Heidi’s 5 month update

Just when I think I can’t possibly fall in love with my daughter anymore, I do! Every week that passes she gets more adoreable, more fun, more intelligent! I can’t believe in just a few more weeks she is going to be half a year!! Its such a cliche to say it, but time really is flying by.

This past month, her personality has grown even stronger. She still loves biting the faces of her teddies while letting out high pitched shrieks! I think she is definitely gonna be a rough little kid when it comes to playtime! Everything gets eaten! The amount of drool coming out of this child on a daily basis could fill a swimming pool. No teeth yet though, and she doesn’t seem to be having too much pain with her mouth so it could be a good while away yet.

She watches every move we make. Follows us as we move about and if no one is looking at her for more than a few seconds, she always manages to make the cutest noise possible to get attention. We bought her a highchair last week and we are letting her sit in it for short periods each day to get her used to it. She absolutely loves it. She loves being up high and having a right nosey!

Heidi loves her reflection, and rightly so! Shes a cutie! She could happily spend hours in front of a mirror smiling and laughing at herself. This is her favourite thing to do with Daddy. She also loves the wind chimes we have hanging over her nursery window. She gasps with excitement at them and has figured out how to make them jingle so this makes her very happy!

Our biggest breakthrough lately would have to be the car journeys. I changed my car just after New Year and I don’t know if that was the reason behind it or just coincidence, but all of a sudden she was a demon child in the car. She is so chilled out and laid back and only cries when something is really annoying her. She used to be good as gold in the car and suddenly she just started screaming! Screamed like she had never done before. She would scream until she was sick and it was awful when I was in the car on my own with her. One day at traffic lights, I had to pull the car up onto the kerb as she started to choke on her sick. Frightened the life out of me! The final straw came last week, I had been visiting family an hour away and she was sick 5 or 6 times. I stopped a couple of times but it was pointless as nothing would settle her and it was really only making the journey longer and more difficult. So I just had to keep going. We had tried everything.

We hung toys, took toys away, took the mirror away incase it was freaking her out, hung a nice colourful blanket on the back seat for her to look at, tilted her isofix base the tiniest little bit higher incase it was her reflux. Coat on, coat off, blanket on, blanket off. And then some days she was fine so it was kind of hard to know what was working and what wasn’t. So last week after our disastrous roadtrip, I decided I would buy a new car seat. I bought the Joie stages seat and figured even if it doesn’t make a difference now, it will last her until she is 6 so its a good investment either way. Well, I am delighted to say she loves it!! She seems to have more space around her shoulders. We were using the Be Safe Izi baby carrier and despite the shop staff insisting she had loads of room in it, we always felt she looked quite squished. This new seat is also much higher up so she can see out the car window and its a little more upright too. So it could be helping her reflux, it could be that she loves looking out the window, she could be more comfortable, it could be all 3! I don’t know, but I am just so relieved and long may it last. It is super stressful trying to drive with a baby screaming the entire time. Does anyone else have experience of this? What was bothering your baby?

Our other big happy news is that she is gaining weight again! I took her to get weighed a few weeks ago to discover she had only gained 100g since Christmas. I was immediately concerned as her weight gain had been very consistent since birth. I gave my health visitor a little call and she gave me a few options. Substitute a couple of feeds a day with formula, which I didn’t want to do if at all possible, wean her early, I was keen to hold off to as close to 6 months as possible, or give her a few expressed feeds from a bottle so I could see how much she was taking. I went for option 3 and just insisted I would make time to pump. At least she would still be getting purely breastmilk. But it had been so long since she had had a bottle she just thought the teet was a chew toy so it was back to the drawing board!

Heidi had started sleeping longer stretches at night and was spreading feeds out to 4 hours so she had dropped from 8/9 feeds a day to just 6. So I started offering them again every 3 hours wether she was showing me signs of being hungry or not and lifted her for an extra feed at night. I bought some boobbix lactation cookies to help boost my supply a little too (check out my blog all about them). So shes back up to 8 or 9 a day and thank goodness last week she had gained 7oz in just a fortnight! So we are still hoping to hold off on weaning for another few weeks but we are willing to start a little bit early if needs be. Did anyone else find this with breastfed babies? Did their weight gain slow way down at any point?

I wonder what I will be writing at 6 months? All I know is, I would like time to slow down a little now please.

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Boobbix breastfeeding cookies

A few weeks back, I started to feel like my milk supply was suffering slightly. My breasts weren’t feeling as ‘full’ as they usually did as we approached feeding time, and Heidi was becoming quite restless during feeds. I was also finding myself having to offer her both sides to fill her, something I had never had to do before! I drank more water, tried to pump at least once a day, to get my supply increased but it was hard getting a chance to pump and I didn’t really notice a big difference with the extra water.

I had heard of breastfeeding cookies before, an Australian mum I follow on social media had posted about them on her Instagram and being pregnant at that time, I was quite intrigued. So I looked them up! I found a company called Boobbix in the UK. They have won 3 ‘Loved by Parents’ awards and shortlisted for the Mother & Baby awards 2017, so I figured they must be good. It would be worth a try right?

