Monthly Archives: September 2007

Cross-eyed. Bears.

Any unexplained whooshing noise you happened to hear emanating from my neck of the woods around 6 p.m. on Wednesday just gone was probably the sound of my heart plummeting as my husband informed me, following Jamie’s ophthalmology appointment, that it has now been decreed that he is to go back to the daily eye patching routine.  Whoa!  Wasn’t this something that was merely being floated as a possibility for a comforting few months further down the line, with the prospect of all sorts of potential Jamie-maturation occurring in the meantime and the consequent hope that he might actually be capable of grasping the concept of this being something he needed to put up with in hopes of future benefits, rather than just a random parental-inflicted torture?  Well, apparently not – since the ophthalmologist has checked his eyes and confirmed that his lens prescription hasn’t changed and that his vision with his current glasses is as good as we’re going to get it, apparently the orthoptist concluded that there wasn’t any further point waiting to see how things went and that we should just restart the patching now.  While I was still attempting not to reel too much from this (patches?  Again?  Back to those struggles?  On top of having a new baby to deal with in a couple of months?), I heard Barry mentioning to his parents on the phone that we were also supposed to go back to the initial regime of two hours patching per day rather than the one hour to which we had grown accustomed, an additional blow of which I had been previously unaware.  I spent quite a lot of that evening grimly repeating to myself that Worse Things Happen.  Or trying not to think too much about it at all.

Fortunately, patching technology seems to have moved on somewhat in the months that we’ve spent out of the game.  Instead of having to stick disposable adhesive patches directly over the eye, we now have the option of a sort of cloth sleeve which we can slide over one lens of his glasses.  We tried this out last night, and, while I really do not want to jump the gun/tempt Fate/count chickens, I will very cautiously say that he does seem rather less bothered by this one.  He was still removing it unceremoniously and dumping the whole works, glasses and all, on the floor at regular intervals, but he did seem resigned to me promptly plonking it back on his face again each time with a reminder that glasses stay on, Jamie.  It just didn’t seem to cause him the same level of distress as having a patch stuck directly on his skin.  And, of course, since it’s a reusable patch, it’s a lot easier to put back on straight away than a disposable would be.  (I used to put several spare patches in my pocket at the beginning of each patching hour so that they would be handy for rapid replacement when the inevitable need arose. I would then forget about the unused ones until later on in the evening when I would empty my pockets of small change and the like prior to going to bed, find a crumpled patch or two still there, and be faced with the decision over whether they had crumpled to the point where it wasn’t really worth trying to get them to stick on Jamie’s face and therefore might as well be thrown away or whether we should try to salvage them.  I think I still have a few somewhere in the clutter on top of my chest of drawers.)  So, I am feeling very cautiously optimistic about the situation right now.

Meanwhile, the latest dispatch from nursery life is that apparently Jamie had a number 2 on his cup so he had to take two teddy bears, but Courtney had a number 5 on his cup so he (Jamie is still hazy on both pronouns and gender) had to take five teddy bears.  One cannot really dispute such logic.  I hope to find out more of the finer details about whatever this game is when he goes back for next week’s session, although, of course, there is always the possibility that Tinky Winky may choose to inform us on the subject in the meantime.


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Filed under Adventures in Squint Correction, Here Be Offspring

Keeping an eye

A quickie (which I meant to post on Tuesday, but didn’t get around to it): Jamie had his latest appointment with the orthoptist on Tuesday morning.  All is going reasonably well, but she did notice that his vision was not quite as good in the squinting eye.  My heart sank when I heard this – back to patches? – but it seems that this is just something that we need to keep an eye on for now, rather than anything we need to do anything about right now. 

The first step is to make sure his lens prescription is up to date and hence that he can see things optimally with that eye when wearing his glasses – obviously, if this is the case, he’s more likely to use it.  He was supposed to have had an appointment with the ophthalmologist by now, but since this doesn’t seem to have been arranged Pat rang up and sorted one out for next week.  Following that, we can get him some new glasses (not a minute too soon – his are so scratched and bashed that we’re planning to get him a new pair even if it turns out his prescription hasn’t changed one iota), and then see how he does with those.  Pat has arranged to review him again herself on November 13th, which we felt gave us enough time before my late November due date that I was unlikely to need to hurry straight from the clinic to the labour ward, and we’ll see what we see then (or, more accurately, I suppose we’ll see what he sees then).  I was a little concerned in case this would end up with us starting a repatching regime at just the time that we were all having to adjust to a new baby, which didn’t sound easy from any point of view at all, but Pat assured me that we would still have leeway on the matter if need be.

