This week’s Mystery Creature…

Week of 7th to 13th October 2013

For those who didn’t guess last week’s Mystery Creature it is…. the Pink Fairy Aemadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus).

photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc

This little mammal is found in the dry grasslands and sandy plains of Central Argentina and is the smallest of all the armadillo  species. Usually no more than five inches long and with a pink tinted armoured shell, the Pink fairy armadillo is primarily a solitary, nocturnal animal.  It feeds mainly on ants and their larvae and likes to position its burrow near and ant hill for easy food supply.  It is also known to eats worms, snails and other insects as well as some plant matter.

It likes to live in very dry soil and will often leave its burrow if it gets moist from rainfall.  It is capable of burying itself completely within seconds if it feels threatened.   It is also a very good “sand swimmer” using its large front claws to loosen the sand in front of it. This, along with its torpedo shaped body, allow it move through the sand like water.

Wild and domestic cats and dogs prey on the pink fairy armadillo.  It is listed as a near threatened species mainly due to the destruction of its habitat for agricultural purposes.

National Breast Feeding Week – some scientific and personal insights

It is National Breast Feeding Week (1st to 7th October) and I am delighted to be part of a Blog March organised by the Irish Parenting Blogger Group.  I think I am the last in the march…. sneaking in at the end as we cross the finish line! However there have been a number of great posts written during the week… the does and don’ts, the dream verses reality and a lot of great tips and advice.  The links to all these blogs are at the end of this post… along with a great competition to win some breast pumps.  If you want any more information on breast feeding you can check out

The theme for this year is “every feed counts” and this really rings true for me.  For my contribution I share a little bit of the science behind breast feeding along with a bit of the reality… my reality at least!

A bit of the Science

Although breast feeding is a natural phenomenon that has been around as long as we have, it seems we still know very little about it!  Breast milk varies from mother to mother, from baby to baby and from day to day.  With this level of variety it is hard to pin down what exactly is in breast milk at any given moment, or the effect it has on the feeding baby.  If you want to learn more about what really is in breast milk and the full effect of breast feeding on a infant check out the blog Mammals Suck!

Benefits to baby

  • Breast milk fulfills all the nutritional needs of the baby and changes to accommodate the child as it grows
  • As well as nutritional benefit, breast feeding has an emotional element to it, naturally soothing and comfort an upset baby
  • Breast milk can provide antibodies to combat everyday colds and viruses as they occur, it is not just a food but a meidicine
  • The mood and environmental stresses of the mother can directly effect the temperament of the baby, scientists are realising that this can even shape the child’s personality.
  • Research studies link breast feeding with a reduced risk of heart disease later in life
  • Some research studies suggest breast fed children have a reduced risk of getting type I and type II diabetes
  • and then there is Colostrum….

Colostrum is nature’s super food, produced by all mammals for their newborn infants.  It is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals, vital growth factors, antibodies to boost the immune system and high levels of protein to satisfy the small digestive system of the baby.  Colostrum is a thick yellowy liquid produced in the mammary glad during pregnancy and provides the newborn digestive system with just what it needs.

Some people think of colostrum as life’s first vaccine!

The benefits of colostrum are immense… it provides the newborn with a natural defense (passive immunity) against many viruses and bacteria until the infant’s own immune system strengthens.  It helps line the baby’s digestive tract with beneficial bacteria and the fine tuned maintenance of these bacteria is carried on by breast milk, changing daily to keep these gut flora happy!

Colostrum also acts as a mild laxative, helping the baby pass its first stool (meconium).

photo credit: fikirbaz via photopin cc

Benefits to Mum

There are many reports suggesting the health benefits to the mother when she breast feeds her baby for prolonged periods (usually more than six months).  These benefits are constantly being reported and refined and include…

Alongside these health benefits is the fact that the sucking of your infant stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin from the pituitary gland.  Oxytocin stimulates milk production or “let down”, encourages uterine contraction and produces that “feel good factor” that can be crucial to the bonding of mother and baby.

A bit of the reality (my reality)

Baby number one

When my first child was born I was ecstatic, thrilled, besotted…. and completely naive! Having never even changed a nappy I couldn’t believe I was suddenly responsible for such a tiny little being, but one thing I was sure of was that I would breast feed.  I mean I literally had a PhD in milk genetics… if I knew the science behind it then the application must be the easy part…. right? WRONG!

I can’t even say I had a problem with producing colostrum or my milk coming in on time or any of those other issues that women can struggle with; I just had no idea of the basic things like the time it takes, the worries, the uncertainties and the pain….. Oh the PAIN!