The website has lots of information about the cookies, the ingredients and why they are great for breastfeeding mums! They use four main ingredients all of which are galactagogues, milk boosting ingredients! They are packed with Oats which are full of iron, vitamins, anti oxidants, fibre and wholegrains. Oats are packed with calories which is much needed for every breastfeeding Mum as we are encouraged to eat an extra 300-500 calories a day! Flaxseed is another ingredient which is extremely good for both Mum and baby. They are full of omega 3 which is of course beneficial to brain and eye development and Mums levels lower when breastfeeding as babies take a lot from their Mums! So this is a great top up for both of us. Brewers Yeast is not only full of B vitamins, amino acids, protein and iron, but it is also known to help with fatigue and boost moods! It has been used as a natural milk supply increaser for years. Ever have someone tell you to drink a beer to boost supply? Same yeast! Finally we have fenugreek, another natural supply booster.

Boobix also use organic and free range ingredients. They are available in 4 different flavours; Oatmeal and raisin, Chocolate chip and oat, Cranberry and almond, and Peanut butter and chocolate chip.

I decided to order one box to see how I got on with them. I chose oatmeal and raisin. They cost £9 per box and despite only choosing the standard delivery, they arrived within 2 days!

When I opened them I was impressed to see each cookie was individually wrapped! Perfect for popping one in your bag and no need to worry about them going soft or stale. I was excited to try them! So I popped the kettle on for a cup of tea and sat down to try one. O.M.G!!! These are delicious!!

They are a soft, chewy cookie, my favourite kind, and the flavour was just incredibly delicious! The raisins were so juicy and the cookie itself was very thick. Normally when I open a packet of biscuits I could just eat and eat until they are gone, but these are actually quite filling! So I am happy to stop at one, despite the temptation to have just one more! The packet recommends 1-2 cookies per day, I opted for 2 since they are so tasty! One in the morning, one in the evening.

After a few days I started to feel like I was definitely a little ‘fuller’ again and by the time I was finished the box, Heidi had been less restless during feeds and I was no longer having to offer both sides. I was impressed! Not to mention the fact I had cut way down on eating chocolate as these had become my preferred snack of choice! And even my husband said they were the nicest cookies he had ever tried!

I got online and ordered 2 more boxes. Another oatmeal and raisin and a chocolate chip and oat this time too! Again they arrived fairly quickly. The chocolate chip and oat are also extremely tasty! But the oatmeal and raisin are still my favourite so far! Boobbix…you have a new fan! Even when I don’t feel like I need a milk boost, I feel like I could still turn to these cookies for a healthy, filling guilt free snack! Whats not to love about that!

Get your Boobbix lactation cookies here! Have you tried them already? Let me know what you think!

Heidi and reflux

Reflux. This is something I had heard very little about before Heidi was born. I knew babies spit up, but I never expected it to get as bad as it did. Heidi was about a week old when we realised something wasn’t normal. She had been spitting up, a lot. And it was gradually getting worse and worse. But babies spit up right? So at first we didn’t think too much of it. She had been sleeping soundly in her basket, on her back for the first few days and suddenly, everytime we put her down, she became very very restless, arms shooting up in the air. She would eventually become so restless that in no time she was awake.

Getting any sleep at night was a total no go. I can’t even describe the tiredness we were experiencing. We were lucky if she slept for half an hour. And when she was asleep, we were scared to sleep because we could hear her spitting up and we were so scared she could choke. At this point, I was expressing into a bottle so we were taking it in turns getting up with her. Then during the day, we were giving each other opportunities to take naps. But when Gerard had to go back to work, it got so much harder. He did still help me at times during the night, but I felt bad that he had to go work in the morning so I insisted on taking most of the shifts myself. Of course then during the day, I had no one to help me. My family live an hour away, they came down as often as they could but with everyone having jobs/kids of their own, it was difficult to see them regularly. I had no offers of help during the weekdays. Everyone loves telling you to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. Yeah, sure, I just won’t eat, I won’t go to the toilet, I won’t wash my face or change my underwear, or sit down for 10 minutes with a warm cup of tea! Heidis reflux was getting worse, so when i did find an opportunity to nap, of course, she wakened. It was no longer just little spit ups, it was being really sick. Sometimes she brought up entire feeds.

I got online to do some research. I found loads of tips on how to handle it such as, feeding her in a more upright position, holding her upright for at least 20 minutes after each feed and elevating her crib/mattress at one end. I tried all of these things and sometimes they helped, sometimes they didn’t. Day or night, everytime we put her down to sleep, I would have tears in my eyes, silently begging her to stay asleep. Getting a solid hour was a milestone in itself!!

I was ecstatic seeing Gerard coming through the door each day. He could take over for a while and let me nap. I loved my baby so much, but the tiredness had me so miserable and I remember looking at her sometimes feeling scared that I didn’t love her enough, as much as she deserved! I didn’t know if it was tiredness or if I was on the verge of post natal depression.

