Charlotte alias Lalottes
We hardly need to introduce Charlotte, alias Lalottes, super-mum at the head of a family with 4 kids, and n° 5 on the way, as well as being an ER nurse.
She’s a proper ray of sunshine on Instagram so we at Jolly Mama are happy to follow her, for her fresh and spontaneous posts (she shows us her real life, with no frills, laundry baskets and toy-strewn living room included), her dancing that has (re)converted us to baby carrying, her Sunday family photos, and of course her many and varied exploits (juggling family, work and life as a couple, or even how to grow pineapples or avocados from scratch #ananaschallenge). And most of all, we love her kindheartedness, the ways she talks about breastfeeding, always finding the right words, being a good ear and a good shoulder.
In short, a practically perfect mum, who we love and admire…
Can you describe yourself in a few words? (you, your family, your children…)
My name is Charlotte, I’m 38 years old. I first became a mum at 30 and haven’t stopped since :). I am also a full-time nurse and I’ve been married for 10 years. I am in charge of what you could call a large family, with 4 children and a 5th due in a few months. This latest pregnancy was a happy accident, we thought our family was complete when our youngest, Jannah, arrived, but now this has happened. It’s a lovely surprise, like the icing on the cake.
How was it when your second child arrived?
My eldest was 7 months old when I got pregnant again. In hindsight, I don’t know how I managed to cope with a second child so soon afterwards… I had absolutely no idea of the workload it represented.
Obviously you have to organise yourself differently, but I found the second much more calming. When I had my second, I said to myself “how could I feel overwhelmed with just one baby!”. But then, I wasn’t lucky enough not to have a reflux baby, who suffered from colic…
With my first, during the first month, I couldn’t give her a bath, her Dad did it. She would cry, I was scared I would hurt her, it really wasn’t an enjoyable experience. With the second, bathtime was funtime, and much more relaxing.
I feel like you learn something with each child. You think you know, then you discover something new… I learned that there’s no reason to feel you can’t cope with one child, but I guess you have to have a second one to realise that (laughs). And so on… when the third comes, you say “how could I feel overrun with 2…” 🙂
Now you’re expecting your 5th. Did you always want a big family?
It depends what you call a big family. Ideally I saw myself with 3 children. It seemed like a good size, because there were 3 of us in my family. For our fourth, Jannah, my husband and I said “why not, let’s go for it”. Now number 5 is coming, by accident, but some say there are no accidents…
I always felt I would be a mum. I could see myself as a mum, it was like it was my destiny so to speak. I never wanted an only child, or even just two, because I wanted to give siblings to my kids. I can already picture the big table in the holidays, when they’ll come over with their partners and their own kids. I want to see them grow up, become adults, and parents.
Any advice for juggling kids, being a full-time nurse and your own life?
I think I just try not to ask myself too many questions… and that’s maybe what saves me. I sort of go with the flow, I don’t think you could call me “organised”, I don’t have a schedule (apart from at work of course!). So today for example, I didn’t do the laundry, even though the laundry basket’s overflowing, because Jannah wanted to play, so we played. I try not to be too rigid, and too bad if the house isn’t spotless!
Tell us about your 4 breastfeeding experiences. What was different with Jannah ?
What was different when I nursed Jannah, compared with the others, was that I trusted myself, and I was more determined after three defeats.
For my first daughter, I didn’t find out about breastfeeding beforehand at all. For me, it was something that was completely natural: you’ve got boobs, you give birth, you’ll have milk. So when it started to get painful, I didn’t cope very well. On top of the pain, you get all the visits, the fatigue, the challenge of nursing with other people around…. I had already started mixed feeding while I was in the maternity hospital. That way I could give her a bottle if people came to visit.
Also, she didn’t weigh much when she was born. I couldn’t measure the quantity of milk she was taking. So I found it reassuring to express my milk and give it to her through the bottle. Gradually, I stopped expressing and gave her formula. At the time it didn’t feel like a failure, because I felt I’d done what I needed to as a mum: the first feeds, 2 months of breastfeeding, I’d done ‘what was expected of me’ if you like.
For my second daughter, I really wanted to breastfeed for longer. I still hadn’t done much research, but I was prepared to get through the pain I had felt first time round. Unfortunately, 15 days after she was born she had some health problems. She wasn’t putting on weight. I put it down to the breastfeeding, so I switched to mixed feeding. The midwife told me she still wasn’t gaining any weight, so I decided to feed her only with formula milk, thinking that my milk wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t know how to feed her. Which wasn’t the case at all, she had pyelonephritis (reflux), and they took her into hospital for a week. So this time I really felt that it was a breastfeeding failure, I told myself I shouldn’t have stopped…
With my son, my third child, I was totally determined. I said to myself ‘this time I’m going to give it my all, I will breastfeed, I will’. Then the birth was really difficult, with a very painful postnatal period. I couldn’t carry him for the first month, I couldn’t sit up, I felt really handicapped by the physical pain. I nursed for maybe a month, but no more, I just couldn’t fight through the pain.
