Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Reality of Child Mortality

Have you noticed any of the recent articles on child mortality across the world? Here in the UK the headlines have told us that we have the highest death rate of under-5s in the whole of Western Europe, with 5.3 deaths per 1000 live births. That compares with Sweden's 2.7.

But the figures from other Americanised cultures are equally as bad: Australia had 4.7 deaths per 1000, Canada had 4.9 and the US had a shocking 6.7.

Child deaths are falling across the world, in developing as well as developed nations. But I still have to wonder why they are higher in American-type cultures than European countries. The reasons are obviously very complex but increases in obesity, fertility treatment and average maternal age are surely important factors.

Could the private American health system also be to blame for it's terrible child mortality? The UK's National Health Service is far from brilliant, but at least every mother has easy access to quality obstetric and paediatric care if it is needed.

Years ago, before the NHS was established, my great great aunt lost her two year old son to diptheria because she could not afford to take him to hospital. She never had another child and for the rest of her life she cursed herself for failing to save him. This is the reality behind child mortality.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bicarbonate of Soda Actually Works

I was expecting to come out of the shower with hair as greasy as when I went in. But this week's revelation is: bicarbonate of soda does actually clean my hair.

I've used it twice so far and my hair feels pretty much normal. However I have two things going in my favour:

a) I only washed my hair every two days anyway, and I didn't use much shampoo; and
b) We have really soft water.

For anyone interested, I read around a few websites and decided to use a softly-softly approach to begin with. So I am only using one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda mixed with a cupful of water (200ml to be precise). I pour about half of that on my head, massage it into the scalp for a couple of minutes then rinse. I thought I would gradually increase the dosage if it wasn't working, but so far it seems to be cleaning my hair well enough.

I still have a bit of conditioner left in a bottle so I've been using that after the wash. When it has run out I'll start experimenting with cider vinegar.

I keep wondering why I've been using shampoo for thirty years when that bicarbonate of soda sitting in the kitchen cupboard would do the job just as well. It's quite amazing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Not Crunchy, Just Kind

I'm going ahead with the whole no 'poo thing. Under normal circumstances I would have washed my hair today but instead I gave it a rinse, so I suppose today counts as day 1. When it gets disgustingly greasy I'll get to grips with bicarbonate of soda and I might go to see if Holland and Barrett have any cider vinegar (though I'm not getting my hopes up since I live in one of the most un-healthfoody places in the country. In fact it's a wonder that our local one makes enough money to pay the rent, let alone make a profit).

But why, I find myself wondering, do I want to ditch the shampoo? What's my motivation? You see I'm not really your typical crunchy attachment parent (if there is such a thing). I'm not really very crunchy at all. Well, maybe just a little bit.

I think different people do crunchy things for different reasons. Some, like the blogger Maman a Droit, have found that religion has led them to live more in harmony with nature. In her profile she explains:
I try to do things naturally 'cause I think that's the way God designed them to run, so I come to a lot of the same conclusions as my liberal sisters!

Others might be motivated by general respect for nature and concern about the impact humans have on the planet.

Personally, I think I come from a more scientific angle. I want to live in the manner that my body is biologically adapted for. I just think that my body was designed to work a certain way and I will feel mentally and physically better if I allow it to live in that way. Furthermore, I am instinctively thrifty and I love any opportunity to save money. Crunchiness and frugality seem to go hand in hand.

Speaking of hair in particular, I look around at the other hairy animals that inhabit this planet and they all seem to have lovely coats despite not lathering themselves with detergent every two days. I'm pretty sure that humans haven't been doing it for more than a few hundred years either. I have no doubt that human hair can look good without being drenched in harsh chemicals on a regular basis so goddamn it, I'm going to give it a go.

This train of thought has got me wondering what motivations other people have for doing crunchy things. What's your story?

Monday, May 17, 2010

On a Slightly Different Note: Baby Toiletries

It is warm, finally. The sun is shining. Looking after my baby is getting easier and easier. I am getting excited about my breastfeeding counselling training and things are starting to fall into place around the peer support I am currently involved in. Life is good. So what is a formerly angst-ridden mother supposed to write about?