I consider myself to have a fairly high pain threshold, I had managed to get through labour without much of a murmur, I had even slipped the baby out without the need for pain relief.  But nothing prepared me for the pain I felt through my body after a few days of feeding this beautiful, innocent looking infant.  It was just impossible to relax as I put those little rosebud lips to my poor, cracked, aching nipples! Once she latched on I would literally pound the floor with my feet until the pain levels subsided to something akin to bearable! How could something so natural be so damn sore?

I think it was worse for my loved ones looking on.  My mother is a gem, she did everything she could to support me but, having never breast fed herself, she felt helpless when it cane to giving me more advice or guidance on the subject.  My poor hubby felt it too, it was more than he could bear to watch my toe-curling antics and there were plenty of times he said “enough” and scooped baby off towards the kitchen and the back up formula only to relent to my sobbing and our agreement to try “just one more“! And that is how we got through it…. one feed at a time until gradually the pain eased, the tears subsided and mother, father and child realised that we may actually get through this and life may be OK!

It was stubbornness, team work and time that got us through… but let me be clear, after about a week we added a bottle of formula into the equation too!  I think it was one a day, it didn’t stop the crying of mother or child but it probably helped us all get through it.  We kept that up until my daughter was about ten weeks old and I had relaxed enough, learned enough and grown in confidence enough to be able to get through without the bottle.

Baby number two

Less than two years later baby number two arrived on the scene.  I was equally as ecstatic, thrilled, besotted… but not nearly as naive. As soon as my son was born he latched straight on to the boob and that was that for 15 months! Yes there was pain but not as much as before and knowing what to do and that it was short term made it a lot easier.  I did try to introduce a bottle to him after six months but this guy would rather die of starvation/dehydration that drink from it! I was VERY lucky at the time that I was not under pressure to return to a job so the two of us got on with what worked best and kept with the breast until he decided he was done!

Baby number three

Skip ahead another three years and baby number three arrives on the scene.  Again he stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on him and he latched on straight away.  I was a dab hand at this …. what could possibly go wrong??? A lot it seems! I had never suffered with mastitis before but all that changed!  Within a month I had three rounds of it, I had spent most of my time since his birth on antibiotics and our little family was coping as best we could.  I remember sitting on the couch on Halloween night, shivering with a temperature of 41oC trying to avoid a trip to A & E.  In the midst of medication, aching boobs and thermometers the kids were still trick or treating at the door and we were trying to keep it as fun as possible for our other two children. We somehow managed to get through that night but enough was enough.  I was sent off to a breast specialist and for an ultrasound on both breasts.  Nobody could find the reason for the mastitis but the advice from all the medics was unanimous… it was time to stop breast feeding.  I cried and cried and cried but I knew that this time it was the right thing to do!  My husband couldn’t keep taking time of work, my other two kids needed me and I was ultimately spending less time with my baby as I had to sleep off the infection between feeds.  I had made it to six weeks and every one of those feeds counted but it was time for the bottle!

Do I regret it or feel like I missed out or that my son did?  Not at all actually!  I felt I bonded with him in other ways.  The bottle feeding allowed me give time to my other children too and allowed my hubby some feeding time with his baby son.  My son grew up happy, loved and healthy.  I am really glad that I got to feed him for a while but the bottle feeding brought a lot of positive things to our family too.

My bit of advice?

There is a lot of great advice out there for people who are considering/trying breast feeding.  There are also plenty of support groups (a lot more than when I first started off).  My honest response to looking for advice is to be careful.  I found the more people I asked, the more I undermined my own confidence.  We all need support and we all need to ask our questions but if you ask too many different people you will get a lot of different opinions and it is a confusing enough time as it is.  When seeking advice, choose wisely and be aware that some people look back with rose tinted glasses!  Some people may want to tell you how well it went for them and how their baby was sleeping through the night blah-de-blah.  These people I found did the most damage to my weak and feeble confidence.  It was only years later that I found out that one such person forgot to mention the bottle of formula they fed every night before bed! Without this bit of vital information I was left thinking there was something wrong with me, my milk, my child!

The best advice I ever got was from a Mum who said “nobody knows your baby better than you, just trust your own instincts and you will be fine!”…. and from that moment on, I was!

So in my opinion… does every feed count? Yes! Absolutely! To manage just one feed, one day, one month is wonderful but as I found out, every baby, every situation is different and ultimately it is all down to choosing what is best for you and for baby!

If you want to read more opinions and thoughts on the subject of breast feeding check out these wonderful (Blog March) blogs …
October 1st
October 2nd
October 3rd
October 4th
 October 5th
October 6th
October 7th

And here is the give away for the NUK pumps …

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fun Friday – making Ooblecks!

Following on from last week’s slime experiment, here is another great type of slime that you can easily make at home.  As you will see from the photos and videos below… it is a lot of FUN!!

