Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Google Knows the Score on Breastfeeding

As I was idly browsing for breastfeeding info on Google today, I searched for "bad breastfeeding advice". To my amusement Google supplied me with these results (click for a larger view):

Looks like Google knows the score

I'm guessing this is not the endorsement Aptamil were hoping for.

Keepin' it real Google! In fact, the folks at Google are known for their pro-breastfeeding 'tude (see here).

Friday, 23 December 2011

Good News

...for me.

At 6.10am today I gave birth to a 9lbs 1oz whopper:

(Well he feels like a whopper compared to his 7lbs 2oz sister).

Normal service will be resuming soon.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Diagram of a Breastfed Baby

A little something I put together, with wisdom from Dr Sears.

Click for a larger view.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Beware: Anti-Breastfeeding Books

Parents, particularly mothers, are a fretful sort; and book publishers are all too happy to churn out a multitude of advice books designed to direct and guide us through the minefield of parenting. Perhaps such information is welcome considering that hospitals now turf out new mothers after forty eight or even twenty four hours. Yet all such books are not created equal. Many have an agenda - sometimes hidden, sometimes explicit. During my hobby as a bookworm, I have encountered many parenting books; most have been pro-breastfeeding at best, indifferent at worst. However I have discovered a few rotten apples worthy of exposure, if only to warn mothers-to-be of their existence – lest you unwrap one of these at your baby shower. Note that I have purposely omitted Gina Ford from this list, as so much has already been written about her unsavoury breastfeeding views.

We begin this list with a fairly subtle offender, so subtle that I am only going to focus on three points.

Little is said about breastfeeding in this book, which is effectively a manual about child psychology. The nutritional benefits of breastfeeding are mentioned yet the act of nursing is cloaked in heavy smog of inconvenience. The author Oliver James maintains that, “While breastfeeding you can’t take aspirin for headaches, you cannot have a glass of wine, not even one of your favourite curries or some garlic with your chicken” (p31). Such falsehoods undermine women’s confidence in breastfeeding and paint the picture of nursing one’s baby as tantamount to living in a straightjacket.

We are also told unquestionably that during breastfeeding “you are acutely aware of the need to move to a bottle so that other carers will be able to discharge this vital role as well as you” (p31), suggesting that anything else would be selfish. Not all breastfeeding mothers chose to combine bottle and breast; in fact, it would be wise not to.

Finally in a chapter titled “The Causes of Maternal Depression” James maintains that “women who breastfeed are at greater risk of depression, since they get less sleep and producing milk is tiring” (p324). In brackets after this statement James cites three studies from the eighties to act as evidence. Firstly his contention is false. In reality, the opposite is true, breastfeeding mothers get more sleep and their sleep is of higher quality; not to mention the act of nursing releases calming hormones which counteract depressive symptoms. Secondly, his use of outdated studies to bolster his view is out of sync with the rest of the book. All the other references littered throughout the book (and there are hundreds) are bang up to date. It appears that James was scraping barrels trying to find some anti-breastfeeding references and ended up resorting to vintage ones.

This book is not alone in its distaste for the (perceived) inconvenience of breastfeeding and pity for the relatives who are denied their right to wield a plastic teat, as you shall see with our next culprit which is aimed at new dads...

This book is well-written, witty, insightful and genuinely hilarious; so it pains me to feature it in this list. However amongst its vast sea of astute observational humour lie sprinklings of ignorance which lower the credibility of an otherwise priceless book.

The author, Marcus Berkmann, in the spirit of most parenting guides, dedicates an entire chapter to breastfeeding which he titles simply ‘Breasts’ in bold font. That should get the target readership’s attention. In line with the overall tone of the book, some parts of this chapter elicit genuine chuckles: “Over the next few months, your partner may only ever wear clothes that allow her to whip out a tit in a second’s notice, in a way that you may have been trying to persuade her to do for some time” (p155). Furthermore his brave, albeit brief, mention of the politics involved in the breast versus bottle debate is admirable: “In past generations everyone was told to bottle-feed, as formula milk was a scientific miracle created by huge unpleasant multinational corporations unable to charge you for mammary use” (p155).

So far so good. However it is not long before some of the descriptions of breastfeeding are revealed to be careless and poorly researched. Take the following advice for example, which starts well but ends disappointing:

“Clamping baby to the mother’s breast within an hour of birth increases the chance that baby will breastfeed successfully. Some babies take to the breast immediately, and the milk gushes out, in which case, great” (p121).

This description of early feeding is clumsy and misleading. A mother’s milk does not come in until around 3-5 days after birth. Before then her breasts produce perfect teaspoon-sized portions of colostrum. Consider how the false perception that a mother should be providing ‘gushing’ milk from the get-go could damage her confidence when she finds that all she is producing is droplets of a clear liquid. She, or more relevant to this book’s target readership – her partner, may believe that her body is not functioning on par, even though in reality it is doing exactly as nature intended.

More misinformation can be observed later in the book when Berkmann informs us that: “Porn breasts may be good for masturbatory purposes but they can be bloody useless as breasts” (p157). The reality in fact, is that breasts which have undergone augmentation surgery are more likely than not to be sufficient at successfully breastfeeding a baby (La Leche League; BabyCentre; Bupa).

Throughout the book, and in particular the ‘Breasts’ chapter, such naive and erroneous assumptions are lurking in nooks and crannies, spoiling an otherwise sympathetic text:

“The fact is that bottle feeding is never going to do anyone any harm. Bottle-fed babies are not going to get fewer ‘A’ levels or fail to win Olympic gold medals (well, not because they were bottle-fed anyway). Breast may be best, but bottle is fine” (p159).

I’m reluctant to re-recycle hackneyed lactivist sentiment but I must remind readers that breast is not best, breast is normal. Unfortunately breastfeeding is the only case where the biological norm is often expressed as the exception rather than the rule. The slogan ‘breast is best’ frames formula feeding as the norm and breastfeeding as a nice extra if you’re able to do it. The reality is that breastfeeding is the normal, natural way nature intended babies to be fed. Formula is a poor substitute. However elevating breastfeeding to “best” status allows some people, and in particular formula companies, to claim that formula is “fine”. It seems that Berkmann has fallen for this charade.

The book also falls into the same old trap of many male parenting literature, namely a blokey ‘pwoar boobs’ mentality along with detachment from the breastfeeding process. Whilst recognising that bottle feeding increases the burden on the father by introducing the likelihood that he will be required to do some feeds, Berkmann maintains on the positive side, “the main advantage is that once milk production ceases the dad’s access to said breasts will no longer be denied” (p160). This assertion exploits the misconception that breastfeeding mothers are frigid martyrs and that when breastmilk is being served to baby, sex is off the menu for dad. Here Berkmann fails to appreciate the simple fact that breasts are dual-purpose organs. They are perfectly capable of being simultaneously sexual and nutritional. Amongst all the book's stereotypical jokes of female multitasking I was surprised to find that Berkmann failed to grasp this simple concept.

