For our first two months together, I fed Lily on demand.
All newborns should be fed whenever they like and wherever you like, at home, in bed, out and about, in their carrier, on the sofa, you just make it work for you! Anyone who has a problem with a mum breastfeeding her child in public needs a serious attitude adjustment, but it’s worth noting that in 6 months of brazen public breastfeeding, I’ve yet to come across a single glare or comment. (Online is another matter, funny how much braver bitter people feel behind a screen!)
Scheduling a brand new baby isn’t safe because if you’re breastfeeding you have no idea how much milk they’re really getting and how much they need at that crucial time. It’s our job to cater to their needs and make them feel as loved and supported as possible in this big new world.
To be honest I would have stuck with “on demand” until she was about 18 if I could! But for me it just wasn’t sustainable. I was feeding her every time she squeaked, worried that she might be hungry, and when the boob was offered, she’d happily go to town. This resulted in a delightfully chubby little dough ball baby and a very tired mummy.
At month two, almost exactly, I read a very short e-book called The Sleep Fairy Way (which was recommended by a blogger I follow, Amber) and this was a real eureka moment. The author explained that we could be on more of a schedule, that a three hour window was perfectly acceptable at this age. But most importantly she said not to put the baby down to nap right after feeding, to keep them awake to play after feeding.
I thought this would be impossible! My husband (who I also had read the book!) and I looked at each other and said “well this’ll never work, but let’s try it!” And it was our game changer.
We started our day at 7am with her first feed, then played with her for an hour then swaddled her (these are super handy!) and put her down for a nap, which generally lasted about 2hrs. When she woke, we’d feed again, play for an hour, then put her down, and so on and so on.
This coincided with our first holiday together, and it felt like a new dawn. Lily was so much happier, and I actually had time to breathe… and sleep!
Once we were on a good schedule, we started cutting the night feeds (it goes into how to do this in the ebook) until we were left with just one at 11pm.
I was still waking up to pump at 3am (when I have the most milk supply) and was miserable about it! I hated pumping and was getting delirious with tiredness as I found it really hard to fall back to sleep afterwards.
By month 4 I was exhausted and really struggling with the evenings when Lily would have “a witching hour” from about 5pm til midnight. I was convinced it was because I wasn’t making enough milk and was going to supplement with formula. I did as much reading as I could around the subject (this is a great article and I can’t find the other one I loved… will keep looking) and decided against it. At the end of my tether I skyped with a friend in LA who has a 1yr old and is very honest about motherhood! just so I could have a whinge. To my amazement she had had the exact same problems and had reached breaking point at 4m when she sleep trained and it was life changing for the whole family.
I said “oh… well we don’t want to sleep train”, “I’m against it” I said.
I hated the idea of letting a baby cry for even a moment, so the idea of letting them scream it out all alone in their bedroom was just too heartbreaking.
My friend explained that it was nothing like that, that firstly they only cry for a couple of minutes, and most importantly it only took two days, and then her daughter slept right through.
So we tried it. We followed Dr Ferber’s instructions and I was extremely wound up about the whole thing! But as it turned out, after night two, she went down without a squeak and slept like a log until morning. No waking in the night, no crying, and when she’d wake up she was just so much happier and alert, I suppose because she was getting proper rest.
I have to admit I was completely wrong about sleep training, I was so against letting a baby cry, but it turns out that they end up crying so much less because they learn the invaluable lesson of being able to turn over and go back to sleep when they wake in the night! (Something I had to learn all over again!)
I gave up pumping in the night, started sleeping through and the world changed. Sleep deprivation is used as torture for a reason, it is tough! Just getting the rest I needed meant I could function properly and get back to enjoying being a mum, playing with her, helping her learn.
And as she was getting a chance to fully rest and recover at night, I saw such huge leaps in her development and happy personality.
It turns out that her difficult evenings were entirely my fault, she needed to be in bed.
So now we start our bedtime routine every day at 6.
She has a bath with a scoop of coconut oil and few splashes of lavender oil, which is a sort of calm play time with lots of rubber ducks and splashing water.
Then we (she) rolls around naked on a fluffy towel while she dries off.
She gets into pyjamas.
I feed her while reading her a story.
When she pops off the second boob, I sit her up to burp, then pop her into her cot.
Give her her little blankie toy (this one) turn her mobile on (this one) say goodnight and close the door.
She sleeps until about 11pm (or whenever I go to bed) and I pick her up for a dream feed, which is where you don’t turn the lights on, try to keep them as sleepy as possible while feeding, then pop her back down until morning, when she wakes around 7am. This probably isn’t strictly necessary anymore, but I like it and it’s good for my milk supply.
So in short, sleep training turned out to be a life saviour for us. It doesn’t suit everyone, and if it’s something that you’re “against” as I was, it might be worth reading Dr Ferber’s book, it may change your mind, it may not, but it’s an interesting read nevertheless and there’s lots in there about toddlers etc for further down the line.
Now of course it’s all changing again, as we’ve entered the exciting world of solids! But that’s a whole other kettle of fish that I’ll go into another time.
Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re upto and whatever you decide, trust your instinct, mum really does know best, and most importantly remember, “this too shall pass”. Which is true of everything in life.
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