My Breastfeeding Must-Haves

From Top to Bottom, Left to Right:
Lansinoh Breastmilk storage bags - the easiest way to store breastmilk, especially in the freezer.
Cantaloop Nursing Bra
Boots Nipple Shields - I couldn't have fed without these in the early days before Quinn's tongue-tie snip!
MooGoo Mudder Udder Nipple Balm - read my full review here.
Lanacare 100% merino wool breast pads - available here.
Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump - the only manual pump that mimics the initial "let down" suction of normal breastfeeding.
George at Asda dribble bibs - absorbent and unisex, just £3 for 5, available here.

Review: MooGoo Mudder Udder Balm

Meet my new favourite breast feeding product! The lovely cows at MooGoo, a chemical-free skincare brand straight out of Australia, sent me a tube of this nipple balm to give my rather exhausted boobies a little relief!
Before trying out the Mudder Udder Balm (name still makes me chuckle) I was using coconut oil as a nipple cream - and it worked wonders, but I couldn't find a container of coconut oil that I could pop easily in to my bag for out-and-about feeding, and I also found it pretty messy! So - I wanted to use a natural, chemical free product, that was not tested on animals, and was entirely edible so that I wouldn't have to remove it before feeds, with a balm consistency that wouldn't end up running everywhere. Enter, MooGoo's lanolin-free, jojoba oil based nipple balm.
As well as jojoba, Mudder Udder Balm contains lots of other soothing ingredients, including shea butter and natural Vitamin E. It comes in a squirty tube, so it's really easy to use discreetly, and small enough to slip in to my change bag so that I can use it after every feed, rather than having to go without during the day if we aren't at home.
Quinn has shown no upset in feeding, even immediately after I've applied the balm, if anything she appears to quite enjoy it! It has a lovely almond-y fragrance, a bit like marzipan, so I assume it tastes similar too! The texture is ever so slightly grainy, but not in a rough way, and it's soothing, as opposed to uncomfortable, to apply - even when my nipples are already sore - the grainy bits are only unmelted shea butter, so they soon disappear as they warm up to body temperature. The balm also doesn't stain my breast pads and seems to wash out easily, it doesn't even seem to effect my merino wool breast pads (which are expensive and lovely) - so that gets them a thumbs up from me!
If I had to identify "negatives", then as readers will know, I generally prefer to use vegan skincare and other cosmetic products. I'm not exclusively vegan, but in beauty products, it's much harder to trace the source of animal products than in food, so it's usually impossible to get an idea of the welfare background of animals used to make skincare products. MooGoo Mudder Udder balm does contain honey and beeswax, making it non-vegan but it is suitable for vegetarians.
The product is also produced in Australia, which may be of concern to UK customers as it doesn't appear to be produced here on license - this means that bottles have to be imported from Australia, so there are air miles involved that may put off those who prefer to use products made in the UK.
I've overlooked the international production and bee-products in the ingredients list when reviewing this product and it really does work, and is an absolute joy to use - if you aren't vegan, and aren't too fussed about country of origin, then this has to be, by far, one of the most natural and baby-friendly nipple products on the market. It isn't tested on animals and uses planet-friendly, sustainable ingredients, so all in all, it still gets a lot of eco-brownie-points.
A tube of Mudder Udder balm retails for £9.90 and you do only need to use a little smudge each time, so should last. I've been using the balm for several weeks now and have barely made a dent in the tube.

My Body - 1 month after childbirth

I don't blog about myself post-baby as much as I blog about the baby herself, and I can't see that changing any time soon, but I thought I'd write on a monthly basis for a little while, about my feelings towards my changing, and changed, post-baby body. It's something we all seem to bounce between not talking about, and wailing about with reference to how much we miss our tight sexy buns, so I thought it was worth documenting honestly.
After I gave birth to Seb, mine was one of those glorious bodies that "snapped back" in to shape within a matter of days, hours perhaps! As soon as I was home from hospital, I was in pre-pregnancy clothes and looking better than ever. It wasn't until Seb was about six months old that I actually started to gain weight and look a bit softer around the edges.
This time around I accepted that I couldn't just rely on the same sort of bodily function, whilst, at the same time, kind of hoping that I was just blessed with great bounce back and that I wouldn't be left with any "baby weight".
Unfortunately, it was not to be. At first I lost quite a bit of weight and squash, most of it in the actual baby, and when the swelling went down in my legs, ankles and feet I obviously looked and felt slimmer, but one month on, I still have an apron - I'm not sure if it's fat, loose skin, or both - that sort of hangs over my waist band when I sit down. It's hardly the end of the world, but as I had defined abs pre-pregnancy it doesn't feel right. My thighs and upper arms feel softer and larger as I stopped yoga at 38 weeks and just haven't had the time or energy to do it since Quinn arrived. I'd really love to go for a good swim regularly but childcare (or lack thereof) for a breastfeeding newborn is preventative.
On the subject of breastfeeding however, my boobs don't appear to have suffered too much. I'm over that "woah, look at my huge engorged breasts" bit (which was both fun and incredibly uncomfortable!) and now I'm just back to having relatively normal boobs - which just so happen to do the milk thing. Further inspection has revealed that I've gained a few extra stretchmarks around my bosom, to add to those that I gained when I rocketed up to a 34EE after Seb was born, but as I have no stretch marks elsewhere on my body I am trying not to worry.
One of the great victories of this pregnancy, has been my skin. I used to suffer from really really bad breakouts, I was never spot free, it was a constant thing, they were just sometimes worse than other times. Now, however, I ordinarily don't have any spots, but get the odd one that pops up. I don't know what this is about. This time last year I'd have described myself as suffering from adult acne - now, I don't even wear concealer let alone a foundation. Presumably this change was brought about by pregnancy hormones (I don't remember being spot free in pregnancy with Seb though!) and has just stuck around now that Quinn has been born - let me make it clear that I am not complaining! This is the first time I've had clear skin in 14 years.
My body aim for the next month is to plan an exercise and food regime that will allow me to gently tighten up my figure over the next year. I don't want to rush anything or go on some insane diet or bootcamp lifestyle, but I'm going to put together an action plan that will result in steady, healthy weight loss, just until I get back to a comfortable size eight.

