Friday, 26 February 2010

Routine Schmootine

It’s Friday night, Chris is out at karaoke, LLC has been sleeping since 8:45pm and I’m psyched to have some quiet time on the computer! It’s a crazy life that I lead. I love it.

Now that LLC is four weeks old Chris and I decided that we’d try to put her down to bed around 8pm as opposed to 10:30/11pm as we’d been doing. She may still wake up for a 10:30/11pm dream feed but our hope is that we’ll get to eat dinner together rather than in shifts or with an overtired baby on our knee. Could this help prevent LLC getting zonked and entering her witching hour while giving Chris and me some precious alone time?! – it was as though some kind soul switched on a light bulb in my baby addled brain.

Yet I don’t know if this plan will work. You know I like my lists. I also like my plans. But I’m learning that routines and plans don’t often fly, or at least fly for too long, with a newborn. I hope I don’t jinx us by saying it, but LLC has been pretty good at sleeping during the night. Sure, we’ve had our 2am screaming incidents or nights where she wakes up and then won’t settle. But more often than not, I read her a bedtime story while giving her a feed and can then place her, dozy but awake in her basinet, and she will put herself to sleep. This worked between 10-11pm but will it work earlier in the evening?

Our first several weeks were ad hoc with little semblance of order. Often a pattern I see emerging with LLC will shift after several days. I’ve been told by friends with experience that this is the name of the game with young babies. They remind me that routines emerge gradually and that I can’t force structure too soon. My fellow new mama NCT friends and I are now experiencing this reality. Still, it would be nice to find middle ground where I can encourage some semblance of order to LLC and my days without jumping on the Gina Ford bandwagon. Yet I’ve found even lighter touch Baby Whisperer Tracy Hogg’s less intense EASY (eat, activity, sleep, you) structure doesn’t always work – if LLC falls asleep following a feed I’m hard pressed to wake her for the activity phase of this "cycle".

Expert routines are all healthy food for thought, particularly when all this is new to me. Yet I can’t help thinking that I need to focus more on LLC’s needs, what I plan for us in a day, and how these can be reconciled.  Then maybe gradually, some loose routine will take shape...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Weighing In on Milking It

Last week LLC surpassed her birth weight after an initial post-birth weight loss. Apparently this initial fall in weight is common, presumably because colostrum (early day breast milk for those unschooled in mama milk jargon) may be nutrient rich but just isn’t as hearty as the steady food stream babies receive from the placenta in utero.

Here in the UK they are really hot weighing babies to ensure that they quickly regain their birth weight if need be, and then to ensure that their growth is on track with the little chart in the red book that all new moms receive for their child.

Although LLC is now “on track” on the weight charts, I think this weighing in obsession borders on, well obsession, and can unnecessarily stress out new moms. On one hand midwives and health visitors wax lyrical about breastfeeding; on the other they wield the weight gain whip and probably encourage moms to reach for formula so they can at least tell how much milk their baby is getting.

Feeding is another hot topic as a new mom.  But as is the case with most hot topics, it's very much a matter of personal choice.  For now I’m still exclusively breastfeeding LLC, namely because I feel it’s giving her a good healthy start in life and because she’s good at it and has not mangled my nipples – the only culprit there is my Medela Swing breast pump, which when fitted incorrectly sucked in too much areola and left me with a swollen nipple the size of a walnut. How I remained oblivious to this until it was too late is beyond me. Thankfully my nipple has now returned to “normal.” But anyway…

In the words of my fine friend SH, “feeding a small mammal through my own body” is pretty bizarre. Though it’s pretty amazing that LLC and I can share this experience, I don’t see myself becoming attached to breastfeeding in that I’d lament giving it up down the line when I feel it’s time to move on. Every time I hold, cuddle, kiss, describe the birds in the backyard to LLC I feel our bond growing and for me, while breastfeeding adds to this bond, it doesn’t cement it. Being completely honest, I don’t want her to be too dependent on my breast; thus why I express on occasion so Chris can also help with feeds. In the future I will want “to get my body back” though for now I’m happy sharing it with and giving the goodness that I can to our little lady.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Breaking the Silence

If I can get in the shower before 10am, it’s a really good day. If I manage some lunch before 3pm, it’s a feat. When LLC goes down for a nap that lasts a few hours, it is bliss.

