Three Months with Baby Joan
I think Joan was about five or six weeks old when I felt the fog lift. There's a sweet, swampy, sleep-deprived fuzziness to that first month, with so much learning and growth happening. You're living moment to moment in survival mode. But eventually things became clearer.
After that first month or so I could move around during the day without feeling like my lower body needed a rest (hot tip: don't google "what does it mean when you feel like things will fall out of your vagina?"). As much as one can, I adapted to living on less sleep. I began to feel spectacularly rested after two and a half hours of straight slumber. And Ben and I got to know our little baby; her favourite activities, how to get her wind up, how she likes to be calmed, when to cuddle her and when to let her play and explore, when she wants the boob (most of the time) and when she just needs sleep (most of the time). Bubs and I have learnt how to breastfeed together, I've learnt how to change nappies and she's learnt how to fill them. I figured out how to tie my shoelaces while wearing Joan in the Ergo carrier and not disturbing her "just drifting off" stage of sleep. Later on I learnt I should just put my shoes on BEFORE putting her in the carrier... Yes, we've learnt a great many things these past three months, our little family of three. And even though all babies and parents are different, I know it can be helpful to read about what other mums and dads are going through, so here are some (oh, just a few) thoughts and ramblings on where we're at.
Ahhhh sleep. The difference between a "good" and a "get by" day.
During the first couple of weeks, Ben and I would take shifts in having baby Joan sleep in our arms overnight. I didn't want to put her in the bassinet (rather, she didn't want to go down and I didn't want to force her) and I felt she was too teeny to have in our bed. So we would take turns staying up for a couple of hours at a time, watching movies on Netflix and holding our sweet babe.
The morning after baby Joan was born, sleeping in my arms.
Those early days...
Eventually Joanie got used to the bassinet and we figured out how she best likes to sleep, after trying all the different swaddling techniques (made somewhat trickier due to her hip brace). Baby Joan learnt the difference between day and night pretty quickly, thank goodness, which helped a lot. And we figured out a little nighttime routine, which helps us all (usually) get a good block (or two) of sleep. Some people say that she rarely cries and that's true, now ...unless she's going through a growth spurt or feeling extra sensitive. For Joanie, it all comes down to making sure she's well rested and not overtired. After I learnt her tired cues better I was able to make sure she gets her sleep when she needs it, and as a result the "witching hour" madness reduced and she makes the most of her awake time as a happy, inquisitive baby.
Things change, and each day and night is different in some way, but here is what we're doing at the moment regarding sleep.
Joan goes to sleep pretty swiftly with some encouragement, provided I've timed things well. I look for her tired cues (sleepy eyes + two yawns close together) and start rocking, shushing and patting her and she usually falls asleep within a few minutes. If she's overtired and crying it takes longer and I may resort to giving her some boob to make her tipsy and pass out, however because I'm pretty strict about watching for her tired cues, we don't often need the boob. I'm realising that I've kind of been forcing her to sleep with all that rocking, etc (it was a very enthusiastic "rock"), so I've started bringing it down a notch to only gentle shushing and patting/rocking (whether in my arms or the pram) and letting her choose to fall asleep when she's tired. It takes longer but she gets there, usually after sucking on her hand for a bit of comfort.
The rocking, shushing, patting dance.
During the day I mostly wear Joan in a sling or the ergo carrier. I adore baby wearing, and I am thrilled with the research showing that it's good for their brain development to be close to mum this way. Joanie is petite so it's pretty easy for me to do (I followed this tutorial when figuring out how the heck to use the wrap). Also, if she's in the sling she'll sleep for much longer than if I were to put her in the bassinet for a daytime nap, as she'll self soothe back to sleep if woken. I'll transition out of baby wearing when it becomes an issue for us, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. I just love having her close to me. I am, however, introducing one or two daytime bassinet and/or pram naps, just to get her familiar with sleeping away from the warmth and comfort of my chest. We have a separate bassinet lent by friends that is in our living room for daytime naps. I should note that now the brace is off, she's slept for much longer in the bassinet, as we can pop her in an arms-up swaddle suit that was previously too narrow for the brace. I've got a feeling this sleep business may be a bit easier now she's brace-free. Gosh, it sounds like sleep is such a big deal, but it kind of is. A well-rested baby makes a big difference and allows her to have good, productive times for feeds and play, as well as helping us all get a good night sleep. Tricks we've done to get her used to the bassinet are: warming the bassinet with a heat pack; putting one of my shirts tightly around the mattress so it smells like me; having me hold her arms/hands gently across her once I put her down, so she's relaxed and doesn't wake herself up; and patting/shushing. We also play a white noise app and have the "womb noise" on during daytime naps.
Sweet, napping babe.