I recognise this makes for a rather dull post, so I will pad it out with a quick Jamie anecdote.  My grandmother has just sent him a pack of cards.  (It seemed like rather an odd present to me, but presents are presents and I do not wish to seem ungrateful; and it does have numbers on, which is always a good feature for a Jamie present to have.)  Showing him the numbers, I realised I’d have to explain the lack of a 1 to him.  Jamie was quite taken by this explanation, and for the rest of the morning kept rather randomly repeating, on and off, with the great deliberation and emphasis that he brings to subjects of such seriousness, "Ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… but there isn’t a number one!  Instead of a number one, there’s a letter A!"  I should have been more willing to trust my grandmother’s intuition – it might not be a very conventional present for a two-year-old, but he seems absolutely intrigued by it.

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Filed under Adventures in Squint Correction, Here Be Offspring

Tag! I’m It

Blimey – Anna has just tagged me for a meme.  Which makes me feel really guilty, since I totally owe her a reply to her last comment but, what with being terminally atrocious at ever getting round to commenting on comments (as previously commented), haven’t done so.  Um.  Sorry.

Anyway, I am meant to start this one by posting the rules, thusly:

1) Post these rules before you give your facts.

2) List 8 random facts about yourself

3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 6 people and list their names, linking to them

4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

OK.  So now I need to come up with eight not-utterly-boring facts about myself that I don’t mind posting on this blog but haven’t posted here already.  Um…

1. I always wear socks which match my top.  ‘Match’ normally refers to colour but can sometimes be theme; for example, I could wear elephant socks with an elephant T-shirt.  But there has to be some kind of connection.  On work days, when I change into casual clothes when I get home, I pick out a work top and a T-shirt in similar colours so that I don’t have to change socks.  I have a drawer devoted to T-shirts in the same colour ranges as my work tops, to make this easier.

2. Continuing on the sartorial theme, I collect T-shirts and novelty socks.  I won’t wear socks that don’t have some kind of picture or design on them (good grief, life is just too short to waste it wearing boring socks) and when I’m not at work I always wear some kind of decorated/novelty T-shirt.  I don’t collect them as assiduously as I used to – I used to be downright undiscriminating and ended up with literally hundreds of T-shirts, spilling out of all available cupboard and drawer space, but then I went all Flylady and cleared out loads of the ones that weren’t really all that good – but I’ve still got a lot.  My ambition is to collect a T-shirt for each US state.

3. I’m damn good at proofreading.  Not as good as I used to be, as I get older and my brain atrophies, but still good.  It’s weird, because I am a totally non-visual person in other ways, but spelling and punctuation errors leap off the page at me.  (I should totally not confess to that, because I’ll only go and make a ridiculously glaring mistake on this blog straight away and look like an arrogant idiot.)  It took me years, when I was a child, to realise that this was a talent and not something everyone could do – in fact, I remember feeling quite left out because I was about the only person in my class who never had any words to write in the spelling book we were meant to use for writing out words we found difficult to spell (I was so pleased when I stumbled briefly on the correct arrangement of c’s and s’s in ‘necessary’ and could legitimately put that one down).  It has been a spectacularly useful talent to have, but does mean that the spell-check function on word processors drives me mad.  (Now that Typepad have started an automatic one, can anyone tell me how to switch it the hell off?  And, by the way, I’ve just discovered, in typing that last sentence, that Typepad’s spell-checker doesn’t contain the word ‘Typepad’ and will flag it up as a mis-spelling.  Which does strike me as ironically bad planning on the part of whomever set the spell-check up.)

4. I have dual citizenship.  I realise I’m shamelessly borrowing that idea for a Random Fact from one of the other people Anna tagged, but what can I say?  It’s true, and I don’t have that many interesting facts available in my life to draw on.  In my case, the two citizenships are British and US.  I was born in the US, and, after living here all my life since shortly before my third birthday, I got British citizenship as well when I was seventeen.

