I can’t quite believe I have a six month old baby. This time last year we were yet to have our 12 week scan and I couldn’t have even thought about getting to this point given the heartache we’d experienced a few months before. From the minute our rainbow baby entered the world, it was been a super steep learning curve and I’m happy to admit that it has been so tough. It has been wonderful and amazing and such a happy time, but it’s also been tiring and emotional and really hard work. You can prepare for the journey as long as time will allow and yet nothing can fully prepare you for being at home with a brand new baby who relies on you for everything. Here I tell you a little bit about my experience of early motherhood and my beautiful baby Ella.
This was one of the toughest things for us; it just didn’t come easy. Whilst in the hospital in the first few days of Ella’s life, we had to have quite a bit of help with getting her to latch onto me to feed. Due to my pethidine injection she was quite sleepy in the first hours following birth. Add to that the fact that she had low blood sugar due to her prematurity, waking her up to feed and keeping her awake to get enough milk was really difficult. Plus, because it takes a few days for a mother’s milk to come in, baby wasn’t getting enough to keep her blood sugars up, so she needed to have small amounts of formula milk to ensure she was well fed. I didn’t care that she was having to having to have formula so early on and not getting everything she needed from me, I was just glad that she was being fed and getting all of the nutrients to keep her healthy and growing.
Once everything was okay and we were allowed to go home it was time to get to grips with breastfeeding by ourselves. We had some help in the first couple of weeks when the midwife came for her visits – she assured me that her latch was fine, but it was still painful to feed. I persevered but it took several weeks for it to become comfortable for me. I had a couple of bouts of mastitis and the pain in my nipples was quite significant, so it was definitely tough. Looking back, I do think that Ella has a tongue tie, but this wasn’t checked and because she was growing steadily, no-one was worried.
There was something not quite right about our little love in those first few weeks though; she would be extremely fussy after feeds, seemed to swallow down milk that was coming back into her mouth, have hiccups constantly, spend a lot of time coughing and showed signs of being in pain. We took her to the doctor and she was diagnosed with reflux; the infant Gaviscon that we were first prescribed did not provide any relief, it was only when we were given Ranitidine for her that the reflux seemed to lessen. However, some weeks later and definitely noticing a pattern in the way Ella reacted after I ate certain foods, she was diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy. I had given up dairy in her first weeks anyway, as I had suspected for a little while that this could’ve been an issue, but to get the doctor’s diagnosis was a step in the right direction. I stopped eating or drinking anything containing cow’s milk and the change in her was immediate.
We finally hit our stride at around 3 months when her allergy had been diagnosed, we’d had enough time to breastfeed that it worked well for us and we had prescribed special formula milk for those times we felt she needed a bit more than I was producing. There were so many times in those first 12 weeks that I had been tempted to give up breastfeeding; it was really difficult for us and add to that the problem with her reflux and allergy, it was really tough. I am so glad we kept going and if there are any new mums out there who don’t know what to do, my advice would be to stick with it. I’ll do another post dedicated to our feeding journey, because there’s a lot more I want to say, but for now that was where we’d got to.
We started to give more formula milk and lessen the breastfeeding at around 5 months; we felt like she was getting hungrier and I was finding it really tough to stay totally dairy free around Christmas. There are so many foods with hidden milk, you guys! I still fed her at night, but she was getting formula about 70% of the time. Once this happened she had a big spurt of growth, so was really thriving and I don’t regret the decision to cut back on feeding her myself one bit.
A couple of weeks before she turned 6 months old I gave up breastfeeding completely. She was doing so well on the formula milk and I was happy that both she and I had gained so much from nearly 6 months of breastfeeding, so I felt comfortable in stopping. It did a lot for me in my confidence as a new mother and we bonded hugely over it. The most important thing to me was my baby being fed, so if I hadn’t been able to breastfeed it wouldn’t have been the end of the world and I respect every woman’s decision to feed her baby in the way that is best for them.
This is the weekend we are going to try out weaning. We are going with the baby-led weaning approach, so we haven’t tried her with food yet. I’ll keep you posted on how we get on.
