Baby R is now six weeks’ old. Week five has just gone by in a blur and I don’t quite know where the time is going. Days merge into one another and I have no concept of what day it is or what’s going on in the world.
My life comprises my house, the bed, the sofa and sometimes the park if I manage to get out for a walk. I try not to get down about how much my world has shrunk – after all, I’ve wanted a baby for so long. And yet every day I have a period of wondering how I can cope if life continues in this way. Some days are better than others.
This week has been another toughy. We had two days where Baby R seemed to cry all day and would not sleep at all. It coincided with when my parents came down, as well as when we had a major heatwave in the UK, so perhaps it was a combination of factors that didn’t help matters.
What went down well a week or so before – a car ride – resulted in 30 minutes of non-stop crying. And then after, at her hospital appointment, she cried the whole way through that, to the point where I ended up in tears as well. It’s frustrating and exhausting trying to keep positive when you’re faced with an angry baby for hours at a time. You feel like it’s your fault, that you’re not good enough, that you’re failing them, when of course you’re doing your best.
There are positives, though. She continues to sleep pretty well through the night. One evening, she went from 8pm to 6am, waking only twice to feed and going back to sleep content. It’s times like that, when she wakes up well-rested, alert and happy, when it all feels worth it.
I’ve also managed to put her down a couple of times in the day, which feels like a major victory and that we’re turning a corner (she says, fingers firmly crossed). For example, right now, I’ve given her two good feeds this morning, and she fell properly asleep. So I’ve put her on her back (which she hates and normally wakes straight up) in the Sleepyhead, and she’s been there for 50 minutes so far. Sure, for many parents this wouldn’t mean much but it’s amazing for me as it’s given me a small window of time to do something (write this blog post). Hoorah!
I think perhaps where I’ve not been getting it right, and I’m starting to realise, is that she rarely comes off the breast ‘milk drunk’ during the day. This is despite me feeding her for long periods, and producing a lot of expressed milk with the Haakaa. But I don’t think I always keep going for long enough on each breast – even if it takes hours – until she is fully satisfied. This means she’s probably hungry a lot of the time, or at least not REALLY full, hence the not sleeping.
I’ve also been thinking about the next round of IVF and how I’ll need to stop breastfeeding pretty soon if I want to start at the beginning of next year. Apparently periods can take a while to come back after having a baby, and typically take much longer when you’re breastfeeding. A lot of clinics require you to have stopped breastfeeding for at least three months and have had three periods, so I really need to wrap it up in the next couple of months.
It’s funny, because I feel quite sad about the prospect of stopping breastfeeding, even though I find it hard-going. I enjoy the closeness of it, and that I’m her number one ‘go-to’ for food and comfort. But the length of time it takes and relentlessness of it are difficult for me to manage. If she was full sooner, it might be easier, but she seems to be constantly wanting the breast and it’s exhausting. I also want more ‘windows’ of time to myself, selfish as that is.
As it stands, every day I get to the point where I’m desperate for a break. I probably don’t help myself by freezing a lot of the breastmilk I produce, when I could easily feed it to her. That’s what I did yesterday – I gave her two bottles, which bought me some time to have a bit of a rest and replenish my milk supply. The result was that she was full and happy, and I had a much-needed break!
This is the way forward, I believe. I’m going to give up – or start reducing breastfeeding – probably in the next six weeks, which sounds like no time at all. So between now and then I need to come up with a plan on how I’m going to use the stored frozen breastmilk and then start her on formula. Meanwhile, I’ll feed her a couple of bottles a day to help us both out. Let’s see how that pans out!