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Breast pumping tips for pumping more milk – How I went from pumping 25mls to 150mls per session!

Yes it is possible to express lots of milk even if you think you’re terrible at pumping – I’m living proof! When I first started pumping, I could get an average of 25mls per pumping session (and that was on a good day – sometimes I would get 10mls or less!) but now days I can get 150ml PER SESSION!

When my daughter first started childcare I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to express enough milk. I bought organic soy formula for her to have at childcare, but I really wanted to be able to pump as much as possible so that she could keep having breastmilk even when she was at childcare.

I did lots of reach online and tried all kinds of techniques to try to increase my output. I’m not really sure what worked best because I tried so many different things in combination, so I thought I would share everything that I tried in the hopes that it will help some other mummas increase their yield also!

Try different pumps
My husband thought I was crazy, but I ended up buying three different breast pumps, and I’m so glad I tried out some different options. When I was using a Medela Swing single electric pump, I was getting 25mls per session (that’s from both boobs total!) after I switched to a Medela on the go double electric pump, my output doubled so I was getting 5omls per session. I would strongly suggest getting a double pump. It makes life so much easier because you can pump in half the time. And FYI my third pump is a compact hand pump that I use when I go out – very handy!

Drink LOTS of water
I knew that I didn’t have an issue with my supply, but I also found that pumping was more effective when my boobs were fuller, so I figured increasing my supply would probably help. And I find the best way to increase supply is to drinks lots (and I do mean LOTS) of water. I drink 4-6 liters of water a day.

Figure out the time that works best for you
I kept reading that the early hours of the morning was the best time to pump, but I found that wasn’t the case for me at all. I’ve tried all the “key” times – early in the morning, super early in the morning, and late at night, but none of those times worked for me at all. For me, I’ve found 12 noon to be the optimal time for me to pump.

Train your boobs to withstand longer pumping sessions
I used to stop pumping as soon as the milk stopped flowing, but then I discovered if I kept pumping I’d have another let down, so I’d keep going, but then I’d have to stop because my boobs were too sore. So I’ve gradually increase the amount of time that I pump for each day and overtime my boobs have gotten tougher and now I can pump for longer periods of time without them getting sore.

Heat is your friend
Before pumping I try to have a hot bath or shower and I get out of the aircon and sit in the hottest part of the house. It’s not comfortable, but the hotter the room is the more I seem to be able to pump!

Get into a routine and just stick with it
Now that Charlotte is attending part-time childcare I’ve gotten into a routine of pumping every three hours while she is away and it is incredible how quickly my output has increased! I pump at lunch time and then I pump before I go to pick her up. That gives me about 300ml of milk.

I send her to childcare with 2x 100ml bottles, and any extras go into the freezer. She usually drinks 2x 60-80mls of milk at childcare, plus she eats plenty off food while she’s there, and she’s still nursing around 4 times a night so I’m not worried about her milk intake at all!

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My response to the attachment parenting segment I featured in on The Project

I featured in a segment on attachment parenting on The Project and there are a few things that I wanted to clarify about my involvement, what I do as an “attachment parent” and what “attachment parenting” (AP) means exactly. You can watch the segment below or on the The Project website.

Personally I have received a lot of positive feedback about the segment and/or my involvement. I’m aware that there has been a lot of negative comments on The Project’s social media pages, but I’ve chosen not to look at these as I don’t feel I would gain anything from doing so.

The general consensus in my local AP and babywearing communities appears to be that people were unhappy with the way that AP and babywearing were portrayed, and that there was a lot of misinformation in the segment.

I’d like to clarify a few details for anyone that is curious about my parenting style and AP and babywearing. We were interviewed and filmed for almost two hours and this was condensed into just part of a 4 minute story, so not surprisingly, a lot of information was left out. Below are a few things that I wanted to clarify:

What is the definition of “attachment parenting” exactly?

I did not agree with the segment’s definition at all. It said that AP is about “responding to your child’s every demand”. I really disliked the word “demand”. AP is based on the principle of understanding a child’s emotional and physical NEEDS and responding sensitively to these needs in a manner which is appropriate for the child’s age.

“Attachment parenting” is a phrase coined by Dr William Sears, who also wrote a book by the same name. It is also called “natural parenting” or “instinctive parenting” or just “parenting”. Because it is such an instinctive form of parenting, it is done all over the world and many people do it naturally without even knowing that there is a name for it.

Because AP is really just about following your intuition there are no strict rules, but parents may do some or all of the following:

  • Breastfeed on demand
  • Share a bedroom or bed with their baby
  • Wear their baby in a carrier or sling
  • Respond to their baby’s cries and cues.

You do not have to do all of the above in order to practice AP. You can still be an “attachment parent” if you:

  • Bottle feed
  • Leave your child in the care of others
  • Sleep in a different room to your child
  • Use a pram
  • Along with a whole host of other things!

AP is NOT babywearing 24/7!

