Thursday, 23 February 2017

Positivity

A few weeks ago, we went through a phase which was really hard. While in theory I was feeling good about being back at work and also having time at home with SCB, in practice I was exhausted. For long and complicated reasons, the days I was working, SCB was waking up multiple times in the night, then the weekend would roll around, UFM and I would spend it both being tired and grumpy, then just when we started to settle into a normal routine, it was time for me to go to work again and the whole thing would start all over again.

Luckily, I then had a few days off. Luckily, the sun then came out and we went for some nice long walks with the buggy. And on one of these walks, I realised that obsessing about sleep and feeding routines was taking up far too much of my thoughts when there were so many things I should have been enjoying. I made a point, when people asked how SCB was doing, of talking about the super-speedy commando crawling, and her big smiles when she comes and finds you in another room all by herself, and about the fact that she now says "Ma-ma-ma" and "Da-da-da", and when she is particularly satisfied with something she's doing, "Ah-boo!"

I stopped mentioning the lack of sleep.

And suddenly, everything just seemed to click into place. She started eating three meals a day. We would hear her beginning to wake in her cot in the night, then she would just go back to sleep. One morning, we all had a lie-in until 9 o'clock. UFM and I had the energy to talk to each other again.

I'm not such a believer in the power of positive thinking that I would claim that a simple change of mindset could cause all this, but it does go to show that with babies, it's often best just to roll with a situation, because everything will sort itself out in the end.

Ah-boo!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

In which I suspect I give my non-Frenchness away once again

It's one of the classic lessons to be learned when you move to France from less stylish lands: you never ever leave the house looking scruffy, not even just to pop out to the bakery for your Sunday morning baguette. (As Sarah Turnbull's partner explains to her in Almost French, "It is not nice for the baker" to see you looking a mess.) In my previous life, I would never have gone so far as to leave the house in my pyjamas (that is not nice for my pyjamas, which are supposed to stay clean)  but I would definitely have nipped to the shops in tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie if that was the quickest thing to put on.

One way of avoiding going to the shops at all, of course, is to have your shopping delivered, which is a particularly essential service when you have a baby and no car. In fact, when you're at home with a baby all day and just getting out of the house is a huge mission, somebody coming to refill your kitchen cupboards with no effort whatsoever on your part feels almost like a special treat and you forget that you paid with it all on your credit card the day before.

We normally get our deliveries from Auchan. They usually have slots available soon after you place the order and unless it's an evening slot, they tend to arrive at the beginning rather than the end, so you aren't left waiting for ages. They have a reasonable range of products (although not nearly as much as you would find in the actual shop), including the brand of  (more) environmentally friendly nappies that we like. If you buy five baby products, the delivery is free if you enter the code POUR_MON_BEBE, and they also do free delivery for pregnant women. Auchan used to deliver in cardboard boxes which you could either recycle yourself or send back with the delivery people for them to recycle, but they've recently switched to plastic bags. These are also supposedly recyclable, but nowhere I've ever lived in France accepts plastic bags for recycling, so I suspect a lot end up in the normal rubbish. Another drawback is that if you do your shopping at popular times, they tend to run out of certain products.

We've also tried using Carrefour a few times, but despite the fact that this is my favourite supermarket when I go to the shop myself, I've never got on with them for deliveries. You usually have to wait several days for a slot, and the last time I had to contact customer services after they sent us meat that was about to go out of date, they took weeks to get back to me.

This week, Auchan were switching over to a new version of their site and I only discovered after I had spent 45 minutes filling the basket on the old site that I wasn't going to be able to pay for it or transfer it to the new site, so I took the huff and did my shopping at Super U instead. They appeared to have a good range of products, but when the shopping actually arrived, there were a lot of substitutions and omissions. Super U did well on eco-friendly packaging, with everything delivered in strong paper bags, and even the fruit coming in those biodegradable plastic ones. (They don't do eco nappies though.) Another plus was that the shopping arrived sharply at the beginning of the eight o'clock delivery slot.

This meant, however, that we were up but not actually dressed when the buzzer sounded. I wonder how much of a cultural faux pas it is to let the supermarket delivery man see you in your pyjamas?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Experiences of Breastfeeding Part 2

This morning, I took SCB to the doctor for her monthly checkup. As usual, he started off by asking me about feeding and I explained that she is still breastfed as well as now having her solid foods.

And, as usual, he went on to tell me exactly how many millilitres of milk she should be having and in what size of bottles throughout the day.

This has been going on since we started seeing this doctor in September. He's friendly, he's well-qualified and his surgery is just around the corner from where we live, which is why I keep going there. He's also never been anything but positive about the fact that I'm still breastfeeding. But after every appointment, I leave feeling as if we have a massive communication problem. It's as if the information I'm giving him is so far from what he's expecting that it just doesn't compute, so he gives out whatever advice he had prepared in his head anyway.

I was even more conscious of the gap between his advice and reality this time around, as I had been sitting in the waiting room reading a leaflet about sleep which claimed that "after the age of 3 months, babies do not need to eat at night". This may or may not be true for formula-fed babies, but for breastfed babies it's terrible advice. Not only is night feeding totally normal and often necessary, breastmilk contains substances which help the baby to sleep, while the act of nursing releases hormones which make the mother feel drowsy too. Studies have even shown that breastfeeding mothers actually get more sleep than formula-feeding parents because, although they are woken more often, they also get back to sleep more quickly.

A big part of me feels that all of this is very wrong. I should be able to get advice from my GP on how best to feed my baby in the biologically normal way.  Public health advice should support breastfeeding, not sabotage it, as the sleep leaflet was likely to do.

But I guess on the other hand, the vast majority of women are winding down breastfeeding by 3 months and would like their babies to sleep through the night as they are often going back to work, so perhaps the numbers affected by this are very small. Nobody has ever said anything negative to me about the fact that SCB is still nursing at 8 months old, but people are surprised and usually ask if it's not too tiring. (Answer: yes, I'm tired, but not because of making milk!)

It's an interesting contrast with the UK though, where despite the fact that most people are giving at least some bottles by 3 months and certainly by 6, healthcare workers are not even allowed to give advice on bottle feeding as it's seen as promotion of formula milk.

Luckily, I have enough confidence about what I'm doing that I mostly just ignore the GP's advice. I've got lots of friends to share experiences, I've joined some groups, both French and Anglophone, which provide support and there's a whole internet of information out there. I just hope other mothers who want to breastfeed for longer manage to do the same, because being different in France is never easy!