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The Worst Night, then the Best Night

I knew it was going to be a bad night when I saw how tired and grizzly she was...

I knew it was going to be a bad night when I saw how tired and grizzly she was…

By Friday afternoon I knew that it was going to be a bad night. She had been unsettled all day, cluster feeding in little bursts that came every hour or two and grizzling frequently. Sure enough, the night held a similar fate. At one point, after having held her dummy in for what felt like an eternity (but was probably about half an hour), I gave up. I was grizzling as much as she was, desperate for a bit of sleep after a long and tiring day. Sean and I swapped sides, and he told me later that he spent two hours awake with her. At one point a fight erupted between us over a misunderstanding; there was something yelling of obscenities, some slamming of doors, some hurt feelings. It was a bad night.

How I look waking up for a night feed!

How I look waking up for a night feed!

Then yesterday, Saturday, came and she was a little more settled during the day. Having overcome a bout of thrush (and deciding that yes, it’s definitely gone), I was finally able to start expressing again. As it had been a while, I was only able to get 60ml (I say “only” because before the thrush I was getting up to 120ml after a feed). I set it aside though, thinking that perhaps Sean could do a night feed with that.

We survived Friday night, and come Saturday things were looking up.

We survived Friday night, and come Saturday things were looking up.

As it turns out, I needed my EBM (expressed breast milk) sooner than expected: the last feed before bed left her a little unsatisfied, and I was already too tired to keep trying to breastfeed her when both boobs were pretty empty – it would take forever to slowly fill her up as my boobs refilled themselves! So I whipped out my bottle of EBM, and she guzzled it down, probably about 50ml on top of the boob feed. After that she slept for about 6 hours. Can I get a HALLELUJAH over here?! We literally went from our worst night, straight to our best night.

Yes, that's a towel she's wrapped in... blame daddy, who thought she didn't need a blanket while we were out at my sister's house!

Sleeping peacefully. Yes, that’s a towel she’s wrapped in… blame daddy, who thought she didn’t need a blanket while we were out at my sister’s house!

Today I’ll be starting up my pumping routine again, to help build up supply and hopefully get a good store of EBM for top-ups and those occasions when I need Sean to feed her, for whatever reason. Breastfeeding is great, but it is very challenging; not being able to pump for a while really taught me the value of expressing and having that EBM on hand!

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First Solo Walk

I’m sure there are some superwomen who will pop out a baby and be back in the gym the next day. I am not one of those women. The hospital physiotherapist I could build up slowly to a half hour walk by six weeks, and lift nothing heavier than my baby, and I have been obliged to follow that advice.

Four weeks and four days postpartum, I took my first walk out on my own with the pram today. Spring has shown up early and it was a beautifully mild, sunny day, alive with birdsong and the sweet fragrance of new flowers. In short, it was an irresistible opportunity to get out in the fresh air and stretch my legs.

My very first postpartum stroll was six days after birth. With a third degree tear to the perineum, this is not the sort of activity you rush into. I ambled along the 400 metres to a local cafe at a slow and steady pace, stopping occasionally for a breather, and using my mindfulness exercises to combat the rising swell of anxiety. On that day, I had tried pushing the pram but gave up after a few metres as it seemed to pull on every possible muscle or sore spot that had been affected by the birth. After that, I would try it out whenever we went to the shops, assessing my ability to manage the weight of the pram as I went.

My fridge is looking decidedly empty, and each time I mosey into the kitchen I am hit with an intense despair at the lack of enticing nourishment options. I decided, therefore, to go to Woolworths. I had no sooner approached the brink of my driveway, than I spotted a fellow baby-owner out for a walk with her mother, and pushing a pram, on the very footpath I intended to traverse. It’s one of those single-footpath roads, so I waited for them to move up the path a little first.

The older woman was walking two dogs, who happened to look remarkably similar to my own two dogs. When it chanced that the dogs stopped to sniff something and I caught up the short distance I had left between us, I took the opportunity to start a brief conversation about the dogs. Then she trotted along to catch up with her daughter and the pram-baby, and I re-embarked, again keeping a short distance behind. At the end of the street, we both turned in the same direction, and I again caught them up when one of the dogs sat down and refused to move. Conversation was sparked off once more.

The girl looked about my age, and her daughter is three months old next week. Both our bubs were fast asleep, rugged up, and looking like perfect angels. We discussed sleeping patterns, and she explained how she had instituted a bed time routine at 6 weeks. I noted the information with keen interest (last night we had our first horror night of constant griping and crying) and took off, this time a little ahead of them. Subsequently I overheard them discussing their own plans for walking to Woolworths. Deeming it too awkward to continue to the very same destination, having already bumped into them twice, I did the sensible thing and extended my walk a little before doubling back to the supermarket.

