Saturday, 31 October 2009

Help the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition

Breastfeeding symbol


Just got an appeal from the NCT to fill a survey before Friday, 6 November. 

I will do the survey and I invite you reader to do it, too!

Here's some info:
'The Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition, of which the NCT is a member, is developing a national scheme to support mothers to exercise their right to breastfeed when out and about. We are talking to the Department of Health about the scheme and they may support its roll-out which would help towards the delivery of Objective 5 of the Breastfeeding Manifesto: Develop policy and practice to support breastfeeding in public places. Please click to fill in a quick and easy survey. The scheme will be simple and effective and will be delivered using a number of engaging resources and signage in a whole range of venues. 

The most powerful resource of the scheme is YOU and people just like you across the country - together we'll make sure that many 1,000s of venues sign up to the scheme. The scheme will be in keeping with the Breastfeeding Manifesto's commitment to the World Health Organisation Code of Marketing of breast milk substitutes and subsequent resolutions.

Please spare five minutes to give us your views and forward this survey on to all your friends, family and colleagues who might like to get involved.'

Thursday, 22 October 2009

From the mouth of my own babe

After posting about serious subjects and illness, I am injecting some light relief into my blog with two photos of my gorgeous toddler - now 2 and a half years old - and a report on her antics.

Michela developed her speech early on, so baby cries were soon replaced by grunting and peculiar noises that took the guesswork out of the equation. A crying baby can mean many things: the baby is hungry, he/she is feeling ill, he/she needs a nappy change, he/she is bored and wants some fun with his/her mum, he/she is feeling uncomfortable (usually when the baby is too hot and would love to be able to wrench off that cute bear hat you stuck on his/her head or to wriggle his/her toes out of the novelty socks).

After the expressive sounds, came the words, dada at six months and mama at 8 months.

At one year old she was a chatterbox, she couldn't walk but how she talked! This is when we started watching TV with subtitles on. She learned to walk between 14 and 15 months, which is quite late compared to other toddlers, but a few months later, she was bellowing: "Come here, dada", in the fashion of an army general rallying her troops. By two years old she could count up to 10 and sing an amazing repertoire of rhymes.

Recently, she has learnt to count up to 20 and is very good at doing simple maths. The potty training had to be postponed as she argues against it with a prissy 'I don't think so' when I invite her to plonk her naked botty on the potty.

She has also learned the trick of uttering an exclamation to gain time so she can dazzle us with a witty reply. Her ehm, sounds suspiciously like footballer Steve Gerrard's, though.

Today I suggested we went upstairs to wake up Daddy (he was having a lie in, lucky him) and she said: 'Let's wake up the white haired person.' Which is hilarious since Michael is a bit sensitive about his grey hair. He keeps telling Michela his hair is blond, but she is not fooled.

And I conclude my gushing with Michela's recent report to her Daddy: 'I had a nice bubu with milk in it'. She called my breast bubu when she was less than a year old and it has stuck.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Would you breastfeed in public?

The 2010 Breastfeeding Calendar in aid of Rugby Breastfeeding Cafe, which was called 'provocative' and 'daring' by the Telegraph, is available to buy!

The A3 Calendar costs £10 and covers 17 months. Click here to purchase via Paypal. There is a button for UK buyers and one for the Rest of the World. 

The calendar features real mothers and the stunning photography shows that mums can look wonderful when they feed their little one! I do love the picture of the mum feeding in public. She is still breastfeeding her toddler and helps at the cafe. Which is your favourite?

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Sunday, 18 October 2009

Why are people scared of the breastfeeding doll?

I came across this toy through a forum on Mumsnet. A bit of web research yielded a vitriolic article in the Daily Mail, which I find ridiculous. Aside the fact that I'm a breastfeeding helper, I find dolls that come with bottles hypocritical (in my case since my daughter always disliked bottles, no matter what was inside), so I got rid of it and encouraged my daughter to copy me. As I am still breastfeeding her and she loves aping whatever I do, she didn't find it 'disturbing'.

