Sleep?

When I was pregnant I was told countless times that I should make the most of sleep before the baby came, and that when the baby was here I would never get a decent night’s sleep ever again.

Pregnancy is a great thing. Apart from the obvious, pregnancy gets you ready for your new life after the baby has arrived. Throughout the pregnancy, sleeping wasn’t a comfortable experience and the closer it got to the due date the harder sleeping became. Firstly, you had to get up every couple of hours to wee. Secondly, when you weren’t weeing you couldn’t sleep as you were the size of an elephant, ‘weren’t allowed’ to lay this way, or that way or whatever, had pillows shoved in every conceivable gap around your inflated body and you had all these baby related thoughts in your head. After spending the night tossing and turning and weeing constantly it got to about 5am and you’d give up, go downstairs, make yourself a cup of caffeine-free tea and turn the TV on – to be faced with nothing more than children’s TV, before the world wakes up to the morning news shows.

When the baby finally arrives you basically sleep when it sleeps for the first two weeks, longer if you’re lucky. Then after that the real fun starts where baby slowly becomes more awake, sleeps less and needs more interaction. The times that you can sleep get less, to the point where you’re 7 months in and baby only sleeps for 3 half hour installments every day and if you don’t get enough sleep at night you’re stuffed. No chance of a catch up.

So after the baby arrives you basically get up in the night every couple of hours to feed it/change it/shush it/wind it/look at it/check it’s temperature/make sure it’s breathing and everything else that parents do. You then can’t sleep when you go back to bed as you’re worrying about it, listening to every little whimper and every breath to make sure that it’s ok. If you get past that you then have a lot on your mind – the Baby’s future, your financial situation, all the jobs that you didn’t get around to doing as you had a baby to look after. Before you know it, it’s 5am and baby is crying to be fed/changed/entertained/cuddled and your day starts again.

My point? Pregnancy sets you up for parenthood. Not only does it give you 9 months to get used to the idea of becoming parents and to bond with the little bean growing inside you, but it also gets you used to insomnia, broken sleep and early mornings.

Parents always talk about sleep deprivation. I hate that phrase. I have had sleep since having LP, therefore I am not deprived of sleep. However, my sleep now comes in 2-4 hour chunks, and not the 8-10 hours I was used to before I got pregnant. Occasionally LP will surprise me and will sleep for a whole 5 hours, once we even managed 6 hours in a row, and I felt like a new person. generally though, LP will wake every 3-4 hours throughout the night for breastfeeds. 7 months in and I am used to it. I can function as well as I could on 8 hours sleep pre-pregnancy. Again, I think your body gets accustomed to the amount of sleep or the sleeping pattern that you are getting and you learn to deal with it and function adequately. The problems only really arise when you get a lot less sleep than your body is used to.

Last night, for example, LP went to sleep as usual at 6:30pm. She then slept until 9:30pm at which point I fed her. She then woke again at 1am, had a feed and then refused to go back to sleep until after 4am! Rocking, shushing, feeding, singing, patting, nothing worked. She just wanted to be held. Every time we got her to sleep she’d wake up the minute you tried to put her down. Until 4am, when she finally went back to sleep. She then woke up at 6:30am and wanted to play. Then my day started again.

Even though I’m used to broken sleep, the disruption and lack of sleep last night has made today very difficult, I can’t function as well as I can having sleep of 3-4 hour installments.

I have friends who formula feed and whose babies sleep through the night from 8pm-8am every night. Occasionally they have a bad night and the baby will have woken up once, sometimes twice during the night. They will say to me that they don’t know how I get up every night, throughout the night, as they found that one night of getting up twice so difficult.

The reason I, and every other Mother to a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night can get up and then function the next day is because we are used to it. We have had months of broken sleep that starts off as waking up every hour and gradually increases to waking every 3 or 4 hours, our bodies have adjusted over time. Mothers are amazing creatures, we are adaptable, resilient and unfaltering. Basically – we just get on with it.

My Hubby is a great man, and he always gets up to help settle LP when I need him to. But, when it comes down to it, he has his day job – and as I’m breastfeeding he can’t do that bit anyway! So I try my best to manage without dragging him out of bed unless I really need help. When he’s off work he takes LP downstairs and gives her breakfast so that I can have a little lay in and when he’s working I do the same for him – take LP downstairs so as not to disturb him. We are very much a team.

