Breastfeeding vs bottle feeding

breastfeeding vs bottle feeding

Before baby arrived, I was committed to breastfeeding. After the slightly traumatic birth, we weren’t able to start immediately – I actually have no idea when I first fed her. But I definitely tried that first evening, and every day after.

I thought it went fairly well at first. No pain, although I could tell my milk hadn’t really come in. And then I had a visit from the community midwife when she was five (I think!) days old.

It was a Saturday and I’d not met this midwife before. My husband was having a nap upstairs (we were doing shifts of sleeping at this point) and I was all hormonal and easily worried. The midwife weighed her, told me breastfeeding wasn’t working well, maybe I didn’t have milk, her latch wasn’t good, and I needed to give her formula after every feed. Why had I not gone to breastfeeding classes before the birth, she asked. Lots of mums do, the ones who are prepared for this. Then she left.

I cried. A lot.

She could have phrased it more sensitively. It’s typical for there to be a delay in milk coming in after a long, traumatic and medicated birth, but she didn’t tell me this.

Fortunately, I’m a reader. I research like mad. I got sad and upset, sure, but I also got informed. And I was determined to make this work.

So we got out our emergency formula and decided that we would supplement, but maybe only after every other feed. And we would continue breastfeeding.

My milk eventually came in on about day eight, I think. I woke in the night with intensely painful, rock-hard breasts, and had to pump before baby could even latch on. Once I had, it was like she was born knowing how to latch on.

She’s four weeks old today and weighs 7lb. By three weeks she was over her birth weight. We give 200ml of formula a day, at night. The rest of what she gets is exclusively breastmilk. A few weeks ago, I never would have thought we’d be doing this. I’d say we have a successful breastfeeding relationship, even if technically what we’re doing is combination feeding.

Reasons I’m breastfeeding

  • There are the myriad benefits to me and to her, including statistically lowering her risk of developing asthma and some allergies. My dad is allergic to a lot of things and really suffered with asthma when younger. If I can prevent my daughter from going through that, I’d try a lot of things!
  • It’s so much cheaper. Sure, I bought a breastpump (about £30 on Amazon – it works just fine and I didn’t want to shell out for something incredibly expensive until I knew if it worked!) and I have some nursing bras, but that’s a total expenditure of probably £70. While I’m on maternity leave, we’re not exactly flush with the cash, so we’re looking to save money where we can!
  • It’s quick. Rather than having to go to the kitchen and sort out bottles, all I need to do is pop my bra open and aim a nipple at her mouth. The less time baby is crying, the better!
  • It’s also less labour-intensive. No need to wash or sterilise bottles! Fewer trips to the supermarket! These are good things, particularly in these early days. Also, formula makes her spit up more, so there’s less washing when we’re breastfeeding more.
  • I like that it’s something only I can do for her. Maybe that’s selfish or possessive, I don’t know. But anyone can change her nappy or sing to her or give her a bottle. And after so long where I did everything for her, I kind of miss that special bond. So it’s nice to have something that’s just Mummy-and-baby territory.

Reasons we’re also bottle feeding

  • Despite that, sometimes I need a break! On Monday night, she fed for four hours. We did not have a break. My husband had gone out with some friends for the first time since she was born and she fed the entire time. When he came back, I was more than happy to say, “Right, pop some formula into a bottle and you have a go.
  • Breastfeeding can be kind of painful. I don’t have the bleeding nipples that I’ve read about (although it’s still early days!), but it’s still an adjustment. Sometimes I just can’t face the thought of her latching on again.
  • When she wasn’t gaining weight as fast as we’d have liked, it was great to know that despite not knowing exactly how much breastmilk she was getting, she was definitely getting at least X amount of formula. It wasn’t very much in the early days (30 or 40ml at a go) but now she can down 150-200ml before bed! She is a hungry little baby!
  • It’s nice for my husband to get to see those big milk-drunk eyes. She does a special smile that says, “I want food now, please.” I love it, and I’m glad that he gets to see it too.