Berkmann, perhaps indulging in lazy writing, also exploits another common misconception of breastfeeding – the daddy of all breastfeeding misconceptions – that ‘breastfeeding creates saggy breasts.’ Oh dear. I thought he wouldn’t go there, being an intelligent chap and experienced dad, but I was wrong. He chirps:

“Breastfeeding does change breasts. Firmness is the first casualty. A well nibbled breast will be more pendulous than it might once have been. If I had eaten a biscuit every time a mother has told me that her breasts now ‘hang down to her knees’, I would now weigh 19 stone” (p161).

The reality is that during pregnancy a woman’s breasts prepare themselves for breastfeeding, whether the mother intends to breastfeed or not. As pregnancy progresses, the glandular tissue necessary to produce milk replaces much of the fatty and supportive tissue that normally makes up most of the volume of the mother’s breast. This causes her breasts to become substantially larger and in some cases can produce the ‘pendulous’ effect that Berkmann cites. Thus the reality is that pregnancy is the culprit. Breastfeeding is blame-free.

Overall I would recommend this book for laughs, but only if you are sufficiently clued up about breastfeeding to ignore the irritating and potentially damaging misconceptions, which thankfully only infect a small proportion of the book.

This book is set up in typical dictionary style from A-Z and promises to detail “all the things they never tell you”. The cover features a glowing endorsement from no other than Marcus Berkmann, author of Fatherhood: The Truth, a revelation which sets my expectations low.

Whilst oddly breastfeeding does not feature under ‘B’, various breastfeeding observations are made throughout the book. The author, Eleanor Birne, makes no effort to conceal the fact that breastfeeding made her feel “like a cow in a shed” (p111).

Nonetheless, I shan't labour on this book for too long, as it is clear that Birne’s background story renders her breastfeeding bitterness somewhat understandable. Under ‘M’ for ‘Midwife’ Birne tells of her appalling experience at the hands of a particularly overbearing and ill-advised group of community midwives. Suffice to say demands of formula top-ups, threats of feeding tubes and hospitalisation, insensitive criticism of feeding technique, relentless weight charting and general bullying were involved. Despite my sympathy for Birne’s experience, I also believe that as an author one has a duty of care to ensure as far as possible that any advice given, particularly medical, should be as accurate as possible; The more vulnerable the target readership, the stronger the onus of care. Unfortunately such feelings of responsibility are clearly not shared by Birne. She enthusiastically mentions that she has read articles which suggest that: “The NHS is over promoting the advantages of breastfeeding” (p21). However she fails to cite her sources so we just have to take her word for it. Later she maintains that: “The claims that breastfeeding results in a higher IQ/stronger immunity/fewer allergies have been widely overstated. I quote these articles to breastfeeding mothers like some lunatic” (p22). Curiously which articles she is referring to remain a mystery.

After berating what she perceives as the inconvenience of breastfeeding, Birne’s advice begins to flow. She tells us that following her switch to formula: “Feeds now take just half an hour rather than three times as long. Both me and the baby feel liberated” (p22). Whilst Birne may feel liberated, presumably because she resents time spent feeding, it’s uncertain how the same can be said so confidently on behalf of her baby. Then again, as someone who has read every page of her book, I find it hard to absorb advice from an author who thinks it’s good parenting to take her two month old to a disco at 10pm with the music “cranked up loud” (p49), who lets her baby “fall asleep with his bedtime bottle” (p55), who lists breast shields as a hospitalbag necessity (p84), who openly boasts: “I drank my coffee holding my newborn and tried not to spill it on his head” (p82), or who thinks it is economical to leave her baby in puree-covered clothes all day (p109), a poo-stained vest (p108) or equally stained sleeping-bag (p109), whilst at the same time maintaining that her own clothes must be changed more often (p109). And BREATHE...

Needless to say I do not recommend this book to any nursing mother – past, present, or pondering. Although Birne most certainly won’t care; her view of breastfeeding mothers is made clear:

“They peer at you with your bottle and tell you they breastfed their babies until they were five years old or something ludicrous” (p21).

This book is a compilation of genuine parenting articles from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Topics covered include 'How to Suffer and Survive the Exquisite Torture of Childbirth', 'How to Manage Your Daughter's Menstrual Flux', and 'How to Raise Your Daughter to Enjoy a Robust Constitution and yet Excel at Needlepoint'. All the important lessons, in other words. Due to its vintage nature we’ll cut the author some slack, however I decided to include the book in this list as it is an interesting look at how far back anti-breastfeeding propaganda originates. Indeed, some of the suggestions do not sound far removed from the advice health visitors dish out today.

The book pulls no punches in describing the tediousness of breastfeeding:

“As every mother has learned to her great cost, the handling and nursing of a newborn is an exhausting and onerous task. One may venture to state that it is indeed most unnatural [book's emphasis] to be so closely confined to a child as to have to exclude oneself from the pleasures and comforts of society... To nurse a newborn oneself is an inconvenience beyond all consideration and as such can prevent a lady of high standing from enjoying her happiest and most influential years... Are new mothers not already weighed down by fatigue and womanly complaints which nursing a newborn would surely increase?” (p47).

The obvious remedy to such traumatic inconvenience is of course, to hand over the poor little sod to someone else for nursing:

“Giving a child over to be nursed benefits the mother greatly, as it prevents her from becoming unduly weakened by the demands of a ravenous infant” (p48).

Another remedy is to dampen the child’s appetite with other substances:

“If you resist the temptation to have a nurse suckle your infant, opting instead to offer it your own breast, cordial can bring about a dampening of its appetite, sufficient to enable you to enjoy a healthful night’s sleep without fear of disturbance” (p53).

Yet another remedy for the relentlessness of breastfeeding, and one which has endured through to contemporary times, is the use of formula:

“It is most advantageous for a mother to accustom her child early on to the benefits of artificial feeding. Not only will the demands upon the mother be less relentless and gruelling, but her child will sleep longer if fed on substances slow to digest” (p71).

Bear in mind this advice is straight from the pages of a 1770 childcare guide, and yet you can hear the words of your own health visitor tinkering in your ears as you read it. The book then continues to inform us that:

“It is also true that a child nourished in such a manner will acquire a stronger constitution, enabling it to resist, to a greater degree, the diseases and sicknesses so prevalent in infancy. A mother’s milk, although at times convenient, is often affected by the fatigue and anxiety of the mother, thereby loosing much of its beneficial qualities... A child fed on more stimulating nourishment than a mother’s own milk will surely thrive and survive ‘til adulthood” (p72).

And just in case you were still unsure of how onerous and distasteful breastfeeding is, the book reiterates that:

“A lady of high breeding knows that the distasteful practice of suckling one’s own child is to be avoided at all costs. It is ruinous to the figure, noisome to one’s dress and interferes most unreasonably with necessary quantity of gadding about. Furthermore, you will find that many husbands (of virile stock and anxious for many heirs) will not be content to suffer it: the practice renders one infertile and of little use in the marital bed for as long as one continues to indulge” (p63).