At the moment, a good day involves one 1-1.5hour nap (it's great if we get in two!) and multiple 20-45 minute naps. If she wakes after 20 or 30 minutes and isn't happy or very alert, I encourage her to go back to sleep. Honestly whether she'll nap away from my arms depends on her mood, and if she's growth spurting or very clingy, I don't push it and I'll baby-wear her. After hearing at mothers group how other bubs napped in their cots in separate rooms and fell asleep on their own like it's no big deal, as well as hearing people talk about ways to sleep-train your baby, I went through a period of worrying about her napping habits. But I got over that, deciding to stop comparing and worrying about harming her sleep skill development (thanks for the chats, mum), and to not believe I am "spoiling" her. I remind myself that it won't last forever, these sweet baby-wearing days, and that Joanie can sleep away from me, happily going into the bassinet when she's in the right mood and napping in the pram like a star (not to mention night sleeps in the bassinet). And so, if Joan is crying about being away from me (and I know she's not simply overtired) I don't push it... I'll pop her in the sling or even sometimes just sit and hold my babe while she naps. She's the first child and has the luxury of my full attention, free schedule and first child/first-time parent pushover status. As Dr Sears says, encouraging babies to learn that sleep is a pleasant state to be, and remain, in is important.
Baby-wearing in our Ergo carrier.
NIGHT SLEEPS It's amazing how your concept of a good night sleep changes when you become a parent. In those early newborn days, two consecutive hours of sleep was AMAZING. Right now, if I get 4-5 hours then 1-2 hours then maybe a final 30mins to 1 hour sleep, I feel AMAZING. We're doing pretty well at night, I think. She's not a baby to sleep for 8 hours in a row, but that's cool. She will, eventually.
Joanie is a windy baby, so we have a bit of a task making sure she can lie flat comfortably. If not she'll wake early, fussing and squirming with a burp. Joan feeds fast and gulps, and (I believe) due to the brace was not able to get her wind out as easily during those early day. A mild tongue tie may also be contributing (we've decided not to snip as there's no pain when feeding, her growth is good and she only sometimes comes off her latch, and my gut says not to snip - more on that later). Though on reflection, these days her wind is SO much better, and has continued to improve now the brace is off. Making sure she was able to lie flat at night used to take an hour or more, but now it's around 20 minutes. Other things in our night-time routine are a bath around 7pm (we have a bath together (I shower first so I'm not all dirty) or a shower, which she LOVES), and Joanie has her final feed while Ben and I eat dinner. Family dinner time! Upstairs the salt lamp is on, glowing all soft and womb-like and we pop on a bit of white noise so that she's happy and calm while enjoying her last feed for the day.
Settling our sweetie in the middle of the night.
More and more she's settling easily. In the early days she'd cry from the wind checking, as she just wanted to sleep, the poor thing, but would keep waking up with wind. If bubs is happy and settling, I'll get into bed and feel very grateful to be lying flat. Ben will come in later with Joanie when she's bed ready and she'll go into her bassinet, while Ben and I pray that she sleeps for at least 4 hours before wanting food. Her initial sleeping block varies from 3-6 hours these days, with an earlier wake-up call if she's going through a growth spurt or if we didn't get all her wind up. The second block is hit or miss, maybe 1-3 hours and occasionally she's a bit restless. Just recently we've started keeping the whole night-time routine in the one room - nappy change, feeds, everything in our room instead of taking her into the room next door where all her junk is. This apparently minimises stimulation and helps babies settle back to sleep quicker, and it seems to be working! After the second block (where Joanie may wake any time from 3-5am) I tend to pull her in to bed with me for the final bit of sleep. I want to note that if you are going to co-sleep, you need to do it safely and know the risks. Maternal and Child Health nurses do not recommend parents sleep with babies and I absolutely understand why, as there are certainly safety concerns. However research says that many parents do co-sleep at some point, it's just that no-one talks about it. And co-sleeping smartly is very different to resorting to it in the middle of a sleep-deprived night. Ben and I didn't take the decision to co-sleep lightly, it took me five weeks before I tried it (even though all along I wanted to), and I did a lot of research and talked it out with friends and family. Prior to that our babe was quite small so I was cautious, even though my gut said it was right for us. Ben and I spoke at length about whether we would, before ultimately deciding to try co-sleeping on those mornings she won't go back in the bassinet. We re-arrange the pillows and doona so that we're co-sleeping "safely" and although I don't sleep deeply, as I wake with every little movement she makes (part of the deal when you co-sleep. As is no alcohol!), this arrangement allows me to get in a few more naps between 3am and 7 am if it's one of those mornings.
This is what we're doing now. As I said, things change all the time. For instance, I'm pretty sure our baby will start consistently sleeping 8 hours straight next week.... But truthfully, I have zero expectations that I will not be up giving Joan a feed at least once overnight, at least for the foreseeable future. And I am so completely fine with that.
Breastfeeding is going really well. During the first week I experienced a bit of pain, cracking and bleeding, as my nipples got used to everything, but that cleared up after fairly quickly. I remember feeling a little anxious about whether my milk would come in, and sent my Dad to buy lactation tea from a herbalist (just in case!), but soon enough it was flowing and since then it's continued smoothly, which I'm thankful for. I still can't believe I'm making such amazing food with my breasts, how bonkers is that? I'm finding breastfeeding enjoyable and incredibly convenient, absolutely loving that fact that I can instantly feed Joan on the go, no matter where I am.
Joan latches well, even though she has a mild tongue-tie, and she sucks very efficiently, generally feeding for only 10-20 minutes at a time, and generally every two hours during the day (she's also pretty teeny and cannot stomach too much at a time). We fell into the feed, play, sleep routine pretty early on as Joan seems to feel best doing this. I still give her the boob on occasion if she's overtired and won't settle, and always if she's distressed as that's the only thing that will do the trick (well, that and stripping down and getting in the shower together). Joan sucks her hands (and sometimes my neck or face) for comfort, but usually the boob is the only thing to stop the tears. I wanted to avoid using dummies, but Joanie is a very "sucky" baby and so we eventually tried some different pacifiers at about week 9, only to have her completely refuse them. Trials of multiple styles on multiple occasions has proven that she just won't take a dummy. If she does take one in the future I'm hoping it will help soothe her back to sleep and also keep her happy on long car trips. If not, she'll just have to find comfort in her hands.
