24 March 2011

If it is so natural, why can't I do this?

I was speaking with a friend today who has just had a baby. I asked her whether she was breastfeeding him. She replied with a tone of guilt that even though she had tried really hard, she was unable to breastfeed and had switched to forumla. She noted that there was so much pressure to breastfeed yet not enough support for new mums and was already feeling regretful.

It got me thinking about my breastfeeding journey. With Layla turning 11 months next week and now down to three feeds a day, breastfeeding is easy and simple. It was not always this way. My journey has included several bouts of mastitis, pain issues and a baby with poor attachment. I have written previously about the battle to breastfeed and thought I would include here a few points:
  • Do not underestimate how difficult breastfeeding can be. While not all women have problems feeding, a fair few do. While I am now a long term breastfeeder, I must admit that feeding added to my struggle, exhaustion and depression in the early days;
  • Try to prepare for breastfeeding by attending a breastfeeding class at your hospital or through the Australian Breastfeeding Association;
  • Find a local private lactation consultant before you have your baby. If you are having problems, contact the consultant and arrange a visit as soon as possible. When I was a child, women spent 7-10 days in hospital with nurses on hand to help with breastfeeding at any time during the day or night. Nowadays, women leave hospital shortly after their milk comes in (if they are lucky!) and are faced with many of the challenges when they get home;
  • Call the Australian Breastfeeding Associations help line (1800 MUM 2 MUM - 1800 686 2 686 (drop final 6 from Voip phones)) at any time of the day or night for help and support with feeding. The counsellors are real mums who have been through the same ups and downs as you;
  • No matter how long you last, whether it is a week, a month or a year, you should be commended for the effort it takes to feed your child. No matter the decision you make, you have a beautiful child who will and does love you to bits. Breastfeeding is but once element of having a child. There are and will be plenty of other challenges and joys along the way. In the scheme of things, the time spent breastfeeding is but a moment in a childs life.
Good luck and happy feeding!

21 March 2011

The bewitching hour

Most Mums will tell you that something strange happens as the day draws to a close. Their babies and children start to go a bit feral. There is more than the normal crying, fussing and difficulties at this time. I had heard this over and over again from parents before having Layla and was well aware of the time that is often referred to as the bewitching or arsnic hour. In actually fact, while many parents could deal with an hour of difficult behaviour, this fussy period is more like several hours from 4pm onwards until bed time (which could be anytime until late!). I must admit that such an hour rarely is seen in our house. I hear your gasps.......why not, you may say. Let me start by saying that I only have one child at the moment. I know that in homes with multiple children the stress at the end of the day is significantly hightened. From the start I have employed the following tactics to deal with this difficult time of day:
  • By 4pm, everyone in the house is tired and had enough of the day. This includes not just your baby but also you! As such, I try to remove the stress from this time by not having any pressing chores, dinners to prepare or things to do. At this time of day, I am only focused on Layla;
  • It is never too early to start preparing dinner. In order to remove the stress at the end of the day, either start preparing dinner in stages first thing in the morning, try and cook larger meals so that the left overs provide another meal, use a slow cooker so meals cook during the day or ask a friend/family member to cook you dinner;
  • I try not to be home between 4 and 5pm. I find that if we are home, things get stressful. Even from the early days, this was always a good time to go for a walk, go to the park or see friends. With a newborn, this is a good time for you to get out of the house and get some air. The exercise is also good for you before you prepare to go to bed. Often I would be so tired from sleep deprivation but my body was not tired. A brisk walk helped to burn any remaining energy so that when I got into bed, I fell asleep quickly;
  • If the weather makes it difficult to walk with a newborn, I used to cluster feed Layla and carry her in the sling close to me. Sometimes she would sleep and othertimes just chill being held nice and close. The idea of cluster feeding can be intense if your baby normally takes a long time to feed, you find yourself sitting around forever and your boobs are sore from feeding. At the end of the day your milk supply is at its lowest. By feeding your baby and letting him/her sleep at the breast at this time, it is a great bonding time, fills their tummies and relaxes them. Don't worry, babies don't cluster feed for very long in the scheme of things. Just turn on the TV and resign yourself to the fact that nothing is getting done this afternoon. If you have older children, this is a good time to feed your newborn while watching them play at home or in the park;
  • As adults, we all have a bedtime routine. It normally consists of something like dinner, relaxation, shower, teeth brushing, reading and then sleep. While things may differ from day to day, for the most part, we follow this routine as a way of getting ready for sleep. In teaching your baby the difference between day and night, installing the idea of a bedtime routine can never start too early. This routine will be one that your baby will follow for the rest of their lives and is important to instigate early. It is a way of teaching them that each day comes to an end and that this is the time for sleep;
  • The preparation for bed starts early in our house. From newborn it consisted of feed, bath, feed, bed and has now graduated to dinner, breastfeed, bath, bottle, story, bed. I've written on bedtime routine in a previous post;
  • Some people have been surprised at the length of time I dedicate to bedtime but in doing so, I have generally avoided the frustrations and stress associated with bewitching hour/s. The afternoons belong to Layla as we prepare for bed. Considering how much stress is placed on parents when an overtired baby won't settle to sleep at the end of the day, any steps to avoid such stress seemed to me to be worth it.
Right from her first bath, Layla has always loved a warm bath as a precusor to bed
.........soooo relaxing!
 There will always be times when nothing seems to work. You follow the bedtime routine but there are still tears at bedtime. All you can do is to keep going, follow the steps and work towards sleep. You need to be consistent, strong, brave and committed. You know that this baby is overtired and needs to sleep, so you need to just keep going until it happens even if it takes a long time.