5. I once had a (very) brief job as a problem page editor for an erotic women’s magazine.  The reason it was brief was not because of any apparent dissatisfaction with my work, but because the magazine itself was so brief – it didn’t actually get beyond the pilot issue before folding.  Looking back, this isn’t terribly surprising, given the general impression of lack of organisation that seemed to permeate my dealings with them – I never actually spoke to or was contacted by the editor, and was offered the job because one of my friends knew the editor and recommended me.  This recommendation was made on the strength of me leaving one of my medical journals lying around when the friend was visiting, open to a page with a diagram of some sort of infertility treatment.  She decided that anyone who read this sort of thing had to be exactly the right sort of person to write the problem page for an erotica magazine.  What more could anyone ask for?  And, if anyone was so unreasonable as to expect me to possess any more qualifications for the job, then there were also the useful details of me being a qualified doctor who could write well.  Anyway, she mentioned my name to the would-be editor who said, yes, she’d be happy to employ me in that capacity, and passed the job offer back to me, and I accepted it.  I never actually got as far as being offered a single problem to solve (thank goodness for that – I don’t have the foggiest idea what I’d have said), but I did write a couple of pieces on safe sex and, um, other stuff, which I submitted and which were accepted.  Whether they actually made it into the one and only issue ever published, I have no idea, as I never got a copy.  But, for a short while, I was technically entitled to call myself a problem page editor for an erotic magazine, and I certainly did.  Well, I needed something to put on my appraisal to liven it up.

6.  I have one tattoo.  It’s of the comedy/tragedy masks used as a symbol of drama, and it’s on my upper right abdominal wall, just on the lower border of my ribcage.  I chose this site because I knew that concerns over covering it up would never restrict my choice of clothes (not any choice of clothes I’d ever make, anyway), but that I’d have the option of showing it off without being arrested for indecent exposure whenever I did choose to do so.  I do have to say that the drawback to this site was that it was bloody painful to have done, as it was so close to the bone.  But I loved it once it was done.  I had it done seven years ago and think it’s cool.  That’s going to be my one and only tattoo, however – I don’t want to gild the lily.

7. I can’t see the pictures in those three-dimensional picture things.  No matter how hard I try.  So I think I’m just one of those people who won’t ever be able to see them.

8. In my final-year yearbook poll at medical school, I got voted third for the ‘Most Likely To Be Sectioned’ award, and winner of the ‘Worst Dress Sense’ award.  I do have to point out that this was in the days when I had not yet instituted no. 1 on this list.  Just think what could have been, had I been someone who took care always to wear socks that matched my top back in the days when the vote was taking place.  Perhaps I could even have been winner of the ‘Most Likely To Be Sectioned’ award.

OK.  Now I have to find six people to pass the meme on to, in a manner disturbingly reminiscent of chain letters.  Chain blogging?

I’d really like to tag Magpie, but she’s still retired from blogging.  So is From The Start, though I hope she starts again now that she’s getting closer to her due date and should have plenty to blog about by now (hey, are you reading this?)  So I’m going to tag Emms, Missy, Griff, Tracicle, Trash, and Krissy.  Now I have to think of stuff to write in all their comments…

Anyway, before I wrap this up, a quick reply to Anna’s previous comment, since I haven’t replied to it yet: Yes, the ultrasonographer thought it was a girl, but she did tell us that scans are only 95% accurate for checking gender, so we have both names ready.  Glad you like them – let me know if you want a post about how we picked them (I was going to post about that, but decided it would be a pretty boring subject to anyone who wasn’t me and left it).  And the book you suggested is one I did check out, but it seemed to be mostly about Mummy being pregnant whereas what I’m after is books that talk about what Jamie can expect after the baby’s born.  (By the way, today he actually asked – for the first time – to say hello to the baby.  So he did.  Incredibly sweet.)


Filed under I think this line's mostly filler


Some while back, as people may or may not remember, I wrote a blistering diatribe against the site’s decision to ban the advertising of bottles on their site under the terms of the WHO code on formula advertising.  I stand by every word of what I wrote; I still think this was an stupid, jobsworth, counter-productive application of a good set of guidelines.  But, yes, I do also think that the WHO code is a good set of guidelines.  I do think it’s a good idea to ban professional formula companies from placing media adverts.

This, apparently, makes me an evil moronic formula Nazi with a one-size-fits-all approach who has lost sight of child and parent welfare.


(Damn.  That’s rather less effective than it was when I could link.  That came from a post over at Emily’s Doing It All Again, but her site has been first abandoned and then hacked, so I need to take out all links to it.)

This is a dilemma I struggle with.  I don’t mean the dilemma of being that person, because I don’t believe I am, as I very much hope would be blindingly obvious to anyone who reads this blog on any sort of regular basis; I mean the dilemma of how to avoid coming across that way.  How do I walk that thin line between making sure that mothers actually do have the information and help and support they need and deserve in order to make choices over feeding, and not making them feel pressured?  If I ask a pregnant woman about whether she’s planning on breastfeeding, will that be the last straw on top of everyone else nagging her about the subject?  If I don’t ask her, is she going to have any other source for learning the things I really want her to know – that support is available if you know where to look, that it’s well worth trying breastfeeding for the first few weeks if at all possible because initial problems tend to improve with perseverance and the right advice, that just because she or her mother or grandmother had an awful time breastfeeding in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same this time around, that just because the baby wants to nurse non-stop at first doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have enough milk or won’t be able to feed or that it’s necessarily always going to be that way, that if she’s having pain then someone with the right know-how could almost certainly sort that problem out?  How do I strike the best balance, in the context of a society where the personal decision over how to feed a baby has somehow become heavily politicised, fraught with emotion and defensiveness, and the very symbol, it seems, of what constitutes Good Motherhood?