Review: Joanne Helcke Online Pregnancy and Post Natal Pilates Programme

*This post reviews a paid membership service, but you can access a 2 week FREE trial of the programme reviewed below, with no obligation to sign up to paid membership, over here.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was asked whether I'd like to review an online pilates programme, specifically designed for use in pregnancy and post-partum. Perhaps we should take this opportunity to reflect on the last time that I did pilates, in earlier pregnancy, when I fainted, spectacularly, in a class of nimble OAPs. I'd avoided pilates ever since for no sensible reason, and had spent most of my pregnancy focussing on yoga and walking, as a means to keeping fit.
I liked the structure and features of the online programme though and as it wouldn't involve actually leaving my flat - I thought, "why not?" and so my membership was active.
The following review is influenced heavily by the fact that I was already practicing yoga, daily, and at 36 weeks was still able to adopt a head stand - I was also walking a good few miles when I had the opportunity too. I'd always taken a consciously proactive approach to being active in pregnancy, and exercising in such a way that developed, rather than simply maintained, my health and fitness. It was only in the last couple of weeks, when the swelling in my lower body began to effect my mobility and flexibility, that I pretty much retired from challenging myself through yoga. I have tried to consider the programme through the eyes of someone who perhaps wouldn't be otherwise active as well!
Joanne Helcke, I have to begin by saying, comes across as one of the most sincere and sweet women - as a specialist in pregnancy and post natal fitness, and a qualified pilates instructor, she has developed the UK's only (at time of writing) online pregnancy pilates programme. In review terms I can treat this much as I would a fitness DVD - you're at home, you clear yourself a space and hit play, and someone from behind the screen talks you through an exercise cycle. However, Dr. Helcke has gone out of her way to take this popular "at home" form of exercise instruction, and create a community around it, with an active and interesting blog, regular newsletters, and a member's forum for discussion, not just about pilates, but all things pregnancy and baby.
There is, however, a cost involved (not that classes at your local gym would be free). It's £12 per month - around here, outside of a membership arrangement, you'd be looking at paying between £7 and £10 for a pregnancy specific fitness class - so the cost is the equivalent of less than 2 group classes, or less than 40p per day - sounds like good value to me, but what do you get?
I used the following features in differing amounts in pregnancy, but, for your £12 each month you'll have:
  • a weekly pilates video, specifically tailored to the week of pregnancy (or how many weeks post-partum) that you're in - so rather than go along to a class that doesn't differentiate between those at 12 weeks and those at 40, these workouts will take in to account the individual challenges bought about by your stage of pregnancy. This was the service I got the most use from.
  • Weekly "to do" lists, developed by Dr. Helcke, an expert in pregnancy and post natal fitness, to allow you to make the best decisions, tailored to your stage of pregnancy (or post-partum). These can include anything from links to appropriate content elsewhere, to healthy meal ideas or additional work outs.
  • A members-only online forum for discussion with other Mums and Mums-To-Be, centred around anything from baby names to workout inspiration. The website is still in it's infancy, and as a new site it's still building it's user base, so I'd expect to see activity pick up more on the forum very soon - at the moment it's relatively quiet, but that will change as more and more people take up membership. Unlike many similar forums, Joanna Helcke's forum includes interaction with a number of experts, who use the message boards as a means to answer member questions - this includes qualified midwives, doulas and breastfeeding support workers among others.
  • Access to a private Facebook community. I completely forgot that this feature existed during my pregnancy and so have only just signed up to the Facebook group (a link is provided once you become a member) - however, the group has over 2000 members, so gives access to a large like minded community that, unlike the forum, is already established and active.
  • A weekly newsletter from Dr. Joanna, which, unlike some, is not just a rehashed version of her weekly blog post!
So far the programme appears to offer pretty good value, right? But is it worth forking out for? Especially given the number of other expenses you might have in the run up to your baby's arrival or in the first few weeks that follow birth.
Of course, it's difficult for me to say either way because your budget will differ from mine, as will the results you'll expect and receive. For me, I operate on an almost non-existent budget. I already pay for gym membership because it's the cheapest way for me to be able to regularly take my children swimming, so I have to see this as an increase in my monthly spend on fitness activities, rather than my sole expense in this area. In that regard, when my gym membership already allows me to go to 3-4 pilates classes per week, it would be difficult for me to justify paying for membership. Yes, the online programme is not only pregnancy specific, but also tailored to the users very week in pregnancy - but that's a bonus rather than a necessity, and a bog standard pilates class can still be tailored to meet your needs if you have a willing instructor.
Dr. Joanna's videos are safe to follow prior to your six week post natal check once your baby arrives, where most instructors would probably be resistant to you joining their classes until you had an OK from the doctor. Saying that, most of my friends who're into their exercise, were very active before the six week mark anyway.
In addition to paying to be a member of a gym, I was also already active throughout my pregnancy anyway. For the first and well in to the second trimesters of my pregnancy I was still training for a walking challenge, and I was practicing yoga (for free) at home, at a relatively challenging level, up until 38 weeks. For me, I wanted to be pushed, and this programme didn't really seem to put me through my paces, or challenge me enough - but then someone who'd otherwise not be exercising would benefit so very much more. Even in later pregnancy I was flexible and strong thanks to the yoga, so I have to admit, at times, when following Joanna Helcke's videos, I did find myself getting a bit bored. That is not to say that the videos are boring, they aren't, but if you're already exercising in pregnancy at a relatively challenging level, and you're looking for a pilates based work out - this might be too basic for you. Even for someone with little to no pilates experience, like me, it doesn't quite meet the needs of those already following a higher intensity fitness programme. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, but I think I'd have preferred to find it harder and to have felt as though I were developing skills and strength in return for my payment, whereas I felt as though the videos were more aimed at those who would otherwise be napping. Of course in a physical class the instructor can suggest ways to enhance exercise based on an individual's ability, whereas the Joanna Helcke videos, whilst tailored to your individual week in pregnancy, assume that everyone in, say, their 37th week, is limited by the same challenges and capable of the same range of movement - which isn't the case.
To find out whether the exercises are your kind of thing, you can at least take out a two week free trial to give it a whirl.
On this basis I probably wouldn't sign up to a £12 per month membership, but then I couldn't really suggest ways that the programme could be improved to change my mind. Dr. Helcke would have to be capable of seeing me from behind my laptop screen, and suggesting ways that I could push myself when the exercises are uninspiring - and that's simply not a benefit of tutorial based exercise.
Joanna Helcke membership would increase my monthly spend on exercise by almost 50%, when I already have access to a similar workout with what I already pay each month on fitness.
However, I probably would still recommend the programme to friends who otherwise wouldn't be exercising in pregnancy, didn't already have a gym membership, and liked exercise videos over physical classes for whatever reason.
The Joanna Helcke website itself is a thing of relative beauty. It's easy to navigate and well laid out and whilst there isn't an awful lot of content at the moment (only eight recipes in the "meal planner" section for example) I would imagine that this will grow and grow as the site attracts more members with it's videos. You can clearly see that it is ready to become a great site, bursting with relevant and interesting content - the structure is all there.
The idea behind the videos is fantastic, a lot of people can't get to a class, won't go to a class, or just don't like the idea. The pressures of family life make "me time" difficult to access sometimes and this certainly fills a gaping hole in the market. I'm about to start the post natal exercises now - I know I've left it five weeks, but Quinn's been so demanding, the little pest, that a pilates work out in the lounge hasn't been top of my list of priorities. I've had to admit however that any weight that I was going to lose simply by giving birth, along with the much promised breastfeeding weight loss, has been and gone, and what I'm left with is going to have to be worked off! So here goes - I'll let you know what I think!
If you'd like to try a free trial of Joanna Helcke's pregnancy and post natal programme, with no obligation to take out membership afterwards - sign up here.

