Thursday, 20 October 2016

New parents: this is why you will fall out

It's six weeks after our baby was born. We're in the kitchen and all hell has broken loose. I've never argued with anyone like this in all my adult life. It's a good job Baby's in the other room with the door shut. He's already screaming for his bottle so he can't hear us.

I love my partner so much but this is a nightnare. I can't believe it's come to this point so quickly. Do we hate each other now? Is this the start of the end?

Of course, the answer is no. We're just both suffering from a condition called 'Parenthood'. Symptoms include an inability to get anything done, zombification brought on by sleep deprivation, and the complete reordering of life as you knew it.

To the men and women who get through the first few months unaffected by the strains having a baby causes... congratulations and hats off to you! To the rest of us... don't worry... you're going through the same thing almost everyone does. I think it must be a kind of right of passage.

I've spent some time pondering why my partner and I fell out so badly. I've talked to other Mums and Dads and I've come to the realisation that there are a standard set of problems that all new parents face. Maybe if we'd understood a little more what we were both thinking and feeling, we wouldn't of had to shout in each others faces before realising we just needed to be a bit nicer to one another.

1. Sleep deprivation turns even the tinyest mole hill into Mount Everest

Babies have no concept of nightime- they need feeding and changing and entertaining when they need it. 24 hours. Everyone will say 'get some sleep when baby sleeps' but when baby is sleeping for an hour or two at a time, it's actually impossible to get enough sleep to feel refreshed.

You might share the load if you're bottle feeding, which means you're both going to be moderately
sleep deprived and you're probably both going to find yourself being tetchy. Those little things that get to you will seem that little bit worse...

But the real problems stem from one partner being more sleep deprived than the other. If you're breastfeeding it is inevitable that Mum will be pretty severely sleep deprived, but if you're bottle feeding and Dad has galantly offered to take on night feeds then it's going to be him that takes the bullet.

This is how it looks from both points of view:

Parent a. (sleep deprived) thinks 'I can't think straight, I can't take another hour of this s**t, I haven't slept more for than two hours together in as long as I can remember... but I don't know how long that is because time has stopped meaning anything and my brain's too fried to work it out anyway. I can't focus on ONE thing at a time, let alone multitask or plan or remember what I was supposed to be
doing. I wish someone could just take baby for a week so I can sleep the whole 7 days. Everything is such hard work. It's so unfair that I'm the one awake around the clock while Parent b. gets to have a decent sleep. This is miserable'


Parent b. (after a pretty good night's sleep) thinks 'Oh god, that blank zombie stare again... that means they're going to be over-emotional and useless. I've already got a hundred things I need to do but now I've got to take on their responsibilities too, and support them emotionally, and look after the baby so they can get some sleep. I feel so bad for them but seriously, I can't do all this on my own. It's so unfair that everything's down to me. This is miserable.'

2. Oh god, she's crying again


About 4 days after giving birth, a new Mum's milk comes in properly, coinciding with a surge of hormones that will, probably, make her (let's be brutally honest here) a bit of an emotional car crash. For me it was singing Joni Mitchel to my sleeping baby, practically drowning him in tears because I couldn't believe how much I loved him.

Even though the hormones calm themselves down before long, you have to bear in mind that the body that just created this little human has gone through a hell of an ordeal over that past 9 months and it doesn't just snap back to how it was before- it's a gradual process of normalising. If you're breastfeeding you can throw that into the mix too. Milk making requires hormones. Hormones create excitable emotions. And of course, there's the sleep deprivation.

The most stoic of new mothers can suddenly find themselves crying at that advert on TV with the starving children.

Maybe the tears are brought on by sheer joy and love, maybe it's empathetic, maybe it's because something has upset her... It's just much more easy to be set off than usual!

Bemused Dad is thinking 'What have I done now? Every time I see her she's upset about something! What is going on with her? Is it post natal depression? Do I need to get help for her? She doesn't seem to be coping and if I try to help solve the problem she just gets annoyed with me!'

Over emotional Mum is thinking 'Just please give me a hug and tell me it's all OK. I don't need a solution I just need some love.'

3. You're not having sex

It takes a while... because she's healing, because it's a bit scary not knowing what giving birth has done to your body and how it will feel the first time, because the hormones in her system actually reduce feelings of sexual desire... and because you're both so busy and exhausted it's almost impossible to find the time!

He's thinking 'Is that it then? No more sex? She's totally lost interested in me. Doesn't she want me any more? Our relationship used to be half based on sex... now we haven't touched each other in weeks. I need that sexual connection, what happens if we never get that back?'

She's thinking 'He's being distant. He hasn't kissed me passionately or held me like he used to. I miss him. Doesn't he see me that way any more? I know I haven't been able to make love yet but I still need love. Is it because we haven't had sex? Doesn't he understand I physically can't do it yet?'


