Reclaiming my body.

For the last two years I’ve been sharing my body. This week am I going to stop sharing.  I’m starting the painful night-weaning journey.  Don’t get me wrong – it was enjoyable for a while. I enjoyed the feeling of breastfeeding (BF) and nourishing my Baby-O, knowing I’m giving her a good start in life, but as she’s getting older and wiser, she now knows how to play the tantrum card to make me cave in if I don’t give her the goods. I’m over waking up in the night with little vice like hands grabbing, ney, pulling my nipples until I feel like they’re going to twang off. Now I’m ready.  I heard a phrase recently; I’m all touched out.  Sums it up perfectly.  I want to reclaim my body.

Mental Preparation

BF in the early days on our first Parent & Baby Walk!

I’d been waiting over the last few months to feel mentally strong enough to deal with the exorcist style behaviour of my little one when I deny her comfort at night. We’ve also been through major changes moving up to my parents and I didn’t want to take away the one constant in her world until I knew she’d settled. She’s just turned two – I don’t think there is much milk left for her, so I don’t think it’s a hunger thing when she sits up in her cot at night and shouts for ‘Mummy’ or ‘Milk’.

I don’t think she is actually awake either. My mum helped me out earlier on this year with getting her to sleep with no help from me – she can now lie down at the start of the night contentedly at night and fall asleep without BF.  When she wakes up at night and can’t help herself back to sleep, I think she has maybe just roused herself from sleep (maybe to pee?!), sits up immediately, almost as if sleep ‘walking’, and won’t lie back down in her cot.

I try to resist picking my little sleep thief up but, she starts moaning, and, of course as my downfall, for most of her life I’ve just brought her into bed with me and breast-fed her right back to sleep again.  I MISS MY SLEEP!!

Day 1

So last night I steeled myself to battle through screeching and squealing, hitting and kicking which is so distressing, and so loud I’m worried will wake the neighbourhood dogs, and went my first night since her birth, without feeding my daughter back to sleep. 

As morning arrives I have a feeling she’s going to be as tired as me today I’ve gone for 31 hours without feeding her.  Just as I think I’m not producing much milk, by mid-morning my boobs feel like they’re going to explode – like I’m stowing two rapidly inflating beach balls. The pressure. 

I get to an Aqua Aerobics class. The motion of the water as I’m bouncing away almost gives me a massage and the cool water feels so good on my chest! Plus the upper body workout should hopefully boost the circulation, and my increasing beach balls start to feel soothed.

I think they accurately call it ‘Engorged Breast’. Exactly how I feel – Engorged. (I read that cabbage leaves can soothe milk filled boobs? Hmm – attractive!).

Throughout the early night my boobs feel so uncomfortable and I begin to think about the best way to pump some milk. Hand pumping through the pain doesn’t appeal.  The last thing I need now is a squeeze. I have a laugh at myself – I was willing Baby-O almost to come to MY rescue.  I wait to see how the mini mitts clamouring at my nipples at 3am will feel if I resist her milk…and I wait. I wait, lying AWAKE in pain, starting to feel feverish, until she wakes up around 1am and I crumble – she has a feast on both sides, relieving the pressure around my chest.  Baby-O and I both fall back to sleep satisfied and relieved, respectively.

Day 2

Day 2 of my mission, on repeat of resisting the feeding, with the anticipation of the previous day’s discomfort and distress, we are both much calmer.  Miraculously I don’t get the same pressure in my chest. It’s almost as if someone has started to turn off the tap.  I think my milk flow is starting to adapt.

One week later

Over the week to come I’m down to only one ‘feed’ (I think she’s just using me for comfort now as I don’t think there is any milk left!), mostly in the break of day around 4am, when I still relent into a moment of whatever it takes to get Baby-O back to sleep.  This is progress.  She still wakes earlier in the night and I’ve resisted feeding her – hoping it sends the signal of ‘it’s dark and there’s no milk at nighttime’. 

I have no desire to go back to the new-mum reading frenzies of the many conflicting blog/mummy community/sleep expert advice at 2am whether for sleep training tips, minor illness etc, which usually only happened in my bleary eyed state during the night. I always ended up confusing myself even more.  Now I’m going along with instinct, trusting that surely soon enough she’ll crack on…preferably not when she’s 5 and still attached to me.  I hope this is the start of dropping the only ‘feed’ of the day completely.  I have to remember I’ve got this far, it probably won’t take much more to go the final steps – of not bringing her into bed with me at all. I’m hoping soon enough she won’t wake up so much…must stay strong!

