post partum baby gut

It was bound to happen at some point. That terribly awkward “when are you due?” situation. A question that is fine if you’re pregnant, but really quite soul-destroying if you’re not.

My own “situation” has just happened at the Tesco pharmacy counter, of all places. The poor pharmacist. I think that after I walked away from the counter he may well have turned to the wall and thumped his head against it a few times. I was after Strepsils for treating a spot of man-flu (not mine, the man’s, obviously) and the pharmacist paused before saying:

“You do realise that you can’t take these ones when you’re pregnant?”

I could have just said “oh, they’re not for me”, which was true and also would have saved us both the humiliation. But one of my personality flaws is that I’m really, really crap at lying  – and even if I haven’t directly lied, I do this weird thing where I overexplain and give detail that simply doesn’t need to be given.

“I’ve actually had the baby,” I said. The pharmacist looked mortified and so I quickly tried to make things better for him by being overly jolly and smiley, even though I was literally dying inside.

And then he said (WHY? JUST LEAVE IT AND LET ME PAY!) “how old is your baby?”

And I said, because I was so embarrassed about my fake-pregnancy-gut and for some insane reason didn’t want him to think that I was being lazy on the exercise front,

“oh, only a week or so.”

A week old! What a bleeding lie! And a bad one, because what new mother would say “a week or so?” You’d know your baby’s age to the hour. A “week or so!”

Oh God. I had to have a little moment in the freezer aisle. To be fair on the poor sod, it was an incredibly easy mistake to make. I was wearing the sartorial equivalent of a sausage skin; grey lycra leggings and a weird kind of long vest thing over high-waisted, thick pants. It’s the kind of garmenting that I imagine a medieval knight might have worn underneath his armour. Whatever; lots of lumpy-bumpy going on there to draw the wrong conclusions from. And added to that there are my huge, veiny mammaries that look as though they weigh around seven kilos each.

I took the multi-save pack of Cornettos back out of the shopping basket pretty sharpish, let me tell you.

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ruth crilly model

I wasn’t really aware of the concept of co-sleeping until I was about eight months pregnant – I think I’ve mentioned before that I had a complete mental block about anything that might happen after pregnancy. ie, a baby. I was so focused on just hanging on to my pregnancy and making sure that everything was okay that it wasn’t until the last couple of months that I started reading up about parenting and looking after a newborn.

So anyway, I was unaware of that co-sleeping was a “thing” that people had opinions on. I hadn’t thought too much about where the baby would sleep, or what in – I suppose I thought that I would do what most people I knew had done: Moses basket next to the bed for the first however many months and then a cot in the nursery after that. Until I went to visit a friend who had just had her second baby and she had a funny wooden contraption stuck to the side of her own bed. A cot, but with only three sides, and the fourth side open against the adult bed, with the cot mattress at exactly the same height as the adult mattress.

This three-sided cot was called, my friend informed me, a bedside cot or co-sleeper cot. And my first thought was: brilliant, that saves you getting in and out of bed, doesn’t it?!

Further research when I returned home introduced me to the whole co-sleeping debate, which seems to be a bit of a hot topic and one that is totally confusing. As far as I can make out, co-sleeping is officially thought to be fine, so long as you haven’t been drinking, smoking, taking drugs or are so tired that you might unknowingly roll on or smother your baby. Now that’s a bit of a grey area, isn’t it, because when you’re a new mum you’re always really tired! How are you supposed to know how tired really tired is? Who falls asleep in the first place, unless they’re really tired?

I really didn’t know what to make of this information, especially after I’d come home with the baby and the health visitors and midwives kept drilling home the co-sleeping “rules” every time they popped over. It made me really panicky, actually – “don’t fall asleep when breastfeeding!”, “put the baby in its cot if you start to feel tired!” – and I’m not sure that I needed to be. I mean millions of mothers must be feeding their babies at any one time, and surely lots of them are having a little doze with the baby next to them? Or living in places where a cot would be an unimaginable luxury? Or living in places where babies are just kept close to the mother at all times, whether strapped to the mother’s body or lying in the same bed?

