Breastfeeding is brilliant and all, full of benefits, but also undeniably hard work. Even once you’ve got through the first few gruelling weeks, when you’re confident it should be plain sailing, it often just… isn’t. Which is incredibly irritating, as on an evolutionary level this is the baby’s ONE JOB. And on a practical level, you’d think doing something approximately a million times per day since birth would make a 7-month old pretty damn good at it; and then something like a heatwave or a leap or weaning happens, and it’s back to square one.
* Safe for babies… unsafe for upholstery. Delicious for adults. Vegan!
I love dressing up, festivals and frippery, and most years I manage to attend a costume party or dance macabre to celebrate all that is gruesome, exciting and escapist at Halloween.
This year… not so much! I was home alone with two 7-month old babies, who are now in a fairly set routine of dinner, bath, PJs, feed to sleep (albeit with mighty protests at every transition). It’s a lot to do on one’s own and recently the monotony has been starting to get me down.
Social media was filling up with other people’s party pics, everyone and their gorgeous offspring seemed to be out Trick Or Treat-ing, and I was looking blankly into the fridge trying to plan a nutritious yet mutually-palatable meal for one adult and 2 babies… when a vacuum pack of beetroot caught my eye.
ZOMBIE ATTACK!!! 🧟♀️
Featuring Sleep-Deprivation-Zombie Mummy & the Two Tiny Terrors
Short answer: WRONG. It’s not an effective contraceptive; use something else
Long answer: It’s quite interesting actually! In a food-scarce tribal setting (such as when humans were evolving) breastfeeding uses up much of the female’s fat resources, which essentially puts her body into a starvation state where it does not ovulate. From an evolutionary point of view this is helpful as it allows all her resources to be channelled into her existing dependent offspring. In this setting mothers often breastfed for 2-3 years until spontaneous weaning – when the baby no longer needs her as much, it’s time for a new baby (for greatest reproductive fitness, which is what evolution is all about). So breastfeeding IS a natural contraception in a “natural” setting…but we do not live in a natural setting.
We live in a world of flapjack. 🙌 We can sate our hunger and therefore our bodies are not in a starvation state (though it sometimes might feel like they are!). Therefore ovulation technically can resume at any point, and you would only know about it 2 weeks later when your period arrived.
Use something else! 👍
Info-dump time… welcome to my ABC of Weaning:
I was in no hurry whatsoever to start weaning, and happy to follow official WHO guidelines of exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months. Especially since I was leaning towards Baby Led Weaning, which isn’t recommended before 6 months. “Food before one is just for fun!” people said. I felt quite relaxed about it all (classic!). And then everyone around me started talking about allergy.
Recent medical studies (EAT & LEAP, if you’re interested) support introducing highly allergenic peanuts and eggs by 6 months to reduce chance of peanut and egg allergy. Speaking to doctors who specialise in paediatric allergy, the recommendation was to try and have all major allergenic foods introduced and then regularly exposed to the baby, 1-3 times per week, by 7 months.
Just like that, I was no longer relaxed. My babies were 5 and a half months; the clock was ticking!
More: we have no history of food allergy in our family. If we had, we would probably have sought a doctor’s opinion before launching in…
Major allergens: Eggs, Peanuts, Other nuts & seeds (eg sesame, Brasil, cashew), Dairy, Wheat, gluten, fish, shellfish, sulphates
I found this list quite intimidating. My sweet little babies knew only milk and cuddling, and now I had to cram a dozen different savoury foods into them whilst waiting for hives to break out at any second? And yet, now it felt like not doing that was neglectful and basically guaranteeing a future nut allergy with all the rigmarole and anxiety that entails.
So for what it’s worth, here’s what I did:
Weeks 1-2: single ingredients
To test for severe allergy to things I was most concerned about, I just did a finger-dab of the ingredient on the inside of the baby’s mouth. Then when there was no reaction, five minutes later I offered a baby spoonful of same ingredient. Official guidance is to do this 3 days in a row, and not to introduce any other potential allergen in that time.
– Peanuts: Finger dab of smooth salt-free peanut butter into baby’s mouth.
–Egg: Firmly scrambled egg, no milk initially (or breast milk/formula if you want; I found that super weird for some reason), gave a small spoonful initially, then if they’re anything like my two scrambled eggs will become a regular lunchdate-saving occurrence.
– Dairy: Finger dab of full fat yoghurt; then full fat cow’s milk in porridge
– Sesame: Finger dab of (organic salt free etc) tahini
As no allergy to any of these, I then relaxed a lot.
– Wheat, gluten: gave small finger of bread to gnaw on
– Dried fruit (sulphates) – poached some raisins in milk then strained and used the milk in porridge
– Fish: gave inside of a fish finger to explore. Could have used fish paste / pate apparently, but we rarely eat fish so wasn’t after culinary points here!
Shellfish – haven’t yet tried.
Strawberries , citrus etc: not a classic allergen but lots of kids have hypersensitivity reactions to these. So we introduced them one at a time on individual days, and watched for any reaction.
– Scrambled eggs made with with cows milk; we eat this regularly so just give babies a bit whenever we have it (eggs & dairy)
– Full fat yoghurt as a dip for steamed veggies (dairy) or on pita bread (wheat)
– Hummous made with tahini (sesame) on fingers of toast (wheat)
– peanut butter: on toast / in porridge / melted onto noodles. One of our girls’ favourite foods!
– cashew butter on toast (only once because holy hell that stuff’s expensive!)
Once all that was done, I relaxed even more. But if we’d had a set-back at any stage, I would have stopped the likely culprit, started a food diary and made a routine appointment with my GP.
Remember, under 12 months they get the vast majority of their nutrition from their milk, be that breast or formula; so there’s never any nutritional harm done by pausing weaning for a few days whilst you all regain your equilibrium.
Which brings me on to B in my ABC of introducing solids to babies: Baby Led Weaning .
So I made it to 6 months of breastfeeding twins!
It’s been a road with a few twists and turns… read on if breastfeeding journeys interest or intrigue you!
Hello October! 🍁 The season has definitely changed here in London: after an endless-feeling hot summer, there is a chill in the air and it’s downright cold in the shade. There are still lots of bright blue skies (alternating with drizzle and gales) and we’ve had a fair bit of sunshine this week, but the foliage is turning, the evenings are shortening, and – surest sign of autumn setting in – everyone I meet seems to be fighting a cold!
I have a theory that when you have a baby in attendance, you can put in as much effort as you like into making an event lovely and enjoyable and fun, and then… you roll the Baby Dice.