There are a lot of scenarios since having LP that I look at and wonder how I would cope, and I had never even thought about it before having LP. I have a lot of respect for single parents as, even though Hubby works night shifts regularly, the majority of the time he is there to hand LP over to in the night if it all gets a bit much. Parents of twins – how do you rock and shush two babies to sleep? One may need a nap, the other may not? You get one to sleep then the other’s crying wakes the sleeping one up… I really do not know how they do it!

All I can say, Dads do a great job too. But Mothers truly are amazing.

A Pinch And A Punch…

Well, 1st of April. A day for unfunny people to think they’re funny by doing pranks before midday. Also, photo toasters, Titanic tents and Marmite Smoothies…

Luckily we missed all of that!

1st April for us was a family outing to our first Christening! I had no idea what to expect, I’m not religious and am not getting LP Christened. The Christening was for LP’s best friend, AW who is 5 days younger than LP but weighs 50% more. It’s great how different babies are!

Last night we had the best night’s sleep in a very long time! LP slept from 7pm until 8:30pm and woke for a feed – a lot earlier than usual. She then slept through until 2am when I fed her again and she then didn’t wake until 7am, at which point I took her back to bed with me to feed her. I find feeding lying down in the morning gives me a chance to wake up gradually. LP then fell back to sleep until 8:45am! It was lovely laying there next to my sleeping daughter, all snuggly in her sleep suit. I really treasure those moments.

The Christening was at 12:30 and we were bang on time, I hate being late for anything – LP being 3 days overdue was enough for me – I’d been eating hot curry and pineapples until my tongue went on strike for about 2 weeks before the due date! They tell you that Baby can come any time after 37 weeks, so I was willing baby to come from then!

The church service was nice enough. I don’t go in for church things really… When we got married I asked for a traditional church service with as little God in as possible… Everyone knows that I just wanted the pretty pictures!

The service was about half an hour, with a standard format and a couple of hymns where no-one sings or they sing the wrong words or they don’t sing loud enough. Except unlike a wedding ceremony, this had a lot more children/babies in the congregation, one of which kept going ‘Uh-oh!’ and another saying ‘Daaaaadddddddyyyy’ rather loudly! I found it all quite amusing. I’m sure the religious folk found it less so.

Afterwards we went to a local cricket club for a buffet and a drink. This was one of LP’s first BLW excursions where there would be constant distractions.. We’ve had lunch out a couple of times before but it’s always just been LP, Hubby and I. There were 60 people at the cricket club!

Trusty Bumbo came with us and I’d put together a pot of rice cakes with cream cheese and a little fruit salad so that LP had something to eat whilst we waited for the buffet.

So we set the Bumbo up on the middle of the pub-esque table and put LP in it, facing away from the majority of the distractions! On went her double layer of bibs and we gave her the first of the rice cakes.

When out I make sure that I have a new nappy bag to collect discarded food and plenty of baby wipes. It’s so much easier to clean up as you go along!

LP was loving the rice cakes. As I’d pre-cheesed them they’d gone slightly soggy in the container, but it made her love them even more! They broke up easily in her mouth and she sucked the little puffs until they disappeared. I have never seen her so excited over a rice cake!

Hubby and I then took it in turns to get a plate of buffet food whilst the other kept an eye on LP. I’ve learnt not to leave LP alone whilst eating. She hardly gags on food now and I can do odd jobs at home whilst she’s eating as long as I’m still in the kitchen with her, but I’d never go further than that. Anything could happen!

I ate my lunch and gave LP part of everything I had. She had a selection of sandwiches – egg mayonnaise, roast chicken in a creamy sauce, tuna sweetcorn and cheese. Each one she tried. LP isn’t used to having ‘constructed’ food yet, where the fillings can fall out, so the food did go everywhere but she managed to pick incredibly small bits up and get them to her mouth! All the bread bits went fairly quickly and lumps of tuna and sweetcorn were soon being gobbled up. LP seems to think that she’ll have more success at eating if she gets everything to her mouth as quickly as she can – it’s amusing to watch as her hands whizz to grab the food and then almost chuck the lumps into her mouth!