Answers on a postcard.  (I mean, that, actually – not the postcard bit, obviously, but I’d seriously like people’s views on how best I can present the subject of breastfeeding as a doctor.)  However, it is fair to say that all of that is a side rant.  It isn’t really all that relevant to the topic I first brought up here; that of whether it’s unreasonable and wrong of me to hold an anti-formula-advertising stance.

So why am I against formula advertising?  To correct a couple of misapprehensions expressed in Emily’s post: it’s not because I believe that mothers are so collectively ignorant of the world about them that if they don’t see formula adverts on the telly they won’t realise the stuff exists.  (And if I did believe for a minute that this would be the case, I’d be all in favour of formula advertising; as Emily pointed out, it would be downright dangerous for mothers who don’t breastfeed not to know about the best possible alternative.)  Nor is it because I think mothers are gullible brainwashed simpletons who will take one look at a picture of a formula tin on the TV and cry "Of course!  Forget the breast – that’s what I should be giving my baby!"

It’s because advertising works on a much more subtle level than that.  Just because we don’t consciously think it’s having an effect on us doesn’t mean that it isn’t.  Advertising helps create and contribute to particular cultures, particular images, particular ways of seeing the world.  It encourages us to draw on one particular set of mental images rather than another when we form our thoughts. 

We may know perfectly well on one level that messages about how we need to buy this or that are a load of baloney.  Can we conclude from that that the bombardment with those messages – many of which are a lot more subtle and more delicately judged than "Buy this now!" – has no effect at all on anyone’s actions?  Is it possible that the reason big companies spend millions on these campaigns is because they actually do have at least something of an effect?

A few decades back, feminist groups were campaigning against the then-current practice of advertising cars by showing photos of attractive and scantily clad women draped over them.  Was that really the most important issue facing women at that time?  No (and nor have I ever heard of anyone trying to claim it was).  Was anyone going to make a direct and conscious mental leap from seeing such a picture to believing that it was quite all right for women to have lower pay scales than men or to have their bottoms pinched wherever they went?  No (ditto).  Did that mean that these adverts were having no effect at all on the way anyone saw women?  I believe that those adverts helped to contribute, just that bit, to a culture in which there was a tendency to think of women as brainless bimbos whose function in life was to look decorative and who weren’t really to be taken that seriously.  And the fact that I believe this doesn’t mean that I believe that these types of adverts were the only issue facing women at that time.  Or that they were the most important.  Or that they were even particularly near the top of the priority list.  It means that I think that those adverts probably had some overall effect on people’s attitudes, and that I’m glad that they were changed.

I don’t think that you have to be an utter simpleton who’s instantly brainwashed to be affected by advertising.  I think you just have to be an ordinary human being, no more or less gullible than the rest; because, to some degree, advertising affects almost all of us.

What effect does formula advertising have on our images of how babies are fed?  It’s one of many things contributing to our images of bottles as the normal way to feed babies.  Emily says that formula feeding is marginalised, but I’m not sure that’s true; there is no doubt that it’s frowned upon, but I don’t think that disapproval is necessarily the same as marginalisation.  According to the statistics Emily quoted from the article, 24% of women never try breastfeeding, more than 50% are fully formula-feeding by the time their babies are six weeks old, and 75% are fully formula-feeding by six months.  Which means that, among mothers of babies less than a year old at any one time, breastfeeding mothers are going to be quite noticeably in the minority.  (And that’s even before we get to society’s marked disapproval of mothers who breastfeed into toddlerhood or beyond.)  This is made even more noticeable by the fact that public breastfeeding is still so frowned upon – it’s only within the past year that it’s even been made illegal to stop a woman from breastfeeding in public, and newspaper stories of women being asked to leave venues for breastfeeding invariably seem to be followed up with flurries of comments in support of the decision.  All of which means that nearly all the babies we see being fed are being fed from bottles.  It’s one of the strongest mental images we associate with babies. 

