Today, my sweet baby is one month old. She’s gone from a squishy-faced newborn to a real baby, but I know she’s still in the “fourth trimester” and very new to the world. On one hand, it feels like she was born just yesterday, but on the other, it feels like she’s been here forever. Time is creeping by and flying at the same time. Each day is full of thousands of moments, but each week disappears in a snap. Basically what I’m saying is that having a baby screws with your mind. Maybe it’s all the hormones. Or maybe it’s something about that sweet little face.
It’s hard to believe that this is the same kid. One day old, and one month old.
One of my favorite new-mom-bloggers, Megan, wrote two posts when her baby Benton was one month old. One was about “the good stuff” and the other was about “the hard stuff.” I asked her if I could steal that format for Anneliese’s one month, and she welcomed me to. So here it is.
The Good Stuff
I’ve always loved children, and always knew I wanted to be a mother. I also knew I wanted to marry a guy who wanted to be a father, which is exactly what I did. And now, after 3 beautiful years of marriage “just us,” we are parents. One of the things I have enjoyed the most in the last month has been watching my husband be a father. It’s incredible.
He also took wonderful care of me in those first days, when I was still so sore from such a long labor, and my stitches were painful and I could hardly sit up to get out of bed. He took my “nursing vacation” with the baby very seriously, telling me to stay in bed with the baby, bringing me food and water, and taking care of things around the house. I know how incredibly lucky I am, I promise.
Like I said, having a baby messes with your mind. It’s so easy to get lost in the little moments…
So easy to get lost in this face. I think everyone needs some time to just BE. And that’s what this first stage of motherhood has done to me. It’s impossible to plan ahead or to make long lists of goals or “to dos” at this point. Little goals are huge. Things like, “take a shower today,” or “check the mail,” “cook something for dinner,” “read a book with the baby,” “pet the dog.” That’s about as far ahead as I can plan, and I’m enjoying the moments.
There is nothing in the world like a new baby. The way they smell so warm and sweet, their silky skin, and the way they know just how to nuzzle into your shoulder or your chest and make your heart explode.
I don’t know if I’ve ever officially written about it in my blog, but last year I had breast reduction surgery. In many ways, it was the surgery which prompted my interest in and dedication to healthier, more natural living, but that’s another post for another day. Basically though, before the surgery, I’m not sure I valued the idea of breastfeeding as much. Through the surgery and the changes I made and things I learned afterward, I became extremely “set” on the idea that breastfeeding (and avoiding formula) was of huge importance to my future children. But at the same time, because of the surgery, I had no idea whether I would be able to provide milk for my children, or if so, how MUCH I would be able to make.
I researched extensively, reading Defining Your Own Success, watching videos on Dr. Jack Newman’s site, and “lurking” on the forum at BFAR.org. In anticipation of needing to pump to increase supply, I bought a hospital-grade breast pump. In preparation for starting things off on the right foot, I bought several galactagogues to have on hand — shatavari, blessed thistle, and fenugreek. In case of the event that I would need to supplement, I bought an SNS so that we could avoid bottles and nipple confusion, and stimulate more milk production. I scoped out milk donor websites and looked up homemade baby milk substitute recipes so that I could feed my baby “real food” instead of manufactured formula if I had to supplement. I had phone numbers for several Lactation Consultants on hand, in case I ran into a roadblock and needed support. We borrowed a baby scale from our doula so we could monitor our baby’s weight gain in the early weeks, and I bought and read the book Making More Milk. Basically, I became about as prepared for breastfeeding success as anyone could be.
And I’m breastfeeding. I’m not going to say it has been easy, but luckily due to my preparation I know that it’s NORMAL for it to be difficult at first. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the ability to provide nourishment for my child, and every day I marvel that I’ve made this child “from scratch” and that I continue to “grow her myself,” the way it should be. The SNS is still in its package, and I haven’t glanced at the recipes since she was born. (Trust me, I called my surgeon to let her know how much success we have had, and to thank her for a job well done.)
After the first couple of weeks, Anneliese settled into a very nice sleeping routine at night. She sleeps for at least 3-hour stretches, sometimes up to 5 hours at a time. We wake up, I change her diaper, feed her, and go back to sleep. I’ve gotten at least 6 hours of sleep every night after the first couple of weeks, but usually closer to 8. I’m so glad that I don’t have to be a sleep-deprived new mom. The flip side of this is that she is awake most of the day, other than short cat-naps. But I’d rather have this schedule than having her sleep for only an hour or two at a time 24/7.