20 March 2011

But it just won't work!

In my mind, most problems have a solution. Few things cannot be fixed if you put your mind to it. Diagnose the problem, consider the options, implement the solution. Problem fixed.

'What is going on?'
All of these theories were perfectly logically and accurate until I had a baby. Once I had a baby, I had problems that I could not understand, solutions that did not seem to work, symptoms that did not match problems and most of all, sleep deprivation and a huge headache. Now that Layla is rapidly approaching her first birthday, I have figured out the following:
  • Nothing works the first time;
  • There are no quick fix solutions;
  • Babies crave routine and consistency. You are the one to give them this even if it seems to not be working or really really hard;
  • If you fail, try, try again;
  • Any habit can be changed with consistent behaviour from the parents;
  • It is never too early or late to try something new. Even newborns will learn that things happen in a certain order if you consistently behave in the same way;
  • Routine is not about having a baby that sleeps and wakes on cue. Routine is about establishing that things happen in a certain order and are predictable for little people who are constantly being challenged by the world.
Even Pavlov's dogs didn't salivate the first time the bell was rung. Everything takes time. As a parent, the failure to see instant (or even quick) results can be difficult, annoying and soul destroying. What you need to remember is that you are having an impact (even if it is really small). Overtime, all the work you have done is establishing ways and methods that will pay off......it just takes time. Keep going......it really does get easier.

09 March 2011

Review - the ones you loved the most!

Well it's been almost 5 months since I started blogging and I can hardly believe the response. I've managed to write 64 posts with many more in draft stage just waiting to be be finished. It has been amazing to see how many people read my blog and the diverse places that they come from. I'm also intrigued by which posts have interested you the most and how many people go back to old posts for a read, review, a giggle or support. I've decided today to share with you the most popular posts so far.

1. Picking the perfect baby gift
2. What really makes an expert
3. Things to do just before baby comes
4. How to photograph your baby with brilliant results

I could never have dreamt of starting a blog without my daughter Layla.....

Then - 4 days old....

