Friday, April 06, 2007

4 weeks old

I can't believe that Toby has been with us for 4 weeks already! New parenthood has been proving all-consuming/ overwhelming, but we seem to have turned a corner in the last week, so normal blogging service (and some more recent pictures!) should resume soon.
I truly had no idea how hard work this was all going to be, or how utterly relentless the breast-feeding in particular would be. I thought that I/we had a pretty good understanding of the level of difficulty, having seen family and friends with new babies, but you just can't fully comprehend the exhaustion and constant demands until you go through it yourself. No-one can prepare you for it. And it doesn't help that you've gone through such an exhausting/draining experience as labour and birth first! I also had hideous back pain (and ghastly numbness in the base of my spine following the epidural/C-section), which meant that I couldn't stay in any one position for very long, especially sitting/holding the boy, which was tricky for feeding. The exhaustion, constant demands and emotional upheaval can result in some pretty dark times, and I've even wanted to give Toby back on one particularly awful night (not sure who I would be giving him back to - I really just wanted a break from it all).
Breast-feeding was bloody hard work in the first couple of weeks; I was prepared for it to be painful initially, but not for the level of difficulty in getting it established. Nor for the amount of time it would take up each day. Most of the time in the early days, it just felt like there was never any let up, as once you'd finished one feed and maybe had a short sleep or something to eat/gone to the loo, it was practically time to start over. Plus the pain from sore nipples was simply excruciating. And when my milk came in, it was almost impossible for Toby to latch on to my full boobs, as I have pretty flat nipples. So we started using nipple shields, which has made life generally rather easier, although I want to wean him off them soon. There was so much I didn't understand about breastfeeding and how it works in terms of the let-down reflex, demand & supply, how the baby's sucking pattern changes etc. I had previously been recommended a book called Breast is Best, which I so wish I had made time to read beforehand, as I wouldn't have struggled quite so much. But when I did get around to reading it, 2 weeks in, it really helped with various problem areas, and in simplyl understanding the mechanics of it all much better. For instance, I thought that if I couldn't hear Toby swallowing, then he wasn't actually getting any milk, and that the sucking he was doing was just comfort-sucking. Not so - he's still getting some milk, but just waiting for the next let-down. But it meant that I thought he was just a bit of a lazy feeder and had been taking him off the breast too early!
He was rather slow to regain his birthweight (probably because I wasn't letting him stay on long enough for all the reasons above), but once I'd read the book, I upped his feeding schedule to every 2 1/2hrs or so (every 3-4hrs overnight), and was expressing between feeds to increase my milk supply. It's all paid off, and he put on 8oz in the last week, so he's now up to 8lb 4oz (2oz above his birthweight). Still on a lower centile, but now gaining well.
We've moved from cup-feeding to bottle-feeding in the evening, as we didn't want him to refuse to go from breast to bottle at a later stage. We're using Playtex bottles/teats, which are supposed to be one of the closest to imitate breastfeeding. He loves his bottle, and Karen loves to be able to share in the feeding (she does the late-evening feed before we all go to bed). Sadly for my sleep pattern, he's now moved from one night feed to needing two, so I'm generally up with him at about 1.30am, and again around 5ish, feeding each time for about 45 mins or so, on and off. Quite often he wants morning to start once the second feed is over, which is pretty tough. It's amazing how you can adapt to so much less sleep overall, and broken sleep at that. Most nights he settles back to sleep after feeds reasonably easily, but some nights are pretty dreadful with us all just dozing for 30 min stretches at a time before he wakes again. I know that we have it fairly easy compared to many new parents though, going by the experience of the other mothers in my antenatal group. My antenatal group has quite literally felt like a lifesaver; I don't know how I would have managed without the other girls to share all our experiences with. Talk about instant bonding! We generally meet up a couple of times a week, and it keeps us all going through the tough times, although we are all beginning to find life a bit easier to cope with now.
Karen has finally found a parenting name that she likes - hooray! She didn't want a mothering-type name, as she sees herself as an equal parent to Toby, but not a mother to him. But equally, neither of us wanted her just to be Karen; we wanted a special name for him to use for her. We've been searching for something appropriate since before we started trying to conceive, without any luck (she's very particular!). I'm Toby's Mummy/Mama, and she is his Mimzy (she got the name from a childrens' film trailer, The Last Mimzy, and we both really like it). We also think it will be a good name as he gets older too, as it can be shortened to Mimz, which sounds quite cool.

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