I do honestly believe that “breast is best”. But more than that, I believe that fed is best. I would never let my baby go hungry just because I like the idea of breastfeeding. Feeding is a wonderful bonding time for us all, whether it’s breast or bottle. And I’m so glad that she’s getting heavier. I can’t believe four weeks have already passed, and my little baby is so much bigger!

40 before 40 – some goals

40 before 40

As I posted a little while ago, I turned 30 recently. I felt a little wobbly about it at the time but I’m over that now! I’m moving on and thinking about 40 before 40. That is, 40 things I’d like to achieve or do in the next ten years, before I turn 40.

I made a similar list for myself (30 before 30) around when I turned 29. However, then I got pregnant and that put paid to quite a few of them! (Mow the lawn every week this summer? Do the splits? No chance. Although quite an amusing image!)

To make this list seem less daunting, and to help me think it through, I’m breaking it down into several categories. There’s a real mix in here of big goals, small activities that just sound fun, things that I’ve nearly done already (have a baby!), and things that are so nebulous I don’t necessarily know how they’ll look when I do achieve them (career satisfaction?).

40 before 40 - my goals

40 before 40: Family and friends

  1. Have a baby!
  2. Maintain a good relationship with my husband, furry children and human child
  3. Find a church community that we are happy with
  4. See my parents at least three times a month
  5. Make some more local friends
  6. Visit far-flung friends more often, or encourage them to visit us
  7. Host a big Christmas or other family gathering
  8. Consistently take family photos
  9. Be proud of my home, and open it to visitors regularly
  10. Encourage our daughter to follow her passions, as well as being a respectful and loving person

40 before 40: Career and finances

  1. Have a job that fulfils me and brings me career satisfaction
  2. Achieve a salary that is enough to live well on, without also relying on my husband’s salary
  3. Make money consistently on the side, possibly passively?
  4. Have an emergency fund that eases my anxiety
  5. Make a will
  6. Donate money consistently to charities I believe in
  7. Have a defined budget for various expense categories, but don’t beat myself up for the occasional frivolous expense
  8. Pay off student loans completely
  9. Overpay on the mortgage when possible and if it makes financial sense
  10. Negotiate bills when possible

40 before 40: Health

  1. Feel positive about my daughter’s birth
  2. Be fully vegetarian – including no occasional fish
  3. Keep consistently on top of my mental health
  4. Get back into exercising regularly
  5. Take a month off from fast food each year
  6. Make more of my own cosmetics and lotions and potions
  7. Get a bike and ride it with the family
  8. Meditate
  9. Model positive eating habits for my daughter
  10. Feel good about my post-baby body

40 before 40: Personal goals – just for fun!

  1. Write a novel or a short story
  2. Support rabbit rescue in some way
  3. Get back into playing the piano
  4. Get back into playing the flute
  5. Take the family to Disneyland Paris, Legoland or somewhere similar
  6. See a show (musical, ballet, concert, play, comedian, etc.) at least once a year
  7. Read at least 25 books a year
  8. See more Grands Prix with my dad
  9. Try ice-skating
  10. See a meteor shower or a falling star

So, I’ve got just under 10 years to get them all completed. Do you think I’ll make it? Do you have your own 40 before 40? (or 30 before 30, 50 before 50, etc?) What are they?

Barbara the rescue rabbit

Barbara deals with GI stasis

I’ve written about how we came to adopt Ned and Gingee, our first two bunnies, before. And Barbara, our rescue rabbit, has her own regular section on this blog! But I’ve never really talked about how she came to live with us, and her story.

The first thing about Barbara is that we don’t know too much about her history. We know that she is the softest of all three of our rabbits, that she loves apples more than anything, that after she’s had her claws clipped she needs to nibble your nails in return… but we don’t know how old she is. It’s strange to have a family member that we love so much and yet so know so little about her.

We first met Barbara in November 2016. Ned and Gingee had lived with us for over a year by that point. They fought all the time so lived separately – Ned upstairs and Gingee downstairs. We’d pretty much given up hope of bonding them.

