So you want to breastfeed…?

so you want to breastfeed

I’ve written before about my decision to breastfeed and our journey with feeding.

I’m ever so lucky when it comes to breastfeeding. All of my friends with small children breastfeed, and my mum fed me for nearly a year. They’re all happy to give advice, but aren’t overbearing with it – the best kind!

They told me lots about breastfeeding before I started. I didn’t really think there would be any surprises. Turns out I was wrong!

Some things you only learn when you breastfeed…

No matter how comfortable your nursing bra is, there are times you will hate it. Mine is this lovely stretchy thing, but right now I’m just wearing a vest with a button down shirt over it because I cannot cope with the fact that it keeps on riding up in the back. I don’t even know if it actually is riding up or not. But when you wear something for 23 and a half hours a day (I’m being generous and giving myself a half hour window for showering!), you start to go crazy.

It is possible to be too engorged for baby to be able to feed.

You might love feeding and love spending time with baby but sometimes just be absolutely desperate to hand her over to someone else and beg them to give her a bottle of formula.

Half of your photos of baby will be from the top down, and will include at least one of your nipples.

Feeding is a fabulous excuse to get out of being polite and spending time with people. We’ve obviously had quite a few visitors lately, and I’ve tried to make it a real priority to only surround myself with people I’m happy to feed around. Basically, that’s my husband and my parents. But there are some visitors I’ve needed a break from, and it’s been great, because I could hide in our bedroom to “feed the baby” every so often!

You may find yourself saying things like, “No, you can’t latch onto my elbow.”

Nipples are surprisingly stretchy. If you sneeze or baby decides to have a look around while feeding, you’ll find out just how stretchy. And it can hurt!

Also, your nipples somehow get longer. That’s odd. They’re also going to feel really visible, even through breast pads.

Breast pads are allegedly one size fits all. Yeah, they’re not. Also, it’s possible to leak right through them.

You will develop a fabulous taste in weird daytime or overnight TV. Did you know that UKTV Drama shows old episodes of The Bill from 1998?

There will be days you leak and get drooled on so much that you’ll be surprised your bras don’t develop mildew. Also, milk can make the inside of the bra stiff and scratchy. And painful.

Breast pads are like socks. You put an even number in the wash and an odd number comes out. How? I have no idea.

It’s possible for someone without teeth to still give a very good impression of biting!

Baby will try and latch on to your non-lactating partner. This amuses me so I try and encourage it. She’s not had any luck with him yet, but maybe one day!

The look your baby gives you just before a feed is the best thing in the world.

The look from baby just before a breastfeed

Unless it’s the look you get just after. Milk drunk is a rather lovely thing.

Milk drunk baby!

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!

Meeting the new baby #barbarablogs

Barbara Rabbit

Hello, friends. It’s been a while – life has been hectic in our house! We’ve had a new baby, for one thing. And I was sick before that. But it’s time for me to come back and enlighten you with Barbara Rabbit’s pearls of wisdom!  You can read some of my older posts here.

So we have a new baby. I say we, she obviously belongs to my human parents. But she sort of belongs to all of us because she lives here, and so do we. So we all get to hear her crying and play with her.

our new baby

She was born two weeks ago. We knew there was going to be a baby as our parents had been preparing us for a long time. They even bought us some little plastic human babies to show us what she might look like! (She looked nothing like them. It would be like showing someone a tiny Netherland dwarf to prepare them for meeting a Flemish giant.)

We could tell she was about to be born when our parents came to see us in the night. Our daddy gave us loads of extra hay and back up water bottles (I counted six! I tested them all, because I love water bottles!) and let us all out into our room together. Usually at night we had to go into our own houses, but he said that we might like the company.

Our mum wasn’t so talkative. She was mostly sitting like a rabbit, on all fours, making strange sounds. Now I know a bit about having litters, but this looked rather odd and it was a bit scary to me. Gingee was brave and went and nuzzled up at her belly, though.

And then they went away. They were gone for a really, really long time. Our daddy came back after a bit to give us some more food and water and play with us, but Mummy still wasn’t back. He took a video of us to send to Mummy, though.