If you’re still convinced that you wish to endure the terror of breastfeeding, the book dictates that you will need to know how to deal with your ‘inadequate nipples’:

Other pearls of wisdom include treatments for medical disorders (swallowing ammonia for nausea), advice for breaking children through beating and starvation, and suggestions that too much education in girls takes away the energy needed for the menses. Needless to say this is not a book for those seeking the warm fuzzy glow of nostalgia.

Back to contemporary, yet no less unsavoury, times now. This book reads like a foul-tasting recipe devised by a ranting, bitter chef. First take some brainless postnatal diet advice:

“Eat only one meal a day” (p111).

Add a pinch of pro-circumcision:

“I used to mentally compare my sons’ penises with each other’s and with my friend’s baby boys. Some looked like pigs in a blanket” (p167).

Then add a large helping of crying-it-out-propaganda:

“Repeat this mantra: Crying never killed anyone, crying never killed anyone. It certainly won’t do anything to the baby but make him tired (which is a good thing) (p27).”

Then mix in a pint of apathetic feeding advice:

“If the baby is still wailing, it might be time to feed the little thing” (p25).

Next, sprinkle on some grossly-assumptive ridiculing of co-sleepers:

“These rooming-inners are usually the same women who are marching behind the natural childbirth banner. In other words, these are women setting the rules and standards based on no actual familiarity with having a baby. Not a good idea” (p13).

And then of course, add a generous serving of breastfeeding hatred:

“Breastfeeding is as frustrating as learning to ride a bike and much more painful” (p15).

With this description of breastfeeding in mind, it is not surprising that the author, Vicki Iovine, quickly launches into dishing out dangerous breastfeeding ‘advice’. She suggests that “the first thing” you should do with your newborn is give them a dummy. She advises that with newborns “you will have to be somewhat forceful at this stage because they will not just open their mouths in joyous anticipation of the dummy” (p25). Giving a dummy, she chirps, is ideal for the ride home from the hospital after delivery: “If you have succeeded in getting the dummy into the baby’s mouth and she is sucking away like a little grouper, you may have peace and calm for the rest of the ride home” (p25). There is no warning of how early dummy-use sabotages the breastfeeding relationship. Instead she maintains that: “All my four kids had dummies while I breastfed them; otherwise I would have them gnawing on my very sore nipples twenty-four hours a day” (p25). She then continues:

“Anyway, all four gave up the dummies when they moved onto formula in a bottle. Of course, getting them to give up the bottles was no day at the beach, but hey, you won’t have to face that particular challenge for another couple of years” (p25).

I’m not going to get into the details of how unhealthy it is to give a bottle past one year, let alone for ‘another couple of years’. Needless to say, after one year babies certainly don’t need bottles. They should move onto cups. Not just from a dental viewpoint but from a speech angle too (you can read more about this issue in my article here).

Later Iovine tells us that babies, who she refers to as “feeding machines” (p137), can annoyingly interfere with a mother’s ability to regain her pre-pregnancy physique:

“Breastfeeding will NOT give you your figure back. It is a myth or some insidious La Leche League propaganda. Perhaps the theory would be accurate if you fed your baby for two years or more, since I think by that time the baby would have sucked nearly every living thing out of you, but for those of us who don’t breastfeed or intend to quit before the children are old enough to vote, it doesn’t pan out” (p113).

She continues to educate us that:

“Since the beginning of time, Nature has designed mothers to store extra fuel for those days when their men didn’t bring a boar. The extra fuel is manifested on our bodies as round cheeks (front and back), fatter upper arms and big butts. As long as you are the sole provider of nutrition for your baby, Nature is going to do her best to keep those stores in place” (p113).

The above couldn’t be further from the truth. It seems that Ms Iovine would benefit from a refresher class in the basics of biology. Weight loss occurs when we burn more calories than we consume. Breastfeeding burns around 500 extra calories per day and is thus an excellent aid to weight loss. When a woman is the sole provider of nutrition for her baby the calorific burn is at its strongest. Iovine’s ignorance and dismissal of scientific knowledge is evident again when she rants that:

“You would be amazed at how many adoptive mothers are willing to take hormones to induce their bodies to make milk. Look, as far as I’m concerned, anything that is good for your baby and good for you is wonderful, but this sounds a little bit like one of those breastfeeding evangelists got to them with the myth that better bonding (BIG buzzword) occurs when the baby actually drinks your liquids. Trust me; I know as many alienated children who are breastfed as who drank formula from a bottle” (p133).

Remember, this is an advice guide aimed at new mothers. First Iovine neglects scientific evidence regarding oxytocin and other biological mechanisms triggered by nursing (Gribble. K; Uvnäs-Moberg. K and Petersson. M; Matthiesen et al; Zetterström. R; Britton et al; Jansen et al; Else-Questet al; Furman. L andKennell. J; Uvnäs-Moberg.K and Eriksson. M), then she throws in a weak anecdote to further diminish her credibility.

In another part of the book, like a lot of seemingly anti-breastfeeding advocates, Iovine appears preoccupied with the sensitivities of men and their perceptions of breastfeeding. Perhaps this is no surprise considering her past reign as a Playboy centrefold (not mentioned in the text). She expresses her concern for men as follows:

“I have several best friends who say that their partners were turned off by the sight of them feeding the baby” (p126).

“The decision to breastfeed should be somewhat mutual. Before the baby is born, you should allow your partner to share his feelings about your suckling someone other than him” (p126)

“Unless you are a schmuck, you will listen to his concerns without threatening to report him to the La Leche League, then perhaps compromise on such things as pumping milk into bottles for him to feed the baby or promise to wean the child before she is old enough to open a jar of peanut butter unassisted” (p126).

She then provides: “A list of some of the most common considerations that help a new mother decide how she is going to feed that little thing” (p133). ‘That little thing’ presumably being the baby.

The list begins:

“1. Consider whether you feel comfortable with the notion of turning your lovely sex toys into udders for the next few months and whether your partner feels at least a little comfortable with that idea too” (p133). It is clear that Iovine has issues with human breasts, viewing them through the patriarchal lens of sex toy rather than the biological norm of infant nurturer. I would question whether someone with such a complex should be dishing out advice to new mothers about breastfeeding. Her confusion and unease with breasts acts as a thick thread woven throughout the book. Later she remarks: “Consider the newborn baby trying to latch on to a breast that is nearly twice the size of its head? It’s a good thing their sight is still fuzzy, otherwise they would run screaming from the room” (p136).

A following issue on Iovine’s list of feeding considerations is:

“Consider the condition of the mother post-delivery”. Under this heading Iovine suggests that “nearly anything ingested by the mum gets passed on to the baby through breast milk” (p135), and “breastfeeding is never an option when the mother has HIV” (p135). Both of which are false misconceptions.

The next item on the list is:

“Consider which type of food your baby tolerates better, formula or breastmilk” (p135). Is this truly a consideration worth listing? Bear in mind that formula has been found to be the cause of many allergies, whereas it is virtually impossible for a baby to be allergic to their mother’s breastmilk.

