Let me start by saying that I’ve always loved to write. But, recently, I’ve found that writing has become quite therapeutic for me. It’s like dumping all your thoughts down and starting the process of working through them and dealing with what is on your mind.
The idea for this blog was two fold really. Initially, the ‘fabulous for thirty’ mantra came about from a long, and probably well versed process, that I’m sure many woman must go through, in acceptance. Acceptance of me, my body, my thoughts. Attempting to become the best version of myself, accepting myself and finding some kind of wholeness and fulfilment in my thirties. I’ve often heard of your ’30’s’ being the best years of your life, primarily because you start to care less about what other people think and doing what’s best for you. I am SO into that and I can’t wait.
Secondly, I’ve just had my first baby. I searched in the middle of the night, countless times for a realistic and informative narrative of how on earth to look after a newborn. From breastfeeding, too sleeping, to getting out of the house in a non-manic and chilled way. Everything I read seemed to focus on the negatives. I’m hoping that some of the things I started to write about resonate with at least one other person and just give that peace of mind I looked for. You can have a hot drink again, you can sleep again, you can leave the house again.
As I write this, I’ve just turned 29. I started this blog about 7 months ago, and I’m hoping this time I actually get the courage to publish it. (queue the 30’s vibe of not giving a f*ck).
We shouldn’t judge what we are not, but we do. We shouldn’t judge what we are not. But we do. It’s so difficult, it’s a natural reaction to form an unconscious bias, at least. So even when we try not to judge, I’m certain that most people will do it, even if it is unconsciously and as much as we try not to. What really irks me though is when people think it’s appropriate to portray that judgement though it was fact. Or use it to try and pull down another person. Or to shame another person.
But, we do all do it, judge things that we are not, I suppose it’s a natural reaction. ‘Her house is so clean’, ‘Her house is so messy’. ‘He eats too much’, ‘He doesn’t eat enough’. ‘Did you see what so and so did/said’… Her house might be clean because it helps with her anxiety. He might not eat enough because he has an eating disorder. There is so much judgement, more so right now.
At the beginning of the pandemic I was so guilty of it. ‘They aren’t from the same household’, ‘They shouldn’t have travelled that far’ and then one day I realised that actually they were from the same household, they just went to and from their other parents’ house (which was within the rules) and actually travelling to the countryside for a walk wasn’t a terrible breach of the rules either and something that later saved my mental health. And I also realised then, we shouldn’t judge what we are not, particularly when we don’t know the circumstances. These judgements, I realised, came from a place of fear.
I think that’s important to acknowledge that judgement does often come from a place of fear, the unknown or jealousy. In my experience anyway.
I had a baby during the pandemic, the week before the U.K. went into what we now know as ‘Lockdown 1.0’. I was petrified. For my family, the world, but most importantly my newborn baby. I spent weeks inside the house, scared to go outside, making excuses to not go for our daily walk. When I finally agreed to be dragged out for a walk, I was navigating my baby in her pram away from lampposts, cars and walls. I was that scared of touching anything around me in case I caught the virus, forgetting that actually, I could quite easily have gotten run over by a car when I was avoiding people by walking in the middle of the road. I was so focused on not getting the virus, I wasn’t enjoying my newborn baby.
One night, mid breakdown, I knew I had to get better, to be better. I focused on my daily routine and the things we could do and enjoy as a family. Most importantly I stopped judging other people and what they were doing. I stopped worrying about whether people around me were following or not following the rules, that didn’t need my headspace. I needed to focus on my mental health and my family. I prioritised the things I enjoyed and switched off from the noise of the media and looked only at the facts. I also realised you have to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t and that until you know someone’s individual circumstances, have walked in their shoes, you cannot judge someone else and what they do. It was this particular lightbulb moment for me that made me sit back and realise all of the things I’d not done for fear of judgement. The things I’d not said in case it was misconstrued or somebody didn’t agree. For some reason, I have an opinion that when I meet people that they won’t like me, and that I have to work for their approval. It’s a basic setting for me and I don’t know why. That probably will take a whole lot more than just writing to understand. But what I’ve realised is I now ask myself; ‘do I care?’ and ‘of what consequence is it?’. Am I so worried to be judged that I won’t do or say something that I want to? So, in the same way that unconsciously we may judge other people, we’ve got to accept that people may also judge us. But does it matter?
