This was originally the blog of a first-time Mum to remember the ups and downs of my pregnancy - and chart the first year of my daughter's life. But I've kept it going, and am now a mother of two! More than anything, it helps me to get to sleep once I've emptied my brain of issues and concerns and emotions onto the laptop.
If you're reading this and also a mum- or dad-to-be, first time parent, or just someone who's thinking about it - I hope it gives a little insight into one person's experiences - good and bad....

Saturday, 24 December 2011

SIX MONTHS OLD

Moved house and we have no broadband yet - hence no time or capacity to update my blog. So just a quick one until after Christmas.

Charlotte's been amazing since we moved - I was concerned all the changes may have unsettled her. But she's pretty much been sleeping through every night for the past week or so. And when she does wake she's been putting herself back to sleep pretty swiftly.

Still taking it slowly with the weaning. Pureed fruit or veg twice a day. And as it's Christmas, we tried Brussel Sprouts this morning:



They seemed to go down pretty well, but I'm not looking forward to the nappies!

Friday, 2 December 2011

COUGHS AND SPLUTTERS

Charlotte's got a stinky cold :( She's had a stuffy nose for more than a week, but in the past few days it's been joined by a nasty cough. And today she had a couple of major vomitting episodes after particuarly violent coughing. 

But in between her coughing and sneezing fits she seems perfectly happy (although it's affecting her daytime naps worse than ever), and she's not got a temperature. So I'm pretty confident it's just a winter cold and it will pass. But if it gets much worse, or doesn't clear up after the weekend, I will take her to be checked over by the doctor.

I think it's worse for us seeing her suffer and not being able to do much to help. All I want to do is help her blow her nose, but saline drops will have to do the trick until she's rather older! Feel so sorry for her, and giving her lots of cuddles and kisses so she knows how much we love her :)

Monday, 28 November 2011

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD

We're having food issues this week - good and bad.

Charlotte started weaning last Thursday on her five month birthday - very, very slowly at first, just one new flavour every three days, and just one attempt each day. So far. so good. She took the baby rice and banana off the spoon pretty easily, and seemed keen for more even after three teaspoons. But I don't want to overfeed her solids at this stage while milk's still her main intake.



But given the encouraging signs so far, I may  increase it to two sessions of trying solids a day next week. Other than the consensus on what  to feed your baby, weaning seems to be another area where there's conflicting advice over when, how often, how much etc. So I'm really trying to use my instincts and Charlotte's lead on this one and see how we get on.

The not such good issues concern her milk feeds. In the mornings, even before we started the solids, she's had a tendancy to barely touch her milk - maybe 40ml - even when she's slept through without a feed since 6.30 the previous night. I think we've sorted this one though - she seems to take a bit more when we leave it at least half an hour after she's got up, and make sure the milk's a little warmer than she used to take (i.e. not just room temperature).

But the real biggie is her evening bottle. She's still refusing to take it from anyone but me. She'll take a little from her Dad, but then when she realises who's feeding her she'll scream and scream and not take anymore. And once she does take more from me there doesn't seem to be any consistency as to how much she'll take - sometimes barely 100ml, sometimes a full 220ml. Sometimes I think it was easier on the breast when I never actually knew how much, just that she was satisfied.

What with her continually erratic naps, her Grandma keeps telling me Charlotte's just keeping us on our toes. She certainly is that.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

FULLY FORMULA FED

At four and a half months Charlotte is now being fully formula fed.

It was not a decision I reached easily at all - in fact I still feel very emotional about it; feeling I've let her down, missing the closeness that I didn't appreciate at the time, and realising a massive part of her being a baby is over.

We started combination feeding a few weeks ago, but just before we went on holiday Charlotte just got fussier and fussier on the breast - so perhaps telling me it was time. I persevered at the start of the holiday, but it got ridiculous, and I simply couldn't express enough to replace those feeds with bottles of my milk.

While giving her bottles of formula was certainly more convenient while we were away, I did get really quite upset about it all. I'm already forgetting what it was like to breastfeed her :(

Before I had Charlotte I told myself I'd aim for at least three months and be really happy with four months, and for most of that time it was easy and went well. Four and a half months of my milk has given her a really good start - and is much more than many manage, so I should be pleased with that.

FIRST HOLIDAY, FIRST TANTRUMS

I can't believe I haven't blogged for almost a month - we've been really busy, and have just come back from Charlotte's first holiday.

We went to Cyprus so she could meet most of my side of the family. She was an angel for the flight there and back - only grizzling when she was ready for a nap. Thankfully, a four and half hour flight worked perfectly to feed her on take-off and landing. The flight home was full so there was very little room to rock her to sleep, but I managed.

She was of course on my lap for the flight, but tried out her own seat for size.


Over there she revelled in all the attention from the family. And most days I really felt like I was getting a proper break as we were staying with my parents who were always willing to help out.



It got rather trickier towards the end of the week though as Charlotte appears to be developing separation anxiety, and we had several massive screaming tantrums with full on tears - particularly at bedtime when she wouldn't let anyone but me feed her. She would almost immediately calm down if I held her, or even came close - much to the understandable upset at first of my OH. I think her Grandma was a bit put out too, as she's usually very good at calming down babies. Hoping this is just a short phase as it's already getting really rather wearing on me, and I find it very difficult to let her cry and cry.

We were also sleeping in the same room as her which meant we never got a decent night's sleep. On top of her usual noises, she was up twice each night and difficult to get back to sleep - possibly because she realised we were in the room with her. The four nights of her properly sleeping through last month seem an awful long time ago and must have been a blip!

However, on the plus side, the holiday also saw a number of big developments. Charlotte's definitely found her feet and can spend ages playing with them - even managing to get one in her mouth! She's sitting with the bare minimum of support, and most excitingly I guess, rolled from her back to her front (and back again), which she's managed a couple of times since we've been back too.

Having her first paddle in the Med


Another significant milestone is that I have finally given up breastfeeding entirely. I feel very sad and emotional about the decision, and there will be a separate blog on this to follow.

But on the whole the holiday was a success, and Charlotte certainly stole the hearts of all the family over there who can't wait to see her again.

Monday, 24 October 2011

FOUR MONTHS OLD



Everyone keeps telling me how quickly the past four months have gone since Charlotte was born - "gosh, hasn't time flown?". No - not for me it hasn't. I don't mean that in a bad way; it's just that I have felt every day of the past four months, it's actually gone quite slowly, and it feels like she's been with us for far, far longer.

I'm sure there will come a point in the coming months when on reflection things might have felt like they've gone past a little quicker. But right now I still have days that feel like a week and weeks that feel like a month. I guess it's just the repetitive nature of looking after a baby. Having said that, when I went to buy her latest nappies yesterday I no longer bought 'new born' ones, and I saw a tiny, tiny baby in a car seat that must have been only days old. It's moments like that when I realise how much time has passed, and that Charlotte isn't a tiny, newborn baby anymore.

She's started breaking her 25/40 minute nap habit over the past few days. We've had a few morning naps of 50 minutes, and even a lunchtime one of an hour and a quarter, which I'm really pleased about. 

But with one issue 'solved', along comes another. She's started to refuse to take her evening bottle from her Daddy. She just screams and screams and gets herself worked up into a right state to the point that only I have then been able to clam her down enough to feed her. It's not the bottle or the formula she's refusing as she'll take both from me - we're wondering if she's just starting to make associations with people. Daddy is for fun and Mummy is for feeding, and she doesn't like any deviation from that. However, right now she seems to be taking a bottle of expressed milk from him quite well, so fingers crossed it was just a brief phase.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

IT'S ALL IN THE JEANS

Charlotte will be four months old on Monday, but she's only just growing out of her 0-3 month clothes. However, it's been fun this week trying her in some new outfits that were bought for her when she was born, for her to grow into. I'm jealous - she's got a better wardrobe than me!. She's also managed to fit into her first pair of jeans, and they make her look so grown up!.



Although I've always thought Charlotte looks like a proper little girl, we've had quite a few comments from strangers telling us what a beautiful BOY we have! The jeans won't help that, I guess. And there are moments when I think she does look a bit like Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons!

We are moving a bit more towards combination feeding now. Partly because Charlotte's becoming fussier and fussier on the breast, and for the same reason we've been giving her a bottle before bed - because her short naps mean a feed and sleep usually collide and she falls asleep less easily on the bottle. I try to give her expressed milk at the early afternoon feed when I can, but not stressing about giving her formula if I have to. It is quite emotional dropping another breast feed after four months of almost exclusive breastfeeding, though.

