Baby, breast feeding, Cuidiu, Haakka, Lanolin, Multimam, new-born, newborn

My breastfeeding journey – getting started

I am pretty sure that the first thing that comes to mind when you think of breastfeeding is “I must breastfeed, everyone says so”. It is easy for outsiders to pass judgement about breastfeeding but you can’t really understand it until you have tried it yourself. Every breastfeeding journey is different and none are easy. This is a short account of how I got started on our breastfeeding journey and what I found really useful!

The preparation before due date

I wasn’t able to go to the breastfeeding classes at the hospital before my little one arrived. And with the benefit of hindsight, I definitely wish I had gone. I think that the information you get at these classes is really important to help get comfortable with breastfeeding.

Equipment

I didn’t buy a breast pump before and I am really happy I didn’t. As  much as you want to breastfeed, it might not always go to plan. If it doesn’t, you don’t want to have incurred the expense of a pump needlessly (and they are not cheep). If you need to pump in hospital or shortly after it, the hospital does rent pumps that you can use, so there is no need for a mad dash to the shops if you need one.

I did however purchase a Haakka pump. This is a really convenient non-mechanical pump, with no moving parts just one piece. It will only set you back €20 and is perfect for expressing while feeding on the other side. I found the pump really handy, especially in the early days while your milk is still coming in. You can buy it online here.

The first latch

Skin to skin is the most important thing to do to get breastfeeding started. It not only calms your baby after their long birthing journey but it helps to get mum and baby comfortable together to help with their first latch. I remember sitting on the post labour ward trying to get breastfeeding started, with the nurse stuffing my nipple into my little ones mouth. It was such a nerve wrecking and stressful time. But when the suckling started for the first time, it was such a relief…. until you had to feed him again and you were back to square one.

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Nuzzling for some milk!

The first few days

I was discharged from the hospital early into the community care. All I was ever told was that breast is best. I did not know that sometimes (especially with new mums) your milk does not come very quickly and you might not actually have enough to sustain your little one. Your milk can take up to 5 days to come in for first time mums and while you have colostrum, that is not always enough. Less than 36 hours after arriving home, we were back in the hospital, our little one was less than 50 hours old and he was starving! He had lost over 9% of his birth weight, his blood sugar levels were low and he was quite jittery because of it. We had no idea that we should have given him a formula bottle top up during those early days. Luckily it was an easy fix, a night of bottle feeds in the hospital and our little bundle of joy was back at home with mummy and daddy having put on weight over night!

So when preparing for your little arrival, it is always useful to have a bit of formula just in case. I would recommend buying the pre-made formula so you don’t need to worry about making formula in the early days, just for convenience.

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Examples of small pre-made formula bottles

The first 6 weeks

Breastfeeding is painful! It is amazing how sensitive your nipples can become and you dread the next feed! Nothing gives relief. And not only that, but as your milk is regulating I found I could wake up at night with way too much milk and desperately needing to feed to relieve the pressure (the Haakkaa will also help with this). There are however some things which can help and are good to have to hand.

Lanolin nipple cream – this is great to use at night time. The books all say wear maternity bras always but I found that made me worse. All you need is a nice loose T-shirt to let the air get at your nipples.

Multimam pads are little pads of cooling gel which are great to have on during the day. I stored the new ones in the fridge to make them extra cool and soothing. Though I have also heard that cabbage leaves left in the fridge have the same cooling effect.

The turning point

During the first 6 weeks when you are so uncomfortable you feel like the pictures of babies looking up at mums lovingly while latched on are all just a lie. I remember being in a lot of pain, trying to feed and wondering how I would ever get past that day of feeds, let alone make it to six months. And then the magic 6 week point is hit, and for some reason it all just stops hurting. It is fabulous. That was the moment at which I could relax into feeding. I also think surrounding yourself with other breastfeeding mums is so important. In the early days I was super shy, I was trying to cover up with blankets etc. if I was feeding out and making my little one over heat. But once I started going to breastfeeding support groups and meeting other mums, it normalised the whole process. It was probably the best thing that I did. You can find breastfeeding support groups for free in your local health centre (they have a public health nurse at every meeting in case you have questions) or you can attend other meetings with groups such as Cuidiu.