(Some months back, I tried to find a ‘Congratulations’ card for a new mum.  Knowing that she also was strongly pro-breastfeeding, I deliberately looked for cards without pictures of bottles on them.  They exist, all right – it wasn’t even desperately difficult to find one.  But it was quite noticeable how it limited my choice.)

Emily pointed out that if 76% of new mothers start out breastfeeding, then that means that more than three quarters of new mothers have got the message that breastmilk is the best option.  There’s another side to that statistic, of course – almost one in four new mums, whether or not they realise breastmilk is better, don’t even give it a try.  Why?  For many and complex reasons, of course.  A few women have medical reasons why breastfeeding really isn’t best in their case.  Others have been advised by medical professionals that breastfeeding wouldn’t be best in their case (which, unfortunately, is not necessarily the same thing as the statement I made in my last sentence).  Many women just had such awful experiences with breastfeeding a previous baby that they can’t face trying again (Emily was almost in this group), or have an exaggerated mental picture of how difficult it’s likely to be, or don’t want to try something that seems to them to be likely to be too much of a challenge on top of the inevitable other challenges thrown up by new motherhood.  And… I would say, anecdotally, that one further reason on top of all that is that formula-feeding is so much the norm that quite a few new mothers don’t even picture themselves breastfeeding.  They take it for granted that they’re going to formula-feed because that’s what mothers do.  All the mothers they know or can picture themselves being like, anyway.  Breastfeeding seems like something strange and exotic, something done only by a different and exclusive breed of women.

So what effect does it have if, to the pervasive images of bottle-feeding that already permeate our society, are added further images carefully designed for maximum impact and persuasiveness by professional advertising teams deliberately setting out to promote those images?

Maybe none, for all we know.  It is entirely possible that we’ve reached saturation point as far as normalisation of formula goes, and that an advertising campaign just wouldn’t have any further effect over and above the images that already surround us.  But we don’t know, and can’t assume, that this is the case.  It could well be that formula advertising does exactly what the formula companies are willing to spend large amounts of money to try to get it to do; reinforces the formula-as-norm message and, thus, add that extra bit of influence to the decisions women make on the subject.

And let’s also not discount the indirect effect.  We live in a society where even women who try to breastfeed are often destined to fail because simple, straightforward sources of support and help aren’t made available.  Medical professionals are often taught little or nothing about breastfeeding and how to support it.  Many hospitals with maternity wards or baby units don’t have breastfeeding counsellors available.  You mentioned tongue tie in your post, Emily?  Tongue tie should never have to prevent any baby from breastfeeding – it’s curable with a simple snip that takes only basic training to provide.  But there are large areas of the UK where nobody gets that training and where mothers with tongue-tied babies have the choice between setting off on a long road trip with a newborn to reach someone who can solve the problem or being unable to breastfeed.  (Yes, I’m bitter.  You noticed?)  And, of course, it’s only very recently that the law has been changed to specify that women can legally nurse in public.  So why in the hell has it been this way for so long, in spite of so much increasing evidence as to the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers?  Given the number of people out there who could have been putting these measures into place and who haven’t done so, it really does seem that that, to a lot of people, it just isn’t seen as terribly important to support breastfeeding or to work actively to ensure that women have every possible chance to make it work.  So… how might those priorities have been reinforced by a culture in which formula was not only the norm but actively promoted?  Again, I have to wonder how formula advertising may have contributed to these attitudes on the part of policy-makers, health care professionals and those who educate them, and all the other people who’ve let the ball slip so badly and for so long on this one.

I know all of this is speculation.  I know I’ve just stated, a couple of paragraphs back, that I don’t know that formula advertising does any harm or that legalising it would make any difference to the culture we already have.  I do know that I can’t see a good reason to take the chance.  I want to promote a society where breastfeeding is what’s seen as the normal thing to do with babies.  Not the gold standard that mothers have to torture themselves with guilt over not reaching, not a huge big deal, but just something that, if you’ve never thought about it a lot either way, you automatically take it for granted you’re going to try because that’s what everybody else does.  I’d like it to be seen in the same way as buying a cot or a pushchair for your baby.  Mothers-to-be don’t plan to buy pushchairs because anyone has hassled them over the decision or laid a huge guilt trip on them over the thought of not buying one; they buy pushchairs because it’s generally taken for granted that that’s the way things are done.  That’s the view I’d like people to have of breastfeeding.  And formula advertising seems to me to be one way of taking a step away from that society.  So why not ban it?