But as I said, this whole co-sleeping concept was quite new to me, so I didn’t really know which way I was leaning. Actually that’s a lie. I did. If I was being absolutely honest, I didn’t really want a baby in my bed full-time. I have enough to contend with sharing it with a man. I spend half of the night telling him to stop snoring and the other half of it worrying whether or not he’s going to strangle himself in the cord of his headphones! (He listens to the radio in his sleep. Don’t even go there.) So, selfishly, the idea of having a tiny baby in the bed didn’t fill me with enthusiasm – I’m a worrier, and I would have assumed a kind of ramrod straight position for the entire night, stiff with anxiety, not daring to move my arms or shift my weight.

Which was why a bedside crib seemed like such an enormously good idea to me. The baby is kept as close as can be (my face is a foot away from the baby’s when we are both going to sleep!) but there’s no stress or anxiety, if indeed you are stressed or anxious about the rolling-on-baby risk. In the bedside crib, the baby has his or her own little space, you have yours, but really, to all intents and purposes, you’re sharing a bed. Feeding through the night is a cinch – just slide ’em over (baby, not boobs! Unless they stretch that far…) and you’re good to go. If you’ve had a c-section it’s even more of a bonus because you don’t have to do any bending and lifting at awkward angles.

co-sleeping cot review

My Mum bought me my Snuzpod bedside crib (above) as a present, but she did take a bit of convincing on the whole semi-co-sleeping idea. “Why can’t you use a Moses basket like everyone else?” Answer: because a Moses basket, though you can place it next to your bed, has wicker sides and is a completely different kettle of fish. The bedside crib is part of your bed, almost, whereas anything else is standalone and you don’t have the same feeling of closeness with the baby. I’m not meaning to be soppy (and feel free to roll your eyes if you wish!) but it is the best feeling going to sleep and hearing your baby breathing right next to your face. Sometimes I wake up holding Angelica’s little hand. And in the night, I seem to be subconsciously aware of her being there and I often check that she’s okay, and not too hot or cold, without really waking up at all. So I suppose those are the benefits, for me, and I think that they are brilliant benefits: convenience, closeness, peace of mind.

co-sleeping bedside crib

So I would absolutely recommend a bedside crib – I went for the Snuzpod because it could be adjusted to fit to a really wide range of adult bed heights, it looked beautiful, the side panel was easy to zip up or down and the construction was sturdy and well thought-out. There were a couple of others that I checked out – the Chicco (here) and the Babybay (here) – but the Snuzpod best fit my requirements and taste*. You can find it online here**. At £169 (mattress bought separately) it’s far more of an investment than a Moses basket, but it lasts until around six months and it’s definitely the type of beautifully made product that you would pass on to other family members once you’d had your use out of it.

The bassinet part can be detached from the base to make a little floor rocker, which is quite sweet if you want to let your baby have a nap in the lounge as you watch tv, for example, or just be with you if you don’t want to be stuck in the bedroom. The whole thing attaches safely to your bed using straps (frame beds or divans, both work) and it’s pretty easy to assemble.

What are your thoughts on sleeping arrangements? The health visitors and midwives all seemed to hammer home that it was now the standard recommendation that a baby should be in its parents’ room for at least the first six months, but how close do you feel you need to be? Do you like having some separation between yourself and the baby? Or are you a committed co-sleeper? I would love to hear your thoughts.

*with regards to the other bedside cots, the Chicco “Next 2 Me” was too wide to fit between the wall and bed of the holiday let I was staying in the first few weeks after the birth but I did love it because it looked very transportable. Though apparently the supplied mattress is VERY firm! I liked the style of the Babybay but it was more expensive than the others and the siderail to close up the open side needed to be purchased separately.

**UPDATE: I’ve just seen the Snuzpod on Amazon here – free delivery and including mattress for £169.95.

***Please note that in the above pic I have my Sleepyhead inside the Snuzpod. It’s a kind of baby moveable bed and it’s absolutely brilliant. I’ll be talking about it in a separate post, but I just wanted to point out that it’s not made to go inside the Snuzpod, in case you were wondering what it was!