We shouldn’t judge what we don’t know. But we do. Why do we judge people on how they raise their children? Unless there is harm coming to that child, what does it have to do with us? Why do we judge people on what they do for a living? If it’s not stopping our bills getting paid, what does it have to do with us? Why do we judge people that either wear too much make up or not enough? If you were truly happy in your own skin would it bother you as much? Why do we judge those that breastfeed, as well as those that don’t or can’t? A baby needs to be fed, no matter how you choose or need to do it. True, we all have our own opinions, and that is fine. But the minute you project that opinion to become a judgement onto a person or the minute you cast doubt over someone’s integrity with your judgement, it becomes unfair.
As I’ve said, of course, it’s natural to judge, and I’m not saying it’s wrong to have those thoughts and opinions (obviously!) but it’s just being mindful about what you put out into the world. Especially right now. It’s all such a learning curve and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been there, I’ve done it. And I still do it. But now I’m a lot more mindful and do you know what? I actually feel like a weight has been lifted. Why should I be worrying about what other people are doing if I feel like I’m doing enough?
I’m hopeful that this realisation is helping me on my way to not caring as much as what people think about me, to an extent. The mindset people tell you you’ll get when you’re in your 30’s…! I’ll always care about some things and that can be a good thing too. I guess this realisation started for me when I finally started writing my blog. I’d wanted to do it for so long and I put it off because I worried about what people would think or say. But so what. I enjoy writing and it’s like a version of therapy for me. This realisation has evolved so much over the last year, since having a baby, your priorities change, and through lockdown I realised going forward my energy needs to only go on things that I want to do. I’ve been so focused on what other people were doing and how they were living their lives, I forgot to enjoy my own (I say enjoy lightly there – we were/are in the middle of a pandemic after all!).
I’m working on letting go of things that no longer serve me and focus on the things you can control, and that certainly isn’t how other people will judge you.
Is it just me that gets slightly offended by people assuming you have got it all under control or people comment that you seem to have it perfect?
Because, I’m telling you now that’s literally no one, no matter how it seems or how it is portrayed.
Yes, sometimes my child sleeps through (double touch wood) but sometimes she’s really difficult and we’ve worked really hard on her sleep and had many stressful days/nights.
Yes I breastfed, but along with formula, and not without the pain, sleepless nights, supply issues, breakdowns and I was lucky she took to it well. It’s up to no one but you how you feed your baby, neither is right or wrong and it’s ridiculous that any mother whether breast or bottle feeding, should feel judged and anything less than fucking amazing.
I do messy play and make a lot of homemade food for Marlie because I enjoy it. She also watches a hell of a lot of paw patrol (I mean, this is mainly because it’s Scotts favourite) and eats whatever we can find when we don’t have time.
When people say ‘aw you’re so lucky to have ‘x’. Yes I appreciate I am, but I’ve also worked hard and motivated myself to get where I am. It’s always said with an undertone. There have been things that have fallen right for me and have worked in my favour but it doesn’t mean I’ve not had a struggle behind it or sometimes things haven’t worked out like I’d planned.
I’ve talked before about suffering with my mental health. I know people that haven’t been through it struggle to understand this, but it has nothing to do with what you have, or don’t have, a lot of the time it’s literally a chemical imbalance that makes you feel like nothing or no one can make you happy again. The strength in this is realising that this is not true, and pulling yourself through, to be able to fully appreciate life again.
I guess the message I’m trying to get across is don’t assume people have it all together because you see a small snapshot of their life. Or even if you see more than that of someone’s life, it’s probably very rare that you see them in the middle of the night crying in desperation or punching pillows in frustration. I feel like the assumption of someone having it altogether almost takes away from the struggles they’ve gone through and the absolute strength people sometimes have to have to get themselves looking like that. You can’t see everything. Except maybe if you are with them 24/7. And I’m pretty sure if you asked My husband if I had it altogether he would call you crazy and he doesn’t even know the half of what goes on in my head 🤪
The other side to this is probably that a lot of it comes from my own self doubt. So maybe sometimes I take offence more easily because when things are going well I have an internal monologue of ‘you don’t deserve this’ or ‘something bad will happen because everything is going to well’. Maybe people mean well and I misunderstand because of the anxieties in my own mind. To be honest it’s probably a mixture of the two.
But don’t ever strive to be like anyone else because chances are, they’re striving for something different too.
We all have aspirations, goals and dreams… and when people achieve theirs, the nicest thing to do is to say well done and find genuine happiness for that person, don’t immediately dismiss any struggle they may have had to get there by insinuating they’ve got a perfect life and have had it easy. People are good at hiding the bad days and we all like to show off the better times we have, so you can never know it all. It’s good to dream, and good for you if one day your dreams come true ❤️
Me. I needed this. I’ve seen TOO many posts over the past 24 hours about this. I’m guilty of it myself, saying and thinking I need to get back in my jeans for when we’re allowed out (although totally true, I am not buying new jeans!). Some are light hearted and jokey but some are deadly serious. It worries me that people are going to do drastic things as they think they need to ‘lose the lockdown weight’. Literally no one, and I mean NO ONE is going to care if you’ve put on weight in lockdown. People will be glad they can see you, to hug you, to dance with you. Please please don’t think you need to start on the skinny coffees or fad shake diets (grrrrr do not get me started).