4. Your daily lives become very different


For most couples, life before Baby would have been quite similar. You're probably both working, sleeping together at roughly the same time, cooking meals together or at least eating together, sharing household choes, socialising, relaxing, hanging out doing nothing... it's all fairly equal.

Then Baby arrives on scene and throws everything off balance. Now Dad probably has to go back to work while Mum looks after Baby. It's so easy to underestimate how hard this actually is... for both of you! Ok, so he may be itching to escape, and she may be relieved it's him having to work... but there's a lot more going on.

It's almost impossible to understand someone else's life, and how it feels to live it. We all see things from our own point of view in the context of our own day-to-day life. When your lives were quite balanced and similar this wasn't a problem. Now you're doing very different things so it's hard to see eye to eye about each other's lifestyle.

He's thinks 'Are you kidding me? You're at home all day and you haven't even been able to have a shower or make a decent meal? And you're complaining to me that you're tired and you haven't had a chance to relax?! I wake up every morning, take the baby whilst getting ready for work at the same time. I work all day. I come home exhausted but I take the baby again so you can have your hands free for a bit, plus doing all the housework you haven't done... and you're telling me you don't have time to do anything?! You get to hang out with Baby all day. You get to see every new development first because I'm always at work. You get to go and see your friends. You get to chill out and watch TV in your pyjamas all day! What on earth have you got to complain about?'

She's thinking 'It's OK for you... you get to have time off from this! You get to leave every day- to go and be just you! You get to socialise at work while I'm stuck here at home just me and the baby. All day. Every day. My back's killing me because I can't put Baby down. I'm trying to do everything one
handed. No I haven't done the bloody laundry, I didn't even have a second to make myself lunch... I don't know why not I just didn't! Somehow I was feeding Baby, then he needed changing, then he was crying for a while, then he fell asleep on me and when I tried to move he woke up and cried so I had to comfort him, then it was time for another feed and the whole day just disappeared! And now I'm going to have to be up half the night while you get some sleep so you can be refreshed for your work... well what about my 'work'? This is way harder than my day job was, and I have to do this 24/7!'

5. Baby is equally both of yours... but you won't always agree on what's best for him


My partner and I have always agreed on pretty much everything, and we're both fairly easygoing generally, which makes life easier! Now there's a baby on scene and we both want him to have the best start in life we can possibly give him. We're both doing what we consider to be our absolute best for him, in our own way. We just don't always agree on what that is!

I rock him in my arms if he won't sleep. My partner thinks holding him keeps him awake, and so puts him in his cot till he drops off even if he's grizzling and crying. I don't want to give him too much formula as I'm also breastfeeding, my partner wants to fill him up so he'll pass out in a sleepy food coma. I want to dress him in all his gorgeous dinky baby outfits, my partner thinks he gets too hot and undresses him every time he holds him...

Mostly it's just little things. But when you throw exhaustion into the mix, or lots of little things on top of each other, or that one big thing that takes you by surprise... well...

You're both thinking 'I know what I'm doing here! I'm trying to tell you why this is the best way to do it! Why won't you listen to me?!'

But it's OK!


The thing is, all of this is fixable as long as we're all able to find some patience and try to understand each other's feelings. There is no right or wrong, it's just hard work for both parents! And my personal advice, speaking from recent experience, is:

1. get some help- if someone else can come and give you a hand making some meals or babysitting for a couple of hours so you can do something together baby-free it will make everything seem easier

2. take a little time to listen to each other without reacting... you both just want to be heard

3. remember this is the hardest bit and it really does get better!

Monday, 17 October 2016

My No Nonsense Baby Stuff List



Things we couldn’t have done without:

First few weeks onwards:


Clothes

Baby grows with feet… lots of them (babies feet get cold and socks fall off!)

A hat

That’s actually all you need, as long as you’ve got a blanket to wrap baby up in if you’re going outside or its particularly cold inside, everything else is kinda just for fun!

Changing Station

Size 0 nappies for about 1 week (8lb baby) though we got away with folding down size ones

Size 1 nappies from about week 2 to week 5

Size 2 nappies from week 6 (he’s now 9 weeks and we’re still using them)

Padded changing mat
Buy this mat

A soft hand towel for baby’s head and shoulders to rest on

Loads of cotton wool

An ice cream tub half filled with cooled chamomile and honey tea, cotton wool torn into handy sized pieces already soaking in the liquid (the tea is amazing on nappy rash!)

