ruth crilly and baby

HALF A YEAR! Dear Time, please slow down. I am very much enjoying myself. It’s intense, this baby thing, I can’t lie about that, but for every sleepless night/hour of sheer frustration/dark minute of total exhaustion there are hundreds and hundreds of incredible moments. This month has been a bit of a balancing act and also a time of self-discovery: realising that you can’t care for a baby full time and work full time. Well, you can, but your house ends up looking like a shit-tip and your brain goes into meltdown and your body starts acting up because it’s under too much stress. And you start doing things like putting your iPhone in the toaster, and thinking that the telly is a touch-screen.

I’m going to keep this update post quite brief, mainly because I have a little superstition going on that I MUST get these monthly posts done on the 17th, and not a minute later. (Yes, I do tend to make a rod for my own back. It’s one of my more annoying characteristics.) I’ll write about each of the main issues here in more detail when I have more time. (Ha. See below.)

Baby

This has definitely been the biggest month so far in terms of development. No longer can I just plonk the baby down on a playmat and run into the other room to fetch something – give her ten seconds and she will have rolled halfway to France. Either that or the fact that I’ve left the room will set off the most almighty crying fit! Strangely, Angelica has absolutely no problem with being held or looked after by other people, but if I’m there then she must have my full and undivided attention. Which is making my little working method of “trying to squash in as much work as possible into twenty minute bursts when baby is occupied with a new shakey toy” a little bit difficult. And when I do try to get some work done, I just feel guilty that I’m not 100% playing with the baby. So it’s a situation that needs some attention, because it’s only going to get more intense! I think I need some kind of Super-Nanny-Housekeeper-Dog-Walker-Extraordinaire!

We have lots of new baby noises going on – Rararararara, Mamamamama and Dadadadada (each time I say “she’s saying Dada!” “she’s saying Mama!” ha) and raspberry-blowing and huffing and puffing. I love it when I wake up in the morning to little gurglings and chats – God knows what she’s chatting to! The wall? The wallpaper? Anyway, it’s cute. It makes my five hours of sleep seem a little less horrific.

I will come back to the whole sleep thing: I’ve been doing lots of reading since I last posted about it (here) and I do think that it would be worth putting up a little precis of what I’ve found out. I think that it’s very easy to think that a wakeful baby is wrong, that you must be doing something terribly wrong, but what if you just have a baby that wants to feed in the night? Simple as that? Maybe something is going on, development-wise, that is making them sleep differently? Could it be that lots of us waste a terrible amount of energy searching for the answer to something that there really is no answer to? That it’s just a phase? (Hopefully!)

I suppose when you are sleep-deprived, though, you sort of go a bit stir-crazy and want to find a solution because it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone knows someone whose kids didn’t sleep for “more than an hour at a time for the first eight years” etc etc, and when you are knackered that thought is frightening. I’ll keep you updated on my own sleep situation (if you’re interested, of course): I have good days when I feel on top of the world, even after a rubbish sleep, and really bad days when I find it almost impossible to function in a normal way.

Body

My tummy has done quite the shrinking act this month. It’s nowhere near flattish, but it’s no longer doughy and hanging down, which is progress. If I hold my breath and suck it in so hard that I almost break my spine, it just about looks alright. Otherwise, it looks like I’ve been scoffing scotch eggs and cans of Coke and Honeycomb Magnums and – er – quiche. Which blatantly I haven’t. (Have.) Boobs are still the same: cantaloupe melon-like.

Oooh, I’ve run out of minutes. Ten to midnight – dong dong dong. I don’t want to turn into a pumpkin (what?) so I’ll finish here with the promise that I’ll be back again soon. I need to tell you about the cot situation, after all, and our first foray into sloppy food. And my success with a bottle of expressed milk. All in good time, all in good time..