The walking itself was great. I’m not exactly a speed demon, but I didn’t experience any particular discomfort, and if not for my dodgy hips (can’t wait to go back and see the myotherapist!), I daresay I could have kept going a while longer! The only problem I encountered was that I ran out of room piling stuff up next to Amelia while shopping, and grabbed a basket to carry more stuff in. There wasn’t a whole lot, but carrying the basket with one hand and pushing the pram with the other turned out to be a lot of work for my poor abdominal muscles and I did start to get a bit of sharp tummy muscle pain as I approached the check out. It went away when I put the basket down, though, and I haven’t had any troubles since, so far.

My next challenge is to see if I can load the pram into the car by myself, without injuring myself. If I can manage that, I hope to go for a little walk around Emerald Lake Park on the next fine-weather day!

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Newborn Wardrobe

This is my list of newborn wardrobe essentials. An average newborn will fit 0000 size clothing, but it’s a good idea to have a couple of outfits either side to be safe.

Accessories

  • 2 x newborn hats
  • 2 x socks
  • 2 x blankets/wraps*

00000 (tiny baby)

  • 2 x singlets**
  • 2 x bodysuits

0000 (newborn)

  • 3 x singlets
  • 10 x bodysuits
  • 2 x jumpers/cardigans/jackets***

000 (0-3 months)

  • 2 x singlets
  • 4 x bodysuits

*I wrap my winter baby in thin polar fleece blankets; muslin wraps are also very popular, and would particularly suit a summer baby.

** You can get regular singlets, or jumpsuit style singlets with press-stud buttons to fasten it around the nappy. I tend to use traditional singlets under short-sleeved bodysuits, and button-up singlets under long-sleeved suits.

*** These tend to be quite roomy; 000 jackets are, frankly, enormous. It would take a very, very big newborn to fit a 000!

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Eating Fish During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Fish is a healthy source of protein, and oily fish are a valuable source of Omega 3 fatty acids. However, pregnant women need to be cautious about the kinds of fish they eat. Some fish have high levels of mercury, which can impact the developing fetus. In Australia, we have range of fish options, and finding information for each variety can be difficult. As a breastfeeding mother who got over-excited and bought nearly a kilo of Blue Grenadier (also known as Hoki) to eat over a couple of days, I suddenly wondered if this could be potentially harmful to my newborn bub.

Googling the mercury levels of Hoki, I came across this fantastic resource from the New Zealand government. It points out that the level of mercury in breastmilk is very low, and it does not pose a high risk to eat fish while breastfeeding, as it can in pregnancy. There is a useful chart included which lists a wide variety of fish under three restriction categories: no restriction necessary, 3-4 servings per week acceptable, and 1 serving every 1-2 weeks acceptable. Luckily for me, my Blue Grenadier/Hoki is in the “no restriction necessary” category. I’m having fish tonight!

I'm having fish tonight!

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Newborn Clothes

Every expectant mum wants to know: what size clothes will my newborn wear, and how many clothes should I get? There is no definitive answer – there’s no real way to predict how big your baby will be, or how the clothes will fit on them! Below are my experiences clothing Amelia, which might help to offer a bit of an idea of what you’re aiming for.

At 37 weeks gestation, Amelia was born weighing 3790 grams (8lb 6oz) and measuring 51cm in length. She wasn’t petite, especially for an early bub! Nonetheless, she happily fit 0000 at birth. This size caters for babies up to 4kg and 51cm long. As you can see, she was born as long as her suits, so by the end of the first week we could no longer put her in 0000 suits with feet. (Except some of the special suits, like the bunny suit pictured below – these tend to have more room).

From there it got a little more tricky, though. Our bub has long legs, but a small body. The 000 clothes without legs (eg bodysuits, t-shirts, jackets) were all swimming on her! Meanwhile the 000 suits with legs/feet fit fine, if not a little long in the sleeve. Our solution has been to pair legless 0000 items with pants, or use 000 bodysuits. And just to complicate things a little more, we’ve found that 00000 singlets (5 zeros, if all those circles are making you cross-eyed) are the best fit for now. At 3 weeks and 2 days old, it looks like we’ll be using this configuration (maybe with bigger singlets) for at least a couple weeks more.

So how did we plan her wardrobe before meeting her?