I think I’ve cracked it…

Before I know it I’m 2 weeks on and I haven’t breastfed her for 3 days.  I think I’ve cracked it.  She still delves into my top during our cuddles when she’s bumped her knee etc, but I gently prize her hand out, telling her there’s no Mummy’s milk now, and she gives up!

I am having a moment whilst I type this.  It’s the end of an era.  The end of my little girl’s baby phase, as she is no longer reliant on me for her source of liquid food…as much as that is possibly the last time I’ll have another life so dependant on me, it feels empowering. I knew it would have to happen some day soon.  The distressing nights when I never thought it would happen seem a distant memory – and to make me feel like it is all worth while, she actually slept for 10 hours solid last night in her own cot! Then I remember why I’m doing this.  To make a full night’s sleep normal again for me!

We’ve come a long way

I love looking back on my journey with Baby-O and the remarkable things my body has done to produce this perfect little being and the care and nurture I have given to make her as healthy and happy as she is today.  I think about the post-natal recuperation my body has gone through: walking, swimming and doing Pilates to get stronger again; strengthening my posture to repair some niggly tingly muscle spasms after the hours of slouching whilst feeding her, no matter how mindful I tried to be; knowing my pelvic floor has a way to go so I don’t have to cross my legs when I sneeze; and trying to get my dancing fit body back (still a little way to go!).

I feel though this is the last piece in the jigsaw of transitioning her to find her independence, from giving my body to help her nourish and flourish. And for me to transition away from my ‘New Mum’ phase, to the next stage of my woman-hood, by reclaiming back my body. 


Pilates For Parents = Healthy, Happy Parenting

Picturing a Summer of running through fields; on the beaches – effortlessly picking up the kids and spinning round with them as you go, without feeling the heave-ho as you lift them?  It’s the classic, carefree image of parenthood. 

Keeping strong and fit has wonderful benefits for parents, not only preparing the body for all the physical eventualities that comes with having kids, but also helping parents to enjoy play time with them on those great days out and holidays to come.

Having fun play time with kids can physically demanding, as can sitting breast feeding for hours; rocking a child to sleep; managing their raging tantrums!  A stronger body will help you to match their energy whilst reducing the chance of long-term injury to joints and muscles.

Dancing Mama Fitness helps parents prepare for the physicalities of parenthood through Matwork Pilates – the perfect mind and body workout for parents, holistically supporting mental health and wellbeing. 

The many benefits of regular Pilates practice for parents include:

  • improves strength for demanding activities with kids;
  • improves and strengthens posture/alignment, corrects postural issues;
  • improves physical health – helping to stave off illnesses;
  • makes us happier! Happy parents = happy home;
  • beats stress – Pilates focusses on coordinating movement and breath, known through many practices to calm the mind;
  • helps us live longer lives – we want to see our kids thrive well into the future, right?!

It’s not just about making time to respect and care for our bodies and mental health – it’s about the benefits we’re passing on to our children as a result!

Personal Pilates Tuition

Dancing Mama Fitness will set up small group and 1:1 Pilates just for you and your friends. We come to a venue near you, at a time that suits you, for a programme of personal training sessions around Beds, Herts & Bucks.

Bring your babies or young kids to join in with fun sessions incorporating the babies into exercise with and without baby carriers – or leave the kids at home!

We love the outdoors, so if possible we’ll take our workouts to the wild and connect with nature for some feel good, holistic mind and body vibrations too.

Share the cost of sessions with a group of friends – the feeling of personal training on a more affordable level – or treat yourself to a personal, bespoke programme of sessions.  

Example cost: From as little as £8 per person per hour, paying per month and based on a group of 5 people at your home (subject to size/suitability of flooring/terrain!).

Get in touch for more info:

Facebook: @Dancing Mama Fitness

Alison@theloveofdance.co.uk

Strengthen the core, the pelvic floor, and feel your stamina return through mindful movement exercise. 


Dancing Mama Fitness

Dance and Fitness training for mums wanting to get their groove back! Strengthen your core, pelvic floor and feel your stamina return.

The Love of Dance brings you the Dancing Mama Fitness concept! As a new mum I found it hard to find a fitness class I could join whilst having a young baby, that suited my childcare needs, time and location.  I’m a dance and Pilates Instructor and needed to get my strength back but couldn’t find the classes to help me.  Surely I’m not alone!
Dancing Mama Fitness will set up small group and 1:1 dance fitness training just for you and your friends. Bring your babies or young kids to join in with fun sessions incorporating the babies into exercise with and without baby carriers, or leave them at home! Babies can also be entertained in the room whilst you work out – I realise this isn’t quite giving ‘you’ time, but realistically, us mums have to compromise sometimes!
We come to an venue near you at a time that suits you, for a programme of personal training sessions around Kent and South East London.
Opt for:
Dance class in contemporary, street or jazz;
Dance conditioning; or
Pilates
Share the cost of sessions with a group of friends – the feeling of personal training on a more affordable level – or treat yourself to a personal, bespoke programme of sessions. Contact me for more information!

