Friday, June 24, 2011

The wild wild west

I swear, just when I think I have Noah figured out, he turns the tables on me!

For the past few weeks, he's been giving us a 4-5 hour stretch from his dream feed to his first feed, and then another 3 hours until wakeup.  It means he's waking a lot earlier (between 6-7am) but I'm getting more uninterrupted sleep so I don't mind.

Last night he fed every 3 hours, plus woke up another 2 times for his soother and once to be reswaddled (hubby needs to learn the art of tying him up tight!).  Both of us are pretty tired today.  He's napping right now, hopefully for a good stretch so he'll be in a good mood today.

I've been tracking his eating and napping patterns for the last few days to identify patterns that will help me get him to sleep longer (yes I know I'm delusional to think I can "control" his routine, but I have to try, right?).  I noticed he ate 4oz less yesterday than the last few days, which is basically an entire meal.

I'm praying this is a blip and he'll go back to his "new" routine soon.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is anyone out there?

Based on my blog stats, there's lots of people reading my posts, but not many are commenting!  I would LOVE to hear from you, to know why you're reading and hear YOUR story.  Please post a comment to say hello and introduce yourself.  I won't bite, I promise :)

Cracking the newborn sleeping puzzle

Over the past week, Noah has been giving us a 4-5 hour stretch each night.  I've noticed that he's finishing more of his bottles during the day, which is probably helping to keep him full so he can sleep longer.  Unfortunately the last two nights he woke up at 1:30 (he broke out of his swaddle) and 2:30 (he dropped his soother) respectively, but then went till about 3:30am.  It's certainly nice to get the longer stretch, the ONLY downside is he's now waking up a lot earlier.  This morning he woke at 6:25am (despite drinking 6oz, 2 more than his usual feed) at 3:30.  We put his soother in and he slept another 20 minutes.  I suspect it was because he was wet and not tired anymore because he refused his bottle until nearly 8am. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful he's sleeping longer, I just wish there was a 7 on the clock when he decides to start his day.  They're very long days when he gets up that early and hubby doesn't get home from work till 12 hours later!

I know eventually we'll get all of this sorted out, so for now I will remind myself of those nights where I was lucky to get an hour sleep between each feed...which was pure torture!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The second newborn hurdle: sleeping at night

During the last few months of pregnancy, I barely slept.  I woke several times during the night to pee, get a drink, or for no reason whatsoever.  Near the end I started to embrace it and watch a little TV to get sleepy again.  I knew that once Noah arrived, my sleep would get even worse.  And countless people said "get your sleep while you can"...which really does nothing for an expectant mom.  I don't care how many naps I took before he arrived, nothing could prepare me for true sleep deprivation.

The first night at the hospital, hubby and I had to share my single bed because we were in a semi-private room (all the private rooms were full).  Noah was in a bassinet three feet away, and woke us frequently with his noises or cries to be fed or changed.  The next morning, we were tired, but still on that "high" you get after your baby is born.

His first night home, we had him in a co-sleeper in our bed.  It was nice to have him close, because we were both super paranoid, however our queen size bed was not really big enough to accommodate the three of us.  After two uncomfortable nights with him in our bed, we moved him to a bassinet in our room.  He was a few feet away on my side, close enough for me to reach him if he cried during the night.

I honestly can't remember how frequently he fed in those first weeks.  I suspect it was every 2 hours or so until my milk came in.  For the first week, hubby was off work and helping me.  I would often feed Noah in bed and then put him back in the bassinet.  But when he went back to work, I felt bad and took Noah to his room down the hall to feed so we wouldn't wake him.  It took about an hour each time I woke, as I would feed and change him every time.  I later figured out that changing him woke him up too much, and started to do it every second feed.  Once he caught onto nursing, he would feed for about 15-20 minutes total.  Sometimes he was so tired he would fall asleep on me.  Then I'd have to pull his legs out of his sleeper to wake him up so he could focus (and so I could go back to bed!).

Noah was swaddled from the very first night.  He quickly figured out how to wriggle out of it, and his flailing arms would wake him up.  We quickly got better at wrapping him up super tight, desperately hoping the swaddle would hold until the next feed.  After he ate and was changed, I wrapped him back up and rocked him to sleep.