The list continues:

“Consider how serious your need for sleep is”, followed by the contention that: “All new mothers are sleep derived, but breastfeeding ones are usually particularly so” (p137). She advises that “An obvious compromise would be to feed the baby formula for one or two feeds a day” (p138). At no point does Iovine warn us that introducing formula to an exclusively breastfed baby will destroy their virgin gut and diminish the mother’s milk supply. In a book which describes itself as a ‘survival guide’, one would expect to be given unbiased information rather than information which sabotages the breastfeeding process thus removing choice from the reader.

The next item on this list of things Iovine believes new mothers should think about is: “Consider how confident you feel in your ability to breastfeed”. Bizarrely she suggests that a mother’s lack of confidence with breastfeeding will almost certainly lead to her baby’s failure to thrive: “You’ll read stories about babies who were malnourished and jaundiced because their mothers didn’t breastfeed them correctly” (p139). Surely this is a case of lack of information rather than a lack of confidence? Of course Iovine fails to mention the need for correct breastfeeding information, perhaps to obscure the fact that her book is dangerously void of such information.

The list carries on with: “Consider your threshold for pain”. Iovine tells us that “the first month can hurt so badly that you see stars and break out in a sweat whenever your baby looks at you hungrily” (p140). Just when you are ready to pass this off as a failed attempt at a joke, she elaborates:

“The single most shocking and guilt-lifting bit of truth shared by nearly all of my eight best friends was that we hoarded our prescription pain medication, no matter how badly our ‘privates’ ached, and saved them up for the critical half hour before it was time to feed. Yes, I am confessing what you think I am confessing: I took the drugs those first couple of weeks simply to endure the pain of breastfeeding” (141).

That breastfeeding is assumed to be painful is said matter-of-factly. There is no mention of the reality that when done correctly breastfeeding is pain-free. Here, Iovine prioritises sensationalist satire over factual information, which is irresponsible for a book disguised as an advice manual. She quickly dismisses proper breastfeeding technique by telling us about her “disfigured parts” and informing us that “I got just as many cracks and scabs feeding my fourth child as I did my first, and I think it would be safe to say that I had the proper technique down pretty well by then” (p141). Evidently not, as earlier in the book Iovine mentions that she has “breastfed four kids (for successively shorter times with each child)” (p136). I would hazard to guess that Iovine failed to receive adequate support to enable her to breastfeed successfully, suggested in her book’s bitter tone and lack of factual breastfeeding information. Also elsewhere in the book she holds the view that regular sickness during babyhood is normal and to be expected, which is simply not true for the majority of breastfed babies:

“In the first two years of life, little ones are often prone to colds, the flu or episodes of teething that all seem to come to a crescendo in massive ear infections” (p87).

I find it ironic that Iovine prepared a mammoth list of considerations for mothers thinking about breastfeeding, but no list for those thinking of formula feeding. This gives readers the illusion that formula feeding is easy and requires no hardship or instruction. Which again, is another gross misconception.

Finally Iovine informs us that if you breastfeed “you’ll probably eventually turn into an exhibitionist” (p142). I’d love to say that I stopped reading at this stage and promptly returned the book to the library in protest, but this is not what happened. Instead I decided to take a hit for the team and complete this exposé. The things I do for you guys...

Finally I reach the book’s climax when Iovine shares with us what she regards as “the fundamental tenet of motherhood” which she presents in block capitals: “MOTHERS DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT, JUST GOOD ENOUGH”. This would be a wise statement if it weren't made purely in regard to breast versus formula. As pointed out throughout my blog, formula is often not ‘good enough’.

We are then showered with pro-formula cliché after cliché; the usual suspects are paraded, including: “As our own mothers will quickly point out, our entire generation is a testament to the fact that formula-fed babies can survive and even prosper” (p144). I would argue that as mothers we should aim for a little more than survival for our babies. Regarding prospering, I would urge Iovine to at least attempt some research on the inadequacies of formula.

This book disguises itself as a balanced exploration of the options available to new parents regarding such common battlegrounds as feeding, weaning, sleeping, crying and so on. In reality the book is heavily biased, sometimes blatantly, sometimes subtly, always irritatingly. For our purposes, we’ll focus on feeding.

The author, Roni Jay, splits her analysis of feeding into three chapters with the predictably bland titles of ‘Breast versus bottle’, ‘Breastfeeding’ and ‘Bottle Feeding’.

First we are greeted with this illustrative comparison of breast versus bottle:

Wow. Look how glamorous the bottle feeding Mum appears with her flowing locks and lipstick pout; and Dad’s glowing with pride and self-satisfaction – everyone’s a winner in Camp Bottle. However over at Camp Breast, it seems all a parent can content themselves with is not having to sterilise (unless she’s pumping, in which case she will have to sterilise, which according to this analysis would leave zero advantages in Camp Breast). Notice the illustration’s convenient lack of consideration for the baby’s needs. When such needs are ignored, bottle feeding looks like an obvious winner; however considering the key objective of the book (as embossed on the cover) is “keeping your baby happy and healthy” the content is nothing short of misleading hypocrisy. The true title should be “Babies for Beginners: a patronising and erroneous guide to achieving maximum parental convenience”.

Firstly the book is patronising in that on every page it will state the bleeding obvious in language so retarded and simplistic that it would form an excellent script for Cbeebies. Take the part about breastmilk expression for example; the segment is titled “EXPRESSING: WHAT’S THAT ABOUT, THEN?” and begins by explaining “You use a bizarre contraption called a breast pump (definitely not one to try in public)” (p34). This is either lazy writing or an awkward attempt at humour. Either way, you can expect much more of it. The bottle feeding chapter fares no better, with advice including, “Some tins have strange names like ‘follow-on milk’ but you want the one which says for newborns” (p51), and when explaining the process of bottle feeding, Jay advises: “Step 6: Put the squishy end of the bottle in the baby’s mouth” (p53).

Secondly, the book is erroneous in ways so blatant that you begin to wonder whether it’s intentional. In a section titled “Recognising when it’s feeding time”, the text maintains that: “Basically, if it cries and hasn’t been fed for a while, chances are it’s hungry. If it doesn’t cry, it isn’t hungry” (p52). I can only assume “it” refers to the baby and not some generic life form. There’s no mention of feeding cues (fist sucking, rooting) nor the fact that if a baby is left to cry before being fed he/she is unlikely to feed properly and more likely to develop colic.

Carrying on with the flow of incorrect information, in the ‘Breast versus Bottle’ chapter, we are told that that there is no difference between breast and bottle feeding in terms of health (or looks or personality), and therefore the feeding method a mother chooses is unimportant:

I’m not going to use blog space listing the stats on infant feeding method as a determination of lifelong health (they are widely publicised in the press and scientific journals and I have written about them copious times before), suffice to say that Jay has chosen to omit them.

Curiously there is a lot Jay has chosen to omit from this book. When discussing the benefits of each feeding method she provides the following table (I have scanned it in its entirety):

There’s no explanation of the vast nutritional differences between breastmilk and formula; only that formula lacks “some” hormones but this doesn’t matter because it “contains all the essential nutrients and has nothing harmful in it” (in reality this is false, as many formula recalls have proven). You begin to wonder whether Jay has shares in Milupa.