They both came back eventually, though. And when they did, they had the small human with them!

She’s bigger than a baby rabbit, and even has more hair than one. The top of her head is really furry and I like to nuzzle at it. She’s smaller than all of us full grown rabbits, though. Here she is with Ned:

Ned the rabbit with the new baby

We like seeing her. Generally our parents bring her to visit two or three times a day. She sits with us while we eat, usually, and then we nuzzle at her sometimes.

She doesn’t play very much yet, which is a bit disappointing. I hoped she’d be able to do a bit more, but sometimes Daddy can make her stroke me which is nice. Although she touched my foot yesterday and I did not like that. I flicked my feet at her but she didn’t seem to understand what it meant. That’s alright, she’s only small and there’s still time for her to learn!

I like that she’s often wearing lovely soft clothes – softer than either of our parents’ clothes. It’s really nice to nuzzle up against. I particularly like chinning her feet.

She’s not as loud as I thought she might be! And when she is loud, our parents quickly take her into a different room or give her some milk, so it doesn’t bother us too much.

Our mum wouldn’t sit on the floor with us for a few days. That was sad, as I like playing with her on the floor. But she’s getting better at it again now! I have heard that birth is particularly hard for humans, so I suppose this is an after-effect of that, a bit like when I had my dental surgery and my mouth hurt for a few days.

Gingee is being particularly vigilant, and patrolling downstairs a lot. I asked him about it, and he explained that it’s because we have a new member of our group now, so he needs to keep an eye out. He still thinks he’s in charge!

Ned just wants her to become a bit more interactive! He likes more active play, and she doesn’t do that yet.

All in all, we feel quite good about this new arrival.

Are there any other rabbits out there with human babies? What do you think of yours?

We had a baby! Our long birth story

Recovery from childbirth

We had our baby! She arrived safely the day after her due date. It’s not necessarily a pretty birth story, as pretty much nothing went as we would have liked it, but our baby girl is here and lovely and we are so happy.

If you’re currently pregnant and feeling anxious about the idea of childbirth, know that I was so anxious going into this labour. I was terrified, actually. But despite everything I’ve written in this birth story, I still feel really positive about how it all went.

Our hospital team supported us every step of the way. We are so grateful to them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it was wonderful at the same time, if that makes sense.

Our ideal birth story

We had wanted a quiet, serene birth with no pain medication, just a water birth and gentle breathing. Limited monitoring. We wanted delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin.

Didn’t get any of that. Two epidurals, constant monitoring, lots of howling, immediate cord cutting. Episiotomy.

But what we wanted more than anything was healthy baby and mum. We wanted to feel listened to and supported. And we got all of that. We are so happy and feel so lucky.

Birth story: short version

I started having regular contractions on Night One. We went into hospital on Morning Two. My water broke, baby’s heart rate only stayed stable in one exact position, constant monitoring, back labour, gas and air is useless, one failed epidural, one successful one, I started running a fever, meconium everywhere, three hours of pushing, episiotomy, Baby was born on Morning Three – that’s 38 hours later, if you’re counting.

Birth story: long version

About seven o’clock, we realised I was having to pace around the living room to cope with the tightening feelings. So after we’d eaten I went for a nice long bath to see if that quietened everything down or started it up properly. By 9pm it was clear something was definitely going to be happening!

We called the hospital around 4am. Contractions were every 3-4 minutes apart. As we live so close they suggested we wait until they were closer and longer. Fine by us, so we held on until about 6am when they were every two minutes and lasting for nearly a minute each.

At our first check, I was only 1cm dilated but they kept us in as I have a heart murmur and Baby had some decelerations on the monitor – we thought these were probably due to my movements, but no one could be quite sure. Then my waters broke anyway at 8.30 so we were there for the duration!