I’ve seen some awful posts about ‘if you lose ‘X’ amount a week, you’ll have lost ‘X’ pounds by June 21st (mainly endorsed by a weight loss group I won’t mention, that I have been guilty of being sucked in by in the past 🙄). Some of these talk about losing 4lbs a week. Do you know how much of a calorie deficit you would need to be in to loose 4lb a week consistently for 19 weeks?! 🤯Ive learnt a lot in the last couple of years about losing weight that I wish I’d known when I was younger. Contrary to popular belief you can enjoy yourself and lose weight! Just do it the right way. You don’t have to forfeit your favourite meal or a night out (what is one of those anyway?!)
Recently I set myself a challenge of doing a hiit workout a day, five days a week, for four weeks. I did it and felt great for it, I knew I needed to feel like I was achieving something and prove to myself I could do it. I WANTED to do it. The week later my mental health took a bit of a dip and I ended up in a catch 22 situation, knowing exercise would help me feel better but not having the energy to do it. Some days it’s all about just getting through.
This lockdown has proven to me that I don’t need more time or to miss out on events and socialising to lose weight (we’ve had all the time in the world and no events whatsoever and it’s still not happened for me🤣). It’s more than that. It’s a mindset, it takes motivation and dedication and an actual want to do it. Sometimes, as much as you want to loose weight, that’s not always enough. If you don’t want to exercise, if you don’t want to count calories. Ya’know say for example you’re focusing on surviving a global pandemic 😅…that’s totally fine. It needs to be more acceptable that that is fine.
I’m getting to the point where I’ve tried everything, trust me. I get it, I really do, I’m totally working on trying to love myself as I am right now and not focusing on getting to a certain weight or dress size, but we’ve been conditioned to think like that and it’s hard to change that mindset. I’m learning about finding what works for me. Doing things I enjoy. Last month I fancied doing hiit. This week I’m just enjoying some nice walks. I’ve found that I love yoga and the slower paced exercise sometimes. And I hate lunges.
You do not need to deprive yourself or force yourself to do anything. If this year has taught us anything it’s about enjoying the little things. And sometimes, for me thats a side of cheesy garlic bread pizza with my tea and a chaser bag of twirl bites 🤣.
The combination of the impending January blues and the news of ANOTHER lockdown has got me thinking and wanting to write. I’ve written A LOT about the first lockdown and how it made me feel, and what I did to get through but I wasn’t sure if my personal thoughts and feelings on it would get misconstrued so I haven’t posted them.
But I know a lot of people will be feeling anxious and uncertain about a third lockdown, and I am too.
Being depressed isn’t about being sad. It’s not about being ungrateful for what you’ve got, nor wanting what you don’t have. I think there’s a misconception that it’s one or all of those things. But from my experience and reading and seeing it for myself, it’s totally out of your control. You could have all you’ve ever wanted on the outside but it’s something on the inside that isn’t ‘quite right’.
We all have mental health, it’s like physical health. Some have it better than others, most have good and bad days, and many, particularly now will be finding it harder.
Not many people know this about me but in early 2018 I went to the doctors because I couldn’t stop crying, I didn’t feel present with my family and friends and I started to get panicky in certain situations. It wasn’t my normal doctor and within ten minutes of seeing him he had prescribed me anti depressants. I don’t think I was depressed, my actual doctor, at a later date explained it was more likely a spell of low mood. I do suffer with anxiety which I understand much more now than I did at the time. I was so desperate to not feel how I did, that I started taking them. In all honestly it really worked. It probably shouldn’t have been the first port of call, but it gave me a much needed breather and I finally started feeling like myself again. I watched @suziejverral say something about this recently and it was so relatable. I’m not saying they should be given to everyone, but neither should they be discounted. For some people they can be life changing.
When I went back to see my actual doctor, who I don’t think was too happy I was put on them in the first place (so, always see and talk to your actual doctor, one that knows you and your history), he explained that low mood and depression are a chemical imbalance in the brain and it could come and go throughout your life. It’s about finding out what works for you in terms of not spending too long in the part that makes you feel down.