Our first brace-free feed since the day she was born. Another thing to note was that in the early weeks, Joan did a lot of spit up. Nothing to indicate reflux, even silent reflux (we check it all out), she would simply take too much and didn't have the space to handle it. I remember feeling anxious about whether it was normal, googling and texting friends... It didn't bother her at all, but I was worried about whether she would gain enough weight and if I needed to "top her up" with more boob after the spit up. Her first weigh-in with the Maternal and Child Health Nurse (who we love, we got a really great one!) confirmed that she was gaining weight supremely well and it was not an issue at all. Spitting up is very common and it would fade eventually, I was assured. And it's true. These days she hardly spits up unless she's sleepy on the boob and "drinking irresponsible", as we say. Though she still wears a bib for most of her feeds, just to save her neck from spit up (it gets in those rolls and hides, getting all funky!!) and her clothes too.
Regarding Joan's mild tongue tie, we had SO many different opinions from people whether to get it snipped or leave it alone (even laser surgery is an option). Our paediatrician at the hospital said to leave it, as did a paediatric surgeon who deals with them, a couple of midwives and a dentist friend. I visited a lactation consultant who emphatically told us she thought we should get it lasered off (Joan also has a mild lip tie), which caused me to feel unsure for a while... But my gut all along said to leave it, that it'd all be fine in the end (professionals can worry about speech, dental and feeding issues) and it wasn't causing any feeding issues besides possibly more wind during the evening when she's tired and her latch can become lazy. With many people encouraging us to err on the side of leaving it alone if possible, that's what we're doing...for now.
Baby and me, after a morning feed in bed.
Our little Joan is a petite baby, weighing 2.765kg at birth (6.1 pounds) when she was born at 38 weeks gestation. She put on a great amount of weight in those early days, and has continued to grow well. Recently, at 14 weeks, she weighed-in at 5 & a half kilos (around 12 pounds), so she tends to hover between the 15th and 25th percentiles. Her fat rolls are enviable, she's just a lighter baby. I thought I'd have at least a 7 pound baby, as I was 8 pounds at birth (born around 41 weeks) and Ben was in the 7s...who knows, maybe she'd have chubbed up a lot more in those final weeks if she didn't insist on coming early (you can read Joan's birth story here).
Seeing your baby grow before your eyes is an incredible thing. They change so quickly at this age, and I've found these growth spurts to often be intense. For Joanie, when she's growth spurting, she's usually feeding a lot more day and night, as well as sleeping more during the day and becoming a quiet, clingy, cuddly koala. During these times it means more snuggling and not putting her down very often as she just won't have it, and I don't complain. Bring on the cuddles.'
4 weeks old, swimming in her 0000 clothes.
Smiling and talking
Our babe is definitely a chatterbox. I noticed her first proper smile at about 7 weeks and soon after she started cooing and making talking sounds. She mirrors back our tone and chats away happily when she's in the mood, particularly in the mornings and before her bath at night. I find myself all teary-eyed chatting to my daughter. I cannot imagine what it will be like when she comes out with actual words beyond "COOO!"
I suppose it was meant to be, as I talked to Joanie all the time while she was in my womb, and since she's been born we talk, talk, talk to and with her, describing what we're doing, what's going on around her or deciding what to cook for dinner, singing songs...baby hears a lot of words. I'd like to start reading more but I tend to get two pages in before she fidgets and wants to do something else. She knows the first two pages of The Very Hungry Caterpillar VERY well. Though as I proof-read this post, I must note that she's now, at 14 weeks, started to engage with books a lot more. We get through a whole seven pages now, he he he.
The paediatrician who checked Joan at delivery said her left hip could be dislocated and it appeared she had hip displaysia. So, at 20 hours old, little Joan was fitted with a Pavlik Harness. That was hard. I knew it wasn't a lifelong sentence, that she was perfectly healthy (thank goodness) and it would come off eventually...but there were a few teary hours in the beginning. We had just been gifted this amazing bundle of joy, and hearing the news that she'd likely be in a brace for a minimum of three months broke my heart a little. All I wanted was for her to be happy and free. But we soon got over it, adjusting our view of what the first few months of Joanie's life would be like and learning how to change a nappy with straps and fabric in the way (and how to manage poo explosions, as you cannot take the harness off!!). I also had to realise that most of the clothes I bought were unwearable. That's not a big deal but I was a bit sad about it in the beginning. It's amazing how quickly you adapt to the situation though. Joanie adapted right away and Ben and I followed soon after, the harness and brace becoming our new normal on top of every other change we were going through. All in all it was a bittersweet time, wanting to be present and savour those newborn weeks and certainly not wanting to wish the time away, however we also couldn't wait until December when she'd be hopefully brace-free.
Baby and her dad, in the days of the Pavlik Harness.
