Sunday 18 September 2011

It just hit me that I love living in England

I met my american husband at the University of East Anglia.  Once I graduated we moved to Boston so that he could finish his degree at UMASS, while I worked on an internship visa at Massachussetts General Hospital.  Two years later, we moved to Glasgow so that I could do my Masters at the University of  Glasgow and we married that year in England at Chiddingstone Castle (saw them use the castle for a photo shoot on that show about liking yourself naked).  We then moved back to the US to Maryland so that Ryan could do a PhD at Johns Hopkins University and we remained there for over 7 years.

We really loved living in Baltimore, it was a little daunting at first, Ryan moved there a few weeks before a big hurricane hit the State and flooded half of downtown.  Crime rates are also pretty high there, and if you have ever watched The Wire, it really is like that in some areas.  After we had lived in Baltimore for a while I landed my dream job working for the WIC program (Womens, Infants and Childrens Supplemental Nutrition & Breastfeeding Program) in Anne Arundel County, which really married my two interests in Nutrition and Breastfeeding really well, and I felt like I was really able to make a difference in people's lives.  I worked with some really amazing people (you know who you are), and got to go to some really amazing places and learn so much about the program, the government, nutrition and breastfeeding.  The last two came in handy when I had my first baby in 2008 when we had a few teething problems breastfeeding, but I had an amazing support network around me and we are still nursing to this day (well, I think he nursed twice this week).

I remember interviewing for the job and being asked where I wanted to be in five years time, and my answer was England.  I never really saw my self staying in Baltimore forever, and England seemed the logical choice to me.  Actually, I'm surprised that they still hired me, maybe they didn't believe me.  I spent almost six amazing years working for the Maryland WIC program in Anne Arundel County, and it wasn't an easy choice to make to move back to the UK.  I had a job I loved, my husband had a job offer that would have meant we could stay in the same house which we loved, and we had grown to love Maryland and all that it has to offer.  The one thing we were missing was family.  Ryans' family are spread all over the US, just nowhere near Maryland.  My closest friend in the States had just decided to move from Washington DC back to San Diego.  I think we had taken advantage of a babysitter one time by the time my son was 3 because it was so expensive, and hard to justify.  Ryan's friends gradually got married over the time we lived in Baltimore, and a few times grandparents had to fly in just so that we could attend.  When I put William in daycare at three months old, I had to ask my work colleagues to act as emergency contacts (which they were more than happy to do), but it wasn't ideal.

Fast forward to December 2010.  I said goodbye to my dream job, we sold our home and packed our belongings into 20 suitcases and boarded a plane for Heathrow.  On arriving at Heathrow, we lost William at baggage claim.  We searched everywhere for him, hoping he hadn't jumped on a conveyor belt and been whisked behind the scenes or fallen off and hurt himself.  After a good 30 minutes frantically looking for him, we heard word that he had made it through customs and walked out alone into the international arrivals area of the terminal.  I ran through customs to find him while Ryan collected our 20 bags, and found William happy as anything at the information booth.  I was so happy to see him that I made the biggest mistake and smiled (possibly grinned).  I say this was a mistake as I spent the next five minutes of my life being lectured to by a Heathrow policeman about how I should be ashamed of myself for taking my eyes of my son and having the audacity to look happy about it.  Apparently he was the perfect parent, and had never taken his eyes off his children for one second their whole entire lives.  I remember thinking "Did I make a mistake?", "Take me back to America!".

Yes, it was just about warm enough to go to the beach this year

We made it to my parents home in one piece (actually we forgot one piece of luggage), and we have been living at my childhood home ever since.  There have been times that I've wondered if we made the right choice when it gets a little crowded (we still haven't moved out and I've since given birth to a gorgeous baby girl), but a few days ago (Wednesday, September 14th 2011 I believe) it suddenly hit me, and made me smile.  I was driving on my way from dropping William at nursery going to Pembury to attend breastfeeding peer supporter training with Ellie.  I was running late and we were stuck behind a truck trying to pass a car in the narrow lanes between Kemsing and Seal.  Once the two vehicles had passed each other I noticed an even larger van coming towards me, so stopped to let it pass.  It was my Dad.  It made me smile so much because I never had that in Baltimore.  I'd never gone for a walk or a drive and seen anyone I knew.  Here in SevenoaksWeatherspoons in Sevenoaks on a Sunday, I'll probably bump into my parents long standing friends Graham and Pauline.  On Thursdays William attends the local pre-school, and we car pool with the neighbours, who also looked after William when I went into labour with Ellie.

