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I have just read this article in the Guardian and sighed when I read it. It refers to an article published a couple of weeks ago in the British Medical Journal (here is the article, but it requires a subscription/payment to read it all) where a research group (Fewtrell et al) questioned the policy in the UK to recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants for six months. Just to be clear, exclusive breastfeeding means that for the first six months, an infant is given breast milk only: no solids, no formula, just breastmilk.

This follows the WHO guidelines, and the Australian government recommends the same. I should emphasise that the researchers are not recommending formula over breastmilk, and they are talking about the introduction of solid food, not formula.

What are they worried about? Well, the researchers are worried about links between late introduction of solids and iron deficiency, a potential increase in food allergies, and of coeliac disease.

I’m sure that this is going to confuse mothers even more. Any new mum knows that they are bombarded with a huge amount of advice from friends, families, and experts. I know that when I had my first child, I spent a lot of time consulting baby books and the internet for every little thing. But with my second child, I didn’t have the time, or inclination, and used a much more intuitive style of parenting.

I didn’t manage to exclusively breastfeed for six months, despite knowing that it was recommended, and despite having every intention to do so. My first child started solids at about five months, but my second was grabbing food from my plate at four months and I knew she needed more than breastmilk. I didn’t believe that something magical happened at six months of age that was missing at five and a half months, and so I did what I thought was best for my children – which is what mothers have been doing forever.

I’m curious about how many mums do actually manage to breastfeed exclusively for six months. I am very pro-breastfeeding, and had every intention of doing so, but for us, it didn’t work out and I did start solid food earlier (even though I continued breastfeeding for about a year with them both).

Did you manage?

I’ve had an article published today in the Medical Journal of Australia called Doctors and writing: stranger than fiction? It’s available here on eMJA, but it does have a paywall so is only for subscribers unfortunately. It’s in the paper version too which may be more readily accessible, especially to those of you in the medical field.

It’s been quiet here otherwise, but I should be more active soon. I’ve been trying to write the first draft of my second novel, and also been busy organising a new website which will be coming soon. On top of that, I’ve been a bit sick as I’m pregnant with my third child! I’ll post details of the new website when it’s available.

Doctors who…

I’ve recently come across a website that may be of interest to both medics and writers. It’s called ‘Doctors Who…’ and is an initiative of Varuna, The Writers’ House in the Blue Mountains of NSW. You can see the ‘Doctors Who’ website here.

Varuna, the house, was previously owned by writers Eleanor Dark and Dr Eric Dark, a medical practitioner, hence Varuna’s interest in the link between medicine and writing – an area that I too am very interested in.

I found out about this website through a post on Twitter announcing a creative writing competition for medical students and doctors hosted by the MJA and Varuna. You can read more about this competition here, but if you want to enter, be quick as the closing date is soon. I’ve sent an entry in, even though short stories are not usually my strongest form of writing, but I need to keep sending my work out there.

There are links on the ‘Doctors Who…’ website to doctors who combine their medical work with other interests including advocacy, creativity, innovation and creativity. There are some big name writers on there, including Peter Goldsworthy and Nick Earls – worth a look.

 

I’ve kept a list of all the books I’ve read in 2011, and on skimming through them, there were a few that stood out as exceptional reads. I’d love to hear of you agree or disagree with them, or if there are any that you think should be on the list…

Traitor by Stephen Daisley

The Family Law by Benjamin Law

Bereft by Chris Womersley

Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer

Caribou Island by David Vann (this is probably my favourite book of last year)

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

 

Now I’m clearing out the 2011 books and starting a new list for 2012…

 

Before I sign off for a few weeks for a Christmas break, I just wanted to share this fantastic story about skin to skin contact/kangaroo care that brought a tear to my eye. It’s the story of a Sydney couple whose twins were born prematurely, and they were told only one would survive. As the mother cuddled the newborn to her chest, something amazing began to happen…

Have a great Christmas and I’ll be back in the New Year.

You may have seen some recent media reports into the phenomenon of ‘internet addiction’ in young people. Dr Philip Tam, who has previously written a guest post on this blog on the topic of overuse of the internet, has launched a new website NIIRA with his colleagues to promote discussion, debate and dissemination of topics related to the internet and wellbeing. 

You can find lots of information there, including an article that I wrote, The Internet and Creative Writing: Opportunities and Challenges.

I’ve just signed…

…the contract for my first novel to be published!

I’ve been very quiet here recently, that’s because there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes. I’m thrilled to announce at last that my novel (provisionally titled ‘That Day’, but it may well change) will be published by Hachette Australia in early 2013.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that Hachette Australia wanted to make an offer, and the discussions around accepting that offer were taking place between myself, the publisher, and my agent while I was at — of all places — the zoo! So, in between the noises of lions roaring (literally – they were being fed or something) and monkeys hooting, I verbally accepted the offer and in the last couple of weeks the contract was drawn up and signed.

I’m very excited, even about the prospect of working on the novel again with professional editors, and seeing every stage of the process that turns a manuscript into a real book on the shelves. I’m also anxious about the fact that it is really happening, and that people will read and have an opinion on my novel. 2013 seems like a long way away, but I’m sure the time will go very quickly and I’ll be very busy.

For the moment though, I’m just enjoying the champagne…

I have decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month)after weeks of procrastinating about it (which of course is time that I should have been writing). I may be ‘cheating’ a little as I’m already about 20000 words into my second novel, and NaNoWriMo is about writing a 50000 word novel from scratch in a month.I’m not going to start a new one, just try and add 50000 words, which would bring me pretty close to the end of the first draft of this novel. My original aim was to have the first draft done by Christmas – and this is a way that I can do it.

It will be hard with work and children to fit in, but I’ll give it a go. I am still waiting for news about my first novel, and getting stuck into the second novel is a good way to distract myself from the waiting and jumping every time the phone rings.
And if I don’t manage 50000 words in November…it doesn’t matter. Even to get half of that would be brilliant.

Good luck to any others taking part!

I have just read an amazing short memoir called ‘Last-Ditch Attempt’ by Rebecca Epstein in Griffith Review. From her bio, Rebecca is a Masters student (in non fiction writing) at Iowa State University, and she also has Bipolar Disorder.

In this memoir, Rebecca describes her mental illness beginning in her teens, and how it was eventually diagnosed in her early adulthood. It not only includes vivid descriptions of how it feels to her to be hypomanic and manic, but also shows glimpses of her experience of the medical system: her psychiatrist, hospitalisation, and being both on and off medication. She writes beautifully, and given that she wrote at least some of it in a hypomanic state, the writing at times reflects the thought disorder and pressure of someone whose mood is elevated.

This is the best piece of writing I’ve come across that helps to capture the experience of mania and you can read it online here, or in print in GriffthREVIEW33 ‘Such is Life’.

Risks of baby slings

As someone who used – and recommended – baby slings, I was worried to read a letter today in the Medical Journal of Australia relating to the death of a two day old infant recently while he was being carried in a baby sling. The authors point out that the cause of death was inconclusive, but given that there have been similar occurences in North America, this is clearly a cause for concern. The main risks seem to be associated with either thebaby’s face being covered, or being held in a curved position with chin to chest, and risks seem to be higher for younger, smaller or premature infants.

The ACCC has released a safety warning here if you use/are considering using a baby sling, and this contains advice on safer usage. Of course, consult a health professional if you have any other concerns.

 

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