Barbara was living at Pets at Home, with Support Adoption for Pets. I noticed her a few times when I went to buy hay or food. She had a sign up next to her cage saying something like:

Barbara the rescue rabbit

My name is Barbara.

I am a rabbit.

I have been in this store since March so the charity is trying to find me a loving home.

Who calls a bunny Barbara?! What kind of name is that for a rabbit? (It turns out it’s very good marketing! It got her noticed.)

She was this massive (compared to the boys), grumpy, sleepy floof. Easily noticeable.

But I absolutely did not want a third rabbit. We had Ned and Gingee and they needed a room each and were clearly never going to bond. We were at our limit.

So I kept on seeing her, hoping someone would adopt her, and going home again. I wanted her to have a home, but I didn’t really see that it needed to be our home.

I mentioned her to my husband, just in a passing text. “You’ll never guess the name of this rabbit that’s up for adoption!”

And, because he knows me probably better than I know myself, came back immediately. “Do we want her?”

… Um. I don’t know. I hadn’t really considered adopting her as a serious possibility until that very moment. Sitting in my office, I pushed my chair back from the desk and thought for a moment. “We’ll talk about her later,” I replied, eventually. “We’d need to find out more about her.”

So that evening, we sat down to talk about Barbara. What would we need to know? What should we take into consideration before making the decision whether to adopt her or not?

  • Could she live with other rabbits? Was she likely to bond with anyone else?
  • How old is she?
  • What was her health like? We already had one special needs bunny in Ned – in one way, that meant we knew what to do and support a frail rescue rabbit, but in another, it meant that we were already stretched fairly thin.
  • Why had she been there so long? Why did no one want this poor girl? Nearly nine months is a long time for a beautiful bunny to wait for a new home.

We decided that I’d go into the shop tomorrow and ask the questions. Find out a bit more about her, and then we’d make a decision.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so nervous as when I went in to talk to someone about her. Some time in the last few days, my feelings about her had completely changed and I was suddenly petrified that she’d have been adopted. “That’s okay,” I tried to reassure myself. “I just want her to have a home. It doesn’t have to be with us.” I was lying to myself. Suddenly I wanted to get to know this big fluffy bunny much better.

I needn’t have worried. She was still there. Still big and fluffy and grumpy. And the staff were thrilled that we were asking about her.

Here’s what we knew:

  • They wanted her to have other rabbits for company. So far, she hadn’t got on well with any, but they thought that she’d do well with a boy who might be a bit compliant as she seemed rather bossy. (Maybe Ned, I suggested.) They’d tried to bond her with a few, but no luck.
  • They thought she was about three years old, maybe a bit more.
  • She was fairly healthy by then. However, when she’d come to them, she’d been neglected and abandoned. Her claws were long. She walked on her heels so had sore hocks. She was so thin you could see all her ribs. She’d never gone to the vet. Her teeth were bad and she had to have them filed down. She hadn’t been spayed so had cysts. She was in pain and was very aggressive. Her tear ducts leaked (like Ned!). The charity had paid for her vet treatment and she was now the picture of health.
  • She hadn’t been eligible for adoption the whole time as she’d been so sick. Now that she was, they wanted to make sure she went to a home where her new humans knew about caring for special rabbits.

Well, it wasn’t quite what we’d expected, but we certainly knew we could care for her. We were already taking care of Ned’s bad eyes, and wiping a few more bunny eyes would be easy enough.

My heart was breaking for this poor girl who had had such a rough time, when our boys had everything they wanted. How could we not pursue this further?

They suggested bringing Ned and Gingee in for a date to see if everyone got on. So, that weekend, the boys hopped into their cases and we drove over to properly meet Barbara for the first time!

Barbara meets Ned!

I won’t say it was all plain sailing. We didn’t all bond instantly. It took until April before all three rabbits were living happily together in one room, and Barbara came home on 12th December.

We’ve had some health problems, too. At her first vet visit, they noticed her teeth needed filing again, and we learnt that she’s not good with anaesthetic. She takes a very long time to wake up.