If you are trying to get breastfeeding established and you are in the first six weeks, my biggest piece of advice would be if you can hold on in there, there is light at the end of the tunnel! But if you can’t, don’t stress, babies thrive on formula just as well!

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30 day shred, 4 months, Baby, Body weight training, Exercise, Fitness, mum, new-born, newborn

Getting back my pre-baby body – the 30 day shred review

As part of the second phase of getting my pre-baby body back, I decided to do the Jillian Michaels 30 day shred. In my previous post at the start of the 30 day shred, I explained where I was in my fitness journey and charted my progress with some “before” photos. (Getting back my pre-baby body – the journey so far).

It took me from the 10th April 2017 to the 31st May 2017 to do the shred, almost double the allocated time of thirty days. However I did all 30 of the workouts, just taking a few more days off than recommended. But with a 4 month old baby, you can’t put too much pressure on yourself to complete the shred every day as sometimes your days or nights just do not go to plan.

The levels work up in intensity, with some moves being made more complex in later levels. Each level has an active warm up which changes for each level (which I like, as doing the same warm up for 30 workouts in a row is a bit monotonous). The workouts are broken up into 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio and 1 minute of abs with 3 rounds. I found that each level had a few moves that I found very hard to do, but I just kept at them and found that by the time the 10th workout came along I was able to do them a lot better.

As I progressed through the levels, I found the abs workouts getting progressively harder for me, so I had to skip them for the last 10 workouts, as my abs were not ready for the intensity of these workouts. But the main thing is that I was able to get through the program so I was proud of myself.

I have taken some before and after photos below, while I am by no means “shredded” I found that despite no dramatic visible changes, I felt so much stronger and fitter by the end of the program. By challenging myself to do the program I felt my old fitter self re-ignite and my confidence grow.

If you followed a healthy eating buzz in addition to doing the 30 day shred, I think you could get some great results as the program is a great all body workout. I will definitely be going back and doing the program again once I stop breastfeeding, as I need to hold onto the extra weight for feeding purposes right now.

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If you want to give the program a go you can get it for €8 at HMV or alternatively you can just stream each level at the following links: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3.

 

4 months, Baby, new-born, newborn, sleep, sleep regression

The dreaded 4 month sleep regression

Sleep – the holy grail of a new parent! I feel that sleep is actually the most stressful aspect of being a new mum. I definitely had the fear that I was getting into bad sleep habits, “accidental parenting”, as the baby whisperer calls it. I was worried that I had come up with techniques to manage sleep but eventually my randomly stacked pile of jenga blocks would come tumbling down leading to sleepless nights. As we approached the 4th month mark, I also had the fear of the dreaded 4 month sleep regression.

The 4 month sleep regression is a permanent change in your baby’s sleeping habits whereby their sleep patterns change from always being in a deep sleep to sleeping like any adult, in a sleep cycle from light to deep sleep. This is the only sleep regression your baby goes through that is a permanent change, all other regressions as 8, 10 and 12 months etc. are all phases. This means that the 4 month regression is often the worst sleep regression you will face. I found from 12pm onwards, my little one would wake up roughly every 2 hours (if not slightly more often) and he would be wide awake. Hence our problem – its not morning!

If you google 4 month sleep regression you get a string of pleas for information from new mums about how long the regression should last and how to survive it. I am no sleep expert, but thought it would be useful to describe my own experience. Please remember every baby is completely different and all react to things differently.

I found that my little one got into a sleeping routine when he would sleep through the night (or at least practically) most nights per week. So when the 4 month sleep regression hit us, I was exhausted! I forgot what sleepless nights were like and I quickly transformed into Zombiemum.

My strategy with respect to the regression was focussed on the day and night routine.