AP is based on the principles of attachment theory in developmental psychology, thus reference to the word “attachment”. It has nothing to do with being physically “attached” to your child. Many people who practice AP choose to babywear for any number of reasons, but it is not a necessary part of AP (and they certainly don’t do it 24/7!). Likewise, those who babywear don’t necessarily practice AP.

12107498_423120007871755_1070558077_nThe co-sleeping scene

This was filmed in a hotel room next to the channel 10 studios. We weren’t sleeping in the scene – we were actually breastfeeding!

The segment failed to clarify the different types of co-sleeping. Sharing a bedroom with your child and sharing the same sleeping surface as your child (bed sharing) can both be classified as co-sleeping, but they both come with a different set of risks and benefits. SIDS and Kids recommends room sharing until 6 to 12 months of age.

From birth Charlotte slept in a co-sleeper (similar to a bassinet) in our bedroom. When Charlotte outgrew her co-sleeper we started bed-sharing. Charlotte now sleeps in her own bed (which is attached to our bed) for most of the night, but bed shares with me during the early hours of the morning. We follow the safe sleeping guidelines set out by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

Yes, we do have sex

Since this question keeps coming up, I feel I have to clarify. Co-sleeping has not destroyed our sex life! It’s pretty simple. Charlotte goes to sleep in her bed in our room at 7pm. We go to bed at 10pm. So between 7 and 10pm we are free to have sex on the couch or in the shower or anywhere else that takes our fancy (but we mostly just watch Nextflix).

I DO NOT babywear 24/7!

Charlotte has most (but not all) of her naps in a carrier because I find it an easy way to get her to sleep, she tends to sleep longer, and it makes it easy for me to check on her. If we’re out for the evening, it’s a convenient way for her to go to sleep for the night without for example having to worry about fitting her pram into a crowded restaurant. When I’m out during the day, Charlotte will either be in her pram or carrier, depending on her mood and what is the most practical option. I usually find a carrier to be more convenient for me because I find many places (such as shopping centers) difficult to navigate with a pram. Charlotte likes to be in close proximity to me at all times, so I wear her when I’m cooking dinner or doing chores around the house – otherwise I’d never get anything done!

My Job

I work from home as a freelance graphic designer. I work a limited number of hours that I fit in around Charlotte’s sleep times. I often work while she’s asleep in her carrier, but I do not sit at my computer with her attached to me all day! At the moment this arrangement is working for us, but when it becomes unmanageable Charlotte will be attending daycare.

The reason I do AP

AP is not something that I set out to do from the beginning. I just started doing what worked for me and Charlotte and those things happen to fall under the banner of AP.

In the past I have worked in childcare and been a foster carer, so before Charlotte was born I felt pretty confident that I would be well equipped to parent her. I read a couple of general parenting books, but I didn’t giving much thought to my parenting “style” (I didn’t even realise that parenting was even categorised in such a way!)

But after Charlotte was born I was completely thrown off track. She was like no child I had ever encountered before! I started to read every parenting book I could get my hands on, trying to understand why settling techniques I had used successfully on literally hundreds of babies in the past, didn’t work on her. After learning about the fourth trimester theory, I started to babywear and found it to often be the only way I could get her to sleep or settle her when she was crying.

But all those baby books I read convinced me that when the fourth trimester finished at 3 months, I was going to have to “sleep train” and follow a time table. I sent myself slightly mad trying to implement all the techniques that I read about in those books. But absolutely nothing worked! I tried putting Charlotte in her cot while she was sleepy so she could learn to “self settle” but she would just scream. I couldn’t pat her to sleep. I couldn’t rock her to sleep. My attempts at “controlled crying” were a complete disaster. I refused to let her “cry it out”. She woke up hourly over night and I fed her back to sleep each time because it was the only thing that worked. I applied to attend sleep school.

I didn’t end up attending sleep school because I discovered that Charlotte had tongue and lip ties that were causing her to only consume a small amount of milk each time she nursed. There was a reason she was waking hourly overnight – she genuinely needed to breastfeed that frequently. If my “sleeping training” attempts had have been successful I would have ended up starving her! At around the same time I discovered The Milk Meg (who also appeared in the segment) and devoured her website and book. I also started reading about attachment theory and discovered that I have what Dr Sears called a “high needs baby”. It was so comforting to know that there was an explanation for why Charlotte was so different to all the other babies I had cared for.

I know that AP isn’t for everyone and I certainly would never judge a parent for not doing it, but it saves my sanity and is what works for me and my family.

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Epic Month-Long Road Trip With a 5-6 Month Old! Are We Crazy?!!

All dressed up ready for the wedding. This kid has managed to go to two wedding before her 6 month birthday!
All dressed up ready for the wedding. This kid has managed to go to two wedding before her 6 month birthday!

At the beginning of this month, DH and I decided to embark on an ambitious road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne. Were we crazy? I thought so. But it actually ended up being fine, but it took a LOT of strategic planning!

Charlotte doesn’t like car rides (she basically hates doing anything that doesn’t involve being with a centimeter of me, so she hates being in her car seat!) but she will sleep in the car, so we just had to strategically plan our driving so that we left when she was due for a nap. Then we had a maximum of 2 hours of available driving time to get somewhere. Thankfully we had a lot of places we were stopping at along the way so it was pretty easy to split our driving up into 2 hour or less blocks.