Monday, 17 October 2011

GIVEN THE ALL CLEAR

We had a hospital appointment to have Charlotte's heart murmur checked out tody. I can happily report the doctor could find no trace, so - as is commonly the case - it's corrected itself over the past couple of months.

It was also a nice change to have a really good experience at a hospital after the conveyor belt and downright incompetence of our ante-natal and birth hospital appointments. The doctor and nurse were so lovely with both Charlotte and us, it was a more relaxed, personal experience, and renewed our faith in the health service a bit.

Charlotte continues to keep us on our toes (that's a polite way of putting it). After two nights of sleeping through from 7pm until just before 6am, she was up at 2.30 last night and nothing worked to get her back down until 4.30am. :(

On the plus side, in among her usual 25 or 40 minute naps she managed a whole hour and a half in the car yesterday. :)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

ACTIVE MONKEY

It's been a busy week for Charlotte. On Monday she totally surprised us by lifting her head and shoulders while on her tummy. It came totally out of nowhere, given that for the past three and a half months she's hated being on her tummy for any more than about 30 seconds. I just rolled her over to do up a dress and she was up, looking around, happy as anything for a good few minutes.

So she's been practising that all week - and we tried her in her door bouncer for the first time, too. She took to it straight away, seemed to really enjoy it - kicking her legs in a walking type motion and spinning round. I think she's still a bit too light to actually bounce yet, but it bodes well that she tried to use her legs to walk.


Shouldn't be too long before she's heavy enough to bounce properly - her latest weigh-in with the Health Visitor was a success. A nice healthy 5.5kg (12.1lb) - a steady gain of 500g in three weeks, heading further towards the 25th percentile and away from the 9th. The only change we've really made to her feeding has come in the last week when we've introduced a formula feed before bed. Not necessarily to 'tank her up' - but because she's so exhausted by 6.30 (I don't need to remind regular readers of her poor daytime naps/sleeping), she just keeps falling asleep on the breast before getting a decent feed. She falls asleep less easily on the bottle, and I'm happy to start introducing formula just once a day at this stage. In fact on Tuesday night she slept right through from 7.30pm - 6.50 am, so something must be working.1

And if all that wasn't progress enough, she had her first swimming lesson on Wednesday too. She was absolutely fantastic. Not a single grizzle, even though she was tired, and seemed quite at home in the water on her front and back. We're doing Aquatots lessons, and I really enjoyed it and enjoyed meeting some more new Mums as well. No photos, as with the sad state of society we're forbidden from taking pictures of our own children in a swimming pool, so I'll just have to wait until we're on holiday.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

WAKE TO SLEEP?

You could set your watch by Charlotte. Without fail she has exactly 40 minutes for her morning nap, and 25 minutes for each one after.

It doesn't matter if it's in her cot, her pram - even the car these days, which makes for very long car journeys (i.e. the six hours North we did at the weekend), as she understandably gets bored in her car seat for the hours she's not asleep and gets grizzly. And  in my book, 25 minutes is not nearly long enough - averaging out at about 2 hours of naptime a day, if we're lucky.

And she seems increasingly tired and ratty - making for fussy or sleepy feeds, and less happy Charlotte time. So what can I do about it? How can I get her to sleep longer than 25 minutes at a time in the day?

I've looked at the 'Wake To Sleep'  technique - but it goes against all my instincts, despite the fact I think it's worked a couple of times accidentally. For example when I've brought her out of the car just before she's about to wake up and she's stayed asleep for another 45 minutes in the flat in her car seat, or out in the pram when she's just about woken but I've rocked her a bit more and she's gone back down.

The thing I keep telling myself is that 10-15 years ago, Mums didn't have the internet or parenting books to turn to for advice or theories every time they thought their child was doing something not quite 'normal', They just got on with it and accepted that's how their baby is. And that's what I'm trying to do, in the hope that this is a phase that will pass and Charlotte will eventually nap for longer, or prove to me she doesn't need more than 2 hours in short spells every day.

She's also taken to waking at night, usually around 11.30pm, not for hunger. I'm not sure what's waking her - possibly very early teething or growing pains. We tried Calpol one night in case it was either of those things, but despite all other Mums telling me how brilliant it is at knocking babies right out to sleep for ages, it didn't work. For a few nights I ended up feeding her back to sleep, but I know that's a really bad habit to get into. Last night I put her dummy in (she goes to sleep without one usually) and soothed her - and on the third attempt she went back off to sleep for another three hours until she really did wake for a feed.

I have a new mantra to go with Patience and Perseverance... it's Relax and Enjoy. But that's proving harder and harder to tell myself the more she fights her sleep and sleeps on me instead of eating :(.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

THREE MONTHS OLD




Well, we've made it to the magic three months - I'm told things should start falling into place from here on in!

To be fair, I think we're doing pretty well already. Charlotte's managing to nap more often than not in the flat now, albeit mostly only for 25-45 minutes; and she's virtually sleeping through the night. Most nights she's down by 7.30pm and she's been waking later and later for her feed... last "night" was 5.50 this morning!, then she went back down for another hour or so.

I'm really pleased I persevered with the breastfeeding, as that seems to be going OK. Keep wondering when I can lengthen the time between feeds (mostly still feeding every three hours, sometimes three and a half) - but if she's not up until 8am and then has her last feed around 6.30pm, there are only so many hours in her day to get another three or four feeds in.

I often get e-mails from various baby websites telling me what my 12 week old, or three month old, or whatever 'should' and 'could' be doing - always with the caveat that babies all reach different milestones at their own pace, and not to worry if my baby's not doing what others are. But you can't help but wonder "what if" - what if the fact Charlotte hates tummy time so much means she won't sit up/crawl/walk properly; what if her catnaps affect her development; what if she doesn't start talking in another year or so?

To be honest, I'm not really worried about the latter two examples, and even the first one is concerning me less as she's been making further strides in trying to roll onto her side - craning her neck, arching her back etc; and her back and neck are getting stronger and stronger when held upright. She'll be fine, and will do all the things babies are supposed to do - eventually.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

FLYING SOLO

My respect for single parents and families where one parent is often away has increased massively in the past couple of days. My OH is away for a few nights, leaving me with Charlotte on my own for the first time. It's not the hard work that's an issue - I'm only doing what I do most days - it's the loneliness. There's an oddly intense loneliness that comes with being alone with a baby that's 100% your responsibility.

I guess I feel it a bit more as my OH works from home, so he's always around to bounce off when I have any problems or concerns.

But so far, so good. She even had her second set of jabs today - and despite letting out the biggest, blood-curdling screams I've ever heard for a good 10 minutes, she seems OK and happy now (actually she's asleep now, which is even better!). She's also put on enough weight to stay on the same percentile, which the Health Visitor (and I) was pleased with.

Charlotte's had a couple of odd nights where she's clearly woken up, but not seemingly for a feed. A couple of times I've popped her dummy back in and she's slept for another couple of hours before needing to be fed. The other night she was wide, wide awake at 0140 - so I just popped to the loo before going back to feed her. When I returned she was fast asleep again!

She's also lying in her Moses basket quietly 'muttering' to herself, or just staring into space, more - very quietly. So it makes me wonder how often she's actually wide awake, when we assume she's asleep in her room, but just silent - especially during her daytime naps (still only managing 25-45 minutes each time, but better than nothing).

And here's my cute picture of the week, for purely indulgent purposes!

On our way to the doctors in her harness for her jabs - her smiles were short lived :(


 

edit: Charlotte slept for ages last night after her jabs (and no Calpol) - heard the odd cough and murmur, but she seemed to sleep from 1915 until 0455, then back to sleep until 0730 after a feed. I say seemed - she's just done what I mentioned earlier - popped in check on her 35 mins into her morning nap, and she was lying there with her eyes wide open, totally silent. So all the time I assume she's sleeping and would just leave her to it until I hear her crying, she might not be asleep - so now I have no clue as to how much sleep she's getting...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

ROUTINES, PATTERNS AND LAUGHTER

As Charlotte approaches 12 weeks, I've been really trying to see the patterns in her behaviour to see if it will help us with sticking to any form of routine. So far as I can tell, she can't go past two hours without needing a nap, or else overtiredness very quickly sets in and it's extremely difficult to put her down for a snooze.

That's particularly true when it comes to her nighttime sleep. She really needs a little nap sometime around 5pm to make sure she's not overtired by the time we put her down at around 1845. The last few nights we've made sure that's happened by taking her out for a walk, and she's gone down with barely a whimper.