At 5 & 1/2 weeks Joan's ultrasounds showed her hip looked normal (AMAZING news!!) but she still needed to wear the brace for 8 more weeks so that the muscle didn't go back to how it was (ooomf!) I knew how lucky we were, that many babies have to wear the brace for a long time and sometimes even have plaster casts or surgery, but I was also secretly hoping that she'd be given early marks. 8 weeks more felt like a loooooong time. But again, we adapted. Joan was moved over to the Denis Browne Bar, which could come off for 2 hours a day (yay bathtime and skin to skin feeds!!) and she wore it proudly for a two more months. The first couple of days after the brace switch was hard, as she had less knee freedom with the Denis Browne Bar and so couldn't kick her legs in the same way. Those frustrated cries broke my heart! I found if she'd get worked up over it I'd simply distract her, and she soon forgot.
Hip Dysplasia is extremely common, apparently, and nowadays they overdiagnose (or rather, they overtreat it), as one cannot fully know how our babies' joints will develop. The alternative of not treating it and having the hip develop poorly is absolutely not worth the risk. So our bubs was a lucky one when they just needed to be certain things would develop normally, which, thankfully, they did. And so the brace could come off after only three months, when baby Joan was 13.5 weeks old. We were thrilled to have her brace-free full time - absolutely, positively THRILLED! We could not believe how glorious it felt to hold our bubs "au natural". And to watch her move freely all day long (side note: the first night she was brace-free we stayed up a for a while watching her sleep, just to make sure she didn't have a kicking party and roll over). I am amazed at how strong Joanie is and how she's already started to roll and show the beginnings of trying to crawl. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, though. Friends have said how wearing the brace is like weight training for babies - they become super strong! I'd better watch out...
To all those brace-wearing babies and parents, many of whom have to wear it for a lot longer and at older ages than baby Joan, you are stars.
Baby and her bar brace. (note: you wear the brace under clothes, this was just on the outside for a random occasion)
Bubs had a bout of cradle cap appear on her face at around 5 weeks, which came as a surprise. It was super funky and a bit scary, all this yellow flaky crusty gunk around her eyebrows. I tried olive oil, a nice natural solution that works for many, but the day after it showed up even MORE and all across her forehead too. Who's to say that it wouldn't have cropped up on her forehead anyway, but that was enough for me to follow Robin Barker's advice and try a glycerine sorbitol cream, which definitely eased the flakiness. I'd apply the cream throughout the day and in the evening we'd wipe it off with a damp cloth. Skin things, including cradle cap, are quite common and many are caused by hormones. They don't tend to last long, and Joanie's face cradle cap disappeared after about 2 weeks after. I'm certain it would have gone away even if we hadn't used the cream, sometimes it just takes time, but it helped ease it from our persepctive. Some more cradle cap has come up underneath her hair, but we've left this one alone as we tend to forget it's there, and they say it doesn't bother babies. I purchased Moo Goo upon encouragement from my cousin (all natural stuff, it's a great brand) and we'll be giving that a go because it's lingering longer than we thought it would. Below is a picture of baby's first proper beach visit at five weeks, where you can kind of see some crustiness on her forehead.
Cradle capping at the beach at 5 weeks old.
CAR SEAT DRAMA
Up until 10 weeks Joan was pretty cool with the car seat. We'd manage trips fairly easily, with frustrated "get me out of this seat!" cries only about 50% of the time and only after 10 minutes or so. Then at week 10 that jumped to 90% of the time and usually as soon as I'd put her in the seat. We tried pretty much everything - a mirror for her to see herself, no mirror, toys, me sitting next to her, Ben sitting next to her, my mum next to her, no one sitting next to her...we play to "womb sound" app or music she likes, or we play nothing at all. Our windows are tinted and the straps aren't twisted...I'd even put my shirt near the straps so they'd smell like me. I made sure she went in happy and fed with no burps, other times she'd be asleep and I'd transfer her in, praying she wouldn't wake (which sometimes worked thank goodness), or I would time the trip so she was calm and sleepy. We ended up removing the brace for most trips but even that didn't seem to make much of a difference. Most of the time she just SCREAMED - red in the face and big, streaming, salty tears. It was SO incredibly difficult. Joan recovers pretty quickly, which makes me feel like I'm not permanently damaging her on those times when we simply must make an appointment. But I caved in and stopped making long trips (or any trips at all) because it was too heartbreaking to stand. Her car seat hatred gradually started improving at about week 13, and since week 14 it's been a whole lot better - thank goodness! She's relaxed into it (maybe she finally listened after all those times I yelled out "Just let it happen, Joanie!") and will play happily with her feet or eat the straps for around 15 minutes before grizzling. Sometimes she allows me to transfer her in while asleep. Also, blaring white noise on my phone sometimes helps her to chill out. But baby still HATES to be restrained, so if her mood isn't right she'll cry, cry, cry, screeeeeeam. People say it should improve once she's forward facing. Fingers crossed it settles NOW. That'd be swell.
The endless car-settling routine.
I spoke about this earlier in the post, however here are a few extra things we needed to consider due to Joan wearing a brace practically non-stop for three months:
- Only wearing wide-set onesies (buttons were the best, no skinny legs, leggings or zips!). I highlight the brand we favoured at the end of this post.
- Making sure her brace was covered OR I was wearing a top that fully covered my chest, otherwise the brace would scratch up my skin when holding her.