Many people advised me to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but unless it’s at night, I have trouble with this. I don’t want to run myself into the ground but LLC’s daytime naps seem like the only time I can really get other things accomplished. As it is, these “other things” now include sterilizing my breast pump and expressing milk, baby laundry and collapsing the stroller I left in the middle of my kitchen because I didn’t have a chance to do it following our walk.

Chris returned to work just over a week ago so I’ve now had some days flying solo with LLC and it’s full on. It’s still early days and no real pattern has been established – as soon as I think we have one it shifts and my week resembles more of a grab bag – I never know what I’m going to get. Sometimes LLC will amuse herself by staring at the balloon tied to her rocker and then drift off to sleep; other days she won’t settle unless she’s cuddling on my lap. On the bright side, these cuddle marathons redefine my understanding of love; on the frustrating side, they also mean I forfeit most other activity bar the bane of daytime TV.

Then last week M&J arrived from NY to meet LLC and spend some quality time with Chris and me. M and I grew up together and she knows me well; she and J made themselves at home and helped us with LLC. It was a perfect visit not about entertaining but catching up and introducing LLC to good friends. Their extra support gave Chris and me a boost and we accomplished a number of firsts including LLC’s first trip into central London and my first jaunts with breastfeeding in public, which went surprisingly well.

Back on my own this coming week, I’m more mobile and a bit more confident. I’m also committed to getting back to blogging after a near hiatus. Since each day is a new adventure I have plenty to write about and just need to make the time. But I will – watch this space!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Finding our Feet

I guess I’m one of those “need to be there, doing it” people to truly understand the massive wave of love, confusion, tiredness and emotion that is early day parenting. It’s all consuming. The learning curve is steep. There are not enough hours in the day. It is amazing yet exhausting, exhilarating and sometimes frustrating.

After an initial week and a half of cooing with cries reserved for the changing table, LLC “found her voice.” I should have known she’d have a strong one from the start if I’m any model to go by! Last Sunday night this new voice manifested itself in a wave of crying that would not abate. Maybe she missed her grandma and grandpa, who had returned to the USA the previous day. I think she was also beyond overtired and protesting sleep. Her tears brought on my own. We had been coping so well. For the first time in my life as a parent, I felt well and truly out of my depth because I just didn’t know how to help her.

Maybe this was a well needed reality check. On the whole she is such a sweet tempered baby, but all babies cry, it’s their voice. I need to learn how to understand her personality, cues, patterns and listening to her voice is perhaps the first step towards this.  We haven't had another incident like we did Sunday, but she has been more vocal and I'm trying my best to read her and give her what she needs be it food, rest, comfort....

It's hard work but well worth it and I'm very in love.  When she wraps her little fingers around mine and sqeezes my heart skips a beat.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Mama the Porn Star

Melons. That is the most apt description of my breasts when my milk “came in” earlier this week.

I didn’t fully understand what women meant about milk coming in, hard breasts etc until I experienced it first-hand. It’s crazy! Monday morning I felt my breasts getting harder and harder....what started out as gradual breast ache progressed to more acute tenderness and pain.

That’s when I looked in the mirror and discovered the full glory of my “new rack.” My breasts were huge – they didn’t even move - I looked like a porn star! Unbelievable but not sexy; in my book swollen is not sexy.

Fortunately LLC is a hungry little monkey and nursed through my engorgement like a superstar. I’m still learning the breastfeeding art and wasn’t sure if she’d be able to latch on correctly but I think we found our knack since after about 24 hours my inflammation had waned and I was able to lay down again without wincing. Ahh, I love my girl! I plan to stick with breastfeeding for the time being though I’m not of the opinion that formula milk is taboo. I’ll see how we get on but clearing this first hurdle felt good. Any feeding tips anyone?

Though we’re on steep learning curve, our first week with LLC has been an amazing trip and we can spend hours watching her. I enjoy identifying her many expressive faces, my favorite being her pirate face. My parents were with us for this week helping us settle and allowing us extra LLC time without household worries. They tell us she has a very mild temperament that we should be thankful for. I’m thankful for her through and through.

And now, I’m off to breastfeed...