Dancing Mama - Pilates Instructor

Dancing Mama Fitness


Dancing Mama – Qualified Pilates Instructor

Pleased to announce my new qualification as a Pilates Instructor!  I’ve passed my Level 3 Diploma in teaching Mat Pilates.

Pilates is an excellent form of exercise to help target a myriad of physical and emotional well being needs.  I’ve found it so beneficial in helping me regain my core strength after having the baby – wish I’d have practised more during my pregnancy too.

Dancing Mama - Pilates Instructor

Dancing Mama – Pilates Instructor

Pilates Benefit

I love the feeling after a Pilates class – the only way to describe it is ZEN! Chilled, rejuvenated and STRONGER.  I notice the tone returning to my muscles instantly, sculpting the shape of my body.  It’s a little like meditation for me as for an hour or so I’m just focussing on the smooth, fluidity of my body movements and all the muscular actions and changes through each exercise.  Some might see Pilates as sedative – in fact the slower the movement, the deeper and more effective the action towards developing strength, whilst minimising the possibility of injury or muscular tearing.

Pilates & Dance

In my classes I’m going to combine Pilates principles with dance conditioning exercises.  Pilates and dance go perfectly hand in hand.  I first discovered Pilates in my dance training at Trinity Laban.  They have a great Pilates studio there.  Joseph Pilates himself rehabilitated many dancers back to strength from injury – his methods for them being quite powerful and advanced to service the demands of athletic bodies. Prior to which he helped injured world war soldiers by adapting the hospital beds into, what we know today as ‘reformers’ – the larger Pilates equipment, assisting exercises by providing resistance – to aid recuperation. His methods helping people with different needs demonstrates the power of Pilates for different ages, health conditions and levels of strength and fitness.

Contact me here for more information about small group and 1:1 Pilates Tuition!

 


Dancing Mama – The Power Of Play

Then Power Of Play

The Power Of Play – What better depiction of play fight than with a pink teddy!

I love a play fight.  A spontaneous, innate wrestle to bundle each other, avoid or supply a tickle, or to try to get my own way.

Not a euphemism for anything kinky – honest; it’s not easy to quietly play fight anyway.  So all above board when the baby is awake (ahem!), and plus my fam is likely to read this so yeah…

I love the struggle to push and pull; the wrangle and tangle of limbs. The huff and the puff, the grunt and the scream, the force, the grapple to succeed. The calories burnt, the muscles engaged, the core strength to overturn the opposition.

As long as the opponent knows when to really stop of course – there are moments when they won’t give in.  A stronger force needs to know the rules, respect the signs when to relent, catch a breath, before Round Two begins.

Love the laughs, the moments where I can’t breathe either for laughing ’til I could burst, or being pinned down and unable to move. An extreme game of Twister, that extra level of tussle to intensify the workout, ok, a bruise here and there, but the feeling of euphoria at the end.

The bond the play fight forges.  A patch over an argumentative moment or blasting away the stresses of the day. You can’t beat a play fight to boost the happy feels and each one rolls out every time in its own unique way.

__________

I had to write about play fighting like this.  It’s something that always astounds me.  The restorative nature from a tense moment as two people, or maybe even parent and child, push the concept of play. It may not be for everyone, and there may not be a suitable (or worthy) opponent to hand. A recovering post-natal body should probably take it easy, and their opponent needs to be clear that ‘stop’, ‘ouch’, or the agreed equivalent is understood, as is the agreed level of force. And definitely no kicking, punching or biting allowed (just a nibble perhaps)! It’s such a natural instinct we see with other mammals – dogs, cats, monkeys – they play with each other frequently, but it’s something we tend to lose as human adults.  A full body work out of short bursts of intense play can surely burn serious calories. I don’t know the stats, but would be interested to know, and in addition to the laughter it’s a good all round mind and body workout.  Go on – find that inner child and find the Power Of Play!

Further reading!

