-tie and we were able to have it corrected, and that was only because I paid a private specialist to examine her and me as a last resort. (I’ll do another post on tongue-tie in particular down the line.)

In the weeks following the procedure, feeds finally became quicker and more importantly she finally started gaining weight. The damage was so severe it took a good few weeks for the pain to subside, but after helping Pfizer stocks soar with the amount of painkillers I was taking, at around 12 weeks in, I finally started to enjoy breastfeeding. And we finally started to bond. Thank fucking Christ.

And from there things just got better. After all that agony and upset I was finally able to hold her close and let the love course through me as she fed, snuggled up next to me in bed. And she seemed to enjoy it more too, now that she could finally get her fil. I’ll tell you there is no stranger, more amusing sight than being motor-boated in the cleavage by a six-month old baby. Weird, lovely baby.

I can’t help but wonder how different it would have been for us in those early days if her tongue tie had been spotted in the hospital when she was born. We’ve been lucky that it so far hasn’t caused any long-term issues. But when I think back to the pain, and the feeling of helplessness that I couldn’t give my baby what she wanted, it’s frustrating to think that all could have been avoided, and probably could have been avoided for many, many women in the same position, if only the right support had been put in place.

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