Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just support and encouragement

One thing that has surprised me about motherhood is breastfeeding. I am finding that I am quite pro-breastfeeding, which surprises me.

Before Charlotte was born, breastfeeding scared me. I wasn't sure if I could do it; I heard that it hurt; I thought it might feel weird and just be weird. However I was determined to give it a go. I figured that if I could get to 3 months then I had done well. Yes I knew that "breast was best", but my main motivation was money. My frugal nature was coming through and I couldn't see the point in paying for formula (and bottles and so on) if I could supply it for free. I am now a huge convert for the immunological benefits that breastmilk provides.

So when Charlotte came along I gave it a go. And it was hard. Very hard. My nipples were sore and cracked from the first feed (which was partly because I was unconscious for it and had no idea what they were doing). Charlotte wouldn't attach. She kept pulling away, or latching on then pulling away (trust me, this is alot worse). The midwives regularly came in to help and I had my boob shoved this way and that. I was milked like a cow to get colostrum to feed Charlotte with. You definitely give up your modesty when having children. Unfortunately most of the advice was contradictory, but we kept trying their suggestions. It was simply exhausting.

It didn't get easier when we got home. By now my nipples were bleeding, I would take painkillers before each feed and sit there in tears. My Mum was here though and kept encouraging me and giving support. And this is what you need. Someone telling you to keep at it. Because it did get easier. We saw a lactation consultant who offered some suggestions but ultimately said we were doing it right. The pulling away we later worked out was due to Charlotte's reflux. After about 3 weeks the nipples healed. It took a few more weeks for it not to hurt. Before I knew it we had reached 3 months, then 6, then 12. By then I was getting over it but I was still sad when we stopped at 13 months because of the IVF.

So I knew with Angus that we were going to breastfeed. I can't tell you the relief when he latched on straight away in recovery. I got a bit sore at first. I mentioned this to the paediatrician who commented that those with fair skin tend to get sore nipples, no matter what you do. I had never heard this before! If I had known this with Charlotte I would have felt less like I was doing something wrong and just accepted that it was in my makeup.

I think this is one of the problems with breastfeeding. There is so much information out there, alot of it contradictory. When really all you need is some encouragement to keep at it. There seems to be so much emphasis on weight gain, supply, foremilk/hindmilk. As long as the baby is putting on weight, you should just be able to stick them on and do what is right for you. Babies make you feel like you are doing everything wrong anyway, you don't need someone else confusing you. At the end of the day it is a hard thing, it can hurt, and it is tiring, and confusing. I still feel confused if I am doing the right thing or not, but I have to keep challenging myself that it seems right, so it must be ok. The last few days I have questioned myself whether I want to continue breastfeeding as I'm just so tired at the moment (this cold is really knocking me around) but then I just think how much money I'm saving and I snap out of it.

I just want to say that I'm not anti-formula. You do what is right for you and your baby. But, if you are wavering on whether you can keep doing it, then I think we should openly come out and say good on you for trying, and just keep at it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

8 weeks

When you have a baby, you get all sorts of advice. It usually comes from "they". This person called "they" is very smart, and knows all sorts of things. For instance, "they" say that you shouldn't wake a sleeping baby. How true is that. And "they" say that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt if you are doing it right. Bollocks to that. Another thing I disagree with is when "they" say that the first 6 weeks are the hardest. Utter rubbish.

Yes those first 6 weeks are hard. You are overwhelmed with this new life you have created. Who doesn't have a manual and is trying to work things out himself. You are sleep deprived, physically drained from the birth and pregnancy, and at times just a little bit irrational and deluded. But you seem to struggle through. There is that new baby high you have. And usually there is a fair bit of support on offer as everyone wants to come and visit to meet the new baby.

Unfortunately once you hit the 6-8 week mark alot of this support just seems to disappear. But you are still tired. You still don't know what to do with this baby who seems to change the rules all the time. And you are somehow expected to get back into doing normal things, like housework. My physical reserves have taken a battering and I am now sick (thanks to some sharing of snot from Charlotte). And it is hard work taking care of a newborn and a toddler when you are sick.

We found with Charlotte that her reflux, and therefore her behaviour, got so much worse at 6 weeks. I can remember the day when she wouldn't sleep AT ALL during the day and just screamed and screamed. Her reflux peaked at about 4 months and then things gradually got better.

Unfortunately Angus took a turn for the worse last week. We had a number of days where he wasn't feeding well, and would scream and arch his back for up to 90 mins after a feed. We managed to see the paediatrician earlier and he confirmed that he has reflux. So we started on losec and I have my happy little baby back! The losec takes a while to build up completely but immediately we saw an improvement. He is back to self-settling, feeding well, and is still sleeping well overnight. We have even seen a sudden increase in smiles. Yesterday he sat in his bouncer quite happily for over an hour, smiling at the world. I hope that we managed to get onto the reflux quickly and so some of the damage was limited. He still pukes though, that won't go away for a while. It does make it easier to manage though when he smiles at you, pukes all over you, then smiles some more, especially at 2am.

So yes the first 6 weeks are hard, but I wouldn't say they are the hardest. I think this time period is probably the hardest. But at least I know that things can only get better from here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The baking bug

My baking bug has returned. While I was pregnant I struggled to look at food, or even be in the kitchen, let alone think about cooking anything. It is good that James does the cooking in our house (he says he likes to be hands on after working in front of a computer all day) otherwise we would have spent the last 12 months eating cheese on toast. But that did make me sad, as I love to cook desserts. Cheesecakes, cupcakes, muffins, all sorts of cakes, I love to make them.

I've always enjoyed baking and used to make a cake nearly every week when I was younger (probably from about 10 onwards). A few years ago this ramped up when I made some cupcakes for a work morning tea. They were praised quite highly and I started to think that it was something I was good at. It went from there and I became more practiced at all different sorts of things. I have some staples in my repertoire (white chocolate cheesecake, basic butter cake, cupcakes with butter cream icing) but don't shy away from a challenge either (lemon, lime and white chocolate mud cake, 4 layered chocolate sponge cakes, profiteroles, and my latest was a sticky date cheesecake with caramel sauce).

So I am so pleased that my desire to bake has returned again. I get such satisfaction from cooking and decorating a cake. I try to get Charlotte to help me in the kitchen too. She loves to pour out ingredients and of course to lick the beaters. I may not be great at keeping a clean house, but I can make an awesome birthday cake! Being a great cook is one of the things that I associate with Mum (although she disagrees). I hope that one day Charlotte and Angus will think of my baking fondly too.
Some of my creations:
Sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and almond praline

Charlotte's birthday cake for her 2nd birthday. It was the moon from "hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle". I made the bowl and spoon from sugar paste but the other bits were store bought. I did try making the fiddle but it flopped. I still have alot to learn! I would love to do a proper decorating course but they are quite expensive. I guess I just have to keep practicing.

A min croquembouche (have to thank Masterchef for that one)