This is hilarious – the How To guide to Play Fighting with your girlfriend.  Take note!

https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Fight-with-Your-Girlfriend

There’s even an organisation promoting mindful play fighting!

https://www.playfight.org

 

 


Dancing Mama Nutrition Day 5 – The Fitness Expert

My final Nutrition Day 5 offers a combination of fitness and nutrition tips from health and fitness expert Iona Layland  of Train heal Breathe.
Here’s her 5 tips for getting back into shape after pregnancy:
1) Corework: pregnancy and child birth is a MASSIVE upheaval to your core. Gentle, calm and controlled exercises to rebuild from the inside. This is exactly what Alison has done with Pilates. 
Too much intense exercise too soon (all depends on your pre pregnancy history) could cause distress to the system. My philosophy is “Little by Little”  https://ionapt.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/little-by-little-advice-on-how-to-start-out-training/
My motto to achieving progress is ‘little by little’ ; faith in action no matter how small it is. However unfit you feel, you can make progress. Dream BIG but don’t let …
2) Whole Foods: include lots of whole foods and minimise any processed foods. Smoothies are great for time efficiency! You can add oats, hemp, flax, chia, frozen fruits for vitamins and minerals and natural sources of protein.
3) Protein: this is one of the most essential building blocks of the human body, whether you are weight training or repairing the body after a baby. Generally aim to have in grams of protein your bodyweight in kilo: e.g. 80kg person = 80g of protein.
This amount goes up depending on how much training you’ve done. Here’s my blog on protein that goes into more detail.
4) food diary: write down everything you eat in a day or even better put it in an app; there are so many out there now! You can see exactly what’s happening, how many grams of macros you’re consuming: protein, carbs and fat.
In order to be leaner you need to get a minimum of around 20% of your calories from protein. Here’s my food diary blog that explains more  https://ionapt.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/food-diary-what-do-you-need-to-eat/
5) Strength training: once you’re feeling stronger inside from the corework (take as long as you need) start to work on strength. It’s essential for women to be doing at least strength training at least two or more days a week working all major muscle groups. See more here:  https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults.aspx

As for cardio only gentle movement at first; Alison’s group walks in the countryside and woods are perfect! Try not to to do high intensity until you’ve done several months of core, strength training and gentle cardio.
Good luck guys! I have lots of clients with babies and young kids and it’s always a far greater challenge to fit in exercise but just a little everyday goes a loooooong way.
And if you’re based in East London, Olympic Park Stratford (and Hackney Wick) and would like to try out personal training feel free to get in touch.

Dancing Mama – Nutrition Day 4 – Baby Budget


We’ve been living on a baby budget since baby was born. If this is the time to take advantage of the wonderful benefits we have in this country for low-income families this will be it for me.

Discovering the Healthy Start initiative for families on low incomes was a saviour for us. As freelancers living off a small maternity monthly pay out for me we are entitled to healthy start vouchers giving us a certain amount each month off of fruit and vegetables, milk, baby formula (although  I’ve not regularly bought this ) and vitamins for me and Baby-O, from many major supermarkets. I’m yet to find any independent F&V stores that take them – and not sure it would be worthwhile for them to take them.

Learning to shop and cook on a low budget but still making tasty food has been a fun challenge for me. We’ve tried cutting down on meat we’ve tried going vegetarian and I’m still not sure how to cook sufficient food that will sustain us without meat. I know it can be done but we are a work in progress.

Although it drives me mad that organic produce is more expensive than non-organic I have tried to use organic for Baby-O where possible and therefore largely our diet consists of lots of fruit and veg and easy to throw together meals, cutting down on meat to allow for the slight luxury of organic.

I keep the store cupboards stocked up with red lentils, pulses, whole wheat pasta and lots of dried spices, so I know veggie dishes, although basic, can be bulked out with protein and with different flavours. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m cooking in bulk and freezing meals so I try to minimise wastage of some F&V that many not always get eaten up.

Now baby led weaning is underway and Baby-O is eating breakfast with us, the cheapest and most sustainable breakfast I know is porridge. I’ve been mixing it up depending on what fruit we have in, always mixing in full fat cow’s milk and a couple of dollops of full fat Greek yoghurt on the side has been a winner. My fave additions are:

*Apple or pear chopped into tiny pieces mixed into the porridge has gone down well.

*Frozen berries mixed in whilst the porridge is still on the heat to defrost them makes for a fun pink porridge.

*Always mashed banana mixed in with some cinnamon

*Dates soaked overnight, chopped and using the sweet water the next day to cook the porridge has been an occasional addition (dont want baby poop overload!)

*I’ve been adding a little peanut butter as I understand after 6 months babies can have peanut butter to help build up immunity to nut allergies.

I’ve learnt a lot since being off work about how to cook yummy things with very few but healthy ingredients and this will be a good life skill which is going to continue with me as Baby-O grows up.