A roll of toilet tissue for drying botty

Sudocrem when nappy rash is bad

Aloe vera gel when skin is just a little bit pink
Buy aloe vera gel


25l bin with sealable lid and a roll of bin liners handy
Buy these bins

Bedtime

Moses basket/ pram bassinet with rolled up towels round the edges and a stretchy blanket over them to make a nest: a cosy bed that you can move around the house with you= you’re not stuck in one place!
learn how to make a makeshift baby nest

4 large muslins for swaddling (thicker blankets are too hot) Not all babies like swaddling but for us it has been essential for getting baby to sleep for longer than an hour at a time, if he can’t move and feels secure and snug, he doesn’t wriggle himself awake!
Buy these muslins


Something padded like a baby duvet to lie on

You might feel safer with a waterproof sheet over the mattress but in all honesty we haven’t needed it. (Tip: buy a big one and cut it up! So much cheaper)

A couple of stretchy cotton-knit blankets and a couple of big towels for your baby-nest, so you can wash one while you use the other

A couple of blankets to go over baby if it’s cold (remember to tuck them in under baby’s arms so they can’t be pulled over his head!

A portable speaker and a device to play water sounds (we use an app on our phones)… a life saver when baby’s refusing to fall asleep!

A bedside light within easy access, with a dull warm glow: you won’t want to use the big light for nightime feeds
Buy this lamp

Internet access for entertainment during nightime feeds… this is when having a whatsapp group with my antenatal class girlfriends kept me sane! Headphones for watching videos if you’re sharing your bed while feeding at night… you really won’t want to keep your partner awake, you’ll need them to be as refreshed as possible during the day, because you probably won’t be!

Dummies with dummy clips. We swore we wouldn’t use dummies but our little monster just wanted to suck and suck and suck in the early days. A dummy saved my nipples and probably saved my ability to breastfeed in all honesty. Before long he started spitting it out and we gradually stopped using them… but at one point we couldn’t have done without. Try a few different types if you’re having trouble. Our baby liked Nuk- they’re not too bulky. Oh, and the clips save you from constantly steralizing because if they’re not clipped to something they will just end up on the floor!
Buy this dummy

Buy these dummy clips

Bathtime:

Don’t bath baby until the umbilical cord drops off. After that:

A baby bath you can put on a surface you can reach easily. Having said that we just have a bath with baby… so even that isn’t essential if you’re a bath-lover!

'Simple' soap. We chose to avoid almost all ‘products’ as we think they’re unnecessary and we don’t want to put chemicals on our baby’s skin. We just use a teeny bit of coconut oil in the bath, and a few drops of lavender essential oil mixed with a little milk to stop it floating on the surface of the water. Sometimes we put some porridge oats in a sock with some chamomile and calendula petals too- makes the water lovely and soft and it’s great for sensitive skin! If we feel he needs a proper wash we use a little of the soap, just on his botty really- where else does a baby get dirty anyway?!

A hooded towel to cuddle baby up in afterwards

Travel:

A baby carrier. If you want to be able to get on with stuff… get a stretchy wrap and learn to use it… being able to use both hands is a luxury you won’t want to miss out on trust me. We used a simple backpack-style carrier to start with while we got used to just having a baby in our lives (it’s all such a big learning curve it’s a lot to take in at once) but the day we were shown how to properly use the stretchy wrap, our lives got a whole lot easier. They feel so secure compared to all other carriers, and they’re really supportive on your back. We also have a mei tai which is a great in-between for when we need to get him in and out of the carrier quickly… the stretchy wraps are a bit fiddly.
Buy this carrier

Learn how to wear a newborn

Learn how to use a mei tai

Car seat… obviously

A bag you can keep packed ready to go. Ours contains:

Blanket

Muslin square

Bottles (ready steralized of course)

Small pot of powdered formula (if we’r e not out for long we just make a bottle up)

Dummy in a little travel pot
Buy these dummy cases

Changing  mat wrap with a couple of nappies, couple of nappy sacks, and baby wipes. We found a really good one that has all of these things inbuilt, so you just unfold it and hey presto… portable changing unit!
Buy this changing wrap

We also always make sure we’ve got the speaker and water sounds in case of meltdowns!

An umbrella for rain and as a sun shade
Buy this umbrella

Mealtimes:

This depends on whether you’re going to be exclusively breastfeeding. We are combination feeding, so for us it was:

Anti colic bottles, we love Latch
Buy Munchkin Latch starter set

Proper baby bottle cleaner, because they get blocked quickly if you don’t use one of these. We bought a set that came with one… probably one of the best things we bought!

Microwave sterelizer… the easiest way to do it.

Nanny Care goats milk formula… so much easier on little tummies than cows milk. There are apparently some queries on the level of nutrients in goats milk formula but don't believe everything you hear... Nannycare has more iron than Aptimil for a start, and overall there's barely any difference in the levels of nutrients if you compare the lists on the back of the packs. My baby and many others I know are thriving on it, and if you’re breastfeeding as well there’s no need to worry. It’s so worth the extra few quid.
Buy Nannycare Formula

Muslin squares to throw over your shoulder when you burp baby.