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guide to expressing

Well. Nothing to report here. If I had to do a little run-down of my breastmilk expressing experiences so far, they would go something like this:

Day 1: look at the MAM Breastfeeding Starter Kit. Try to read instructions, which are printed on one piece of card with a font so small I require binoculars. Baby cries; I whap out a boob and get on with day, promise myself that I will continue my binocular-reading the following morning.

Day 2: take out all items from the MAM Breastfeeding Starter Kit. Try to work out which thing is a bottle and which thing a “storage container”. Realise that everything needs sterilising before I can start. Baby is hungry sooner than expected: out with the breasts. Forget about my expressing mission for rest of day.

Day 3: make concerted effort to learn about sterilising. Get bored. Do some sudoku, easy and difficult puzzles. Find out that my sister has left a steriliser in the loft at my parents’ house. Ask for steriliser. Everyone forgets to get steriliser because the cat pukes in my shoe and the dog eats it. The puke, not the shoe. Though he has been known to eat shoes.

Day 4: decide that I will try to express my milk in the morning after the first feed. Have shower. Milk goes crazy in the shower like some kind of laser show. Wonder if there is any milk left after said laser show. Especially as I (shamefully) squeezed out some extra, trying to write my name on the glass shower door.  Ha! Find some sterilising tablets in the drawer that my sister left behind, go to read instructions, baby cries. Life takes over.

Day 5: spend an hour reading all of your comments over on the first Breastmilk Diaries post and feel emboldened and disheartened all at the same time. There are lots of “don’t bother it’s a faff”s and also lots of success stories and loads of helpful tips. Much better than Googling! Feel enthusiastic, open my new steriliser to get started with the expressing. Fill it with the parts of the pump and the little milk container. Open the microwave at my cousin’s flat. Try to put the steriliser into the microwave. It’s about three centimetres too large to fit into the little microwave! Bloody, bloody hell. On the plus side,  attempts to jam the steriliser into the machine dislodge a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate that I had hidden on top of the kitchen units. Bonus!

Eat chocolate, drink tea, forget all about expressing. Again.

To be continued…

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resentful night episodes

I know that this is really unfair, and I hope that he doesn’t read it (and indeed that at least one other person feels this way, otherwise I’ll look like a total bitch!*) but I sometimes feel really resentful when I’m doing a nightfeed and my husband is fast asleep. There’s nothing worse than being awake (and knackered) when other people are sleeping – whether you’re kept awake by their snoring, or you just have loads on your mind, or you’re on “baby duty”, which is every night if you’re breastfeeding and (I imagine) still most nights of the week if you’re not. If you’re really so tired that your head hangs forward as you latch the baby on, and your eyes feel dry and itchy as you try to focus on your Kindle or the Daily Mail app on your iPhone (don’t lie, we all have it secretly stowed away on the sixth screen!) then having someone sleeping peacefully next to you is just the worst feeling!

(*disclaimer: I write this with the upmost respect and love for my amazing husband, who does literally everything else that needs doing in our lives save for the breastfeeding part. Which obviously he can’t do. This post is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek: I shouldn’t have to point that out, but I will. Just in case he’s reading.)

I’m not the kind of person who would usually wake up someone else just because I was a bit grumpy and resentful but the other day I overheard a phone conversation that made my blood boil! Husband talking to friend he hadn’t seen since pre-baby:

Friend: so how’s it going, with the baby and everything?

Husband: oh, fine, she’s no bother at all. Sleeps through the night.

SHE SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT? Maybe in your world, mate! I think what you mean is that you sleep through the night! I nearly choked on my peppermint tea! When I questioned him about it, he said “yeah, but what I mean is that she doesn’t cry through the night or anything.” ERM, that’s because I feed her so that she doesn’t cry?

Shamefully, here is a little rundown of what I do when I’m having a resentful kind of night. Don’t pass this around, I’m not proud.

1) When the baby starts stirring, I pretend to be fast asleep for a bit just to see if the noise will penetrate my husband’s Man-Sleep-Shield. It doesn’t. Man-Sleep-Shields can only be penetrated by the noise of a) shattering glass, the sound of which causes them to jump vertically out of their bed in their underpants, instantly ready for the burglar confrontation episode that they have been genetically prepared for since the age of twelve; b) idling engines – again, see burglar confrontation and c) the sound of the bin men coming down the road. Because every single week they go to sleep knowing that they haven’t done the bins. And that if they miss the bins in the morning there will be BIG trouble.

