Make sure you eat properly

Feeding a young baby is hard work; you need to eat and drink properly. 

Sam is currently going through a growth spurt – the one I’ve seen described in blog posts and on the internet as ‘hell’. He’s feeding almost constantly and has been since last night. He’s hardly slept. I’ve hardly slept. I didn’t drink enough yesterday. I hadn’t eaten enough today. By early afternoon, I started feeling incredibly sick. 

Looking after a hungry, fussy, clingy growing baby is hard work when you want to curl up into a ball and hide in bed. Luckily, I have a freezer full of COOK meals, so I can eat well without much effort. I chucked a veg lasagne in the oven and, fortunately, this seems to have helped. 

The lesson is clear. When feeding, it is so important that you keep up your food and fluid intake, especially during growth spurts (or wonder weeks) when the demand on you is so much greater. 

Hormones 

To say your hormones go crazy after giving birth is an understatement! My first real experience of this was the ‘day 3 hormones‘. This is the day that most women’s milk starts to kick in and consequently your hormones go wild. From feeling fairly rational and like I was handling motherhood, I suddenly spent the best part of 24 hours crying and feeling (and looking) like I was in a mental institution. Being in hospital in a bed surrounded by curtains didn’t help this feeling as I sat huddled on the bed, tears rolling down my face…for no apparent reason. 

Fortunately, the midwives and nurses are well used to this and, when seeing me, calmly stated that these hormones hit nearly everyone at some point between day 3 and 5 and it was totally normal. It didn’t make it any easier for me or for Carl, who went to get lunch one day and returned to find me silently crying into my lunch, but it made it ok to cry. You’re specifically told not to try and keep it in…which is helpful because I really did need to cry it out, even though I didn’t really know what I was crying about, other than feeling overwhelmed.  

Then we get to yesterday. After a long night of 2 hourly feeds, I was exhausted and ended up having another cry about feeling overwhelmed. This is normal

In the evening, I looked at my Facebook profile picture of Samuel at 12 or so hours old and then gazed down at his sleeping face, content after a feed. It hit me that he has already changed and will never look like that 12 hour old newborn again (now he’s the grand old age of 13 days…) and this realisation made me well up and cry for the tiny baby I already miss! This is a bit mental

I’ve realised that although hospital time was hard, I did like the closeness Samuel and I had; he would sleep on me skin to skin every night and we would bond, while Carl could bond by helping with feeds and naps during the day. Since switching to breastfeeding and coming home, I feel more like a milk machine and that Carl gets the lovely nap time cuddles…but I realise that this is just my tiredness and hormones speaking. Although, after a night of almost no sleep last night since he decided to feed almost constantly, I struggled to feel rational about being a dairy cow this morning. Fortunately, we’ve had some lovely cuddles today which will hopefully keep me smiling during whatever tonight has to offer…

It will get easier, but this is a huge period of adjustment for all 3 of us. In the meantime, I need to remember that the best remedy to my occasional tears is really simple – a shower followed by a big hug from Carl. It’s amazing how much better it makes you feel. 

Sleep when the baby sleeps…

This is all very well and good, except when your baby chooses the moment you’re doing something like eating lunch to fall asleep. Then, because you’re used to him only sleeping for a little while before demanding more food, you stay awake anticipating the next marathon cluster feed session. And that’s the time he decides to sleep for 4 hours….

When he wakes, you aren’t sure whether you’re in for a quick feed or a 2-3 hour feeding session, so it’s hard to decide where to be; on the sofa, or in bed just in case he decides to go to sleep afterwards. (FYI, it’s the latter – currently 1.5 hours into a cluster feeding session). 

However, this is the choice we made when – after speaking to my aunt 2 days ago (a former breastfeeding councillor) – we dropped the formula and stopped the ‘top ups’ after feeds. Almost instantly, our fairly neat 3 hour-ish feeding pattern disappeared and cluster feeding with totally random occasional 3-4 hour naps took its place – but we are feeding on demand; this is what Samuel evidently needs, so who am I to argue? 

Admittedly, this post would be unlikely to be so matter of fact if written at 3am, after hours of solid feeding… That would be more along the lines of “Is formula feeding really so detrimental? Why doesn’t my baby ever sleep? Am I asleep right now? When did I last sleep? Why don’t men have breasts? They really should….” and so on. 

But we persevere. At least we’re off the formula and feeding in a more natural way now. I ask again…who needs sleep anyway? 

I miss my spreadsheets and neatly organised diary…routine has officially gone out of the window. 