At the time it was released, Bebe Gloton made headlines in the US too and even across the pond, where breastmilk is on sale and is bought by adoptive parents and cancer sufferers, there were parents who said: 'Yes, I support breastfeeding, but my child is too young to know about it'.

As a positive parent I'm all for being open with my child. The other day I showed my toddler a picture of myself when pregnant and her scan and told her she was inside my belly before she was born. So I guess I made a start explaining the facts of life!

Breastfeeding dolls are not such a novelty anyway, we have the Boobie Buddy pictured below at the breastfeeding cafe, which is a hit with the toddlers. The dolly and her baby have magnets in strategic parts (mouth, hands, breasts of mummy, etc) and she's great as a demonstration tool, too.

Breast Cancer: opinions and initiatives

Following my earlier posts on Cancer, I have been browsing the net and bumped into the website of the Prime Minister's Office (, which states : 'The NHS breast cancer screening programme currently diagnoses more than 14,000 cases of breast cancer each year and saves about 1,400 lives each year, but in 2008 more than a quarter of women failed to take up the opportunity to be screened.' These are scary figures that cannot be ignored.

Breastfeeding and cancer
In the BfN volunteers' forum, a discussion has started regarding the minimisation  of breastfeeding as a factor that can decrease the risk of breast cancer on a charity's website ( I stole a look and agree that the page doesn't mention breastfeeding and when you download the PDF with the full list of factors, breastfeeding is mentioned in a dismissive way. 

Cooking for chemo
Sarah Stewart who set up  Bollocks to Breast Cancer Campaign after being diagnosed with breast cancer this year, sent me a 'tasteful' press release. Eckington Manor Cookery School in Worcestershire is running a unique cookery demonstration for women going through breast cancer treatment. The event is on the night of 23 October (7.00pm to 8.30pm) as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer treatment is long, arduous and affects every part of a sufferer's life. Most of us know that people often lose their hair during chemo, but few realise the host of additional  problems, such as issues with eating. As well as experiencing a metallic taste, the chemicals affect the immune system leaving the mouth sore or prone to infections. Patients often crave food that is either warm or well chilled or feel like nothing at all because of nausea.

Eckington's owner, Judy Gardner, says: 'Not only is nutrition critical when a person is going through chemo but also the taste, texture and temperature are vital too. I’ve supported so many friends through treatment, I know it’s a time when the right sort of food can provide great comfort. The evening is aimed at patients themselves, their friends and family and anyone keen to know more about healthy food in its very literal sense.'

Tutor chef Dean Cole will show participants how to prepare the following dishes, each designed to offer different benefits to chemo patients:

  • Mustard Prawns
  • Speedy Beef Noodles
  • Apple Fool

Also on hand will be Worcester Royal Hospital’s dietician, Ladan Hajihassani, to answer specific questions on nutrition. The price is £12.50 per person which includes the demonstration, tasters of the dishes and a recipe pack to take home. Tickets are available by calling the school on 01386 751600.

Eckington Manor is also running a raffle through to Christmas to raise money for the Worcester Breast Unit. Visit for further information, additional course details and costs. 

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Information is power for cancer patients

My guest blogger is journalist and cancer survivor Verité Reily Collins, whose site,, offers information to cancer sufferers.

Even though more people are living longer after Cancer, the disease still seems to spell doom and gloom. This is not surprising, as doctors in Britain are not compensated as much for looking after a cancer patient (6 QOFs) as for diabetes, asthma, etc (60 - 90 QOFs).

What are QOFs? This acronym stands for Quality Outcomes Frameworks, which form the basis of a GP practice's funding. So, when I became a cancer patient I soon found that either I sorted out my problems, or I was left - feeling abandoned.  

Many cancer patients just can't stand the side effects of the drugs they are told they have to take for five years after treatment, so 60% come off them - leaving themselves vulnerable to a re-occurence.

In France and other countries doctors are given adequate compensation for looking after cancer patients, hence French post-cancer survivors have a much better and longer life expectancy.