Once we introduced a bottle for a few night feeds, hubby was able to help with the dream feed and on weekends so I could get one longer stretch of sleep.  The dream feed at 10:30 was a big help....hubby would pluck him out of bed asleep and feed him, and then put him back down.  Then he would sleep for another 3 hours.  I would go to bed around 9/9:30 and sleep till 1:30, which was heavenly.  When he's home, he still does the dream feed, and I try to go to bed before he does it so I get a solid 3 hours.

On weekends, hubby takes the dream feed and the second (4:30 approx) feed so we can both get a long stretch.  It's a HUGE help!  Unfortunately in the first few weeks, rather than stay in Noah's room to settle him (he didn't want his crying to wake me up), he started walking around the house to get him back to sleep.  While he had the best of intentions, it became a huge pain after a few weeks.  I would end up walking from the front to the back of the house for 30-40 minutes after every night feed to get him to sleep.  I was losing my mind!

Eventually, I put my foot down and decided we needed to break the cycle.  So I started keeping Noah in his room and we would walk around his room to get him to sleep.  I noticed it was starting to take less time, and decided to try putting him down without much rocking, but swaddled and with his soother.  To my surprise, it worked!  He could still be slightly awake, and I could put him down and he would settle himself.  Sometimes I would have to get up a few times and pop his soother back in.

After rereading the Baby Whisperer for the hundredth time, I decided to try her "shush pat" method, which promised to get baby to sleep so I wouldn't have to keep getting up to put the soother in.  It worked very well, and took anywhere from 2-10 minutes for him to fall into a deep sleep.  The idea is simple, put baby down and pat their tummy while saying "shhhh" until they fall asleep.  I could tell when he was "out" when his breathing changed from quick panting to a slow pace.  Usually he would take one big breath and sigh as a transition. 

The last week, I've started putting him down semi awake again.  The moment he's done feeding and burping, I pick him up and put him down.  We used to use a nightlight, and now I only use the light of the clock radio in his room.  I'm convinced the darkness helps him stay sleepy.  I pat him briefly, make sure the soother is in, and then tiptoe out. 

For the last two months, Noah has been waking every three hours.  The big difference is how long he's up for.  It used to be an hour, then I was able to get the first feed to 20 minutes and the second to 45-60 (for some reason he was wide awake at the 4:30 feed for WEEKS and it took forever to get him down), and how he's down in 20-25 minutes at both feeds. 

Over the last week, Noah started giving me a three and a half to four hour stretch from his dream feed.  On Monday he slept FIVE HOURS!  I woke at 3:30 totally confused and asked hubby if he fed him at 1:30.  He said he didn't, and we realized he finally dropped the first feed.  I was so proud and excited at the promise of more sleep.  But last night he went back to every three hours.  I wish I knew what I did to trigger the longer stretch, or maybe I didn't do anything!  It's all such a frustrating guessing game sometimes!

Needless to say, more sleep is definitely on the horizon, and I know if I'm patient, he will get there eventually.  In the meantime, I will continue to live the life of a #zombiemom.

Do you have a newborn who's sleeping through the night?  What's your secret?

1 day old (the morning after he was born)
1 week old (when he was so small we could use receiving blankets to swaddle,
now we need the heavy-duty swaddle blankets!)

1 month old (arms are always over his head during daytime naps)

2 months old (he loves to nap with mommy & daddy)

3 months old (while I'm writing this post!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The first newborn hurdle: feeding

Moments after Noah was born, the nurse lay him across my chest so we could meet for the first time.  Then they swept him away to clean him up, check his vitals and assign an Apgar Score (I found out later he got a 9).  In the meantime, the Dr. delivered the placenta, added some stitches (ouch!) and cleaned me up.  Within minutes we were both wrapped in cozy blankets and staring into each other's eyes again.

I asked the nurse about breastfeeding and she helped me to place him onto my breast for the first time.  I will never forget the look on his face - his mouth was WIDE open and he latched onto me like a hungry animal!  At first it pinched, which surprised me, and then it slowly got better.  Over the next day at the hospital, I nursed Noah every few hours.  He was only getting colostrum but it seemed to satisfy his tiny tummy.