I started to notice that Heidi slept like a log when she was upright on my chest. So in desperation, I ‘slept’ like this for a couple of hours one night. I sat upright supported by pillows, and aware she was there, was too scared to drift into a deep sleep but it was just so nice to have a couple of hours where I could lightly doze and be undisturbed. There wasn’t a peep out of her the whole time. So for 3 or 4 nights in a row, when I got really desperate, I resorted to this, each time afterwards feeling so guilty for taking such a risk! It is drummed into you from the moment you get pregnant not to fall asleep with your baby but oh, my, God. When you are that desperate and exhausted, its hard not to feel the temptation pull you in. The guilt was too much however and I vowed not to do it again no matter how bad it got.

We purchased a bedside crib so that I could keep a closer eye on her. We elevated one end and for a night or 2 she actually slept pretty good and i thought it was really helping. But before long we were back to square one. I remember when I had had enough. One night Heidi had been sick so much, I had changed her babygrow and vest 4 times in an hour. I just couldn’t cope with this anymore. The wee pet was falling asleep, exhausted herself, but the moment I put her down she was sick. I was standing at her changing table, changing her again, crying my eyes out. This had been going on for 3-4 weeks. I was completely at my wits end. Why was nothing helping her? It didnt seem to be causing her pain like I had read some babies experienced. Being sick didn’t seem to annoy her too much but I felt so bad for her having to go through this and not getting peace to sleep herself. Gerard came in to take over and ushered me off to bed. I cried myself to sleep. Not that it took long.

In the morning, I rang my health visitor. It went to voicemail, so I left a message asking her to call me back and gave a brief reason for the call. Before I could even finish what I wanted to say I burst into tears. I was so embarassed and all I could think was, she is going to think I can’t cope and take my baby away!

I rang my GP and told the receptionist what was going on. A few twitter mums I had chatted to had mentioned medications that had helped their babies. I was hoping to avoid that path if possible but I had reached breaking point and I am sure Heidi had too. The receptionist sounded very sympathetic and assured me she would speak with the doctor as soon as he was free. She called me back an hour later and told me he had prescribed carobel. I didn’t even ask what it was I just thanked her a million times before hanging up. My mother in law picked it up for me and when I saw what it was and read the packet my heart sank. It was a powder to thicken the milk to make it harder for it to be brought up. That meant mixing it in a bottle. For anyone who hasn’t read my breastfeeding story, this was another big hurdle for us and I had been so happy with how things were going. I really didn’t want to go back to expressing for every feed. My health visitor called me back, asking if I was ok as I had sounded upset etc and assured me I had done the right thing phoning the GP. I felt stupid for not doing it sooner. Looking back now, why hadn’t I done it sooner? I hadn’t even thought to tell the GP receptionist I was breastfeeding and the doctor just assumed I was giving her formula. The health visitor helped me devise a pumping plan as she assured me the carobel was good. She also said Heidi might spread her feeds out a little since it would take longer to digest the milk. If it meant me getting a few decent nights sleep I was willing to try.

She found it strange at first going back to the bottle but soon got the hang of it. I noticed a difference with the carobel within a day. She definitely seemed to be keeping everything down. I had a stash of breastmilk in the freezer so this kept her going for a couple of days while I got back into a pumping routine. But I soon realised it wasn’t as easy as before. The last time I exclusively pumped Heidi was taking 2 or 3 oz feeds. Now she was needing 5-7 oz at a time! I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t pump enough. I phoned my GP again and he advised me to feed it as a paste before each feed as advised on the packet. Have you ever tried spoon feeding paste to a 5 week old? It doesn’t work. And I wasn’t going to force feed it to her or struggle with it in public and during the night. So I asked for an appointment and went up.

He understood straight away why it wasn’t practical for breastfeeding and suggested omeprazole. I myself have used omeprazole in the pass and it had worked wonders on me so I was feeling quite excited to try this on her. He worked out how many mgs to give her each day according to her weight. I had to cut a tablet in 4, dissolve it in a little breastmilk and give it to her with a syringe. It was a bit fiddly at first but she soon got used to it and nowadays, shes like a little hamster licking water from its bottle!

After a few days we really started to notice a difference. She was still spitting up a little but nowhere near as often or as much and could be left on her back for a little longer than before, before becoming uncomfortable. And as time has gone on, her doseage has gone up with her weight. I like to give it to her in the evenings, about an hour before bedtime, to make sure her tummy is pretty settled before putting her down. There is an occasional night where I am putting her down and suddenly realise I have forgotten to give it to her. For a few days its noticeably worse again so we know it is definitely working for her! I have an alarm set on my phone now so I don’t forget either!

Our biggest success though in dealing with her reflux, (and please note, I am not telling anyone to try this, I am not a medical professional and I am not giving advice, I am simply telling my own experience), is tummy sleeping. As I had mentioned earlier, we noticed she slept great when sleeping on our chests. So during the day, I occasionally popped her down for a nap on her tummy and kept a close eye on her. She always slept so soundly! I couldn’t believe it. I had read that babies couldn’t choke if they spat up on their backs. One day I was changing Heidis nappy and the next thing I knew she was choking really bad and her face was bright red. I pulled her up quickly. It scared me and it scared her. She looked at me blankly before sobbing her heart out. It just made me more nervous at night and it happened on a couple of other occasions too.