2) When I have to move positions in the bed for optimal breastfeeding success, I jump my bottom up the mattress about six or seven times in the hope that it will somehow dislodge my husband from his man-sleep. It never does. He could literally sleep through an earthquake. Similarly, when I tie on my breastfeeding pillow I allow the tie-cords to sometimes pass over (gently whip) his sleeping face.

3) When I turn on my Kindle, I shine the screen over his head a few times like a searchlight, just to see if his anti-burglar reflexes will be stimulated. Nope.

4) When I start to feed the baby, I encourage her to lay her feet on his head so that if any little bits of enthusiastic kicking occur, they will be well-directed and not wasted. So far, she has never done a little kick in the night, she’s usually in a kind of half-conscious milky slumber, but there’s always hope.

If this sounds terrible then you only have my Mum to blame. She solves the man-snoring issue by pinching her husband’s nose until he can’t breathe and wakes himself up. Ha! Anyone else suffer from the occasional Night Resentment Episode?

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ruth crilly baby blog

Oh, where has the time gone? I honestly thought that being indoors with a baby, constantly feeding, would make the time really drag but actually I would quite like to press pause so that I can savour every moment. I now understand what people mean when they say that each phase flies by – Angelica is now so long in the legs that I’ve had to put her in 3-6 month babygrows!

Here’s my two months baby and body update – I was going to change the frequency of these updates to be weekly, because there are so many changes all the time, but I don’t want to commit to posts that I may not be able to produce.

Baby Update

I’d love to know how much my baby weighs, but I honestly have no idea. I’ve tried that trick where you weigh yourself and then hold the baby (cat, dog, etc) but my scales aren’t that accurate, so I’ll have to tell you once she’s had her doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. It’s jabs day, which I’m not looking forward to, and then we have to pop to the health centre to see the health visitor because I missed the last appointment. (The poor lady turned up at my house to find a building site filled with shouting workmen – no baby – because nobody had listened to my voicemail!) It’s truly amazing how quickly babies grow – I remember sorting out clothes with my Mum and holding up the 0-3 month babygrows and just thinking how massive they looked. And now Angelica is already too long for them! (Annoying because they are actually all trapped in the storage locker, because I thought I’d be back in my house by now, so there will be a pile of pristine, unused outfits that I won’t need. There’s always someone to pass them on to, but I was really looking forward to putting her in some of the little bodysuits.)

In the past few weeks, things have become so much more interesting in terms of interaction – when I got that first smile it just absolutely melted my heart, and now it has become a constant mission to get as many smiles as possible. Which means that I stand there like a loon making the most ridiculous noises and doing crazy arm movements. I feel very lucky that I got to spend the last month with my Mum, so she has seen all of the little developments too – exaggerated facial expressions, little gurglings and squeaks and some crazy leg-kicking sessions. (And that’s just me. Hohoho.) It makes everything so much easier and nicer when your baby starts to respond and interact – it feels less as though you’re just trying to keep this inanimate object alive and more like you have an actual baby, with a little personality. I find that every day is a bit more rewarding than the last, and I definitely feel less silly when I chatter away to her and call her by her name.

Sleep developments: on many nights, pre-six-weeks, Angelica was sleeping for five, six, even seven hours through the night, but for the past week or so we have had little feedings every three or four hours. Which doesn’t bother me, but it does seem like a step in the wrong direction when the holy grail seems to be this “sleeping through the night” business. To be quite honest, I feel rather too relaxed about sleeping and routine – I think because we are living in limbo, without a house, I keep putting off trying to organise any kind of routine until we have our permanent home. Everything is on hold! But with a baby feeding on demand, it seems quite difficult to do things at set times. Is eight weeks the right time to be introducing a routine? Do I even need to be trying to set a routine? What have other people found works best? My sister did bathtime followed by a set bedtime quite early on, I think, but Angelica is completely random! Probably because our lives are quite random – we never do the same thing every day and are alway moving from pillar to post…

Body Update

Everything was going so well with my C-section scar. Ten days after the birth I was told that it had healed over nicely, three weeks after the birth I had my first bath (I had been showering, obviously, just not having baths) and it all seemed fine..