You'd think he'd been doing it his whole life
(My Dad didn't meet William until he was 11 months old)

We now live in a village surrounded by fields.  We are close to London, close to the beach, close to France even, and close to family.  You just never know the importance of having family close by until you have children.  I think we made a very good decision to move close to family, and we may argue from time to time, but now I can't imagine not having them here.

William and Granny at Diggerland

I am sad that we cannot be close to all of our family, but it's getting harder and harder for families to live close by because so many people are traveling for work, and moving all over the globe.  It is a big reason why we so desperately need breastfeeding support groups and breastfeeding peer supporters, in a world where you can no longer rely on the wisdom of other family members to help us when we have questions, friends and peers take their place to provide the answers and guidance.

This is how I find the time to run the new business and write blogs

The NCT, NHS, WIC, La Leche League and ABM are among many organisations that provide breastfeeding support in your area.  Please find a support group near you before you have your baby so that you know exactly where to go and who to call.  I have a list of breastfeeding resources on my website.

 My Kiddies
William (January 2008) and Ellie (April 2011)

Friday 16 September 2011

Emma-Jane 442 T-Shirt Nursing Bra

I have reviewed the Emma-Jane Seamless Nursing Bras 361 and 365, so I'm now going to move on to the Emma-Jane 442 t-shirt nursing bra.  The nursing bra is available in twelve sizes 32, 34, 36, 38 each in cup sizes B/C, D/DD, and E/F, and is available in black and skin colours.

As you can see, the Emma-Jane 442 T-Shirt Nursing Bra is very pretty with embroidered straps and scalloped detailing on the cups and a pretty flower between the cups.  The bra is made from microfibre and cotton and has a moulded cup with light padding.

I do not usually wear padded bras, not really since secondary school when WonderBras were really popular.  T-shirt bras with light padding were really popular in the US when I lived there, but I really wasn't interested in hiding my nipples and rarely wore tight t-shirts at that time.

I don't think you can really understand why a t-shirt bra can be so good until you have breastfed.  I think my nipples have quadrupled in size since I started nursing almost 4 years ago.  Is that true for everyone, I don't know?  It is really funny to think back to those first few days in the hospital after giving birth to my eldest.  He was suctioned deeply at the hospital immediately after birth and was refusing the breast.  One of the nurses tried to convince me that I had inverted nipples.  I just stared at her for the longest time.  Labour is tiring, and I was tired and frustrated that they wouldn't let us go home yet, and just remember thinking "SERIOUSLY!! Have you seen my nipples?".  They may look a bit weird and not at all alike, but they are definitely not inverted.

So, I do now see good reason for a little padding in a nursing bra.  The padding gives a smooth look for those endowed with larger nipples.  Or, if you are like me and need to wear a nursing pad for those pesky leaks during the day, the padding works equally well at hiding any wrinkles from a disposable pad, or circle lines from a thick washable nursing pad.  I plan to do more reviews in the future for nursing pads, so stay tuned.

There are only a couple of things I would mention for your consideration when looking at this nursing bra.  When nursing in this bra, you need to be aware that there is more material to keep out of the way when the cup is pulled down.  I usually tuck the cup material under my breast when nursing, which is really easy with the Emma-Jane 361 or 365.  Because the padding is pretty light and very flexible, getting it out of the way for nursing is much easier than with some other padded nursing bras, but you have to make more of an effort, so I think it is important to mention. 

I haven't been working with this nursing bra for very long, but I have found that the bra fits much better on the larger cup size.  So, if you take the B/C sized cup, a C sized breast fits much better than a B.

The 442 T-Shirt nursing bra is another great value bra from Emma-Jane.  It has a much lower price point than many other t-shirt style nursing bras available right now from companies such as HOTmilk and Cake, and it is a really comfortable and pretty bra.