So I set up a website to give fellow British cancer patients details of the products and prescriptions French, Germans and Americans (among others)  receive. These products are sold in good chemists and stores in Britain - so if you are a cancer patient - don't ditch the drugs - visit and follow the French!

Further reading (for men) (where to go if you want a holiday after medical treatment)

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Breastfeeding and cancer

Suddenly it’s October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here. All of a sudden we are showered with pink merchandise while the media lecture us on self-breast examinations.

This is all well and good, but if you're breastfeeding, lumps are not unusual. So according to La Leche League International's Breastfeeding Answer Book, you should contact your doctor only if the lump stays constant in size or gets bigger. 

Most lumps are either glands filled with milk or inflammation (read the BfN's information about mastitis here). Some are benign tumors (fibromas) or cysts filled with milk (galactoceles). Only in rare cases they are malign growths.

If you’re undergoing an examination, it’s advisable to breastfeed or express before it, as it’s easier to spot the lump if your breast is empty. Bear in mind that the following procedures do not affect breastfeeding: X-rays, CAT scans, MRI, radiopaque or radiocontrast agent (but you might be asked to suspend breastfeeding for 24 hours but research indicates it’s not necessary), fine-needle aspiration cytologic study, mammograms (but you might be asked to wean because if you are nursing, your breast’s density might make a mammogram difficult to read).

What if you’re diagnosed with cancer? Breastfeeding can continue depending on your treatment. If radioactive testing is used, temporary weaning is necessary. You cannot breastfeed during radioactive treatment and chemoteraphy, but if the radioactive treatment is used on one breast, breastfeeding can continue on the healthy one.

If you're healthy but there is a family history of breast cancer, breastfeeding can protect you. In 2002 Cancer Research UK conducted a study that compared breastfeeding history in women who had breast cancer with women who hadn’t.

The study involved 50,000 women with breast cancer and around 100,000 women without. Researchers found that breastfeeding lowered breast cancer risk by 4.3% for every year of breastfeeding. In addition, there was a 7% reduction in risk for each child born.

4.3%  might sound low, but researchers estimate that as breast cancer is a common disease in developed countries, breastfeeding every child for an extra six months would mean about 1,000 fewer cases in Britain each year.

If you’re not breastfeeding, can’t breastfeed or you are male, click here.

Find out more
Support the cause while you shop!
Mothercare has launched a collection of pink products in support of Cancer Research UK. Click here for the full list. If you'd like to help by buying other pink products, click here.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Can swine influenza really increase breastfeeding rates?

Breastfeeding symbol

I've been volunteering as a breastfeeding helper in Rugby for over a year now and found that breastfeeders are a minority. 

This became apparent when I manned a stall at a children's centre during National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in May. I stood on my own for a long while despite having brochures, freebies and lots of breastfeeding material. I soon got bored and cruised the room to talk to mums who were attending a busy play session. Some looked at my badge and looked sheepish when they admitted they were bottlefeeding, others were keen to get information on weaning, teething and mixed feeding - hot topics at the cafe as some mums turn up with older babies or keep coming after the first months.

Chatting with the coordinator today, I found out that the number of breastfeeding mothers is going up since the advent of swine flu. Mothers who didn’t intend to breastfeed are worried about the threat and are giving breastfeeding a go. 

The topic was covered in the latest BfN’s newsletter. For those of you who cannot be bothered to read lengthy articles, here's the feature in a nutshell: ‘Breastfeeding may not prevent babies catching flu, however, in the current absence of a vaccine, best available research suggests that exclusive breastfeeding is the most important thing you can do to help reduce the risk of your baby suffering from associated complications such as pneumonia and chest infections.'

Resources: the Department of Health offers a factsheet on Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Swine Flu at
Read the NCT's comprehensive guide for mums-to-be and parents at
If you are breastfeeding and getting treated for swine flu, visit

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Michela is on Bookstart!

I have submitted an edited version of my nursery rhymes blog to Bookstart and it's up with a pretty photo of Michela. You can see the page by clicking here.

If you want to know more about the origins of rhymes, read this page.