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breastmilk expressing success

That in the photo, my friends, is 95ml of the most labour-intensive dairy product in existence on the entire planet. Only something like, I dunno, Starfish Milk would be more precious. Unicorn tears. That there breastmilk in the picture only took twenty minutes to gather, but mentally it has taken me months. I’ve had quite a few false starts with the breast-pumping, with nothing coming out at all, and then some only coming out using a manual pump… And then a couple of weeks ago I managed to express loads in the back of the car to my brother’s wedding (as you do) but hadn’t screwed the bottle on properly and it all leaked away into the car door pocket. (Don’t tell Mr that, ha!)

So yeah. 95ml. I’m pleased with that. (I don’t have supersonic volume-guessing powers, by the way, I decanted this milk from a bottle with ml markers on the side.)

In the end it was the Medela “Swing” electric breastpump that did the trick. I had to experiment with different strengths of suction to get the milk flowing, including turning it RIGHT UP, which was a bit of a shock to the old nip, but once it all started happening it was very satisfying indeed. You can actually see the milk shooting out! I suppose what’s weird is that when you breastfeed a baby you never actually know that any milk is coming out – you just have to kind of have faith. I mean you can see them swallow, but you never have the reassurance that I assume you would get from a bottle-fed baby, seeing the level of the milk go down and knowing that they’re eating. With breastfeeding, you don’t really have a clue how much is going in, if any. They could just be chewing away for comfort. Often are.

I’ve tried a few different pumps now and have to say that electric does beat manual any day of the week. I find it easier to get the milk flowing with a manual one, but then my hand gets tired after a few minutes. A few days the ill-fated trip to my brother’s wedding and my mammoth back-seat expressing session, I woke up not being able to move either of my hands properly – it was as though I had replaced my arm tendons with pieces of wood. So an electric one is definitely the way forward, I think, unless you’re only expressing tiny amounts at a time. The Medela Swing is quiet and small and it seems to do the job very well – I know that there are those hospital-grade pumps you can get, but I’m only intending on doing one feed a day from the bottle so I’m not sure I need to go full-scale with my dairy production!

You can find the Medela Swing on Amazon here – it’s about thirty quid cheaper than the RRP. Next hurdle: getting the baby to drink from a bottle. We tried today without much luck, let’s see what this week brings in terms of new challenges!

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sleep regression the uphill

(Just in case some of you think my grammar has gone down the pan, I Can’t Get No Sleep is a reference to the well-known Faithless track “Insomnia”. Though I don’t have insomnia, not by any stretch of the imagination: in fact it would almost be quite helpful if I did have insomnia, mildly, because at least I wouldn’t have the fear of falling asleep on my feeding baby at 2am and smothering her with my ginormous breasts!)

We seem to be in the midst of what I can only call Sleep Deprivation Hell. Angelica refuses to sleep during the day unless she’s taken out in the car or in the pram, and at night she’s waking every one-and-a-half to two hours. The only thing that will comfort her is a feed. I’m bloody knackered – I’m like a shell of my former self!

The thing is that since the first couple of (balmy, time-laden!) months, Angelica has never really slept through the night. After the Health Visitors scared the life out of me about letting her sleep for more than four hours, and I started waking her up (I KNOW! WHAT THE HELL!) for feeds, she’s never really gone back to her contented sleep-animal self. But a couple of weeks ago I noticed a distinct change in that she was getting more easily disturbed and more difficult to put down for a sleep in general. I went to get her weighed to make sure that she was OK in that respect and she was perfectly fine, but the Health Visitor did say that maybe I could start weaning, maybe with a bit of baby rice, just to see if she took to it. I was kind of at the end of my tether with tiredness and had gone in to ask whether maybe feeding some formula before bed would help her sleep through, but she suggested carrying on with the breastfeeding (easy for her to say! I thought) and trying to introduce some of the early weaning foods. Pulverised butternut squash, pear, etc.

