Thursday, 16 March 2017

Yarn Along

There's not much reading going on here this week, but I am really enjoying listening to Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder. This is a podcast telling the true story of the murder of a private detective in the UK from the 1980s. It will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoys Serial. Speaking of which, I see the Serial production team have a new podcast coming out soon, which I'm looking forward to.

I am still working on the blue tit soaker, but in reality I have barely touched it. I'm so busy, and the little ones wake at night, so I'm either taking care of them or sleeping! As substitute I'd like to share with you these longies that I finished a couple of weeks ago. The photos are poor because there is no light and the baby is sleeping (yes on his front. He will only sleep that way), but I love the texture of these trousers. The yarn is Wendy traditional aran. It's cheap, and feels scratchy in the ball, but it's incredibly springy, and soft after washing.

Don't forget to check out the Yarn Along link up, and let me know what you're crafting this week!


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Breastfeeding Uncovered Giveaway!

This review has been a long time coming, since I received the book just before baby three put in his appearance, but I especially want to share it with all my friends who support mothers. Breastfeeding Uncovered explores the factors that influence whether mothers want to breastfeed, whether they do breastfeed, and how long they breastfeed for. In the first chapter Dr Brown explores why these questions are worth exploring. She identifies the key issues as: that there is a health benefit from increasing breastfeeding rates; and that mothers who want to breastfeed but don't feel upset, guilty and criticised, and this can be avoided. The strength of her discussion of these issues is a detailed explanation of the statistics involved in understanding the health outcomes of breastfeeding versus not breastfeeding, for both mother and baby. We all know someone who was raised on artificial milk and is hale and hearty, but in the same way that we all know someone who smoked since childhood and lived to be a hundred, this does not mean that breastfeeding isn't the better option when trying to skew the odds of good health outcomes in our favour.

We live in a society that assumes bottle and artificial milk feeding, and this creeps in to our lives invisibly all the time. Baby dolls come with bottles, and pictures of toddlers breastfeeding their dolls are deemed controversial. Many women never see a baby breastfed until they have their own. Much of this book is concerned with how this affects our breastfeeding decisions and outcomes. Our societal expectations of mothers and babies in general are written by this assumption of bottle feeding as the norm, and this makes it hard for mothers to decide to breastfeed. For example, we can't measure how much our breastfed baby is getting, only the outcome that they are healthy. A mother who finds herself spending a lot of time, day and night, breastfeeding a baby may become overwhelmed, if she was expecting her baby to just have a ten minute bottle every four hours like her friend's bottle fed baby, or her mother says she did. Mothers may also be embarrassed to breastfeed their babies out and about, and either find themselves stuck at home (miserable), or bottle feeding outside the home, which rapidly becomes bottle feeding altogether. They have grown up thinking of their breasts as sexual, and have heard of women being asked to leave places for breastfeeding. I have heard husbands undermine breastfeeding because they feel they need to feed the baby to bond with it (not true. Why not try wearing it in a sling while mum has a nap or out for a stroll, or taking a bath with the baby, or finding a special song that only dad sings to settle the baby?), because they feel that their partner's breasts are sexual, and somehow their property (hello? A woman's breasts belong to her alone, and they are evolved for feeding babies), or because they are embarrassed that other men will see their wives breastfeeding (they should be proud! Look what a great start you are giving your children!). The attitudes of partners and other family members are so influential in whether and how long a mother breastfeeds her baby.

In conclusion, Amy Brown sets out an eighteen point manifesto for a breastfeeding friendly society, which I reproduce here with her permission:

Step 1: Teach mums, and those around them, how normal it is for breastfed babies to feed frequently and why this is important.

Step 2: Tell all new parents and those around them about normal baby sleep, why feeding doesn't affect is, and support them in other ways to get more rest.

Step 3: Tell parents and those around them about normal patterns of weight loss and weight gain in breastfed babies, and why this doesn't mean that they are underweight.

Step 4: Be more aware of how experiences during childbirth may affect breastfeeding. Invest in maternity units to give staff more time with mothers, to help reduce interventions during birth, and ultimately increase breastfeeding rates.

Step 5: Early hospital practices can make a significant difference to breastfeeding. The more Baby Friendly practices a hospital adopts, the better their breastfeeding rates. So it's obvious. Make all hospitals (and neonatal units) Baby Friendly!

Step 6: invest in expert support services for all breastfeeding mums right from the start of breastfeeding.

Step 7: Support new mothers to feed and mother, don't abandon them to juggle everything. Mother the mother.

Step 8: Bin all the rubbish baby care books.

Step 9: Support employers to be breastfeeding friendly.

Step 10: Stop this ridiculous body image pressure on new mothers and come to terms with our own illogical sensitivities and prejudices about human milk and the female body.

Step 11: Give new mothers the emotional and practical support they need, every step of the way.

Step 12: Breastfeeding support needs to be tailored to individual needs.