I have found my mind turning towards the old "no 'poo" thing. You know, no shampoo (the other thing would be unhealthy). Since Cave Baby was born we have probably washed her hair with shampoo about three times. I remember in our antenatal class the midwife told us not to bother with baby toiletries, so we took her literally and bought none. (This caused some consternation to the midwife who visited the day after the birth wanting to bathe Cave Baby and wash the blood off her head. She could not imagine not putting any products in a bath). Despite our shunning of hair products, Cave Baby has the softest, cleanest, most gorgeously baby-smelling hair. All we do is rinse it under the shower every three or four days, and we don't use any skin washing products on her either.

What I want to know is whether this clean un-shampooed hair phenomenon is a consequence of her being a baby, or whether it would work for me too? Will there come a time when her hair does become greasy and we have to resort to shampoo? I have mixed feelings about taking the no 'poo route with my own hair. I like the idea of saving money but on the other hand I take quite a lot of pleasure in shopping for a really yummy smelling shampoo and conditioner every few months.

Even if I don't wean myself off shampoo, I'm still keen to keep my baby product-free and I will try bicarbonate of soda-based concoctions if they become necessary. I'd love to hear of anyone else's experiences of keeping their babies shampoo-free.

On a slightly different but related point, does anyone have any good remedies for baby eczema? Despite our avoidance of soap and a daily slathering with aqueous cream, Cave Baby still has patches of red itchy skin. I have used hydrocortisone cream which does sort the problem out temporarily, but the eczema just returns when I discontinue using it.

For anyone interested in reading more about No 'Poo, there are loads of bloggers out there who have written about it but I can particularly recall Top Hat's no 'poo chronicles. And the post that inspired me to write this one was Joe's on here new blog Slightly Frugal. Sometimes Hippie. Always Busy.

Enjoy reading and please tell me if you've any advice for me.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm Touching Wood, But I Think Things Have Got Easier

I can finally say it: things really do get easier. Sometime around the 18 month mark things started to fall into place. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what has changed, but I feel better, calmer, more contented.

I wake up most mornings feeling rested, much like I used to do before I had a child. It's not that I don't get woken in the night, but the night feeding sessions are shorter and less frequent and they just don't seem to affect me like they used to. During the day Cave Baby doesn't stress me out as much as she did in the past. For a couple of months she seems to have become less clingy. It's just little things that make the difference; in the past, for example, she would scream if I put her down while I was getting my breakfast and now she's happy to potter around the kitchen instead. I can honestly say that I am now feeling like the person I was 20 months ago. And that is a good feeling.

I'm not writing here as much as I used to and that's because I don't have that same frustration inside me that needed to vent somewhere. I have come through the most difficult days with my first child and I can look back with a little distance at my experiences. I don't have that immediate sense of anger at the way society was telling me to bring up my child. I can see how and why different people are motivated to raise their children in different ways and I am confident that the close, loving care that I chose to lavish on my baby was the right thing for her. I can even talk objectively to new mothers about the pros and cons of attachment parenting without feeling that my choices need to be justified or defended.

I still want to shout from the rooftops how we need to hold, nurse and love our youngsters but I have found other ways to do it besides blogging. I help mothers to breastfeed at a support group and I provide friendship and support at a coffee morning. And I am about to embark on training to become a full-blown breastfeeding counsellor so I can provide real practical help to get more women breastfeeding. Most importantly, I have built a network of like-minded mothers who keep their babies close, sleep beside them at night and refuse to do anything remotely resembling crying it out. Finding support online was absolutely invaluable for me when I was deep in the hardest parts of my first year as a mother, but the real life support I now have is even more reassuring.

So if I'm not updating this blog quite as often, these are all the reasons. The challenges posed by a 20 month old toddler just aren't as immediate and stressful as those posed by a high needs, boob-loving, sleep-dodging baby. Having reached this point in my life as a mother, I am even finding myself telling new mothers how it will eventually get easier and more comfortable. I no longer feel the need to justify my decisions all the time because my daughter is the walking talking evidence that attachment parenting works (though I still hate the term).

So if you are reading this from the bottom of the pit of new baby exhaustion, please believe me when I say that you will eventually feel better. It might take a year, or 18 months or 2 years but you will some day feel like your old self again. Just knowing this is going to help me to survive the hard days that I still do occasionally have. But it also casts a new light on the idea of having another baby; when will I really be ready to submit myself to another 18 months of tiredness and anxiety? (By the way, there are no worries about having another one just yet because yes, I am still anovulatory).

Did you notice a point at which your life became easier? And did you find it hard to contemplate embarking on the whole baby adventure for a second time?