Thankfully I came off them pretty quickly and have been relatively ok since, but I know that it could slip back anytime. I now just maybe have the odd day or two feeling like that and I know that if it was any longer I need to open up and talk to someone. It’s so funny because 2018 was such an amazing year for me. We’d finally got into our house we’d been waiting over two years for, we were getting married, going on a number of amazing holidays. People that perhaps don’t understand mental health would say, what have you got to be sad about? But it’s so much more that that. It doesn’t discriminate and it certainly doesn’t care what you’ve got going on in your life. Thankfully the help I got meant I went on to fully enjoy those moments. Asking for help was the single best thing I could’ve done.
At the start of the first ‘lockdown’ I had to be dragged out for a walk, I was petrified. I’d move 2m away from parked cars (because they carried the virus, right? 🤦♀️)and almost drove the pram into walls trying to stay as far away from other people as possible, cursing those who didn’t move out of the way. When we got shopping I’d put it all out then spray and wipe it down before putting it away, and any deliveries or gifts we got went in a ‘quarantine corner’ for at least 48 hours.
One of the worst moments for me was when Boris Johnson went into ICU. Not because Boris Johnson was in ICU (not here to get political!) but because if he could get that ill from this virus, anyone could. I imagined all of my loved ones dying (which sadly has been then case, and still is for some 💔), but thankfully that night, mid breakdown, I had to have a word with myself (along with a pep talk from my husband!). I had a newborn baby to look after and I wasn’t getting through this with that mindset.
Things that got me through were regular contact with friends and family, be that over face time or at the end of a driveway. Good food, cooking, baking, takeaways.
Cut through the shit. Don’t listen to the scaremongering. We know a lot more about this virus now than we did in March. It’s about being careful, balancing risks and using common sense. I found a professor on twitter early on and he was honestly my sanity. He waded though the crap and provided positivity where there was little. Honest updates and facts. That’s what you need. As long as you’re being sensible, it isn’t going to help seeing the news everyday, reading about the bad stuff. If you appreciate it’s a serious situation then all that does is make your anxiety worse, trust me I’ve done it and occasionally still do. Follow accounts that give you positivity, good news, things you enjoy/make you laugh.
Do you things that make you happy; watch Netflix, scroll Instagram, do yoga, go for a walk with a friend, drink nice coffee (or wine), eat nice food, read, write, do nothing. (OK, these are things that make me happy) (I also need to learn to take my own advice more…)
I also learnt this week you can appreciate we may need another lockdown AND hate the fact we’re in a another lockdown. And just because you may be in a good position it doesn’t mean your negative feelings are invalid (thank you @annamathur!). You can feel both things. You can feel all things.
I can’t wait for the day where we don’t have to remember masks when we leave the house, we can turn on the news and not hear about it. We can nip for a brew with our friends, go for Sunday roasts with our family, travel again and see the world. But I guess for now its about getting through these next few weeks, day by day. I know and appreciate the rules but at the same time I can’t help but feel like we all need to understand the risk to us and our families and use our common sense. But hey-ho, what do I know 🤷♀️
I know I’m not on my own with this one. It’s another level. Just know you’re not alone and it can, does and will get better. There’s also not a single thing that will fix it, everyone copes in different ways but I’ve written some of my thoughts down and if it starts a conversation then great. If not, it’s helped me process my feelings…
As I sit here, watching the three devices I have to monitor my baby I wonder if it’s too much 🥴 but I know I’m not the only one.
I wonder if we know too much? We have heartbreaking statistics and stories practically targeted at us through our phones, at our finger tips.
I watch as people roll their eyes when I’m explaining what these devices do. ‘We didn’t need all that when you were younger, you turned out fine’. ‘We used bumpers’ ‘we slept you on your front’. Great. But the advice is different now. The devastating stories are told now (and rightly so). The anxiety level seems so much higher now (or maybe it’s spoken about more now? …though still not enough)
But I do still wonder if I’m crazy? I refuse to sleep unless some sort of alarm will sound if there was any risk. And even still I lie here awake worrying they won’t work, getting up numerous times to feel her breathing (even though gadgets 1 and 2 tell me she is).
And it’s like a relief every time I get the confirmation she’s breathing. Like obviously it’s a relief but should I need to be that worried in the first place? Some nights (like now), I lie awake whilst she’s asleep just worrying about falling asleep and missing something. Which then results in me being needlessly tired the next day.
I’m an anxious person at the best of times but having a child has made it a lot worse. I know lockdown hasn’t helped either, we were robbed of her spending time with family from an early age and it took me a long time to get used to not being with her. I still find it hard sometimes but I believe it’s totally necessary. For her, for me, for our families. I get peace of mind by being able to check on her though when she’s not with me (is that weird? Is that just me?). People say you should just switch off but for me, not knowing, not being able to check on her would send my mind into overdrive. I’d have a much better time just reassuring myself.
