Breastfeeding - my experience

Almost 18 years ago now I had a baby. As all mums will tell you, it feels like it was yesterday, they grow so fast. What is it they say? 'The days are long but the years are short' ? Yes that sums up parenthood. Tiring, exhausting, but ultimately amazing and it's all gone in a blink and they are adults themselves.

When I became pregnant I decided I wanted to do everything naturally, or as natural as possible, though I didn't want a home birth. I felt that if everything went well then hospital would be OK and they could do the clean up, and if things went badly, I'd have the support I needed.

I also decided that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. At the time the advice was exclusive for 4 months and then introduce solids but keep breastfeeding alongside for as long as possible. (current World Health Oganisation advice can be found here) That all sounded fine to me and so I didn't buy and bottles, no formula, no sterilising kits. Nothing. I had boobs and I didn't need anything more.

The birth (a water birth) was easy and fairly swift, less than 12 hours. And DD (darling daughter)  was born with a shock of dark hair, eyes to fall into, like deep pools and a gaze with the knowledge of centuries, as babies tend to have. I was instantly in love and started feeding withing minutes of birth. Text book stuff, I stayed in hospital overnight and the midwives checked on my (and her) latch positioning regularly, they asked how things were, checked I was feeding on demand and were just lovely. The midwife that helped deliver her showed me the 'rugby ball hold' as DD preferred to feed on one side and Dave (the midwife) worried I'd get lopsided!

After 48 hours or so I went home and everything was fine, DD slept and ate and was as cute as the cutest button. Life was dreamy.

On day 5 after the birth I woke to discover my milk had 'come in'. What a misleading phrase, it conjures flowing rivers of creamy goodness when in reality it means your tits, whilst looking like a porn stars are suddenly rock hard and tender, engorged and not in a good way! Baby DD found her latch was no longer easy, she looked at me accusingly, suddenly she couldn't feed, and so she wailed. I wailed too. Hearing her wail my body cheerfully created more milk! I hurt! I wailed more, DD wailed. My poor husband looked on helplessly. After 12 hours things had got worse, not better and I was terrified that DD would die of thirst (I had no idea how resilient babies are!) I was hysterical, she was purple in the face from screaming and my husband said he was going to buy bottles and formula right away.

I broke down, felt like a failure, torn between not wanting to give up and feeding my child! Luckily I'm really stubborn. So instead of letting him go for formula I said we should phone the labour ward, they had said we could phone for any reason, at any time (it was now 10pm) I rang, they said to come straight in. And so we did.

The loveliest nurses and midwives in the world took DD for a walk around the ward to calm her (and, looking back on it maybe to give her a sly drink!) while another midwife made me tea and calmed me down. Then they brought a now calmer DD back in and helped her get a grip, it felt like they just held her head against my boob until she had no choice but to suck! But maybe it was more subtle than that.

Whatever they did it worked, she glugged (you could hear her glugging!) and emptied both breasts. Poor hungry baby - she then slept for about 8 hours. We went home and after that we didn't look back. DD continued breastfeeding as and when until she was 4 months when she was keen to eat! She raced up the centiles chart (chubster!) and then gradually settled when she started eating food. She continued to breastfeed until she was 10 months old, when she self weaned having discovered cups and food easier that the work needed to breastfeed! Such a cute and lazy baby.

The things I loved about breastfeeding were; the lack of preparation, you want milk, it's there (and no extras to carry when you go out) ; the snuggles, tiny pudgy hands massaging you as baby drinks, like a little kitten; the cheapness, I didn't buy bottles, or sterilisers; the supposed health benefits were just a bonus if I'm honest

My experience of breastfeeding was fabulous. I want other mums to know it can be great, and support can be great too - never be afraid to ask. If I hadn't had help I might have given up on day 5! I felt like a failure but mum's shouldn't, there is no reason you should be good at it! It's a skill and both you and baby have to learn. Take your time, get help, enjoy.

And if you don't breastfeed? That time is gone in a blink anyway - enjoy every precious second with your child.


Wordy Wednesday with Sarah E Smith

Welcome back to Wordy Wednesday. This week I would like you to meet Sarah Smith, author of several mystery books. I asked her to introduce herself, so grab a cup of tea and settle down for a chat.

Hello, my name is Sarah. I'm nearly 50 on the outside and almost 18 on the inside! I love rugby, Doctor Who, and history.
I've had four books published so far. Three time travel, mystery books for YA (16-90ish) The Secret of Aldwych Strand; and my first crime fiction book set at the turn of the 20th century – A Cowardice of Crows, which introduces Symington Earl Byrd, Gentleman. Playboy. Detective. My books are as historically accurate as I can make them; and - I hope – a little witty, mixing as they do first and third person perspective.

