Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our feeding journey

E is now just over 7 months old. In general she is a very smiley, happy, shouty baby who sits beautifully and is interested in everything (particularly the things she isn't allowed!). She has started to fill out, to get chubby legs and a little buddha belly. But it's taken a while to get here.

I talked about our early breastfeeding journey here, and I'm pleased to say we're still breastfeeding to this day. But it hasn't been an easy journey in terms of giving E the nutrition she needs to keep her gaining weight as laid out in the WHO charts. E stuck roughly to the 50th centile line from birth until around 8 weeks, but started to slip down centile lines, finally dropping as low as the 9th centile at 17 weeks. I think part of our problem was the huge amounts of conflicting advice given to us by the healthcare professionals. Every time I saw a health visitor they told me I should be feeding E differently: "you should offer both breasts at each feed", "she's getting lazy and waiting to be offered the other breast and not taking the hind milk, so you should only offer one breast for three hours, then switch", "you MUST offer both breasts" etc etc until I was completely confused. I felt like I was constantly being criticised.

At 18 weeks, the doctor and health visitor decided the lack of solid weight gain, the crying, the eczema, and the wind were due to a milk protein allergy. I was told to cut out all dairy and soya to see what happened. I can tell you now, your diet is extremely restricted when you have to avoid both- they are present in so much food. Had I been at home it may have been a bit easier, but unfortunately the week after cutting the dairy out, my Grandmother suddenly declined in health. We spent a week away from home, sitting with her in her final few days. A privilege to be with her at the end, but a hard time. E spent the week sleeping in a drawer. I reached the end of my resources of strength: full time childcare, cooking for various family members, and many hours in a small room, all the while with a seriously restricted diet took their toll- I lost 2kg in a week. If my Dad had not been there, taking E on tours around the gardens of the home, I think I may have fallen apart. On the day she died, my Grandfather on the other side suddenly also passed away. The weeks that followed involved a lot of travelling around for funerals, not easy for a 4 month old, especially as my milk supply took a hit.

Despite initially thinking the dairy-removal had helped, I soon had reservations. Sleep problems returned with a vengeance- probably due to disrupted routines- and we went back to a lot of the old problems. As she turned five months old, we hit an all time emotional low, and we knew things had to change. The next day, we risked giving E some formula. With 100,000 times as much milk protein than breastmilk, we weren't sure what to expect. Absolutely nothing happened. We gave it to her a midday to allow time to see any reactions. It felt very strange feeding it to her, but she didn't seem bothered, and as soon as I had, I felt a weight lift. I had been putting so much pressure on myself to breastfeed, and E was struggling and pretty unhappy. Now she had drunk her first formula, and nothing untoward had happened. Looking back, that first formula feed was a turning point. I slowly reintroduced dairy to my diet.

At about 5 and a half months we introduced solids, much to E's delight. She certainly made it clear she was ready for food. One occasion that sticks in the mind is her practically leaping out of arms to get across the table to grab a banana muffin, promptly digging out a huge handful and shoving it in her mouth. She delighted in each new puree, although the first mouthful was always given a comedic mouth-puckered face, before she eagerly opened her mouth for more. As she started to eat more food, the pressure on my milk supply reduced and she always seemed satisfied with the milk she got. We could feel (and see) the weight starting to go on, and E became happier and happier (other than during a bout of tonsillitis). When she was 30 weeks old, I took her back to get weighed, just to officially see the more healthy weight. She has gone up to the 30th centile, while her length is on the 70th centile, a great improvement. While I am glad to have had her weighted, I won't be going back for a while, as yet again I felt criticised for going to the health visitor, and I think we're better off on our own path, away from conflicting and critical advice.

This week E threw up a few times and now has a cold. Mealtimes have turned into a disaster zone of crying and food refusal. It took half an hour to coax a single bite of cereal out of her this morning, and she is screaming at the offer of pretty much everything other than petit filous! I'm hoping this is simply an illness-related temporary setback, as I can't bear for food to become a battleground once again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The monster in the night

Three weeks ago we had a wonderful moment- E slept through the night. And did so for two more weeks. I cherished every single hour of those sleeps, hoping it would last.

But sadly a week ago E stopped sleeping solidly for those 10 magical hours. Instead we have gained a monster in the night. We are still putting her down around 8, but she wakes for a feed around 1, and then can stay awake for anything up to three hours. She then wakes again by 6 or 7 and is ready for the day to start. We are getting a block of three hours sleep ourselves, followed by three awake, followed by two asleep. Not enough.

She has terrible wind and stomach cramps, which we think may be waking her/ keeping her awake. Every night at the moment involves gripe water, a lot of shushing and swaying, and a lot of resentment. That is the hardest bit, knowing I resent my daughter. Those long hours in the night seem never-ending, and I just want to scream at her. It doesn't help that day time naps are a battle too, and much of the day seems to be spent with E grizzling and crying. She no longer wants to play on her playmat, or be put down at all. All in all I am feeling pretty exhausted and worn down, my coping mechanisms not helped by the sleep deprivation.

Amongst this, we do have magical moments, glimpses of our happy baby. Yesterday, she laughed for the first time when a raspberry was blown on her tummy. She gives beautiful smiles, particularly when out and about in her pushchair. Her favourite game is to give a big smile and gurgle, then act all coy and hide her face. Although less frequent, she still burbles and talks away at times. She has started to splash in the bath, and her hand-eye coordination is getting better. I try to appreciate these moments, remembering how much I love E, trying not to hold the sleep torment against her. But it is hard.