Continue reading


Dancing Mama – Day 3 Nutrition – The Freezer Friend

 

I love days when I look in my fridge and it’s so uninspiring that I’m considering ordering takeout. But then I remember the goodies I have in my freezer. As long as I can motivate myself and find time to prepare vegetables in advance or buy them ready prepared from the freezer department, I can quite often be creative enough to cobble together lunch or dinner from the contents of my freezer.

Preparing baby food in advance or cooking in bulk and freezing means I can easily grab something for her dinner and cook it quickly. So when she’s grizzly and hungry food can be in front of her in a matter of moments. I’ve been told about using ice cube trays to store mashed vegetables. As baby gets older she has more ‘cubes’ of food per portion but it really helps to manage her mealtimes without chunky tubs, when freezer space is at a premium.

As long as I have some good staples in the freezer I can also get something nutritious and satisfying for my lunch too. My favourite is a Asian inspired with some miso soup paste vegetables and noodles the song keep me going at lunch time and again doesn’t require much preparation.

My meal here was thrown together in moments, and with the claims that frozen foods retain their nutrition when packed from source, hopefully I’m optimising our vitamin intake as I go.

 

Dancing Mama – Freezer Food Lunch when I look in my freezer

 

 


Dancing Mama – Nutrition Day 2 BLW

No – BLW isn’t a delicious sandwich filling!  Baby Led Weaning has been hailed by child experts as an effective method of getting babies food savvy and ready to eat many types of flavours and textures.  I’ve got a few friends who recommended it, along with my cousin who is a community nursery nurse for an NHS health visiting team.

The deal is, instead of buying ready made baby food in jars or pouches, babies eat pretty much the same food as us, with their diet and nutritional dos and don’ts in mind first and foremost. I’m going to talk about cooking on a budget tomorrow, but this helps to keep food bills low.

Dancing Mama - Yes - I'm sharing Baby Food!

Dancing Mama – Yes – I’m sharing Baby Food!

Now I’m having a go at baby led weaning we’re more or less eating the same foods as Baby-O, meaning we mostly cooking everything from scratch, really cleanly, without salt. Much of the base of our food is veg and pulses. It feels good. And although I’m making most recipes up, I’ve found a few recipes that I can adapt and they still taste pretty good. A recent hit was Joe Wicks, Body Coach’s Lamb Curry!  Baby-O didn’t each too much of the lamb, but loved the sauce and veg, with coconut oil, curry paste (I found a low salt one and only put a small amount in her portion), red lentils to thicken the sauce, and ground cashew nuts instead of cream, as a few of the healthy tweaks Joe has made.  I do sometimes take Baby-O’s portion out before adding stronger flavours or some seasoning for us, but the base of most dishes can generally be shared by us all.

I’ve found Annabel Karmel’s website, where baby specific recipes can be added to, to make them a little more interesting for the adult palette. The Baby-Led Weaning book (Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, The Experiment, 2010) was a useful read to see how easy and straight forward BLW is, with minimal extra preparation, and I also grabbed the Ella’s Kitchen: A Tiny Taste of the First Foods Book (Hamlyn, 2015) free with the Boots Parenting Club, which gave a few more ideas for using basic ingredients, but experimenting to adapt for my meals too.

BLW has really helped me think about cooking from scratch, using fresh ingredients, largely veggie dishes as I’ve cut down on meat – and I’m definitely feeling the health benefits with more of a spring in my step!

 


Dancing Mama – Nutrition Day 1

Since I’ve lost a bit of the baby weight and my latest triumph is being able to fit into my Levis again, I thought I’d do a few days

Dancing Mama - Jeans Success

Dancing Mama – Jeans Success

of sharing my post-natal nutrition story. Again, not just about losing the weight (although that is a factor so I can get back into my old wardrobe!), but about regaining my fitness and getting healthy for me and Baby-O.


Day 1 is Smoothie-Spiration!

Dancing Mama - Smoothie-Spiration

Dancing Mama – Smoothie-Spiration

I’ve been short on time for myself so a smoothie every morning has helped me ensure I’m on my way to getting my daily Fruit and Veg (F&V) intake. There is some controversy over smoothies – the process removes some nutritional value, and then we don’t absorb all the goodness as the smoother liquid passes through the gut too quickly. I also lack the tools of a smoothie maker that optimises the nutritious benefits from the F&V etc.

It’s the difference though between me being able to throw everything into my ‘soupmaker'(!) blender quickly and getting an easy and fulfilling breakfast as regular practice, versus haphazardly finding time for my F&V throughout the day and running out of time to eat.  I’ve got my same old ingredients I pretty much use all the time if they are in the cupboard/fridge, as I’ve got used to buying them as standard on the shopping list, but I haven’t got bored of it.

I’m quite impressed with myself that this is one routine I have managed to stick to!