She's also edging back to between three and three and a half hours between feeds, after last week's growth spurt and extra feeds. While we've been trying to do the EASY (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time) routine, because she only catnaps, at least once a day it means Eat and Sleep fall at around the same time. That results in her falling asleep while feeding, or not sleeping well because she's hungry.

The first nap of the day is getting much easier to judge. It's usually around an hour and a half after she's got up, she's usually pretty easy to put down and she'll sleep for up to an hour. The only downside to that is that it falls at exactly the time I'd like to take her to a couple of sessions at the local Children's Centre (Baby Beethoven and Baby Stay and Play), which both start at 9am. So I'm giving those a miss for the time being, while we continue to establish a routine and pattern to Charlotte's day.


She also tends to be at her most alert and active in the afternoon. She's started grabbing toys that are put next to her and being much more co-ordinated with hitting objects. She did get a bit upset when she couldn't work out that she had to ungrip her fingers to let go of something, but I think she's worked that one out now!

The absolute best moment came on Tuesday evening - just as we were about to wind down from playtime to nighttime. Charlotte came out with two bouts of the most brilliant laughter. It was proper, full-on giggling that had me weeping with happiness! I hope to hear much more of that in the weeks and months to come...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

GOING BACKWARDS

It seems a very long time ago that Charlotte was managing to settle herself straight to sleep - or with just 10 minutes' coaxing. The past three nights have seen a return to the screaming ab-dabs for up to 40 minutes as she fights going down to sleep. I don't think it's connected to the fact that we've started putting her in her own room, as she was the same on Thursday night when she was still in our room. And I don't think it's connected to her apparent growth spurt either.

Part of the problem is that she's so overtired after not having had enough sleep during the day, which is well documented in this blog. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's in her Moses basket, pram or harness these days - she just won't stay down for more than half an hour. We seem to be putting her down at the right time as it's not taking too much effort to get her to sleep, but after that it's up to her and she's just not staying asleep. She doesn't wake up especially grouchy or crying - usually she's quite playful - which makes me think the catnaps are all she needs. But then when she's barely had two hours in total all day, it's resulting in a nightmare evening.

She also seems to react to the moment we start to wind-down and make it 'nighttime' by making the flat darker and quieter. While we're told it's really important to have a bedtime routine so she knows what's coming next and helps her to sleep, it seems to have the opposite effect on Charlotte - she knows what's coming... bedtime... and she doesn't like it. Her baths have been great, but after that she'll scream the place down until her feed, and then again until we've resorted to white noise, rocking and/or cuddles to calm her.

We know this is just another phase that will pass, but it feels like we're taking another few steps backwards in her sleeping at the moment. And it upsets me that the image that I have of Charlotte before I go to bed is of an upset and unhappy child.

But it is nice to have our bedroom back!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

ANOTHER GROWTH SPURT

Well it looks like our breakthrough in getting Charlotte to sleep in her Moses basket during the day may be down to her three month growth spurt - two weeks early. Her six week one came at around five weeks, so for her 12 week one to happen just before she's 11 weeks wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility.

In the past couple of days she's been much more sleepy than usual - down for a nap after being awake for little over two hours, sometimes not even that long. And she's gone from feeding around every three and half hours back to the old two and a half hours - and two nightfeeds instead of just one.

Hopefully it will only last a few days and we'll have a few more playful hours, a little less feeding, but also that she continues to go down for a nap without too much of a fight during the day.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

THE THREE Ps

Patience, perseverance and positivity.

Plenty of the first two are starting to pay off, resulting in the third.

Looking back over most of my past posts, I've realised I mostly talk about the problems and issues we've been dealing with. So I thought it was about time I highlighted some of the positives from the past few weeks - because there are more and more as each day goes by.

We're getting plenty of big beaming smiles - especially if we're smiling and laughing with Charlotte. She seems to love having her nose poked, and playing with the helium balloon is also still entertaining her greatly!



Since Sunday we've seen her do a few attempts at rolling onto her side, which is really encouraging. If she makes it all the way onto her front it might give her a bit of a scare, though, as she still hates 'tummy time'. I think we've managed 3 minutes maximum. But when we support her in a sitting position, her neck seems plenty strong enough, so being comfortable on her front will eventually come with time.



Charlotte will occasionally surprise us with the odd daytime sleep in her Moses basket. In fact today she managed THREE (at 0810, 1115 and 1400) varying between 25 and 40 minutes - but those cat-naps are better than nothing, and she only really fought two of them.

And she loves playing on her new Jungle Gym. She actually has three - two were hand-me-downs from a friend, but to make life easier for us, they're now at each grandparent's house, so we needed to buy one for our home! She's always very animated on it, with fantastic noises (squeals, gurgles etc), arm and leg movements (like she's running or galloping away from someone!) and she's getting better and better at focusing on a toy and batting at it.

She's also pretty content for lengthening amounts of time in her bouncy or swinging chairs, which makes life a bit easier for me as I can get things like housework and cooking done. I had been feeling guilty for leaving her in her chair for 20 minutes while I did something like the ironing; but she seems to amuse herself, I keep talking to her as I'm doing the chores, and I give her plenty of proper playtime throughout the rest of the day.



The bottom line is, despite the usual evening screaming fits and getting her to sleep in the day, Charlotte is a very happy, gorgeous, fun baby. In fact, she's got so much personality and seems to be progressing so well, it's very hard to think of her as a 10 week old baby. To us she's a little person - not a baby hardly at all. She's fab!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

DADDY SAYS RELAX

I go one good day with Charlotte and then start questioning everything - is she feeding enough, sleeping enough, too hot, too cold???

Last night was very warm, and despite the fact she'd been asleep for a good couple of hours and was in the same number of layers as the previous warm night, I panicked that she was too hot. So we stripped her out of her 1 tog sleeping bag while managing to keep her asleep. But then she fed really fussily at 1am, so I thought she was still too hot and took off her sleepsuit. It took a couple more feeds, a change of nappy and fretting over whether she was now too cold in just a vest and sleeping bag to get her back to sleep. I know it was all my fault as I'd fussed and fussed over her and woke her totally up, but it meant she didn't go back down until after 3am.

Why I didn't just stick with what we'd done the night before which worked perfectly, I don't know. But a vest, sleepsuit, sleeping bag and sheet (to keep her arms swaddled) seemed excessive in 24 degree heat.

Her Dad did the morning feed the next morning with expressed milk (slowly managing to get that back on track) to give me a bit of a lie-in. But I can never relax and only managed about half an hour's extra sleep. I still worry whether she's getting enough food from me, despite her obvious happiness and alertness and (mostly) good nighttime sleeping. I guess I've just got that total 'new mum neurosis' and - as my OH keeps telling me over and over - I've got to learn to relax; she's a baby - not yet three months old - and she'll do what she wants.

Friday, 2 September 2011

CAT-NAPPING

Sorry to be all repetitive, but it's that age-old issue of daytime sleeping again.



After a good day yesterday, we've had a really bad day today. I don't think she got much over an hour's sleep all day, which I know can't be good for her - and that's likely to have a knock-on effect on tonight's sleep.

At her weigh-in this week, Charlotte had put on a little more weight, staying on the same 9th percentile, so the health visitor wasn't concerned. When we asked her about her sleeping, she said cat naps weren't a problem (Charlotte's only been doing the odd half an hour here and there just lately) - so long as all her sleep is adding up to around 12-14 hours in a 24 hour period. I think most days/nights we average around 10 hours.

The news that cat naps aren't a problem made me a bit more relaxed. But I'm still getting really wound up and frustrated when she won't even nod off when it's really obvious she's tired (all the usual signs - yawning, rubbing her eyes and ears, grizzly). And as I've mentioned several times before, that lack of sleep affects her feeding too. Twice today she nodded off on the breast, which meant she wasn't full. The second time, I just let her sleep on me for half an hour as I was so concerned by how little sleep she'd had.

My OH seems a little too relaxed about her daytime sleep, which winds me up a bit, as I feel like I'm the only one striving to get Charlotte exactly what she needs. He says we're giving her the opportunity to sleep (walking her in her pram etc), but there's nothing else we can do to actually make her fall asleep and stay asleep. But even some of those fail-safes are now failing. If she does manage to nod off in her pram it's now for little more than half an hour; even the car is a little hit and miss.