My Breastfeeding Experience: Introducing Formula

I sat on the bed, with a screaming, three week old baby in my lap, and I cried: huge, great, fat tears. The sadness, disappointment, and frustration were completely overwhelming and everything felt very dark, and very hopeless. I'd been fighting this and putting it off for what seemed like a long time (in reality, a matter of days) and at the same time, felt it had lingered over me like an inevitable conclusion to this whole, rather sorry story, for ages - but Boyfriend had finally left the house, to get formula milk.
In the grand scheme of things, and I'm sure to anyone else, this doesn't sound like a big deal. We do, after all, live in a country where good quality infant formula is readily available, and keeps hundreds of thousands of babies alive and healthy. It also represented a solution to the situation that was making me so horrifically depressed that I had got used to crying all of the time. I'll be the first to say that the most important thing, when it comes to feeding a baby, is that the baby is, actually, fed. Whether it's sustenance comes from a tub of carefully concocted, complexly balanced powdered feed, or from it's Mother's breast, or from someone else's breast - it matters not. I've never looked down on a formula feeding Mum in my life - I was one, from the moment that Seb took his first feed. Yet there I was, so utterly ashamed of myself, to have finally agreed to give Quinn a bottle of milk that wasn't mine.
Largely, the guilt and anger I felt when I got to this point, was down to the fact that my breastfeeding journey up to that point had completely broken me. I'd become obsessed with overcoming the obstacles, and succeeding, to the point where to do anything else seemed like the ultimate failure. I'd promised everyone that I'd breastfeed my baby - even people who really didn't care either way, and perhaps most importantly, I'd promised myself: promised myself that it would get better, that I would be one of those women who whipped out a boob and carried on with what they were doing, effortlessly looking like a total Goddess. That reality was fading way too quickly; already I'd phoned Boyfriend more than once during the day, whilst he was at work, telling him through tears that I'd finally accepted that it was time to stop breastfeeding. He'd always been calm, and reassuring, and encouraging, telling me to call a breastfeeding counsellor, or wait until we'd seen the chiropractor, or find out when there was a breastfeeding support group meeting locally. At the time, I cried even bigger, angrier tears. I couldn't understand why he wasn't listening to me, I was telling him that I wanted to stop, that I didn't want this to be part of my life anymore, so why was he coming back at me with ideas of how I might be able to carry on? It was heartbreaking, and infuriating at the same time - I wanted to hear him say "that's OK babe, you've given it your best shot, it honestly doesn't matter, you stop if you want to". He never did.
Looking back now I'll be eternally grateful to him for this, it might make him sound like a cruel, uncaring man, who pressured me in to breastfeeding our daughter, but in fact, the complete opposite is true. He is so kind, so thoughtful, so understanding, and most importantly, he knows me better than anyone. We've shared a weird, almost psychic connection since pretty early on in our dating; it's not in the least bit unusual for one of us to sense that the other is in trouble when we're apart, or for us to pre-empt the other's ideas. We're an annoyingly in-sync, annoyingly in love kind of couple.
Not clouded by the hasty, irrational influence of hormones, exhaustion and pain, he knew that I wasn't ready to stop, that I needed relief, yes, but that if breastfeeding stopped for us at three weeks, it would ruin me more than the feeding was. Because of him, I didn't stop.
But within days, even he had asked if I wanted him to go and buy formula, and with the heaviest of hearts, I said yes.
That day we'd been at Boyfriend's Mum's house for a barbeque. Quinn, who's a pretty hungry baby anyway, had fed almost continually, and as the day moved in to evening, she's successfully emptied both boobs, and became really distressed. It was impossible to comfort or satisfy her, and we all tried, but she cried, on and on, and on. By the time we got home, Quinn had been awake for nine hours, and had spent it either feeding, or screaming with apparent hunger.
Reluctantly, I gave her the formula, and she slept for the next seven hours.
In the days that followed I attempted mixed feeding. With each bottle of formula, my guilt faded: I just wanted the crying to stop. I kept going with regular breastfeeding, but even then, Quinn would feed from both breasts, then down a bottle of formula, and sometimes still be looking for food. Eventually, the pain that I thought I was over (Quinn's latch was actually improving) was back ten fold, just due to the length and frequency of her feeds during the day - though she continued to sleep well at night.
I stopped putting her on the breast. Instead I alternated her between formula feeds and expressed breast milk, to give my nipples a rest - and I made an appointment with my GP.
It's here that things started to come back together. The GP diagnosed silent reflux, and prescribed Quinn with infant Gaviscon - which stopped the constant feed-cry cycle within 12 hours, my nipples healed up (again) and I reintroduced breastfeeding - painlessly, and the health visitor came and confirmed Quinn's otherwise perfect health.
The veil of hopelessness lifted. I wondered on many occasions whether I was, actually, suffering from PND, I felt so drained and unhappy. I now realise that I was exhausted, stressed, and in physical pain - the symptoms of which aren't dissimilar to depression - but now that the exhaustion, stress and pain have gone, so has the hopeless misery - and so my mental health is intact.
I am finally so pleased to be able to say now that I finally love breastfeeding. I went to bed last night, looking forward to Quinn waking for her feed, rather than the thought bringing me to tears. I'm proud that I got myself here in the end, and am no longer upset or ashamed that formula played a part in that success, and I'm so grateful to Boyfriend for knowing better than I did that things really would get better.
I'm now looking forward to breastfeeding for a long time, which I thought wouldn't be an option, and so the journey continues!
If you'd like to read more about Quinn's silent reflux diagnosis, there is a post, here.

Not Just a Fussy Baby

If you read Quinn's most recent baby update post, you'll know that this last week has been particularly challenging, after she suddenly started to cry, a lot, during the day. Being the school Summer holidays, this whole episode was made even worse by the fact that I needed to care for, and entertain, her brother as well.
Quinn was waking at about 8.00am most mornings, feeding, and immediately crying for more - had the supply been there, she'd have happily fed continuously for the next 12 hours, but as this wasn't physically possible, she cried in between instead. I tried putting her in the baby carrier and various burping techniques, but nothing seemed to comfort her other than milk.
Eventually, a friend suggested that Quinn might be suffering from silent reflux - I was aware of reflux in babies, but had never even heard of silent reflux: and whilst being unhappy, Quinn was rarely sick.
So I did a quick bit of research, and it turned out that Quinn displayed every single one of the possible symptoms of silent reflux. For those who might be interested in that list, babies suffering with silent reflux often:
  • feed more than seems appropriate, often putting on extra weight as a result of the amount they're consuming.
  • are unsettled feeders, bobbing on and off the breast or bottle, moaning or fussing whilst feeding, and stopping intermittently during feeds to cry, they'll often be reluctant to latch whilst showing signs of hunger.
  • have particularly advanced head control and seem unusually alert for their young age.
  • are difficult to wind.
  • make lots of gulping, swallowing sounds, and often sound as though they're gagging.
  • scream every time they're laid down, even if they appear to be fast asleep in your arms.
  • have a gurgling tummy.
  • regularly adopt a frowning, serious expression.
  • are particularly prone to hiccups and sneezing outbursts.
Unlike babies suffering from reflux, babies with silent reflux bring up their acidic stomach contents to the back of their throat, and then swallow it again, as opposed to vomiting. It is caused by an underdeveloped valve at the opening to the stomach, which should prevent anything from travelling back up. Most babies grow out of silent reflux once the development of their stomach has time to catch up.
I read a lot online from Mums who'd found it really difficult to have their concerns taken seriously by a doctor, and were dismissed simply as having a demanding, or fussy, baby. I took Quinn along to our GP and thankfully, saw a wonderful doctor who listened to my self-diagnosis, was sympathetic to just how exhausting and emotionally draining looking after a baby with reflux can be (I was holding back tears describing Quinn's symptoms because I was entirely at the end of my tether with the constant crying), and immediately prescribed infant Gaviscon in the hope that it would ease things.
I am so pleased that it's made the world of difference, Quinn is a happy, contented baby again, which in turn, has pulled me out of a bit of an emotional black hole. She started taking the Gaviscon that evening, and by the following morning, she woke for a feed, and once satisfied, went back in to her hammock for a morning nap (you know, like a normal baby!). It was such a relief to be able to spend a couple of hours with Seb, get some washing up done, and wash my hair, without her shrieking in pain beside me.
The Gaviscon hasn't completely eradicated the reflux but has greatly improved things. She can still be a bit gurgly and grumbly, and you can see her obviously burping up something nasty now and again, which is clearly uncomfortable for her, but for the most part, she's a completely different baby. The only spell of uncontrollable crying that we get now is a 5pm-7pm window of misery - but it beats 12 hours throughout the day. The early evening thing that she's doing now makes me wonder if she's suffering from colic as well on top of the reflux, as colic tends to rear it's head at the end of the day. Despite that, I'm reluctant to get my poor baby diagnosed with a long list of possible ailments. We have to go back to the doctor to discuss her progress on the Gaviscon anyway, so I'll bring it up (no pun intended) then.
I'm so glad that someone made me aware of the possibility of silent reflux, and in a way, it's comforting to know that there's something physically wrong with Quinn, which we can treat and put right, rather than just feeling I have a fussy, unsettled, sad baby. She's an absolute joy again now and because her days are pleasant, I'm completely capable of managing that 2 hour spell in the evening with calm and confidence, because I haven't been beaten down by an unending onslaught of breastfeeding and screaming... so that helps.
Ideally I wouldn't want to medicate a four week old baby; but needs must and as a result of drug treatment she is happy, healthier and we're able to enjoy our days together again.