My Mum suggested I try tummy sleeping at night, my sister and I were tummy sleepers and although she understands advice has changed over the years, that was the advice 30 years ago. I was so scared to though. If anything happened her I would never forgive myself. After a couple of weeks of observing her daytime naps though and seeing how good her neck control was and how she never lay on her face, one night we decided to give it a go. Of course, I barely slept. I was constantly checking on her, making sure she wasn’t on her face, if she was too still I poked her to make sure she was still breathing. She still got up for her night feeds but that was the best nights sleep she had had since she was born. So i kept going with it. Of course it meant I got little to no sleep, but I had become so used to it anyway. After a couple of weeks, a very generous friend gave me an angelcare movement monitor that she wasn’t using. The pad goes under the mattress and an alarm goes off if it doesn’t detect any movement for 15 seconds. Of course I still slept with one eye open at first, but as a little more time went on I became more trusting of the monitor and more confident in Heidi as a tummy sleeper. She has slept this way since she was about 10 weeks old and I now know what a half decent nights sleep is again. I do still check on her regularly, but fall right back to sleep again. Having the bedside crib makes it easy to check quickly and I can hear her breathing too which is so reassuring. The monitor is fantastic. Sometimes when i lift her for a feed I forget to switch it off and the alarm starts beeping so I know it definitely works! She is also rolling now so the more time goes on the happier we feel with our decision. Its not for everyone and I understand if anyone judges, I probably would too if Heidi was happy on her back.

We make sure we are being safe in every other aspect we can. No loose blankets (we prefer a sleeping bag), feet to the bottom, nothing in the crib with her, we keep a close eye on room temperature etc. This is the most open I have spoken about it. Sometimes I feel like a bad Mum and will be harshly judged if I talk about it but you know what? I will never forget the look on her face that first time she choked and I feel better knowing that if she is sick in her sleep, the only place its going is onto her sheet. I have also read several other blogs from Mums who have had similar experiences. After all, different things work for different people, different things work for different babies, and mum shaming is an awful thing.

For anyone with a reflux baby, please know it will get easier. You will find something that works for them and for you. And when you are up for the 15th time in the night changing yet another babygrow, it feels like you will never ever sleep again but you will. Speak to your doctor. Speak to your health visitor. There is help out there for your baby.

Heidi’s 4 month update

So its a little late. But on January 24th, Heidi turned 4 months old and even just saying it freaks me out! Its such a common thing you hear from parents, but time really does fly by!

This is definitely a really fun stage she is at! She is no longer our floppy little newborn. Shes a tiny little woman with loads of personality starting to shine through.

SLEEPING

Heidi sleeps so well now (sorry to anyone not experiencing the same). She takes a massive feed at night so its normally around 10/10.30 before I actually get her into her crib. We are working on an earlier bedtime right now. But the little rascal is too nosey now and won’t sleep any earlier incase she misses something! Any tips here would be great! When she does go down though, she sleeps like a log until around 3.30/4am and after a fresh nappy and a feed, goes right back to sleep. She then usually sleeps until 7/8am before another feed and if we have nowhere to be, I let her sleep again until 9 or 10am somedays. I know this probably doesn’t help getting her to bed early so I haven’t been letting her do this as much, but it actually doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Once in a while she will sleep through until at least 7 before looking for a feed, but of course I don’t sleep any better as I wake up every hour to make sure shes still breathing (silly mum brain). Everyones favourite question is, “Is she sleeping all night for you?” When I say “Sometimes, but most nights shes up for a feed”, I instantly get these ‘oh poor you’ looks, “you must be exhausted. Have you tried a spoon of baby rice before bed?” Eeehhh….”Have you tried a spoon of minding your own *#@&* business??” You might think I’m mad, but I genuinely don’t mind the night feed. Shes not up screaming or crying, I lift her when she stirs so she doesn’t get a chance to be upset. Sometimes her dummy is all shes looking for but if not, then a quick feed and shes right back over. Compared to 2 months ago when our reflux baby was up every hour and had to have a clean babygrow several times a night due to being sick, we are extremely happy with how she is sleeping now.

FEEDING

The clusterfeeding has stopped! I repeat, the clusterfeeding…has stopped!!! Just suddenly out of nowhere it ended. And I felt like I had a little more of my sanity back. I no longer have to worry about leaving the house incase she decides she wants to feed for 2 hours. I am no longer glued to my sofa for 4 hours at night and when I am, its my choice, not because I am pinned down by a little human. As I said she takes a big feed at night which can be anywhere up to an hour but during the day she feeds for 20 mins or so every 3 hours, sometimes will go 4 hours. So its definitely easier for us both to get out more and to get things done.

HER VOICE

She is definitely finding her voice and it is the cutest thing. A few weeks ago she was babbling constantly, telling stories and talking to anyone or anything that would listen, including her own hands! Then she discovered she could squeal, so for a solid week or 2, thats all she did! She would lay on the floor under her baby gym, and squeal in absolute delight at the funny bunny hanging over her head. Or if no one was looking at her (which is not very often), she would squeal for attention and then giggle in delight when you looked. Her latest thing is growling though. Yes, she growls. She does this low, gritty growl with her throat like shes trying to squeeze out the worlds biggest fart and does it until she coughs! This too is hilarious apparently.