Later she warns us that: “Once you stop breastfeeding your milk soon disappears and that’s that” (p33). There’s no mention of relactation; probably because that would conflict with her pro-formula agenda.

She also warns that a breastfeed is likely to take “at least an hour” (p39). Seriously, if this happens to you, I urge you to contact a reputable breastfeeding counsellor. A healthy baby with correct latch should not take this long for a single feed. I find myself wondering whether Jay has knowingly exaggerated the burdens of breastfeeding including the timing involved. This suspicion is further fuelled when after explaining how much easier it is to bottle feed on the move, we are told “It is possible to breastfeed a baby while standing up and walking around, but it does nothing for the flow of milk” (p30) - whatever that means is anyone’s guess. No explanation is given.

The virtues of bottle over breast are also touted in regard to car travel: “In a car a second adult can bottlefeed the baby while they’re both strapped into their car seats (potholes help wind the baby)” (p30). I question whether potholes are an adequate substitute for burping a baby – particularly given that bottlefed babies need burping significantly more often than breastfed ones (Journal of Behavioural Processes; Maternity and Infant). Not to mention the lack of intimacy this method encourages and the risk of choking.

This parental-convenience-over-infant-welfare attitude is a common theme throughout the book. We are informed unquestionably that, “The best way to feed your baby is whatever way the mother feels happiest with” (p31), followed by this table:

Biased some? If you were reading this as a pregnant novice you’d be forgiven for assuming that bottlefeeding is what mothers feel happiest with, and therefore (according to this author) the best way to feed a baby.

Later the book provides a list of “Breastfeeding Side Effects” which it determines are: leaking, overfilling, refilling, sore nipples and after pains. There is no mention of other breastfeeding side effects: healthy weight regulation, reduced risk of breast cancer, reduced risk of uterine and ovarian cancer, promotion of emotional health, lessening of financial burden, and so on (I’m sticking with the parent-centred approach by listing only maternal benefits; the benefits to the baby are vast).

Even the father’s pride is placed above the best interests of the baby: “The father cannot breastfeed the baby; this means that he is pretty much excluded from the intimate mother-baby relationship for the first few weeks” (p32). Although using slings to enhance paternal bonding is suggested, the book later warns us that: “If you decide to breastfeed, it is hard to emphasise with how stressful it is for the father to be left with a hungry, yelling baby which he has no way of feeding; by bottle feeding everyone gets an equal go at playing with the baby” (p50). I’m confused why breastfeeding prevents the father from playing with the baby?

It would be wise to give this book a miss if you want factual, supportive and unbiased parenting information. On the other hand, if you wish to become more confused than before, or if you have already chosen to bottlefeed and want a back-pat, jump right in.

And finally, the winner for most anti-breastfeeding parenting book goes to...

The title itself is a tad suspect, so should I have been surprised by the content? The book calls itself “a straight-talking corrective to the sea of advice that engulfs pregnant women and new mums”. I call it: one woman’s sea of regrets regurgitated into a sulky, bitter rant. Even the dodgy title was not enough to prepare me for the resentful, almost venomous, assessment of breastfeeding given by the author Zoe Williams. The entire book lacks purpose and is packed with unintended irony. For instance, the text tries too hard to be rebellious yet sincere; and every chapter consists of Williams taking her personal experience and passing it off as widespread fact. Not only is her description of breastfeeding overly-negative, in parts it is wholly inaccurate. Williams, a (seemingly perpetually angry) woman, maintains that “in its aftermath, breastfeeding makes your tits look like bananas in a Waitrose bag, and while you’re doing it, it interferes with sex” (p93). Perhaps Williams does not realise that it is wise to unlatch the baby before having sex?

Her naivety, or should that be exaggeration, continues into the realm of breastfeeding in public: “I ripped all my clothes off as if in a strip joint frequented by early man” (p85). Later on she rants: “If anyone can come up with a way to get a picture of a breastfeeding baby without getting a great big breast in the way, then I will find a way to give that person a Nobel Prize” (p86). Presumably Williams not only misunderstands the concept of discretion but also thinks that a picture of a breast is abhorrent.

As for her advice on whether to choose breast or formula, Williams contends that: “Formula looks nicer; it would surprise me in no way if it didn’t also taste nicer” (p89).

With regard to babies sleeping habits she retorts: “H wasn’t sleeping well, which I put down to the fact that breast milk only fills you up for about 36 minutes, indeed, from a satiation perspective is useless, is essentially water that tastes of booze and garlic” (p88).

The book is littered with such advice; however would you seek counsel from an author who spends a whole chapter throwing a tantrum about being advised not to drink in pregnancy? Not to mention that her advice is driven by assumption and lacking any kind of evidence, scientific, statistical or otherwise. She contends that:

“The case for breastfeeding is not that strong, and it has passed so seamlessly into the book of What’s Best for Baby that it’s often very lazily put” (p90).

Conveniently Williams fails to mention that decades of scientific research and millennia of evolution verify breastmilk’s enduring superiority.

Sadly, this selection of books is merely the tip of the literary anti-breastfeeding iceberg.

Jump to: PART TWO (If you dare)

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Clearblue Digital Pregnancy Tests - Who Are They Kidding?

We all have TV commercials that turn us into eye-rolling grouchy channel-changers. One of mine is a UK advert for Clearblue digital pregnancy tests. It features this annoying broad:

You’ve probably had the displeasure of viewing it before, but if not, you can view it here.

It’s obvious that this commercial is aimed at first time preggos; as any veteran breeder would instantly dismiss it as patronising hyperbole.

Firstly, let’s have a quick look at the aesthetics of the ad:

  • To start with we meet ‘Claire’. We are told by the on-screen text that she is a ‘Clearblue Expert’. I have no idea what one of those is, but they must be pretty senior because her office appears to be from the set of Star Wars and Star Trek combined.
  • In this Jedi office she has some phat widescreen HD TVs showing ultrasound scans. Just in case you are unfamiliar with the appearance of an ultrasound, the TVs helpfully say “SCAN” in block capitals.
  • The scene then switches to a doctor in stereotypical ubiquitous white lab coat and specs. This is a common tactic used by companies to suggest the scientific character of their product. Nestle used it with their infamous milk nurses (see here) –basically they put sales people into nurses uniforms to give the illusion that they were genuine medical professionals. It appears to be an effective strategy. Place average Joe Bloggs in a uniform and it inspires trust and confidence in the viewer.
  • Check out the doctor’s office – he’s got nothing on Claire of course, but his place of employment is far from shabby. It looks like he works in an inner-city penthouse with gleaming glass windows, five-star view and he has a flair for interior design. Harley Street - eat your heart out.
  • But wait, why is the doc looking at x-rays in a pregnancy test ad? As the commercial assumes its audience are ignorant noobs who are unfamiliar with ultrasound scans, it shows the doc sticking scan images onto a lighted screen, as they do with x-rays (because x-rays are common medical procedures and even retarded people who what they look like). This adds extra medical beef to the advert.
  • We are told that: “one of the reasons doctors use an ultrasound is to date your pregnancy”. Firstly, sonographers use ultrasounds rather than doctors, but I'm guessing Clearblue assume that would be too confusing for the target audience. Besides, doctors tend to be of higher rank and so carry more prestige. Secondly, why all the emphasis on ultrasounds? The Clearblue digital pregnancy test is even less accurate at dating a pregnancy than fundal measurements (I will discuss accuracy bellow). It is much, much less accurate than an ultrasound yet the advertisement has ultrasounds all over the place suggesting correlation. That’s not to mention that the dating ultrasound also looks for measurements, foetal heartbeat, Downs, the existence of twins, to name a few enquiries; and furthermore – it’s free. These digital tests are the steep end of a tenner.
  • Back to Claire now. We see an uber-modern levitating screen complete with tech sounds. These features suggest the product’s advanced-nature; i.e. ‘This merchandise is so badass, look how futuristic we are’.
  • Claire smacks of smugness; she raises her eyebrows at the levitating screen then smirks at us as she explains the obvious.
  • Finally we see the actual pregnancy test being advertised. It also levitates – not bad for a stick you pee on.