Week 4 Update

Quinn's now almost a month old, I can't believe she plopped out on to my bedroom floor a whole four weeks ago, the time has just flown by. Although, in some regards, and predominantly due to the struggles that we've had with breastfeeding, it feels like forever ago!
And my gosh we have struggled, from Day 1 with the painful breastfeeding due to Quinn's tongue tie and the two weeks of solid, bloody perseverance until that was divided, to the following week during which she genuinely tried to chew my nipples off, I have constantly bounced between determined breastfeeding, and agonised bouts of hysterical tears and scabby nips.
Then, to top is all off, on Friday of last week, I contracted mastitis, in both breasts. For those not down with the whole breastfeeding experience, mastitis is caused by an enflamed milk duct in the breast, often referred to as a "blocked duct", although there is no physical blockage as such. The enflamed duct turns in to a large, hard, painful lump, and generally causes horrible flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, aches and pains, dizziness, nausea etc.) - It is one bitch of an illness, and left to fester it can end up needing antibiotics for treatment - if the antibiotics fail, it can turn to an abysses requiring surgery - it's no picnic. Luckily, my mastitis reared it's ugly head(s) as Seb was off to his Dad's for a couple of days, so I only had the baby to parent, and she decided that that night would be the night that she would feed hourly through the night - exhausting. Breastfeeding however is the best cure for mastitis, although painful, it's the quickest and most effective way to empty the breast, clear the duct, and allow it to heal - within 48 hours, the infection had subsided and I was back to my old self - but my God was it (another) low point!
I am now, finally, enjoying breastfeeding (cue the angels and trumpets). It's taken an entire month, and there have only been two, maybe three days that I've gone from morning to evening without crying - which isn't really how I saw myself spending these precious weeks, but I am so so glad that I persevered, and that on the occasions when I wanted to quit, Boyfriend was on hand to pick me up and look after me until I felt able to carry on again. I know that I'd be gutted not to be breastfeeding Quinn, and I know that despite everything - it is the right thing for us as a family. Now that it's pain-free, and the mastitis has subsided, I feel so confident and happy feeding her. Yesterday we met up with a group of old friends, including my friend Laura, who I've known since our little boys were babies, and who was due her third child on the same date that I was due to give birth to Quinn. Quinn ended up being five days early, and her son ended up being twelve days late, so there's actually over two weeks between them, but we both sat in the sunshine in the park yesterday, feeding our new babies and I could finally relax and feel relatively natural feeding her, rather than wincing and trying not to let on to anyone just how much pain I was in.
We saw our health visitor, Lucy, for the first time this week. I miss Kelly, my lovely midwife, but after having pretty awful experiences of health visitors when Seb was a baby, I'm relieved that Lucy is lovely, and very supportive and kind. Quinn now weighs 9lbs 11ozs (she was 7lbs 15ozs at birth) and measures 56cm from head to toe - which is what Seb measured when he was born - so she's definitely dinkier and more petite/compact than he is.
Both of my babies together
Thanks to her healthy weight gain, Quinn's now pretty much out of Newborn sized clothes, although, depending on where you shop, the Newborn sizing can mean anything from babies up to 7lbs to babies up to 10lb. I can still fit her in to a few of the larger Newborn bits (such as Mamas and Papas clothes), but a majority has now gone to the charity shop, and she's wearing predominantly 0-3month clothes (sob, sob).
The theme of this week tended to be crying, this time her, as much as me. Despite being an incredibly content and quiet baby to begin with, this was definitely the week that Quinn found her lungs, and on several occasions, she woke at 8am, and didn't sleep again properly until 8pm - yep... you can imagine. In this time she spent most of her time feeding, and if you happen to possess a pair of lactating breasts, you'll know that it's almost impossible to meet that kind of demand, but whilst she wasn't feeding, she was crying. It was becoming kind of soul destroying to be honest, especially as I had no experience of crying babies: Seb was always very quiet.
Eventually, a friend suggested that I consider the possibility that Quinn is suffering with silent reflux, so I did some research. Astonishingly, it turned out that she was displaying almost all of the possible symptoms, and I made a GP's appointment straight away. Luckily, we got an instant diagnosis, and Quinn was prescribed Infant Gaviscon - which has transformed her back in to the lovely, happy little baby that she once was. Thank goodness someone knew something about this condition when I didn't, as we may have soldiered on until she outgrew the reflux (as most babies do) rather than getting help and treatment which has made both our lives a hell of a lot more enjoyable now.
As developmental milestones go, nothing has been so notable this week as Quinn's ability to follow you with her eyes. It's amazing how automatically more interactive a baby becomes when it can control the movement of it's eyes! Now if she hears a sound or familiar voice she can actually look directly at it, and if you move past her, she'll follow you with her stare, which sounds intimidating, but is in fact very nice.
Now that breastfeeding is finally, properly established, and neither I nor the baby am unwell, I'm hoping that the coming week will be that much more positive and happy! It'll be great to write one of these baby update posts without having to discuss any particular "hurdles" or "challenges"!

Week 3 Update

Phew - Quinn's gone down for a late morning nap and I've finally got a couple of minutes to write up her 3 week update. It's not that we've been any busier than usual (although this has been my first week with both children since Boyfriend's gone back to work) - but Quinn has turned in to a serious Mummy's girl recently.
Woah - what is this?
I wonder whether this is due to her being exclusively breast fed, and therefore I'm pretty much everything that she needs to survive. I'm pretty sure she's what many would refer to as a "clingy" baby, but I keep reminding myself that a) she's only three weeks old and the world is a very scary, new place that she's entirely ill equipped to live in without me and b) she will never be this dependent on my again, she's the last baby, I'll never have to do this, to be this person, again, for anyone, ever. I also keep thinking how quickly this tiny newborn stage will disappear. I see photographs of friends babies who are around the 10-12 week mark and seem a world away from Quinn, and yet we'll be there in just a matter of weeks.
I won't lie though, Week 3 has been our hardest yet. Week 1 was pretty euphoric to be honest, Week 2 I felt incredibly under control, and then, Week 3 - was what I refer to as "a shitter".
It started with our midwife, Kelly, having to come back to re-do Quinn's heel prick blood test as they didn't get sufficient blood the first time, that seemed bad enough, but then the following day Boyfriend and I had to take Quinn to Benenden hospital to have her tongue tie divided. This should have been the beginning of better things, Seb came back from his Dads, and my breastfeeding experience was supposed to get easier. Unfortunately, the breastfeeding got much worse, I became increasingly tearful, anxious and irrational as a result of the pain and frustration - and I did at more than one point start to wonder if I was losing it a bit. The guilt that I felt at not being able to devote my full attention to Seb was eating away at me somewhat as well which hasn't helped my emotional wellbeing.
I'm glad to say though - we've turned a corner, and I've gone from being on the brink of declaring the end of my breastfeeding journey and buying formula, to breastfeeding confidently and comfortably. People kept saying "it will take a few days, give her time" and the more I heard it, the more irate I became because the next feed alone seemed like an impossible, agonising hurdle, let alone "maybe a week".
We went along to the breastfeeding support group at one of our local SureStart children's centres again and got some advice on positioning to improve Quinn's latch and we're pretty much sorted on that front.
Quinn's head control is getting scarily good given her diddy age. Boyfriend got an adorable photo of her laying on my chest, lifting her head to look over my shoulder at the window. She seems to be able to hold her head up and focus on something (usually a light source) for a considerable amount of time for a three week old, but then I don't really remember at what age Seb started to do these things.
She's also staying awake for larger blocks of time at once, which makes her both more enjoyable to be around, and more inconvenient to have about, at the same time. It's become pretty impossible for me to get things done - blog posts for example, because she's now typically awake for around three hours in the morning, and three in the evening - with the afternoon being spent on one-to-one time with Seb. I do expect everything to quieten down once the school year kicks off in a few weeks, for the time being though, I just need to keep winging it through the rest of the Summer holidays!
I must say it's been great to spend time with Seb now that I'm not heavily pregnant, we've had a lovely week working around his little sister but making sure that we still have plenty of time for Seb and Mummy stuff too!
After getting over our biggest breastfeeding challenge yet, I'm enjoying being a new Mum again, Quinn is such an adorable, special little girl, I feel pretty bad for getting so down about our progress in the middle part of this week, but at least now things are looking brighter! We're both happy again which is the main thing!
*N.B starting this week I'll also be introducing a weekly "What Seb Did" feature, as it seems a bit weird that I do a weekly post on Quinn's development and our life with a baby, but little on her older brother. He's a bit big to focus on developmental milestones on a weekly basis, but I'll be picking a few highlights from his week each Friday and sharing these instead.