She then ate a triangle of vegetable Quiche and I gave her half an onion bhaji to try but she just wasn’t interested in that one! Cucumber, pepper and carrot sticks were chewed and sucked although still too hard to be swallowed by a 7 month old with no teeth!

LP decides when she has had enough and starts arching her back and making frustrated noises, so we distract her with the sippy cup of water, which she can now hold and manage beautifully, and clean away the leftovers from her tray and down her bib into the waiting nappy sack.

LP then has her fruit course. Halved grapes are sucked to within an inch of their life and the empty grape skin gets expelled expertly from her mouth. Mango, her favourite, is always devoured with gusto! We leave the skin on the mango and cut into segments, the same with any moist slippery fruit, as it gives LP something to grip, and she sucks the mango from the skin and then drops the skin onto her tray.

Watching LP eat is amazing. It takes her such a long time, but her concentration when she sees a new piece of food is immense, and she tries to get every last piece of food to her mouth. On the other hand though, she knows her limits, and if after a couple of attempts she cannot get the piece of food into her grip she moves on to the next bit. If she’s bored of something, she drops it on the floor. In our 5 weeks of BLW we have definitely managed to communicate with each other!

Throughout LP’s meal, I was aware of people staring at her. AW, whose Christening it was, was sitting in her Mamas and Papas Snug next to LP on the same table being spoon fed puree, so it must have been strange for the other guests to see two babies, the same age, one being fed and one feeding herself. Seeing them staring though made me feel so proud of my Daughter. She has come so far in such a short amount of time, and we are comfortable enough to eat away from home with her. Every meal we have with her amazes me, how she handles food and how her dexterity and co-ordination are improving.

AW’s Grandmother came over during the meal and asked what LP was eating. She exclaimed ‘Ooooh she has what you’re having? Even LUMPS!?!’ and I explained that she was allowed anything we were eating and that if given the opportunity a baby will cope with the lumps and learn to eat by feeding themselves. At that, she turned to AW’s Mum and said ‘I think AW should be allowed some of the Christening cake then, don’t you?’

Introduction!

Well I’m new to all this Blogging malarkey but I guess I should start with an introduction! I am Donna, Mummy to my beautiful Little Pickle (LP) born 28th August 2011. The last 7 months have been trying, but have also been the best of my life. I am loving being a Mother but in all honesty it isn’t a walk in the park – some days are knackering, some are tedious and some I just feel like crying! But most days are rewarding at least in a small part and the whole journey that LP and I are making is one huge learning curve!

LP was born 3 days late at home. We had planned a home birth and it all went incredibly well, 12 hours of labour, gas and air, a birthing pool in the lounge and no stitches! I was very, very lucky and LP was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I had been adamant that I was having a boy, and adamant that he’d be at least 9lb… I ended up with a girl, 6lb 4oz of ginger perfection!

Baby LP - 2 Hours Old

The next two weeks are now a blur of painful breastfeeding. LP took the top layer of skin off my nipples on day 1. It then took the next 2 weeks for me to heal and so every feed was painful. Sometimes I’d grit my teeth and curl my toes. Other times I’d cry. Other times I’d pull away and not look at her as she latched. I have never experienced anything like it. I think the worst thing for me was that no-one had said that it might be hard, no-one had said anything other than it’s the most natural thing in the world. This made the pain so unexpected! It felt like there’d be no end to it and that it would hurt forever. Everyone kept saying to me that if it hurt I wasn’t doing it right, that the latch must be wrong. But everything was fine, the problem was that the damage had already been done and it needed time to heal. A good friend said to me ‘Give it two weeks, after that it will get better’ and thankfully it did! Lots of Lansinoh and airing of my boobs and 2 weeks later it didn’t hurt any more. After another couple of weeks it actually felt nice and I started to enjoy breastfeeding! We are now 7 months in to our breastfeeding journey and I love it. I cannot imagine formula feeding LP and am so glad I persevered through the pain. She’s never had a bottle, and now, if I have to go out and leave her with her Daddy, she takes expressed milk through a Nuby sippy cup with a silicon spout. However, night feeds and her bed time feed she won’t take from the sippy cup, only from me. This is a work in progress! I will keep you updated!