So okay, the marketing bods behind the creation of this commercial are knob-heads; but let’s now have a look at the product itself. I have a number of issues with this type of pregnancy test:

False Negatives.
As with any pregnancy test, the risk of getting a false negative is significant if you’re the impatient type. The chance is even higher with the Clearblue Digital due to its strict pregnant/not pregnant reading. If you test before your period is due and get a ‘Not Pregnant’ result, there is still a chance that you may be pregnant but that your hormone level is still not high enough for the test to detect. In a traditional test you may see a faint line indicating the likelihood of pregnancy. Not so with the Clearblue Digital. Furthermore, despite Clearblue's marketing hyperbole, their test is only of average sensitivity (25mIU), and unsurprisingly they don't put this on the packaging. You can purchase tests as sensitive as 10mIU on eBay and Amazon for pennies. Although please wait until your period is due before testing. You are about to see why...

False Positives.
Clearblue proudly claim that this test can be used four days prior to your period being due. I believe that this exploits anxious women and can have devastating consequences. For instance, it's estimated that up to 50% of pregnancies are lost in the very early stages. In the past, most women did not even realize they were pregnant - their periods would arrive on time. Now women testing very early, as encouraged by Clearblue, may get a positive test, but experience bleeding almost immediately afterwards. This is an early miscarriage, also referred to as a ‘chemical pregnancy.’ It is likely that the woman did conceive and the embryo implanted for a short time before dying. I argue that it is irresponsible marketing to encourage women to test early. This may be one reason why the Clearblue digital pregnancy tests have been documented to have an abnormally high rate of false positives. A brief Google search reveals mass heartache. Other causes of false positives include taking certain fertility medications, hormones left over from a recent pregnancy, or in some cases by menopause or ovarian cysts.

False advancement.
For women carrying twins, the test can indicate that the pregnancy is more advanced than is actually the case. This is because the test measures the level of HcG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone and uses this calculation to determine how far along the pregnancy is. HcG is a hormone detectable in pregnant women's blood or urine about 10 days post-conception; it increases at a rapid rate, peaking about 10 weeks into the pregnancy. Unsurprisingly HcG levels are higher in twin pregnancies however the Clearblue digital pregnancy test interprets these higher levels as pregnancy advancement rather than twins.

Concealed Pregnancy Advancement.
The opposite of false advancement, the test can often proclaim that a woman’s pregnancy is less advanced than it actually is. Hormone levels are higher first thing in the morning, lower in the evening, fluctuate when a woman is on medication, depend on the concentration of the urine, not to mention different for everyone. In fact, if you search around on the official Clearblue website, it even admits that “the level of hCG varies from woman to woman, and it is therefore possible that the Conception Indicator might occasionally give misleading results.” Believing you are only 2-3 weeks along when you are actually 8 weeks can be inconvenient at best, and at worst, distressing. For instance, a lot of women use the test as a reassurance tool to indicate that their pregnancy is progressing as it should be. When a test inaccurately suggests that the pregnancy is less advanced than the woman expects, this misleading information can be worrying, particularly for women with previous miscarriage.

Random errors.
Being an electronic device, the product is more prone to malfunction. Women have reported the display window persistently displaying the timer along with 'not pregnant' with a * underneath it and 3+ weeks underneath that.

In short, dating a pregnancy is best left to a professional, not a money-making gimmick. To quote, if you are concerned or wish to monitor the advancement of your pregnancy, please do it properly - under a physician's supervision, with a blood test at a lab - not at home with a pee-stick.

And if you ever see Claire, give her a slap from me.

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Quiz: Which Type of Parent Are You?

According to fellow parenting blog The Daily Momtra, parents can be divided into three distinct categories: The Well-Meaning Newbie, The Parent-Centric Parent and The Child-Centric Parent. If you are Parent-Centric you integrate your child into your lifestyle. If you are Child-Centric you adjust your lifestyle to fit your child. However I believe that parents display a spectrum of behaviours. It’s not unusual to be child-centric in some of your approaches but parent-centric in others.

Therefore, adopting a comprehensive view, I have created this quiz to enable you to determine where on the parenting spectrum you fall. Are you more Alpha Parent or Slummy Mummy? (Note: the quiz smacks of Britishness, so American cousins don't despair if you can't tell your Boden from your M&S).

How did you feed your child until they were 6 months?
  1. Exclusively breastfed.
  2. Combination of breastmilk and formula.
  3. Breastmilk for a few weeks then switched to full-time formula.
  4. Exclusive formula feeding from the start.
Which of the following dominates your wardrobe?
  1. Boden and John Lewis.
  2. M&S and Next.
  3. Peacocks and Newlook.
  4. Primark and JD Sports.
What do you do if your 8 month old baby cannot settle to sleep at night?
  1. Attend immediately to baby’s every whimper or cough. Never leave to cry.
  2. Leave baby to whimper for 5 minutes then attend to her if she has not settled. Repeat if necessary.
  3. Leave baby to cry for as long as my eardrums and sanity can handle. It’s what babies do.
  4. Mam will get it.
Which of the following best describes your baby’s weaning process?
  1. Solids were introduced at exactly 6 months. Baby’s diet is entirely home-made using only organic produce.
  2. Solids were introduced at around 6 months. Baby’s diet is mostly home-made, sometimes organic by fluke.
  3. Solids were introduced at around 4 months. Baby’s diet is mostly jarred and occasionally home-made.
  4. Solids were introduced at 3 months. Baby’s diet is entirely jarred although I sometimes like to put a rusk into his bottle so he sleeps longer.
Which of the following best describes a common catastrophe in your kitchen?
  1. I can’t find the mini blowtorch for the crème brulée and I’m having to use JARRED sauce for the pasta.
  2. I can’t find enough lids for the tupperware boxes to store the baby’s homemade food for freezing.
  3. The multibag of Walkers has exploded.
  4. There are no clean forks for the kids’ Pot Noodles.
What’s your opinion of the supermarket: Asda?
  1. I had to resort to Asda once. It was nearly five weeks since last pay day and desperate times mean desperate measures.
  2. I don’t like ASDA not because it’s cheap but because they are owned by Walmart and they don’t allow their workers to join a union.
  3. I love Asda – I stock up during their Baby Events; Their George children’s clothing look like imitation mini-Boden; And there’s always a special on. This week he’s working on the checkout.
  4. It’s full of snobs. They even make you pay for plastic carrier bags. Some shit about being "green".
Which car do you own?
  1. A LandRover Discovery - aka the Chelsea tractor.
  2. A Renault Espace.
  3. A trusty Toyota Yaris to pop to Asda in.
  4. A 3-Door with some extra trims and modifications and big phat zorst.
How do your children get home from school?
  1. We all walk together holding hands mirroring a scene from The Sound of Music. It’s good for their health and gives the illusion that I’m eco-friendly, which is all the rage these days.
  2. I drive them home in the Espace.
  3. They get the bus because I need the car for work.
  4. In the back of a police car.