Step 13: Educate dads to be the breastfeeding supporters they can be.

Step 14: Invest in health services so more health professionals have more time and more knowledge to support breastfeeding mothers.

Step 15: Educate the public to stop being idiots, or at least do no harm.

Step 16: Regulate products that are designed to create anxiety in new mums.

Step 17: Crack down on brand advertising and prevent industry access to professionals and parents.

Step 18: Step up and fund healthcare and breastfeeding support.

I would love for everyone supporting mothers to read this book. For those of us living in the pro-breastfeeding community, we can gain understanding of why women make the choice not to breastfeed. For those in the wider community, knowledge of how our actions and environment can affect these important decisions must surely guide our behaviour.

Here's the exciting bit: Amy has very kindly sent me an extra copy of the book to give away to a reader! To enter, just pop a comment below, and I'll draw the winner on Sunday night! I can only really pay UK postage, but if you're further afield and happy to pay most of your own postage, then go ahead and put yourself forward.

P.s. what targeted advertising did I receive when I looked at the book's Amazon page? Artificial milk (formula). Go figure.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Yarn along

Today I am attempting to post on my tablet while feeding baby three, so it's a bit of an experiment! I thought I'd submit to Ginny's yarn along. Knitting this week is a soaker in the rather gorgeous blue tit yarn by West Yorkshire Spinners. I've been fighting the urge to cast on a cardi for myself this week. I fancy something simple and open fronted, perhaps the Harvest by Tin Can knits. I love all the patterns in their Simple collection, and they're free, so if you haven't discovered them yet do have a look. I currently have very little knitting time because three NEVER wants to be put down. This always gives me castonitis!

Reading this week is just some quick fiction between factual books. Jodie Picoult is very readable. If you like her style but prefer an English voice I highly recommend this little gem. Enjoy!

If you're missing my parenting related book reviews do pop back soon because I have two in the works, and one comes with a giveaway, which I'm hoping to run over the weekend. In the mean time stay creative, keep reading, and see you soon!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Robots and Gadgets

Recently Sausages was sent his very own book to review, so here is his very own book review!

"I liked this book very much. I liked all the different activities and the stickers. I liked designing my own robots the best."

The book contains a wide range of activities including sticker pages, puzzles, colouring and drawing, and creative challenges. It was really well suited to Sausages, who is a methodical, cognitive sort of chap. The age range is 5-8. Sausages is 6 and a good reader. All of the reading and activities were nicely within his capabilities and he needed no input from me, although we did have lots of good chats about the interesting problems set within the book.

Because of the variation of activities in this book I think it would be great for travel entertainment. So often I pick up a magazine or colouring book to entertain the boys on a plane or ferry, only to find there isn't really enough there to hold their attention. I see online that there are quite a few books in this Factivity series, so I'll probably order a couple for the trips we have lined up for this year. This one on coding particularly appeals to me.

The explanations and factual writing are good for developing comprehension skills. They prompted a lot of discussions and clearly gave Sausages plenty to think about.

The stickers and drawing problems offer opportunities to support fine motor control.

What Sausages does Bob must also do, of course! But this book was a long way above his level! I'd love to hear your suggestions for similar quality activity books for this age group, our clever boy needs us to step up a level!


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Yarn Along

I haven't posted a Yarn Along for a little while, but I have been enjoying everyone else's posts, so I thought I'd squeeze one in this week. I'm reading something I don't really know what I think of, so I'll wait a bit to post about that. Instead I'm sharing what the boys are reading this week:

Hello Baby has become a much loved classic in this house. It's the story of a home birth, told from the perspective of a small boy. I've had it out to help the boys prepare for our planned home birth for baby 3. Rather wonderfully, Sausages has been reading it to Bob, and adding in details from Bob's birth off his own bat. I might have had the odd secret proud tear at that one! I really feel their wonderful introduction is the foundation of their good relationship, and I'm hopeful that they will also meet their new sibling under good circumstances.

The two Sears books I bought this year for Bob, because he is a lot younger at nearly three than Sausages was at the same age. He's not delayed or anything, I just didn't appreciate how unusual Sausages is. I bought these books with a view to helping him develop some expectations of what life will be like in our house when the baby arrives, and to understand that the baby in my tummy will be coming out and joining our family as a whole new person! These are big concepts when you are two! The books are quite American, but beautifully explain these facts for a small child to understand. I'm pretty pleased with them.

I have two big Christmas projects on the needles, both moving at a snail's pace, so I don't want to post them over and over. This week a friend offered to do an incredibly kind thing for me and take care of bob for six hours. That's a long time! And she has a toddler of her own! In the end it didn't come off, but I wanted to say thank you and don't have funds for flowers at the moment. I do have this lovely soft yarn though! I knitted myself a pair of these mittens earlier this year and love them, and I hope she will too.

Happy knitting and reading!


