She will eventually sleep and so will you
For the first three days of baby bear’s life she just wanted to nurse 24 hours a day and I didn’t know what to do. I ended up calling my husband in tears at 4:45am the day after she was born, after I’d been up trying to feed her and get her to go to sleep in her cosy little bassinet all freaking night, asking him to come to Birthcare and take her so I could try and get some sleep. Hubby Bear took her out to the Birthcare lounge where she promptly fell asleep suckling his little finger tip. She slept, he cuddled, watched crap TV and bonded with the Dad in the lazy boy next to him who was doing exactly the same thing and I eventually managed to get to sleep too, for a whole hour, woo hoo! This was pretty much the routine for the next couple of days till we left Birthcare and cautiously drove our precious bundle home. She fell asleep in the capsule on the drive and when we got home I tucked her into her ethereal white bassinet in our bedroom where she slept peacefully for the next hour. I smugly thought I had this mother thing down pat, the hard bit was over and this was how it would be from now on. Reality check!! That was the last time she slept in her bassinet for the next couple of weeks… She would refuse to go to sleep in her bassinet no matter how much I rocked, patted, shunted, shushed, swaddled, looped white noise on my iPhone, wept, pleaded or tried crying it out (her and me). She would only sleep on either me or Hubby bear and we would take turns being up with her while the other person got some sleep. I am not good on reduced sleep and as I got more and more tired, I also got more and more wired. As I got more and more wired, I got more and more obsessed with sleep and less and less able to sleep. Trust me, running on an hours sleep a day is not good on any level. My body was not functioning properly. I got a horrendous infection in my armpits (of all the unglamorous places…) and had to go to hospital to have an operation to clear it. I was in there for four days and then on antibiotics for nearly two months. Stink. However on the plus side I did sleep while I was in hospital.
Getting help is OK, in fact it’s the smart thing to do
My mother in law kindly stepped in and cared for Isla during the day while I was in hospital and continued to come in and help me while I was recovering from surgery. My mother in law has the magic touch with babies. She had two of her own and baby bear was grandchild number four. She definitely had baby bear sleeping in the bassinet! It was her who showed me how to sleep the bear cub on her side (not Plunket approved, but it sure worked for us, plus everyone now comments on how nicely shaped baby bear’s head is). But I have to be honest with you, I did not find it exactly relaxing having my M-in-L there all day and I also didn’t feel I was actually learning what to do myself, so we got in the Karitanes. I cannot praise this service enough. They are life savers. We had a few different ladies come in and guide me in how to care for baby bear, they were right there with me, but I was finally doing it for myself. They even stayed overnight and did the feeds and settling! Which brings me to my next point.
Breast feeding is best, but if you physically can’t don’t worry about it, you are not a bad mother
Before I had baby bear the fact that I might not be able to breast feed didn’t even occur to me. It’s natural right? Women have done it for thousands of years, why should I be any different from my great, great, great, great… you get the picture. Well here’s what happened. I tried breastfeeding from the moment baby bear came out and lay on my tummy and for the first little while I had no idea there was any issue, but because baby bear was wanting to suckle constantly over the first couple of days my nipples got ripped to shreds and my midwife made me express to try and avoid getting mastitis. So it was on about day four or five we realized there was actually nothing coming out. After that first express I sent hubby to the hospital to buy some formula to top up what baby bear was not getting from me. Nothing in our ante-natal prep had prepared us for this because bottle feeding is treated like some kind of taboo, it’s not discussed. Hubby just bought the most expensive one he could see on the shelf that was for newborns, not having any other clue how to judge what might be the best one.
From then on I took Dom Peridone, drank gallons of water and breastfeeding tea, ate everything that is supposed to stimulate lactation in large quantities and expressed as well as breastfeeding on the advice of a horrendously expensive lactation consultant, all to no avail.
Then when I had to go into hospital, I had to accept that it was just not going to work for us as my milk supply completely dried up in spite of the fact that I continued to try and express while I was in there. I agonized over my lack of lactation, convinced my baby was getting a terrible start in life. But you know what, she got the colostrum and she did get some breast milk. The Karitane nannies told me to get over myself and advised the best formula to go with is goat’s as it’s the closest to human milk, we switched baby bear to Karicare goat and her windiness largely disappeared and she’s thrived. Why don’t you get told that in ante-natal classes?
You need to nurture yourself as well as your baby
Think of yourself as a cup full of love, nurture and energy to care for those around you. Now think about how much love, nurture and energy you expend every day on caring for your family; even those who start the day with a full cup and going to be running on dregs by the end of the day. If you don’t prioritise time and resources to filling your cup back up again regularly, you’re not going to be doing any one a favour. So now I go to yoga, I go for walks, I read my books, I experiment in the kitchen and enjoy feeding those I love with delicious, healthy meals, I shop on line and I have a cleaner. Enough said.
Cake is a valid food group
You might think that’s a bit weird coming from someone who writes a blog praising paleo eating, but while I was spending my nights wrangling baby bear I lived on the delicious muffins and carrot cakes that my Mum baked and the dinners that my wonderful cousin froze for me. If you need cake to get through the day, it’s OK, it’s not going to be forever.
Other people probably are judging you, but it doesn’t matter
We went through a stage about four months ago where baby bear would scream almost the entire way around the park before she would then fall into a peaceful sleep. She was fine, trust me, I checked over and over again, she just wanted to be picked up and carried and that was not going to happen. I got some very suspicious looks as I perambulated shamefacedly along with my shrieking progeny. To be fair it really did sound like I’d broken all her limbs and then decided it was nice weather for a walk. I am deeply saddened by the fact we live in a country where this could even cross someone’s mind, but history shows that we do. However my mum, a previous primary school teacher, as per usual gave me some sound advice; if a baby’s crying like that it’s almost always fine, it’s when they’re super quiet something might be wrong. So now I confidently charge around the park with my bawling offspring. She’s fine, you can check any of her limbs you want to.