My Breastfeeding Experience - Quinn's Tongue-Tie Snip and After

If you read the first part of my breastfeeding experience series, in which I shared my feeding journey in the first week of so of Quinn's life, and my experiences of breastfeeding in the very early days, then you'll know that Quinn was born with a significant posterior tongue tie.

This means that the little string of skin which joins the underside of her tongue to the bottom of her mouth, wasn't solely at the very back of her tongue, as on most people, but extended all the way to the very tip. This meant that Quinn couldn't poke her tongue out, or move it freely, which can make breastfeeding very difficult.
Thankfully, despite her tongue tie, Quinn was able to feed well, developing her own (rather interesting) technique using her gums and lips. It meant that she continued to gain weight and show all the necessary signs of being a perfectly healthy, thriving little girl, but that I was in absolute agony with cracked and bruised nipples. In those early days my nipples were often bleeding, or almost entirely scabbed over - bad enough, but worse when you have to allow a baby to bite and suck the scabs off every few hours. I found it really tough.
Luckily, we managed to get a referral from a lactation consultant in Canterbury, for a procedure to have Quinn's tongue tie "divided" - basically, a doctor uses a pair of small, round ended scissors, to snip the extra skin beneath her tongue, and thus free her tongue from the bottom of her mouth, giving her full use of it.
If you're pregnant, or have recently had a baby, I urge you to check your baby's tongue as soon as you can after birth. In the experience of many parents that I've spoken to, tongue ties often go un-diagnosed for a while, during which time breastfeeding Mother's try to continue feeding, constantly trying to improve their baby's latch, and feeding through agonising pain. I noticed within a couple of hours of Quinn's birth that she was tongue tied. I instantly found breastfeeding to be uncomfortable, and when she went to poke out her tongue, I realised that she struggled, and that the tip of her tongue was heart shaped, rather than round - all indicators of a posterior tongue tie. I looked under her tongue and sure enough, there was an extended flap of skin right to the end of the underside of her tongue.
It can be difficult to get access to tongue-tie treatment due to lack of funding within the NHS, and some care providers being reluctant to refer babies for the procedure - especially if they're feeding. If you suspect that your baby is tongue tied, get this confirmed by your midwife or health visitor and see what advice they can provide on accessing treatment, if getting a referral that way doesn't seem straight forward, find a lactation consultant via the breastfeeding support groups at your local SureStart Children's Centres, and ask them for advice on accessing treatment.
We saw a lactation consultant via SureStart when Quinn was a week old, she confirmed Quinn's tongue tie and noted the damage that her feeding was causing to my nipples, and referred us for the procedure at Benenden Hospital near Tenterden the following week.
Benenden Hospital is about a 90 minute drive from us, but we reasoned that the three hour round trip would be worth it, to put an end to my breastfeeding trauma. If you've read my post about struggling with those "darker moments" of newborn life, you'll know that there've already been a fair few tears shed over Quinn's feeding behaviour.
On Saturday, we bundled Quinn in to the car and drove over to Benenden Hospital (grabbing a lovely pub lunch first in Tenterden). Benenden is a private hospital - though we had access to free treatment through our referral, but you certainly get a different experience to accessing treatment in an NHS hospital. Without the dire understaffing, lack of funding, and poor working arrangements for doctors and nurses, everyone seemed a lot less stressed an anxious than I'd got used to expecting from hospital visits. In fact, the nurses were instantly joking with us, fussing sincerely over Quinn, and showed us to our own room, with comfy seating and a TV, as well as a patient's kitchen where we could make ourselves tea and coffee and grab biscuits.
Quinn was weighed, and had continued to gain weight since her last weigh in, and we didn't have to wait long to be shown in to see Dr. Shah, the paediatrician. Quinn got a full health check, including a look at her hips, eyes, ears etc. Once we'd been talked through the snip procedure again and signed the necessary consent forms, we were taken back to our room, leaving Quinn behind with Dr. Shah and Margaret, one of the nurses. Within five minutes, Margaret came in with a quiet, contented Quinn. She had a little bit of blood in her dribble, but nothing scary, and seemed perfectly relaxed. She fed straight away (which is required, to encourage her to use her tongue, and because breast milk is a brilliant antiseptic).
Where I'd been naïve however, was to think that the procedure would offer us some sort of immediate fix (which for some, it does.) Margaret and Boyfriend looked at me expectantly as Quinn latched on, saying things like "how does it feel?" "is that any better?". The truth was no - it was no better, in fact, it was far more painful to have her latch on immediately after her procedure than it had been for some time.
Unfortunately, it's continued to get worse and worse. I spent Saturday night in tears with pain, and with frustration as Quinn developed a sudden reluctance to latch, even poorly, far more so than she had previously. I spent most of Sunday in tears, as things continued to get more and more painful, and more and more of a fight to get Quinn to suckle effectively.
I know that anyone will tell me how well I've done to persevere with feeding Quinn until this point, and that I've done everything I could to ensure she was able to breastfeed exclusively, but none the less I felt like an utter failure. I'd always been confident that I would breastfeed this baby, I never imagined myself formula feeding, and I just accepted that breastfeeding might take a bit of work, but that it's how I would feed my baby. To face difficulty in feeding, of this severity, wasn't really something I'd factored in. I'd been won over by lactation experts saying that breastfeeding is not painful and that pain in feeding is simply caused by an incorrect latch - which can be adjusted. So I just assumed that if I did experience discomfort, I'd correct the baby's latch and carry on. Turns out, it isn't that simple. For the first few weeks, Quinn couldn't latch properly, even if she wanted to, because of her tongue tie. After the procedure she attempted to feed as normal, but couldn't as she now, suddenly, had a mobile tongue - and so, she because frustrated with her own inability to feed instinctively - making her latch, and behaviour at feeds, a million times worse than before.
After what I hoped would be a miracle cure to our feeding problems, and being so relieved to have accessed the referral for Quinn's tongue tie procedure, the pain that I experience during and after feeds is now far more intense than it was prior to the procedure. It now isn't uncommon for Quinn to spend 30-45 minutes fussing at the breast, licking it, putting it between her lips, sucking the tip of the nipple, spitting it out, and most of all - screaming. This has, unsurprisingly, resulted in a plummet in my mood, since Saturday I've found that I'm a hundred times more tearful, stressed and on edge.
There are a whole host of emotions that come with feeding complications like these; on the one hand I'm immensely frustrated/jealous/angry that despite being enthusiastic about breastfeeding, it's just not coming naturally to us as it does to so many others. There's a lot of guilt tied up in this as well, I realise now that I've put so much pressure on myself to breastfeed just by assuming that I had no other options, that I'm largely unable to reason with myself.