How many online parenting forums are you a member of?
  1. At least five and I post on them daily. I moderate at least one of them.
  2. Around three and I post on them regularly.
  3. I stick to one but I seldom post.
  4. None. They are full of stuck-up people.
If you had to choose only one parenting forum to frequent, which would it be?
  1. Mumsnet.
  2. Baby Centre.
  3. Netmums.
  4. Baby & Bump.
Which of the following best describes your Facebook conduct?
  1. My friends call me the ultimate baby bore. Every status update is about my children and my parenting achievements. Every step, smile and fart is documented. I make sure my friends and family know that junior is brightest/best-looking/most easygoing baby who’s ever been born. I have a separate photograph album for every month of each of my children’s lives. When I was pregnant I had at least three pregnancy applications which updated my status weekly with detailed information about foetal development and the baby’s size equivalent to various fruit. I’m a member of around five Facebook parenting groups; mostly lactivism, baby led weaning and baby-wearing related. My profile picture is a photo of me breastfeeding with a flawless (handmade to M&S food-porn standard) quiche subtly positioned on the table in the background.
  2. Most of my status updates relate to my parenting experience. I like to report my children’s milestones and regularly post photographs of our outings. My profile picture is the cutest, most flattering photo of my toddler.
  3. About a third of my status updates are parenting-related. I post major milestones such as first word and first step. I occasionally post photographs if they are extra-cute. My profile picture is a photo of me and my children.
  4. I post about my children from time to time but I often find that there are much more important things to post about, such as my recent tattoo, details of my latest spat with my arsehole of a partner, how shit men are, and photographs of me getting wrecked last night. My profile picture is a photo of me, in a nightclub toilet, holding the camera above my head at a right angle and pouting.
Which organisation has assisted you most on your parenting journey?
  1. Le Leche League.
  2. The local library.
  3. Sure Start.
  4. Cash My Gold.
In an ante-natal class, the midwife tells you to write down the kind of child you want to have. You write:
  1. A genius.
  2. A contented child.
  3. One who is really tired at night time.
  4. One with a small head.
When is the right time to get an epidural?
  1. NEVER. Epidurals are for the weak. They prolong labour, increase the risk of complications and interfere with bonding hormones.
  2. When the pain becomes too much to deal with.
  3. As soon as the anesthetist is available.
  4. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
What are your pet-hates with regard to parenting?
  1. Unmarried parents, pierced ears, jelly shoes, egg and chips, Barbie, package holidays, Fruit Shoots, babies in football kits, eating in the street, playing with children from council estates, not enough highchairs in Starbucks.
  2. Mothers who don’t attempt to breastfeed, smoking and drinking around children, smoking and drinking whilst pregnant, obese parents bringing their obese offspring for meals at KFC, not enough high chairs in the Marks and Spencer Cafe.
  3. Grandparents that don’t help out, the price of children’s clothing, not enough high chairs in Wetherspoons.
  4. Snobby midwives that interfere with your human right to smoke, toddlers who won’t sit quietly through Jeremy Kyle, not knowing which bloke to put on the CSA application, not enough high chairs in the Job Centre.
A friend suggests ‘baby juice’ for your little one. Which of the following best describes your response?
  1. You spend at least an hour online researching the health implications of said baby juice. You phone your health visitor to ask her opinion. You make an appointment with your GP about a ‘bad back’ that just materialised and ask him about baby juice. You email the dietician at your local hospital for their pennies worth. You decide it’s probably best not to give your little one some baby juice as it’s not water or breastmilk and therefore inherently evil.
  2. You log onto Baby Centre and ask their opinion on baby juice. You follow their advice.
  3. Well my friend suggested it so it must be okay.
  4. No thanks, I’ll stick with giving my baby tea in a bottle. It sounds cheaper.
What do you wear on the school run?
  1. Understated Whistles trousers, a Jaeger shirt, Jones boots, immaculate makeup, glossy blonde mane and carrying hand-prepared organic lunches. I adhere to the "no wellies on the school run, unless they're Hunters" rule.
  2. Sensible shoes, clean blouse, skinny jeans, most of my usual makeup, and carrying hand-prepared albeit non-organic lunches.
  3. Maternity jeans (despite giving birth three years ago), t-shirt from George, imitation-Uggs, dry-shampooed hair, a slap of tinted moisturiser, and carrying pre-packed supermarket lunches.
  4. Anything with elastic (pyjama pants, track pants, etc), my latest bloke’s football shirt, Kappa jacket, slippers with a manky babywipe attached, orange skin, dark lipliner with light lipstick, peroxide hair with roots, ‘gold’ Argos earrings that reach my shoulders, and carrying free school dinners vouchers.
What gift do you buy for your child’s teacher at Christmas?
  1. An elaborately wrapped Mulberry handbag, a spa day voucher and a brace of pheasants.
  2. A bottle of wine, a personalised box of Thorntons and a handmade card.
  3. A Christmas tree ornament and a bottle of Blossom Hill.
  4. A second-hand Poundland soft toy from a car boot sale and some Travelodge guest soaps.
How do you discipline your children?
  1. The following steps carried out in painstaking precision: Step one is to listen. Step 2 failure to listen = strike 1, strike 2, strike 3. Step 3, is depending on age, time out or removal of item/activity.
  2. Eyebrows, ‘the look’ and stern mumsy tone of voice. Failing that, sticker chart.
  3. Quick! Slam a dummy in his mouth. If that fails, bribe him with the promise of a comic.
  4. I scream and shout and tell them to shut the F up. A slap on the legs and a good cuff add the finishing touches.
You see a person breastfeeding in public. What’s your reaction?
  1. I printed some "Thank You for Breastfeeding in Public" business cards for just for this occasion. After giving her one I invite her to the local breastfeeding mafia group and recommend The Politics of Breastfeeding as a decent bedside read.
  2. Smile.
  3. Look away quickly. I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable.
  4. Give her the stink eye and ask her why she’s shoving her baps in my face. Exhibitionist!
What was your approach to selecting your child’s school?
  1. I spent weeks searching online at Directgov and my LEA website for details about individual schools. I ploughed through each school’s brochure and website. After that, armed with Ofsted reports and league tables, I visited all the schools in the local area where I interviewed the teachers, head teachers, parents and children. Then to secure my child’s place at my chosen school I helped out at fundraisers, moved to within a metre of the school gates and converted to Catholicism.
  2. I read through the Ofstead reports of my local schools, then "borrowed" the address of a friend who had a flat in the catchment area of the best school.
  3. I sent my child to the same school I went to. There are worse ones.
  4. You can select their school?
It’s your child’s third birthday. How do you celebrate?
  1. I hire an entire soft play centre complete with bouncy castle, ball pool, swimming pool and Justin Fletcher as entertainer.
  2. A trip to the cinema for everyone followed by Pizza Express.
  3. A Wacky Warehouse party with each child paying for themselves.
  4. A few vodkas on the town whilst mam looks after the sprog.
What was your TTC (Trying to Conceive) plan?
  1. I scheduled childbirth for the right month of the school year, I peed on copious amounts of sticks, spat on microscopes, took my temperature religiously and I’ve done most things from this list.
  2. I took a long time considering the implications for my existing family and the environment and then started taking folic acid three months before conception.
  3. I got bored after the first few months of trying so each night I told my bloke to ‘entertain himself’ then come to me when he was ‘ready’.
  4. I calculated how much extra the DSS would give us, then ‘forgot’ to take my pill.
You don’t have any plans one Sunday. How do you spend it?
  1. Somewhere in the Bible it says that Sundays are for relaxing, but why relax when you have flash cards? After an intensive flashcard session my 2 year old has an hour of violin then we all head to the park and fly a kite. When we return home the children help me to re-arrange my bookshelves of parenting manuals before I cook an organic dinner.
  2. We all drive to the MIL's house. She’s been nagging to see the kids so I may as well acquire some brownie points. I compliment her crockery, do the washing up and umpire the Monopoly game. I soon feel guilty because I’m not flying a kite in the park.
  3. Sunday noms at Wetherspoons, including an hour spent retrieving menus, crayons, napkins and peas from the floor.
  4. Curl up with Foxy Bingo and a can of Skol, oblivious to the fact that my toddler is deleting everything from the Skybox.
It’s your first night out without the baby. The only thing on your mind is...
  1. I know I left detailed instructions but I’ll just call the sitter to check that she’s using a 2.5 tog sleeping bag instead of a 1.5 tog; and also that she remembered to set a bowl of water near the nursery’s heating vent so that the air will circulate the evaporating water, maintaining a higher humidity level.
  2. Should I call the sitter?
  3. If I’ve calculated correctly I can afford a double vodka and a single Aftershock which should get me sloshed for the maximum period at minimum price, AND I can still treat Jr to that baby gym I’ve had my eye on.
  4. Is that guy/girl over there checking me out?
Your four year old tells you what they want to be when they grow up. They say:
  1. Prime Minister.
  2. A Doctor.
  3. An Octonaut.
  4. A pimp.
Your son has just hit your daughter over the head with a piece of Duplo. How do you react?
  1. Demand your preschool son give you a verbal essay (approx 1,500 words) on why it is wrong to hit and what he learnt from the experience.
  2. Confiscate the Duplo and request an apology.
  3. Jump in only if blood is shed.
  4. Crank up the TV to drown out the yelling.
One of your children is screaming for you at one end of the house, the other you just found playing in the toilet. What do you do first?
  1. Grab some anti-bac, gloves and a face mask. You’re gonna need them.
  2. Go get screamer, bring him to bathroom and give both a stern telling off.
  3. Hand toilet brush to child number 2, the toilet hasn't been cleaned lately.
  4. Ignore them both; Jeremy Kyle is just about to give a DNA result.
Your toddler recently learned to walk. Is your house baby proof?
  1. I have affixed a camera to his forehead and covered him in bubble wrap. I have also purchased every possible safety device on Amazon, so he is COMPLETELY safe.
  2. With all necessities, sans bubble wrap.
  3. Nah, he needs to be free to make mistakes, and learn from them.
  4. I’ve swapped the glass ash tray for a coke can.