Monday 12 September 2011

Emma-Jane 365 Seamless Nursing Bra with Removable Pads

To continue my review of nursing bras I am now reviewing the Emma-Jane 365 Seamless Nursing Bra.  It could be easy to confuse this nursing bra with the previously reviewed Emma-Jane 361, but the 365 comes with a few more bells and whistles.  Both the 361 and 365 look very alike.  They also come in the same four sizes (32, 34, 36, 38 fitting B-F), and three colours (Black, White, Skin).

The Emma-Jane 365 Seamless Nursing Bra is more expensive than the 361 by approximately 50%, and there is good reason for this.  The 365 nursing bra has the added option of removable foam pads.  I have never used the pads in this nursing bra or the Bravado Bodysilk Seamless, so being removable is an added bonus for me.  The pads are provided to enable the wearer to have a smoother look when wearing tighter fitting clothing, acting like a t-shirt bra.  The pads also hide any wrinkles that might happen if wearing a nursing pad, and nipples that you may not want noticed by others.  The pads are removed or inserted very easily, and easily washed.

The other major difference that you'll notice between these bras is that the side sling in the 365 is much more substantial, and widens more at the bottom of the sling to give more support to the breast.  It is for this reason that I choose to wear the 365 over the 361 more often as I do prefer that little bit of extra support.  This bra washes and wears really easily, and is just as versatile as the 361.  The lack of seams makes it really comfortable to wear day or night, and because it fits a range of cup sizes, it really can be worn throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.  I would still think about upgrading to a more expensive bra to find additional support for the larger cup sizes, support is definitely something you pay for with nursing bras.

Another great value nursing bra from Emma-Jane to add to your maternity and breastfeeding wardrobe.  Because I have found that seamless bras such as the Emma-Jane 365 are great to sleep in as well as wear any other time of day I have them listed in both the Emma-Jane Nursing Bra and Sleep Bra sections of the website.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Emma-Jane 361 Seamless Nursing Bra Review

I started working with nursing bras in the US when I piloted a scheme to issue nursing bras to low income women as an incentive to nurse exclusively for longer durations.  The nursing bra incentive program worked very well, and when I left the program to move back to the UK we were fitting and issuing more than 100 bras every month.

So, I've had a lot more experience with the US nursing bra manufacturers, and since had to learn about the products available in the UK.  I was pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of nursing bras available in the UK in a range of styles and sizes.  There are some really amazing nursing bras in the UK, and I'm so excited to be able to bring some of them to the women who shop online, and those that I am able to meet in person in West Kent.

I would never sell a product that I would not happily wear myself, so I have tried and will have tried every product that appears on my website.  I though that it would be a good idea for me to write down exactly why I like each and every product on the website, as well as point out any great features, washing concerns or anything lacking.  I'm going to start with the Emma-Jane 361 Seamless Nursing Bra.

The Emma-Jane 361 Seamless Nursing Bra is the least expensive nursing bra that I sell.  I chose it for a couple of reasons.  I think that many people choose to breastfeed not only because it is so beneficial to both Mum and Baby's health, but also because it saves so much money.  In such times as these when jobs are not as secure as they used to be, and so hard to find, more and more people are looking at ways to save more pennies, and breastfeeding is the obvious choice for new parents.  So if you are breastfeeding for this reason, I want you to be able to nurse easily and comfortably in an affordable nursing bra that does its job.  Comfort is definitely another reason to purchase this nursing bra.  It is made from one seamless piece of material.  This is important because seams can irritate your nipple and breast which can make wearing clothes in those early days really uncomfortable.  The material also has a good amount of stretch without losing support so is the ideal bra for all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

I know that the first sign of pregnancy for me the first time around was breast tenderness.  I walked very slowly during that first trimester hoping that my breasts would not move for any reason.  They grew an additional cup size, and sleeping in a regular bra was very uncomfortable because I slept on my side and the breast tissue would fall out of the top cup and the discomfort didn't allow me to get much sleep.  The Emma-Jane 361 nursing bra can help alleviate this discomfort because it is super comfortable to sleep in because of the lack of seams, the ability to stretch for the breast tissue growth during pregnancy and immediately after birth, and the centre of the bra is high enough to prevent breast spillage during the night.  A great sleep bra.

