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.
[…] was going to post some observations in a The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly style, but after reading Joyful Abode’s one month post, I realized that The Bad and The Ugly aren’t really that bad or ugly – just Hard. So […]
[…] won’t write about my breast reduction here, or how I prepared myself to breastfeed Anneliese, or how “breast is best” (but really it’s NORMAL and should be the baseline for any […]
I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing your birth story and all the details of the highs and lows. We have a 10 1/2 month old boy and I’m 20 weeks pregnant with our second child. My experience and my sister-in-law’s stand in stark contrast. When she had her first baby, the swine flu was going around. No one was allowed to visit her in the hospital. Nursing was more difficult even than usual. The LC, of all people, said “Maybe this ISN’T for you” and had her give the baby formula. She didn’t want to nurse anymore after that – only wanted Mommy to give her a bottle. I feel so bad and wish I could have been there to help. It was difficult with our son, too (latching troubles, cracked nipples, etc) but I found out there were two problems that made it hard: late let-down and forceful let-down. They don’t teach that stuff in b-feeding classes. God was so good and helped me by surrounding me with family who encouraged me and researched these issues for me. Now I can’t wait to breastfeed our second child. My mother’s words were “You have to make up your mind that you ARE going to breastfeed, no matter what. Because you’re going to want to quit. Decide that you will be successful and set your mind to it.” Her words and the knowledge that my body was made to do this wonderful thing made all the difference. I hope lots of young moms read your blog and are inspired to keep trying. It’s so rewarding in the end! God bless your sweet family.
I like your format for your one month update. I was thinking of doing my own in a The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly format, but reading yours made me realize that The Bad and The Ugly aren’t so bad and ugly, and just Hard instead. I hope you don’t mind me using this format for my baby’s one month post too.
You look/ed, like, WAY better than me postpartum. Jealous. Also: You take amazing photos!
Great to read a little more about you, your baby girl is beautiful. I am currently breastfeeding my 4th child and he’s now almost 6 months old. Everyone is right, it does get sooooo much easier. The only struggle I have now is that I’m back to work and have to pump, which I do not like at all but I keep telling myself it’s worth it.
Thanks for sharing!
she's such a sweet little girl, enjoy her while she's little and just lays there and smiles at you. soon she'll be trying to sit up and roll and become a crazy little going machine.
I wish all new moms could read your post. I nursed both my children. The first one was easy. The second one thought he was starving. I nursed every two hours for what seemed like forever. I did not supplement and after about three weeks it got easier. Both my daughter and son were soooo healthy as children; and still are in their twenties. I really do credit the great start I was able to give them. I loved nursing, and was glad I perservered. Best of luck and enjoy this wonderful time in her life.
Shortly after my son was born I had an “ah-ha” moment that parenthood is really all about a redefinition of time in all its manifestations: from how long it takes a fumble-handed newbie to change a screaming baby's diaper to “OMG, it's sunset and I never got out of the house!” to how quickly they grown and change and, ultimately, to really big Meaning of Life questions. Now, twenty-five years later (there's a time trip right there!), I have to say I still feel the same way. Congratulations and savor every precious moment–good and hard alike!
Congrats on one month of mommyhood. I am glad you had online/DVD resources you could turn to when nursing was hard. I had a midwife assisted birth and luckily had her services as a midwife and LC for 6-weeks post-partum. Having some sort of support is necessary because things may get hard since life is compounded with adjusting your sleep schedule. You look like a natural mother. Blessings to your little family. I am a first-time mom too, my little one is about 6 weeks older than yours and I am doing my best to savor the little things before he grows up too fast.
Love your posts about the birth and this update. I also struggled w/ nursing in the beginning but now as I'm nursing my 3rd child (8 mos) I'm so glad I kept up with it. I had to go back to work after each of them, and it's a struggle w/ the pumping and still being up at night but especially since I can't be with them during the day, I have to see the blessing in being up w/ them as babies at night. Precious 1-on-1 time.
I've loved those pajamas w/ the slits folded into them for easy access! Another favorite nursing trick is mastering the side-lying position. I also had lots of stitches with my first and couldn't sit up to nurse, so the lactation gals at the hospital got me nursing while lying side by side right off the bat. Now my husband brings Grant into our bed in the morning and I can get another 15-20 minutes of sleep while he eats. It's also a nice position when the house is too hot and I need a little less body heat against me. And the last wonderful nursing invention is the nursing cover (Hooter Hider, Peanut Shell, whatever you want to call it) with the boning built-in so can see what you're doing. Where were those with my first two?? Now I'm free to sit down in the middle of wherever and feed baby. I've also been known to use the fitting rooms at Target when I wanted more privacy.
Anyway, long comment, but thank you for your writing. God Bless!
Don't babies change so much from day to day and month to month? I laughed at your vegetable garden being dead as mine is still sorely neglected and my daughter is now 17 months!