The first stop was Lismore for a friend’s vegan wedding. We had a great time and Charlotte LOVED the live music.

Lismore is a great place to get vegan food! The next morning we went out for breakfast and I had amazing blueberry pancakes. We then headed to Sugarshine Sanctuary to see all the cute animals, including 11 piglets! I felt sorry for mumma pig. I’m so glad I don’t have to breastfeed 11 babies – one is more than enough for me!

Sound asleep with Dad after getting tired out by all the fun
Sound asleep with Dad
Piglets at Sugarshine Sanctuary
Piglets at Sugarshine Sanctuary

The second stop was Coffs Harbour to spend a couple of days with Charlotte’s Grandparent’s.

Then we headed to Sydney to catch up with some friends.

We went to Bondi Beach and Charlotte got to experience sand for the first time. She was fascinated!

We went out for dinner at Gigi Pizzeria, one of the few pizzeria’s in the world to be a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (The True Neapolitan Pizza Association). It recently made headlines for changing to menu to be completely vegan.

Yummy pizza at Gigi’s

The pizza was without a question the BEST pizza I’ve ever had. It was amazing. Our friends waited in line for over an hour to get in (luckily we were running late so only had to wait for 15 minutes!) but they said it was definitely worth the wait.

After Sydney we went to Canberra, which was pretty exciting because I had never been there before.

We attended the Living Green Festival and Chay and Charlotte sat on a discussion panel about raising kids plant-based.

After Canberra we went to Melbourne and the first stop was St Kilda and Luna Park. Charlotte loved Luna Park even though she was too little for any of the rides!

While we were in Melbourne we stayed at a friend’s place in Fitzroy, which made it incredibly easy to find vegan food. We were within walking distance of a vegan cupcake cafe, a vegan bakery, and loads of vegan and vegetarian restaurants including Smith & Daughters. We planned to visit Edgar’s Mission, but unfortunately our tour was cancelled due to the risk of bushfires. Thankfully Edgar’s Mission was unharmed, but it was a close call.

After a week in Melbourne we spent a week staying with Chay’s mum who lives a couple of hours out of Melbourne, and we visited another animal sanctuary and saw penguins on Phillip Island.

Then DH drove home and a flew home with Charlotte. Her first plane ride! I was very nervous but she was actually fine. I fed her during the takeoff and landing and she slept for most of the flight!

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Charlotte’s Tongue & Lip Tie Revisions

I started to worry that something was wrong when Charlotte was 3 months old. She was breastfeeding hourly during the day, and her night sleep was going backwards – she’d previously slept for 4-5 hour stretches, but was now starting to wake up every 1-2 hours. Breastfeeding still hurt and my nipples were cracked and bruised.

Family, friends and professionals all assured me that she was normal and/or her problems were my fault. They said she was just a bad sleeper, I was trying to get her to sleep too much during the day, she was just comfort feeding, I needed to teach her to self-soothe, it was normal for breastfeeding to hurt, my nipples would stop hurting if I’d stop letting her comfort feed, etc. etc…

I’d heard of tongue and lip ties before, but because she was breastfeeding and gaining weight steadily, I didn’t think it was possible for her to have them. Plus I thought if there was a problem surely one of the doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, midwives or osteopath I’d already seen would have picked up on it! So I listened to those around me, ignored my mummy instincts, and watched my happy, contented baby turn into a cranky, overtired unhappy little girl 🙁

By the time Charlotte was 4 months old, she was feeding hourly around the clock and only sleeping for 10-20 minutes at a time during the day. Someone in my mother’s group suggested she might have tongue and lip ties, so I did some research and realised that we had most of the symptoms. I took her to a IBCLC who was experienced with ties, and she confirmed that Charlotte had a lip tie and posterior tongue tie. She gave me a list of providers that could revise her ties and showed me some techniques that could help with breastfeeding in the interim.

Because of Charlotte’s ties, she was having to work really hard to breastfeed, so she was falling asleep or giving up before her belly was full, so she was feeding frequently to compensate. This was why she was still gaining weight, but she was exhausted, which was actually making it harder for her to sleep. She was getting worse as she got older, because as she got bigger she needed to consume larger amounts of milk.

We decided to have her ties revised, and chose a dentist that specialised in revising tongue & lip ties using laser (rather than scissors). Here’s a breakdown of the days following her revision:

Day 1

As instructed, I fed Charlotte 2 hours before our appointment, and gave her Panadol 1 hour beforehand. When we arrived at the dental surgery, a dental assistant greeted us and took us up the hall. There were meeting rooms with frosted glass up one side of the hall and treatment rooms with clear glass windows up the other side of the hall.

We were taken into a meeting room and the dental nurse asked us a number of questions about Charlotte and my experience breastfeeding. She then showed my husband and I the stretches we’d have to do following the revision (to prevent the ties from re-attaching). Then the dentist came in and had a chat with us about the information we’d given the dental nurse, examined Charlotte, and answered our questions. She was lovely and gave Charlotte a big cuddle and made her laugh.