So when I fell pregnant with Jannah, I thought somehow that this was my last chance to prove to myself that I could breastfeed, and I SO wanted to nurse her. And, finally, everything went well, I didn’t feel like there were any obstacles. Was it because I was stronger, mentally? I don’t know… Of course I had some pain at the start with the contractions, but I never had any cracks or infections or anything… It all went without a hitch. And once we got started, I kept at it until she was 22 months old.
What is your favourite memory to do with breastfeeding?
There’s no particular event, but I do remember the early stages of breastfeeding. In the evening, the older children were looked after by their dad, and I was in bed with my baby, and it really was our time, like time had stood still. Just her and me.
How did you handle going back to work when she was 11 months old? Do you have any advice for reconciling the return to work and breastfeeding?
Again I went with the “freestyle” approach. People asked me what I was going to do, and I’d reply ‘I dunno, we’ll see how it goes’. I thought, if it has to stop, so be it. It wasn’t a wrench, I was ready to go back to work, I wanted to go back. She was 11 months old, she was onto solids, so I didn’t need to worry about her not being able to feed when I wasn’t there.
I took a breast pump with me at the beginning, even though I didn’t know if I would have the time to express my milk. But it didn’t really take too long. It was more about avoiding engorgement than building up a supply, so after a couple of weeks, I spaced out the sessions, and then after a while I didn’t need to do it anymore. Jannah would feed when I was at home, at night (long feeds), in the morning, or the evening, or on my days off. Nothing had really changed with me going back, so it didn’t put us off our stride much…
How did you wean Jannah? How did you feel about stopping after nearly 22 months?
I nursed her until she was 22 months old. It was time for both us. She would start to feed, but 2 seconds later she’d be distracted. Nursing didn’t seem to have much point, for either her or me. It wasn’t even ‘cuddle time’ any more, we kind of did it out of habit…
So one day I suggested some water, and she didn’t ask to feed for the rest of the day, or that night, it was like she had been waiting for us to talk about it and for both of us to agree.
Did you change your diet while breastfeeding, especially to maintain your milk supply (teas, lactogenic foods…)? What ingredients would you identify as lactogenic? Did you have cravings?
I always drank tisanes for all of my children, I love Weleda’s fennel tea. It might seem weird, because lots of mums can’t stand fennel, but I love it. And for Jannah, I also took almonds.
Apart from that, I ate normally. Jannah was allergic to the proteins in cows’ milk, but digested mine well, so I didn’t need to cut dairy products out of my diet. Thankfully, because I adore cheese and yoghurts! It was only when she started to eat/drink cows’ milk directly that she was allergic. And then the allergy disappeared on its own. One day she took a yoghurt without me noticing, and there were no problems then or since.
Would you have liked to use Jolly Mama snacks when you were nursing last time?
Oh absolutely!! I had a terrible case of the munchies especially in the first 3 months of breastfeeding. I needed to eat and drink all the time. When I was hungry, I would eat whatever was handy, and what I felt like. If I’d found the right kind of food to deal with that, I would have made it my ‘go-to’ breastfeeding snack.
What’s the best way to prepare for breastfeeding? What advice would you give mums-to-be who want to go down the breastfeeding route or who may have had a difficult first experience with nursing?
Trust yourself, even if it can be difficult sometimes.
Find out about it too. This is why I got onto social networks in the first place: to share my experience with breastfeeding mums. You don’t have to listen to well-meaning but sometimes obsolete advice from your mum or mother-in-law 🙂
Listen to yourself. Even if you aren’t an experienced mum, we have a certain instinct, which you build on and shape and it gets stronger as time goes by.
Stop doubting yourself. If you have doubts, or questions, make sure you go and see a professional, they’re there to help.
Today there are some brilliant books on the subject, like Christelle’s Mon allaitement comme je le veux* (NB: Mum to be Party), which really lets you make up your own mind, with lots of different mums’ accounts, there’s no judgment.
The idea is really to be able to talk about breastfeeding without laying a guilt trip on people, not to ‘convert’ them, but to guide and encourage those who want to make it work, and that’s really what I try to do every day.
* ‘Breastfeeding like I want it to be’
Thanks Charlotte !
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