Letting Go

As so many of you were supremely helpful, answering my pleas and whines, I thought I’d drop a little update on how Little Bun and I are going on the milk front.

Three months ago, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the triple whammy that I was dealt – her allergies, my own milk’s problem with freezing, and her not taking formula.

Well – we’re through it and (almost) out the other side. Once we’d settled back home after hotfootting it around the globe and back, I started LB on a bottle of her stinky formula here and there. Luckily, she’s a guts and her appetite’s only getting bigger, so she seemed happier and happier to take the bottle.

Then, with my back-to-work date looming, I started to slowly wean her. Just as they recommend in the books, I replaced a feed a week – beginning with her least ‘favourite’. And she was fine. Absolutely. Fine. It took her a while to pick up her quantities, but I knew that she was getting plenty of milk from me, and PUH-LENTY of food and water as well (my girl likes to eat).

The slow approach was also kind to my boobs, and I haven’t had any troubles with engorgement or pain.

She was crook last week so I delayed dropping the final feed – the one first thing in the morning. But I think that was more for me than her. You see, I’ve been sad to wean her. As lovely as its been to have more than a three hour window in which to get out and do things on my own, I miss feeding her. What was such a close, warm, organic thing is now a different – not bad – experience. Nice cuddle, plastic teat, gulp-and-burp. Done.

But the admin! I really applaud those women who have been managing bottles for months and months. The washing, sterilising, transporting, buying of formula … it’s just another thing to fit into your brain when it’s already fit to burst.

I’m so grateful for the boob-support I received – both online and in real life – all the way back to those first few weeks when I couldn’t breastfeed at all. Now that it’s time for us to move on, I do feel some sense of sadness. My baby is growing up.

But what we’ll miss in that, I’m sure we’ll discover something new elsewhere.

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‘Breast is Best’ (except when it’s not)

So as I’ve mentioned, I struggled bigtime with boobfeeding for the first weeks of Little Bun’s life.

It started at the beginning (duh) with a combination of Little Bun having a small mouth, a high palette, a very tiny tongue tie and a ‘suck like a piranha’ (to quote one midwife). In the first days in hospital I made sure I buzzed a midwife every time I fed Little Bun. This was to check that my technique was OK, and her latch was good. I felt pretty good about this, as if their very presence would ward off any nasty breastfeeding spirits that might creep in.

I was consistently praised and told that everything was looking great (I was feeling pretty smug at this point). However on Day 4 Little Bun tried to kickstart my milk coming in by feeding every hour. With one midwife’s ominous declaration that ‘it only takes one bad latch to ruin your nipples’ I worriedly persevered through her increasingly voracious feeds. I don’t know whether it was that ‘one bad feed’, or just the frequency of the little sucker going hell for leather on my poor nipples – but by mid afternoon they were grazed, blistered and bleeding and I was crying every time she squeaked for another feed.

That evening, a very young and well-meaning midwife was trying to manage this escalating issue as Little Bun got hungrier and I became more desperate. Finally we asked to speak to her superior (in the nicest way possible – I think she was more relieved than us to bring her boss in). A much older, more experienced nurse bustled in and took one look at the situation. She firmly explained that I needed to put my boobs on 24 hour’s rest, start pumping colostrum, and give Little Bun some formula in the meantime.

I’d be lying if I said I took that well. Mr Bun had to do a fair bit of talking to make me see sense – that my wellbeing and her full tummy were the most important things. She took the formula like a champ and I started expressing straight away. On seeing the in-hospital lactation consultant the next morning, she put me on a WEEK’S NIPPLE REST … they were pretty bad. So, we came home with a rented hospital-grade pump in tow and Little Bun took expressed milk and formula for a few days until my milk came in and I swapped to giving her 100% expressed breast milk.

At that point, I had attended a full day lactation clinic in the hospital. While helpful, I found their somewhat obsessive ‘breast is best’ attitude restrictive and not very supportive. I was looking for a plan of attack, rather than ‘just latch her on and go’. Whenever Little Bun attached it was complete agony for me. I developed a full-blown anxiety issue about her coming near my boobs, which in turn created a very tense situation: not conducive to good feeding. In the meantime, I was expressing every time she fed – so, 8 x feeds a day + 8 x expressing sessions a day – that’s eight hours a day of not eating, sleeping, resting or talking. Of course Mr Bun was around, and he ended up doing many feeds while I expressed, but this in itself was really distressing as I was missing out on valuable bonding time with my child.

It was really rough, and I think if someone had told me at the outset that it would take five weeks to fix, I wouldn’t have stuck it out.