Sleeping has gone through phases, I think is the best way to describe it.. In the beginning, Ella did as all babies do, and slept for huge chunks of the day. Once she was awake and alert for more of the day we got into long naps and then putting her down to bed at around 8pm. As she was breastfeeding and breast milk goes quickly through their system, she was up regularly at night, about every 2 hours. That lengthened a bit to around every 3 hours after a couple of months, but then we hit that damn 4 month sleep regression.
Like clockwork, once she hit 4 months she was waking every 90 minutes to 2 hours and wanted to feed every time. That was a rough time, so we just slept as much as we could during the day to catch up a little. That period didn’t last long and we were back to every 3 hour night waking, extending to around every 4 when we got to around 5 months old.
At 6 months, the longest she has slept at night without a feed is around 6 and a half hours; she’s definitely not a sleep through the night for 12 hours kind of a baby, but I’m used to her schedule, so it doesn’t bother me much anymore. She seems to be moving towards sleeping for longer, as she has only woken up once to feed over the past couple of nights, but who knows when another sleep regression or illness might hit and undo all that good work! I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to sleeping, I feel like she gets what she needs and that’s the most important thing.
She is really good at going down in the daytime for her naps. We spent the first couple of months having her nap on us during the day, as that’s where she seemed most comfortable, but as she got older we put her upstairs to sleep and she is perfectly happy with that set up now. We can usually predict her naps perfectly and she doesn’t fight it, the only time we seem to have problems is when we are not at home and the unfamiliar surroundings can throw her off.
We are now preparing to try putting her in her cot in her own room to sleep as she’s approaching 6 months old, but we are keeping that quite casual too. We feel like she’ll move when she’s ready and there’s still so many new things she’s trying that we don’t want to overwhelm her with everything all at once. There’s still so much time to perfect all of these things, she’s still a baby and we’re not rushing into any of these milestones, forcing her compliance before she’s ready.
Oh, the crying. Nothing prepares you for the sound of your baby crying for something and you don’t know what it is. It breaks your heart every time and all you want is to meet all their needs and have them be content. When Ella was suffering from reflux we’d spend so much time trying to soothe her when she was clearly in pain and that was so tough to endure. Things definitely got better once we had medicine for her reflux and ways to deal with he allergies and she didn’t seem so unhappy, and it was surprising what a difference that made to our own happiness in looking after our baby girl.
Now that she has a pretty regular schedule and we can anticipate when she is going to be hungry or tired, she doesn’t cry a whole lot for those things. Mostly, the only time she cries is when she is tired and we’re out and about at nap time, when she resists going to sleep anywhere she’s not comfortable. We’ve also had some bouts of teething, which have made her more unsettled and uncomfortable and that’s not fun, but they don’t last too long and can usually be solved.
Again, the first few weeks, if you have a baby who is prone to crying, it can feel like you’re stuck in a period that will last forever and you can’t imagine a time when your baby will be happy, but I promise it gets better. There is most certainly a reason why a baby cries and if you can decipher that and find a few soothing techniques for when they get upset, you’re onto something good. I would try not to get too stressed if I couldn’t soothe baby as I knew she could probably sense any anxieties, which would make her worse, so staying calm was my go-to strategy. Having said that, I’m glad to be past the most challenging crying days.
Playing & Development
It’s been such a joy seeing our little one develop and be more able to ‘play’ with toys and objects that we put in front of her, as well as smile and laugh at the things we do. When I am at home with her during the day I try and talk to her all the time – when I change her, make her a bottle, wash some dishes – and she seems to enjoy that, and I often sing along to her toys that play music or songs. We’ve found a few toys that she really enjoys interacting with so we use those regularly to help with her hand-eye coordination and her fine motor skills. We love finding ways to make her really belly laugh and can’t wait to see her develop and play as the weeks and months go by and she is able to move onto more advanced tasks.
These past 6 months have been the best of my life and I hope you enjoyed finding about our journey from birth ’til now with our precious girl. Stick around for more adventures!