When she’s out; she gets the energy and enthusiasm from someone who isn’t with her 24/7 and occasionally feels drained (!) and I get time to recharge. It’s win win really isn’t it. So why do we feel/get made to feel guilty?
Learning to deal with these anxieties has not been easy. I’m reading (and re-reading) a book called ‘Mind over Mother’ by Anna Mathur. That’s been helpful. I’m speaking to people about how I feel, friends and family and I’d encourage anyone else feeling this way to do the same. Is it normal? It seems to be accepted as ‘normal’ too, but I’m pretty sure having visions of something awful happening to your baby shouldn’t be seen as ‘normal’.
It has got better as she’s got older in some respects but worse in others. Now she can move, roll, climb. She’s now 9 months old and she often rolls to sleep on her front. I can’t leave her there because I panic too much, even though I know she can roll back. Her alarm sounds when she does it (much to Scott’s annoyance, usually multiple times a night) and we go in and roll her back. I am getting better and if her head is to the side I sometimes leave her, but usually only whilst we are awake. It’s mental isn’t it? We’ve now also had numerous head bangs that have made me want to cry never-mind her. But I can now start to look forward to nights away with my husband, weekend breaks with the girls etc. etc.(You can do one now, Covid).
You’ve got to look after yourself and do the things that made you you, before a baby, otherwise I’m sure these anxieties would never ease and you would settle into a life you perhaps don’t want. Again, everyone wants different, I know I still want parts of my life before children but others may fully accept that’s not to be anymore and be happy with that.
The firsts will always be the hardest. But trust me when I say I’ll be putting my all into enjoying 2021, both with Marlie and without her (she will of course be enjoying time with someone who loves her like I do and I will of course be checking up on her on a monitor 🤣).
Im sure I’m not the only one who feels like this, writing about it has helped me process it. Luckily, even though he maybe doesn’t understand my anxiety, Scott is really good. He doesn’t down play it or tell me i’m being stupid (as much as he probably just wants a full nights sleep…!) which is all I can ask for. Hopefully sharing it may help someone else realise they aren’t alone. There’s a lot you’re made to feel guilty about, purposely or not, when your a mum but at the end of the day you know your baby better than anyone, and should always and only do what you think it right for them.
This scared me so much. It’s like you get into a routine with milk feeds and then you’ve got to start introducing food…! Where do you even start? I had no clue (still don’t really). With no real support from a health visitor we were going it alone. One of my biggest concerns was choking. How could they possible not choke on food? They only know how to drink milk. Well, they are much cleverer than we even think! Before I started weaning I knew I wanted to do a first aid course so I’d know what to do if anything happened. I had looked into it before I even gave birth and there wasn’t loads of options. After I’d had Marlie just before Lockdown 1.0 I had struggled with breastfeeding and attended a free online course with @blossomantenatal. I noticed they had started offering first aid courses so I booked onto one of them. It was online on zoom (of course it was, it’s 2020) and it was a couple of hours long. It was all really interesting and helpful but I was particularly there for the choking part. It still scares the life out of me but I do feel much more confident now, I know the differences to look out for between gagging (which is a regular occurrence at first) and choking and I feel like I’d know what to do if she was to choke (god forbid).
I got a couple of books (Wean in 15 and What Mummy Makes) and looked for all the advice online. I ordered a very plain and understated highchair to go with my kitchen, because, why not? (her bibs may or may not also match the decor… ha). I then started giving Marlie a different vegetable every day (blended up) in the two weeks before she was six months. The advice for weaning is being able to sit up properly, loss of the tongue thrust reflex and co-ordination of the hands, eyes and mouth. She has been staring us out whilst we eat ever since she could see past her nose, so i’m not sure that alone is a sign haha. Every baby is totally different, some could be ready earlier, some later. However the NHS advice is 6 months so I tried to stick as close to that as possible. As we suspected, Marlie, like her Dad and I, LOVES her food. There’s only been one thing so far she’s refused and it was avocado & butterbean mash – however we added some blended broccoli to it the next time we offered it and she inhaled it…strange child. She wasn’t overly keen on prunes either – but who is!