Then it was time to actually do the revisions. She told me not to go anywhere and be ready to breastfeed because she would be back in 3 minutes! She took Charlotte across the hall to one of the treatment rooms and we stayed in the meeting room. She preferred that parents wait in the meeting room, but we had the option of going with her to the treatment room or watching through the window if we really wanted to. We heard Charlotte crying, which was heartbreaking, but she didn’t sound overly distressed and she only cried for about 30 seconds. After about 3-5 minutes the dentist came back with Charlotte. Charlotte looked a little upset but she wasn’t crying.

I fed Charlotte immediately and it was AMAZING! Her latch was perfect and it tickled instead of hurting! However, we were warned that Charlotte might slip back into her old feeding style out of habit if I wasn’t proactive about re-training her and she advised that I go back to my IBCLC for further help.

Once the dentist was satisfied that Charlotte was feeding correctly, she said goodbye and left us alone in the meeting room. After Charlotte finished feeding we put her in our Ergo and she was asleep a few minutes later (she’s usually never that easy to get to sleep!). We drove over to my husband’s work to drop him off and Charlotte kept sleeping in the car. She slept for about 1.5 hours, which was really impressive compared to her usual 10-20 minute naps. When she woke up and I gave her another feed which once again felt great. We then headed to her next appointment.

Our dentist recommended that we see a cranial chiropractor with experience in tongue & lip ties, to help loosen up the muscles that had previously been constricted due to the ties, so we made an appointment for later in the day. When we arrived Charlotte was still in a great mood and was smiling at everyone in the waiting room. The chiropractor was lovely and very gentle. There was absolutely no bone cracking and Charlotte appeared to enjoy the treatment.

On the way home Charlotte went to sleep almost immediately, but woke up 20 minutes later when we got home. She was pretty cranky, but I’m not sure if this was because she was in pain or because she was woken up from her nap. I gave her some more Panadol and some frozen breastmilk in a mesh feeder to suck on. She was very unsettled for the rest of the afternoon. At 5pm we had a warm bath and that helped to settle her. I got her ready for bed, gave her a feed and she was sound asleep by 6pm. Getting her to sleep was so much easier than usual, I took this as a sign that we were going to have a good night!

We went to sleep at 10pm and Charlotte was still sound asleep! We were so excited! Charlotte woke up at 11pm and I fed her back to sleep. She’d slept for 5 hours! She woke up again 4 hours later. This was an incredible improvement for a little girl that had previously been waking hourly!

Unfortunately it didn’t last. I gave her another feed but this time she wouldn’t go back to sleep. I was almost constantly feeding and patting her for the rest of the night, until she finally went back to sleep at some point in the early hours of the morning. I was so disappointed – the night had started out so well!

Day 2

Charlotte slept in until 7.30am (a big sleep-in for her), she had a feed and we played for about an hour before she wanted another feed. I was a bit concerned about her wanting to feed again after only an hour, but her latch was still good and she seemed to be getting more milk, although she did keep pulling back to get back to the shallow latch position that she was used to, so I had to keep re-latching her.

Charlotte had never taken a dummy before – we’d tried a few different types but she spat them all out. We assumed it was because she didn’t like them, but after researching ties, I realised she might not be able to hold them in her mouth. So I thought I would try having another go with a dummy and this time she took it, started sucking on it, and fell asleep! I felt like I had a whole new baby!

She was in a good mood for the rest of the day, and her naps lasted for 1-2 hours. I was so happy that we were already seeing so much improvement! I did the stretches every 4 hours and Charlotte clearly didn’t enjoy them, but she didn’t cry or seem overly bothered by them. She didn’t have any Panadol or other medication all day because I didn’t want to medicate her unless she was actually in pain.

In the evening she started to get really upset. I gave her some Panadol and some more frozen breastmilk to suck on and that calmed her down pretty quickly. She feel asleep after having another feed and slept for another 2 hours. So all up she slept for over 5 hours during the day! A huge achievement for her!

She went to sleep for the night at 8pm, but then she was waking every 1-2 hours and not wanting to go back to sleep.

Day 3

At 5am she was wide awake and screamed at our attempts to try to get her back to sleep. We gave her some Panadol which seemed to help. She had a half hour sleep in the morning, a 40 minute sleep at lunch time, and then a 2 hour sleep in the afternoon. For most of the day she was very unsettled and spent a lot time screaming and crying inconsolably. I gave her some more frozen breastmilk to suck on and this seemed to help a lot.

It took us over an hour to get her to sleep for the night, and then she was awake again after 40 minutes, and then again after 60 minutes, and it was a battle to get her asleep again. We were prepared for a bad night, but we actually ended up having the best night ever! We went to sleep at 10pm and then I woke up at 2am and Charlotte was still sound asleep! I did her stretches (which woke her up), gave her a feed, and she went straight back to sleep and didn’t wake up again until 5am!

Day 4

Once again Charlotte was up at 5am, but at least she woke up in a great mood.