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Why Human Rights in Childbirth Matter book review

I mentioned last week that I had been privileged to attend the Positive Birth Movement's Be the Change event in London, at which I had met and heard some great speakers from the birth community. One lady I was desperate to hear was Rebecca Schiller, and I was lucky enough to have a chat with her and come away with a copy of her book for myself.

Rebecca is the chief executive of Birthrights, an organisation based in the UK that promotes respect for human rights in maternity care. I suppose many readers know that I was a keen student of human rights before I became a mother at home, with a particular interest in the rights of vulnerable groups, so this book is everything I want to read! The book is split into two main parts. The first half of the book explores the human rights issues surrounding childbirth, including what the relevant rights are. The issues are explored with reference to specific cases of human rights abuses. This is harrowing, but I feel that there is such a strange haze around the human rights of pregnant and birthing women that without these real life examples of abuses that have actually happened readers would struggle to work through the subject matter of the book in their own minds. Rebecca goes to great lengths to explain how pregnancy and childbirth have long been used as reasons to divorce a woman from her rights and humanity. A patriarchal medical environment has taught us to justify the violation of women's rights in all sorts of terms, but a woman does not give up her rights to privacy or autonomy or health just because she is pregnant or giving birth. Since these reproductive rights are fundamental to the lives of well over half of women around the world. their continual violation constitutes a major human rights issue, and compounds the marginalisation and inequality of women. Rebecca points out that by improving the standing of a woman's human rights during childbirth in developed countries we can support the protection of those rights throughout the world.

One thing I do feel Rebecca skirted around, however, is the matter of US influence in the healthcare systems of some of the poorest parts of the world. It is known that the US system of maternity care is in crisis. Their rates of maternal deaths are rising not falling, and their rates for cesarean birth are well over WHO recommended levels. For decades the USA has constituted a substantial power in the United Nations and programs of international aid and finance. During this time it has made a prerequisite of aid and development parcels a healthcare and pharmaceuticals system that reflects its own system of private insurance and healthcare paid for at the point of access, unlike the majority of European healthcare systems that are free at the point of access (which is very different from free). The case quoted of the mother who could not afford drugs to end a postpartum haemorrhage that would have ended her life (p67), and those women detained after birth until their care could be paid for (p72), are the clear victims of these policies.

The second half of the book forms a handy guide to human rights, providing specific guidance applicable to women in the UK. This is followed by suggestions for further reading on the subject, and details of other relevant organisations, including those involved in promoting human rights for pregnant and birthing women around the world. This can provide us with practical tools for defending our own human rights in childbirth, those of women birthing in our society, and the rights of women around the world. I highly recommend that everyone involved in maternity care read this book, and especially those going through it. Not to scare them, but to empower them! If you want to read more by Rebecca on the subject this short ebook is also available.

This book is another title from the "Why it Matters" series of concise works on pregnancy, birth and parenting. I am a big fan of this series, and wish all prospective parents could have access to it. All children's centres should have them in their lending libraries!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Baby Days

I finished this book last week and was completely blown away! This is a collection of birth stories, all told from the perspective of the midwife and the mother, and often a sibling or birth partner too, and accompanied by stunning photographs of the labours, births, and postnatal moments. The stories include many of the different forms that birth can take, such as cesarean section, breech presentation, multiples, hospital and home births, and really show what can be achieved for women by giving the kind of care Becky's team of midwives were able to offer. Continuity of care and supporting the mother to make informed choices has real impact in terms of outcomes, and this can clearly be seen in the stories told here. The book ends with a comment on this type of care by Sue Brailey that everyone working in maternity services would benefit from reading.

The photos are the absolute star of this book. Taken from the midwife's perspective, they are both intimate and graphic. I haven't reproduced any because I feel that you really have to read the book, but you can get a feel from the cover. When this book first arrived in the post Sausages (6) took it from me and wouldn't give it back until he had inspected all the pictures. He has seen childbirth before, including being present at Bob's birth nearly three years ago, and he found them fascinating, not shocking. I picked the book up and began flicking through the photographs, thinking that I would return to read the book properly at another time, but the set of a baby who turned from vertex to breech between contractions in the second (expulsive) stage had me hooked, and I just had to start reading the stories! I was privileged to meet Becky Reed at the recent Positive Birth Movement event "Be The Change," and she commented that she hadn't been convinced about leaving that story in, but the fact that Ina May Gaskin commented positively on it in the introduction convinced her. I'm very glad she did!

A little knitting and finishing this week for the gown for baby 3. I ran out of yarn without being able to make it long enough to close with buttons like the previous one I made, so it will have to be daytime wear, but that's fine. The bamboo yarn is ever so soft, and the ladybird buttons are very sweet! Bob chose them himself.

I'm linking up to Ginny's yarn along this week, so do pop over and check out what others are making and reading. And if you do have any recommendations for must-knits before baby 3 arrives, please do let me know!