I just want to get rid of our monster in the night, and get our happy E back.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

irony





















the screaming seems endless
i can't take it a moment longer
i put you in your basket and walk away

re-compose

walk back and lift you out
cuddle you to me
shush-shushing
you eventually calm down
your eyelids droop
your head slides to one side

soon you are asleep

and i stare in wonder at your smallness
how in years to come i will look back
remember you scrunched up on me asleep
your eyelids so thin
mouth hanging open slightly
your soft breathing
your beauty

and i cherish this moment


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Falling in love


I always thought I'd have children. Two in fact. I'd love being pregnant, give birth, and fall in love with my baby. But in reality it wasn't quite like that. 

The birth wasn't as I'd hoped. A hemorrhage left me with severe anaemia, and pretty much out of it. I struggled to drink, to eat, to function. I even fell asleep with food in my mouth, sat upright in a chair. I was re-hospitalised two days after going home, a frightening experience. None of this helped me bond with my new daughter. 

Two minutes after E was born, she was taken from me as I started to haemorrhage. She cwtched skin to skin with the other-half-of-us instead, something that gave him a massive leap ahead with his bonding with her. He fell in love instantly. I simply struggled to stay conscious. When calm ensued once more, my tiredness combined with blood loss meant that although I managed to feed E, all I could think about was the need to sleep. I didn't really see E until the next morning, this tiny girl with masses of dark hair and rosebud lips. 

Looking back, the next few days are blurred in my mind, hazed over by my illness. I fed E, changed her when the other-half-of-us wasn't there, and cuddled her when she cried. Instinct took over, and I gave her as much care as I could, while not really being with it. Day three was my personal hell, the night even worse. Extreme tiredness and painful feeding led to a huge internal battle with myself- wanting to leave but needing to stay. I am sad now that I missed this precious time being properly with her, yet so glad I battled on through. 

Don't get me wrong. I felt an attachment to her. I wanted to feed her, to care for her. I just didn't feel the overwhelming love I expected. 

As my iron levels increased, and I slowly returned to myself, I began to get to know this little person for the first time, to soak her in. I saw her personality, her tucked up legs, her tiny nails. I saw her eyes, her hands, heard her strong newborn cry. As the days passed, and we got to know each other more and more, I started to like her, to love her. 

I had to fall in love with my baby girl, a process over days and weeks, not minutes or hours. I had to learn about her, get to know her, and feel better in myself before I truly started to fiercely love her. 



Feeding


Feeding and some of the views we've had

E has been solely breastfed from birth until now (8 weeks 3 days and counting). For me this statement comes with a great sense of achievement, mainly due to the fact that I didn't give up. It is not that I believe she has to be breastfed, rather that I kept going with it despite everything. Some women can't breastfeed, or find it too difficult, for so many reasons. As far as I'm concerned you need a happy mummy to have a happy baby, and the method of feeding is mostly irrelevant.

I decided early on I wanted to breastfeed. I am inherently lazy, and the idea of having to sterilise bottles, get water at the right temperature, and mix the formula before each feed, seemed rather too much effort! Add into that the cost of a tin of milk, as well as the other benefits of breastfeeding, and I decided I would give it as good a go as I could.

We didn't get off to the best start. After my haemorrhage, I was barely with it for days, if not weeks. I struggled to even feed myself. The other-half-of-us literally did everything (other than overnight in hospital when he wasn't allowed to stay) for the first two weeks. Yet I battled on with the feeding. The midwives in the hospital were amazing, and kept helping me latch her on every time I asked in the first 48 hours. To start with I found it really painful and alien. Lansinoh lanolin was my saviour, keeping the soreness to a just about tolerable level, although I do remember crying during feeding a fair few times.

Overnight on day three was one of the worse nights of my life, and it took all my willpower not to give in. One factor may have been that we had no formula and there are no 24 hour supermarkets here, so there was no other feeding option, but I would like to think that my stubborn nature also helped me through.

E loves to feed. At times she would barely go an hour between feeds (from the start of one feed to the start of the next), not aiding my soreness. A friend tried to help stretch her time between feeds one weekend, but I couldn't bear the crying, and felt that she knew when she needed food so I should just feed her. Now she can go around 2 hours most of the time, more if she sleeps, and about 6 hours at night. Our main issue now is her writhing around as she feeds, mainly due to wind.

I have tried never to let feeding get in the way of doing things. As we demand feed, letting E choose when she wants food, I can never plan what we do around her feeding, and so quickly became used to feeding wherever we are. We have fed in cafes, in the car, on the beach, perched on rocks, sat on the floor... anywhere and everywhere!

Some things that have helped me:
  • Nipple cream - using lanolin to help sore nipples really is amazing
  • Relatching - knowing how to detach her in the early days and trying again to get a less painful latch really did lead to less stressful (and painful) feeds
  • Sleep! - Now she can go 6 hours between feeds at night, giving me a much longer period of sleep, I am much more able to deal with any stresses during feeding
  • Time - It is true, the first few weeks are the hardest, and it really does get easier
  • Good breast pads - Lansinoh pads seem to work best for me as they stick in place better, are larger, and much more absorbent than other brands
  • A dummy - E is what the midwife called a 'sucky' baby. She suffers terrible wind and finds sucking a huge comfort. When we realised some of her feeding was simply a comforting device, we introduced a dummy at a month old to take off some of the pressure. It has really helped!
Now I can even say that I enjoy feeding her at times, listening to the little noises she makes, and wondering at this little amazing creature who was born knowing how to suckle.