As we were leaving the hospital, the nurse gave me a small box of ready to feed formula, "just in case" we needed a late night top up.  Later when I told the lactation consultant about this, she was furious!

The next day, I started pumping.  The nurse suggested I try it to get my supply going.  For the first few days there wasn't much, but then my milk came in.  And boy did it come in!  I had SO much that when I was feeding Noah and I would "let down", it would often choke him and he would pull off.  And then, of course, the milk would keep coming, so both of us were frequently wet and frustrated.

Generally breastfeeding went well.  He fed better on the left side than the right side, possibly because the right supply was significantly more.  At times he was screaming because he was hungry, and I was trying desperately to help him latch, but he had his hand on my chest pushing me away.  It was extremely frustrating because I knew his anger could be solved easily.  But still, we pressed on.  We went to see the lactation consultant at the hospital, and she gave us some great tips for position and approach, but she was even surprised about how strong he was when he fought me.

I started pumping regularly so we could alternate feeds with a bottle, and so hubby could help with a few night feeds.  It was a big help but also became a huge chore.  Every time Noah napped, I was pumping.  And I was constantly worried about where his next meal would come from, and if I could pump enough.  It became very stressful, especially when I tried to pump exclusively and my supply started to drop.  When that happened, I went back to 1-2 bottle feeds a day, and the rest on the breast.

After a few weeks, I noticed that it took a long time to settle Noah after feeds, especially at night.  He was very hard to burp, and it would take about an hour of walking the floor and burping him at night to get him to settle.  And when he was waking every 2.5-3 hours, you can do the math on how much sleep I was actually getting.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and frustrated (and also very concerned about his gas and subsequent screaming).  I asked the Dr about it and he said that gas was normal, and I shouldn't worry about it.  I pressed at several appointments that something was wrong, but he wasn't concerned.

At that point I decided to take things into my own hands.  I did some reading and discovered that something in my diet, usually lactose or wheat, could be affecting him and I could do an elimination diet to figure out the cause.  I was barely eating anything That's when I started to consider formula. I spoke to some friends with newborns and they mentioned that there were formulas made for sensitive tummies.  I tried him on Enfamil Gentlease and started to notice a difference.  I was trying to transition him slowly so we were alternating feeds with formula and breastmilk.  Then I noticed that he was screaming in the breastmilk feeds (I was pumping and bottle feeding), but not the formula feeds.  I wasn't sure if it was a latent reaction to the formula or an immediate reaction to my milk.  So we decided to go "cold turkey" to figure out the cause.

We started him on formula exclusively and overnight he was like a new baby.  He was burping easier and screaming a lot less.  The feeds were much more pleasant.  Then I was faced with a dilemma, try to solve the breastmilk mystery or leave him on the formula.  After much guilt and reflection, I decided that we needed to do what was best for him and what made him we left him on formula.  I continued to pump for a week after, just in case I changed my mind.  But he was doing wonderfully!

I breastfed Noah for the first six weeks and he's been on formula for the last five.  I have to admit, it's nice to make all of his bottles for the day at once.  No worrying about pumping, whether I have enough supply, keeping a stash of towels nearby for the inevitable "pull off/soaking".  I loved the intimacy and bonding of nursing him for the first six weeks, and I will definitely breastfeed our next child.  But this was the right decision for Noah.  If it was jiving with his tummy, we would still be giving him breastmilk, but since it wasn't, we had to make a decision based on his happiness and well being.

Before I had Noah, I had low expectations for breastfeeding.  I knew a lot of people who had supply issues or general frustration with the process, so I fully expected I would face some obstacles myself.  That said, it went way better than I ever expected, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I see so many women putting pressure on themselves to nurse, and when it doesn't work out, it's crushing.  I think that going into it with my eyes wide open helped me.  And yes, I got lucky with my supply, but in the end it's about what's best for my baby.

What were your breastfeeding experiences?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The loves of my life...

