ABC - after birth, breastfeeding and colic

Since I wrote about my breastfeeding struggles the other week I have had so many lovely messages from people - some friends, some family and some complete strangers. So, thank you, if you got in touch/commented with your own experiences/support.

It's so comforting to know that the difficulties you are experiencing are not unusual and have been felt by others.

Being a first-time mum is hard. Peyton is one month old now and we still have no idea what we're really doing.

Throughout pregnancy you're prepared for birth but not for any of the stuff that comes after. Not just the stuff with the baby, but the recovery your body has to go through too.

After Peyton was born, and I was being stitched up, the midwife showed Tom how to put a nappy on. She came back later after our few hours of skin to skin and showed Tom how to put on a vest and sleep suit while I got myself dressed. That night, when we got onto the ward, Peyton needed changing and I had no idea what to do. How do you get the vest over their head? How the hell do you get their wriggly little arms through the arm holes? How do you get them to keep still while you change a nappy? I had no clue.

I ended up pressing the buzzer and getting someone to come and help me. I felt like such an idiot, I didn't even know how to change and dress my own baby. 'I bet they think I'm a terrible mum,' I thought. 

So when I struggled to feed her as well, I felt even worse. Not only could I not dress or change her, I couldn't feed her myself either. It's so overwhelming those first few hours after having a baby. I couldn't believe this tiny person who I'd felt wriggling inside of me, growing by the day, for the last nine months was finally here. I'd not slept for two days, Tom had gone home for the night and me and Peyton were in the room on the ward on our own. Suddenly I was left in charge of this tiny person who was so fragile, so delicate and so loud when she cried.

Barely an hour goes by when I don't have to Google something. Whether it's how foods I eat can affect my breast milk (I have quickly learnt that strawberries do not have a positive impact on my breast milk and create an awful lot of shit, literally); how we can help improve colic (I must Google this twice an hour hoping someone will come up with some new, innovative technique that works a treat first time and wasn't there the last 50 times I looked! Seriously, anyone has any tips pleeeease hit me up!); how to store my expressed breast milk properly; is she allergic to the cats?; why is she still crying?; does she have reflux?; how do I safely put her on her tummy for tummy time?; are my iron tablets making her unsettled?; why do I sweat so much at night? (apparently postpartum sweating is super common as it gets all that extra fluid out of your body - who knew?!); has she been asleep too long?

I swear, I literally know nothing. I don't know how my mum and dad raised me and my brother without Google?!

Someone gave us a book called First Time Parent and, honest to God, it's the closest thing to a baby instruction manual I think we could have got. It's got everything in there from how to change a nappy (probably should have read it before she was born, in hindsight!) to how to wind them, what to do if you, or they, are constipated, and so much more.

But what about all the stuff your body is going through? Nobody tells you about any of that beforehand.

I've seen videos and blogs before where women have talked about the post-birth traumas, but nothing can really prepare you for the after effects of birth. I had an episiotomy, so obviously have the healing process from that as well as the general recovery of pushing a 7lb 12oz baby out of my foof. There's the anxiety around your first trip to the toilet, the extra long period your body seems to have to make-up for having nine months off, the abdominal pains as your uterus retracts back to its previous size...

I knew it wasn't realistic for you to snap back to your pre-baby body and be in your pre-baby jeans a week after giving birth, but I didn't anticipate it taking so long to at least stop looking a bit pregnant. Granted, a lot of what I have to shift will be general weight gain since I adopted the mindset of "if I'm going to get a big belly anyway I may as well eat what I want and enjoy it"... but still!

I've touched on it already here, but let's go back to breastfeeding for a minute.

We are still going with it and, honestly, it is getting much easier now. She is settling into something of a routine and we both seem to have got the hang of it a bit more. She is still a bit lazy with her latch sometimes, and that makes my toes curl. She can also be super fussy, pulling off and going back on, then off and on and off and on...

On the whole, though, I think we have finally cracked it. I could have so easily given up a few weeks ago, primarily because I didn't know what was happening was normal.

I don't want to take anything away from the community midwives or the midwives in hospital because they do an extraordinary job under really difficult circumstances. However, I do feel they push breastfeeding at all your appointments but they don't tell you any of the realities to expect.

