Well we survived our first 3 months as parents!! This has been the fastest, hardest, best, most amazing and exhausting couple of months and I wanted to share an update on how life has been with our sweet girl, Rowen. Like I did with her birth story, I’m keeping things real, a little raw and long winded :)
The first two weeks at home were really busy with visitors practically everyday. This was lovely as we were so excited to introduce our little lady to our friends and family. It also served as a distraction from the constant feeding, diaper changes and functioning on basically no sleep. Knowing that company was coming motivated me to get up and get ready, tidy the house, etc even though we were exhausted. For the first few nights I was essentially staying up all night/as long as I could with her as she would not let us lay her down on her back in her bassinet therefore I was left to hold her in hopes of her sleeping at all. I crushed a few seasons of Friends in the first few nights alone! Obviously I couldn’t continue this way and was struggling a bit with breastfeeding as she seemed to be latched constantly. But everything I was reading (late night googling) indicated this was normal “cluster feeding” or “comfort nursing” and recommended to continue doing so as I established my supply. My husband was awesome as he would wake up and check in with me, bring me anything I needed and provide reassurance when I was emotional (and there were lots of tears during those late nights). Given that he couldn’t feed her, I encouraged him to sleep that way he could take her for a few hours in the morning while I slept. Thankfully my postpartum recovery was not bad at all and I actually felt pretty great physically. As a result though I sort of ignored self care as I was pretty consumed by caring for Rowen. My husband was again super helpful in making sure I was eating, preparing and bringing food that was easy to eat while breastfeeding. It’s funny how quickly you figure out how to do things with one hand. I knew I needed to slow down when I developed a bit of a fever when I had clogged duct that thankfully didn’t develop into mastitis and then almost fainted in the shower the morning of our newborn photos causing us to reschedule. This was a wake up call to take better care of myself so that I could in turn take care of my baby. Weeks 3 & 4 we had fewer visitors and plans which was needed and I was hoping to get into more of a routine. How naive of me lol. Anytime I thought I could predict our day, her cues or thought that I was getting the hang of things, it would change! Any moms reading this are probably like “yah, duh” :). My sister asked me if having a newborn was harder than I expected to which I said “1000% yes!!!!!”. Despite everyone always saying the first 3 months are the hardest, I still wasn’t really prepared for how challenging it was. I think having had a great pregnancy and labour led to feeling overly confident about the newborn stage. I had heard lots of negative stories and experiences with being sick for the first trimester and having awful labours, and given that this wasn’t my experience, I sort of took people saying the beginning is so hard with a grain of salt. I thought I could cope with being tired since I wasn’t working so could sleep during the day if we were up all night. And while pregnant, I wasn’t sleeping the best so thought I was “prepared” for this. BOY WAS I WRONG. I am absolutely over the moon happy as a mama and am SO IN LOVE with our little girl. But between the exhaustion, the physical and mental toll that not sleeping can have on you plus having a teeny human be completely reliant on you while managing the postpartum recovery AND hormones AND breastfeeding, this shit is hard!! Just being honest :)
Thankfully we turned a corner around week 5 following our second doctors appointment. I had suspected for a little while that I wasn’t producing a ton of milk. I was told Rowen had a good latch and she had lots of wet and dirty diapers and was back up to birth weight at her first doctors appointment at one week old. Despite this, she would latch for 30mins + minimum, most times nursing for more than an hour at a time and then wanting to feed shortly after this and was very fussy in between if she wasn’t asleep. She was not sleeping well or sometimes at all during the day and even after pretty intense crying, didn’t seem to be tired. I wasn’t letting her “cry it out”, but she was not soothed by anything but nursing so while I tried other soothing techniques she would often scream the entire time until I breastfed. I was thinking to myself “how are you still hungry?” But would latch her anyways as I wanted to honour feeding on demand. As you can imagine, this began to take its toll on me both physically and emotionally. My nipples were sore and I was exhausted and frustrated. I was not enjoying breastfeeding as I hoped I would and was starting to feel resentful as I couldn’t set her down or have someone else hold her without her becoming inconsolable and requiring me to nurse her to settle her. If she did fall asleep, I still encountered some issues setting her down or giving her to family and friends to hold, my husband included, as she wouldn’t sleep long. It wasn’t all bad, we had lots of lovely visits and outings during this time where she would be content and/or asleep while we were out or had people over. My ring sling was a saving grace during this period. We were trying to get out of the house regularly, even if just for a walk around the block. Her long feeding sessions and fussiness made this increasingly challenging though and was causing me to feel slightly anxious. I didn’t feel like I was able to drive further than the doctors or my in laws 15 minutes away as I didn’t think she would last a longer car ride without becoming inconsolable. I felt comfortable breastfeeding in public and when we had visitors thankfully or else this would have been very isolating if I was always doing this in private. I don’t think I really realized how much I was struggling until around the one month mark when I acknowledged these feelings to my husband, mom and sister. They had all picked up on it and were often met with tears when they asked how I was doing. I knew I had a bit of baby blues and given that I work in mental health, was very mindful of my own mental health and the possibility of postpartum