So, where do you even start? Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner?? I’d read to start with one meal a day and the build it up as they’re ready. (As they’re ready? What does that even mean?! Isn’t everyone always ready for their next meal?!). We initially started with lunch but that didn’t work well. Mainly because she made such a mess an outfit change was required and there’s already enough risk of them happening throughout the day without throwing another one in the mix. So, we moved to Dinner (Tea – whatever you call it). Then at least we could throw her in the bath and put her in her PJ’s straight after. We started just offering puree’d food, then I would add in some very soft veg as finger food (so that they can squish it between their fingers) and we’re just working on making it chunkier as time goes on.
After a couple of weeks we brought in breakfast and then lunch (my most dreaded) came a few weeks after that. I really didn’t want to introduce lunch for ages because it felt like such a burden. As I mentioned before the mess is just something else. Then I thought about being anywhere other than at home was going to be impossible. How easy is it just to feed them milk?? But guess what…now we’re in Lockdown 2.0 we no longer have that problem! Lunch is now probably the easiest because we do mainly finger foods so she keeps herself occupied for a good while and I can potter around her (whilst obviously watching every mouthful).
The next issue was milk. There’s so much conflicting information out there… ‘milk first so they are still getting all they need from that before they eat’ or, ‘milk afterwards so they are hungry for the food’…how about milk feeds stay the same AND she eats three meals a day…god knows if that’s normal but that’s where we got to. So we’re working on that. By the time she weaned I was breastfeeding her twice a day (morning and afternoon) and she was having formula twice a day (lunchtime and bedtime). This carried on for quite a while and she’s only recently started fussing at the afternoon feed so we’ve cut that out and now just trying to reschedule her day around that to make sure she doesn’t get too hungry. They say they will tell you but I genuinely think she would just eat/have milk as much and as often as you gave it her so that’s not helpful. Other conflicting advice is ‘food is just fun until one’ vs ‘babies need vital vitamins from food after six months’ ?? What the ?! Who actually knows?!
We (like with most things) have just taken a ‘bit of everything approach’. We try to make her things that we’re having as much as possible, as, well its just easier. We tend to just take her portion out before we add things like salt, too much spice or anything with a lot of sugar (Thai ingredients *rolls eyes*). But if not, we’ve found the ready made food pouches really handy and I’m not being funny but she’ll be lucky if I don’t eat her pasta bolognese ones for her soon as they smell so nice. We haven’t really gone with solely spoon feeding or baby led weaning (to be honest i don’t actually get how you can solely do just one), we do a bit of both. Spoon feeding is great for when you’re in a bit of a hurry or you know they are really hungry as you can control what they eat to an extent…but also offering finger foods helps them develop a good pincer grip and they can have a play around with different textures and shapes.
It’s so hard to know what to do. There’s really no right or wrong which I found really difficult because I’d rather someone just tell me what to do and when. There is literally SO much conflicting information to wade through and I wish I had the answers but I don’t. This is just what we did after many a night frantically googling/reading books and it seems to have gone alright so far…
I didn’t give this enough thought before I gave birth. To be honest I almost laughed at the thought of going to a class or people being so passionate about it… how wrong I was. I just used to think ‘I’ll see how it goes, if I can do it great, if not I’ll just use formula…’ HA! Sorry to those people, I’m now with you!
I had Marlie at the beginning of March 2020. The week before the global coronavirus pandemic saw the U.K. go into a national lockdown. Ya know, normal stuff and just what a first time mum trying to breastfeed needs😳. (Actually joking aside, it probably was!)
Luckily she latched on straight away and fed for a good 20 minutes (at minutes old – I came to learn that said a lot about the type of baby she would be – hungry!), I even had to take her off because my mum and dad arrived. That night and the following day she fed great, although thinking about it now, the following few nights she didn’t sleep very well and it was probably because she was hungry. If ever in doubt with a breastfed baby – feed them! I learnt that babies use breastfeeding not only for food, but for thirst, comfort and to soothe themselves and to help them sleep. Hence why particularly in the first few weeks you feel like they are constantly on you. (Don’t worry I can confirm with even the worlds hungriest baby it does ease off). The cluster feeding can feel constant, I ended up listening to podcasts or watching TV series’ whilst she fed which kept me occupied and she was done usually before the end of one episode – it definitely helped get me through the first weeks.
Another tip I learned was that often babies fall asleep before they are actually finished feeding, which meant you’d put them down and they’d be awake again a short while later. To combat this I would feed until she fell asleep on me, then change her, (have a nappy caddy in the bedroom at the ready!) which would wake her back up, then feed again. This usually meant she would go for a longer period of time before the next feed, and eventually for us led to her sleeping through. I also let her use her hands to self soothe, when they wake in the night you immediately think it’s hunger, but actually it might not be (although giving them the boob usually solves whatever it is!). I noticed after a few nights running, she wasn’t waking up crying, but more at frustration because she couldn’t get to her hands. I stopped covering them over (filed her nails right down!) and then she could get to her hand, which helped her settle herself back to sleep. This is definitely what helped her sleep through from an early age (Understanding every baby is different, that might not work for some, they may need other settling techniques, or they may be waking due to hunger, it’s all about trying to understand your baby).
