I was very fortunate when I had my first baby girl almost 2 years ago now. I had 2 older sisters who went before me, twice, one of whom is a Lactation Consultant and an Obstetrician – very handy to have in the family, and secondly my wonderful private Herbalist/Nutritionist Husband.
I came home hours after having my baby feeling very secure in knowing what I needed to do and how to do it. Over those first few months it became apparent that I was one of the lucky few. Everywhere I saw women struggling with sleep, breastfeeding, bowel issues, and even infected baby fat roll creases, just to name a few.
So now after settling in with my second baby girl, I have decided to share what I know and have learnt along the way.
Firstly, babies cry. And usually they are crying because they are either tired, hungry/thirsty, hot/cold, need a nappy change, have gas stuck in the top or bottom end, or need a big cuddle. I tend to think it’s the tired or cuddle thing most of the time.
(Babies also cry when they are in pain. If your baby has been crying for more than 2 hours and is inconsolable, I recommend seeking advice)
So when my baby cries I would follow a checklist
- change her nappy
- make sure she feels like she is a comfortable temperature – It’s normal for babies hands and feet to feel slightly cold. The best way to check is to feel their chest or back. Also a good rule is that your baby should have on one extra layer of clothing than you are comfortably wearing.
- Offer to breastfeed – if in doubt whip it out! Boobs are not just nutrition! They are comfort and warmth for a tired or cranky baby. I demand fed both of my girls and have never regretted a moment. This often meant less than 2 hourly feeding even at night – but I’ll go into how we handled that.
- If bub is still crying I would take her into a quiet, dark space and snuggle her on my bare chest. If I’m in public or there is no quiet space (because I now have a toddler) strap the bubba on (hug-a-bub was my favourite) with the shoulder strap over her little head to make it nice and dark and go for a walk or dance a little bouncy jig around the kitchen.
It is normal for a newborn to sleep up to 17 hours a day. That means they wake, you change their bum, have a little play and a cuddle with their Grandma, you feed them, and they go straight back to sleep. I found that if I put them down to sleep as soon as they became grizzly or their movements became jerky, it was so much easier and faster than when they became overtired. Most of the time, in the first few weeks, my girls would get tired again after half an hour of awake time.
Now, let’s talk about the very controversial subject of sleep. Personally, I could never let my babies cry alone. If they were crying they were in mine or my husband’s arms. I just physically could not stay away from a crying child.
This meant co-sleeping. At first we tried it all in the same bed, but as my husband started to fade, we decided to divide and conquer! This meant that Mark would get a solid 8 hours sleep every night at the other end of the house (unless things got really tough and I needed support).
So, on the rough nights, Mark could come in early and take bub for a walk in the hug-a-bub and allow me an hour or two or three of solid, blissful, undisturbed sleep. Ahhhhh, I still remember the feeling!
Breastfeeding Mammas have what the baby wants: Boobs! Your husband or partner probably doesn’t have these (at least ones that lactate) And because of this wonderful experience of breastfeeding, we also get pumped full of a wonderful hormone called oxytocin which stops us from flushing our babies down the loo, makes it possible to survive for months on end with broken sleep and still manage to love these little creatures with such ferocity that it blows my mind.
Our partners get very little of this love drug in comparison and in my opinion are not equipped to do all the rough nights and survive. This also meant that at least one of us was capable of running our business/household, doing anything important, stringing a sentence together, etc. There is no point in both parents being absolutely exhausted as then there is no one to rescue you, and you just end up in a competition about who is more tired.
Co-sleeping is wonderful. It means that I get a LOT more sleep than I would if I had to get up, walk down the hall, sit in a chair and feed bub for maybe half an hour, put bub back to sleep, and finally get back to bed. And how many times do you do this on a rough night? Seven? Ten? More? Bugger that. Bub stirs next to me, I whip a boob out, I go back to sleep. At some stage, I don’t know when because I’m asleep, bub comes off the boob and falls back into a milk coma. Bliss. I don’t have to fully wake up, neither does bub, and it takes me seconds to get back to sleep.
This is all possible because of side lying feeding. Now this does not happen straight away and can take a little work, but once you and bub get it, BOOM! More sleep for everyone. Try a pillow behind you to stop you from falling backwards and one between your knees for comfort.