depression. I was definitely struggling more at night, given that this is when I was the most tired. This is when I found myself the most frustrated and often in tears. We were still unsuccessful in getting Rowen to sleep in her bassinet the first few weeks and we were co-sleeping with her on the boppy lounger between us. Which YES I KNOW this goes against all sleep safety rules but we were in survival mode and this would SOMETIMES allow for an hour or two of sleep. Thankfully even after a rough night, I found the day time much more manageable but I was lacking the routine and opportunity to practice self care that is so important for our mental health and well being. I thrive on schedules and structure so this was tough for me to adapt to no schedule or predictability. Also not being able to shower or tend to my personal needs when I wanted/needed was challenging. I decided I would try to get up before my husband left for work in order to get in a shower and eat prior to Rowen waking. But then we would have a rough night and I would need to sleep until she woke and it was another day of being in my pjs until 2pm. I knew I needed to let go of my expectations as I was putting pressure on myself and needed to accept that I wasn’t in control. Who cares if I haven’t showered and my clothes aren’t clean (easier said than done) and just embrace all the newborn snuggles while I could and let her feed as much/ as long as needed. This helped for a few days. I also planned to follow up with my doctor to address my concerns about possible low milk supply. I had been trying to pump to start building a supply as we had a wedding coming up that would require me to be away from Rowen for several hours. I was starting to stress about my limited output and not having much of an opportunity to pump since Rowen fed so frequently. My mom suggested I buy some formula to have on hand which was a bit reassuring knowing I would have a back up but would keep trying to stockpile. I also thought about trying the formula at night to see if she slept better knowing she would have a full tummy. So we attended our doctors appointment and it was confirmed that she wasn’t gaining much weight. My doctor was wonderful in discussing options and ultimately we decided to start supplementing with formula. I can understand how devastating this can be for some mamas to not be able to feed their babies and to require some help. For me, I honestly felt so much relief. It confirmed what I had been feeling and knowing we had a plan in place was so helpful for me. I was also looking forward to having some additional freedom and flexibility for feeding and that others could help with this, primarily my husband who had barely been able to even hold her recently due to her screaming and coming back to me to nurse. I was happy that this would allow for more bonding for them and it has done exactly that!! It has also helped my bond with her as I have continued to nurse (for a maximum of 10-20 minutes at a time) and then follow up with a bottle. This time is so much more enjoyable now and it has made an absolute world of difference in Rowen. It is so obvious that the poor girl was just hungry before and therefore fussy trying to communicate this to us. I have focused on the positives that we have resolved the problem rather than dwelling on the fact that we encountered the issue at all and/or didn’t catch it sooner. Supplementing has made a huge difference in my overall happiness and mental health. I also feel less pressure and anxiety that exclusive breastfeeding was having. I feel Like I can read her cues much better now and that she and I are on the same page for the most part :) This has also granted me some freedom as I know I can have a shower, walk the dog on my own, go to the store if needed, etc and I know that she’s okay with dada or one of her grandmas. Before if I attempted just to shower while she was napping and left her with my husband, I returned to her screaming uncontrollably. This was upsetting for all of us and I am so glad we are past it. I never imagined breastfeeding would be this challenging and was already a firm believer in Fed is Best, but even more so now. Rowen gained almost 4 pounds in the first 6 weeks when we started supplementing and we continue to comment on what a difference we see in her level of contentment. It’s actually quite unusual now for her to be fussy as she is such a happy baby and we can usually resolve it pretty quickly if she is upset. She is also sleeping so well which is great for the entire house! She is napping every two hours and in her crib during the day and at night she sleeps in her bassinet for 5-7 hours, wakes for 30 minutes to feed then goes back down for 2-3 hours. She is no longer taking a bottle in the night just breastfeeding and I wonder if she will drop this dream feed soon. I am so relieved that things have improved and absolutely love my day to day with her. She is becoming more and more interactive and responsive and her little personality is really starting to shine. There is no better feeling than her looking up at me and smiling!! We are so lucky to have a healthy and happy babe and to get to watch her grow !!
And my advice to other mamas out there, trust your gut! You know yourself and your babe best and if you think something is up, or not going well, address it. We have this fear of admitting things aren’t perfect, or easy or coming naturally. There is already so much pressure on us as mamas raising these little babes, especially now in the age of social media. If we share that things are going well, we are bragging and it’s rude to other people who are struggling but if we express the challenges we are having, we are being too negative and should just shut up and be thankful to have a baby. So basically you can’t win but don’t let that stuff bother you. I am so thankful for a few of my favourite IG mamas that I have connected with who also had babies this summer. Around the time I was struggling, two of these ladies shared the most real and honest posts about their struggles and it was so helpful and reassuring. We are human, we can admit we aren’t perfect as no one is and we are all just trying to figure this motherhood thing out. It is the best thing in the world but definitely not easy. Take it one day at a time and remember you are doing an amazing job!!
And here’s some Rowen spam for you to enjoy :)