And this is the top ten list of the Nation's Favourite Nursery Rhymes, as voted by over 2,500 people living in the UK. Drumroll, please...

1.    Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
2.    Incey Wincey Spider
3.    Round and Round the Garden
4.    Baa Baa Black Sheep
5.    The Grand Old Duke of York
6.    If You’re Happy and You Know It
7.    Humpty Dumpty
8.    This Little Piggy
9.    Ring a Ring a Roses
10.   I’m a Little Teapot

Happy Nursery Rhymes Day!
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Monday, 5 October 2009

A fun way to learn the 3 Rs

 After having worn us out, Michela lures Grandma to the reading chair

I have always been intrigued by nursery rhymes as I grew up in Italy, where there isn’t such a rich heritage in children’s poetry.

Many nursery rhymes are ancient and have lost their original meaning (for instance, some experts believe that Humpty Dumpty was a cannon used during the Civil War). So I acquired the excellent Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book by Iona and Peter Opie years before I became a parent (alongside a good collection of children’s literature). I agree with the Observer’s reviewer that this is 'the best collection of nursery rhymes ever'. It’s not a children’s book, it has a grown-up, scholarly feel to it with its woodcut illustrations.

Incidentally, nursery rhymes are the theme of this year’s National Bookstart Day. To celebrate, events have been organised on Friday 9 October nationwide, if you wish to join in, visit And Bookstart is also giving away a booklet of favourite rhymes, voted in a national poll. Check out for your free download - I will certainly get mine!

My enthusiasm for nursery rhymes has rubbed on my daughter who has an amazing repertoire at her tiny fingertips. She was a precocious talker and learnt to sing nursery rhymes early on. I used to bring her to Rhyme Time at my local SureStart centre when she was only a few weeks old!

Thanks to nursery rhymes, Michela has improved her vocabulary quickly and learnt to count up to 10 correctly at barely two years old. Nearly six months later, she is counting up to 20 correctly and beyond (hit and miss). How did she learn: through nursery rhymes containing numbers!

Good numeracy can be achieved through One two three four five, once a caught a fish alive (up to 10) and One, two, buckle my shoe (up to 20 if you know all the verses). Other great rhymes are Ten in the bed, Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed, Ten speckled frogs... And what about the 12 days of Christmas?

As she can recognise figures and do simple maths, we have two of the three Rs covered, the reading one is a work in progress as she is starting to learn the letters.

As positive parenting is all about encouraging a child to learn at his/her pace, I’m in no way pushing Michela to learn anything. In fact it's the other way round, at the end of the day, I’m pretty exhausted by all the teaching, singing and explaining she demands – and her dad agrees!

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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Relocation, relocation!

Relocation is upon us so I’m busy tying loose ends. We have not been lucky finding a house yet but in the meantime there are plenty of other things to do.

Some changes have happened already, for instance I’m not tutoring anymore as I couldn’t guarantee I would be available to teach a whole term at the local education centre, while my private pupils are finding alternatives.

After finding two great volunteers for the Rugby newsletter team, I have recently stepped down as NCT editor. My last newsletter is being distributed this week (cover pictured above). I'm still volunteering at the breastfeeding cafe, though. The journo work proceeds as usual, it's done remotely anyway.

Just over a year ago we left London and relocated to the West Midlands. We have enjoyed living here but we are lacking the cosmopolitan flavour of the Capital so we are moving down closer to London. We are now thinking of Cambridge, where the university provides the international element and there are more opportunities for tutoring and proofreading/editing work.

We considered Oxford but it's much more expensive due to the buy-to-let bubble and it's less family friendly. Besides the commute to London is better from Cambridge.

I feel like we have been scouring most of the commuterland. Since we have left London we have househunted in Bedfordshire, Warwickshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire (Huntingdon, St Neots and Cambridge) and Oxfordshire (Oxford and nearby villages). I hope we have found the right place!

My top tip: Among the reference material that I have found quite useful are two books and several websites. The books are Escape from London and Guide to Commuterland; the websites are,,,,,, among many others.