You will need:

Warm water
Food colouring (optional)
A large bowl
A spoon to mix
Measuring spoons/cups

What to do:

This one is really easy… simply mix the cornflour and warm water together in the bowl – approximately one part water to two parts cornflour; add a few drops of food colouring if desired and mix in thoroughly.


The little Junior Scientist tells you all about it

Let loose and have fun…

I made dinner while he got lost in Ooblecks

Then all that is left is a little washing up

Ooblecks explained!

Ooblecks is what we call a Non Newtonian Fluid… meaning that it does not follow the laws of Netonian Physics.  When left to rest it looks just like a regular liquid.  However when disturbed by strong hitting, shaking or pulling it acts more like a solid.  It is a phenomenon worth studying and although still a bit of an enigma, scientists think that the material normally acts as a liquid but can produce a sudden, local reaction to rapid impact and stress, reinforcing the area and briefly solidifying the suspension. 
Ooblecks takes it’s name from the green slime that fell from the skies in the Dr Seuss booh “Bartholomew and the Oobleck“. 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Fun Friday post… if you have tried out this experiment or have any questions or something to add please leave a comment below… I always love to hear from you!

Next week I will start sharing some fun Halowe’en experiments so stay tune!

How do I make sound?

You never know what questions will be thrown at you at bed time around here.  Each night I lie down with my three year old for a few minutes before lights out and the conversation really keeps me on my toes. Some questions are pretty hard to answer… “what do you do with the eye balls if you kill a monster and put his head on a plate to eat?” …or…”what do zombies like to eat?“.  Some are a little easier and have inspired plenty of these blogs, like today’s one….

” Mommy how do I make sound?”

We use something called a voice box, or larynx, to make sound.  It is in our throat and is quite an amazing instrument.

The instrument…

Our voice box sits on top of our trachea (wind pipe) and acts like a wind instrument, allowing us to make sound.  Just like any other wind instrument there are other things required of course…. like the “wind” bit (moving air) and some fine tuning!

The “wind” bit…

The moving air is provided by our lungs.  When we breathe out the air exits our lungs and passes along the trachea, through the voice box and out our mouth.  The voice box contains two vocal cords (or vocal folds) which vibrate when the air from the lungs passes by them.  The stronger the air flow and air pressure produced by the lungs, the stronger the vocal cords vibrate and the stronger the sound we make! To change the tone and pitch of the sound we produce the length and tension of the vocal cords is altered.  This is achieved by tensing and relaxing the muscles of the larynx.

The vocal cords vibrate at a rate of 100 to 1000 vibrations per second, depending on the pitch.

The fine tuning…

The sound of our voice is fine tuned even further when the air we exhale passes by the upper vocal tract and respiratory system.  The tongue, lips, cheeks, nose and even sinuses play a part in changing the articulation and resonance of our voices.

Different pitches

Women tend to have higher voices than men because they have shorter vocal cords.  Shorter vocal cords tend to vibrate at a faster speed causer a higher pitch.

Children’s voices are more high pitched and weak because the vocal cords are thinner and shorter than in the adult.

As children grow older their vocal cords get bigger and their voices deepen.  This is particularly obvious for boys reaching puberty.  The vocal cords lengthen and thicken as do the muscles in the larynx that control the vocal cords.  The face, cheeks, nasal cavities and jaws also increase in sound creating an all over greater resonance of sound.

The sound of every human voice is unique; just like a fingerprint it can be used to identify a person!

How does the “helium” voice thing work?

Have you ever inhaled helium to give yourself a squeaky voice? Sounds funny but did you ever wonder what is happening?  Helium gas is six times lighter than air.  This lighter gas changes the speed at which your vocal cords vibrate.  The sound you create also travels more quickly in this lighter gas, bouncing off the throat, mouth and nasal cavity walls in a different manner.  All these factors combined make your voice sound more high pitched and squeaky.

A look at how some other animals make sound

Although many songs birds are known for the beautiful sounds they make they do not have vocal cords like humans do.  Instead of a voice box birds have a simple valve lower down in their wind pipe, called a syrinx.
They create sound by vibrating the membrane, or wall of the syrinx.  The syrinx is located at the base of the windpipe where it branches into the lungs.  This effectively allows some birds to control airflow from one or two paths creating more than one sound at the same time.

The giraffe has no vocal cords at all. Although a fairly silent animal it does still make certain sounds by simply pushing air through its wind pipe… it can bleat, hiss, moan and snore!  Giraffes can also emit a sound called infrasound, that cannot be heard by humans.

The sound of an average adult conversation reaches about 60 decibels (dB), we start to feel pain at sound levels above 120 dB and our ear drum will rupture above 160 dB.   One of the loudest animals on earth is the Tiger Pistol Shrimp with one large claw that generates a sonic bubble when it snaps.  The sound generated when the bubble bursts can reach 218 dB and generate a momentary flash of light hotter than the surface of the Sun.