The Secret of Aldwych Strand revolves around Canvey teenagers Mark and Lucy who go to Southend Pier in the October half term of 2013; travel in time, and never come home. Well why would you when you are trying to stop someone destroying the whole of time itself?
In a Cowardice of Crows Symington, Earl Byrd is called in to investigate the murder of a woman who's pushed from a train. A murder that draws the Prince of Wales' best friend in to a world so seductive he is in danger of losing his soul.

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
Oh, I only wish I was a spy, or anything that exciting! I'm not. I don't even write full time. Though I can dream. That's got to wait for retirement. Or a VERY large lottery win. No, I'm a teacher of hormones in an 11-19 school in North Essex. I'm not sure if I'd say I like it, but I've been doing it for 28 years, so I can't really dislike it that much, can I?

Why did you start writing?
Because I couldn't draw and had to be creative some how. But it wasn't serious. Not until I ended up as a history teacher doing a maternity cover as a Head of English in the school I'm currently at, and suddenly there were these voices in my head screaming to have their story told, so I decided I'd better do what they wanted.

Which 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
The Goon Show
A dog running in the great out doors (I totally misread this as 'a dog running into a door, and thought it funny if a little cruel!)
A student finally 'getting' something that they've really struggled to understand

Do you have any pets?
I wouldn't say I have pets, I'd say they have staff.(haha Princess Fizz, my border terrier feels the same about us!)
Until last year there were 6 cats: the infamous Rover Blofeld of Twitter, Agent Z(orro); Bomma and Alistair, the Bombays, Callie and CleoKatra; and of course there was Clwyed-dog Dog, a scatty Labrador. Clwyed and Rover went over the rainbow bridge last year, forcing Zorro to step up to the role of chief cat. I'd love to get another dog, one with an expressive face. But that's a decision for a few years down the line. Dogs shouldn't be rushed.
The bombays are so self centred that they hinder the writing process. They have no understanding of computers. Or keyboards. Or that the delete key is not for dancing on! Everything is fuss me fuss me now, with pedigree cats.
The girls ignore me. They exist to sleep in sun-puddles. No, it's Zorro -a white and black bruiser - who's the real critic. He's the cleverest cat I've ever been owned by. An engineer in previous life, he sits and watches you write. Then when you read it back, he listens. If it's good he walks off. If it's not good he shakes his head and stares. So you delete and start again.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
As a child, I wouldn't say I had a favourite author. I devoured books like a true book vampire. But looking back - although I love Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, and Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett - my favourite writer has to be Terrance Dicks. I have so many of his Doctor Who novelisations on my shelf at Mum and Dad's that I would be a fool to argue otherwise. He has such an easy reading style and a way of writing. Whether you're in the mood to devour or dip in and out. His style fits all moments. I suppose as my first three books were scifi he has to have had some influence on me, hasn't he?

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
This is a bit of a cheat of an answer. I'm back teaching English – due to a couple of maternity covers – so I'm currently reading:
Much Ado About Nothing with my year 10s
The Woman in Black with Year 9
And Great Expectations with Year 8
And I've been reading a lot of history coursework, but I don't suppose this really counts does it?
I've also had to re-read Cowardice because we've just moved and my context notes are in a box somewhere in storage. Rooky error!

Where do you do most of your writing?
We've just been camping for the first half of this half term, so I've been writing outside the tent, or inside when it was raining. But if I'm honest, I do my best writing in hotel lounges! My favourite hotels for writing are the Haycock in Wansted, Cambs; the Travelodge in Bishops Stortford (our current home whilst the boat is being built) and The Walpole Bay Hotel in Margate. They're all used to me sitting with a laptop, drafting and cursing away. At the Walpole the staff know me so well that sometime after 2pm a bottle of chilled prosecco arrives! One day, I'm going to wear pink and change my name to Barbara Cartland.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
Toughy! I enjoyed Valentin from the Aldwych Strand Trilogy, he was complex and mercurial and I was drawn to him. But whilst Symington CC, Sampson and CC are all great, there's something about the Pawnbroker from A Cowardice of Crows that captured my imagination the moment he appeared. Mordecai Gold is a very black and white individual. Very moral in an immoral kind of way. He's ruthless and at times very violent, but he inspires such loyalty from those who work for him that you just have to love him. Even if he is soulless.

What is your favourite biscuit?
Until I found out I was wheat intolerant, I would have said Nice biscuits. They were my Nana's favourite and our little secret. She would sneak them to me when Mum wasn't looking. Mum didn't hold with me eating biscuits. Something to do with not eating my dinner. Now any biscuit that I shouldn't eat, is my favourite!

In the film of your life who would play you? (why)
Alec Guinness. Or possibly David Tennant. Obviously in drag. Why? As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm eccentric, so why go for an obvious casting?