I feel guilty for Quinn, at the moment I can't particularly enjoy her - my days are dominated by navigating through each feed, and not by smothering her in the love that she deserves. I'll also feel guilty if I introduce infant formula, because I feel as though, as her Mum, I ought to be able to feed her comfortably, happily, and adequately.

I feel guilty for Boyfriend, who's having to put up with my constant tears, I'm behaving like someone with relatively advanced post natal depression at the moment, stemming solely from my feeding problems. My ability to enjoy anything is pretty poor, I'm constantly tearful and beating myself up and doubting my ability as a Mum, or convincing myself that my baby is subject to some form of suffering or another, I have an overall sense of helplessness and hopelessness, and I'm unnecessary emotionally dependent on him - which is sucky for him when he has to be out at work all day. He's also horridly sleep deprived (as am I) because feeding and satisfying Quinn in the early hours of the morning is taking several hours, and usually involves a lot of crying, from me and from Quinn.
I feel guilty for Seb too. Today Quinn has just wanted to feed continually, but has also predominantly refused to latch on. Screaming with hunger and frustration, but spitting out either nipple. It was some time before I was able to get him dressed, and even longer before I made him lunch. It's his school holidays, and as well as being unable to enjoy my baby, these feeding issues are making me largely unable to enjoy time with Seb too.
Yesterday we decided to get our hands on a breast pump, so that I could give my nipples a break and express some breast milk to feed Quinn from a bottle. The lovely thing is that Boyfriend got to feed his daughter for the first time, which, seeing's as everything makes me cry at the moment - made me cry. Quinn's taken to bottles fine, in fact, possibly too well, as she is downing everything that I express, and then desperately looking for more. It's given me the break I wanted, but has resulted in Quinn being even more unsettled, as she's devouring 4ozs of expressed breast milk in a few short minutes, then acting as though she's not been fed at all, immediately afterwards. I don't have a "stash" of expressed breast milk to dip in to, so... when there's none left, there's none left - cue more screaming.
I'm not entirely sure where we go from here. I know that I just want to be happy, and at the moment I am anything but happy. I also want "the best" for my daughter and am struggling to work out what that is. I'd also rather avoid formula for the simple reason that it isn't free.
I was hoping to see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counsellor today, but unfortunately there are no local breastfeeding services on a Monday, so we'll be able to see someone tomorrow at our usual breastfeeding support group. We're also going back to see our chiropractor this evening, and whilst there we'll ask about Quinn's neck and jaw, which could be effecting her feeding, as she's been using all of the wrong muscles up until now.
One thing I can be grateful for is my superb support network. Boyfriend has been incredible, I know that it's been really difficult for him to see me so unhappy and in such pain, and also to be struggling so much with something that I want to do. My friends have rallied to help and offer their support too, some of my immediate friends have been on hand to help keep Seb busy when I've been unable to, whilst some friends I've not had much contact with in a while, have got in touch to offer advice on positioning or accessing more professional help - I couldn't ask for lovelier people trying their best to make things easier - so if you're one of them, thank you so much.

My Newborn Must-Haves

From Top to Bottom, Left to Right:
Water Wipes - totally chemical-free baby wipe. Buy in bulk here.
Mam "Start" Infant Soothers - for babies 0-2 months.
Cantaloop Nursing Bra
Kari-Me Stretchy Wrap - I use this and a Papoozle carrier but this is my favourite babywearing solution for newborns.
Coconut Oil - a natural, vegan alternative to both nipple cream and baby bum cream - and twice as effective as both.
Tommee Tippee Baby Nail Clippers - must-have for face scratching babies like Quinn!
Boots nipple shields - because early breastfeeding days are tough.
Ewan the Dream Sheep - to establish sound sleeping routines. You need this. Find out more here.
Yoga Sprout Giant Muslins - For use as a light blanket, emergency change mat, nursing cover, spill mopper, sick catcher etc. Available here.

Week 2 Update

I can't believe that baby Quinn is 2 weeks old! This was the week that saw her Daddy go back to work, and the two of us be discharged from midwife lead care - as well as the week that Quinn became an "official person".
My community midwife Kelly, who'd attended after Quinn's birth, popped over last week to administer Quinn's second dose of Vitamin K. Because we'd opted to give Quinn Vitamin K drops, rather than allow her to have the injection after birth, she has to be "topped up" with extra doses at seven days and thirty days. Now that we've been discharged from midwife lead care however, the thirty day dose will be down to us to give her (it's easy peasy as long as you can get her to swallow!)
Registering Quinn's birth meant that her name is now pretty official. Quinn Luther she is, we stuck by our original decision not to give her a middle name. Quinn on it's own just seemed like such a strong stand alone name, especially with her Daddy's surname, that it felt right to leave it as it is, and I'm still glad that we did. We're now the proud owners of a birth certificate and a little girl who officially exists withing "the system".
The best thing about having Quinn registered, is that it meant that we could register her with my regular GP surgery, and this in turn, meant that we could complete her referral to Benenden hospital for her tongue tie procedure, which is now booked in for Saturday. I'm dreading it, just because I feel so guilty that she's got to have it done just because feeding is causing me so much pain, but I know I'll be more comfortable afterwards, which will benefit her in the long run (who knows how long I'd be able to keep up breastfeeding if we didn't get it done!)
In her long running list of appointments Quinn also visited our family chiropractor to be checked over. I stress this so much to everyone but it's so important to have your baby seen by a chiropractor or osteopath after birth. The force with which they leave your body, not to mention the fact that they've had to maintain much the same position in your womb for an extended amount of time, results in spines and pelvises and necks that can be all sorts of squiffy, even if your baby looks normal to you. Poor positioning of these vital vertebrae and joints is often to blame for disrupted sleeping habits, feeding problems, colic, reflux, persistent crying, trouble with wind, constipation, vomiting and a whole host of other issues - sometimes just one visit to a chiropractor can fix a problem like colic that often drives parents to the end of their tether with frustration and exhaustion. As it is, Quinn doesn't suffer from any of these problems, but as she fell out of me on to her head we still wanted to get her checked over. At birth Quinn had quite turned in feet, which we were told would probably right itself over the next six weeks. Our chiropractor David however found that her right foot was struggling to straighten, the muscles in her calves were constantly active, stopping her from being able to properly stretch her leg out, and so she held her right foot up by her bottom (something we just assumed was a fresh baby thing and that's straighten out soon). David noted that Quinn's entire body curled to the right if she was left to her own devices, and traced the problem to her right hip - even when he held her upside down by her ankles (yep) her body still curved to the right like a banana. After a full chiropractic adjustment however, we laid Quinn down and she immediately straightened her whole body, including her bent leg. Just like that. Had we not seen a chiropractor this wouldn't have been bought up until a lot later, potentially until she had trouble sitting up or walking, by which time she might have needed far more invasive treatment - David thinks there's a possibility she was showing signs of developing a club foot - so thank goodness we got it sorted early on.
We spent lots of time with Boyfriend's Mum this week, which was lovely as she hadn't been able to see Quinn during week 1, as she was away with work. They've made up for it with plenty of Grandma cuddles since though - and Quinn's now the proud owner of her own teddy bear, which Grandma had made especially for her. She's a mohair teddy, and a complete one off - so a very special bear indeed!
Quinn had her first outing to the beach this week - which she predominantly slept through other than waking for a couple of feeds. Boyfriend bought a special sun shelter whilst I was pregnant to protect us both on the beach once Baby arrived, so it was nice to finally sit back in a chair in the shelter, watching Quinn's older brother surfing, with her snuggled up against me. I can't wait until she's big enough to feel the sand between her toes and the sea lapping at her ankles.
Once boyfriend had gone back to work it was a case of getting used to Mother/Daughter life without him during the day and I can, somewhat guiltily, say that I love it. Quinn's such a content baby we've been able to visit friends, go shopping, and get on with the things I enjoy, and she's tagged along quite happily. Seb's away on holiday this week with his Dad so whilst I've been all tearful about him not being here, it has meant that Quinn and I have been able to spend time together just the two of us, which has been precious.
I've discovered the girl's clothes in Boots, from their Mini Club range - which I'd never paid any attention to before, and have picked Quinn up several bits during the week as they have some great colourful options to break up the monotony of all of the pastel pink available elsewhere - and decent half price sales in all stores. Definitely one of my favourite places to browse baby clothes at the moment!
On Tuesday I finally took the pushchair (an Obaby Zezu Pramette) out for a spin as the weather was too humid and sticky to bundle Quinn in to her stretchy wrap sling. I ideally didn't want to put her in to a pushchair this early - she just seems too little and I love having her close to me, but it had to beat both of us ending up a complete sweaty mess, and she actually seemed to quite enjoy it. Personally I can't understand why anyone uses a pushchair a majority of the time with a newborn - they're such cumbersome things (the pushchairs, not the babies) - I much prefer carrying Quinn, but the pushchair certainly serves a purpose, and I admit it's handy for carrying shopping! For the most part though, we're continuing to enjoy babywearing over pram pushing, and I can't see that changing any time soon.
This week Quinn started cluster feeding - it was her way of telling my body that she's a growing girl and ready for more substantial feeds. In response to her constant feeding, my boobs started producing fattier milk in larger quantities - and now she's satisfied and has gone back to her normal four-hourly feeding routine - the teamwork between baby and boobs is quite incredible! It was a complete bitch though - if you read my previous post about dark-moments-with-a-baby (here) you'll know that the cluster feeding regime had me in in exhausted tears at least once. We're out the other side though, I'm getting more rest, and Quinn's getting big, satisfying meals. The hormone overload which came with constant feeding (an overdose on oxytocin isn't as good as it sounds) has also subsided, so I've stopped crying, other than when the baby manages to chomp almost entirely through one of my nipples - this tongue tie procedure can not come soon enough!
I can't believe just how in love I am with this little girl, she's such a tiny force, the midwife commented at our discharge appointment that Quinn seems to have the wisdom and knowing in her eyes of someone who's been here before - which I have to agree with, you get the impression there's a lot going on with her, there seems to be an enormous depth to her soul, given that she is so tiny. She also gives really good snuggles.