- Using and Ergo Carrier or sling where her legs are placed out in favour of other brands. See this post for reference.
- Not swaddling her legs tight. These look great though we used another arms down/legs wide one. And then we realised she's much more of an arms up baby so we used these sleepy wings. Thank you to the folk who gave recommendations for swaddling a hip brace baby!
- Thankfully our car seat wasn't slim fitting (and Joan was small) so we didn't have any car seat issues, but I know many have this problem, especially when the bubs are in the brace at an older age. However did the brace contribute to her hatred of the car? Some say yes, so possibly...
- Joanie didn't like being in the bassinet attachment for the pram (hating it more and more as she got bigger), and that's surely because her legs were pushed against the side due to the brace. So we transitioned to the seat attachment of our pram earlier than we probably should have, but as a result she started to like being in the pram. Win!
- When she was in the Pavlik Harness (that we couldn't take off) Ben had to wake up in the night a few times when a certain someone did a giant poo explosion. I'd immediately grab her legs, holding them out of the way of the harness, and hence needed more than two hands to deal with that situation. Thankfully we both found these moments very funny.
Our frog-legged brace babe cuddling Nana KK.
Newborn jaundice is very common, and there are different kinds with different causes. In many cases it's no big deal, fading over time. In Joan's case it did lessen, and was only on her face (a good sign), her overall fake-tan-looking tone persisted into weeks 7, 8, 9, 10... and so, during a check-up, her GP requested a liver ultrasound, just to check that it wasn't enlarged and everything was ok. I was told this was just a precaution and indeed my gut told me Joan was absolutely fine, but you can't help worry a little, hoping your beautiful baby is healthy. We did the ultrasound (I wasn't not going to, because what if...) and it turns out everything looked perfect. And while her orange-tinge kind of faded even more after that, she still is a tanned-looking baby. When discussing the issue, my friend said, "Isn't that just her glow?" hehe. Yes, it is. No but seriously, I was an olive-skinned baby, and Joan is a quarter Chinese... So I guess she just has an olive-Asian glow.
I'm pretty in tune with my intuition. I trust my gut in knowing what's right and making decisions, and I rarely care about what others think of me. In saying that, I found myself questioning my instincts more than I expected during the first months of becoming a mum. Chatting with others and reading advice can be helpful, but you need to remember that each baby is different and each family unit is different. In so many ways. And so what works for others is wonderful, yay for them, but it may not work for you. I had to tune out a lot of well-intended advice (that most of the time, wasn't even said in a pushy way) and just focus on us, what felt right and what made all three of us happiest and healthiest. It goes without saying, then, that I am clearly not writing this post to prescribe any advice (well, except that you should follow your intuition), I am purely wanting to share our experience and record these wild three months.
Those of you who read my pregnancy posts may recall my lack of appetite, particularly during the final weeks. Food was just "meh" and nothing ever really got me excited besides oranges, pasta and potatoes. Well, thankfully my appetite returned like WHOA right after I gave birth. I blame breastfeeding + weight lifting a small child who is now on the outside of your stomach instead of taking up the room that should be dedicated to digesting pasta. I'm loving being hungry again, and have been devouring wholesome foods such as nuts, avocado, eggs, potatoes, pasta and smoothies with glee. Eating is such fun!
I haven't restricted many foods, though I am avoiding onion and gas-causing foods such as cauliflower, cabbage, and even legumes (though not always, I love my hummus), just in case they contribute to bubs' wind. Nothing makes me think I should restrict further, such as dairy, as her wind has greatly improved over time, becoming even less of an issue now she is brace-free. Also, I know it's an old wives tale, the "you can't eat chocolate when breastfeeding" thing (though many insist it to be true and I won't argue with that, I'm sure it is for some), but I'm totally not indulging my usual chocolate habit. I try to avoid too much sugar in general, and won't go for the less sweet, pure stuff, as it is very high in cocoa and contains caffeine (because I am now having a coffee a day I don't want to include more caffeine in our diet). Also, my desire for sleep is super high so I don't indulge my post-dinner chocolate love, as I know my body, and sweets and caffeine at night totally impacts my ability to sleep well. What I will have is raw cacao smoothies and the odd bit of raw chocolate every now and then, and early in the day. Other than that I'm eating all I want and then some.
Rather than repeating myself, you can read more about my breastfeeding appetite and the types of foods I've been eating in my article on the new Delicious website.
Avocado and a fried egg on sourdough. ALL. THE. TIME.
Feeding the babe then feeding my face. Repeat. My new job. It's awesome.
Fluids, caffeine and naps
In terms of fluids, I've been drinking water like it's my full-time job (which is kind of is, because breastfeeding is my current full-time job and you need water to breastfeed) and I've been having a coffee most mornings. Just a regular strength latte (if I'm out) or black, French-press style coffee (at home). During the first five weeks after Joan was born I avoided coffee as I'd always pray for a nap during the day and didn't want the caffeine to reduce my chances of sleeping. I'm a horrible napper, so that didn't work out too well. I'd find myself stressing over it, thinking "you should be napping!!" (and as if one can nap in that mental state...) After chatting it out with friends I cut myself some sleep slack and just rolled with it, knowing even if I had a rough night that I would sleep again soon and feel good again soon. Which was true. And what do you know, my sleep improved immensely after that. Also, as bubs began to give us longer blocks of sleep overnight (moving from 1-2 hours to 2-4 hours), my need for daytime naps reduced and my desire for coffee increased. Now I adore my morning coffee, like never before. I do get tired most days come late afternoon, but I always know that sleep is soon around the corner so I tend to push through. Every now and then we'll nap together when Joanie says it's allowed and I must say, lying with my snoozing afternoon babe is a pretty sweet thing.