So – what worked? I found a private Lactation Consultant whose approach I felt comfortable with. She came to our home, and for three hours she sat with me. While we did work on a bit of technique, it was the holistic support she provided me that really helped. She gently explained it would take three weeks to transition back to boob without affecting my supply. She made it clear that formula was fine, and in doing so took the pressure off. She provided me with a written plan (including the ratio of one boob feed to three EBM/expressing sessions – then 2:3, 2:2, 3:1 etc) all the while focusing on my confidence and comfort levels. We had Little Bun’s tongue tie snipped. She grew bigger, and so did her mouth, so her latch improved. I became more confident. Many small things changed so then, slowly but surely, I was 100% breastfeeding.

But beyond all of this, the one thing that got me through was having the Lactation Consultant on the end of the phone whenever I needed her. Some days I spoke to her twice. There were calls on Sundays. Public holidays. Nighttimes. I felt so, so lucky to have her support and without it I would not be breastfeeding now – simple as that.

I’ve been surprised at just how many people were impressed I stuck it out. I think everyone (at least, those in the birth/baby/new mum world) understands how hard b’feeding can be.

But if I’m honest I’ll say I did it for me, and not just for Little Bun.

I have no qualms with formula AT ALL. And I so envy those mothers’ freedom – how they can share the responsibility of feeding their child more equally, and of course their ability to go out and enjoy a wine – or three (!) But, we bottle fed Little Bun EBM for long enough to know the hassle of sterilising, carting bottles around, heating things up and cooling them down. The luxury of having a meal on tap where and whenever was needed was very attractive to me. Like all baby things, it’s such a personal choice. I’m just glad I happened to get my choice, eventually.

The First Six Weeks (part one)

Little Bun was six weeks last Friday. I won’t say I can’t believe where the time has gone – I can account for every minute (!) – but the immediacy of giving birth and being in the hospital is fading fast.

Here are some random, completely disorganised thoughts on the First Six Weeks.

Breastfeeding is Hard

I knew this. I was acutely aware of how hard it could be. Equally, it was the one ‘thing’ I was adamant I wanted to do. Everything else fell under my parenting ‘strategy’ (ha ha) of Whatever Works*. Yet breastfeeding was different. I attended classes and read books and once Little Bun was born, I shelved any pride and made sure I buzzed a midwife before literally every feed – just to make sure I was getting my latch right.

But it still didn’t work.

If anyone’s interested I may dedicate a separate post to what happened and how I dealt with it. However I found that if you are struggling the following is true: unless you have amazing support (I had a brilliant lactation consultant that we hired privately), a fair kick of tenacity (we hired said Consultant after three weeks, as many separate clinics and hospital consultations, and it took five weeks for me to start b’feeding exclusively) and time (at the beginning I was expressing 6-8 times a day so we could feed Little Bun EBM via the bottle for every feed) then you’re in for a challenge.

(Update: booby post here)

‘Sleep When They Sleep’ Is Really Good Advice

When I was pregnant I heard this over and over and thought it was a bit of a cop-out, not to mention a waste of precious time.

Nuh-uh. It makes SUCH a difference. Bar a (very grumpy) day here and there, for six weeks I have grabbed a nap every day. In the crazy, routineless early weeks, I took it when I could which sometimes meant dinnertime, or really just after I’d showered and dressed.

Now, she’s in some semblance of a routine and I know I can get some shuteye somewhere between 3pm and 6pm. Yes, napping is boring. It’s time consuming. It means you can’t do other stuff (be those chores, errands, or even something nice like reading a mag with a cuppa) – but you’ll thank yourself as you swing your legs out of bed, into the 3am cold.

I absolutely, hands-down owe my relatively relaxed, happy brain to these daily naps. Hey, Whatever Works, right?

See The Planet There? Let’s Just Stomp In Its Face A Few Times!

While I’m no hemp-wearing hippy chick drinking recycled wee, I’d like to think Mr Bun and I are pretty environmentally friendly people. We sort our rubbish properly and shit. WELL DOUSE ME IN OIL AND CALL ME LADY EXXON. Having a baby is the most environmentally unfriendly thing I’ve ever done.

The laundry is what gets me the most. The incessant, neverending cycles of washing. And drying**. And loads of dishes. And cranking the heating up over 19 degrees**. Living at home, existing in these walls all day is also bumping up the general house filth, not to mention the bills. For all of my life I’ve had a nice warm school/uni/office to take care of me five days a week – tea, coffee, heating, dishes, loo paper … now it’s happening on my own turf I realise just how messy and expensive us humans actually are. I’m shocked at the absolute blatant consumption of it all.

Summer will be better. Line-dried clothes, no heating, and Little Bun and I will crack out our hemp bikinis …

OK. Naptime! More to come …

(Update: part 2 here)

* ie. don’t set yourself up for failure by declaring ‘I’ll never’ or ‘We will always’ … you just don’t know how you’ll go.

** before you go Greenpeace on me, it’s the middle of the coldest Winter in 20 years here, and if you think I’m going to be air-drying clothes you’re sorely mistaken. I don’t have the climate, let alone the time. Also, we live in the coldest house north of Antarctica.