The darker moments of those newborn days

"Enjoy it, they don't stay that little forever."
It's true, of course, but I don't know how many times a day I hear this or a variation thereof as I go about my daily business with Quinn, from strangers on the bus to well meaning friends, I'm constantly reminded to drink in every moment of her newborn-ness. Believe me too, I try. I know that Quinn will be my last baby, I'll never have a newborn son or daughter again and so I naturally want to bask in her gorgeousness - but then there's life to get on with. I'm back to work next week, albeit from home and with her close by, there is shopping still to be done, appointments to meet, Boyfriend's Mum has been busy moving in to her new house... it's been go go go, and so perhaps I do need reminding to stop and appreciate Quinn's tiny fingers, vacant stare and open, toothless mouth every now and again, after all.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter and you could be forgiven for thinking my newborn adventures have been a total breeze thus far. Other than the horrendous trouble I've had with her breastfeeding, as a result of a posterior tongue tie, being a new Mum again has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
I do have it easy compared to some new parents. Quinn doesn't suffer from colic or reflux, and rarely cries unless it's to let you know that she wants something quite specific (boob). Quinn's been in brilliant health, we've been able to take her to see a chiropractor, just to ensure that she's in tip top condition, and we've not had any post-birth trauma to contend with. Quinn sleeps in 4+ hour chunks through the night and has taken well to her hammock, and I've managed to push on with breastfeeding despite the pain, which has seen her gain weight above her original birth weight of 7lbs 15ozs. What's more, I'm in great physical and mental health - which helps.
But I'd be lying if I said that we didn't struggle at times, Quinn is so very new in the world and we're both finding our own way, getting in to the groove of life together and learning from one another constantly, for the most part, we're in sync, and we're both happy, but sometimes, even with an "easy" baby, things get tough. I want my blog to reflect that as much as all of the positive, wonderful experiences of bringing up children.

Quinn's suddenly started cluster feeding, meaning she'll take a full feed from one breast, and then need to be fed again ten minutes later on the other side, and then back to the original, and then back to the alternative, and back to the original, and back to the alternative. Yesterday I fed her, continuously, swapping from one breast to the other, from 3:00pm until 11:00pm, with barely more than a ten minute break in between each feed.
What I wasn't prepared for, when I started breastfeeding, was just how exhausting it is. Yes, you just sit there, but this is a whole new world of tiredness, it isn't the tiredness caused by a lack of, or need to, sleep - it's the tiredness caused by every ounce of energy in your body being transferred to your baby through the continuous production of new milk. It's a physical exhaustion, more akin to completing a gruelling exercise programme than staying up all night - and it hurts. The pain in my nipples is excruciating anyway, I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about the full body ache from breastfeeding non stop for eight hours - urgh!
Last night Boyfriend took Quinn off of me, and took her away to soothe her in another room. Baby whisperer that he is, he managed to break her cycle of continuous feeding and get her off to sleep with a dummy, before returning her to her hammock. Hurting all over, with my boobs on fire (not literally) and unable to lift my head for the tiredness, I burst in to enormous, fat, tears.
What made everything difficult was that I felt awful for being upset - it didn't seem reasonable to cry simply because I was nurturing and nourishing my own child (albeit to the absolute stretch of my ability) and so I felt guilty - which made me cry more.
Then Boyfriend came and wrapped himself around me and gave me a huge cuddle - and that made me cry more.
This was probably the first time I've been well and truly ready to stop breastfeeding. The thought of Quinn waking up again and wanting to be fed even more was enough to make me want to scream in to a pillow - I felt as though she'd literally sucked the life from me and left me devoid of all energy and vitality. Despite two weeks of battling through the difficulties that we've faced with breastfeeding, and persevering with it whilst making sure we got Quinn access to treatment for her tongue tie that would allow me to feed her in relative comfort, I felt like a complete and utter failure last night, which, in turn, was further fuelled by the fact that I was tired - fatigue always makes everything seem a million times worse.
Quinn woke at 3:00am, somewhat typically for her, by which time I'd had a few hours sleep and was feeling more positive, and this morning - that dark cloud of hating everything about having a baby had lifted - and felt more like a dream. Quinn and I have had another brilliant day today, we found her some cute clothes in Boots, and met up with one of my best friends and her new baby, born the day after Quinn, for not one, not two, but three coffees.
As I write this, she is naked but for her nappy, wrapped against my bare chest in her sling, snuffling and squeaking in her sleep. Those dark clouds can, and will, visit all of us from time to time though, and I wanted to write this to remind myself, and anyone else who may be trying to distract themselves from the urge to bang their head against the wall - that clouds always blow over, and there's still blue sky behind them.