Lansinoh cream… oh my days, if you’re breastfeeding you need this stuff!

Other stuff:

In-ear thermometer. We haven’t actually used it but if baby got poorly it would definitely come out. You don’t take any chances if your baby gets ill!

Buy this thermometer
And that is it!

Honestly, you don’t need any more than that for a newborn. They will just want your cuddles, unless they’re sleeping… and probably then too!

From about 5 weeks onwards:

When baby starts getting a bit more independent and interested in learning and interacting, you’ll start wanting a few more things but I’d highly recommend holding off until you get to this stage: each baby is different so it’s worth learning a bit about yours before you buy stuff for them. Try things out at friends houses if you can- there were times I bought something and then realised he liked theirs better!

Bouncy chair/ rocker. There are so many different types but our simple rocker does the job perfectly! Some babies go crazy for the vibrate function- it’s worth trying before you buy! We love our Babymoov though because it’s really light and has handles so you can carry baby around the house in it. We use it at bathtime to put him in (on a towel) after he’s been washed. And when it’s not in use it folds away, which is great because seriously, your space starts filling up with baby stuff very quickly!
Buy the Babymoov rocker

Hanging toys for the chair. I’d say opt for something bold and bright with spots or stripes (babies love staring at these patterns, especially if they’re black white and red). Think areas of colour and contrast that your baby can see easily. Toys that make a noise are good, something they can reach out and bat or grab, and a mirror… they love mirrors!
Buy this hanging toy

Playmat with hanging toys. So much choice! We were given one which saved us the decision making!. And he only looks at the mirror!

Tummy time pillow… we just used a rolled up towel to start with and that worked fine… but it was great to be given a proper one as a present!
Buy this tummy time pillow

Interactive sensory playthings. This can be anything that has high contrast patterns, interesting sounds or is interesting to touch. I have a brilliant rattle that I’m so glad I bought. We also printed off and laminated some patterns for baby to look at. He loves cheques, and the smiley face. Bear in mind you don’t actually have to buy anything, there’s plenty of stuff around your home already that they’ll be interested in!
Buy this rattle

Print this pattern
Print this pattern

Cot. When they get bigger you’re probably going to want them to start sleeping in a cot. We still make a nest in the cot for baby to sleep in though.

Baby monitor. We only really started using our monitor at about 5 weeks, when baby became just a little more independent and we could leave him in his cot and go do things in other rooms. Suddenly we were able to have an evening meal together in the kitchen! Luxury! You don’t have to spend loads, ours is a budget video monitor and we’re generally very happy with it.
Buy this monitor

Things we didn’t need:

Gro egg. People love these. To be honest,  I do like ours but really… not essential! If you’re cold, your baby’s probably cold. If you’re hot… ditto. If you’re unsure feel baby’s neck or ask someone else to. And the colour changing light is nice but only gives off a very dull glow- its not going to illuminate anything and anyway- teeny babies don’t tend to be afraid of the dark.

Toys. Apart from a few sensory aids, he is indifferent to almost all toys.

Baby cleaning/moisturising products. I don’t personally agree with putting chemicals on a tiny baby’s skin… but that’s beside the point. You just don’t need them unless your baby has a specific skin disorder and a lot of those will often clear up on their own. We were given loads of products. I might just use them on myself eventually!

Flannels and sponges. Why exactly are we supposed to need so many? You might want one to clean down baby in the bath. I bought a lifetime supply and haven’t used them at all!

Pram. Never thought I’d do without one but we’ve barely used it! We’re just in love with our carriers! I’m sure this will change when he grows but honestly… after all the stress and hastle of chosing the right one… it just sits in the car boot!

Baby bath seat. We used it once. For 2 minutes. 

Baby shoes. Oh my goodness they are SO cute. But we’ve been given about 6 pairs and even though I love them to bits, we’ve never used them except to try them on, go ‘aaaahhh’ and then take them off again because they’re so impractical.

Those cool bandana type bibs. I can’t wait to get them out when he actually starts needing bibs, but until now they’ve just sat on the shelf with all the other bibs we’ve been given!

Fancy bottle with disposable liners. Gimic.

Tommy Tippee nappy bin. So much plastic. So little need. You have to empty it into a binliner anyway, and if your nappy bin has a sealable lid then it won’t make the room smell- just don’t leave it open!

Sleeping bag/sleepsuit. I’m so glad I only bought one. These are so overpriced and really unnecessary!