Yesterday, however, was a good example of what a good day's sleep can result in. I took Charlotte out for the day to a nearby town - partly to give my OH plenty of space and time to work without interruptions and for a change of scene for me. Charlotte and I had a little bit of play time on a picnic rug, and after her feed she promptly fell asleep in her car seat which was on her pram - and stayed asleep for more than two hours!

That evening, she got herself off to sleep beautifully. She woke briefly at 2315 which didn't seem to be for a feed, so we tucked her back in and gave her a dummy - and she promptly slept for a further five hours - nine in total. All very good for her, but I was constantly clock-watching - thinking she'll wake any time for a feed, why hasn't she woken for a feed... then, it's been 8, 9, 10 hours since her last feed.

So, as she slept like the proverbial baby I still didn't manage to catch up on any lost sleep. I think that tiredness exacerbates my frustrations over her daytime sleeping. And that frustration inevitably sees me end up in tears. I don't think I've gone more than a day without crying in recent weeks. It's only because I care so much for Charlotte, and want to do everything right by her - and I guess I feel I'm failing a bit at that if I can't get her the sleep she so obviously needs...

edit: so much for worrying what sort of sleep she was going to get. Went down pretty much by herself by 1930 until 0130 for a feed. Then back down until QUARTER PAST SEVEN (albeit the OH tucked her back in when she was squirming around a lot at 0430 and he was awake anyway). Despite my concerns over her daytime sleep, I really am aware at how lucky we are that she has her big chunks of sleep at night.

Monday, 29 August 2011

THE SECOND GUESSING

Firstly, just a quick update on the breastfeeding. I've persevered and I think we're getting back on track. Charlotte's still being rather fussy after about 10 minutes, but I just keep going, and all the signs are that she's getting plenty of food. She's certainly content - she's currently playing with her favourite toy: a helium balloon tied to her ankle or where she can grab the ribbon with her hands, and squealing and kicking like a mad woman!



Still not managing to express much, but I'll persevere with that as well, and hopefully that'll also get better once the 'message' gets to my body over several days that it needs to produce a bit more milk at certain times. All in all I think we only ended up giving her one bottle and a couple of top-ups of formula, which makes me feel good. We'll see what happens at her weigh-in on Wednesday, but wet nappies and a happy, content child tells me what I need to know.

Now, I spent much of yesterday wondering how Charlotte managed three nights of sleeping for six-and-a-half to seven hour when we were up North. What were we doing differently last week up there? Was it a slightly darker room? Was it the long sleeps in the middle of the day in the car? Was it the more relaxed atmosphere with lots of relatives helping me stay relaxed and giving her plenty of attention? Was she getting more fresh air? Was it because her Moses basket was static, not in its rocker? Was it even the couple of alcoholic drinks I had while we were away? There are just too many variables - as has also proved to be the case in today's unusual daytime sleeps (see below).

Since we've been back home though she's been back to her 2330 and 0330 wake ups - no longer than four hours sleep at one time.... until last night, out of nowhere! She slept from 1900 until 0130 which really threw me. Sadly, she didn't go back down to sleep very well. She spent the best part of three hours chewing on her hands, despite my best efforts to restrict her arms under her sheet and put her dummy back in.

The chewing her hands is really un-nerving me - she's doing it right now - though I'm still pretty sure it's her just discovering them, rather than necessarily telling me she's hungry. But I fed her again, and she eventually dropped off for another hour and a half.

Charlotte then threw us another curve ball. After a week of sleeping for no longer than half an hour in her Moses basket in the day, she went down for more than an hour and a half this morning between 0830 and 1010. She wasn't in her gro-bag, so may have been slightly cooler, which might have helped. Or was it because she was in her slightly darker nursery, rather than our room? I really have no idea. The only thing I can guarantee is that if we try the same things again tomorrow, they won't work...!

edit: just put her in her basket for a second while I got ready to take her out for a lunchtime sleep in her pram as I was pretty sure we wouldn't see a repeat of this morning - and she's fallen asleep! She must be really tired after last night's fist chewing session (and all that playing with her balloon!).

We're a long way from the first two weeks when she'd only sleep on people (she won't do that now!) - and I find myself not knowing what to do with myself once she's asleep in day!


Saturday, 27 August 2011

WHEN BREAST ISN'T BEST

My confidence has been knocked again - partly from Charlotte's disappointing weight gain earlier in the week, but also down to several other issues surrounding breastfeeding.

Without going into too much detail, my breasts feel physically different and Charlotte's become increasing fussy around feeding. She's also taken to sucking and chewing on her hands more and more - which I think is just the coincidence of her discovering her hands and fingers at a bad time rather than her being permanently hungry.

After most feeds she still seems content, and we're still getting through as many nappies. But things just don't feel like they did a week or so ago.  I know feeding changes as babies get older and more efficient at it, but I feel more like we're going backwards - with her not always latching on properly and fussing so much. I've also not successfully expressed for days.

Myself and my OH have decided on the occasions Charlotte still seems hungry after feeding from me, we'll offer her formula. Currently she's not taken anymore than about 50ml, usually much less, which means she must be mostly satisfied from me. Such is the propaganda from all the health professionals, though, it makes me feel like I'm offering her poison - which is obviously ridiculous because millions of babies are brought up on formula alone, and it's far more important that my daughter is well-fed however that happens. Knocking expressing on the head for the moment, while I concentrate on making sure I feed Charlotte everytime myself.

But just the idea that I may have to give up breastfeeding before the 3 or 4 months I had intended to do it exclusively found me in a very emotional state. That stress itself won't help my milk production or help Charlotte feed more properly. Hopefully seeing her well-fed and happy (and if that means using some formula, so be it) will lower my stress and anxiety levels and get us back on an even keel.







Wednesday, 24 August 2011

TWO MONTHS OLD

Charlotte is two months old today, and we've just got back from having her first immunisations (or second if you count her BCG on day one). What another absolute farce at the doctors. Despite going over with them at length if there was any problems in her not having her 6 week check-up until she was nearly 10 weeks (after they kept cancelling and not having the available staff), when I got there today I was told she couldn't have her jabs until she'd had her check-up.

After an angry and tearful exchange, they booked me in for both her check up and immunisations for Friday, but I was allowed to see the Health Visitor today. She was weighed - 4.3 kg/ 9.47lb - and sadly she's dropped into a lower percentile. While the HV said she wasn't concerned at this stage (though asked me such stupid questions such as 'do you think you've got enough milk in your breasts? - how should I know???), she does want to weigh Charlotte again next week.

And despite her saying she's not concerned, it still knocked me sideways a bit, because I think she's been feeding really well. But - as both Grandmothers have pointed out to me - when she's awake she's so active, she'll burn off far more energy than many more docile babies. We're back to 'no two babies being the same' again. All I do know, is that after her feeds she is almost always content. 90% of the time we seem to have a very happy, playful baby. Certainly not one that is underfed and constantly crying for food (though the increased chewing on her hands has caused me some concern, but she does that even after a really good feed as she's clearly discovering her hands and fingers).

When I came out from that check-up, a little upset, the receptionist told me there'd been a cancellation, so the Doctor could do her 6 week check up (at nearly 9 weeks!) then and there, and therefore she could have her jabs. Check-up was mostly fine, but we've been referred to a specialist as the GP picked up a heart murmur. He said it was more than likely benign, and pretty common, and nothing really to worry about. But you can't help but do with a tiny, helpless baby when you're told her heart needs attention.

And then came her jabs. At first she screamed no more than we hear most days when she's overtired, but about 30 seconds later she let out an almighty howl - louder than I've ever heard. It was the perfect storm of the needles, being tired and hungry. I just tried to comfort her as best I could.

We're back home now after the best part of two weeks at both sets of grandparents. And I must say it feels a bit daunting all over again without their support for the coming weeks. But Charlotte is definitely still making progress. I think we've just about nailed getting her an hour's sleep in the mid morning - usually around 9am - without too much of a fuss. Now we're trying to crack a longer sleep around lunchtime. The past six days though, that's been easy because we've had long car journeys that have fitted in, and she's slept right through most of them. Just need to transfer that sleep to the Moses basket now.

Talking of sleep, as expected, her seven hour stretches at night from the past few nights didn't continue. She was up as usual at around midnight and 4am for feeds. Only what I expected to be honest, and it really isn't a problem. Not sure what she'll do tonight after her jabs.