..until a couple of weeks ago when part of it just felt so sore and itchy and I had to have a look. (Using a series of strategically-placed mirrors so that I could see beyond my gut overhang.) It seemed that part of the scar had split (at which point, even typing that, I have a minor squeamishness-induced nervous breakdown) and there was some kind of little boil or ingrown hair IN THE SPLIT. Ugh. My fingers can hardly type I’m cringing so much. Anyway, after a week of antibiotic cream, it was still hurting (probably because the doctor poked it open with a swab stick, causing me to almost shoot through the roof of the surgery with shock) and so, not wanting to go back to be messed with, I changed my scar gameplan. Reading that scars needed cleanliness and dryness, I cleaned it with water daily and then afterwards lay on the bed for ten minutes with no clothes on (oh, the mental images – you’re welcome!) to dry out the area. I realised that my daily baths, followed by stretch mark oils, had probably kept it all a bit moist in the scar region. Drying it out seems to have done the trick. For now. I have my six week check (at nearly nine weeks – oops) tomorrow, so I’ll find out then. And obviously update you, because I can imagine that there’s nothing you want to hear more than the ins and outs of my c-section scar traumas,

What else? I still have a tummy that’s probably equal in size to a five month pregnancy belly, but the shrinkage seems to have plateaued. So I’m hazarding a guess that to get rid of the rest of it I’ll have to actually do some exercise, which fills me with abject horror. It has been ages. And I keep having baby-soothing injuries at the moment – I did my knee in doing little squat-bends to get her to sleep, and I pulled something in my back when I was putting her down in the pram! I’m like the crumbling man in that Bruce Willis film!

Mentally, all fine. I have to say that there’s the odd day when Angelica cries a lot and I feel a bit out of my depth – a few weeks ago she just wouldn’t stop screaming and my parents had gone on holiday and my husband was working in London and I just felt so alone. I ended up panicking and taking her down to A&E because I convinced myself there was something seriously wrong with her. Has anyone else done that? I felt so stupid when I got there, but actually, I’m glad that I had the peace of mind because I think that it was partly my own stress and panic that was making the situation worse. The doctor said that they see lots of babies all the time, and it’s always better to check if crying seems abnormal (also Angelica had this little rash that had been spreading) which made me feel a little less silly… I must do another post about this, because having spoken to loads of friends and family, it seems that lots of people have these horrific days now and again but find it hard to admit that they’re feeling overwhelmed and feel a bit embarrassed to ask for help. Is that a fair appraisal? Let me know!

Right. Another update in another month – I’m making a concerted effort to enjoy every single second of this lovely baby stage so if I can fit in an extra update in between then I will!

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fertility falling off a cliff

I wanted to do a quick follow-up post on the thoughts that I had on fertility the other day (see here), because the whole “age and fertility” issue seems to be an extremely hot potato at the moment. I wrote that I knew more women who had birthed a baby post-40 than pre-40 but by that I didn’t mean to suggest that the whole “fertility falling off a cliff at 35” thing is total nonsense: in reality, I have no idea. I’m just a layperson with no special access to facts and figures. It makes sense that fertility would decline, because we age and things start to not be quite so bouncy and pert and fresh as they used to be. And we have the same stock of eggs from birth – they don’t renew, they just get older.

HOWEVER, my point was, in a roundabout way, that I was sceptical about the actual facts and figures that we are given. And that by scaring the absolute crap out of women as soon as they hit thirty, you send people into a bit of a tailspin. I think that on the one hand it’s good that awareness about fertility is being raised, and that perhaps overall there will be more people taking steps to monitor their fertility at a younger age so that they can try (and I stress try, because who the hell knows when they’re going to meet “the one” and who can predict what will happen in life?) to plan accordingly, but being bombarded with negativity when there is absolutely nothing you can do about your age can be a bit depressing, to say the least.