Also, try and feed from both boobs. You can’t over feed a breast fed baby. If they will take it, they need it. I found in the first few weeks she would only have it from one, but now every feed she needs both. You usually find your supply is better in one boob too, but keep feeding off both to try and keep it up!
Anyway, after a couple of days my milk came in (I thought it already had because she was feeding so often but, again HA, you KNOW when it comes in). I woke up one morning in agony feeling like they were going to explode (sorry, but true!). I also, because I hadn’t done ANY research, had leaked milk everywhere because I wasn’t wearing breast pads. I had no idea about expressing or sterilising bottles. I just thought I would be able to wing it. Someone once tried to talk to me about breastfeeding and advised me of a group to go to and I just thought she was being pushy about breastfeeding, she wasn’t at all and I now totally agree. Oh how I wished I’d listened. So first piece of advice – do your research. Buy breast pads and use them (luckily I had some in but just didn’t think I’d need them…!), go to an antenatal class on breastfeeding or do your research online or by speaking to others. Check the instructions of how to use, wash and sterilise your pump and your steriliser machine or look up how to sterilise properly if you don’t have a machine.
So, this happened and around the same time my nipples started to hurt. I mean really hurt. I would dread her crying because it meant it was time to feed again and the pain was bad. Even when the latch was good it still hurt. Before I gave birth, and even still now, I have nothing against formula (I sometimes add some in depending on the day and how hungry she appears but I’ll talk about that later) but when I would toy with giving up breastfeeding, something about me didn’t want to. As I’ve said, Marlie was born in the middle of a global pandemic, a virus no-one knew much about, and initially people were panic buying everything – including formula. I think that’s one of the main reasons I kept going – which I’m now so glad about. I wanted to make sure she was as protected as possible against this unknown virus and she would always be fed because she was getting milk from me. Unfortunately, that also meant I couldn’t go to a support group when it got tough. I couldn’t have anyone come and show/help me. (Fortunately, we were pre lockdown in Marlies first week so I did get some midwife support, throwing in that one of my best friends is also a midwife which helped a lot!). Luckily I came across @blossomantenatal and did one of their free online classes, it gave me such reassurance and support and I was so thankful.
So, anyway, everything about my boobs hurt which was not good. I hadn’t been using nipple cream at all (tip 2 BUY and USE lots of nipple cream!) and I wasn’t prepared for my milk coming in. I took a day off feeding and expressed for 24 hours which saved my nipples! I lathered on the cream and in a couple of days the pain had pretty much gone.
I then started to wonder about expressing and breastfeeding, people I saw on Instagram seemed to be doing it – what was I missing? The thought of being on a pump for 20-30 minutes, to then breastfeed for up to an hour, to then start the cycle again. I researched for hours about the best way to do it, but, due to the previously mentioned global pandemic I had no where to go so I didn’t see the point in expressing when I could feed her. I could have then expressed as well to build up a supply, but I didn’t see the point in that either at the time. (Even though we had all the time and nowhere to go – it felt like we already didn’t have a moment spare). I also wasn’t planning on breastfeeding for long… I do wish I had known more about this and established a good routine early on so that I did have additional supplies but hey ho. I also don’t have anything against giving her formula, so I thought if she needed it, she could have it.
Now, when I remember (so mainly just first thing in a morning) I use the haakaa silicone breast pump – which catches milk from the boob you’re not feeding from- to build a bit of extra milk to keep in the fridge mainly if I want a drink at a weekend (of alcohol – not the milk hahaha).
So formula, I have nothing against it, and I went into this with the opinion that if I couldn’t breast feed she would just have formula – fine by me. I agonised at the start over whether to just give up breast feeding and switch to formula and I’m so glad I never (again, this is just from my personal experience). I found it really really tough at the beginning and that was with her actually being good at it! From early on, we did introduce some formula because I knew with our lifestyle it was going to be pretty impossible for me to have a good supply of expressed milk/breastfeed her exclusively. She did get slightly constipated at first but that went after a few days. Luckily, she’s not (yet) had a problem going from nipple to bottle either so it’s been great. She will have a bottle of formula as her last feed before bed. Sometimes she will need a top up from me if she’s extra hungry. As long as I can, I will just breastfeed and there will be some occasions where I can’t, and that’s fine. I have a moral battle in my head as I would rather her have breast milk if she needs a replacement feed for any reason, but I don’t know why. I think I know if I go a couple of days giving her more formula my milk supply will decrease and I’m not quite ready for that. Again, I don’t know why.