Co-sleeping is not recommended if you or your partner (if they are in the bed too) drink, smoke or take prescription or non-prescription drugs. Keep pillows well clear of baby’s head and do not share your big fluffy doona with bub. They should have their own separate blanket. You still have spacial awareness when you are asleep. When was the last time you fell out of bed? If you are of sound mind you will not roll over onto your baby while you are asleep. Don’t be afraid.
I loved using Love to Dream swaddle suits. Bub is not swaddled up too tight, it’s just enough to stop their startle reflex from waking them up every 10 minutes. Plus it becomes an excellent sleep time cue.
Also, get a mattress protector for your bed if you choose to co-sleep and a waterproof mat to place bub on. Not only does bub leak several different fluids, you will find yourself waking up in puddles of breast milk more than once. No need to ruin a good mattress.
So, now that Miss 22 month old sleeps through the night (most of the time) she co-sleeps with my Husband and Miss 13 weeks snuggles with me each night. Everyone’s happy – you just have to get creative about making “snuggle” time with the husband.’
Breastfeeding is undoubtedly the most rewarding, intimate and just plain wonderful part about becoming a Mother. It does have it’s challenges but they can be overcome.
Here’s what I learned
- Get your baby’s latch right from the start. Bub’s top and bottom lip should fold out slightly to form a crease, and some or all of the areola of your nipple should be taken into their mouth and not seen. If you are experiencing nipple pain while feeding, your nipple probably isn’t far enough in the baby’s mouth. Pop them off (by poking a finger in the side of their mouth to release the suction) and try again. Google some videos on how to attach your baby to feed or see a Lactation Consultant for advice and to check for tongue or lip ties.
- If you’re having supply issues make sure you’re taking care of yourself nutritionally. How is your body supposed to make nutritious and copious milk if there is nothing to make it with? Drink plenty of water 3-4 litres. Have several water bottles around the house that you sip on all day and night. This is most important! And make sure you eat well. Smoothies are a good way to keep your nutrients up between meals. Never turn down pre-made meals from family and friends, and never count calories while you’re feeding a new baby. The weight will come off later! We’re supposed to be a little cuddly to supply milk to our babies. This does not mean go straight to your local fast food outlet and binge. I’m talking whole foods, a clean diet, always eat when you’re hungry and forget about low fat. Get yourself a quality pregnancy and breastfeeding multi-vitamin.
- Stress is a major cause of low supply. Strip you and bub off, do some lovely skin to skin time and forget about the housework, visitors, etc, and feed and feed until your supply is pumping!
Fennel and Fenugreek are great herbs for getting your milk going strong. Carrot juice also helps.
Weleda Nursing tea is great. Have at least 3 cups a day for best results. The herbs not only increase your milk supply, they also help out bub with colic symptoms.
- Have a nice big cabbage in the fridge, especially for that first week. Cabbage leaves in your bra are fantastic for engorgement, although the smell of cooked cabbage isn’t great.
Say goodbye to underwire! If you’ve ever had mastitis you will know what I mean when you would do ANYTHING to avoid it. Wear only loose, comfy, wireless, or even better, no bra for at least the first couple of weeks. Pressure on your boobs can cause blocked ducts that can quickly result in mastitis. If one of your breasts becomes sore, hot, red and does not drain during feeding, or you experience flu like symptoms like fever, don’t muck around. Ice between feeds, hot pack before feeding, gently massage towards the nipple and remember to take your temperature. If a fever appears or your generally feel like dying go either to a Doctor or straight to Emergency.
- Experiment with feeding positions. Make sure that you always get
yourself comfortable before attaching your baby.
Pillows are your new best friend. Your shoulders should be
square and RELAXED!
- The www.laleche.org.uk is a wonderful support network for breastfeeding mothers.
If you are feeling like it’s not working or it’s too hard, get help early.
See a lactation consultant and get on track with feeding.
It’s most rewarding and so good for bub!
- Breast milk is useful for more than just drinking. If your baby gets
blocked tear ducts or conjunctivitis, rashes or skin infections,
ear infections, nappy rash, sunburn, anything really.
