Sunday, 12 February 2012

Breastfeeding, Nappies & Sleep - What I Learned

Yesterday, I had a lovely visit from a friend whose first baby is due at the end of April. She was positively glowing and looking forward to a hypno home birth. I thought it was wonderful... Then realised, wow! I've changed my tune!

When I was expecting the Plate, I would not even consider the possibility - it was just too terrifying to think about. What if it all went wrong? We were an hour's drive to the nearest maternity unit! But now, if we are lucky enough to be blessed with a second bub1, I would want a home birth. Hopefully by then we would be in more generous digs with a living room big enough for a birthing pool2.

We talked breastfeeding, cloth nappies - they're going for terry towelling ones, more power to them - and that old chestnut, sleeping. So here are my top tips for all the above:


1. Get comfy BEFORE you start feeding.

Before you even sit down, get yourself a glass of water and possibly something to nibble on. Basically, you will get hungry/thirsty while you're feeding the little one. Lie down, prop yourself up with a mountain of pillows, pick a well supported arm-chair with a headrest, do whatever it takes to get comfortable, because you are going to be in the same spot for a long time. And this applies to night feeding too - before you go to sleep, if you're not co-sleeping, make sure you're in a good position to pick bub up and snuggle down comfortably. All the literature will tell you not to fall asleep with bub on the sofa - good advice, but chances are you are going to doze off. Just make sure that they can't slide off, or into the bits between sofa and cushion or pillows. 

2. It will hurt

If you're lucky it won't hurt at all, but not one woman I know has so far said that breastfeeding was painless from the start for them. I am lucky that it didn't hurt enough to make me stop. Feeding often and keep lubricating are the keys. I used my own breast milk after every feed and that worked fine. Before the birth, my aureole itched abominably. 'Green Baby Nipple Balm' worked best for me.

3. Expressing milk - go electric!

You really don't want to be hand-pumping (unless you get a kick out of it, of course - every woman's different.). Pick one with as few connections and bits and pieces as possible. I made the mistake of getting the Medela Comfort Breastshield to replace my solid one3. It came apart in four bits and made sterilising in cold water a nightmare. Not great if you're pumping at work!

4.  Feed frequently

Really great advice a mother of two boys gave me: if they're hungry - feed them! With her first, she was going by the literature which said that her baby should be fed every four hours, but hers seemed to want feeding every hour. So she tried to spread it out but of course, he just cried harder, which made both of them miserable. She gave up in the end and just fed him when he was hungry. The result: much happier mum and much more satisfied bub. And that worked just fine for me.

5. Have back up milk

I had real problems with Plate latching on in the first few days (or was that weeks? It's all a blur). And she just cried and cried one night from midnight till dawn. I kept trying to feed her, but she would suckle for a few seconds then come off crying. I gave her a bit of Infacol (mistakenly thinking it was colic) and she went to sleep almost straight away..It wasn't until much later that I realised she wasn't getting anything from my boob. Best advice I received from midwife: give her some ready-made formula to top up her feed if you think she's not getting enough. We did, and eventually she didn't need the top-ups anymore and started putting on weight. Note: the formula was a top up - *not* replacement.

6. Feed yourself

You really are eating for two now. I have lost a stone since I gave birth. Truth! Ask anyone who knows me.

Cloth nappies are better than disposables - oh yes!

I admit, we used disposables the first few weeks of Plate's life. But that was mainly because we hadn't a clue what to do. The first night we came home, we went straight to the Outlaws. Initially it was so they could see bub, but then we had to change her and her clothes. The chaos and panic that ensued is funny now, but it was utterly distressing then. We couldn't get her sleepsuit on much less a nappy. We were terrible parents! Thankfully older (and less sleep deprived) heads were there to show us. Thank the 'verse for grandparents who live five minutes away.

Once we got used to caring for a squalling new human, we then ventured into cloth nappies. And what a bewildering array there is out there. I won't go into it here, but this page told me everything I needed to know:

I tried to be fair to disposables: I tried two brands of regular nappies (Huggies and Pampers) and two brands of eco-nappies (Bambo and Nature Babycare). I hated the regular ones: the way they stuck to bub's skin and the layers and layers of plasticky stuff made me queasy. The eco nappies were better but had a tendency to lose the poo! The worst part was disposal - put it in yet another plastic bag and add to the trash mountain. Cloth nappies won hands down.

The first nappies I tried were Smartipants and I was hooked4. They were lovely and soft on her skin, kept the poo and wee away, easy to clean, dried quick and best of all, I wouldn't need to buy different sizes. She started wearing them when she was about four weeks' old, is still wearing them at 14 months and there's still room to grow into them. We had a few leaks, but that's only because we didn't know how long to leave them on for or had put them on wrong. They contain poo beautifully. Poo-namis are a thing of the past.


When Plate was about 2 months old, she would cry despite having been fed and changed. And she would only calm down when she was carried. She also would suddenly drop off to sleep mid-cry but only for about 20 minutes then it would start all over again. I couldn't work it out. I knew it was sleep related but was floundering. The all-knowing web found me the "90 minute sleep programme" by Dr Polly Moore. It saved my sanity and helped us to learn good sleep habits. I don't completely agree with everything she advocates, but the basics are sound and today, although she sometimes fights it, Plate will go to sleep when she's tired and we know when she needs it, and how to get her to sleep. Definitely worth a read. I got mine out of the library at first before buying it. Her website is pretty useful too.

General what-I-have-learned-so-far

I have learned to trust myself. I don't believe in the maternal instinct - I think humans have by and large evolved beyond it - and I don't believe that every woman has it. But I know that I love my daughter, that I would do just about anything to protect her, nurture her and keep her happy. During my pregnancy, some of my senses were heightened - smell, hearing, sensitivity to others. I think post-partum, different senses have now come to the fore - for example, knowing when she's hurt and when she just wants mummy, knowing when she's hungry and when she just wants comfort. I guess you would call it the maternal instinct. :-)

A note about dummies: don't go out and buy them straight away. I tried four different types on Plate and she threw them all back at me. With increasing force, I might add. Plate is a dummy-free baby and I am secretly very proud of her for that.

While I was dispensing "wisdom" from my motherhood experience, FBB and Granddad A were tittivating the downstairs loo. It is now a snazzy shade of blah. But it's much brighter and seems a lot bigger. Kudos to the men. I will be dealing with all the paper in our house. Joy. I feel a bonfire coming on.

1. FBB has already decided it would be a boy and be called Z after the Z-Boys.
2.  I didn't get one with Plate - had gestational diabetes, so the birthing team insisted that she be constantly monitored. Not pleasant.
3. I melted it. I was sterilising my pump bits in the steamer and forgot about it. Not only did I kill the breastshield, I also killed her dummies5 and my steamer. 
4. And they now come in scrummy bright colours! And black. Shame we have all the nappies we need. :-(
5. Luckily she hates dummies so that was that.

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