Emily gives two possible reasons why not.  Firstly, she expresses concern over mothers who do formula-feed not knowing how to do so safely.  I’m a bit surprised that this was even raised as an issue; formula tins (unlike women’s breasts) do have fairly detailed instructions on the back.  When Jamie needed formula to supplement what I was pumping for him at work, Barry bought a tin of the stuff, mixed a jug of it according to the instructions, and gave Jamie a bottle when he was hungry.  I wasn’t there, obviously, but I don’t recall him mentioning that he found it to be any sort of problem or big deal to figure out.  The baby books I’ve encountered have generally had a section on preparing and feeding formula (and this includes at least one well-known book on breastfeeding that I’ve read).  Come to think of it, I found it rather easier to find information on formula-feeding than to find accurate information on pumping and milk storage (that same breastfeeding book gave me completely the wrong information on how long I could store pumped milk; if I hadn’t had several other sources of information available, I’d have ended up wasting quite a bit of milk that was actually perfectly OK to use).

So, as I say, I’m not convinced that that one is really such a big issue.  But, if it is, then it’s not one that’s going to be solved by legalising formula advertising.  Adverts are thirty-second soundbites on why you should do something, not detailed lectures on how you should do it.  I can’t see what useful information Emily thinks we’d get from them.  This issue seems to me to be a completely different one; that of how well healthcare professionals provide information and support about formula feeding where needed.  I entirely agree that this is something that health visitors and midwives should be able to do, but that has nothing to do with the issue of whether formula advertising should be legal.

The other issue that Emily raises is that of the guilt laid on women who don’t breastfeed, the ways in which they’re made to feel second best (or worse) as mothers.  And that is a big problem.  A huge one.  A problem I hate, hate, hate.  But is legalised formula advertising really something that we need in order to be able to solve it?

I don’t know that I can speak with authority on this one, because I did manage to continue breastfeeding, and so I doubt if I’m the best person to be commenting on how it feels not to be able to.  I know that I would have been devastated had that been the case, and that, yes, I would have felt guilty.  But would formula adverts really have made me feel better?  As far as I can picture my reaction to a situation that I didn’t have to live through – no, they wouldn’t.  They might well have made me feel worse, since I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with anything that brought the whole issue of formula closer to the forefront of my mind than it already would have been.  But I can’t imagine that softly-lit pictures of formula tins or bottle-feeding babies, or glibly reassuring voice-overs about the quality of formula brand X from people paid to say that stuff, would have somehow made my hurt and guilt about the situation fade.  Maybe I’m kidding myself, or just unusual; maybe people who really have been there feel differently.  I don’t know.

Nor do I know what the solution to the problem is.  Just because I don’t think formula advertising provides a route to a world in which we can all stop judging mothers, including ourselves, doesn’t mean that I know what might provide that route.  I wish I could wind this one up as simply as I wound up the last objection, with a nice neat paragraph about how of course formula advertising isn’t the answer because, as should be self-evident, X is.  I can’t.

But one thing I do believe is that if we want to live in a less judgemental world, then one big step towards it – and I merely throw this out here as a suggestion – might possibly be for us all to be ready to be a bit less bloody judgemental.  And that applies to more issues than the feeding decisions we make for our babies.  It also applies – and here’s the really difficult bit – to people who have the temerity to hold different viewpoints to ourselves. 

The kind of epithets Emily was directing towards people who held anti-advertising viewpoints were not the kind of thing that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling of moving one step closer to that non-judgemental Utopia that we all think we want to see.  Yes, I’m against formula advertising.  Guess what?  Holding that view did not require me to sign a binding contract stating that this would be my only contribution to the complex world of breastfeeding promotion or that I would nag, criticise and judge women who formula-feed while offering them no practical help.  I don’t judge a woman as a mother or a person based solely on the decisions she made about a single and relatively unimportant aspect of parenting.  Similarly, I would appreciate it if people wouldn’t judge me as a person based solely on the decisions I make about a single contentious issue.


Filed under Milky milky


"What are we doing today, little one?" I asked Jamie as he fitted the last of the shapes into his shape sorter.  "Can you remember?"

Jamie screwed up his face in concentration.  "Mummy… is… um… showing…" he hesitated.  "Little baby!" he finished with satisfaction as it came to him.

"That’s right!" (Well… close enough, anyway.)  "I’m going to go to the birthing centre so that the midwife can listen to the little baby in my tummy, and check it’s OK."

"Birthing centre."

"Yes.  And… do you remember where we’re going after that?"