I'm not yet drinking alcohol (besides a few sips here and there) because my desire for it is not greater than the effort required to make sure I have expressed milk, bottles prepped, pumping, dumping yada yada... Maybe in the future I will, when she's having bigger gaps between feeds, but for now, it's sparkling water all the way. WOOOOOOO!
I'll be starting a series on the blog from now on called "Joan Loves"... KIDDING. Can you imagine? Actually, that may be kind of funny. It is for now, at least. Here's a little snapshot into her personality. In the early days the list would have been "stare at the wall and blinds, and cuddles", but it's has gradually grown and she enjoys these things in different ways as the weeks float by.
Smiling bubs at two months.
♥ Kicking her legs off our hands or the floor and frog-legging backwards. Kind of like breaststroke but on her back. It's so cute and actually pretty amazing. She'd even do it while wearing the brace. I've got to watch Joan non-stop, she's on the move! ♥ Blinds, light shining through the blinds, the blinds being closed and opened (again and again and again), anything blind related. I haven't introduced her to curtains yet...that may blow her mind! ♥ Walls, specifically white. Brick too, if she's in the mood. ♥ Lying on her nappy change table, especially if Ben and I are both there. It's her happy place. ♥ Sitting upright on the couch on our knees or against a pillow, and in the bathroom in her bath seat, chilling out while we shower and brush our teeth. ♥ Hearing the bathroom fan turn on and my electric toothbrush running. Wide-eyed wonder! ♥ At 2 months old: the cat on her play mat and her toy penguin, Pengi. At 3 months old: her carrot rattle and pink bunny. ♥ Staring at the bookcase. ♥ Listening to Tchaikovsky (especially The Nutcracker ballet), Beyonce (specifically Love on Top) and John Mayer (his old stuff. We tried the new stuff, don't even bother). ♥ The first page of The Very Hungry Catapiller, the one with all the colours and white dots. ♥ Talking. Specifically when we say the world "HELLO". She goes back and forth with us making a similar sound. Baby loves a good chat. ♥ Her knitted clown friends that hang from a play bar thing and have bells attached. She loves to touch and talk to them. ♥ Baths, showers, water of any kind. ♥ Being held and cuddled. She's a cuddly koala, alright. But she hates to be restrained, hence the car seat trouble. ♥ Lying on quilts and practising rolling over. Though she gets pissed if she can't do it. ♥ Sitting up, propped up against a pillow, and holding our hands and pulling herself up ad forward. Baby is strong! ♥ Staring at the mirror. She smiles super big and then turns into my neck acting all shy because of the baby in the mirror smiling back at her. Again and again and again... ♥ A good 1.5 hour nap. ♥ My arms and neck - they're constantly covered in Joan's drool. ♥ Her hands. We call her hands her choc-tops. She eats multiple choc-tops a day, usually of the chocolate variety. We assess what flavour she's eating based on her reaction when running through a list of options. I'm fairly certain it's an accurate way to communicate. Actually, we did that when she was in my belly, too, we'd say names and wait for a kick of approval. ♥ Blowing raspberries on her belly. ♥ The outdoors and the breeze, baby LOVES the breeze in her face. She loves watching the big tree outside sway the breeze and the shadows dancing on the fence. It's my favourite calming technique.
Here is a list of things we've found useful during these first few months of parenthood. We came across these via friends, research and/or chance. I found that friends who have had babies within the last year or so are the most helpful when it comes to tips, as brands and recommendations change so regularly. It's very hard to keep up to date and know what is necessary, however it's also hard to know what you'll find useful until after you have your baby, as every bub is so different. It's really trial and error. In saying that, here is a list of what we have loved...
♥ This sleeping bra is so so so comfy, I love it and should probably buy another one rather than washing it all the time and sometimes putting it on wet.
♥ My BrestFriend breastfeeding pillow is really comfortable, great for my back and definitely worth the money (though I scored one barely used on gumtree for $20).
♥ Our fit ball is a saviour to calm our crying babe. The hairdryer also works like a charm.
♥ We love having a mirror to hang opposite Joan when she's in her car seat, so I can see she's ok (I totally did that 'first parent thing' early on and pulled over multiple times to make sure she was still breathing) and also so she can have some entertainment (baby loves a good mirror). Thank you, Lindsey, for the lend (of everything!!!)
♥ Our baby monitor has given us peace of mind that she is breathing in the night. It's totally overkill, some may say, but many first time mums would agree that they've done the "is my baby breathing" check. We found a whizz bang one on sale and I'm glad we have it. The video and sound monitor will be useful when bubs eventually moves out of our room.
♥ Our Ergo carrier is fantastic, Ben and I both love using it. I also love my Hugabub sling that was lent to me, and at home I tend to wear Joanie in this, saving the Ergo carrier for walks (it's bulkier and hence more wind protective).