Sleepyhead. I reeeeally wanted one of these but they’re about £100 and you can get the same affect with rolled up towels and a stretchy blanket!

Rocking Chair. Oh, I did love my little rocking chair- it made me feel special that I had my own baby-feeding throne! But actually, I mostly just sat on the sofa…

Grooming set. A friend gave me this tip: bite your baby’s nails for them! So much easier than trying to cut and file them and their nails are so soft it’s very easy to do. I do have a soft goats-hair brush, and he enjoys having his hair brushed… but he doesn’t need it!

Breastfeeding Advice vs. Breastfeeding Reality: Combination Feeding

This is a hugely controversial subject and I'm not looking for a debate but really feel the need to share my experience.

As a pregnant woman you are asked again and again if you'll be breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Again and again and again. After about the 5th antenatal checkup where half the appointment was taken up talking about breastfeeding, I remember thinking 'when are we going to start talking about.. oh, you know.. like.. the baby... and me... and the birth, and all that stuff?'

I had no problem making my choice! It was going to be breast of course! I didn't need the drip feeding of reasons why- I instinctually knew it was what I wanted to do!

The NHS has a fantastic support system in place for feeding issues. It really does- you are NOT left to struggle alone, there's always a professional available on the phone day or night, and support groups on every street corner! In fact, it seemed like complete overkill until I did start to have issues with baby feeding- I couldn't work out what all the fuss was about... you just stick your boob in their face when they cry don't you?

For a lot of women, yeah that is all you do! 3 out of the 6 women in my antenatal class are exclusively breastfeeding with no difficulty.Great stuff! But the other 3 of us haven't had it so easy and we have really needed that support system... and I'm so grateful for it!

But I also have an issue with it.

The government and the NHS actively discourage bottle feeding before 6 months. Ok, so I guess they would re-phrase that as actively encouraging breastfeeding... but in reality it amounts to the same thing.

I can't speak for women who have made it clear they will be bottle feeding, or women who can't breastfeed, but as a women who was open to breastfeeding- it was made perfectly clear what I was supposed to be doing.

And that was fine with me! That's what I wanted to do!

Unfortunately for me and my baby Robin that's also where the problem lay.

I struggled. Oh my god I struggled. Robin wanted to feed NON-STOP. I had such badly cracked nipples by day 3 Robin had my blood in his nappy and I was in so much pain one night that my partner had to make an emergency trip to Tesco to do what we had both sworn we weren't going to do: buy formula. I was in such a state that he took Robin and the formula and camped out downstairs. When I did feed Robin formula myself I cried. I resented it. It was made even worse when after about a week of combination feeding, Robin started refusing my breast.

Then at 2 weeks old, Robin went to the tongue tie clinic where we discovered his tongue was 100% tied, meaning he couldn't use it properly to suckle, and he had to have it cut. Believe me, this was more traumatic for me than him! But then followed a few days of messed up mealtimes as he had to re-learn how to suck... and a good week and a half of grumps while the wound healed!

This was when I really started having to call in that support network. I was SO reliant on the advice I was given in those difficult early days: I really had no idea what I was doing, all I knew was that I had a very unhappy baby who was crying most of the day and night... and I didn't want to bottle feed him.

So I listened to the advice I was given, I looked into combination feeding as an option... and the overwhelming message was that I needed to ditch that bottle! One profesional told me just to stop the bottle feeding completely. Cold turkey. Another told me to take a few days to do absolutely nothing but breastfeed: camp on the sofa and don't go out or do anything, until I'd 'got my supply up' and 'established breastfeeding'.

I did everything I was told and it was NOT fun. I didn't have the time or energy to do a bloody thing! If it wasn't for my partner coming home from work to cook me dinner and take Robin for as long as he was able, I wouldn't have slept, eaten, or showered. It sounds crazy, like I threw my life away... but it was what I'd been told was the important thing to do: not forever but just till we'd established a pattern.

Sadly though, the only pattern we established was that Robin would feed from one side for aboout 10minutes, get grumpy, feed from the other side for 10minutes, get grumpy, I'd switch back and repeat this process for anything up to 2 hours till he started screaming, at which point I'd do everything I could think to calm him. Sometimes it would work, and he'd fall asleep in my arms, but more often than not he'd just cry until it was time to feed again. 24 HOURS A DAY.

I didn't know what was going on! Neither of us were getting much sleep because he wouldn't sleep for more than about an hour, unless he'd had a bottle. But I'd been advised to, and was trying to cut out the bottles! The health visitor had commented that he was 'greedy' so I'd only been letting him have a teeny bit of formula, if at all. At one point we got it down to 30ml in two days... but that did mean breastfeeding solidly all day!