More concentration.  "It’s… um… um…"  I got ready to step into the breach, as this level of hesitation normally translates into a "don’t know" – not a phrase Jamie has mastered, as he is unflagging in his optimism that if he can just hang on long enough the word he seeks will magically come to him.  Thus, we get quite a few sentences that stall half-way through, never to be resumed (as well as some others that are continued in unarguably non-specific ways: "It’s a somesing!" "I sink it’s a sing that is like… um…")  But on this occasion, waiting paid off; Jamie’s face lit up.  "Nursery!" he announced.

Yes, indeed.  Jamie has now reached the exalted age of almost-three, and that means he’s eligible for a place at our local nursery school.  I’d booked him in for one session a week, and that was the morning of his first one.  For the previous week, I had been taking every opportunity to work in comments on the many toys and books that would be available to him there, as well as clarifying such issues as the fact that Daddy and Mummy would leave him there with the teachers but return to pick him up in the fullness of time, and the requirement for sitting on the floor with the other children when it came time for the teacher to read a story (something I suspected would be more likely to present a difficulty than any separation anxiety).

I had, a little sadly, resigned myself to missing the experience of dropping him off and collecting him on his first day; as much as I liked the idea of being there for it, taking a half-day off purely for that reason seemed excessive.  Fortunately, it turned out that by sheer luck superbly impeccable forward planning I had conceived my second child at precisely the right time for one of my infrequent routine antenatal appointments to fall due that same week; I asked for one on that morning, and got it.  There were, of course, limits to how far I could stretch that in terms of time off work, but I could quite feasibly fit in the drop-off before having to head back to work and thus be there for half the experience, at least.

So, I got him into his lovely new nursery T-shirt and filled his special nursery cup (with a button you can pop to make the lid spring up, and ‘Jamie’ in fat yellow letters on the side against a background of colourful squiggles and stars) with diluted apple juice, and we headed off to our first stop of the day.  I’d planned to use our visit to the birthing centre as an opportunity to talk to Jamie about the fact that this was where Mummy would be staying overnight after the baby was born, but I’m not sure how much of this he took in – he was far more interested in the Wordsearch book he’d found in the pile of magazines.  Letters!  And a number at the top of each puzzle!  And a number on the front of the book to say it was Book 2!

"Book Three!" he sang out.  (He’s a huge fan of the whole concept of counting.  Give him a number, any number, and he’ll start counting either forwards or backwards from there.  Or, alternatively, tell you which Mr Men book corresponds to that number.)

"Well, no.  This is Book Two."

"Book One!  Book Zero!"

The appointment itself, when I was called through, was the standard-issue blood-pressure-urine-dip-check-heartbeat routine, with a minor counterpoint of Jamieness in the background.

"So… how many weeks are you now?"

"Twenty-eight, I think."

"Number 28 Mr C’yumsy!"

"So, how are you feeling?"

"Absolutely fine, thanks."

"Mummy got a S’yinky!"

(Mummy would, while we’re on the subject, totally and unequivocally recommend the Slinky as a keep-children-quiet-in-boring-situations toy.  Preferably one of the plastic ones, as I suspect the metal ones would not be great for teeth if chewed.  I bought this one for £1.25 in a souvenir shop while staying with the in-laws over the Bank Holiday on the basis that it might keep Jamie occupied for at least a smidgen of the long car journey home, and it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, keeping him fascinated for all the time not accounted for by "Baked potatoes!"  I’d recommend keeping the box it came in, as well – putting it back in the box and taking it out again turns out to be a minor but important part of the distraction.  I had passed it to Jamie to distract him from any thoughts of wrecking the joint during my appointment, and it was once again working well.)

"Have you brought a urine sample?"

"Yes, I’ve got it here."

"Nursery!  Nursery!  Nursery!  Nursery!"  (Hmmm.  You think he might have been looking forward to the nursery session somewhat?)

Despite his obvious impatience to move on to the good part of the day, he was actually very well-behaved during the appointment.  He busied himself commenting on life in general as above, swinging the Slinky, and bouncing round the room, and responded quite well to being pulled away from exploring the bins or jumping on the scale.  He was very interested indeed in the process of blood pressure checking and blood-taking (I’d forgotten that I was due for a blood count check at that session), leaning against me and demanding "What’s dat!" (and joggling my arm somewhat, which did not make it easier for the midwife taking the blood).

The midwife and I both agreed that everything appeared to be going fine, and I packed the S’yinky back into the box, and was informed indignantly that Jamie wanta do (by the way, did you know that it matters which way up a Slinky is put back in its box?  No, neither did I, but apparently it does – "Wrong way up!" Jamie informed me, extracting the Slinky and righting matters), and we got everything together and made it to nursery to discover that in spite of reading the bumf half a dozen times I had somehow managed to completely misread 9.00 a.m. as 9.30 a.m. and thus bring him in half an hour late.  Fortunately, Jamie is young enough to be completely oblivious to such maternal howlers.  I have two years to get my act together before he starts big school.