♥ Our stand alone freezer. I'm SO glad we bought this. We fill it with homemade meals and gifts from friends, my dad's bread and breastfeeding snacks. Come dinnertime, on days I'm sleepy or have had no time to prep a meal, I am particularly happy to grab and defrost some bolognaise. It was a complete saviour during those first weeks.
♥ I use a aluminium-free deodorant so that Joanie doesn't face-plant in my pit and some nasty roll-on. This one works for me...kind of. Sometimes it makes me smell like celery. I've heard good things about this brand and want to try it.
♥ We loved Marquise grow suits for Joan, as they're wide enough to go over her brace and use buttons instead of zips (zip suits are too narrow for the brace).
♥ Joanie wears Pure Baby singlets under her clothes (you can snag them on sale in packs of four).
♥ We use Earth Choice laundry powder for alllll the washing we do, but we soak the messy stuff in Napisan.
♥ We bought multiple packs of these cloth nappies (the flannelette and terry towelling kind, though we prefer the terry towelling). We use them as spit rags, we pop them on top of the change mat so it's warm & soaks up any messes easily, and we place them over the car seat and pram straps so she has something fun and familiar to touch (baby hates the straps). They are something we use everyday and we are so grateful that mum thought to buy us some. The week after Joan was born, we asked her to buy us whole bunch more.
♥ Our friends gifted us a playmat and it is fantastic! I can't find the exact one online, however it's similar to this one but also has a mirror and a few other pieces. Joanie adores looking at the colours and that kitten in the middle. During the second month, it was one of her best friends, she'd talk to it and laugh at it all the time.
♥ Another friend gifted us this bouncer (snagged on sale) and Joan loves it. She also loves this bath seat (another Lindsey lend, thank you!!) and when she was small enough (and not at risk of rolling out of it) she'd happily hang out in the bathroom sitting in her seat while I took a shower.
♥ We bought this change table and added some Ikea buckets to the side. A change table with multiple levels would be great but they're pricier. In fact, I wasn't even going to buy a change table, thinking I'd just change bubs on the floor or my bed, but I am SO happy we bought one. It's good for my back, for one, and it also holds a lot of crap that otherwise we'd need to put in cupboards or baskets.
♥ We use sudocreme nappy rash cream if bubs is a bit red but favour Paw Paw ointment as a protective barrier. Edit: I am now a few natural nappy rash creams after finding hellocharlie.com.au upon advice from a lovely reader. Sunscreen too!
♥ To clean Joan during nappy changes, I use these cotton make-up removers and dip them in warm water (or cold sometimes, she doesn't care). When we're out and about I use Gaia wipes. In the early days I thought you were supposed to use wipes all the time, and though some do, bubs ended up getting a bit red from all the wiping. Switching to warm water fixed that right up.
♥ We used Huggies newborn nappies until week 14, when one too many poo explosions informed us that it was time to move on. We switched to the next size up and when Joan is big enough we plan on switching to Naty, which you can get at Coles.
♥ When we need to use soap in the bath we use Gaia, however we tend to just use water as we noticed Joanie's skin was getting irritated when using soap all the time. Side note: I use their belly butter, as well as a lovely oil by WikiSkincare I was sent and adore.
♥ To sooth any dry or irritated skin I massage her in extra virgin coconut oil.
♥ My Vanchi nappy bag is fabulous, though I need to figure out how to pack it without it looking like I'm packing for a holiday.
♥ In the early days, while my nipples got used to all that attention, Lansinoh was helpful.
♥ We love our Jane pram, it has great suspension and is so easy to push. Due to the brace pushing her legs out, she didn't love the bassinet attachment, so it wasn't until about three months in (when she was bigger and could use the seat part) that we really used the pram. We now love it and she naps in there some days for 20minutes if I'm not pushing it, or at least 45minutes if I'm constantly rocking it with my foot while working on the computer, which I'm totally doing right now... The only issue would be that the canopy at the front doesn't come down very far and so Joan finds herself with the sun in her eyes often, and I need to dangle a cloth over the top.
♥ We ended up with this car seat after endless research and near purchases. I can't even recall why we got it (safety, of course but also friend recommendation and on sale, I think) but we're happy with it.
♥ I love The Wonder Weeks App on my phone, to track what's going on with bubs' development. I found it didn't always align with dates, but reading the "signs" and "abilities" gave me reassurance when bubs was acting extra clingy or grizzly.
♥ We bought two salt lamps during a sale and we LOVE them. They go on at night to provide a little light that is easy on the eyes and helps Joan (and me!) stay in sleep mode.
♥ This is the white noise app we use to help her fall asleep and if she needs calming.
♥ We bought this bassinet based on safety recommendations and price, and we are really happy with our purchase. You can rock the bassinet, which is helpful during those 1-3am hours when Joanie sometimes rouses during the night and may need some help getting back to sleep. We also borrowed a bassinet from a friend, which lives downstairs for her daytime naps.
♥ We decided to buy this organic mattress and think it's fantastic. I did tonnes of research and could not find many options for mattresses made with organic fibres, so we bought it feeling a little unsure, however we're super happy with it. We use this mattress protector and this brand of fitted sheets, both of which we're also very happy with, the mattress protector in particular (though having said that we haven't had any explosions in the bassinet so we haven't really tested it out. Though we did deal with a lot of spit up in the early days).