By about midday I was really struggling with the contractions, especially as I kept on having to lie down for monitoring. We tried all the “gentle” methods of pain management and getting things to move along like gas and air, breathing, various aromatherapy techniques, etc. When it was getting on for 1.30pm and I was begging for death, we asked about an epidural. I’ve got quite a fear of needles but by that point I’d have allowed someone to cut my foot off to make the pain stop.

By 2.30 the wonderful anaesthetist had done his work and I was only feeling pressure, not pain. Fantastic! I felt so spaced out and it was wonderful.

Birth story - epidural

I was now lying on my left side constantly as Baby’s heartrate plummeted whenever I moved. But I was able to get some sleep, as was my husband, which was great as we hadn’t slept all the previous night.

I had an amazing button which let me give myself a bolus of epidural every 20 minutes or so. But by about 10.30pm it wasn’t working and I was suddenly back up at a 8 on the pain scale (with 10 being “cut off my foot now, please!”). By the time the on-call anaesthetist was back, I was at a 10 again.

It turned out my epidural had come unsited somehow and needed to be entirely redone. The time it took to take everything out and put it back in and then have the drugs take effect was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to howl so loudly. It felt like an out of body experience. I kept apologising to the staff and my husband when contractions finished because I knew this wasn’t me.

Overnight things got a bit more worrisome because Baby’s heartrate kept going weird. Then I started running a fever and there was some concern that she also had an infection. I was about 7cm dilated by this point so they were able to get a blood sample from her to check she was fine – if not, it would have been an emergency c-section.

As they were doing this, the registrar on call was ever so excited by Baby’s hair. “I can’t wait for you to see how much hair!”

The night went on and on, and by about 5-6am I wasn’t comfortable at all anymore. The epidural was completely gone. But everyone kept pointing out that they couldn’t do anything more as it was back labour and I was now at 10cm. Still on my side, not allowed to move.

It got a bit more scary when suddenly a load of meconium came flooding out. At this point I asked about a c-section. Begged, maybe. Screamed. But Baby was in position and they wanted me to try!

They started me off pushing. It felt like a lot of work at first and after about two hours felt like it was going to kill me! I think I may have begged them to do just that, actually.

Then at the shift change, 7.30, Jackie the midwife came on. We’d seen her a bit the day before, and she was like a sergeant major. She was going to get that baby out!

By 8.08, I’d pushed a bit more, had an episiotomy, and this tiny slippery purple alien was suddenly on my chest. Oh my god.

In all of the pain and the fear, I’d honestly forgotten there was a baby involved. I just kept on repeating, “We had a baby, oh, we had a baby!”

Our hospital was amazing. Even though it was a bit urgent to get her checked out, they still had my husband cut the cord and put her on my chest for a second or two. She was absolutely fine – but tiny – only 6lb4oz despite being born at 40+1.

Our birth story

Everything then went a bit haywire with me. We couldn’t do skin to skin. I spent most of the first day passing out, even after being taken up to the postnatal ward. I don’t actually remember a lot of that first day. My husband did all of the dressing and cuddling and snuggling with her at first. I’ve had to ask him a lot of questions while writing this birth story as well. But I was much better by the end of the day.

We did it!

She’s a delight. She loves feeding and clinging on to thumbs. Hates any kind of having clothing removed and not being cuddled! We also think she’s absolutely gorgeous, although of course I’m a bit biased.

It was a pretty rough experience and I’m certainly not sure I’ll be doing it again, but the hospital staff were all so wonderful and made it bearable. I feel very lucky.

Baby’s privacy – how to manage this blog?

baby's privacy

As the time to give birth gets closer, and as I’m blogging more, I find myself thinking a lot about baby’s privacy. What information, exactly, will we share online?

Baby cannot consent to having pictures posted. She doesn’t understand what it means to have personal details be posted online. As her parents, we have to make these decisions for her. Responsibly.

We are a generation navigating new issues.

I grew up being told never to use your real full name online. Every other person in the world, behind their computer screen, is clearly a lying predator. Well, I’ve been on various online forums since I was 12, and obviously I know that’s not true.