PLAYTIME

Every toy and stuffed animal she has not only gets talked to, squealed at or growled at, but it gets eaten. Everything goes straight to the mouth. She likes to hold a toy, screech at it and then stuff it in her mouth like a little vampire and gurgles at the same time. Then she pulls it away, letting it believe the torment is over, before repeating it again! Florence the bunny and Edgar the cat have gone from being soft adoreable creatures, to being matted, battered lumps of fluff in the space of a few weeks. Shes getting really good now with her hand/eye coordination. Its not perfect but its really coming along. You can see her eyeing something up, her face all wrinkled like shes trying to work out a maths equation before the hand slowly extends. Sometimes on target, sometimes not. The sometimes not results in lots of frustrated shouting.

TUMMY TIME

She has really grown to love tummy time. She used to hate it but for Christmas we got her a tummy time cushion and it was the best thing we could have possibly got her. As soon as we placed her on it, she was able to lift her head a lot easier because she had some support under her chest and suddenly the world was seen from a different angle and her little face said it all. The cushion has lots of little toys and tabs attached to encourage them to reach so it definitely helped her enjoy it more. I would highly recommend. We purchased this Little Einstein one from smyths and have nothing but good things to say about it. https://www.smythstoys.com/uk/en-gb/baby/infant-toys/baby-einstein-rhythm-of-the-reef-prop-pillow/p/136653?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7-_69rmO2QIVzb_tCh3RpwS3EAQYASABEgJdMvD_BwE

Now she doesn’t need the pillow, but it still makes for an interesting toy.

ROLLING

I was not expecting this for a long time yet, but we started to help her to roll over anytime we were doing tummy time. One day, around 15/16 weeks she was on her baby gym, I was sitting on the sofa and the next thing I saw the legs up in the air and she toppled over on to her side, and then slowly squirmed her way round onto her belly! I thought it must be a fluke. No way can she be rolling at just over 3 months! But she kept practicing and has now mastered it like a pro! I read babies tend to go front to back first but shes still working on this. Of course when she does roll, she looks up with a massive grin on her face, all delighted with herself and rightly so.

While on her tummy, she will scream at a toy and then slam her face into it and eat it while growling. I swear shes a vampire! Its the funniest, cutest thing!

She loves bathtime, a right little water baby. Especially when Daddy goes mad with the baby bubble bath and ‘swims’ her around the big girl tub! This is just the best fun ever!

She really has turned into such a fun wee person lately. She is very bright and happy all the time. She constantly smiles and giggles and just melts my heart 24/7 and is absolutely adored by everyone round her. I personally must spend a good 4 hours a day with tears in my eyes just staring at her and kissing her and telling her how beautiful she is! It won’t be long til shes wiping her kisses off and telling me to leave her alone for 5 minutes, so I’m making the most of it.

MUMPALS gift swap

What is MUMPALS?

Mumpals is a new gift swap community set up by the lovely Holly, @lovehollyxox on twitter. Every couple of months or so Holly will organise a secret santa type gift swap. Drawing names from a hat and letting all mums who have signed up, know who they are buying for. Each swap has a theme and it could be a gift for baby or a gift for Mum with a budget set. We all get introduced to other Mums on twitter and have a little fun choosing gifts for each other, as well as the excitement of receiving a gift for your own baby or yourself!

In January we had our first swap organised. Holly emailed everyone the details of who they had to buy for, with the theme being clothes and the budget being £20! You can get quite a lot for £20 when it comes to baby clothes so I was excited to go shopping! I don’t want to name the Mum I had to buy for as I’m not sure she has received her parcel yet so I don’t want to spoil it for her, but her little girl is just about a month older than mine so shopping for her felt easy and familiar!

Once I got the parcel off in the post (we are given a date for posting so we all receive our parcels around the same time), I was really hoping my chosen mum and her little one would like them ok. I also began wondering who might be buying for Heidi and looked forward to receiving our own parcel!

As it turns out, the lovely @caitylis was buying for Heidi. She included in the parcel a lovely note written on a paparchase postcard, welcoming me to the world of blogging (how sweet!!!) and the clothing was wrapped in beautiful tissue paper. Heidi received a white longsleeve tshirt with a gorgeous big rainbow on it and the slogan “Rainbows make me smile”. This was accompanied by the most adoreable matching jog bottoms with rainbows and clouds all over. So colourful! Shes quite small for her age so by the time they fit it will be getting closer to springtime which will be just perfect!

Also in the package was an adoreable pack of socks and the sweetest little dungaree dress ever! Navy cord with a bunny face on the front and a pink longsleeve tshirt underneath!

@Caitylis chose extremely well. If I had been shopping for Heidi myself these are definitely items I would have picked. Thank you very, very much!

If you think you might like to take part in mumpals, check out @MUMPALS on twitter or search #MUMPALS. I am already looking forward to our next swap!

The story of our memory bear

I never thought I would end up getting emotionally attached to baby clothes, but when Heidi was 10 weeks old and finally outgrew her newborn babygrows, I got so emotional! My tiny baby was getting big and as strange as it sounds, I was sad when i folded up all her little clothes and brought out the next size. I didn’t want to stick my favourites in a box and look at them once in a blue moon. I wanted to be reminded of those newborn days every day!