Today we went to the IBCLC again to work on improving Charlotte’s latch. The IBCLC showed me the correct way to latch her now that her ties were fixed, and she also showed me some exercises to do with Charlotte to help strengthen and re-train the muscles in her mouth that had been restricted due to the ties. She explained that Charlotte was now using muscles that she’s never used before, so she’d still find it tiring to feed until she built strength in those muscles. It was like having a newborn again in a sense because she was having to learn to feed all over again. The IBCLC said it would take about a month for her to transition through all the stages of recovery following the revisions.

For the rest of the day Charlotte was in a pretty good mood and didn’t appear to be in any pain. She didn’t have any medication and barely cried the whole day. She had two 40 minute naps in the car, and a 2 hour nap in her bed in the afternoon! Overnight she woke every 2 hours but at least she went straight back to sleep after a feed every time.

Day 5

Today was probably the worst day of the week. Charlotte was very unsettled and spent a lot of the day crying. But she also cut a tooth, so I think she probably would have been miserable anyway. Getting her to sleep for the night was a 2 hour ordeal, and when she finally went to sleep in my husbands arms he was too scared to put her down!

End of first week

A week has passed since Charlotte had her ties revised and I have definitely seen a lot of improvement. She’s sleeping for 1-2 hours at a time during the day, sleeping for 3-4 hours overnight, going straight back to sleep after a feed at night, and her tummy problems have completely vanished! I can’t believe she’s already improved so much after just one week! Feeding is now pain-free if she latches correctly, but hurts if she pulls back to the shallow latch position that she is used to, so I have to keep re-latching her (which hurts too!)

After one month

We’re now at the one month mark and I’m feeling very disappointed and questioning why we did the procedure in the first place. Charlotte’s ties are now fully healed and hasn’t been nearly as much improvement has I had hoped for. Charlotte has gone back to feeding in her shallow latch position, and no amount of re-attaching will get her to feed correctly. DH thinks I should go back to the IBCLC, but I’m sick of spending money on the problem and getting no where!

Breastfeeding is now more painful than it had ever been and I I’ve decided to switch to bottle feeding when Charlotte turned 6 months. This is going to be a nightmare to do because Charlotte really loves her boobie and often it’s the only way I can calm her or get her to sleep, and I really wanted to let her self-wean. But my nipples are cracked and bleeding, hurting all the time, and I felt like bursting into tears every time she’s due for feed. I was so determined to breastfeed for as long as possible, but I’ve reached my breaking-point now.

Her sleep has gone backwards again too so she’s waking every 1-2 hours at night, and her sleep in inconsistent during the day.

After 6 weeks

It’s now been 7 weeks since Charlotte’s ties were revised and everything has changed!

After 6 weeks (which was a couple of weeks before Charlotte turned 6 months old) Charlotte started to latch correctly (all by herself!) and breastfeeding suddenly stopped hurting. My nipples recovered from the damage quickly and I was completely pain-free! I couldn’t believe it!

Charlotte’s sleep also started to improve again and she now sleeps for 4-5 hours at night (which I am happy to live with), and she has 2x 2 hour sleeps and a 45 minute sleep during the day.

After 6 months of drama, I finally find breastfeeding enjoyable and feel like I could keep going forever!

I did the maths and worked out that I’ve spent about the same amount of money (for consultation fees, etc.) to get the problem fixed as I would have spent on formula, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything (except for maybe my sanity for a while there!). I’ve also possibly avoided the expense of speech and dental problems down the track, so overall I’m happy to have spent the money, and I’m more than happy with the improvements that we have had.

 

 

 

2014 Year in Review

Happy new year! Wow! What a big year 2014 was for me! Just a few of the major highlights of my year:

1. Got married!

On the 28th of June 2014 I married my best friend and partner of 4 years. It was literally the happiest day of my life. And I planned the 3-day wedding in just 4 months!

2. Honeymooned in Thailand & Cambodia

Got to enjoy a fabulous 3 week holiday with my favourite person, enjoying amazing food, fabulous beaches and some really swanky hotels.

3. Got pregnant!

Despite supposedly being infertile, I was over-the-moon excited to discover that I had fallen pregnant while on honeymoon! My husband and I are expecting a little girl on the 15th of April 2015.

4. Bought a house

This was a big a of saga in itself, and you can read all about it here. We’ll be moving into our new house a month before the baby is due!

5. Launched a new business

While I’m on maternity leave, I’ll be down-scaling my graphic design business, so I decided to launch another eCommerce store to provide some extra income while I’m on leave. I’m super excited about the new store, which is selling stickers, wall decals, posters and prints!

6. Wrote an eBook

I wrote an eBook titled “How to Start an Online Store“, which you can download for FREE.

7. Completed Certificate IV in Small Business Management

Even thought I’ve been a business owner for the last couple of years now, I thought it would be a good idea to do some formal training. The course taught me a lot about business and I’m really glad I did it.

So that’s just a few highlights from my 2014, and 2015 is looking like it’s going to be just as big! I can’t wait!