Did he have colic? Reflux? An allergy? Was he in pain? Did I have a supply issue? Was he just a difficult baby? I kept going over and over these questions, but every time I brought them up with a professional I was just told he's totally normal, everything's fine, just keep doing what you're doing. You're doing really well!

But I wasn't! I was falling apart at the seams!

And this is when it slowly started dawning on us that maybe Robin was just hungry. In hindsight I can't believe it took so long for the penny to drop! The thing is, that had been my instinct all along. I kept repeating to the professionals that I didn't think I was making enough milk for him, but it was always the same answer: "it's supply and demand, the more you feed, the more you make, you make exactly enough milk for your baby's needs, you don't need to worry because he's clearly feeding fine, just keep going."

It was only really after his 6 week weigh-in that I decided once and for all I was going to ignore the advice and start feeding him regular bottles as well as breastfeeding. Despite being one of the tallest babies for his age (90th percentile) he was also one of the lightest (25th percentile, down from 50th). The health visitor wasn't worried about his failure to gain weight... but to me it was the evidence I needed to finally back up my concern that he needed more than just my breastmilk.

He didn't react that well to the increase in formula to be fair: he got a bad tummy and was poorly for almost a week, but with a switch to goats milk based formula, and some dioralite prescribed by a fab doctor, he quickly got better and when he did... WOW the change in him has been mind-blowing!
At last I was able to relax about giving him formula. The GP helped back me up. She was the first professional I'd spoken to who actually congratulated me on giving my baby formula, and told me outright and confidently 'the poor child's hungry. Give him more formula. You're still breastfeeding so he's still getting the benefits of it, it won't harm to increase his feeds, give him as much as he wants.'

It's such a contrast to everything I'd been told so far! Yeah, it sounds like common sense, but trust me when you find yourself responsible for this precious little life and the only thing you care about all of a sudden is making sure you're doing the best for them, you take what you're told VERY seriously. I had been told BREAST BREAST BREAST. I had been told my supply would decrease if I combination fed. I had been told my baby would find it confusing. That there was a higher risk of bacterial infections. That he wouldn't be getting the nutrients and immune boosters that would give him the best start in life.

You only have to read the NHS advice on combination feeding to see how biased their stance is.
http://www.nhs.uk/…/…/pages/combining-breast-and-bottle.aspx
 
Where is the positive information about how to combination feed? It's conspicuous only in its absence! And that's not the only biased advice: everywhere you look there are reasons not to bottle feed.

So what about those of us who need to? I know so many women who have been unable to exclusively breast feed. It's not uncommon!

I'm left looking back at all those weeks my baby was screaming in hunger (now I can see it was hunger, at the time I couldn't) while I stood frazzled after another sleepless night of constant breastfeeding, desperately trying to rock him calm... and I'm thinking... why didn't someone just say 'he's hungry, give him a bottle' instead of actively trying to STOP me from giving him one.

Now he breastfeeds for as long as he's happy, switching sides until he starts headbutting me and getting frustrated (which is actually hilarious to watch) and then he has as much formula as he wants! Typically it's 90-120mls about 6 times a day (he's 7 weeks old).Before he guzzled it like it was his first meal in weeks; both his little hands and feet clenched, and he would cry the second the bottle was empty and refuse to be put down. Now he savours it, he drinks slowly, taking breaths in between sips. He pulls away when he's had enough, and calmly lets us burp him, melting into our arms. He falls asleep, or if he's not sleepy, he entertains us with smiles and coos, and will happily sit in his rocker, or lie on his playmat.We've never had this before.

It's a sad thought really.

Come on, bottle feeding really isn't so bad, especially if you can breasfeed as well. I think it should be more accepted, especially by the feeding support professionals.

Bit said.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Breastfeeding Advice vs. Breastfeeding Reality: Pregnancy

Well, my reality... and lets get this out the way straight off: everyone's experience of breastfeeding is different, so I'm not making any sweeping generalisations.
Here is a semi-condensed collection of everything I've been taught so far.

Pregnancy


"Your breasts begin to gear up for feeding your baby as soon as you're pregnant. Having tingling nipples and tender, swollen breasts is one of the first signs of pregnancy. It's caused by hormones surging through your body.

The skin around your nipples (areolas) may also appear darker, and have tiny bumps. This is nature's visual way of directing your baby towards her feed.

The tiny bumps around your areolas produce an oily substance that cleanses, lubricates and protects your nipples from infection during breastfeeding. It smells like amniotic fluid, so your baby will instinctively move towards this familiar smell soon after birth.

By the time your baby is born, the glandular tissue in your breasts may have doubled in size. The timing of this change varies from woman to women. It can happen in mid- or late-pregnancy, or even after you've given birth.

