Kiri Vasales is just one of those women that emits light. Not in an untouchable way, but through gentle beauty, and a willingness to be vulnerable. She’s creator of BazaarMumma, featured on ABC’s Crash Test Mummies and Daddies, and is mother to gorgeous Matisse plus a growing belly.
We chat to Kiri about toddler weaning, the booby blues, sleep, choosing to do what’s right for your family (including you!), and the strange reality of being filmed by a national TV network in the first weeks of motherhood.
As a girl who takes fashion seriously, how did you fare with breastfeeding overall? Did you feel restricted by having to wear clothes with ‘easy access’?
A little in the beginning. But like all new mum’s it takes a while to get comfortable with everything, especially feeding in public. I remember it was always so awkward, I didn’t change my fashion though. I just ensured I could get a breast out easily without completely undressing.
I had a really great feeding cover but only used it for a short period before I flicked it. It was the middle of a hot summer, too awkward, and was easier to get the boob out and not worry about what anyone else thought.
Do you have any fashion tips for the all breastfeeding mothers out there with big hair, tired eyes and only half a wardrobe to work with?
Keep it simple! Tie your hair back in a bun, simple tops and bottoms or activewear — make it easy to manoeuvre and don’t worry about splashing it out with fashion.
Your little girl Matisse has recently learned to live without her mummy dummy. What are your 3 top tips for weaning a toddler?
Weaning was such a big step for us. I was really in a slump and knew that I had to do it, so my top 3 tips would be:
You know when you are ready and it’s for YOU the mother just as much as it is for the toddler (if not more). So when you know that it’s time to wean, either completely or just the nights, then stick to it and don’t give in. It can be really rough for a couple of days, but they will be OK, and they will survive (and you will too!)
2. Stick to a bedtime routine
Such as do dinner, then bath, then story, then bedtime. This prepares them for sleep so they know what to expect and makes it easier for you to settle them without breastfeeding. *
3. Be prepared not to sleep a lot for 3 nights or so
You’ll need to work out the best resettling technique that works for you and your toddler. Definitely get Dad’s help (if possible) so they learn it’s an important family affair not just something between them and mum. I know you worked on night weaning first, which is a big goal for many breastfeeding mothers out there.
Did you use any techniques or theories, or did you just follow your instincts?
When I first decided to night wean matisse I fed her to sleep as normal. When she woke during the night I would cuddle her in her bed, and pat her on my chest until she fell back asleep. She gradually woke less and less.
It took about two weeks to have her sleeping from the time she went to bed until around 6am - when I would feed her and she would sleep for another 2-3 hours. I really just followed my instincts and came up with that technique. As soon as I found something that worked I just stuck to it!
How important was your partner Damien in the weaning process? Having your partners support is so important with any major decisions with parenting, including if and when to wean.
If they don’t like the idea of breastfeeding then it can put so much pressure on you to stop even if you don’t think it’s time.
I was very lucky that Damien was so supportive of our decision to wean. After all, we both weren’t getting great sleep and lacked time together. He never pressured though, he’s happy if I’m happy.
You’ve spoken out about feeling pressure to breastfeed for longer, while many women feel the opposite pressure to stop breastfeeding after 12 months. Where did the pressure to continue breastfeeding come from?
The pressure to continue breastfeeding only came from myself. I wanted to give Matisse as much love and nurturing as possible and give her the independence to stop when she was ready.
I never thought it would take such a toll on me after 15 months! It’s funny to think of all of the preconceptions you have with your first baby - and then how it all actually pans out.
My mother breastfed all three of her children for 2 years, so that was a big inspiration.
What motivated you to rise above the pressure and do what you felt was right?
Common sense! I just thought it was silly to continue when I wasn’t sleeping, my back and shoulders ached and I kept loosing weight. She was old enough not to depend on breast milk, so it was only right in my eyes.
Weaning is always bittersweet, but it must be nice to be getting some solid sleep after 23 months of night feeding. How are your nights at the moment?
The nights are pretty great now I have to say. At the moment anyway!
Now it’s just a matter of getting Matisse to bed at a decent hour. She’d be up watching her iPad until 1am if we let her, which means she loves to sleep in! So you resolve one challenge and another arises. Such is life!
If you could give one piece of advice to any women out there struggling with the idea of night weaning, but desperate for some sleep, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help.
Do what is best for the whole family, including yourself!
You spoke a bit about the ‘booby blues’ on your blog? Could you take us through how it was for you?
Ah the booby blues!
It wasn’t until a month or so later that I found out we were expecting again, so that could’ve had a lot to do with it!
Tell us about your most recent travels - the highs, the lows and the mothering.
We traveled to Perth and Byron Bay this past month which were just lovely.
We had a lot of my family with us in Perth so there was always someone willing to take Matisse for a walk or read her a story (especially my parents whom she adores). In Byron we were there with our best friends who also have a 15month old, so us mum’s made sure the dad’s took the kids off for some “daddy” time, which they needed!
We really had a great time, the only issue was Matisse refusing to get into her car seat every time we needed to go somewhere. At home she goes in fine, but I think she must remember the lawless ways of the Greek Islands every time we rent a car!
Do you think sleeping in lots of different environments has been disruptive to Matisse overall, or taught her to be flexible?
I think it’s helped Matisse to be quite flexible with her sleeping - she’s fairly happy to sleep anywhere, providing she has enough space!
She sometimes sleeps with us in our bed when we’re travelling — but she rotes horizontally and seems to push us out so she has more room.
These days we either have a roll-away or make a little bed for her on the floor or on the couch - we all get much better sleep that way!
You and Damien were on ABC’s Crash Test Mummies and Daddies. How was that experience, and do you feel like you were portrayed accurately?
We loved filming the show, we got to know the crew really well and were only a part of it because we trust ABC wouldn’t exploit us.
It was a documentary-series, not a reality TV show, so it was less about us an individuals and more about what we were experiencing.
They definitely captured Damien’s sense of humour though, at least I hope everyone got it! He played up a lot for the camera, he’s very cheeky.
Did being on the show bring extra pressure to the already intense experience of caring for your first baby?
It didn’t for me. Actually the opposite.
I feel overall it gave me a lot more confidence as a new mum, and I hope that we gave other new parents out there some hope and a few giggles too!
Your beautiful, beachy, jet-setting life is the envy of us all. Can you talk us through an average day?
Well Matisse is at day care three days a week now, which she’s just loving! So that frees up my time to run around and get things done on those days - it also makes the time we do have together more focused on her.
So we do fun activities like ballet and swimming lessons, and fit in the beach whenever we can. Although a lot of the time end up coming home exhausted and napping together on the couch!
What’s the best advice your mum ever gave you? My mum is my angel. I turn to her for all my advice and she has always been a big advocate of following your instincts.
She told me people will tell you a lot of things when you’re a new mum - which they do!