I came across @handmadeholly_ on twitter via other mums I follow. She makes memory bears out of clothing. I browsed the photographs of her work on instagram and I just thought they were beautiful! What a stunning way to preserve memories and display them to see everyday! So I contacted Holly and she was such a delight from day one.

We got digging through Heidis babygrows and picked out our favourites. The number one choice was obviously the babygrow she wore home from hospital. I couldn’t believe looking at it again how tiny it was, and it was massive on her when she came home! We had to actually buy some tiny baby clothing for our teeny 6lb baby!

After selecting a few other favourites, I popped along to the post office to get them sent off. I sent 4 babygrows in total. Holly was so lovely throughout and kept in touch evey step of the way. She let me know when they arrived safely, when she began to work on it, double checked details etc and before I knew it, she was sending me some sneak peek photographs of our bear! You can really see in her work that she doesn’t just think of them as clothes, she understands these are precious memories and takes such care, even returning any leftover fabric! I also ordered some hanging hearts to be made from the same fabric but one of those is an upcoming birthday gift so I don’t want to give away too much!

When our bear arrived in the post, I was so happy with it immediately. The design was beautiful, the finish was perfect and the shape of it was just gorgeous! We were so delighted and Heidis little smile said it all.

Its a little bit nerve racking to send off such precious memories to be cut up, but for anyone with any doubts, I can tell you, you won’t be disappointed. Your garments will be well looked after.

My plan is to get a memory bear made for every size of clothing and display them on a shelf in Heidis room. I will be reminded of all the different stages of her growing and of special memories every time I look at them! At 4 months old, she is still in 0-3 clothes, it will be a little while before i can order the next bear. But I am already thinking about which pieces I might want to treasure forever.

Holly did not ask me to write this. I simply wanted to share a lovely experience and a lovely way to treasure memories!!

My Breastfeeding Journey

All the way through my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for all the obvious reasons really; the health benefits for baby and myself, the bond it develops with baby, the convenience of not making up bottles in the middle of the night, the list goes on. But I I never once put myself under pressure to see it through nor get my hopes up that it would work out. I have a condition called Fibroadenosis, also known as Fibrocystic breast disease. Its nowhere near as awful as it sounds and is actually very common. Monthly hormonal changes causes cysts and lumps in the breasts. It can be very painful, some people experience no pain at all and there is nothing really that can help it. I was diagnosed with it at 16 and the only advice really given was to take evening primrose oil to help ease the symptoms. I never really found a difference when I took it so didn’t bother in the end.

At the time, breastfeeding didn’t even enter my mind. I was 16, had no intentions of having kids for a very very, very long time so therefore it didn’t concern me. As soon as I got pregnant however and started to think about breastfeeding, I was suddenly worried this could cause problems. It was a big question on my mind at our 12 week scan/booking appointment. The midwife basically said it caused problems for some women and for others it was absolutely fine. The only thing I could do would be to wait and see how it goes. So from there, I hoped I could breastfeed, but didn’t put any pressure on myself. Fed is best after all, right?

I knew of some other reasons breastfeeding may not be successful. The pain, mastitis, low milk supply, to name but a few. But the problems I encountered, I was not expecting.

My little girl is 17 weeks old today and I am so happy to report that I am still breastfeeding. However, what a challenge it has been. When Heidi was born, we immediately did skin to skin. Baby was laid on my chest and to my absolute amazement, started to wiggle her way across me towards my breast. How do they know to do this?? It really is incredible. She tried to latch, she really did, but it just wasn’t happening. The midwife assured me it was common to have a little wobble at first, that we would keep trying and she would get it. Now I must say, we received fantastic support from the midwives in the hospital. I had 4 or 5 different women in with me over the 24 hour period between Heidis arrival and us going home. But none of them could get her to latch. I was determined not to get frustrated. Patience was key I figured. So in the meantime, I hand expressed and fed my teeny tiny baby colostrum from a syringe, every few hours. The next morning, the midwife who had delivered Heidi came back on duty and was determined to get her latched before we went home. Still no luck. She was trying, she just couldn’t do it. This was the first time a tongue tie was suggested. Her little mouth was so tiny and she wasn’t being very cooperative so it was impossible to get a good look under her tongue. “I’ll phone Barbara”, declared the midwife. She is a breastfeeding specialist at another hospital. So she came back a little while later to tell us that we were simply to keep trying but in the meantime, as Heidi was only 6lb, the specialist advised us to top up with formula so she wouldn’t lose too much weight. So we combined the syringe and formula that day and headed home.

The next morning, we had our first home visit from a midwife. She too tried to get Heidi latched, still no luck. This time I was told to get pumping! I had been under the impression that you shouldn’t pump for the first few weeks until a good breastfeeding routine is established. However, this midwife made a very good point in telling me that was impossible, how would I get a good supply going if I couldn’t physically breastfeed my baby!  So I got pumping and wow, there was definitely no issues with my milk supply! So although it was a little disappointing that Heidi couldn’t latch, I was just glad that I could take her off the formula and feed her exclusively on breastmilk, even if it was from a bottle.

