15 July 2016

Surviving the forth trimester...

So we've survived 16 weeks already! Yay to us! But I must admit those first 4 weeks were the most incredible yet challenging of my life! This tiny little human literarily turned my life upside down! Not only has she taught me what unconditional love means but also what it really means to be completely sleep deprived and still required to function - No, theres no switching her to silent for a few hours whilst I have a sneaky nap! So I thought I'd put together my top tips for surviving those first few weeks, its the kind of advice I wish I'd been told, or if I was told it, wish I'd listened to. I'm by no means an expert and every baby is different but if just a few of my experiences help you, then you'll be better prepared than I was! Sticking together and sharing what you know is what its all about, no one was born a super mum after all! 

Baby Ede at 4 days old!

White Noise!
I use white noise for my photo sessions as apparently the outside world is too quiet for little ones who are used to the thumping of our heart and the swooshing of our blood, that horrible noise we associate with not being able to find the channel on a radio station is calming to babies apparently. I had completely forgotten about all of this of course until the wee small hours of our first night home with our little babe! The moment we walked through the door with our teeny tiny baby she started to cry... and cry and cry! She hadn't made a peep in the hospital so we had no idea what to do... in desperation I downloaded a white noise app called 'white noise baby' and it was literally our saviour. The second we turned it on - silence! As we didn't have any time to go out and buy a white noise machine we just downloaded the app to an old mobile phone (turned it to flight mode to switch off all those nasty signally things) popped it on the bedside table and all slept soundly! We also downloaded a decibel reader just to check we weren't playing it too loudly for her tiny ears. We still use the white noise whenever we need it, in a restaurant where sudden noises might startle her or in her car seat if she won't settle, honestly I can't rate it highly enough!

Get a carrier!
Now I would class Ede as a pretty easy baby if I'm being honest BUT in the late afternoon she used to get angry, and noisy, very noisy! I had bought a baby carrier from a company called Solly whilst pregnant because I loved the design and thought I might use it the odd time for travelling. Instead though I now, at about 4pm everyday pop Ede in it whilst I do my chores, she quickly falls asleep with the motion and we all avoid that ear piercing witching hour - which has to be good for baby and mummy alike! There are lots of carriers available if you're not sure about the wrap design but I personally love this design because theres no extra weight, its not too hot and you can get colours that match your outfits, bonus ;) 

Introduce a bottle as soon as breast feeding is established
This was a piece of advice I was given by a client of mine. She had dad give a bottle of expressed milk once a day to get the baby used to taking a bottle just incase! She, like me, wasn't overly keen on breast feeding in public so having a baby that will take a bottle is a real god send. I have friends whose babies will never take a bottle which not only can be tough on mum but in my opinion can be a real shame for dads who never get a chance to feed their babies.

Get dad involved ASAP!
In the first week of Ede's life I didn't change a nappy, not one! And at about three weeks in, hubby took on a night feed of expressed milk every night to give me (and my boobs) a rest. These were his 'jobs', now of course he has lots of jobs in fact we pretty much share the load where we can but I think its good to establish this sharing early on. It helps give dad confidence, allows baby and daddy to bond and gives you a much needed break! You feed on demand in those early days and as much as helping with the house and the cooking is needed, having a little break from
 baby and sharing the load and the love is also necessary. 

If you're using a bottle be prepared to try a few
Like I said, we introduced a bottle quite early on but Ede really seemed to struggle to latch onto it, she was moaning and grunting during her feeds and then full of wind for hours afterwards. After talking to some pro mamas I discovered it could be the bottle, more specifically the teat. After switching to Dr Brown bottles she was feeding with no problem at all.