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How the worst news on my honeymoon turned out to be the best news ever

It was the second last day of my honeymoon. I’d spent the past 3 weeks traveling through Thailand and Cambodia, swimming, eating, drinking, and relaxing with my new husband. I’d been having the time of my life and I was so happy. I was enjoying the breakfast buffet at the hotel where we were staying, and since there was no wifi in our room, I thought I’d quickly check my email.

The first email that came through was an email from our real estate agent. I opened and read (what at the time) felt like the worst news ever. Immediately I burst into tears in the middle of the breakfast buffet. The emailed informed me that we were going to have to find somewhere else to live in 3 months time when our lease ended.

I was upset because I loved our house and I didn’t want to have to leave it, especially after we’d only been living there for 9 months. I was upset because I didn’t want to have to invest time, energy and money in finding and then moving to a new house. I was upset with myself because I thought I must have done something wrong to make my landlord want us to leave. And I was upset because I’d received this news on my honeymoon.

And then I remembered the number one must valuable piece of advice I have ever received:

You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them.

So I switched to a positive mindset and started to put things into perspective. My husband and I had been planning to buy a house at some point, but because were really happy with our rental house, it hadn’t been much of a priority. Maybe this news was the push that we needed to start looking into buying something. And even if we ended up continuing to rent, maybe we’d find something even better. At the very least it would give me an incentive to clear out all the clutter in my office!

By the I had finished re-evaluating the situation, I was actually starting to feel really excited about the news.

After returning to Australia, we immediately made an appointment with a mortgage broker so we could discuss our options. I was a bit skeptical about whether we’d be able to get a home loan, since I’m self employed and we didn’t have that much money for a deposit, but the mortgage broker assured us that we would be fine. We discovered that we could get a 100% home loan so we wouldn’t need a deposit, and my tax returns were all that was needed to prove my income.

Once we had pre-approval we started house hunting. We started going to open houses and looking online. And looking, and looking, and looking… Every house we were interested in either sold within hours of being listed, or there was something wrong with it. Eventually we found a house that was perfect for us, but the asking price was much too high. The real estate agent assured us the owner was negotiable on price, so we put in our offer, but the owner refused to negotiate. What a complete waste of time! Dismayed, we kept looking.

Meanwhile, we had to move out of rental house. We were lucky enough to be able to move into a brand-new two bedroom apartment in an inner-city resort-style complex, which we absolutely loved. We also discovered that I was pregnant!

We kept house hunting but every house we liked was either already sold, or there was a problem. We kept looking for months. We were so sick of giving up our weekends and evenings to go to inspections and open houses! One Saturday morning, we decided to drag ourselves to just one open house. As soon as we walked in the door we were sold. The house was perfect. It was in a location that we never thought we’d be able to afford to buy in, but the owners had dropped down the price because they were desperate to sell. It was perfect!

After some negotiations, the owners accepted our offer and we arranged for a housing & pest inspection. But the report did not look good. The bathroom needed extensive repairs and we needed further inspections. We were devastated. My family was urging us to walk away from negotiations, while my partner’s family was urging us to stick it out. We didn’t know what to do!

But it all worked out in the end. The owners paid for further inspections that showed that the house was in perfect condition, and that the bathroom didn’t actually need any repairs, and then offered to take the cost of repairs off the sale price anyway!

Because the owners wanted a long settlement, we’ll be staying in our apartment for the next couple of months, and moving to our new place a month before the baby is expected to be born. Giving us just enough time to set up the nursery!

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How to have a drama-free vegan wedding

First and foremost, discuss your wishes with your partner and anyone who is financially contributing to the wedding and come to an agreement that everyone is happy with. I was very fortunate because my partner is also vegan and our families were pretty supportive of our desire to have a vegan wedding, but not everyone is so lucky. If you partner doesn’t want to have a vegan wedding, you might be able to come to a compromise such as having 50% of the food vegan. And if your parents or anyone else is financially contributing to the wedding, then they get to have a say too.

To tell or not to tell?

It’s really up to you whether you mention to your guests that catering will be vegan or not. Details of the menu don’t usually go on the invitation, so don’t feel like you’re obligated to tell people. If they know that you’re vegan and they’re concerned that the wedding will be vegan, they will ask you about it. My husband and I chose not to mention it. Some of our friends who are devout carnivorous asked us about it were a bit worried when we told them everything would vegan, but they still came and they even told us how much they enjoyed the food.

If people refuse to come…

Honestly, if someone doesn’t care about you enough to want to celebrate your big day with you no matter what, then why would you even want them at your wedding? I suspect that one or two of my guest’s partners refused to come because of the vegan catering, but that really didn’t bother me in the slightest. If people complain about your decision to have a vegan wedding, perhaps you could polity tell that you’re paying for the wedding, and you don’t want to spend your money on things that compromise your values. Or you could politely tell them there is a McDonald’s nearby that they are welcome to head to before or after the reception. Or you could just tell them to stop being babies and suck it up for one night (or maybe not). Try not to take it personally if people get upset, some people just really don’t like to be taken out of their comfort zone.