That whole first week we had a midwife out everyday to see how we were getting on with feeding and every one of them tried so hard to get Heidi latched. The support really was fantastic. We mentioned the possibility of a tongue tie to them all but no one could get a good look. The wee woman just wasn’t cooperating. One of the midwives passed my name and number to a breastfeeding support group and a lady got in touch with tips and advice, different holding positions to try etc but nothing was working. Luckily by the end of the first week, Heidi was only on 50-60mls every 3 hours and I was able to pump 100ml from each breast per sitting so I had a load of milk in the fridge and freezer to keep us going. Then when Heidi was 8 days old, the specialist from the hospital who had recommended topping up with formula, rang to see how we were getting on. When I explained everything she asked us to come over that afternoon to see her. So away we went, I was beginning to feel that this would be our last chance. Although I had plenty of milk, I was so exhausted and pumping all the time wasn’t easy. During the night, when we did get Heidi back to sleep, I would still have to stay up for a while to pump. It was starting to feel like I would never do anything else but sterilise bottles and pump! Luckily I have a very supportive husband who helped me as much as he possibly could.

So, we got to the hospital to see the specialist. She watched what Heidi and I were doing. I was holding her right, positioning was good, baby was trying her best but could not grab on. She tried different positions, pinching my breast etc, nothing. “Lets try a nipple shield”. I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I had seen them, I had even bought them but I hadn’t got a clue how to work with them. She showed me how to simply turn it slightly inside out to create a suction, pop it on and let it go. Like a bottle teet for your nipple! And guess what…Heidi grabbed on and started to feed! I got very emotional. Ok, she wasn’t latched on directly to me, but this was the closest we had got and it felt wonderful to know I myself was feeding her. Not that there is anything wrong with a bottle, we wouldn’t have got through that first week without them. But I was so happy I persevered! I had considered a couple of times just giving up but something in the back of my mind just wouldn’t let me and I really think it was all the support I was getting. Not just from the midwives etc but also from family and friends and especially my husband.

Before we left the hospital, the specialist managed to get a look at Heidis tongue and she confirmed our suspicions. A tongue tie! Not a severe one, but enough to make her tongue movement quite restricted. She told us about a quick procedure that a local dentist could do to fix it which would then hopefully help her latch on. Although she did also say that she could eventually strengthen her tongue enough to not need it and although she couldn’t say for certain, didn’t think it was severe enough to cause any problems with speech later on. So the big question for us was, do we want to put her through that for possibly nothing?

We decided to see how she would get on over the next week, but in the meantime I was just so excited to get using the nipple shields! When the midwife came the next morning I was delighted to tell her it had been almost 24 hours since Heidi had fed from a bottle. All her feeds were going great, she had taken to the nipple shields brilliantly. As the week went on, I kept using the shields and then half way through the feed would discreetly slip it off to see if she could latch on properly. Still no luck. So we eventually decided to go ahead with the tongue tie procedure. It was an extremely quick referall, the midwife referred us one day, the next day we had a call from the dentists surgery, and the day after that, I was taking her in for her appointment. Gerard had to go back to work at this point so I was taking her in alone. I was so nervous. I had been told it didn’t hurt them but how could it not? The dentist is basically using a pair of scissors to snip under her tongue!

When we were called, we were greeted by a very friendly man who reassured me it wasn’t as horrific as it seemed and Heidi would be just fine. He had a good look and confirmed that yes she did definitely have a tongue tie and although it was a grade 3 (grade 4 is the mildest, grade 1 the worst), it was enough to cause restrictions with her tongue movement. So I had to sit in the dentist chair, hold Heidi and try to keep her arms down while a dental nurse held her head still. She was extremely upset by this which broke my heart. I then saw the dentist get closer with an instrument resembling scissors at which point I looked away and braced myself. The next thing I knew Heidi was quiet and the dentist said that was it over. It literally took a few seconds and that was it. She was more upset at getting held than getting the actual procedure! I was so relieved. We were shown into a quiet room and the dentist told me to try feeding her straight away to stem any bleeding and to not give the wound a chance to close over again. She still needed to use the shield but he assured me this was very common as she would now need to get used to this new freedom with her tongue.

We did notice over the next few days her tongue was a lot more mobile and she seemed aware of this as suddenly she was sticking it out all the time, something she couldn’t do before, but still. no. latch. I was still receiving the odd phone call from different midwives, health visitors etc to see how it was going, honestly the support was unreal, and after a few weeks of still using the shields, another specialist came out to see us at the house. She tried and tried but no luck at all and basically said she reckoned Heidi had just gotten so used to using a teet between the bottles at the beginning and the shields, that she wasn’t honestly sure if I would ever get her off them. All I could do would be to keep trying.