LP has never self settled and still needs us to rock her to sleep. In the early days she’d feed to sleep but that is rare now. For the first 8 weeks she didn’t go to sleep until at least 1am, quite often 4am and one awful night 6am. But it gradually got better! 7 months in and she now goes to bed sometime between 6:30pm and 7pm. However, she still wakes regularly for feeds, but again this is getting better. Generally she will wake 4 hourly, but last night she woke every 5 hours. I am finding that with everything Baby related there is light at the end of the tunnel!

I don’t know where the first 6 months went. They literally flew by! After Christmas we started looking into weaning options and heard about Baby Led Weaning. We bought Gill Rapley’s book and read up about it. LP was still only 4 months and we knew that we wanted to start weaning at 6 months – we didn’t see any reason to start earlier as she’d always been petite and not a particularly hungry baby!

We invested in a bumbo – the princely sum of £12.20 from eBay including the Bumbo tray, and this was LP’s new ‘toy’! She would sit in it on the kitchen worktop whilst I cooked and she’d sit in it on the middle of the dining table every time Hubby and I ate. We eventually gave her a spoon – a Petit Filous spoon that had come through the post, and a sippy cup – Tommy Tippee, and she’d play with them whilst she watched us eat. The spoon went in straight away and she’d gnaw at it, The sippy cup also went in but holding the handles took a little while to learn.

By the time we started weaning at 6 months, LP had mastered the art of getting everything and anything into her mouth! So we invested in a high chair – Antilop from Ikea, a bargain at less than £15, wipe clean, removable tray. LP proved to be too small for the high chair for the first couple of weeks, she could sit up very straight with support but the high chair was just too big. So we used the Bumbo. LP loved weaning from the start! I decided to embrace the mess and her first taste was blackberries… Oh the mess! There was blackberry juice everywhere – the table, Bumbo and Baby were covered. But she made the most pleasing nom nom noises! Blackberries were a hit! We had decided to let her eat in just her nappy as we hadn’t managed to find any decent bibs yet, and this proved to be a wise move! Pickle was covered in sticky juice! Luckily, bath time followed!

LP's First Taste

I have since made sure that the messiest foods are at dinner time, so that bath time follows. We have also been using a pillow to pad out the high chair and she now associates the high chair with food and gets excited as soon as you put her in it! We’ve also invested in floor mats from Poundland – Polythene sheets with dancing hippos on that go under the high chair. We keep this super clean so that any food that goes on it we know that we can pass back to LP. There’s enough waste with Baby Led Weaning (BLW) that anything to minimise it has got to be a good thing! We’ve also bought a lot of basic velcro bibs and also jersey plastic backed bibs with arms from Tesco. We use one of each at each meal time, small one under the big one, and this way LP’s clothes survive for a little bit longer!

We are now 5 weeks into our BLW journey and LP has tried so many foods! Fruit – Blackberries, Banana, Kiwi, Peach, Nectarine, Orange, Pineapple, Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Apple, Pear. Veg – Tomato, Cucumber, Pepper, Avocado, Potato, Sweet Potato, Parsnip, Carrot, broccoli, Cauliflower, Beetroot. She’s also had Bread, Pitta, Wraps, Bagels, Rice Cakes, Scotch Pancakes, Mature Cheddar, Cheese Spread, Plain Yoghurt, Boiled Egg, Scrambled Egg, Omelette, Tuna, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Curry, Fajita, Sweet and Sour… Literally everything we eat we now let LP try. The only things we keep an eye on is no honey until she’s over a year as there’s a risk of botulism and we watch the salt/sugar content of everything. We have started making salt free bread in our bread maker and had intended to slice and freeze it so that we could take a slice out at a time for LP, but we all quite like the salt free bread so are all eating it! She also loved scotch pancakes, but the shop bought ones had 0.3g salt in each one! Baby is only allowed 1g salt max per day, so I have made batches of my own pancakes with raisins, raspberries and summer fruits in and have frozen them so that I can take them our for LP whenever I need them.

BLW has had a great impact on all our lives so far – LP is getting a very varied diet, and trying a lot of different foods but also Hubby and I are getting a much better diet from doing BLW. We make sure that the food we have is suitable for LP and so everything is cooked from scratch – processed food is now minimal and we are eating a lot more fruit and veg. The whole family has definitely embraced BLW!