I suppose I do view this whole issue from a biased point of view. Because I did start trying at a younger age (27) and I honestly believe that the panic I was thrown into by some of the data I was cited about age and fertility actually set me back, emotionally and possibly physically. I was so stressed. Everything felt hopeless. I was counting down the years until 35, which would, according to much of what I read and what I was told, be the year from which I may as well consider getting pregnant to be something of a semi-miracle. Even though all of the women around me were getting pregnant in their late thirties, early forties (one of my best friends was forty five), I couldn’t shake the idea that I was on a very precarious and slippery slope to infertility.

Let’s look at this data, shall we? The data that seems to be most commonly used comes from NICE.org, (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), but after hours of trying to navigate my way through something called “pathways” on their website I can’t seem to find the data on there, so I have resorted to the good old BBC as a shortcut.

Read this.

To messily paraphrase the article, it states that the whole “fertility after 35 dropping off cliff” business is based on research that was done centuries ago. (I KNOW. DON’T EVEN.) The women of the 1700s, who bear so much relevance to the women of today, what with their similar rates of ageing and standards of living and all (please do note sarcastic tone), saw a dramatic dip in fertility post-35. But if we look at a more recent study (oh, just a few hundred years more recent, no biggie!) carried out in 2004, the stats show that 82% of women aged between 35-38 fell pregnant within a year. And for 27-34 year olds? 86%. A four percent difference. Hardly “dropping off a cliff” is it? More “strolling down a very gentle incline”. 82% is bloody brilliant! I mean…am I missing something here? Obviously I was one of the 18% (and actually I took almost six years so probably I’m more like one of the 1% or something) but come on! 82%! That’s so far removed, for me, from the idea that fertility drops off a cliff.

Look: I keep a very open mind about all things, statistics included. I listen to what doctors say, and researchers, but I also have an inquisitive mind and know how data is manipulated by the media because – no great shocks here – it makes for a better story. So I have no doubt that it’s better to start your family earlier, if you can and all of your planets are luckily aligned and you’re in the position to do so, but if you’re not? Then what help are stats that are centuries old and completely outdated? The researchers didn’t even know if these women were trying for a baby or not! They could have been spinsters, they could have been bloody nuns for all we know – and society was so different then, it’s likely that post-35 you would have been considered, unfortunately, very old. Life expectancy in the 1700s? OH, ABOUT THIRTY! For crying out loud. If only I had read all this years ago – the number of days I spent shaking with anxiety and sadness…

NB: none of this takes into account fertility issues caused by very real health and medical problems – we’re purely talking about age and how it affects fertility. And if anyone has better statistics or links to other research or more recent figures, hit me up with the links! As I said: completely open-minded and I know that there are always two sides (three, four, five) to every story.

And on a completely different note: those who were waiting for my “fertility journey” post – it’s up on A Model Recommends. It should be on here, really, but I know that so many long-term readers were interested and I didn’t want anyone to miss it. I’ll pop up another post here on The Uphill directing people to the other website to have a read.

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breast pump MAM

Oh, I’m all in a pickle about this expressing business. I want to do it because it would be nice to get a couple of hours off, during the day, just to get stuff done. Even if it’s being able to pop to the supermarket on my own (YES!) without worrying that the baby will wake up and need feeding, or perhaps go and get my roots done in town or have a swim. (I haven’t “had a swim” for about twenty years, but suddenly I really fancy it!) If I’m going to be keeping up this breastfeeding malarkey for the next six months then I would quite like to be able to pass on the feeding responsibility every now and again.

Also, I always feel quite bad when my breasts do that thing where they squirt out shedloads of excess milk when I’m in the bath or shower. It’s such a waste! The hoarder/recycler in me wants to quickly stick a container in front of my chest and collect it all up.

However: when to start? What to do? How to do it? It’s like a whole new world has opened up – what the hell do you do with bottles, for a start? Apparently you have to wash them and then sterilise them! How? For how long? Does this require even more equipment? It all  seems so much more complicated than breastfeeding which just requires…breasts. I’ve had mixed bits of advice about expressing, too: start it early on, wait until six weeks, wait until there’s a full moon on a Tuesday…

So I’m going to be doing a little diary series on my experiences with expressing and hopefully – with the help of some experts, if I can get hold of any! – answering some common questions along the way. Here are my burning questions and reservations – I’ll research for answers over the next week or so and do an updated “Expressing FAQ” post after that, to share my findings, just in case others might find it useful.