If people bring non-vegan food…

I’ve heard all kinds of stories about people bringing KFC or other non-vegan food to vegan weddings, and although that kind of behavior is incredibly rude, unfortunately there’s not much you can do to stop it. If you friends and family are good people they will respect your wishes on your special day, but sadly this is not always the case. In situations like this, the best you can do is try to ignore it and not let it upset you or ruin your day. On my wedding day, my mum insisted on putting cows milk on the tea & coffee station. Instead of trying to argue with her, I just choose to ignore it and focused on enjoying my day. In a perfect world, everyone would respect your values, but as this is not the case, the best you can do is try not to let people’s behavior upset you.

Remember what the wedding is really about

At the end of the day, your wedding is about showing your friends and family how much you love your partner. It’s a celebration of your love first and foremost. But it can be easy to lose sight of that and get caught up in trying to have the most vegan wedding possible, while trying to keep all your guests happy. Dramas will inevitably arise, but if you can keep in mind what the wedding is really about, then things won’t seem so bad.

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How I made my wedding vegan

My husband and I are both vegan, so when we tied the knot, it was important to us that we make our wedding as vegan as possible. At first we were a bit worried, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult or as controversial as we though it might be, and we ended up getting great feedback from our guests. Our vegan and vegetarian guests were delighted that they didn’t have to order a special meal, and even our most carnivorous guests told us how much the enjoyed the food!

How I made my wedding vegan:

The Reception Meal

I looked at several catering options and was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of catering companies were happy to create vegan menus or included vegan options are part of their standard packages. But I found most wedding caterers to be incredibly expensive with prices ranging from $60-$180 per head, and their vegan options weren’t particularly appealing. I’d heard stories from friends about having truly awful vegan meals at weddings, so I really wanted to find a caterer that would do good job.

I shortlisted two mobile caterers – the first offered wood fired pizza and was happy to do vegan pizzas provided we were able to supply the cheese, and the second offered paella (a Spanish rice dish) and was happy to make everything vegan. At just $20 per head each, both of these options were incredibly cheap.

I also looked at restaurants as another catering option and found that are large portion of restaurants were able to wedding catering. Overall I found restaurants to offer better prices, a larger menu, and more flexibility than caterers.

In the end, I hired a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant called Kuan Yin to do our catering. My husband and I chose them because it was the same restaurant that we went to on our very first date, and they also make very, very yummy food. We were able to choose from a huge menu and they were happy to make everything vegan. They brought in a team of chefs and cooked everything fresh on-site. We chose to do a buffet so that our guests could chose whatever they liked. We chose a variety of different dishes to suit all tastes, ranging from healthy raw vegan options, through to deep fried mock-meat dishes. They kept re-filling the buffet until everyone had finished eating, and there were plenty of leftovers that guests were able to take home.  At $40 per head, it was incredibly good value for money.

Beer, Wine & Other Drinks

For the cocktail hour and reception, we served beer and wine as well as non-alcoholic drinks. As some beer & wine contains animal products, we wanted to ensure our drinks were vegan also. We made our own beer at a micro-brewery called Brews Brothers because it was much cheaper than going to a bottle shop, it was also a lot of fun, and the beer tasted great. For wine, we severed a variety of Yalumba wines as it is a brand that offers a large variety of vegan options and at around $10 per bottle is fantastic value for money. For the toasts, we served champagne purchased from Goodwill Wines.

10347239_10152451914300865_1326752363671795280_nThe Cake

I looked at several cake suppliers and was pleasantly surprised to find that many offered vegan cakes as an option. But because they were so expensive (the type of cake that I wanted was going to cost over $1,000) my mum volunteered to make the cake instead. Every year she makes gorgeous looking Christmas cakes, so she felt confident that she could make a 3-tiered version. But she’d never made a wedding cake before, and she’d never made a vegan Christmas cake before. I purchased all the supplied that she needed for $60 (including bases, cake tins, smoother and fondant) and gave her a few different recipes as well as an instructional wedding cake making DVD. The cake ended up looking amazing and no one could believe that it was her first ever wedding cake.

The Candy Bar

I filled the candy bar with a mixture of home-made and shop bought vegan lollies including:

  • Fairy Floss (homemade)
  • Coconut Ice (homemade)
  • Sweet & Salty Popcorn (homemade)
  • Black & Gold brand milk bottles
  • Black & Gold musk sticks
  • Sweet William Chocolate
  • Lollypops

Hair & Makeup

My good friend and hairdresser did my hair for me, and I provided her with De Lorenzo styling products as it is my favourite brand of vegan hair products. For makeup, I hired Kristen Judge because I loved her portfolio, and although not vegan herself, she uses vegan makeup brand Arbonne.

Clothing

When choosing my wedding dress I avoided anything that included silk, fur or pearls and ensured my shoes were leather-free. My husband chose a suit that was made of cotton instead of wool, avoided shirts and ties that were made of silk, and ensured his shoes were leather-free also. Our circle of compassion also extends to humans and environment, so we purchased second-hand where possible and chose reputable brands that don’t use slave or trade labor.