Driving back down yesterday - with two months under our belts - I got to thinking about what advice I'd give to one my closest friends who's expecting her first baby in December. Here's what I think I'd tell her to expect:

  • You will read books and internet forums searching for advice - but take all of that with a pinch of salt and really try not to. A lot will scare you. The best people you can go to, for the best advice and reassurance, are your friends who've been through it all so recently.
  • You will live your life by the clock - checking how long since your baby last fed, had a sleep, has been asleep, needs waking for a feed.
  • Just as you think you've got the hang of something, i.e. breastfeeding, your confidence will be knocked when your baby throws you a curve-ball by doing something different (eg sleeping for longer/shorter, feeding for longer/shorter) and so you start to question everything all over again.
  • You will get conflicting and confusing advice from all the health professionals - and they'll make you feel guilty about everything: feeding, weight gain, sleep - yet qualify it with every baby is different. Try to follow your gut instinct, even when you feel you have none.
  • The overwhelming love and bond may not be there instantly. It's taking me weeks to get there, slowly.
  • And the one thing that EVERYONE says, that is ABSOLUTELY TRUE, but which seems impossible during that first month, is that it DOES get easier. Your baby will become more manageable once you get to recognise their needs more and more, and once they start learning what to expect throughout each day.








Saturday, 20 August 2011

MOTHER KNOWS BEST

I'm starting to understand the truth behind that phrase - Mother knows best. I really am starting to know a little more about what our little girl wants. Most of the time it's the sleep she still continues to fight in the day.

The trouble comes when other people - mostly grandparents and other family members, on both sides - make me question it all. When I can see she's on the cusp of needing sleep, they want to carry on playing, when I know she's grizzling because she's not had enough sleep they tell me she's hungry or - both grandmas favourite - it's her tummy/wind. And because they've all been there before I do listen to them.

But then I'm proved right when we get into the overtired vicious circle. Yet I'm still made to feel like I'm obsessing over her getting enough sleep. But it is really important.

On a brighter note - and an example of the effect a good sleep can have - Charlotte was an unbelievable angel at her second Welcome to the World BBQ. This time it was for her Northern family and friends. We'd made sure she had a good hour and a half's sleep at lunchtime. And for the rest of the afternoon we had smiles, happy noises, another kip, good feeds and not a whimper.

with Great-Grandma

Even her bath and pre-bed massage were perfect. As I'm writing this I have just put her down to sleep. Unfortunately the party is still very noisily going on, and Charlotte's wide awake, so we'll see how long it takes her to nod off...

edit: Ok, so she settled herself to sleep beautifully within 20 minutes, despite the cocophony of noise... and then slept for a personal best SEVEN hours before waking for a feed. I was obviously awake several times before that worrying why she hadn't woken as usual. Let's hope this isn't a one off, and she continues to be an angel child.

edit2: but then it took more than an hour to get her back to sleep:(

Thursday, 18 August 2011

DOCTOR WHEN?

Yet again we're having issues with the NHS. After previously documented examples during my pregnancy, delivery and since, we're now struggling to get Charlotte her 6 week check-up with a GP.

She's 8 weeks tomorrow and the appointment we had for her yesterday got cancalled because doctors at our surgery are on holiday or being called away. The soonest they can now fit her in is in another 2 weeks time, by which time she'll be almost 10 weeks old. No one seems especially bothered by this - despite it being drummed into us by the health visitors and various literature given to us how important it is.

Thankfully I don't have any real health concerns surroundibg Charlotte. But if there is anything that the GP picks up I'll be incredibly angry about the month delay in getting her an appointment - providing this one isn't also cancelled.

And I hope it's a bit more thorough than my own 6 week post-natal check-up. Aside from checking my blood pressure., the locum I saw just asked me if I felt OK and how my moods were. She didn't check my stitches had healed properly, no mention that I need a smear test, and just the slight mention that I should be considering contraception again. It really did feel like another pointless box ticking exercise where I wasn't really checked at all.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

PARTY GIRL



We're in the middle of a bit of a holiday, split between both sets of Grandparents. The first half coincided with one Grandad's birthday, so we decided to through a 'Welcome to the World, Charlotte' party at the same time. It was just a BBQ on a  lovely Sunday afternoon with a couple of dozen of my friends, their kids and a few of my Mum and Dad's friends.

It all went very well - though the over-stimulation from being passed from person to person, lack of daytime sleep and very hot temperatures equaled a pretty rough night. Charlotte wouldn't sleep for any more than 2 hours at a time, and I fed her each time she woke - which meant about four feeds in the night, more than she'd get in the day. I won't be doing that again in a hurry if I can help it, and have taken on board several suggestions of trying cooled boiled water when it's especially hot (despite advice to the contrary from various health visitors).

It is very lovely being down at my parents' where there are twice as many hands on deck to help out. Plus a lovely big house and garden to calm Charlotte down in. And in still trying to get her to sleep properly in the day, she's taken quite well to sleeping in the pram or car seat in the outdoors...

catching flies in the garden


... there are a couple of downsides though. As her maternal grandparents dote on her so much, I've become something of just the 'milk bar'. All I seem to do is feed her, then one of them will want to play, or have a cuddle, or take her for a walk. I barely see her other than attached to my breast or when the hard work to get her to sleep starts. At one point, my Mum passed Charlotte over to me and said "here's your 'other' Mummy" - to which I didn't quite know what to reply I was so taken aback.

I do get the impression from them sometimes that I'm not doing it 'right' - whatever that is. When me and C's Dad use tools like White Noise to calm her down, or question using cooled boiled water to quench her thirst - and various other differences that creep in over a 34 year span of 'new rules' and ways of doing things - I get the odd look or slightly disapproving comment. All I can say is that I am doing what I think is best. There is no right or wrong, but it does upset me at times.

They always see the best bits of Charlotte. The beauty of being a Grandparent is it comes without quite so much stress and anxiety of being a first-time parent. If they think back 34 years, I'm sure they might just remember that it wasn't all smiles, gurgles and happy playtimes for them when I came into the world. They were coupled with concern, tough nights, trying anything to calm me down and stop me crying. But decades on all that gets forgotten, and - happily - replaced with just the fun, fond memories.

I guess what upsets me most is that I'm still bonding with Charlotte. I'll readily admit I'm not fully there yet. I don't yet feel the overwhelming, unconditional love - that's not to say I don't love her. But her Grandad and Grandma are there - in spades. I wish I was. I'll get there.





Monday, 8 August 2011

HOLY MOSES!

I think it's telling that I've not felt the need to blog a new post in the past week (and not really had the time). I've not had to empty my brain of all the worry and anxiety nearly so much. Things are definitely heading in the right direction.

Last Tuesday I went to a breastfeeding 'cafe' at the local SureStart Centre - partly to get a bit advice to make sure I was still feeding Charlotte correctly, but also to try to meet a few new Mums. Chatted to a few women, but didn't really 'click' with anyone. Good tips on feeding in the searing heat - she was much less fussy when I stripped her naked, and feeding her more often to quench her thirst is also something I'll make sure I do.

Most importantly though, they weighed her. And she'd put on more than 200g in a week, which is excellent. I think part of my concerns over whether I'm doing OK with the breastfeeding was because my confidence was completely knocked by the previous week's tiny weight gain. Really, really pleased she's putting on weight.

She may have shed a few grammes on Thursday and Friday though, the amount she pooed! Since she was about three weeks old Charlotte's always had a 'bowel movement' every other day, which we were told was fine. But this week she had 4 or 5 A DAY. No idea why - maybe something I'd eaten - but she seemed perfectly happy.

If she doesn't have another one for a few days, we have a sure fire way of making sure she does have one - the poo chair. Without fail, if we put her in her swing chair or bouncer, and she hasn't pooed for more than a day, she always has one!

The last few days, she really has been good as gold. We were down at my parents for three days - I think she thrives off their attention, and me being more relaxed. We had a wonderful lunch out at a pub, got her passport photo taken, had a lovely afternoon with a crowd of my friends and their children, and plenty of gorgeous smiles and good playtimes - all despite a couple of disturbed night's sleep.



And today I've really seen several beams of light at the end of the tunnel. Charlotte managed an hour's sleep in her Moses basket for one of her morning naps, and a further half an hour in the afternoon. Still had to take her for a long walk in her pram at lunchtime when she was having none of it, but she stayed asleep in it once we got home for another half hour.

She also had a very enjoyable bath, and less than half an hour after putting her down to sleep (having read her half of The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck!) she'd settled herself straight to sleep without so much as a whimper.



Dream child - let's hope it continues and we can make further headway with her daytime sleeps.