1) Biggest question: is this expressing thing going to be more hassle than it’s worth? Will I spend so much time faffing about with bottles and pumps and cleaning little pissy bits of plastic that I may as well have just done the breastfeed?

2) When is the best time to start expressing? How old should the baby be?

3) What kind of equipment do I need in order to start expressing and storing milk? (So far I have two manual pumps to test – the MAM and the Avent – and two electric, the Medela (hopefully en route) and the Avent. But what else do I need? A bottle warmer? An electric steriliser? Am I going to end up with all of the gubbins that I was so happy to have avoided by breastfeeding?)

4) How do you even use any of this equipment? Especially the breast pumps! Will they suck my nipple off? (Ha.) How do I know how much suction to apply? What best mimics the actions of a baby’s suckling? How in GOD’S NAME do you put it together?

5) How much milk should I be expressing per session? How much milk does a baby need per feed? Obviously you never really know how much is coming out when you breastfeed, so how are you supposed to gauge how much needs to be in the bottle?

6) Once the milk is in the bottle, then what? If you refrigerate it then how much does it need to be warmed again for feeding?

7) Is there a technique for bottle-feeding a baby? How much should they drink? And do they tike their time, like on the breast, snuffling and faffing away in their own little world, or do they gannet it all down? What do you do if there are any leftovers?

Right. That’s all for the time being. In the words of Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually; “enough. Enough now.” I can’t handle any more questions! I shall start with my research (and please do leave any tips or advice in the comments) and get back to you.

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Milestone Baby Cards

 

I bought these the other day from Amazon (just one of my many middle-of-the-night internet purchases!) and they would make such a good new baby gift. They’re “Milestone” cards for taking photographs with – so if your baby is one week old, or ten weeks old, or however many weeks old, you can pop a card into the picture as a kind of real-life annotation.

Milestone Baby Cards

And it’s not just for the baby age milestones, the cards cover all of the important “firsts” – rolling over, crawling, sleeping through the night… I’d quite like to see an alternative set with milestones such as “first projectile poo” and “first nervous breakdown-inducing screaming session”.

Milestone Baby Cards

A really great present idea, I think, especially in these days of constant Instagramming and Facebooking and life-documenting. And the cards make a bit of a change from jingly rabbits and sets of bibs.

You can find the Milestone Baby Cards on Amazon here.

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baby body shockers

Call me naive, but I wasn’t really properly prepared for any of the things that happen to your body once you’ve given birth. I had a bit of a mental block about anything post-pregnancy, including what it would actually be like to – y’know – have a baby to look after, and so I didn’t read very much about post-partum body stuff at all. A quick email around to a few friends who had also spent a long time trying to conceive revealed that they suffered from the same phenomenon – they had been so focused on getting pregnant, and holding on to the pregnancy, that they hadn’t even considered life after the birth.

Anyway, that’s probably a whole other story: for now, let’s talk body shockers! I meant to write this at the height of my shocked-ness, when I was hobbling about a holiday let with a crying baby, not being able to stand up straight and leaking milk from my boobs whilst accidentally spotting blood onto the carpet. But obviously I was otherwise engaged.

I use the word “shock” because it sounds better than “surprised”, but I have to say that none of the body changes were at all horrendous – more inconvenient, really, or just unexpected. I didn’t even get much pain from my C-section scar, though I’ve had some minor issues with it recently; again, it was more of an inconvenience. So you can uncover your eyes and ears if you were getting worried – there’s no screaming or crying here. I’ll save that for another post, hohoho!

1. At the top spot for post-partum surprises: the post-partum tum-tum. Yes, that beautiful taut egg-pod of a full-term pregnancy tummy became a sagging, wobbling mass of spongey flesh overnight. Not that I really had an “overnight” after the birth, because I slept for about an hour, but you get the drift. After my catheter had been removed (don’t even – I’m so squeamish) and I was prompted to use the bathroom, I got out of bed (rolled onto the floor) to find I was carrying what felt like a sack of potatoes in my belly. A huge sack. Don’t get me wrong; I knew that pregnant bellies didn’t flatten out quickly, but I wasn’t expecting to still look eight months pregnant! It took weeks and weeks to go down to anything resembling a non-weird stomach and now, seven weeks on, I still have a sizeable gut. It’s saggy and sad and my belly button looks as though someone has traumatised it with a stretching implement. It reminds me of those odd flesh-tunnel ear holes when the hoops have been removed. Sexy.