She developed some arthritis in her elbow. With medication, all of the problems related to this have cleared up, but we worried for a while that she might need one leg amputating.

We think she may actually be older than three. Eight? Maybe younger? Her bone density is very low, which is either a sign of being an old lady or due to malnutrition in earlier life. We hope she’s younger than eight as we want to have a long time with her! Now that she enjoys life, we want her to have a long one.

Barbara moved in with us on the day that a dear friend of mine passed away, and I had a difficult time adjusting. She loved my husband from the start, I think, but she and I didn’t bond immediately. After how easy it had been for me to bond with the boys, I felt awful. She was so skittish and not as playful as the boys, and it was a strange transition for us all.

But from the time I found out I was pregnant, Barbara became incredibly affectionate towards me. We spent a lot of time cuddling on my bed, just me and her. She groomed me and I stroked her and we’d fall asleep together. My husband would take her back to her room once I’d dozed off. (Yay for first trimester exhaustion!)

And the more confident she got, the more she and I bonded. I can honestly say that we’re very close now. She’s one of my favourite people in the world! How can I help it? She’s grumpy, demanding, so intelligent, very sassy, and knows what she wants. She’s just fabulous!

Look at my beautiful girl. That confident face! She has come such a long way.

Barbara the rescue rabbit

The health visitor – what to expect?

health visitor

I know that health visitor systems vary by area. But in the run up to our first visit, I was eagerly looking for information on what might happen, so I thought I’d share this.

We’re at 37 weeks pregnant right now. Baby is head down and 3/5 engaged – yes, that means I’m waddling delightfully.

37 weeks, in our area, is also where you get your first health visitor meeting. The midwife lets the health visitor know that you’re expecting (she did ask my permission for this – I’m not sure if I could have declined) and then the wheels are in motion.

In some areas, I know that you don’t meet your health visitor until you’re discharged from the midwife. That’s usually when baby is a couple of weeks old. That’s when we officially switch to being under their care too, but they like to meet with mums (and dads!) to be before the baby is born. That way, it’s not a stranger coming round to peer at your newborn and ask loads of questions.

Ann, our health visitor, wrote to us at about 35 weeks, and we had our first meeting with her on Tuesday. I was 37 weeks on the dot – what good timekeeping!

How did we prepare for the health visitor?

Before she came round, I admit I was a bit nervous. You hear some horror stories, don’t you? People peering into your fridge and noticing that you’ve got some out-of-date grapes, asking all kinds of questions about your relationship and your childhood, judging your housekeeping…

I was particularly worried about the rabbits, to be honest. Although I’ve had nothing but positive responses from the midwife about having house rabbits, I know that some people still think they’re an oddity. I was worried that she was going to want to see them or judge us based on having them. And I always worry that the house might smell of rabbits – I had some nice autumnal candles burning just in case!

My husband and I did a lot of cleaning in the days before she came round! We literally even pulled the oven out to clean behind it. I think I’m finally being hit by the “nesting” bug right now. It was really good, actually, to have that slight apprehension, as it meant that we had a bit of a “deadline”. We told ourselves that the kitchen/bedroom/study/etc. had to be immaculate by the 17th. And we made it!

I also made sure we had milk, tea and coffee and some nice biscuits. What can I say, food is very important to this preggo!

So the house looked amazing(ish), the fridge was stocked and we were ready.

What happened at the first visit?

It wasn’t a house inspection at all! She didn’t even look behind my oven! Actually, she didn’t even go into the kitchen. She came in, we went into the living room (she didn’t want a drink) and had a nice little chat. That was it!

She asked us a few questions, mostly to check that she had all our details down correctly. What was our phone number, how did we spell our names, what were our dates of birth, that sort of thing. She also asked what we both did for a living, how much maternity leave I’m planning to take, whether we own our house and who lives with us.

Lots of talk about baby, obviously – how has pregnancy been so far, which hospital are we hoping to deliver at, was baby planned, etc. Do we have family or a support network locally, and do we have friends with children? Basically, is this the first time we’ve ever seen a baby and are we going to be completely on our own?