Don't worry if your breasts don't seem to grow much in size. There's no link between the amount of breast growth and your ability to produce milk once your baby has arrived. When your milk comes in after your baby is born, your breasts will feel noticeably heavier and fuller."

Taken from:

Before I found out I was pregnant I remember looking in the mirror and thinking to myself 'blimey!' As I've said in a previous blog post (http://kookycannedlaughter.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/i-want-what-shes-got.html) I don't have big boobs, and I'm not saying I woke up one day looking like Jordan, it was a small change but it was enough of a size increase to be noticable to me. And I think that must have been the first little tell-tale sign. Not that I paid any attention to it.

"La la la, nothing's different, everythings juuuuust like normal" (this thinking went on for a while... even after the first positive test if you can believe it!)

When the truth did finally kick in and I started getting used to it, I quite liked the idea of this promised increase in boob-age (so did my fiance). But it never happened. I watched my pregnant friend's already generous cleavage become even more generous with every week that passed, and waited for mine to become... well generous would have been great, but even just fairly obliging would have done for me.

Surely though, after he was born... that's when it would happen! Well, no. Not for me.

See, you can't always read the online info or talk to the health professional and expect your experience to be the same. Yes, for many, maybe even most women, it'll be true. We're not all the same though. In my ante natal group we had seven women. Four of them now have the generous cleavage I was hoping for, and have gallons of milk to feed their chubby babies. One couldn't produce milk at all and is now bottle feeding. One, devastatingly, lost her baby at birth. And then there's me, and I don't really look any different despite breastfeeding from the word go.

I have no idea if the outward physical differences between my experience and what I was taught would happen have anything to do with the internal workings. I have certainly had a very different breastfeeding experience to the four big-boobed woman in my class (meaning, it has been a much more difficult experience for me than them), but it definately hasn't prevented me from breastfeeding my baby.

If you become pregnant you will be offered breastfeeding support left right and centre, and you'll probably think 'how hard can it be, you just put your boob in their mouth' and maybe you'll be right... or maybe, like me and so many women, it will be hard. If it is, you'll probably worry about it. I think it's important to find ways to calm those worries, whatever they are. There will be many things to worry about! The key seems to be to a. keep perspective (whatever it is, it's probably normal), b. focus on what you CAN do, and don't beat yourself up if nothing works, and c. ask for help.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

"When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers"

-Oscar Wilde


I’m writing this at 2.30am. One handed. On the sofa bed in the sitting room.

I have a sleeping baby in my left arm. My sleeping baby.

I have a fiancé too. He’s also asleep… upstairs… in our comfy bed.

If I could travel back in time two years and say to myself ‘In a couple of years you’ll be writing a blog post about your baby and fiance’ I would NOT believe myself. And if I could somehow persuade myself that I WAS telling the truth, I think the two-years-younger-me would probably cry with joy.

At 30, I lived alone, I was single and had been single officially (putting aside that ongoing on-off-friendship-relationship) for six years. I worked from home and rarely met new people outside of my own group of friends. I’d finally gone to the doctors for a medical opinion on my weird periods and chronic illnesses, and had been diagnosed with ovarian cysts and a hormonal imbalance. I even had a spirit reading done (a letter from the spirits, channelled via automatic writing) which gave me the undeniably stark message of ‘your purpose in this lifetime is to learn about your true self. It is a very difficult lesson to learn. Can you be happy without the partner, family and career you desire?’

I decided, at that point, to learn to let go of my dreams which were, deep down, to fall in love and have a family. And it was a really REALLY difficult thing to do. I worked through it with my therapist. I did artwork. I wrote about it. I cried… a lot. I mourned the loss of what I had expected my life to be since I was a little girl. I tried to picture the rest of my life as a single woman: what I would do with my time. I tried to visualise a life of freedom, travel, food and fun. I never quite convinced myself it would be better to be alone… but it was a start.

In my head, at that point, reality was pointing me in one direction: my fertility was questionable, my love life was a mess, my life was solitary and the years I had left to have children were decreasing like grains of sand in the metaphorical hourglass of my existence. Ok, alone it was then.

At some point during this process, I had a fairly profound experience. Magic or coincidence; I’ll let you judge for yourself. For me, it was a blessing.

I had a vivid dream one night. I can still picture it now and almost feel how it felt. I was called outside to look at the night sky, and looked up to see golden stars showering down like glimmering raindrops. It was such an overwhelmingly beautiful sight, I cried in my dream.

When, a few days later, I found out there was going to be a meteor shower, I got the lovely tingly feeling I always get when something falls into place in my head like cogs aligning. I knew I had to get outside and see it happening.
So when the time came I wrapped myself in a blanket, made a hot drink and sat outside the front of my cottage, and I watched the sky. It wasn’t quite like my dream, but I did manage to catch sight of 4 falling stars that night.