♥ Food deliveries! The Source Bulk Foods are a great company with stores around Australia and a home delivery service. Just a disclaimer, I am an ambassador for these guys and so I am gifted their goods, but trust me they are wonderful & top quality. I'm obsessed with their paleo cacao balls, and their quinoa and biodynamic rice is the best I've tasted. We're also loving Coles online deliveries (delivery is free at certain times) - yep, I've given in and am buying Coles. Previously I tried to avoid the big two supermarkets but at the moment convenience is winning - mamma needs her tinned salmon and baby needs her nappies delivered to their door! I do not facy trips to the supermarket to buy heavy goods just yet, thank you very much. Also, my friend had Dineamic meals delivered during the early days and I think this is a GREAT idea. What an ace baby shower gift that would be...
♥ Friends who gifted food - homemade or cafe-made meals and treats, baked goods, coffees, even picking up groceries on the way over to visit. Thank you, thank you thank you! And my mum, who would come over and clean and sometimes not even come upstairs where bubs and I were napping or feeding. She'd just pop in, be a cleaning, food-bearing fairy and leave us to snuggle. I am SO incredibly lucky to have her.
♥ Lastly, a good book for reference (DO NOT GOOGLE THINGS) is Robin Barker's Baby Love. If you don't already have it, Robin hands out fuss-free information and reassurance that babies are weird and whatever is going on is probably normal. I don't agree with everything written but for the first stage of bubs' life this book was very handy. Just note that Robin does talk about crying it out, which we aren't fans of, personally. In terms of our parenting style, we are more in line with Pinky McKay and other attachment parenting types, as that feels natural and right for us.
We just can't get enough...
Where I'm at
My recovery from childbirth was very smooth. I had a couple of small stitches, which didn't bother me, and light bleeding until about week 7. I found that too much activity made me feel heavy down there, and so I needed to rest and avoid taking our stairs too often, but that's about it. By about week 6 I felt pretty normal. Very lucky indeed!
My biggest challenge has been the fluctuating sleep. A great block of five hours is so amazing, but often baby Joan wakes earlier, and she still feeds two to three times a night. I have been surprised by how well I can do on little sleep (and many mums get it so much worse), but if we have a few nights in a row when she wakes after only a few hours of sleep, I do struggle with my energy levels. Plus, she's a baby who loves to be held and as I am rocking her to sleep and wearing her a lot I am finding myself a bit exhausted, physically. Hence why we're transitioning to some bassinet naps and easing up on the rocking. The other thing that has been rough is the car battle. Oh, and the brace, obviously. And deciding whether or not to snip the tongue tie. Those were my little challenges in the first three months.
As new parents, I feel that Ben and I are doing really well. We're completely obsessed with our baby and wonder why it took us so long to have kids. Ben is an amazing father with great instincts and Joanie adores him. The two of them together melts me. We are a great team, agreeing on basically everything (which simply makes things easy) and supporting each other. We both know that the other person is doing the best they can, which is helpful to keep in mind during stressful, tired moments. I do tend to snap if I'm excessively sleep deprived, but that's about it. We thankfully don't have any struggles besides typical new parent stuff, the change to our sleep pattern being the main one.
In the early weeks, after Ben went back to work (he took three weeks off, then went part-time for two more weeks - AMAZING) I'd long for the weekends when he'd do more settling overnight and I could go straight back to sleep after feeding. Sometimes, when Joan was unsettled and needing help getting back to sleep during the second half of the night, Ben would pop bubs in our "downstairs bassinet" and take her into the room next to our bedroom, so I could sleep without hearing (and waking from) every Joanie movement. One morning I woke before Joan and crept next door to find this sweet scene below...
Yes, I'd be much more of a zombie if it weren't for Ben. He has never hesitated in getting up with me if I need help during the night, and for that I am indescribably grateful. However I'm very aware that he's working long hours and giving himself to his work and his staff in addition to Joan and I. I'm working hard too, I just know my husband (he's a giver) and I find thatI need to make sure he looks after himself because he won't think to. Funnily enough, I've never had that problem. I always make sure I'm looking after myself with down time and good food (I guess I'm happily selfish in that way). I thought this may change with becoming a mum, and it has, to a degree (my "me time" is now a few minutes vs a few hours), but I'm finding I still prioritise my self care, as I need to feel as good as possible so that I am a good mum to Joan. Anyway, in addition to looking after Joan and myself, I'm making sure Ben gets his sleep-ins on the weekend, doesn't hit the drive-through too often and knows all the time how amazing I think he is. Really, it's all about support and understanding, and being aware that this is a season, that Joanie WILL sleep longer in the future, helps a lot. She already is giving us more rest and it feels amazing! Even so, we're making sure we are kind to each other and ourselves, while soaking up this small, sweet, outrageously cute little baby of ours.
Honestly, motherhood has blown me away. I was completely unprepared for how severely I would love this little person, how she has absolutely stolen my heart... and also, how fun this would be. Hard, sure, but so much fun. I am obsessed with our baby, she is incredibly sweet, very bright and engaging. She is also very sensitive, gets overwhelmed easily and has a strong will. Joan loves and needs us so much, it melts my heart. The fact that she often just needs her mum, to be in my arms and that's it, the crying stops...my goodness! How special and lucky am I? This amazing little being prefers her dad and I above anyone else in the world. I'm gushing now, but I just can't help it. Baby Joan, right now you are everything xxx