Make your baby take naps
I remember early on that everyone commented on how aware and alert Ede was, and being a first time mum I was proud as punch at the compliments - fast forward three weeks and Ede was still pretty much awake most of the day and night, I read that sleep promotes sleep, and suddenly it all fell into place. Ede was getting over tired, grumpy and struggling to sleep when she needed to. From that day on I made her nap at least every 2 hours and within 2 weeks she was sleeping so well at night. I don't know if the two are connected but I do know that she's a much happier baby for her naps so the fights to get her there are well worth it (oh yes and no one tells you that babies will fight having a nap with all of their might, go figure?)

Set up a changing table downstairs as well as up
In those first few weeks babies need their nappies changed a lot! I mean at least 12 times a day!!! So having a changing table downstairs as well as up really does make life easier!

Be prepared for breast feeding to be hard!
I was not prepared for this! I'd read up on how much milk a baby needs, that your supply is regulated by your baby so you almost always have enough milk to feed him/her BUT I wasn't prepared for how painful it would be in the early weeks. Now having spoken to my friends it seems that almost all new mums find breast feeding painful to varying degrees! But the pain, like every difficult phase in those first few weeks, is temporary! By about 3 weeks in I was much more comfortable, we had seen a lactation consultant and fixed Ede's latch and I was more confident about what felt right and wrong. My biggest piece of advice with breast feeding would to be to get help and advice as soon as you can. My lactation consultant as well as my best friend were invaluable. Without them I would have given up breast feeding after two weeks for sure. I was engorged and in pain and had no idea of a solution. But like I said, it was temporary. By 3 weeks in I was much better and 5 weeks in a total pro and that all important breast milk was building my baby girl into the sturdy, chubby baby she is now. To ease the pain try lanolin nipple cream - which you don't need to remove before feeding, you can get nipple ice and heat packs and if you're really sore like I was nipple shields. You will get through it... as much as you don't believe it at the time it really is temporary.

Get a good breast pump
When it was too sore to feed Ede I expressed! I know some people recommend you don't do that so early on but at that point my option was to express or give up, so I expressed and as it turned out that was the right decision for me. Now I pump if I'm working, or going out or want a few glasses of wine ;) It really does give you the freedom you need in those later weeks and months. I used the Lansinoh pump which was great.

Going out by yourself for the first time is scary!
It is scary venturing out by yourself with your tiny, unpredictable baby but you can do it! First I walked the dog, then went to the little shop down the road and then the mall and trip by trip my confidence grew. I made sure that I always had my solly carrier with me incase of a baby meltdown (the carrier fixes everything) and just went out for short trips at first building up the time as my confidence grew.

Get yourself a mum friend
I'm lucky in that I'm one of the last of my friends to have a baby so when it comes to advice I'm inundated with it, in fact my best friends and I have a WhatsApp group called 'mothers therapy group' where we laugh, moan, rant and advise on all things motherhood. This really did get me through the midnight feeds, self doubt and messy nappy mishaps. They would remind me how well I was doing with breast feeding when I felt like a complete failure and give me advice, which ultimately kept me going! If you don't have your mum tribe then join an antenatal class, maternity yoga group, anything where you can meet other mums and mums-to-be to help get you through and enjoy the highs and lows together.

Everything is temporary
I know I keep saying it but that newborn faze flies by, and all of the struggles, lack of sleep, sore breasts, witching hour(s), not knowing what to do, its all so temporary and before you know it your delicate, tiny, fussy newborn is a hearty baby, smiling, engaging, settled and hopefully sleeping ;)

So I think thats it so far! Like I said I am by no means an expert, this is just my experience, the information I wish I'd been told - or if I was told, wish I'd listened to ;) Being a new parent is tough but its so worth it, soon you'll know your babies signs and signals and know exactly what to do to settle him or her. So try and enjoy those amazing first weeks, sleep whenever you can, share the load and get help as soon as you feel you are struggling with something. And if in doubt remember you are doing an amazing job!

Just as a sidetone, there are a million helpful apps out there but are my fave -
White noise baby
Baby Daybook - to track breastfeeding
The wonder weeks - for tracking development stages 

And here are some phone snaps of my beautiful girl ;) 

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