2. Next in line: blood. For some insane reason I assumed that vaginal bleeding after birth was linked to vaginal births and so, when I was preparing for the C-section in my head I thought “yesss! No bleeding!” Well. I was wrong on that front! Six thousand mattress-like maternity pads later and it’s only really just stopped. The past four weeks have been very light, but the first three were a total pain in the neck. You’re supposed to let air get to your C-section scar, but can’t, really, because without massive pants on and a huge absorbent pad, you’d bleed everywhere. I can’t imagine how inconvenient it must be if you’re trying to keep perineal stitches clean and dry!

3. Forceful milk eruptions. OK, I knew that breasts produced milk, I’d have been an absolute tool not to have known that. What I wasn’t aware of was that nipples could actually squirt milk – proper streams of it – and that they could do so completely unprompted. The first time it happened, I was sitting up in bed and it just streamed out through the air and hit the opposite wall! It’s no wonder, then, that I had been waking up to soaked sheets and duvets if my breast pads had slipped out of place… It’s phenomenal how much liquid breasts can produce!

4. Nausea. I thought that I had left nausea behind with the first-and-a-half trimester of pregnancy but no, a couple of days after the birth there it was, back with a vengeance. I was worried I had transmitted some awful hospital bug at first, but soon realised that I was experiencing it only in the first minute or so of a breastfeed, and when I Googled it (good old Doctor Google!) I found out that it was a hormonal thing, the release of oxytocin, linked to milk let-down. Well I never. I still get it a bit, seven weeks on.

5. Loss of memory.

5. Loss of memory.

5. Loss of memory. Nothing too severe – I don’t think I repeat myself, or anything like that. But I used to have a brilliant memory and now I rely on lists for everything. And post-it notes. I feel as though I’m in that film where the bloke I can’t remember the name of has had something happen to him that I can’t recall and he has to leave a paper trail everywhere to remind himself of who he is and so on. Memento, is it? Whatever: I find it hard to remember to brush my teeth or drink water let alone remember facts and figures.

Do feel free to add any of your own unexpected post-partum body changes in the comments below! We could start a little database…

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jojo maman bebe sleepsuit

When I really like something, fashion-wise, I tend to get a bit obsessed and buy multiple versions and colourways and sizes. Just in case, you know, they ever run out. Which is why I have Office’s Cecilia ballet pumps in black, beige, beige with black toes caps, green with black toe caps, bronze and – somewhere in a cupboard – pale pink. (Brilliant, brilliant ballet pumps, by the way. Very comfy and look like Chanel ones. You can find them here.)

jojo maman bebe sleepsuit

Anyway, I seem to have transferred my love of bulk-buying fashion for myself to bulk-buying fashion for my baby. More specifically, bulk-buying babygrows and – even more specifically – bulk-buying babygrows from Jojo Maman Bébé. They do the best babygrows – thick, soft cotton that washes amazingly well and with a massive selection of lovely prints. I have frogs, elephants, pink stars, silver stars and I’m about to go back for more! I snapped up a load of stuff in the sales but there are other designs out now, which has opened up a whole new world of shopping…

I love the embroidered ducks, the sheep and the circus print but there are dozens of prints and they are all so gorgeous and cute. I like a baby in a babygrow – I’m not for dressing them up in proper dresses and mini jeans and all that jazz, not while they’re tiny and all milky and gurgly! (And also, not when they are capable of doing projectile poo.)

jojo maman bebe sleepsuit

The Jojo babygrows and sleepsuits aren’t the cheapest going (I stock up on my basic ones at Mothercare) but they fare extremely well in the washing machine – where other baby clothes have shrivelled up after a couple of washes and look a bit bobbly and shabby, the JJMMBB ones look pretty much the same as they did when they were new.

Jojo Maman Bébé

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