Jamie headed straight in to check out all the toys, pleased that we’d finally gotten to the point of the day, while Barry and I had a quick chat with Zoe, Jamie’s key worker.  I explained his predilection for reciting large chunks of Mr Men books while engaged in doing other things (I thought it might be useful to her to know the likely source on those occasions when he’s muttering something to himself that appears to bear no relation whatsoever to what’s actually going on).  She gave us a two-page form to fill in on the subject of Jamie’s likes, anxieties, family situation, and other pertinent information, and an invitation to a "Learning to Learn" evening in two weeks’ time where we apparently get to find out a bit more about how the nursery are doing things (or rather, I do, having called dibs on attending the evening while Barry gets lumbered with the babysitting again – hey, he gets to do all the dropping off/picking up and get any associated regular low-down from Jamie’s teachers, so I figure it’s only fair if I get some of the nursery-related fun).  Another staff member managed to distract Jamie from playing for just long enough to identify the sticker with his name on to stick on a drawer for his stuff, and Barry got him to pick out another sticker with his name on to stick on the flower on the wall to show his belated presence here – a system they have at this nursery to let the children register themselves, with help from a parent, as they come in.  Jamie had by now found the paper and felt-tips, the toy oven, and a little toy cup that he could practice drinking out of, and was going great guns.

On the off-chance of him actually stopping playing long enough to notice at any point that we were gone or to mind about it, I crouched down beside him to let him know that the scheduled parental departure was now about to happen and that, as previously stated, Daddy would be back at lunchtime to pick him up.  It is possible that he may have devoted a nanosecond’s worth of time to taking in information about such irrelevant-to-the-playing-situation parental vagaries, although he gave no outward sign of it.  And then Barry and I headed off, looking proudly back at our wonderful big little boy so happily and confidently exploring this new stage in his life.


As you can imagine, I was longing to hear every detail of Jamie’s nursery experience.  Unfortunately, I knew this wasn’t likely to be an option; Jamie doesn’t really do narrative.  I did try (and I realise that when I type all this out it does sound a bit shine-a-bright-light-in-your-face, but I promise I was gentle and tactful about it):

"What did you do at nursery today, little one?"

(No answer)

"What toys did you play with at nursery?"

(Indecipherable mutter)

"Did you have a story?"


"Did you get to play on the slide?"


"Did you show Mummy your painting, little one?" Barry asked, coming in at this point.

He hadn’t, of course.  The painting, which was propped up on his storage unit at the side of the room, was an impressive study in blues, pinks, and purples (My Son’s First Painting!  Hooray!).  I inquired eagerly as to whether the staff had made any comment about Jamie’s day when Barry picked him up, but it appears not – just the painting in his folder.  So I resigned myself to never getting to know anything more about the subject.  But, rather to my surprise, when I talked to Jamie again about it that night as I put him to bed he was rather more forthcoming.

"So, today you went to… nursery!  What did you do there?"

"Washed your hands and had a snack."  (He still hasn’t got the hang of pronouns – he uses ‘you’ to mean ‘me’ and vice versa.)

"What did you have for your snack?"

Concentration.  "Sticks an’… apple an’ ‘nana."  Which did indeed correspond reasonably well to what I remembered of the menu from the day I took Jamie along to check the place out (‘sticks’ being breadsticks).

"And what else did you do?"

"Painting.  And Play-doh."

"Really?!  What did you do with the Play-doh?"

"Made a s’eep.  An’ a pig."

I was elated.  This has got to be more information than Jamie’s ever given us about any previous experiences.  The Big Snowball didn’t get this level of detailed recounting.

On top of that, we have one further detail from an unexpected source.  Apparently, when Jamie got in from nursery, he declared that Tinky Winky and Po wanted to look at the picture, and arranged them in front of it accordingly.  Then he squatted down and thrust his face between theirs for a few seconds, looking at it himself.  When he straightened up, he declared to Barry "Tinky Winky says maybe you painted dat with your hands."

Barry also thinks maybe he painted dat with his hands, based on the state of his hands when Barry picked him up; but it’s good to have it confirmed by such an august source.  Maybe I’ll hear a bit more about Jamie’s adventures when I go to this Parents’ Evening in two weeks.  In the meantime, I look forward to any further dispatches that Jamie or Tinky Winky might choose to share with us.


Filed under Great expectations, Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up