The Hard Stuff
I’m not gonna lie. Breastfeeding is hard at first. A bad latch in the beginning on one side caused so much damage that I dreaded nursing Anneliese on that breast. It hurt so badly (even when we corrected the latch) that I cried several times while nursing her. In order to let it heal, I ended up pumping only on that side for several days, nursing on the other side, and feeding my baby the expressed milk with a syringe. I applied breastmilk to the nipple and let it air dry after each pumping session, and used about half a tube of lanolin over the first couple of weeks.
As if being sent home from the hospital with a “breastfeeding success bag” containing formula (holy cow) wasn’t enough, another formula company MAILED a tin of formula right to my door. If I hadn’t been so dedicated to breastfeeding and if I hadn’t already known that IT IS HARD IN THE BEGINNING, I might’ve been tempted to “just give the baby a little… maybe one bottle before bed. Just so she will be happier.”
There were several days and nights in the beginning when she nursed CONSTANTLY. This is also normal — growth spurts happen, and the baby nurses frequently in order to stimulate more milk production within the next day or two. Many new mothers get “tricked” into believing that frequent nursing means they’re not making enough milk, and begin to supplement with formula — usually causing a spiral into a complete switch away from breastfeeding (since formula supplementation results in less stimulation, less milk production, supply problems, etc).
One of the first nights, I gave up on sleeping and sat in the living room with her in my lap. We watched Shari Criso’s breastfeeding class on DVD (which Best for Babes had mailed to me for free — so sweet!) and her calm voice and advice about positioning got me through the night. I almost cried with relief when Anneliese finally seemed satisfied for more than 20 minutes for the first time all day. Having Shari in my DVD player was almost like having a LC right there with me, helping me through.
Then there’s the issue of nursing clothing and bras… with Anneliese nursing nearly constantly in the first couple of weeks, I barely got dressed. I was mostly topless. All of the curtains in the house were drawn (actually they still are) to facilitate this. Now and then, I’d attempt to put on a shirt and figure out how to nurse with it, but after a couple of nursing sessions, off it came. Just too much trouble. I’m getting a little better at it though (those clips on the nursing bras take practice!), and have a couple nursing tank tops, so now if someone drops by I’m at least semi-decent.
Also, because of my surgery, I had to be hyper-vigilant, weighing Anneliese to make sure she was gaining weight, and counting her wet and dirty diapers to assure myself that she was hydrated and getting enough food. Just in the past week, I’ve stopped weighing her. I’m still counting her diapers, but I feel much more confident that she is getting enough.
If you’re a new mom or if you’re about to be — know this. Breastfeeding can be HARD at first. It’s not hard for everyone, but it’s hard for a LOT of people. But if you want to do it, you can. Prepare yourself. Gather support. Know where you can turn for help if things get rough (and you can turn to me if you need some cheerleading!). Stick it out. This fourth week has been FAR easier than the first three, and I know that as my baby gets more efficient and eats less frequently and more quickly, and my hormones regulate, it will get even easier.
It’s around 100 degrees every day here. That coupled with frequent nursing and cat-naps on the baby’s part leads to difficulty in “getting out.” We went to Target the other day… were gone for ONE HOUR, and when we got back my poor daughter had wilted. She looked pale and dehydrated. After only ONE HOUR out. Most of which was in the store (presumably air conditioned). So we’re home. My husband was working long days (12ish hours) after his first few days at home. Now he’s in Florida. Skype isn’t the same as having him here.
I’ve had a few friends drop by which is really nice, but I’m missing the conversations, the gatherings, even just small talk with strangers in stores when I run errands. I know this will get better and it will become easier to “get out,” but for now it’s hard.
At least when my husband was home, he could take Zora for a run each day. Now that he is away, it’s all I can do to feed her each morning and evening, let her outside to pee, and pet her a few times a day. Most of my day and energy is monopolized by Anneliese, and I am feeling a bit guilty about neglecting Zora. She desperately needs a haircut, and she needs more attention and love. She’s doing very well with the baby — being gentle with her, and curiously sniffing her when I give her permission. But I get the feeling that she is a bit sad that it’s not all about HER anymore.
The Vegetable Garden
Two words: It’s dead.