Oh, in retrospect, I’ve encountered some very dodgy people. But I’ve also made a lot of really good friends online. I’ve met plenty of them. Even though we’re scattered across the world, I’m better friends with some of my “imaginary” friends than I am with people in real life!

But even so, this move from never tell anyone everything and anonymity is king to always use your full name everywhere and share everything is weird to me.

The cynical part of me says it’s encouraged mostly by people who can benefit from it. If all of your online accounts are linked, advertising to you becomes much easier, for example.

I have a fairly common first name and one of the most popular surnames. I’m hard to find if you only know my first and last name! It makes me wonder if we should try and protect baby’s privacy a bit by selecting a popular name. (No, we’ve still not decided on a name! Yes, I am still stressing about it!)

But, if you look back through my Twitter account far enough, you can probably find out a fair bit of information about me. The town I live in, more or less what job I do, places I’ve been… add in Instagram as well and you could probably find out some more. If you have me on Facebook, you could get a lot more – what vets we go to, various weddings we’ve been at, etc.

How will we deal with baby’s privacy on the blog?

No last names, for a start. Yes, I know I’ve just talked about how great and anonymous our surname is, but I’m still not going to share it here. It’s not even on my Twitter account. I’m just Lucy over there.

I haven’t yet decided what to do about the first name and any middles. My first instinct is to say that I’ll share them once, maybe in an image. And after that, I’ll probably use a nickname. We call her Shroody for now, and that works fine for me!

I don’t want her name to be easily Google-able. I’ve spoken before about blogging secretly vs telling everyone I know about my blog, and I don’t think I want people to be able to Google a full name and come to a birth announcement page.

Photos? Probably there will be some. (Who am I kidding, I love photography. I will take millions!) What there will not be are photos of potty training, bath time or other very private moments. Seeing those splashed all over the internet really does worry me.

There will also be no photos posted online outside “Local Town School, Any Road”, holding up a sign with her full name and the date she’s started school. Those are a great private keepsake, but not so good if you don’t know who exactly is seeing them. Seems like a great way to get kidnapped!

And there will definitely be no photos of other people’s children, unless I have express permission. No way will I violate anyone else’s baby’s privacy.

I also won’t be sharing baby’s date of birth. This sounds a bit silly, but if you went back through my Twitter account far enough, I’m sure you could find hints of my maiden name. A combination of mother’s maiden name, full name, town born, date of birth… you’ve got quite a bit of information there to go rogue with.

I don’t know if any of this will make a difference.

protecting baby's privacy online

What will we teach her about protecting her own privacy?

Honestly, I have no idea. I know that technology will have moved on even more by the time she’s three, four, five, at school, able to access the internet herself… and I don’t know what to do about that! I don’t know what technology will be available to her, or where she’ll be able to access it.

You can’t plan ahead without knowing what you have to plan for.

If I were talking to her now, as a child old enough to type and access social media, I’d probably say:

  • Don’t use your full name. Call yourself First Middle, maybe.
  • Don’t tell anyone where we live.
  • Don’t post pictures of yourself or your friends. Even when you do start doing this, you absolutely must be fully dressed in every picture. Seriously, no sexting.
  • Only add people online that you know.
  • Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/whatever else you use should be kept private.
  • You’re not having a computer in your room yet. I don’t know at what age that will be allowed, but I prefer to be able to wander through the living room or dining room and see what’s going on.
  • If anyone says anything to you that makes you uncomfortable, block them. You don’t have to worry about offending them.
  • If anything makes you uncomfortable or you feel you’re in something over your head, talk to me or your dad. Honesty is always the best policy with us. We will help you.

But this is 2017. I don’t know how things will be in 2027. It’s going to be a constantly evolving process, isn’t it?

Do I sound a bit paranoid in this post? I don’t think I am. It’s just that technology has moved on so fast, and I know I made mistakes as a young teen navigating it. I was very lucky and none of them had lifelong repercussions. I don’t want my little one to make bigger, potentially further-reaching, mistakes. Especially not before she’s old enough to make informed decisions.

What decisions have you made about your baby’s privacy? How do you feel about them? Any advice?