The Emma-Jane 361 nursing bra is available in four sizes (32, 34, 36, 38) each boasting to fit a cup size range of B-F.  I usually wear either a 38C or 36D and I find this bra very comfortable and somewhat supportive.  Meaning that I don't enjoy running or jumping in the bra as much as in some other nursing bras.  It definitely does its job don't get me wrong, but you might want to think about spending a little more money for a more supportive bra if you are more than a C or D cup.

One other feature you may want to consider is the support provided by the side sling (the piece of bra that supports your breast when the cup is open during feeding).  The side sling on the Emma-Jane 361 nursing bra is a slim piece of elastic running from the strap to the chest band.  Again, the side sling is perfectly adequate and does its job.  However, a larger chested lady may prefer a bit more support than this side sling can give them.  Investing in a slightly more expensive nursing bra will give you a more substantial piece of material creating more of a sling for your breast or an A-frame which surrounds the entire breast while feeding.

To sum up the Emma-Jane 361 Seamless Nursing Bra - An amazing value, great during all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding, and moderate support for smaller cup sizes.  You'll definitely get a lot of use out of this bra and love, love, love the price.

The Emma-Jane 361 Seamless Nursing Bra is available in Black, White and Skin tone.  It is available as part of my breastfeeding starter pack which includes 3 Emma-Jane 361 nursing bras, an Emma-Jane nursing tank and a box of Lansinoh nursing pads for £50.

Monday 5 September 2011

Great Ice Cream in Tunbridge Wells at Flossie's

Went to Tunbridge Wells this afternoon with Ellie and my Dad.  Of course an order was placed on the website just as we were leaving Sevenoaks, but I managed to get it in the post right before the Royal Mail van pulled up so OK.

Anyway, walked around the older part of the town which is beautiful, some really nice little shops with quirky items, great kitchen utensil store if you like that kind of thing.  I noticed the ice cream parlour last time we were there because it is named after an old colleague and friend of mine in the US.  We usually like our ice cream wooshie or from Morelli's in Broadstairs, but this ice cream is something special.  We had a triple scoop (best value), although I did have to pay for a second spoon at 5p!  We chose vanilla, cherry ripple and toffee fudge.  My Dad doesn't like bits, so he wasn't a fan of the fudge, but I thought it was great.  I'd gotten used to some pretty awful fudge in the States, so have been pleasantly surprised every time I buy fudge in the UK and it tastes great.  Actually I think I had more fudge in my scoop of ice cream than I got for £2.65 at the Heavy Horse Show yesterday in Shoreham.  But the one that stole the show was the cherry ripple, really great ice cream with a little tartness to it, it was something else!.  Even Ellie tried to get her face in it (or maybe she just has no control of her upper body yet???).

26-28  The Pantiles
Tunbridge Wells
Telephone:  01892 527 690
Couldn't find a website.

If you want to find out more about Morelli's ice cream and where you can find it, or learn more about nursing bras, check out my website for my contact details.

Friday 2 September 2011

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding in the US/UK - #1 healthcare

I must say that I appreciated the NHS a whole lot more when I wasn't relying on it for my family's wellbeing, now I am actually in the UK I'm not so sure.

I was never without healthcare in the US, and I was lucky to work for organizations that provided a pretty good range of policies that didn't care about pre-existing conditions.  I remember reading an article before we left the States saying that many insurance companies now viewed pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.  I had also read in the Baltimore Sun some months before that some women were now being refused insurance because they had told their Doctor that they had not been able to conceive after trying for three months and been labelled as having a pre-existing condition of being infertile.  There are huge debates about healthcare in the US, and especially since Obama came to power and changed the entire healthcare system.

After having a baby on both sides of the pond, I have some big opinions about both systems, so thought it'd be good to talk a little about each, of course experiences would be completely different if you deliver in another hospital, state or county.  I delivered at Anne Arundel Medical Center/Bay Area Midwifery in Maryland, US and Pembury Hospital, Kent UK.

Cost - I paid a monthly premium for my healthcare in the US, my employer also paid a portion of this cost.  My out of pocket costs for the premium ranged from $0-$60 per month give or take.  I then paid at each Doctors visit, emergency room visit, and for prescriptions.  These ranged from $5-$25.  My first pregnancy and delivery cost me a total of $5 above the cost of the premium.  I was very lucky to have good insurance.  I'm sure that a friend of mine told me that her insurance only covered 80% of the hospital stay.  So, if an average stay is $3000-$5000 without including the possibility of surgery or intensive care costs that could happen, this could leave you with a pretty large bill.
I don't think I had to pay anything in the UK, I even get free prescriptions for the first year of my daughters life.  I was even lucky enough to deliver at a brand new hospital that had private rooms, so I didn't even have to share a room after the delivery.