Friday, 29 July 2011

DAYSLEEPER - (there's a hope)

And the battle with the daytime sleeping goes on.

However, putting her down in the evenings appears to have got a wee bit easier. Two nights this week, she self-settled herself (albeit it took at least 40 minutes each time), and the third it took around an hour to get her to sleep - but without picking her up out of her Moses Basket.

The first time I walked out of the bedroom and didn't hear a peep out of her I put it down to the fact she'd been very sleepy all day having had a very bad night's sleep with a cold, coughs and sneezes. But then she did it again the next night. We didn't swaddle her either night, but we did raise her mattress to a slight angle, thinking it might help her breathe a bit better with her stuffy nose.

However, when we've tried to put her down in the same way during the day, it still just isn't happening. And after she was weighed at the baby clinic on Wednesday and had only put on 20g since her last weigh-in - we're even more determined to do anything it takes to make sure she gets some sleep in the day.

While the Health Visitor wasn't concerned about her weight, she said Charlotte was probably using up more energy in protesting against her sleep (screaming, kicking, etc) than she was taking in. That obviously worried me a lot, and made me look at everything we're doing for Charlotte. I'm fairly convinced the feeding's still going well, so I'm wondering whether we're trying to impose any sort of routine too early.

Should we let her sleep as soon as she's finished feeding each time? But I don't want her to associate eating with sleeping in the long-term. I tried, and hated, the Babasling - again, having her sleeping on me all the time is not a practice I feel comfortable with.

So walking, driving, pram, new rocker, on us - whatever it takes, if the Moses basket doesn't work after half an hour.

My Mum and Dad took her out Thursday for 2 hours - including feeding her - while I was pampered at the hairdressers. I spent the whole time at the hairdressers wondering how she was doing - despite my best efforts to try to relax. I shouldn't have worried though, as usual she was as good as gold, as she usually is with her favourite Grandparents!

I'm still getting the occasional dark thoughts, but they're far more fleeting than a week or so ago - and still moments most days when I really don't think I'm coping very well. But I do keep trying to remind myself of all the positives, and the tiny bits of progress we are making.

In fact, when our poor little daughter was struggling a bit to breathe through her nose the other night when she had her cold, I felt much more affection and protective over her than I have previously. And the moments of heart-melting joy are definitely starting to outweigh those of despair.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

HIT AND MISS

Alert. Advanced. Intelligent. Spirited. It doesn't matter what spin you put on it - there's one thing for certain. Having such a child is very hard work.

Charlotte is so alert/spirited/advanced/intelligent* (delete as appropriate) she refuses to sleep. You may have gathered that from my previous posts! It's taken us two hours - and counting - to put her down tonight. I'm not sure if it's that she doesn't feel safe as she's dropping off to sleep, or she's scared of missing out on something. She's a baby - it's impossible to tell.

As for daytime sleeping. Still impossible. But she's not even five weeks old, so to make sure she at least gets  some sleep - if she hasn't gone down in her Moses basket after half an hour of trying, then it's the carrier, pram or car where we know she nods off (most of the time).

But even that can be hit and miss. Sometimes she's good as gold in her pram - other times she screams blue murder. And one time I've even managed to get her to sleep in her Moses basket for 45 minutes in the day after only 15 minutes of trying to put her down. Everything seems a bit hit and miss at the moment - what works one night, won't work the next.

But I'm also really trying to focus on the positives. Alright, the sleeping is definitely an issue. But two weeks ago, when she was only sleeping on us, we'd never have thought she'd have slept in her Moses basket at all. But we're slowly cracking that one, at night at least. There are many, many more babies who won't sleep at all at night, or won't feed - we don't seem to have any problems on that front.



And in the 20-minutes windows throughout the day when she's content and exploring the world and toys around her, Charlotte is a true, gorgeous delight. We know the difficult sleeping phase will eventually pass - but it's so hard to see past it at the moment.

Friday, 22 July 2011

GOOD CHARLOTTE

We've had a couple of good days.

Sure there's been plenty of bouts of screaming and refusing to sleep - anywhere - but we've had plenty of gorgeous moments too.

Yesterday we're convinced we saw Charlotte's first proper smile, as she sat in her little chair at my parents' making all sorts of lovely new noises. She was even a delight as we bathed her (which revealed her curly locks), and almost went a whole hour walking into town and back without crying her heart out and me having to put her in her baby carrier.




Then, she went down in her crib almost straight away at 7.30 until she woke for a feed at 11.15; and again until 0340. Between 5 and 8 she was a bit of different story, though.

But a 1 hour 45 minute car ride and a good feed got her back on track, and we saw more of the lovely Charlotte that makes it all seem worth it.

It's the first couple of days we've tried the E.A.S.Y routine - Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time - and been really, really careful to watch for those first tired signs before she gets overtired too quickly. Very early days, but seems to be working.

It's currently 8.40 pm, and she's been down for almost two hours. Fingers crossed she manages another couple of long stretches between feeds.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

GRANDPARENTS TO THE RESCUE - AGAIN

Another day, another quick escape down to my parents. Not because Charlotte was being any more difficult than usual - yes, she was still screaming every time I tried to put her down for a nap - but because of the constant pneumatic drill in our street. A screaming baby on her own I am just about managaing to cope with, but not with all the other noise cooped up in our small flat.

The car journey was a little tricky with me having to hold off her screams while also driving, but as soon as we arrived she was typically a little angel. She was making a number of noises I'd never heard before, and we're even convinced we saw something of a real smile - and not just wind!

But equally typically I also missed the tired window once again and it took a little effort to calm her down from her overtired state. And trying to get her to go down in the crib was a complete nightmare. We tried for three hours - in hindsight that was far too long and got me as worked up and distressed as it did Charlotte, and should have given in to her falling asleep on one of us after about an hour.

When she did eventually settle and go down - albeit already in a deep sleep rather than self-settling - she slept without waking for five hours. But it was seven hours since her last feed which left me with the dilemma of wake her or leave her. As she clearly needed her sleep, I let her sleep until she was definitely starting to wake up at 4.15. She'd made plenty of cough-like sounds through the night, but kept dropping herself straight back to sleep. So sleep was obviously her priority over food.

Through today I'm feeding her a bit more frequently - every three hours, maybe even more frequently as we head towards bedtime - so I don't fret so much over letting her sleep for longer periods at night without a feed. Perhaps that might also help in our endeavour to "set" her body clock to night and day, which in turn might help deal with the daytime sleep/naps issue. But as I keep saying - one thing at a time, and she's only 4 weeks old.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

MISSING THE SLEEP WINDOW

OK, so we all know that the only things a newborn baby does is sleep and feed. Well the latter is certainly true. In fact I think I've been over-feeding Charlotte - adding to any painful wind problems she may be having.

However, she doesn't seem to be getting nearly enough sleep, especially in the day.

The biggest problem, we have now decided, is that I've been mis-reading her tired cues as hunger cues, so not only is she feeding too much, she's not sleeping enough - leading to that vicious circle I spoke about in my last post.

So my OH and I have decided now's the time - at three and a half weeks - to start setting down a routine. I'm starting with her feeding. Having been weighed at 8lb (3.64 kg) yesterday by the health visitor, we're good to let her go up to 4 hours without a feed - more at night if she manages to sleep that bit longer - as she's feeding well when she does. So that's stage one - making sure I don't feed her anymore frequently, except maybe before bedtime so she's definitely full up and may sleep longer. That will be tested in a couple of weeks in her next growth spurt.

We're also going to start doing a proper bedtime routine - winding down from 6pm - something we've pretty much been doing anyway, and she's been asleep by 9.30 every night since Thursday. We're just going to have to try to make that a bit earlier each night.

The other step is making sure she gets enough sleep in the day, which in the last five days or so we know she hasn't been. Initially, while we will keep trying and trying to put her down in her Moses basket, if it's not worked after an hour, she can sleep where she likes so we don't get her overtired - which it escalates into if we miss that tiny window where she supposedly lets us know she's tired (yawning, rubbing her eyes, turning away from us, heavy eyes). Earlier I took her for a 2 hour walk where she slept, now she's asleep on my lap - all bad habits we know we have to break, but one step at a time.



One of the problems in getting Charlotte to sleep appears to be she's just so alert and aware of things for her age already. Our health visitor told us she sees six week old's who aren't as alert with things like focusing and playing with her hands. So while we reading up on what a 3 week old "should" be doing, it appears Charlotte may well be ahead of the curve. While that sounds great, it means she's fighting her sleep more because she wants to know what's going on around her - it's almost as if she doesn't want to miss out on what's going on by dropping off to sleep.Another tactic we're going to try once again is swaddling - even though she manages to fight her way out easier than Houdini.