We talked about our hopes to breastfeed, and she told us about the breastfeeding support that’s on offer in our area – reassuring to know about!

It was just a really nice visit. I didn’t learn anything new, really, but it was good to meet her, discover I liked her, and know that we’re on the right track with everything. I didn’t feel judged at all.

What happens next?

Well, I get to go away and have a baby! Baby and I will stay under the midwife’s care for the first 11-15 days or so, and then we’ll be discharged to the health visitor. She’ll give us a call and arrange a time to come round that works for all of us.

Apparently the first post-baby meeting is quite a long one, with lots of paperwork and filling in baby’s red book.

From then on, we’ll see her for well baby clinics, weigh ins, etc. She’ll be a point of contact until baby is old enough to go to school. I can’t think that far ahead yet!

So that’s our happy experience so far. What have your health visitor experiences been like?

Happy gotcha day, Ned and Gingee!

adopting rabbits - gotcha day

Today is two years exactly since Ned and Gingee’s “gotcha day”! In other words, it’s two years since we adopted them and they came home to live with us.

Dear Ned and Gingee,

It’s hard to believe, in a way, how fast these two years have gone. It feels like you’ve been part of our family forever. But it also feels like only yesterday that I felt so apprehensive as I waited for a response to find out if you’d be able to come and live with us. It’s funny how time works like that!

I can honestly say that you’ve changed our lives for the better. You made us a family, rather than just a couple.

Driving home with you in the car for the first time felt much how I imagine it will be when we bring your human sibling home in a few weeks. I knew everything had changed, but I had no comprehension of just how much. We didn’t know quite what we were doing at first, but the four (now five, soon to be six) of us have figured it out together.

Ned, you’ve caused us so much worry that it’s unbelievable. So many times we’ve thought we might lose you, but you keep on persevering, and now you’re so strong.

You are an inspiration to me, little man. How can you have gone through so much pain and discomfort and come out the other end still so happy and trusting? The last time you had your vaccinations, you were purring as the vet was putting the needle in you!

You’re an unusual little bunny. You love car rides, being brushed with a wet comb, all kinds of things that rabbits aren’t supposed to. Maybe you’re part kitten or puppy. You’ve still got an adorable little baby face, and I know that it causes problems for your health, but I think you are one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen.

You’re much tinier than you should be, but your intense personality more than makes up for it. We know you can’t hear us very well, but we also know that you know how much we love you.

I love how you climb up onto my lap when I’m feeling sad, and how you enjoy playing with our hands. You’re the tiniest, greediest little thing, and I know that’s probably my fault because I spoil you. I just love to see you so excited!

You are such a good brother to Barbara, and it’s so nice to see you take care of her.

I didn’t know it was possible to love anyone so much until you came into my life.

Gingee, you are the bravest and cleverest rabbit in the world. You know that you’re the best therapy bunny anyone could ever want, don’t you?

You keep us going when we’re feeling down, and I know you understand emotions far more than anyone could believe. It doesn’t even have to be us. I see your concern for TV characters dealing with depression. I’ve seen you try to get to them to help them. (And I think it’s a good thing we’ve cut back on your TV viewing a bit!)

You’re definitely the one in charge, despite what Barbara might think. You’re so good at trying to take care of her and Ned, and I’m so proud of you for persisting in grooming their eyes when they need it.

I can’t believe how clever you are. You’ve eaten more cables than I can count, broken out of so many cages, and understand so many words. You’ve even learnt to train Ned – although we really don’t mind if he goes on the stairs!

I know you love me, Gingee, even if your daddy is your favourite person in the whole world.

I’m so pleased that the two of you get on again. Seeing you interact is one of my favourite things in the world, because for so long I thought you’d hate each other forever. I know you didn’t enjoy us persevering and repeatedly trying to bond you, but I think you’re happy about it now, aren’t you? You love cuddling each other these days!

I can’t believe it’s been two years since your gotcha day, and I can’t wait to have many more years of adventures with you both.

Love from your human mum xxx