It’s liquid gold! And it’s not just limited to your baby.
Husband burns himself in the kitchen, squirt some boobie milk on it.
Boobsicles are a great treat for teething bubbas too!
Ok, this part can get a little graphic. Be warned.
But this is the stuff that a lot of women don’t know because we just don’t talk about it.
Well I do!
- Your poor battered and bruised and sometimes stitched hoo hoo can be soaked in a warm bath with a little salt (1 Tbsp) and essential oils of Lavender, Calendula and Chamomile. A few drops of each.
If you fill some condoms with water and freeze them flat, you can use them as an ice pack on your swollen perineum. Make sure you put a pad or gauze over the top so it’s not directly on your skin.
- How long do you wait to have sex again? That answer ranges from 3 weeks to 12 months! It depends on how the birth went too. Just be very gentle and know that when you’re breastfeeding you do not make as much lubricating fluid as before. Good to mention to your partner too as they may be thinking you’re just not into it.
- Many new mums are frightened to move their bowels for the first time after giving birth. Especially those with stitches. The thought of even slightly pushing can be just too much. It helps if you get a whole bunch of toilet paper and hold the area of your vagina and perineum firmly towards your body as you evacuate your bowels. Do not delay or hold onto your bowel movements. Becoming constipated has very bad consequences like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and other nasty stuff.
Do your best to stay regular and keep your stools nice and soft so that they pass easily. Drinking plenty of water, obviously I’m going to recommend Motion Potion here (Try it. It’s amazing, just ask me! Free samples posted to anywhere in Australia and UK), eating prunes and keeping a high fibre diet all helps. I can’t stress this point enough. Keep your stools nice and soft. I am in the poo business and I hear horror stories all the time about post-partum bums.
- Arnica 30c immediately after giving birth (or as soon as you remember) is an incredible way to speed up your recovery. You can take 2 pillules every half hour for 4 hours after the birth and then a couple of times a day until the swelling and soreness is gone.
- You can start doing a few pelvic floor exercises straight away. This also speeds up the recovery as it moves the blood through the swelling and bruising. Be gentle though.
- The placenta is a weird and wonderful thing. The only meat that comes from life, not death. Don’t let it go to waste! There are all sorts of things being done with placentas these days from being blended into smoothies, encapsulation, and homoeopathic remedies made. If you consume your placenta your recovery time will be AMAZING! But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what the professionals think.
- Make sure you have a high nutrient diet of whole foods, nothing processed and again, forget about counting calories. Make sure you’re having all the good fats: coconuts, nuts and seeds, avocado, eggs, and good oils such as Hemp, Linseed, or Coconut (do not heat these oils).
Colic/gas and Reflux
All babies have gas at one end or the other at some point.
Top end: In my experience, it is always good to sit a baby up and burp them straight after a feed. I do not do this when they have fed to sleep. You don’t have to bash it out. Just sitting up with a nice rub or pat on their back is enough.
Bottom end: Understand that they are digesting for the first time. It can be very uncomfortable. Some things that help move stuck wind or poo are:
- Bike legs
- Lightly massaging the tummy in a clockwise motion (following the large intestine)
- Assisted (obviously) squats
- Tummy time
- A nice warm bath
- Making them giggle
If your breastfed baby is badly suffering from colic you might want to try a few of these things:
- Add fermented food to your diet – it’s an incredible way to increase digestive enzymes and to keep your milk easily digestible.
- Chew your food very thoroughly – it’s tempting to whoof your food while it’s still hot and before bub needs you again. Don’t! Cold food munched on throughout the day is much better for your milk.
- Take digestive enzymes – (make sure it has lactase in the formula)
- Cut out dairy – It’s usually the culprit.
- Drink fennel and Chamomile tea throughout the day as this will pass through to your milk and calm bubs digestion.
Reflux is very common in newborn babies to varying degrees. As they mature, to about 12 weeks, milk becomes less likely to creep back up the oesophagus and create burning pain. If you suspect your baby has reflux try sitting them up to feed (straddling your leg) and keep them upright for at least 10 minutes after feeding. A slight incline while sleeping can also help by placing a wedge under the mattress. Most reflux resolves itself, some does not and requires assistance as it can be very painful.