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a potato and a sloth...could you get a lazier creature? (my soul mate)
I quite like the idea of crossing a dragon with an aubergine. You'd end up with a dragon's head, tail and legs sandwiched between a smooth slightly bulbous purple body. He'd have to be careful where he breathed. Otherwise you'd have a bit of a crispy dragon! But it would be fun to watch him take off! A bit like a flying dachshund me thinks!

Find her here Sarah E Smith Author page

Here on her Blog

and of course on Twitter here

Big thanks to Sarah for answering my silly questions - now dear reader, do pop off and check out her books and say hello to her on Twitter.


Camp Bestival 2017 as a family holiday

When I tell people I'm off to Camp Bestival I get varying responses. Anything from "festivals? aren't they full of drugs and drunks?" to "how much?! I can't afford that for a few days in a field!" so I thought I'd look at some of the myths around festivals, and explain why Camp Bestival is actually the perfect holiday for you and the kids.

The popular stereotype of a festival is of muddy drunken revellers, peeing on tents and raving late into the night before falling over guy ropes, peeing on your tent and then crashing out on someone else's inflatable bed, only to awaken to a vomit stained sleeping bag, your car keys missing, and it's raining again for the 3rd day. The portaloos are overflowing and you lost your wallet so you can't buy a beer.

And while it's true I might (have) been to a festival or two that are similar to that (not the losing my wallet bit - I'm very security conscious at a festival) Camp Bestival is very far from this sad damp image. (A big plus point is that the festival site is on chalk, so never muddy!)

Lulworth castle Camp Bestival Dorset

Camp Bestival is predominately a family festival. So most people have kids with them. They tend to be happy to have a drink, but take their mummy and daddy roles pretty seriously, so there is a lack of vomiting drunks, in fact, wailing toddlers are more common.

As the festival is aimed at families with kids, there is loads to do for children. So the wailing form the aforementioned toddlers is more likely to be because they can't fit all the fun into their day than because they are bored.

Crazy bike riding at camp bestival

The price of any festival is going to be higher than camping alone, because they are providing a camp site, toilets, water points, as well as activities, musical acts and insurance. If you look at all the things a festival provides it's easier to see it's value for money.

Camp Bestival starts on Friday and finishes on Sunday night, but you can arrive from Thursday lunchtime and camp until Monday lunchtime so actual nights camped can be 4.

There are loads of free things to do. You can bring your own food and drink which can save some money.

snail act at the insect circus

Free things include all the musical acts of course, and this year we are looking forward to Madness, Mark Ronson, Louisa Johnson and Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer to name just a few. Surfing dudes will be thrilled to hear Brian Wilson is performing on Sunday. But music almost takes a back seat at Camp Bestival, which Rob da Bank (its founder) designed as part way between a festival and a holiday camp (hence the name), with the holiday camp feel in mind there are Blue Coats to entertain the children in all manner of silliness, an Insect Circus (with real insects), tree climbing and all sorts of woodland and outdoor fun, many different craft activities, comedy acts, Punch and Judy shows, clay modelling, silly science shows, musical theatre, early morning cinema, discos and more! all included in the admission price!

indian tightrope skills at camp bestival

There are extras you can pay for, such as face painting, helter skelter rides, a big wheel or a bounce on the world's biggest bouncy castle too, but the strong minded parent can use distraction techniques to avoid spending too much extra if they are prepared!

helter skelter

For the grown ups there are all of the above (I love the cinema in a tent early in the day with a coffee and a croissant) and a Jam Jar cocktail bar, excellent food stalls, late night discos and stand up comedy.

camp bestival crowds

Camp Bestival is one of the least stereotypical 'festivals' I've ever been to and I love it. We have been going for years now and DD still likes to go even at 17 because she likes the lack of unpleasantness you usually get a festivals, I don't think I've ever seen anyone drunk (Unless you count me tipsy - in which case, it happens every year) and I rarely get a whiff of weed. Security staff there are always polite but firm (ooh er!) and I've always felt safe as a single woman camping with my daughter.
camp bestival storm trooper enjoying a gin

And loos? well a festival loo is really what you make it and most mums and dads seem polite enough to leave a loo as clean as they can. After all - parents are made of wet wipes! The loos are cleaned and emptied regularly and over the years they have improved as festival staff have learned from the odd problem encountered. So yes they are portaloos, but they are generally well cared for.

camp bestival compost toilets

So for your money you really are getting a good deal. Why not consider it as a family holiday? Maybe have the start of the week at an ordinary campsite and then finish the week on a high with a family festival that really is first class.

camp bestival lulworth

Find out about all of this years acts and grab tickets at Camp Bestival's Website

fancy dress at camp bestival

Disclosure : I'm an official blogger for Camp Bestival and so this year I'm attending as their guest