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How to save lots of money on your wedding

10446488_10152451914685865_4202740142040776326_nLet’s face it, weddings are typically very expensive. It seems as soon as you mention the word ‘wedding’ prices soar, and all the little bits and pieces really seem to add up. When I was planning my wedding, as I was determined to keep costs down as much as possible, while still having the wedding that I wanted.

Here are some of the ways that I managed to save money on my wedding:

1. Avoid wedding venues

Venues that specialise in weddings tend to be expensive. The wedding industry is extremely competitive, so vendors have to spend a lot of money on marketing and that money needs to be recouped somehow. Try looking at restaurants, bars, halls, art galleries, bed & breakfasts, resorts, and estates that don’t specifically promote themselves as wedding venues or spend a lot of money on marketing.

For my wedding, I wanted an outdoor, rural location with amazing views and plenty of guest accommodation, so I looked at school camps. The venue I choose, Midginbill Hill was perfect because it was primarily school camp but they were also able to do weddings and it was very cheap compared to comparable wedding venues.

2. Avoid paying for a venue all together

There are plenty of venue options that are totally free, such as your backyard, a park (but check with council because you might need a permit), the beach (once again check with council) or maybe a friend or relative has a nice yard or acreage that you could use. Other venues might not charge you a venue hire fee if you spend a minimum amount of money on food or accommodation. Just keep in mind that if you’re having the reception in an area without facilities, you’ll need to bring in everything yourself, which might end up costing you more money overall.

3. Avoid packages (maybe)

Many venues offer inclusive per-head packages that include venue hire, catering, seating, tableware, etc. These packages are a great way to save time and stress to a minimum. I found that to have everything the way that I wanted, it was going to cost me more money to get a package, but if you’re happy to forgo some of the extras that aren’t included in packages or cost extra (like decorations, alcohol, etc.) they might be a cheaper option.

4. Avoid hourly drink packages

One thing that years of working in fundraising taught me – hourly drink packages are generally always more expensive than paying on consumption. If for example you pay $70 a head for a 4 hour drink package, each guest will have to drink about 10 glasses of wine in that 4 hour period, but on average people will drink half that at most (and a lot of people won’t drink at all). If possible, set up a bar tab, or better yet, supply your own drinks if your venue will allow it, so that you pay bottle shop prices instead of bar prices. If you want to save even more money, have a cash or dry bar.

5. Choose a budget caterer

When you’re paying per head, the cost of catering can really add up. I found wedding caterers to be extremely expensive, so I looked at more unorthodox catering options. I found mobile food van style caterers to be the most economical option, and there are a variety of different options to suit your taste such as pizza, burritos, burgers, etc. If you’d prefer something a bit more upmarket, many restaurants also offer wedding catering. Just ask a few of your favourite places. For my wedding, I used a restaurant that supplied an unlimited buffet for about half the cost of the caterers that I looked.

6. Keep the guest list to a minimum

For each person you invite, you need to pay for their catering, drinks, chair hire, place setting, etc. And if they bring a partner, all those costs automatically double. It’s no fun, but if you want to save money on your wedding, consider culling the guest list, and/or not allowing plus ones. There’s also the option of having a “wishing well” where guests give you money instead of a gift, so if you do invite more people hopefully they will cover their costs (but don”t count on it!)

7. Don’t buy flowers as a wedding package

I used to work at a florist shop, and I know for a fact that as soon as you mention the word ‘wedding’ the price of flowers soars. Floristry is an art form like any other, but if you’re prepared to learn, you can buy fresh cut flowers and make your own bouquets and centerpieces. Or you can buy individual bouquets. For my wedding, I just had my rose bouquet plus rose petals for the isle (as there was no bridal party). I purchased the flowers from a flower market a couple of days before the wedding and put the bouquet together myself for a total of $30. To purchase a rose bouquet from a florist would be at least $100, while a wedding package would be $500+

8. Look at renting vs buying

For my wedding, I weighed up the cost of buying vs renting for everything I needed, and looked at a number of different rental options because I found that prices varied dramatically between vendors. Americana chairs were $30 to purchase or $4 to hire, so I elected to hire them. Cutlery, crockery and glassware was cheaper to purchase new rather than to rent, so I elected to buy those. I was lucky enough to find a secondhand wedding pack on Gumtree that included everything that we needed for $600. After the wedding we gave away some things to friends, kept other things as keepsakes, restocked our cutlery draw and glassware, and sold the rest on Gumtree for $400.

9. Borrow or buy secondhand where possible

I saved a small fortune by buying as much as possible from Gumtree, and borrowing things from friends. Instead of renting some items, I purchased them secondhand and then sold them again after the wedding. Ask friends and family if they have any of the things that you need, even if they don’t, they might know a friend of a friend who is willing to lend you something for free or cheaply.

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Suprise!

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Guess What….!!

My husband and I are absolutely delighted to announce that I am currently 12 weeks pregnant with our first child! Needless to say, we are both extremely excited. Our baby is due on the 15th of April and we can’t wait!

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