You've taken the test. So what flavour is your parenting?

MOSTLY As: Bona Fide Alpha Parent. 
“Alpha mums turn parenting into a serious issue and motherhood into martyrdom” hark The Times, and they may have a point. There are some traits of Alpha Parents that are less than desirable. Their relentless perfectionist attitude can be draining on themselves and those around them; and there is only so much Boden you can wear in a week.  As an Alpha Parent you view parenting as an extreme sport. Rigid adherence to guidelines and lack of flexibility act as a straight-jacket . You are easily distinguished from other parents due to the force-field that radiates around you, which causes all incompatible parenting views to rickershaw off it. Most likely a highly educated woman who has abandoned a high-flying career for motherhood, you throw yourself into parenthood with such gusto that you often lose all perspective on what's really important in life. Your urge to micromanage puts your children at risk of stunted independence. Relax and try not to control every aspect of their life.

Here's a badge of honour to pimp up your blog/ Livejournal/ website/ whatever. Just copy the code and display with pride.

MOSTLY Bs: Complacent Alpha Parent.
Possibly crunchy and slightly pushy, like the Bona Fide Alpha Parent you’re a martyr on the treadmill of extracurricular activities, health organisation guidelines and keeping up appearances. But unlike your Bona Fide sister you stay on the right side of sanity. You’re loving, you’re giving, you’ve made more sacrifices than a geriatric monk. You’d sooner pull your top lip over your head than smack your children. Your dislike for alcohol-guzzling expectant mums and smoking parents is admirable but some people interpret your views as judgemental. Screw them. You maintain a healthy balance between preserving high standards and preserving good reasoning. You recognise that life shouldn’t be boot camp for a child, nor should it be a twenty-four-hour playground.

MOSTLY Cs: Relaxed Parent-Centric.
Partial to a bit of Asda, you prescribe to “good enough” parenting. Your behaviour is also characteristic of what has been coined “short-term parenting” (PhD in Parenting). This means that you often place a desire to achieve immediate results above a desire to avoid lasting negative impacts on your child’s physical or mental health. It’s not all bad though. You’re a laid back mum and taking a relaxed approach to parenting puts your children in the driving seat.

MOSTLY Ds: Slummy Mummy. 
Uh-oh. Sirens are going off at La Leche League HQ, the NSPCC, HM Revenue & Customs, and other judgypants establishments. Also known as a ‘Beta Mum’, people can tell what your children had for breakfast by looking at your jeans. There is an element of ignorance in the Slummy Mummy’s approach. It’s not uncommon to hear “They did it when we were all kids and we're all fine”. Do you really believe that? If we were 'all fine' we wouldn't be seeing 50% of taxes disappearing into the NHS. Probably a Rusk Parent, you neither demand of, nor respond, to your child. Rather, your child is an incidental thing in the house. You are a drain on the NHS, the welfare state and the police force; worse still, you keep the Daily Mail in business. On a positive note however, you make other parents feel better about themselves. By being at the bottom of the parenting food-chain, you unwittingly feed the egos of your superiors, providing them with a comforting and enduring sense of smugness.