Such challenging times. There are plenty of times when I really can't see how we'll get past this, but everyone tells us we will, it will get easier, and this first six-eight weeks is the toughest. After that there'll be new problems and issues, but "those too will pass..."

Monday, 18 July 2011

SCREAMING AB-DABS

I don't know where the phrase "screaming ab-dabs" comes from, but it's certainly one we've been using a lot in the last two days.

Sure enough, after another successful night in her Moses basket, we had another hellish day. From around lunchtime, nothing could console Charlotte - and it just turned into a vicious cycke of her wind stopping her from sleeping, tiredness turning very quickly into overtiredness, leading to erratic feeding, and those ear-splitting screams.

By 7pm we resorted to long walks round the park. It eventually seemed to work. and she fell asleep on my OH until we had to wake her for a feed. Then, miraculously, she went down in her Moses basket for the rest of the night - waking for a couple of feeds.

Today she has been a million times more manageable (until the point when I'm writing and we're struggling to settle her down for the night - another long walk may be in order). When she's been screaming at the top of her lungs through overtiredness we've let her reach her peak three times and then she calms right down. But generally she's nodded off after a feed and been a bit.more content, even when we went to visit my friend with the twins. In fact none of us quite knew what to do with ourselves with three sleeping children. We should have all gone for a nap!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

GLIMMERS OF LIGHT

Going down to my parents was the best thing we could have done. Four days of being fed, a little more rested and calmed down by people who've done it all before really helped re-instill some confidence in me, and tackle Charlotte's colic.

It also helped to catch up with some of my oldest and best friends - all of who have young children - and talk through our issues, their similar experiences, and what they tried to tackle them. It's really helped to stop me going mad. Where we live we don't really have much of a support network of family and friends with kids, and we really needed that for a few days.

I was a bit wobbly when we returned home and it was just the three of us again, Charlotte seemed to go through yet another period of wanting nothing but feeding. But I'm starting to learn a bit more that sometimes it's not the breast for food she's after, but for suckling and comfort. So we've turned to using the dummy - having first made sure she's not uncomfortable with wind, or simply over-tired and needs relaxing.

Much of the tips we're trying have come from the much heralded (certainly among my friends) Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. I can sometimes drive myself a bit mad by reading too much in books and online, but it's helping to take a little bit from various sources to find what works for us.

The biggest breakthrough in the last few days has definitely been Charlotte's sleeping. She's managed two nights in her crib (at my parents) and Moses basket (at home). It meant we went to bed with her at around 9pm, I fed her everytime she woke (about three times last night), and she managed to settle herself each time we put her back down - albeit with the help of a dummy, but I see that as massive progress.

She's only three weeks old. If the dummy works to sooth her to sleep and ease her windy tummy, then she can have it.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

DE-CAMPED TO THE GRANDPARENTS

It all got too much over the weekend, and Charlotte pushed us to breaking point with her ear-splitting screams, constant need for the breast and nothing seemingly calming her down. So we called my parents to pick us up and go to theirs for a few days for moral and practical support.

It got to the point where I couldn't stop crying and ended up physically sick, as nothing I could do could help my baby daughter. Myself and my OH both confided in each other
dark, hateful thoughts. I'm pleased to say they've subsided since de-camping to her very loving grandparents.

I do feel a bit of a failure for having to turn to other people for help. I feel I shoukd be able to cope and tackle this enormous challenge head on with just me and OH. But I have to admit it's helping being able to hand Charlotte over for a couple of hours (not that I am yet able to relax enough to catch up on lost sleep). It's also helping that I'm able eat proper meals and regain some of my energy and confidence by being here. And I've been able to catch up with some of my closest friends - all of who have kids - and share experiences, tips and anxieties with them.

We also called our health visitor (a different one to the first), who has been utterly amazing. She diagnosed severe colic and showed us various techniques to wind Charlotte and recommended Infacol. There certainly seems to have been some improvement - though she's still having her early evening tantrum preriod where she cluster feeds, won't settle and cries a lot. But at least we know there's a reason for it and we're expanding our repertoire of ways to deal with her

When my OH got back from work earlier, it was so nice to hear him say, "I've got my gorgeous daughter back".

I'm still very anxious that we tackle the big sleeping issue. Driving down to my parents Charlotte proved she CAN sleep on her own - managing 1 and a half hours in the car and remaining asleep for a further 45 minutes in her car seat at the house. She's also managed 1 hour 30 on a firm sofa - unde the very watchful eye of her grandparents - but still no joy with the crib.

So I'm still on the nightshift; vety mindful that now OH is back at work he needs plenty of sleep. While I can see a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel as far as colic and feeding is concerned - it's a very long, dark stretch of nights I can see ahead of me as we try to get Charlotte to sleep away from us and in her own cot/basket.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

TWO WEEKS OLD

Charlotte is now officially a citizen of the UK and the world. We registered her yesterday,which also culminated in her first ever tube and bus journeys.


We've been out pretty much every day in the past week which does us some good, although it can sometimes result in her getting a bit overtired. She seems to be doing a bit better in the pram and the occasional dummy has soothed her now and again. But she still gets really anxious and starts screaming once she realises she's not really close to me or my OH.

Talking to the midwife today - where of course Charlotte was as good as gold, and was signed off having put on more weight - she said we're just going to have to wean her off us, particularly for sleeping which could take weeks and weeks. That's really upsetting me as every time we try she gets so wound up, which winds me up and I'm ending up in tears more and more.
This afternoon she just went hysterical, and wouldn't even feed for about 6 hours.

I also can't stop worrying about what it's going to be like when OH goes back to work on Monday. Even though he works from home I know we won't be able to continue the tag team routine.

At the moment we're very much working in shifts, I'll get some kip from around 8/9pm in time for the 'nightshift' from midnight until anytime between 4 and 6am, depending on when she's fed. Then OH will do the next couple of hours while I get a bit more kip until after 9am. And we'll both manage an hour or so in the afternoon if we're lucky.

Most times that she's dropped off to sleep we've tried her again and again in the Moses basket. cot or playmat trying all the tips given to us from friends/midwives/health visitors. But within 10 minutes she's awake and cross. And that can lead to its own vicious circle of her getting so wound up she won't feed. So, to make sure she's getting enough sleep and food, we feel we have no choice but to make sure she gets several longer sleeps a day on us.

All we can think of is to gradually wean her off us and into the Moses/cot. If she wakes up and just constantly stirs without actually screaming, that's a bonus (but then I worry she's not getting enough sleep and the over-tired circle kicks in).

We keep telling ourselves she's still only 2 weeks old, but I really don't want to gamble on her growing out of it. The whole situation is just chipping away at my confidence - even though the feeding side of things seem to be going well.

One positive from the past few days -I've successfully been able to express one bottle a day, which means OH can give Charlotte one of her night feeds. Not that I've been able to sleep any extra, with worry.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Putting a label on it

When I originally started writing this latest blog in the middle of the night I had written: "Charlotte's been going a bit longer between feeds compared to the last couple of days - so perhaps this is her first growth spurt over...? Until the next one".

Famous last words - this morning she's been a nightmare. Absolutely nothing, apart from being on the breast for 55 minutes every hour, will settle her. We've tried making sure she's totally full by making sure she's not lazy snacking, we've made sure she's clean and dry, we've comforted her, left her to cry - everything.

It's got to the point where my OH has taken her out to scream the neighbourhood down to give me half an hour's break. The health visitor seemed to think we were doing well when she came this morning, and gave us more tips on feeding and trying to get her to sleep anywhere than on us. But even that reassurance isn't getting through to me at the moment.

I don't feel especially tired - just exasperated that we can't calm Charloltte and get her to sleep. EVERYONE keeps telling us it'll get easier in a week or two - but it's getting increasingly harder to believe and focus on.

The health visitor did suggest that as breastfeeding is going so well - too well, almost - I could try expressing already so my OH can help with at least one feed a day. I'm now worried Charlotte's become so attached to my breast, she might refuse a bottle. But we'll give it a go.

Life has become an endless game of second guessing her every need, her every cry and grizzle. And just when you think you've got it sussed, she changes the rules. But I think we are getting better at recognising her cues. I'm definitely recognising the hunger ones - rooting, hand in mouth, headbutting etc - more easily. And her uncomfortable "I'm trying to wee or poo" face.