& Now - 10 months!
 She has been my inspiration, my motivation and my obsession over the past ten and a half months (not to mention the nine months in utero). As Layla grows and develops, I hope that she will continue to inspire me to keep writing and posting ideas, tips, suggestions and supports for new and expectant parents. We all know how much we need each other to survive the challenges of being a parent.

06 March 2011

Reflections on Motherhood

A friend sent me a link to this You Tube video today. We both became mothers only a few weeks apart and now have the joy of watching our kids grow up together. Over the past two weeks, three of my friends have given birth to their first children. As to be expected, the early days have brought waves of joy and frustration, exhaustion and exhilaration. When I watched this video, it brought a tear to my eye. It is so try, so touching and so important. If you are a parent, make sure you support your friends and family with new babies. Call them, SMS them, drop in a meal. Let them know that we have all been through the difficulties of becoming a parent and that the difficulties do pass. Watch the video and enjoy.

03 March 2011

My Baby Made Me Fat!

I once had a woman (in her 60's and morbidly obese) tell me that the reason for her weight problems, were her children. She said with a laugh "my children made me fat. It's all their fault". It was said to me when I was pregnant and the comment has been swimming around my head ever since.

During my pregnancy I trained with a personal trainer every week and made sure I was either in the gym of doing some other kind of structured exercise until I was 36 weeks. In fact, I was walking from our house to the local shopping district (15 minute steady paced walk) and back almost every day in the last month of my pregnancy. I was extremely fearful of gestational diabetes and for this reason (along with many others) I ate well and exercised religiously. As a result, I put on very little weight when I was pregnant. I felt great and I was happy with my pregnant shape.

Given my almost addiction to exercise while pregnant, I was sure that I would pick up where I left off once Layla was born. Oh, how wrong I was. Sleep deprivation changes everything. There were some days when I could hardly walk up and down our stairs let alone contemplate exercise. I continued to walk with Layla to our local shopping district after the initial few weeks. This resulted in Layla's dislike of car travel mainly because we walked to so many places instead of driving. However, beyond walking, exercise disappeared from my life. Being home and tired, I turned to food to make me feel better. I ate when I was hungry, cold, hot, tired, bored, happy and sad. My energy levels hit rock bottom and my bottom started to look like a rock (actually make that a boulder!). I knew I had to do something. All of my efforts in keeping the weight off while pregnant had been destroyed by my lack of activity and eating habits on maternity leave. Being at home and tired presented so many reasons to eat and not move.

I looked at the calendar and realised I was going back to work in less than two months. I looked in my wardrobe and realised that none of my work clothes fit. I looked at my body and realised it was time to get moving and shift the weight.

My wonderful Mothers Group hosted a fitness talk by Jenny Dugard  at about the same time as I was contemplating my situation. It gave me the motivation to address my fitness issues and make a change. I realised that as a role model for Layla and to be the best mother and wife I could be, I needed to like myself and be fit enough to juggle the demands of motherhood. As a result, I've gone back to seeing my trainer once a week and also signed up for a Mummies fitness group that meets in the evenings for group training once the babies have gone to sleep. While I still have a way to go, I've made a change and I feel better for it.

In researching what was around, I was surprised by the number of mums and bubs fitness groups that provide group training with a professional trainer while also providing child minding services. Most classes are only $20-$25 for an hour session. Classes take place in local parks and allow you to get out, exercise with your baby and not worry about watching them while you do your thing. I only wish that I had been less sleep deprived and more motivated to join once of these groups earlier.

As a mum, too often your needs come last after your children and partner. Often at that point, you have nothing left to give to yourself. My Dad has always said that the health of the family depends on the health of the mother - emotional, physical, mental health. By taking the time to get back on track, I'm giving back to myself and my family. Once the sleep deprivation clouds start to lift, why not try doing something like this for you?

Blaming your children for making you fat is that lamest excuse I have ever heard. Each one of us is in control of our own destinies. It is our own decisions that make us who we are and influence our children, not the other way around.

Links - Yummy Mummys Fitness
        - Body Beyond Baby