Oh what a night

Samuel spoiled us for the first few nights; he would sleep from midnight to 3 and then again until 7…giving us a very false sense of security. Last night he decided enough with the lies. 

We headed up at around 11 as usual and put our sleeping angel in bed. He immediately woke up. He was fed, changed, winded, fed, sick on Carl, winded, changed, fed, winded, fed…until 3am when he finally settled. At least he wasn’t constantly screaming – this only happened during each nappy change, when the world came to an end and he let loose with the heartbreaking screams that make my mummy hormones go into overdrive. He also decided to latch incorrectly at every feeding attempt, leaving me in pain and all but crying with frustration after yesterday’s success. Thank god for pre expressed milk and formula…and for Carl, who told me to go to sleep while he continually walked round and winded our little gas man for nearly 4 hours. 

When I awoke at 6ish, it was to see the perfect example of a sleeping cherub in the cot next to me. Then he wanted changing, feeding, winding, feeding, winding…and at least 3 naps during this time, waking each time he was returned to his cot. He slept on me for an hour before returning to his extensive ‘to do’ list. 

I risked breastfeeding again and, thankfully for my sanity, he went on ok. Unfortunately, this was the moment my body decided to give me my first nose bleed in 20 years…all over our now sleepy, happily feeding newborn. Spurred into action, Carl grabbed some tissues, held them to my nose and covered Sam with a towel to stop him becoming a human tissue, while I attempted to reattach Sam to the breast using one hand (obviously he chose that moment to unlatch!). 

He is now fast asleep and has been for hours. What an angel. Who needs sleep anyway? 

Breastfeeding battles

As I sit here, typing with one hand, one leg crossed under me, the other (after 15 mins of veeeery careful manoeuvring) out in front, feeding pillow wrapped round me and a baby enjoying the longest feed known to man, I have a chance to reflect on how different the story was only 2 days ago.

Samuel was not a natural at breastfeeding. The first night in hospital, we succeeded only with the help of a midwife. He struggled throughout the next day, only managing to latch for a full feed once (with plenty of midwife help again). Over the 4 days in hospital, he showed us that he was more than capable, but just seemed a bit lazy. He would latch, suck once or twice and then get so over excited or worked up that he would bob around too much to sustain the contact and before long it was as if the world had ended.

By Monday, the midwives were concerned at the amount of food he was taking in, even though I was by now hand expressing and feeding him from a syringe. Fortunately, I was able to start properly expressing early which meant that I could feed him breastmilk even when he wouldn’t take the breast. It was disheartening having to reach for the electric pump every 3 hours when he was clearly able to feed for himself, but we told ourselves that he would get there in his own time. We would always put him to the breast first but move on before he started getting stressed.

After a day of trying to feed him – fairly unsuccessfully – from a cup, we switched to a bottle and suddenly he was gulping down as much milk and formula as we could offer him.

Fast forward to Thursday. After a day at home, I was considerably more relaxed about everything and still offering him the breast every time. On Thursday morning, while I changed his nappy, Carl popped his finger in Samuel’s mouth for him to suck. After, I offered again….and he immediately latched for a few mouthfuls. Feeling positive, we fed him the expressed milk as usual and hoped that we were moving forward. At the next feed, Carl gave him his finger again and, this time when offered, he latched on for a 20 minute feed! He had no interest in the left breast, accepting only the right as a feeding station, but breastfed for the next 4 feeds (always sucking a finger first) – with us topping up with formula since I don’t have enough milk yet to satisfy his growing appetite.

This morning…he took the left. Not for long, but I was so encouraged before popping him back on the right. It seems he enjoys cluster feeding in the morning so only an hour later he was asking for more. Unsure of how much I had left due to the earlier feeds and then expressing after, I nonetheless offered him the right…where he proceeded to feed for over an hour…and then spent about 40 minutes on the left! Finally.

He proceeded to knock back over 100ml of formula after this, so I can conclude he wasn’t getting much milk from me, but at least he is getting there.

Here we sit as he slowly feeds away, presumably beginning his evening cluster feeds with me feeling so happy in the knowledge that Carl and I, as a team, are working it out and succeeding. The next step will be getting him to feed through nursing clothes so I don’t have to strip down every time – not very sociable!

To those who are struggling, my only advice is take the pressure off and don’t get stressed. We know we have express milk and formula for the times he doesn’t latch or isn’t getting enough from me (hopefully my supply will pick up soon), so we aren’t worried. He put on 260g between Weds and Fri, so we know he’s getting enough food! Another 130g by Mon and he’s back to birth weight. His jaundice is lifting (more on that another time) and he’s happily feeding away, what more could I ask for.