But I’m such a chicken! I don’t know why I’m so reluctant to feed her these things – it just seems weird after her only having breastmilk for almost six months to give her these alien textures and colours. And partly (I’ll have to hide after saying this and perhaps not read the comments for a while!) it’s a weird, emotional thing, because I can’t bear the thought of someone else feeding her. In my head, this sad music starts to play (we’ve never spoken about my penchant for turning all life events into scenes from sad movies, complete with soundtrack, in my imagination, but that is what I do) and (in black and white, grainy film, obviously) I sit on a wall in the rain, sobbing she doesn’t need me any more! 

But we have tried some baby rice, mixed with expressed breastmilk, and she absolutely LOVED it. Gobbled down a whole load. (I didn’t feed her, her Dad did. And a very good job he did too! Plane noises and everything. I was very impressed.) But she didn’t sleep better, or longer – in fact if I remember rightly she had some crazy energy spurt and went mad in her Jumperoo! (Have we discussed the Jumperoo yet? So much to catch up on!)

Now I’m sitting down in the evening to write this and I managed to get Angelica off to sleep (after feeding at both breasts for about seventeen years) at half past nine. That is really good going. Let’s see how long she sleeps for – maybe I’ll keep a diary! That’ll be interesting for you. (Note sarcastic tone.) My husband keeps on saying that I should “sleep when she does” but I think that what people don’t realise, when they’re not tied to a baby for all of their waking hours, is that sometimes you just need a few hours to yourself to do stuff. Sit on the loo, maybe, and browse ASOS, or have a bath, or…work. (I get really panic-stricken if I can’t keep up with my workload, an issue I am really trying to work on because it makes me feel terribly guilty when I have a flash of resentment for not being able to “get stuff done” – I have to mentally reset myself and remember to enjoy every single second of our time together, because she is growing up so fast already. So I do end up simply doing all of the work that I’d normally do in the daytime, but after she’s gone to sleep. Cue midnight, 1am bedtimes with video edits still scrolling behind my closed eyelids when I hit the pillow…)

I was reading on Google (never a good idea) about the “four month sleep regression” and then found stuff on a “five month sleep regression” and also stuff for six, seven, eight, nine months, and after reading hours worth of advice and opinions and information I had a bit of an epiphany. Isn’t this exactly what every single parent goes on about? The whole sleepless nights thing doesn’t come up time and time again for no reason, does it? It’s easy to feel alone, when you’re a new Mum, or a first time Mum, or even (I’m sure) an experienced Mum, and to think that you’re the only one experiencing certain things, when in fact nearly everyone is going through it. And surely that makes it normal? Isn’t a degree of sleep deprivation completely and utterly normal? I know that lots of people have great babies who sleep like logs from eight weeks and never have any trouble, but isn’t it very very common for babies to wake up? Am I kind of wasting my time trying to figure out why she isn’t sleeping through? Maybe she’s just hungry more often at the moment, or wants comforting more often? Is it the end of the world, really, to just go with the flow and accept that some babies wake up through the night? Perhaps I’m being soft – and I know that there are Mums who have got their routines well down to pat by this point (my sister, for one!) but it’s almost more tiring trying to double-guess what’s going on than just do what’s needed. I can imagine that this is the point when a lot of people who were previously plain-sailing through breastfeeding decide to supplement with formula or move onto formula altogether. I toy with the idea a few times a day, but as yet haven’t been out to acquire the necessary equipment!

Anyway, for now I’ve decided to (cheerily / through gritted teeth) embrace the night wakings and use them to write blog posts and search for mid century modern light fittings. The fact that I can’t actually keep my eyes open for some of them is by the by – Keep Calm and Battle On! I’m going to invest in some clamps to keep my lids open and some of those eye drops that you spray onto closed eyes and then they infiltrate your lids and moisturise your eyeballs. Or something.

Anyway, thank God that Angelica is absolutely beautiful and – sorry to be soppy – a complete and utter ray of sunshine. The joyfulness of the days manages to almost completely anaesthetise me against the painful exhaustion of the nights. Now it all becomes clear to me: that’s why they made babies so cute.

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