Generally, if babies knees come up to their tummy while they are crying it’s bottom end gas, if they arch their back it’s reflux.
- If you are using disposable nappies always stretch and twist the nappy, ensuring the inner edge strips are pulled away from the nappy, before you put it on. This will save so many poosplosions (as we’ve named it) and keep the washing to a minimum. Also always use the nappy to wipe away a good amount of poo as you take it off. This will save so many wipes.
- Girls are a little harder to change than boys. Boys you just wipe wipe wipe and chuck the nappy back on (penis pointing down) and you’re done. If girls get poo inside the folds of their labia or even inside the opening to their vagina, it can get a little awkward as to how to deal with it. Always wipe front to back using a fresh wipe on this area first and then the rest of the nappy area. Don’t poke anything into the vagina to clean it. I find a quick splash at it in the tub is always the easiest way, especially if it’s really messy.
- Always thoroughly clean every fold. They are deep and many.
- Envelope shoulders on babies clothes are for when the poo explodes out and you need to take it down, rather than over their heads to remove. Helpful.
- I have always found it easier to chuck a new baby into the bath or shower with someone rather than trying to dangle over a bath, holding a wriggling, slippery fish that you’re trying to clean. It turns a stressful situation into a blissful one. Always dry your baby very thoroughly, every deep crease, especially the neck creases. Infections of the creases are more common in the summer months. Make sure you also open their little fists and clean between their fingers. All sorts of horrible things accumulate in there.
Evohe is my absolute favourite skincare for both me and bub. Foam wash can used for bubs hair and body (and seems to keep cradle cap at bay), Repair Intensive is great for nappy rashes, any rashes, anyTHING really, and Omega 369 and Omega body are great to use in the hair, bath, body, or for a massage.
I find the best way to face the first 12 weeks of your baby’s life is to accept that it is your 4th trimester. Your baby assumes that you two are one entity. It can be very uncomfortable for them to be apart from you. If you can get your head around this from the get go, your expectations become more realistic, so then when you do get some time to yourself it’s a welcome bonus rather than a desperate need.
Wear your baby as much as you can so that you can manage to get a few things done each day. I found that it helped me to write a list of things I wanted to accomplish that day and check them off as you complete them. But be gentle, sometimes this list included taking a shower and brushing my teeth. Some days this was not accomplished.
Last and most importantly, YOU are the expert on YOUR baby. No one knows your baby like you do. Trust your intuition. Just because something worked for someone else’s baby doesn’t mean it will work for your baby. Every baby is unique. Relax, you are doing a wonderful job.
- Use toys in the car. Just because your baby does not have control of their hands yet doesn’t mean they can’t get enjoyment from toys. Having colourful toys hanging close enough to look at in their car seat can save a lot of stressful car rides. Mirrors can be great too. Babies love to see their own reflection.
- Some babies like their own space. It’s always worth a shot. If your baby is upset and nothing you do is helping, try putting them down in a cosy spot, or lying next to them without touching them. You don’t have to leave the room and if it doesn’t work you can cuddle them right away.
- Onesies that have a zip on them, especially one that zips from the foot too, can save you a lot of time and effort, especially in the middle of the night. Those snappy buttons are ridiculous to get right when you’re tired.
- Put a bouncer in front of the toilet so that you don’t have to leave bub alone when nature calls. You also don’t have to wait for someone to hold bub while you bust. This works for the shower too, although be prepared to put on a show to keep them entertained while you wash.
- Caffeine and babies don’t mix. Give it up. It comes straight through to your breast milk and makes the baby wired. Your sleep is too precious. It’s not worth it. Try decaffeinated coffee but make sure the caffeine is removed with the water process rather than a chemical one.
So, to conclude I would like to add that becoming a Mother can be the hardest and yet most rewarding thing you will ever do. Every moment is precious…… and fleeting. It goes so fast, so cherish those joyful moments and in those desperate moments, know that this too shall pass, and it does, and then we miss them when they’re no longer in our beds.
Lisabeth Gavins and her husband Mark are the founders of digestive health formula Motion Potion.
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