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Repeat after me—not breastfeeding doesn’t make you a bad mother

Breastfeeding didn’t work for me—twice. It doesn’t make me a bad mom and it doesn’t mean my children aren’t happy.

Repeat after me—not breastfeeding doesn’t make you a bad mother

My first baby arrived when I was a mere 21. Looking back—I had barely left school long enough to work out what sort of a mother I wanted to be, and naively embarked on the motherhood ideals many a young woman believe lay ahead of them during their pregnancy. So, when Hugo popped into this world, I just assumed that I would breastfeed my little bundle as my mother had so easily done with me for the best part of two years!


Latching on seemed a doddle from what I remember, but my paranoia that he wasn’t getting enough food was real. My worrying that he wasn’t getting enough food led to my worrying that he wasn’t sleeping enough, which led to him screaming endlessly and therefore actually not eating enough (see the cycle there?).

I soon became an over-tired, emotionally wrecked dairy cow—on the pump at least three times a day, just so I could decant my breast milk into a bottle to see how much he was eating and try to bring an end to the cycle.

I was stressed and my baby was stressed. This was not a happy time. To be honest, the rest is a bit of a blur until I woke up one morning with cheeks like Aunt Sally, boobs like boulders on which you could easily fry an egg and feeling like I’d had a house dropped on me! Welcome, mastitis! This hadn’t happened overnight, but I’d ignored the signs for a good part of a week before admitting there was a problem—as the last thing any new mother wants to admit to is that there is a problem and that all is not well.

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After a trip to the doctor, a long long sleep, a round of antibiotics and a lot of pain killers—I was functioning again. Amidst all this, I’d taken a step which felt like I was betraying womankind and thousands of years of tradition, like I had failed as a mother and let down every midwife on the planet—we’d switched to formula!

Not only did the world not stop spinning but, more importantly, the relief was immense—I could focus on being a mother instead of the milk pumping maniac I’d become and resented.

Needless to say, 13 months later when my son Bruno made his debut appearance— with the mastitis and stress still fresh in my mind—I made sure the formula and bottles were ready.

Fast-forward another 7 years. Now a bright eyed 30 year old, content with myself as a woman and mother—with a clear vision on how I want to raise my third baby—I really couldn’t think of any reason why I would not be able to breastfeed. I was so determined for this to work, I scoffed at my mother’s suggestions of getting a few bottles and a sterilizer “just in case.” My thoughts? “What could possibly go wrong?”

I was now older, in a much better emotional place, calm and at ease with being a mother—I thought, “I got this!”

Casper James entered the world, and right away I had a little suckling, nestled into my bosom—the perfect picture of mother and baby. Nothing could stop me—I was rockin’ this!

Throughout Casper’s first night my little man snuggled into my bobbies for hours on end. My nipples felt a little sore, and on a number of times I called the midwife to confirm the baby was latching on correctly. She continued to reassure me, “Yep—everything looks great!”

Over the next 24 hours with each feed my nipples grew more sore, then cracked, then bloody. “Was this normal?” I wondered. I Googled away to find that this most definitively was not normal, but, I persevered as I was not going to let this get the better of me. I started to dread each feed, anticipating the pain that would come with it.

We took the steps we felt necessary to continue on—to satisfy myself and Casper. We bought a pump in hopes this would more gently extract the milk which I would then be able to pass on to the baby, we bought nipple shields, I slathered on nipple cream, I took pain killers. And then on day three (generally known as the most tearful day after birth anyway due to milk coming in), after tears started to well in my eyes at the thought of the next feed, my mum took one look at my engorged boobs and called the doctor for an emergency appointment.

You guessed it—mastitis, again. The tears rolled and the feeling of failure set in, although only momentarily—this really wasn’t the end of the world.

Sure, my visions of serenely breastfeeding my child whilst butterflies fluttered around us and the sun shone endlessly were dashed, but my baby was happy and healthy and continues to be and isn’t that the whole point?!

There are, of course, hundreds of benefits to breastfeeding, but there can be pros to bottle feeding too. It gives dad, grandma etc. a chance to bond with your new arrival by feeding, which can be such a close and special time. It gives mum the chance for some downtime without worrying about the next feed. In my case specifically, it allows me to give my older boys a proper bedtime (as Casper seems to want to go to bed at exactly the same time!)—read a book, have a cuddle, and catch up on the highs and lows of their day—all whilst daddy tends to Cas.

Breastfeeding, unfortunately, doesn’t work out for everyone, for a multitude of reasons. It doesn’t make you a bad mother and it doesn’t mean your child will be any less happy. We’re all doing our best, and we all need to do what’s best for ourselves and our families.


A version of this article was originally published on The Only Girl in the House.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

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Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

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Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

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Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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