Heidi has had terrible reflux since she was only a couple of weeks old. After finally getting settled with using the shields, my patience was tested once again. After another sleepless night thanks to her reflux, I rang the doctors to ask for something, anything, that would help calm it down for her. The receptionist rang me back a while later to tell me the doctor had prescribed carobel. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, carobel is a cow & gate powder which thickens the milk, making it harder for them to bring it back up again. I was so tired I didn’t question it and picked up the prescription. So I got it home and realised, this was not breastfeeding friendly. The box advised breastfed babies could be spoon fed it as a paste. Have you ever tried spoon feeding a 2 month old? No way could I do this before every single feed. So I got back on the phone to the doctors and was advised if she wouldn’t take it that way, the only other option would be to pump and mix the carobel in the bottle. So we were back to pumping. Back to bottles. Only now it was ten times harder because Heidi was taking bigger feeds.  So although she was sleeping better, I wasn’t because I was trying to pump between feeds to make sure there was enough milk for the next one and this was day and night! I couldn’t keep up. I used up the whole stash I had had in the freezer and couldn’t pump enough to keep up with a clusterfeeding baby! No one tells you in advance about the clusterfeeding do they?

Anyways, long story short, after a few days I rang the doctor back and asked to see him. The breastfeeding figures in Northern Ireland are so low he had just assumed I was formula feeding and that was why carobel had been prescribed. So i had gone through a nightmare few days for nothing! Omeprazole was prescribed, I could get back to breastfeeding and Heidis reflux settled down not too long after.

I was discussing all of this with my sister one day and how I would love to get rid of the shields when she said something no one else had said before. She didn’t know why I was fussing so much about not using them. If she had known about them herself, she probably wouldn’t have stopped breastfeeding in the first place. It was the first time I was stuck for words on the topic. She told me how the pain for her had been unbareable, how she had dreaded every feed, cried during every feed and in the end, mastitis had been the final straw and that was when she felt she couldn’t carry on. I suddenly realised, I had never experienced any of the pain, any of the discomfort that you hear so much about when it comes to breastfeeding. The bleeding nipples, the sore cracked skin, I have 3 tubes of nipple cream upstairs I have never had to use! Yes, I will admit, the shields can be annoying, especially when Heidi decides to mess around and pull it off when its full of milk and I have a soggy bra until I get home again! Yes, they are fiddly to use in public, especially when I’m trying to hold her, keep myself discreet and pop the shield on all at the same time. But I do wonder, is this the reason I have been able to feed pain free for so long?

It has helped me actually realise that theres no need to stress about it anymore. Yes ok, it may not be ideal, it may not be for everyone, it might be fiddly and awkward but you know what? Heidi is happy, well fed, I’m happy that shes exclusively breastfed and I am so happy that we have made it this far! 17 weeks is more than I ever thought I would achieve, especially when it just seemed so impossible at the beginning. I thought the Fibroadenosis would have caused me lots of problems but it hasn’t! If anything, I haven’t had any trouble with it at all, breastfeeding seems to have helped to calm it down. It also makes me wonder why nipple shields aren’t advised more when people are struggling? Even just to use them for a few days as a relief until your skin has a chance to heal. A friend of my sisters was also baffled when she heard I was using them. She had never heard of them and also said she probably wouldn’t have stopped if she had.

The only time I have really felt like giving up, was when Heidi went through clusterfeeding phases. I had never heard of this before. We had an antenatal class on breastfeeding, but knowing what I know now, they actually told us very little at that class. Almost all breastfeeding mums I have spoke to didn’t hear about clusterfeeding beforehand. There were days I thought I would never leave the house again. Times I thought I would never get off the sofa again. Moments when I thought I couldn’t fill my baby! Why wouldn’t she stop eating? I can’t do this!! I would stop enjoying breastfeeding completely. I would complain about it, someone would say, ‘don’t make yourself miserable, switch to formula, happy mum happy baby!’ And I admit, a couple of times it did enter my mind and I instantly felt guilty for it. Not because I disapprove of formula feeding. I don’t at all. I think I felt guilty just thinking about everything we had overcome! I had tried so hard to breastfeed, so many people had taken time to help us, I had pumped and pumped and pumped and tried so hard to succeed with latching etc. No way was I going to give up now!! I am so glad that I didn’t.

Anyone struggling with clusterfeeding please hear me when I say IT WILL END! It feels like it never will, but all of a sudden it does. My husband was extremely supportive. Heidi would clusterfeed between 5pm-11pm for days at a time and Gerard was there at my beck and call to make me tea, bring me food, chocolate, the tv remote, my phone, whatever I needed! And now, my beautiful daughter feeds every 3-4 hours for 20mins/half an hour tops. Her longest feed is at night before bed which can be anywhere up to an hour! All of a sudden I can leave the house again, I can feed her in public without worrying that we are going to be there forever.

Looking back at our journey over the past 4 months, I feel like we have conquered Everest! I realise now that I have serious determination and must be as stubborn as they come because if someone had told me how difficult that was all going to be, I may not have tried at all! I am so lucky to have gotten such amazing support from all the health professionals, friends and family. I know that isn’t the case for everyone which is such a shame! We are constantly told ‘breast is best’ and yet some areas have no support whatsoever. I am so happy that I stuck with it because there is nothing more magical to me than cuddling up with my little one and half through her feed, she pauses to look up at me with the biggest, sweetest smile on her beautiful little face. I still don’t put pressure on myself to continue however. I had initially set myself a goal of making it to 3 weeks, then 6 weeks, then Christmas. Then I said I would love to make it to 6 months and if I make it that far I might aim for a whole year! But anything could change at any time so I am just taking it one day at a time.

After all, FED IS BEST.