Day routine:

I tried to start introducing a day sleep routine. I roughly followed the EASY routine (being Eat, Active play, Sleep, You-time) by the Baby Whisperer. She actually provides day schedules for you but I found that trying to stick to a generic schedule just didn’t work for me. My little one was a cat napper, so I was stressing about not getting the 1.5 hour naps that the EASY routine talks about. Once I accepted that my baby might just sleep a bit differently, I became a lot more relaxed about the routine. I tried to keep track of how long he took between naps, as I never liked him to get over tired. I would typically get between 1 and 2 hours awake at any one time. Any more than that and he got over tired. Typically he would get between 2.5 and 3 hours sleep a day over 4 to 5 naps. I moved all his day naps at home from sleeping in my arms while I watched TV to sleeping in a dark bedroom to try and improve his sleep. I also introduced sleep associations into each nap, which consisted of singing twinkle twinkle little star while putting him in his grobag. I do this for every nap or sleep which helps him understand that it is time to go to sleep.

Night time routine:

We introduced a bed time wind down routine to help our little one learn that it is bed time. I play a nice relaxing track from youtube (link). During this time our baby would get nappy off time, his skin would be moisturised, he would get a leg massage, be put into his PJs and would get a short story read to him. We would then sing twinkle twinkle little star while putting him in his grobag and he was then fed to sleep.

Middle of the night wake-ups:

During the night I tried not to get into a cycle of always feeding my baby back to sleep. I knew he wasn’t always hungry, he was learning to resettle himself at night. So I did my very best not to feed him more often than once per night. I always first tried to resettle him with the soother, putting my hand on his chest or beside his face. I would also resort to rocking him if I felt he was just not settling, but tried to avoid this. If he wouldn’t fall asleep, I fed him to sleep. Using the soother helped me to start pushing his feeds  out at night also. So if he woke at 2am the first night, I would not feed him until 3am. Then the next night he might wake at 2.30am and again I would try and push out the feed.

I also introduced a dream feed, typically at 10pm when I was going to bed myself, which gave me further confidence that he was not hungry during his early night time wakings.

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Our 4 month regression lasted on and off for about 3 weeks. But the worst was the first week. I found that just as I was at the point of exhaustion, he would sleep through the night again.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone going through the 4 month regression is this too shall pass! 🙂

 

 

30 day shred, Baby, Exercise, Fitness, mum, newborn

Getting back my pre-baby body – the journey so far

My first blog post, which I posted about a month ago, on getting back my pre-baby body explained what I was doing at the time to get back to fitness. This covered the workouts I was doing from 6 weeks post labour until now. I did not do any workouts before my 6 week check with the GP to ensure she was happy with my progress and my abs had come back together. It is important not to start any crunches at all until your abs have come back together (to within 1 finger width) as otherwise you could force your abs further out and apart, which will result in many physio visits to fix. You can get your GP to check your abs at your 6 week check or ask the physio in the local health centre. Most GPs do not do this check automatically, so make sure you have it on the list of things to ask them.

I have been very careful with the workouts I have chosen over the last 10 weeks. So now its time to stop and take stock of where I am and what the next steps in my journey will be. I enjoy documenting any fitness journey as it really reminds me of how far I have come.

My pregnancy journey at 15 weeks post labour
From top left to bottom right: 38 weeks pregnant – 2 days post labour – 8 weeks post labour – 15 weeks post labour

At this point I am feeling fitter, stronger and ready to start kicking things up a notch. Along with a few mums in my local area that I met through the local health centre, we are all doing Jillian Michaels 30 day shred. This is a workout program lasting 25 minutes every day for a period of 30 days, which is ideal for anyone with a young baby to tend to, as they won’t go much longer than 25 minutes entertaining themselves.

The program has 3 levels, 10 days at each level. The only equipment required are dumbbells (you can improvise using small bottles or tin cans) and an exercise mat. I do the workout at home but you could easily do it outside as long as you have access to youtube (see the link to level 1). It is also great to get a group to commit to the challenge together, as a way to keep yourself motivated.

I have not paid much attention to my actual weight, as weight loss right now is not something I am concerned with. I am still breastfeeding and your body naturally carries more weight to ensure you have sufficient stores to meet your baby’s requirements, plus losing weight can mess with your milk supply too. However I am tracking how I look. So the bottom right photo is my current before photo as my journey continues.

I have workout one complete, only 29 more workouts to go. I found the workout a challenge, which is good. I also know I will be sore in the morning, but as they do say – no pain no gain.

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My first workout with baby trying to join in too!

 

Once I am finished the shred, I will do another photo collage to let you all know how I got on and a full review of the three levels involved in the program.