Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Positive Birth Book

I don't know whether I have mentioned this before, but in the "real world" (although on as well as off the internet) I facilitate a local group for the Positive Birth Movement. The founder and leader of the Positive Birth Movement, Milli Hill, has poured her extensive knowledge and experience into The Positive Birth Book, and I was delighted to receive a copy to review.

This book is a really fresh approach to thinking about pregnancy and birth. Milli starts the book by looking at how our society sees and portrays birth, and how this affects the ideas pregnant women have about their own approaching births.Then she settles into an honest description of what birth is actually like, taking the medical division of the three stages of labour (active labour; birth; birth of the placenta) and turning it into a fourteen stage journey, plus an exploration of the experience of cesarean birth. Like any conventional book on birth there is a certain amount of myth expelling to be done, and there is a balanced discussion of the various coping strategies and methods of pain relief that most women can choose from during labour. What you won't find in a conventional birth book are Milli's two steel beams of choice: you have a choice; you have human rights in childbirth. These two are fundamental to improving women's experiences of childbirth. Time and time again I hear women describing how they are "not allowed" to do a particular thing in relation to their birth, be it give birth vaginally, carry past a certain gestation, or give birth in a place of their choosing. Doctors and midwives do not have the authority to tell women what to do with their bodies. Milli follows this statement of choice with a detailed discussion on how to make a birth plan that works for you, and what you might like to consider. She discusses equally different birth place options, and her "What if..." section can be a real help in working through any unexpected experiences along the way. Finally she ends with a section on "The Birth of a Mother," seeing the experience of birth through beyond the arrival of the baby.

I love the tone of this book. It's informal, but at the same time manages to convey a vast amount of detailed information. The real life birth stories that illustrate each section really help to do this, turning the theory and facts on paper into relatable human experience. Milli isn't afraid to deal with subjects that are often neglected but are life changing for women, such as having a child with an illness or disability; loss; birth trauma; postnatal depression; puerperal psychosis; or premature birth. This frankness can only benefit women who find themselves facing these situations. There are some really useful tools in this book too. Milli is skilled at pointing women at where they can find the highest level research and guidance on important subjects. Her "steel beams" teach women that the decision making for their births is their own, that the power lies with them. The amazing visual birth plan icons designed by Kate Evans help women to make their own choices and convey them to their care givers. You can download these icons for personal use (and for free) here. The BRAIN and HEART acronyms are great for helping women to feel in control when facing the unexpected.


Usually I recommend that every woman read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth. That is a wonderfully inspiring ode to what the female body is capable of, and should give every woman confidence in herself. However, I have had some friends tell me it is too "hippie" for them. Well, this book isn't hippie, but it isn't conventional either. I think The Positive Birth Book is my new go-to for expectant mothers, and it's certainly suitable for their partners and supporters. If you are giving birth in the near future I would definitely recommend this book. Thank you Milli!

Monday, 15 May 2017

My Birth Planning Journal

I'd like to share today a book that was quite useful to me when I was waiting for baby 3's arrival.


This is a relatively new venture from the Happy Birthing Company: a guide to planning and engaging with your birth.


I agree so strongly with this statement on the back cover. You can't predict what kind of birth you will experience, you can't really choose to have no complications, but you can stack the odds of getting your desired outcomes in your favour. I prefer the language of birth preferences rather than plans, because I feel this better reflects the reality of birth. We might prefer not to have a medicalised delivery, but if we have informed ourselves about the circumstances under which one might be necessary, and explore how we might like it to go in such eventuality, we will surely be in a better position for a positive birth than if we only plan for the outcomes we want but face the situation we don't.                                                                              


This lovely little book functions as a set of prompts for exploring your own birth preferences. Whether you are starting with a clear idea of what sort of birth might be the right one for you, or if you are starting right at the beginning of the journey with no ideas at all, these prompts can really help you to make your own informed decisions about birth. Small, light, and spiral bound so that it stays open and flat, the book is ideal for tucking in with maternity notes or into your birth bag (you can also download a PDF). It has plenty of space for you to write your thoughts and preferences, as well as prompts to encourage you to do your own research about important decisions.


This little book was a great tool for Husband and me in preparing for the birth of Baby 3. It provided the starting point for important conversations and decisions that we had to have, and I highly recommend expectant families use it in this way: as a guide and starting point for communication with each other and with care givers, or perhaps a doula. I think that the range of subjects mentioned will give every expectant parent something to think about, something they need to research further and inform themselves about. I hope this really takes off, because it has the potential to make a big difference to outcomes for mothers.


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!

E

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!
E

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!

Elizabeth

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!

E