I'm glad you wrote this. A lot of women do no realize how difficult breastfeeding can be in the beginning but the longer you go the easier life is. Keep up the good work! It really does get easier. (I'm still nursing my 2 year old one-two times a day now) 🙂
I just had to comment on this post because I know exactly what you are going through! I KNOW! My baby is 4 months old now and man the first couple months were ROUGH. Breastfeeding was hard and hurt, I was so, so lonely (my husband is in the Navy too and works 12 hr shifts and was on the night shift for the first 3 months of our baby's life!) and I just felt like oh my what have I done and then I felt guilty for feeling that way because my sweet baby …! Anyway, it does get better. Honestly it took 6-8 weeks of the breastfeeding before I *really* felt comfortable and part of that I think is just the baby getting bigger and more coordinated and her mouth getting bigger. The baby herself started getting easier around 14 weeks or so – she seemed calmer, less fussy and less needy of just everything. You are lucky you have a good sleeper at least! Mine still wakes every 2 (sometimes 1) hour at night, but we co-sleep so it hasn't been TOO brutal. Also, the catnap thing? Totally, totally normal. Everyone who says newborn babies sleep all the time? They are feeding their babies formula! Seriously, my girlfriend's baby is on formula and I babysat him a few times and he literally would sleep for like 4 hours without a peep! Meanwhile my baby sometimes wakes 20 minutes after I get her down (still!!!). Anyway, just wanted to drop you a line and tell you you're not alone!
What an absolutely beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing about your nursing experience. And more thanks for talking about having reduction surgery, I have always planned on that, but had thought to myself that I would plan on nursing, or trying, and so I didn't go through with it *just in case* and I nursed my daughter a lot longer than I thought I would. I also worried about weight gain in my breasts should I have the procedure and be pregnant/nursing after. I am so thrilled for you that this has been a success. Good luck as you continue to help your little baby grow, and know if you ever need to chat about nursing, I'm happy to talk to you! Beautiful family!
I'm really thrilled that you persisted in breastfeeding. 🙂 There's been half a dozen babies born to folks from my church this year, and I feel like I'm the only one who's stuck with breastfeeding beyond the first month or two. Breaks my heart to see them shaking up yet another bottle of formula.
I'll admit that I don't “get” the struggles of breastfeeding. I did cheat a little, by using a nipple shield at first. I was worried that I'd be stuck with it for a while, but after 2 months, my son can handle the bare nipple. This probably helped me avoid high levels of nursing pain and poor latches. My husband was fantastic about it, “if you have to use the shield until he is 2 years old, then so it be.”
I think losing an extra 20 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight helped make my shirts loose and easier for nursing. That, and I didn't care if I stretched them out.
I'm so proud of you and your breastfeeding success story! As a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, I will be sharing your story with my moms!! Sometimes all we need is a little encouragement.
Thanks for sharing. :o)
What a wonderful blog. My baby boy, Matthew, is 13 days old as of today, and I really enjoyed reading your experiences and knowing that I'm not the only one! 🙂 We're working on the breastfeeding and still struggling, though each day it does get better. What a phenomenal experience first time motherhood is though.. I'm blown away on a daily basis. Anneliese is gorgeous and congratulations to you and your husband. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing everything, I am due in January and also planning on Breastfeeding exclusively, so it was good to hear everything that you have been through and that it is best to be as prepared as I can. I am currently reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and planning on going to my local La Lache League meeting in September, my mom had great success and support through the group, and highly recommended that I look for a group to join as well.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this Emily!!! You had me at “Today….”
I am so jealous that there wasn't a way for me to blog when I had my kids… I'm such a computer person and it's so great to just TYPE feelings that thoughts. You articulate your experience so well.. and the pics are SPECTACULAR!! This will be a great way to remember everything you (and your family) are going through. Thank you for sharing and God bless you and your new precious daughter. And kudos to Topher for being the wonderful daddy you describe!!!! Sending love from me and Dave!!! xoxoxo
You have a beautiful family! You take the good with the bad or should I say the easy with the hard. Breastfeeding is rewarding once all the bumps are ironed out. The front carrier is a blessing. Once the weather cools a bit you'll be able to go out more and take Zora for walks.
Enjoy your daughter, you are blessed.
As someone who hasn't had children yet, I completely appreciate you being honest about your experiences with motherhood so far.
She is adorable and I am glad you are both doing so well.
Ah, yes, the 4:00pm showers! Your daughter is gorgeous and I can see why you're so proud of her! Enjoy the days of late showers, cat-napping and getting nothing done. It doesn't last forever. Even the hard stuff won't seem so bad when you look back. Before you know it, her wonderful father will be walking her down the aisle! (I know from experience.)
Thank you for sharing Anneliese!
You have brought it all back to me and my two daughter's births were nearly 28 and 25 years ago.
It's all consuming isn't it? That little face is ALL you can think about. You sound so grounded and centered! I wish I had known someone like you when I was a young mom.
You are so spot on about nursing. I nursed both my babies and got little support. Friends and family would CONSTANTLY say things like, “Just supplement – take a break!” I didn't want to take a break. I stuck it out with Lanolin as well (how amazing is that??)
One sister-in-law used to shove me into a room when I wanted to “do that.” Good grief!
The baby wants to touch your skin. Your skin! That was one of the things I hadn't realized. My oldest daughter used to stick her hands down EVERYONE'S shirts when she was a wee babe. Still makes me laugh.
You are awesome and so smart. Your little baby is a lucky lucky girl to have such brilliant parents.