  • One 00000 (tiny baby) suit in case she came really early, and singlets (these came in handy!)
  • As I was expecting a bigger baby and wasn’t sure if she’d fit into 0000, I didn’t buy this size except for a couple of things for a cute going home outfit (I had a 000 going home outfit as well, covering all bases!). Friends supplied an infinite number of second-hand suits, and family bought a few special clothes. She wore footed suits for a week, and since she only wore singlets in hospital and didn’t treat us to any crazy poo or vomit explosions, we probably only used about 5 out of the (literally) 50 or so suits we had. If she didn’t have such long legs, she’d still be wearing these.
  • I focused my shopping on 000, getting a range of different items as sales and cuteness levels dictated. It’ll be Spring when she fits into these, which is a complete mixed bag of weather in Melbourne (last year it was freezing well into Summer!). Somehow, though, we ended up with virtually no terry toweling suits in this size, and had to call on family members to bring us some more!

Much of what we have is second-hand, or bought from an op-shop. I highly recommend checking out the op-shops; since babies wear clothes (especially little sizes) for such a brief time, you can find a lot of really good stuff that looks new still, but for a fraction of the retail price. In my next post I’ll put my up my list of newborn wardrobe essentials, as an idea of how many of what to get as a first time mum.

Bunny!

Bunny!

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Breastfeeding With A Nipple Shield

My baby was hungry; she was rooting, and seemed to latch well when I put her to the breast – but she just wouldn’t suck! In the hospital, the midwives helped me to hand express, then set me up with an electric pump. Off to a slow start, I was told she would have to have her feeds topped up with formula. Our future as a breastfeeding pair was suddenly uncertain: would we be able to establish ourselves? Would she ever feed from the breast?

Then the lactation consultant came, managing to squeeze me into her overflowing schedule of appointments. I am very grateful that she did, as her advice was helped to start us off, finally. She came with a little silicone teat called a nipple shield or nipple guard. Clear and completely flexible, it sits over the nipple and the baby takes this into her mouth, with the nipple inside. It has holes in the end for the milk to flow through.

Avent nipple shield

Avent nipple shield

From the first moment, it was a raging success. She attached with a vengeance and got to guzzling milk like there was no tomorrow. Since then we’ve had no issues using the shield – well, not with feeding, anyhow. I’ve just had to learn to put a cloth underneath to catch the excess that collects in the shield for when she inevitably knocks it off! I’ve also found that she occasionally gets a bit too much and chokes a little, so that’s something else to watch out for, though it doesn’t happen very often.

I’ve seen the lactation consultant since then, and she gave me hope that we’ll be able to wean off the guard eventually. I have flat nipples, which means that Amelia misses the stimulation on her palate that tells her to suck; however, she should get the hang of it as she grows bigger. In the meantime, I’ve found that about once a day (usually the 11 am feed) my boobs will suddenly start cooperating, with nice pointy nipples, and she’s able to feed nicely without the guard for at least one side.

Even if we never get to the point of breastfeeding without the nipple shield, at least we will have been able to breastfeed, in spite of the challenge of flat boobies.

Happy breastfeeding bub

Happy breastfeeding bub

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Sweat and nightmares

“Turn the light on! Help me find her, quick!”

Panic grips me as I rifle through the covers, or try to find the end of the pillowcase. I’ve fallen asleep with her in the bed, and now she’s trapped in the covers, suffocating! Then the light goes on and I see that she’s fast asleep in her cot, right where I left her. On an unrelated note, I notice I’m sweating profusely, my pyjamas sticking to me and my boobs forming a ravine between which a veritable river of perspiration trickles.

Nobody tells you that the newborn nights are a hazy mix of sweat and nightmares, but both of these are in fact very common. Google “nightmares about losing baby in bed” and the search turns up a plethora of forum questions, articles and even news items addressing the phenomenon. Researcher Tore Nielsen, PhD, has found that three quarters of new mothers will experience these nightmares, dreaming such things as leaving the baby on the change table or with a bad babysitter, and typically resulting in the frantic search through the covers. [CLICK HERE for the NBC report, which has more details].

I was surprised to read about the sweating in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” – up til then I’d been blaming Sean for leaving the heater on overnight (“It’s only on 15 degrees!” he’d protest). Apparently this sticky problem is caused by the dropping levels of hormones, and can last for several weeks. You can read more about it HERE on the Babycenter website.

Amelia is sleeping longer each night; hopefully soon I’ll be able to sleep soundly as she does, unimpeded by terrible nightmares and the sensation of having taken a stroll through a monsoon!

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