The big problem comes when she's trying to tell us more than one thing at a time - I'm hungry and wet and overtired all at once. Then she'll come out with howling screams that cut right through us. My OH is amazing at calming her down though for which I'm hugely grateful.

I wasn't surprised that Charlotte got overtired yesterday afternoon though. We ended up having quite an ambitious walk around the local park, then the shops (including giving her a feed in Mothercare) and lunch at another pub, all with the other set of Grandparents this time. And she.was mostly as good as gold.

The funniest thing in her 9-day life happened too. Well it made me laugh lots. I know people always say kids are happier with the cardboard box than the toy that came in it. Well that was proved today. Forget expensive mobiles and toys to hang over her pram, Charlotte spent the best part of an hour this lunchtime utterly transfixed by the label on the sun parasol that we'd just bought. It was just in her eyeline within focus and she just stared and stared at it, keeping her totally occupied. I think we may be keeping that.




We had had a minor bit of progress with the Moses basket yesterday too. She managed an hour in it - albeit she'd already been asleep for an hour after being totally knackered from this morning's adventures. She had another 20 minutes in there last night too. But today we seem to have taken two steps backward on that issue as well.

I think the really tricky thing is to judge when to try to put her down. Too soon and she wakes herself really easily; too late and she's waking for a feed or change anyway.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

TAKING A STEP BACK

I think we may be trying run before we can walk. Seeing patterns in Charlotte's sleeping and feeding where there aren't any - and aren't likely to be until at least six weeks.

It's just so hard to remember she's only a week old. She's absolutely amazing. So for her to get the food and sleep she needs we're just going tp have to go with what works for her rather than us. And for the next few weeks that means feeding her whenever she's demanding it (which we have been doing), even if it's snacks after less than an hour at times.

And if she'll only get a decent sleep on us for now, that's how she'll get her sleep. We can try one thing a day/night to get her used to her Moses basket, but trying too many different things too often is disrupting any sleep she does get far too much.

Super Mario Charlotte

I've decided - with my entire one week's experience - that a newborn baby is much like a computer game. Trial and error to see which buttons to press and which avenues to follow to take us to the next level.

My OH and her grandparents didn't much like that analogy when I put it to them at lunch. Lunch also happened to be Charlotte's first trip to a pub! The first of many (responsible trips), I hope. She was a bit unsettled in the pram today and wanted an extra feed which I managed in a quiet corner of the pub. Only one week old, and I can't believe I've already breastfed her in public.



It was her grandparents' (my parents) second visit since she was born and they say they can see how much she is thriving. And how much progress we have made. They - and my OH and myself - can also tell she's put on weight already. While I'm obviously thrilled that it shows the feeding's going well, it also frightens me that she'll never ever be this tiny again, and I really am trying to savour every moment.

It's possible she may be going through her expected growth spurt a couple of days early. It would certainly account for all the extra 'snacking' feeds she's demanding. If that's the case - I'll just keep feeding her whenever she wants and see if it settles down in a few days.

We've also made a bit of a leap forward with the Moses basket. After observing how best she sleeps I decided to try putting her in on her side. It's another of those controversial areas where the militant 'experts' say babies should ONLY be put on their back. But she always gravitates to her side anyway, and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence of babies only settling to sleep on their sides.

If I'm honest, I feel more guilty about this than any of the feeding issues. I will be keeping a very close eye on her whenever she's sleeping in the Moses basket to start with just to make there's no tendency to move onto her front (doesn't look remotely possible at this stage, but you can never be too sure). And remember- when I was a baby, we were all put on our fronts... yet more advice to totally change in the past three decades.

So I tried it - with a rolled up blanket behind her to stop her rolling onto her back and waking herself up - and we've managed up to an hour and a quarter, which feels like a breakthrough. It's only happened the once, with an odd 25 minutes-1 hour here and there since, but her fractious sleep may well be just as much to do with her growth spurt than where she's being put down to sleep.

Incidentally, keeping this blog is helping to keep me sane. It really helps to process the myriad thoughts in my head, and empty them out into cyberspace before trying to get my head down for that odd hour or two's nap.

Friday, 1 July 2011

BABY STEPS

No not hers - she's only a week old... ours.

Tiny bits of progress to make some sense of this whole parenting minefield, day by day. Last night my OH and I actually managed to sit down to a meal together rather than eating in shifts while one of us calms/has Charlotte asleep on us. She managed more than half an hour settled in her rocker. If she can do that more often we might be able to get a bit more done, and if it can encourage her to sleep on her own maybe it will help in our challenge to get her to sleep in her Moses basket.

We've managed to eat together - the dream now is to get a little night time sleep together while our precious daughter sleeps in our room.

edit: and another breakthrough. She managed an hour and 10 minutes in her rocker overnight. I was almost pleased when she woke herself up because it meant I got to have cuddles! I think maybe she doesn't like being put to sleep on her back as she seems to sleep so well on her side - either in the rocker or on my lap. One to try another night, I think.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

THE FIRST FEW DAYS - EATING & SLEEPING

It's very hard to believe we've only been home five days and that Charlotte is still less than a week old. It feels like she's been with us for far longer - which makes it hard to cut ourselves some slack on the few issues that aren't quite going right.

The first night passed much as I think we expected it - a lot of feeding, a couple of hours kip as she slept in the Moses basket next to us, and yet more feeding. But by night two it changed dramatically, and she would not get off to sleep and never seemed full from feeding.

It really wasn't helped by the heatwave - our flat was in the high 20s Celsius - and I think a perfect storm of that, me only having colostrum still, and her thirst in the heat made for a horrible night. In the end we cracked and gave her a tiny bit of formula because I just couldn't seem to quench her thirst or hunger, and it put her right out to sleep for a good couple of hours.

We didn't beat ourselves up about the miniscule bit of formula we gave her - and she's been feeding very well on me since then (so far... please don't make that a famous last words moment). The following day/night - when my proper milk still wasn't fully in - we reverted to a tiny bit of boiled, cooled water - once she'd had all she could from me. Again - we know it's not recommended and we haven't had to resort to it since, but the heat and not having my proper milk put us in a really difficult position.

Looking for advice on the internet and in magazines/books we had lying around really didn't help. There's so much militant "you must not do this and that" and so much conflicting advice, it started to drive us mad. So from now on I'm making a point of banning myself from internet forums and so-called expert books, and listening only to my parents, in-laws, close Mum friends and my instincts.

And it's not just the internet posse who can't decide on what's the right thing to do in certain circumstances. As experienced throughout my pregnancy, even the health professionals within the same NHS Trust can't seem to make their minds up. We've had so much conflicting advice from our various midwives on issues as far ranging as the big 'water issue' to whether to use a mild baby cleaning product in the bath. What one has told us in the hospital, another has disputed on a home visit. It's truly ridiculous.

But the feeding seems to have been going well since my proper milk started coming in, so that's good progress. Charlotte seems perfectly satisfied after a good feed most of the time - falling fast asleep or seeming content if she stays awake, and there are plenty of wet and pooy nappies (thanks to OH for dealing with these most of the time!).

The one big problem we've got at the moment is where she'll sleep. She's refusing to go down in the Moses basket since that first night, and will only sleep on one of us, which is really not ideal. We're working in very much of a tag-team shift pattern, so there's always one of us with her while the other snatches an hour or two of sleep. It's something we're already trying to address by trying various tips to get her to settle in the basket, but for now we're thinking 'one step at a time' and if we can get the feeding and other things right first by the end of week three, then we'll concentrate on getting her to sleep anywhere other than on us, as that's a really bad and hard habit to have to break.

However, ten years of shift work - including nightshifts and six years of starting at 4am - means I'm quite happy and comfortable being up all through the night with her. And surviving on the odd hour of sleep here and there. In fact I've really enjoyed the middle of the last two nights - between 1am and 4am it's dark and peaceful and I just stare at our wonderful, beautiful daughter trying to make out all her little movements and needs, thinking she'll never be this tiny ever again - while she feeds and sleeps on me.

So for now - we just have to keep reminding ourselves of all the positives steps we're making every day. The two midwife visits we've had have been absolutely fine; she's lost her small bit of jaundice; the feeding's going well; we've given her a bath; we've had two successful trips out of the flat - including a full hour in her pram this morning when she was as good as gold.

Tiny baby steps - we'll get her sleeping somewhere other than on us eventually, but we really are doing OK considering it's just the first week.