Much-needed support networks

As a new mom, I'm constantly faced with questions about my baby's health, feeding, sleeping and countless other topics.  While my doctor has been a good resource, I've found that the BEST source of information has been other moms.  Of course I wouldn't make any drastic or life-altering decisions for my baby without consulting a professional, but when it comes to day to day life, other moms are the best because they've *BEEN* there.

In addition to several friends who are on maternity leave with little ones, I have two groups that I tap into for support and information. 

The first, and the one that's become my lifeline, is the #zombiemoms group on TwitterHere's an explanation of twitter groups and how this one works.  Zombiemoms is a group of women who are pregnant or have newborns/little ones and are tweeting day and night about life with a baby.  These women (and a few men) have been an amazing support, whether it's advice about how to approach a situation or just being there to listen when I'm feeling sleep deprived and frustrated.  It feels like we're all in the trenches together, and even though most of us have never met in person, we have a close bond.  I'm so thankful for this group, they really have helped me a lot.  You can check out the latest #zombiemoms conversation here:

The second group, and one that I need to invest more time in, is Momstown Milton.  This is a organized group with almost daily events for local moms.  I've met a number of moms already and many of us have babies within weeks of each other.  It's so nice to have someone who can listen and relate to what you're experiencing.  While my husband is amazing, and I have a wonderful family to support me, no one can understand how hard it is without being "in the thick of it".

I encourage every new mom to find a support network, whether virtual or in person.  Staying at home with a baby can sometimes be very lonely and frustrating, and having people who understand what you're facing can have a big impact on your mental health!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Almost 10 weeks!

I seriously don't know where time flies.  I feel like I'm living in a haze of exhaustion and pure delight.  Noah is absolutely adorable and he's changing every day.  He looks up at me with those sweet blue eyes and my heart melts.  In the last few weeks he's started to smile and become vocal.  Finally it's starting to feel like a two way relationship.

I won't pretend that there's moments where I wonder why we made this decision, because he's had a rough night or won't stop screaming, but those moments are fleeting and disappear when he smiles at me.

At his two month appointment he got his first shots (ouch! but he handled them like a little trooper), and was weighed and measured.  He's now 12 lbs 4 oz (likely more now since that was a few weeks ago) and he's grown 7cm since birth.  He's growing out of clothes faster than he can wear them.  I've put jammies away that he's only worn once or twice, but they're so tight he can't straighten his legs!

I've found that a routine is critical for my sanity and for Noah's overall demeanour.  We try to keep him to a three hour feeding schedule, and he's doing very well on Enfamil Gentlease formula.  His tummy problems have all but gone away, and he's figured out how to pass gas and have bowel movements without screaming.  Now if only we could get some longer stretches at night!  Soon enough, I know.  In the morning I feed him and then put him back in his crib with his Baby Einstein aquarium on while I shower.  Then we come downstairs and he spends about half an hour on his Baby Einstein playmat while I have coffee and breakfast.  Then usually I get him dressed, fed, and then we're off to a morning outing.  I've found that he really needs to get out of the house.  If we spend all day at home he gets very bored and cranky....which does the same to me!  I have a friend with a little guy who's 2 weeks older than Noah so we spend lots of time together.  We also joined a stroller fitness class for 8 weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays and are part of a local Moms club that has daily events.  Generally Noah's night routine is pretty much the same: bath, jammies, bottle and bed, usually around 8pm.  Then we dream feed around 10/10:30 and then hope for the best for the evening.

We tried Noah in a jolly jumper this week and he's doing really well.  His neck is super strong and he's nearly figured out how to use his legs and neck to make himself move.  Such a smart little man!

We had a photo shoot last weekend, and he did great.  It was 2 hours away so we expected he might be moody.  Thankfully it was at a friends' house so we took them gradually over 4 hours, and visited in between.  Here's a few of the sneak peeks (my fave is the one of Noah and me, which was a total fluke at the end when I was taking him inside to get him dressed):

I can't believe he'll be ten weeks this friday, almost three months.  I'm so glad we still have another nine months together....I'm only just getting to know this little one!  I can't imagine life without him, he's definitely captured a big piece of my heart!