They don't tell you how tiring it is. They don't tell you how frequently they will want to feed. They don't tell you that cluster feeding is completely normal, and doesn't mean that you aren't giving your baby enough milk. They don't tell you that you will pretty much sit constantly with one boob out feeding your baby for the first two weeks. They don't tell you any of the bad stuff - but it's the stuff you need to know.

If you were better prepared, you wouldn't stop because you thought you were doing it wrong/not giving your baby enough milk/your baby wasn't satisfied. Thankfully I spoke to a midwife about what I thought I was doing wrong the morning after a particularly bad night where Peyton just cluster fed for about five hours solid. We eventually gave her a bottle of formula and she guzzled it. I assumed I couldn't give her the milk she needed, but I was wrong. She told me it's completely normal for them to feed like that. And formula top-ups will always be guzzled, regardless of how full they are.

Feeding your baby is a minefield, and it's not one that I feel new mums should be thrown into without the correct information, support and advice. Regardless of whether you choose to formula feed or breastfeed, nobody should be judged and everyone should be supported. Even formula feeding is hard - how much, how often, what kind of bottles, what kind of formula, how long you can let them still go on a bottle after initially starting it... What works for one mum, and one baby, won't work for another. I saw this the other day on a Facebook breastfeeding support group I am part of and really resonated with it...

If you and your baby are happy and thriving, at the end of the day that is all that matters. When I had Peyton weighed at 16 days old she had put on almost 1lb - they were really pleased with her; especially after our feeding struggles at the start. I'm taking her on Tuesday to be weighed again, so I'm hoping for a similar sort of gain then.

On the public breastfeeding front, I feel so good with that now. Tom had this week off work so we went on loads of days out and spent so much lovely, quality family time together. I fed in the courtyard at Nostell Priory, on a picnic bench in the Shakespeare Rose Theatre in York, in a restaurant, in Cafe Nero, and on a bench outside The Deep; amongst other places.

I must add, feeding on the bench outside The Deep came after storming out of the cafe there because everyone was staring at us. Granted, Peyton was screaming as she was more than. ready for some boob, but it was so busy we had to sit right in the middle of all the tables and everyone was staring while I was trying to get her latched on - which made it even more difficult.

Other than that hiccup, it's been a walk in the park since my last post.

Now we've cracked breastfeeding, we've encountered a new battle - colic.

It has been truly awful, but I think we have it under control a bit better now.

The other Friday, she woke at 3am - which is normal. I fed her and changed her and she usually goes straight back down; not this time. She started screaming and crying and nothing could console or settle her. Eventually she went to sleep just before 7am. Tom had gone to sleep downstairs about 4am because he was at work that day. She napped on and off until 9am, woke for a feed and then was crying and screaming without any break from 10am until 10.30pm. If she stopped it was to feed briefly and nap for five minutes. She was clenching her fists, pulling her knees up to her tummy... it was just awful. She seemed in so much pain.

I lost count of how many times I cried that day. It was awful.

Before that horrific day, she used to scream and cry every night from about 5pm until 10pm. After some trusty Googling - I found a great website called Cry-sis which offers advice and support for crying and sleepless babies - I realised it was maybe colic.

We'd bought some Infacol before she was born "just to have in" so we started giving her a drop before every other feed from that horrible Friday. I also slightly adapted my diet, cutting out foods that Google told me could affect a baby. It took a few days to notice a real difference, but now she is so much better. Her wind comes up so much easier and she's much happier in herself. She actually spends time awake now when she isn't crying/screaming and is nice and playful, which is lovely! She's also started cooing and making cute little sounds. She's changing so much everyday, it's amazing.

We are starting to get into a little routine with her now, which is nice. Bedtime starts at 9pm when Tom baths her (I get to have a shower and wash my hair at this point, which is bliss!). Tom would then give her a bottle of expressed milk, as we really wanted him to get that bond of feeding her too. However, the last few nights she has stopped taking the bottle as easily so she has been having her nightly feed from me, instead. She falls asleep between 10pm and 11pm, waking up at 3am/4am for a feed and change. We also like to read to her before bed. She doesn't understand at the moment, obviously, but we're hoping it won't be long till our funny voices and faces when reading will get little smiles from her.

You may also like: My birth story

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