Care - In the US I took an unusual route and decided to see a midwife for my prenatal care, and then deliver at a birth center.  This was something that I had to constantly explain to family and friends because it was so unusual.  The majority of births are handled by obstetricians in the US, whether they are high risk or not.  The prenatal treatment and deliveries are very medicalised, with lots of testing, scans and scare tactics.  I was sent to see a specialist at 36 weeks when I was measuring a whole 1cm too big.  The OB did an ultrasound to check that the baby was OK, he then went on to tell me that the baby was going to be huge and that if I hoped for a natural birth with a midwife I'd better hope the baby came soon.  As a result of this highly medicalised system, there are very high numbers of inductions, c-sections and maternal deaths in the US compared to other developed countries.  One of the biggest benefits of delivering in the US is that you get to choose your health professional, midwife or doctor.  You can shop around to find one you like, and you then see them until they discharge you at 6 weeks postpartum.  I soon found out that in the UK the only way you'd know the person delivering your baby was to has a home birth.  I was really shocked when I found out that the midwife that would deliver my baby would be a stranger.  I have to admit that it was the midwife "situation" during my second delivery that ruined the experience a little for me.  So, I saw my local community midwives during the prenatal period and they came to the house after discharge, but the delivery midwives are purely pot-luck.  On the other hand of course, I got the midwife I least liked for the delivery of my son in the US, but I did at least recognize her.

Which is best?

That's a hard question to answer, I had very different experiences in the US and the UK.  I can however, say that I trusted the information I received from the health professionals that I chose for my care in the US.  We spent time and effort finding a birthing centre that had a tub, we liked most of the midwives and trusted their judgement.  We spent even more time looking for a great pediatrician for our son who had similar beliefs to us, and would take our thoughts into account and not just assume he knew best.  In the UK, I found the health professionals a little cold, quick to get us out the door and they always gave conflicting information.  The UK approach was a little more relaxed you might say, unless there was something wrong with you.  I had hardly any testing done, and only had one blood test when the US results were deemed insufficient.  A lot of preventative tests that I had in the US are not performed in the UK, and many women find out they are diabetic very late on in the pregnancy.  I, myself had protein in my urine from the first time I peed in a cup in the UK, but it wasn't until 16 weeks later that one of midwives decided to do something about it, and we never got the results because Ellie came early.  At the end of my first pregnancy I had been tested positive for Group B Strep and received antibiotics during labour.  In the UK they don't test for this, and when I asked about it was told that unless there was a reason for testing nearer the due date or I paid for it I would not be tested, and no antibiotics would be given unless I'd had a positive test during the pregnancy.  OK, it's a very small risk for the baby, I did not pay for the test.  When I arrived at the delivery room the admitting midwife went thorugh my notes and mentioned the Group B Strep, and we discussed that it had been with my first pregnancy.  She assured me again that they didn't routinely give antibiotics if there hadn't been a recent positive test.  At about 3am, a few hours after delivery as I was settling into my room with my new baby a different midwife came into my room and told me that I should have had antibiotics during delivery and that I should watch my baby closely for signs of infection.  On telling her that I had spoken with the admitting midwife about this very subject, she said that she had called the admitting midwife and she had denied talkng about it with me.

I think overall, a common thread in both countries is that women accept their care as is and don't question it.  This leads to a lot of unsatisfactory birth experiences.  The majority of women who take control of their births come out the other side with much better memories, and huge self confidence.  If I had let the midwife and six Doctors push me into being induced when I was obviously (to me) in labour but the baby had pooped in the womb, then I probably would have had a completely different experience, possibly leading to a c-section (as many inductions do).

So believe in yourself, your body IS made to give birth.  I have now given birth to two beautiful children, one big and one small and both completely without medication.

 am now working from home so that I can spend more time with my children, so please check it out, I do in-home nursing bra fittings in West Kent