I genuinely believe that I feel the oxytocin’s when I feed. It has probably unknowingly helped me stay positive throughout this pandemic. It’s like a rush of happiness (almost like Adrenalin?) Strange – but lovely – and it’s probably why I find the thought of giving up difficult. There’s just a bond and connection there and I now really enjoy breastfeeding (I NEVER thought I’d be saying this in the first few weeks!!)
So, after writing that first section, I have now started trying to build up a supply of expressed milk. I invested in a new pump (Medela swing maxi), the feeding bra and the storage bags to make it as easy as possible. I didn’t research a pump before I gave birth and just bought a Tommee Tippee one as I’d bought those bottles and the prep machine etc. So tip 3 – do your research again! I honestly didn’t know what I was looking for beforehand either, so it really was just plucking it out of thin air. I didn’t realise how many there was to choose from! The Tommee Tippee one was OK but not the best if you are wanting to express regularly. I started by expressing last thing at night as that was when she had a bottle feed so it meant I wasn’t missing another feed and it emptied my milk before the night time. At the minute I’m only getting enough to add in one expressed feed a day which is useful now we can start going out places. I’m hoping that she knows night from day well enough to not necessarily need the formula last thing – which gives us potentially two feeds a day where I don’t have to breast feed. I have managed to get 4oz in the freezer today (yey!) and hoping I can get a good supply for times it’s needed (e.g. if I was to have a night out).
Looking back now, I should have started this as soon as possible. I’ve seen people using the Haakaa pump to build up a bit of a supply in the first few weeks (tip 4!) and then go on to express once a day to build on that. I think in the first few weeks the feeding is so irregular and feels constant, to add expressing into the mix can feel like too much of a burden. Once you’re in a ‘routine’ (I say this loosely as I’ve yet to be able to get in anything that resembles an actual routine whilst breast feeding), probably at around six weeks, you could try adding in one session, or more if you like, to express. I did try doing it after every feed one day – which was far too much and it felt like Marlie was constantly hungry – probably because she wasn’t getting enough milk from me? I don’t know, but I won’t be trying that again. I believe the advice is to try and exclusively breast feed for the first six weeks so using the Haakaa would really help, even if you’re not getting much each time. I do know people who have started earlier so speak to your midwife or a lactation consultant if you feel like you need too.
So, yeah, I’ve gone from a laid back ‘I’ll try it but I’m not bothered if it doesn’t work’ mind frame to a fully fledged breast feeding supporter. Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t want too or can’t breast feed then I’m for that to – pro choice, fed is DEFINITELY best. I’ve now turned into a lazy feeder and breast feeding became so easy! It starts off being so difficult and time consuming, perseverance is key. But so is your physical and mental health. If it’s not working for you and your family don’t beat yourself up, ever. Everyone’s story is different, everyone’s is just doing the best job they can. I’ve watched people struggle with latching, tongue ties, mastitis, having to pump every feed because their baby wouldn’t accept breast feeding , having to switch to formula completely because that’s what is working best for them and their family. There’s a story for everyone and everything. You are never alone, use your support network, and build one of you can’t. I took a lot of advice from accounts I found on Instagram, but again remember everyone is different. There’s midwives, lactation consultants, breastfeeding specialists – all at your fingertips if you need.
Do your research, go to antenatal classes or find some online advice, research breast pumps and learn how to sterilise
Buy and use nipple cream, before you even give birth!
During night feeds, if your baby falls asleep whilst feeding, change their nappy to wake them and carry on feeding
Use the Haakaa pump in the first few weeks to build up a supply
After a few weeks, when your baby is waking in the night, check it’s definitely hunger. I noticed Marlie was just getting frustrated as she could self soothe using her hands. Once we set them free she started sleeping through (note every baby is different and this won’t work for all).
Accounts I found useful on Instagram;
Also, these accounts had babies at a similar time to me so I followed their journeys and their support and advice for it all…
I also very frequently visit the NHS website for advice (how long can I store milk, how do I store milk, what do I need to sterilise…)
I now plan on breast feeding as long as I can. We’re planning on weaning at six months but obviously she will still need milk as part of that so I’ll see how it goes and use my own advice of when it’s no longer working for us we have options and support to find out what does work.
I’ll finish by saying, I hope this doesn’t sound preach-y in any way. It’s just what worked for me, and I wish I’d had some real life advice beforehand.