The last one was the most poignant. I suddenly remembered that when I was little, I was always told to make a wish if I ever saw a shooting star. But I’d had enough of wishes that didn’t come true, so this time I didn’t wish. I made a statement to the sky. An affirmation. I said ‘Some day soon I will meet a man, and he will fall in love with me, and I will fall in love with him, and when the time is right, we will have a family.’ As I finished my monologue, I was given an answer: a star shot across the exact patch of sky I was looking at. The universe had said ‘I hear you’

I didn’t get hung up on this experience or the announcement I had made that night. I dropped it when I made my mind up to let go of my dreams and replace them with other ideas for a fulfilling life. But deep down, the hope was still there.

I could write (and may still write) whole entries on what happened between then and now, but to keep things simple, I’ll just fast forward.

I met a man. He fell in love with me. I fell in love with him.

In a weird way I felt it coming. I just had a feeling someone special was around the corner. It wasn’t quite love at first sight, but I still fell in love with him in about a week… something I was fairly conflicted about at the time; the logical part of me refused to believe it was possible. I remember saying to a mutual friend ‘I’m so happy… but I’m trying not to get too excited’ and she replied ‘why not? Just be excited!’

She was right, of course. I had every reason to be excited. I’d been hoping and praying for this exact relationship: someone who loved me for every part of me- not just me at my best. Someone who I knew would help me grow as a person rather than expecting me to be perfect. Someone who was willing to talk issues through and compromise for the sake of both of our happiness. Not to mention, I totally fancied him!

Six months later we accidentally made a baby. Two months after that we got engaged.

A month ago, our baby was born during the height of a meteor shower. He kept me waiting 16 days after my due date, and 3 days after my waters broke, just so he could be born at that exact time; just to round the story off and prove that my prayers had been answered.
My life was now complete and we all lived happily ever after. The end.

Except (dammit) Oscar Wilde, as usual, has a point.

A couple of weeks ago, the realisation hit me that this new person in my life: this dream-come-true; was actually the culmination of every difficult lesson I had attempted to learn in the last five-or-so-years (as I fought to eliminate depression from my life).

I have never been through anything as testing as the last month of my life.

It began with the birth. 3 days of contractions and sickness, until I couldn’t cope any more and needed to be put on a drip. And when your baby’s born  you think ‘thank god that’s over, now for the fun part.’ And that’s REALLY when the difficult bit starts!

This wonderful little dream-come-true has taken every inch of the life I had made for myself, and turned it upside down.

I’ve left my little cottage in the countryside and am now living at my fiance’s Mum’s house, the other side of the country to my family, and to the friends I had become close to in recent years. I have virtually no time for the business I was trying so hard to get going.

Our baby cries most of the time. He wakes up crying. He cries after I’ve fed him. Sometimes he cries while I’m feeding him. He often refuses to fall asleep, as if he has something very important he has to be awake for. This will eventually lead to him being SO tired and SO grumpy, he just cries more, because he no longer knows what he wants.

The only way I’ve found to stop him crying, or to help him fall asleep, is to cuddle and breastfeed him. If it wasn’t for my finance stepping in and taking the baby from me, he would literally breastfeed 24 hours a day. I’m lucky if I have time to go for a wee.

3 weeks after our baby was born, my fiancé desperately needed to get back to work, which is when he started sleeping separately. I now sleep whenever I can, mostly in 30min/1hour snatches between night-time feeds, and the odd 2 or 3 hours when my fiancé is able to take the baby.

 I do NOT function well on no sleep.

I’ve battled loneliness, I’ve battled self doubt . I’ve battled regret. I’ve thought ‘I wish things could just be like they used to be’ and hated myself for thinking it. I’ve battled anger at my fiance for sleeping soundly at night while I stay awake feeding our child. I’ve battled my fiance’s anger at me for giving in to melancholy rather than finding solutions to the various problems caring for a newborn has thrown up.

And I’ve found myself contemplating Oscar Wilde’s admittedly pessimistic statement: ‘When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers’

Because the thing is, it’s often true. We can create a world in our minds, the way we wish things to be. But there’s nothing in life that simply makes everything better. There’s no alternative happy carefree life out there waiting to be found. Life will always throw up sadness and difficulty, because they are just part of the experience! So when our dreams come true we expect so much from them. We’ve put them on a pedistool, yearning after them, praying for them! And then they’re just as complicated, just as hard work, just as full of sadness, anger and regret as anything else.

That’s not to say they’re not wonderful too! My son is the most incredible gift I’ve ever been given. I am so overcome with love for him I sometimes find myself with tears in my eyes just at the thought of it. I feel the same about my fiancé and I’m grateful every day that I have them in my life.

But it is not easy.