World Breastfeeding Week: Entertaining older children whilst feeding a baby

Most parents feed their baby; whether they choose to do so through exclusive breastfeeding, combination feeding, bottle feeding expressed breast milk or exclusively formula feeding - I'm continuing to blog around a baby feeding theme this week to honour World Breastfeeding Week, but these suggestions could be equally useful for bottle feeding parents as for breastfeeding parents so however your baby is nourished - this isn't necessarily an exclusively breastfeeding related post.
Seb has adjusted really well to his sister's arrival, but I do feel guilty when I'm feeding her, and can't immediately fix his broken Lego fire engine, or draw whatever animal he is demanding I draw (nine times out of ten, a lion). Quinn actually doesn't feed incredibly often, compared to a lot of breastfed babies, and it's pretty typical for her to leave around four hours in between feeds, but when she is feeding, you just know Seb will have something really important to show me in another room, or he'll want a milkshake, or to put the radio on.
There are a few pretty obvious distractions and don't get me wrong - they work, and they will win you time to feed your baby in peace before you can return to entertaining your older children, there is
nothing wrong with using them, I'm thinking;
  • The TV, whether it's live, a DVD or an iPlayer binge.
  • The CBeebies app on your phone or anything with a similar capacity to chew through all of the storage on your mobile and play very annoying sounds - OK, maybe not feeding your baby in peace.
  • Other computer devises. Seb has a Nintendo DS which can typically occupy him for half an hour ish. 
Basically - technology probably is your friend in this scenario and as long as kids aren't glued to a screen from the minute they wake until they're put to bed for the night - I don't see the harm in the odd thirty minutes of Octonauts here and there.
However, if you want to go full anti-tech with your feeding time entertainment programme, here are five other ideas that may be worth holding on to for when watching Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey again just seems too much.
Just to clarify; Homeward Bound is an awesome movie and there is arguably no limit to the number of times you can watch it, ("Oh, Shadow!")
  • Treasure Hunts - if you're super organised, then you can hide treasure around your house and garden in between feeds, and then let the hunt commence once baby is busy. It can be quite difficult to do this without children noticing where you're hiding things though - but give it a go. You could hide chocolate (think about melt-age) or hide pieces of Lego or another construction toy and ask the child(ren) to build you something cool once they've found them all. If you can't be arsed to hide stuff, or you don't have the time or opportunity, then make a tick sheet with several different colours listed (just colour a square in each colour if your children are too young to read) and give them a basket - ask them to find five things, small enough to fit in the basket, of each colour around the house and garden. If you're feeding outdoors, or have a safe, enclosed garden, bug hunts are another alternative on this theme - just be prepared for your little angel to come in and wave an earthworm under your nose whilst you're pinned beneath the feeding baby!
  • Reverse Treasure Hunts - As much as he enjoys searching for hidden treasure, Seb really enjoys hiding treasure as well, which is a good option if you don't have time or opportunity to do the hiding yourself. Keep a small basket of treasure somewhere ready to be hidden, it doesn't have to be edible, or a toy: a collection of pine cones works well, and when baby starts feeding, ask your child(ren) to hide the treasure around the house and garden and draw you a map to help you find it once baby has finished.
  • Put on a Show - When baby is sleeping, have fun making puppets with your child(ren). You don't need to buy lots of expensive materials - use old clothes that are no good for the charity shop, and junk modelling materials from your recycling bin, or even old socks and readily available craft supplies such as pom poms and googly eyes. Next time baby is feeding, get the child(ren) to go in to another room to come up with and rehearse a puppet show (this can amuse one child or four children in equal measure) - then when they're ready, they can come in and perform their latest masterpiece to you and the baby (if you're unable to clap, remember to be particularly gushy with your praise!)
  • Colouring - It sounds obvious, but if you're expecting, or have recently given birth to, a new baby, invest in a very large stash of colouring books, dot-to-dot, sticker albums and the like. These are far more stimulating than television - and quieter - and when you can't think of anything else to distract the kids, you'll always have these to fall back on.
  • Photography - Ok, so it's vaguely tech based, but getting children interested in photography from a young age is a great way to encourage their creativity, and seems to better suit more active children, for whom sitting down to draw or colour pictures loses it's appeal after a couple of minutes. You can get a cheap digital camera from the likes of Argos for less than £20.00 and whilst it's not going to win you any gallery exhibitions any time soon, it'll do for small children. Ask the children to go off in to the house and garden and take a photograph on a particular theme, when they come back and show you their picture, send them off on their next photography mission. Themes could be as simple as "something green", "something shiny" or "something fluffy", or you could allow for greater interpretation, with themes such as "something that makes me smile" or "something that is special to me." There's no limit to the number of times you can send them away with a new photography assignment.
If all of the above fails miserable, I find that food works well!

World Breastfeeding Week 2015: My breastfeeding experience - the first few days

I always intended to breastfeed Quinn before she was born, despite never feeding her brother when he was born five years ago.
I never had a particular reason for choosing not to breastfeed Seb, I just felt that it wasn't for me. I didn't spend any time around other people with babies, so breastfeeding in particular was an alien concept, something I knew nothing about. Despite appreciating that it was a natural human function, I couldn't understand why someone would opt to breastfeed, when formula feeding seemed so much more liberating.
This time around however, a number of factors have come in to play to influence my decision to breastfeed Quinn.

Possibly a little naively though I just assumed throughout my pregnancy that breastfeeding would come naturally to me and my baby. I believed that I'd just put the baby near my nipples and it would latch on and I'd sit there with it sucking away until it was done.
I read plenty of accounts which described breastfeeding as a learned skill. I knew plenty of people who'd tried to breastfeed but it hadn't worked out for them for a number of reasons. I was aware that there were entire books written about how to breastfeed, that there were groups set up to support breastfeeding women, and that there were a number of things you could buy to make breastfeeding easier. I just didn't think that would be me, I'd already decided that I'd be some sort of natural breastfeeding pro, who, in true Earth Mother fashion, would take out a boob at any given moment and painlessly feed her baby.
Turns out I was well wrong.
Firstly, due to the speed at which and nature in which Quinn was born, she was reluctant to feed at first. It probably didn't help that I had a (very well meaning) midwife telling me that if my baby would feed it would encourage the delivery of my placenta (if you read Quinn's birth story - here - you'll know that my placenta was very stubborn to budge). I felt vaguely pressured to do something about the fact that Quinn only wanted to snuggle and sleep. As it was, she didn't feed until everyone had gone and I was sat in my living room with my doula and a hot cup of tea - I doubt it's any coincidence that once I was relaxed and didn't feel as though anyone were waiting for me to succeed, we both managed to give breastfeeding a go.

The first time that Quinn fed we came up against two problems; firstly - it hurt like Hell, secondly - she would only feed on the right breast.
I knew a lot of people who'd found breastfeeding uncomfortable on account of their baby suffering a tongue-tie, so as soon as I realised that breastfeeding was genuinely really painful, I checked Quinn's tongue and low and behold - I found quite a prominent posterior tongue-tie.
My midwife came back to visit us that afternoon and I asked her to look at Quinn's tongue and she agreed with my diagnosis, but suggested that as Quinn was feeding, we'd probably struggle to get a referral for treatment. That night, less than 24 hours after she was born, and after only a couple of feeds, my right nipple - the only one that she was interested in - was bleeding. This was not the plan.
Thankfully, my doula has a close friend who's a breastfeeding counsellor, and she was happy to visit me and Quinn at home to see whether she could help us to have a better time feeding. I can't thank her enough, not just for sitting with me to check my positioning, but for getting the wheels in motion to treat Quinn's tongue-tie. She put me in touch with a clinic that might be able to refer me to a doctor. She gave me loads of advice to get by and continue breastfeeding, and also reassured me that lots of the problems I was facing, which made me feel pretty helpless and rubbish, were experienced by lots of women and their babies.
After a couple of days of really painful feeding I bought nipple shields to try to allow myself to heal. I'm still using these now and even though they weren't an immediate solution, over the space of the last week, they've given me enough protection for the cuts on my nipples to heal. I used a mixture of breast milk and coconut oil to treat my sore nipples and this seems to have worked - it certainly made an effective alternative to creams and lotions. Unfortunately, feeding is still painful.
Quinn's tongue-tie means that she can not really move her tongue - which would be kind of key to successful breastfeeding. Instead, she's developed her own technique, which is working really well for her (she's feeding like a trooper) - a technique which involves using her gums to stretch and gnaw on the ends of my nipples to get milk... it's pretty horrible. I'm no longer bleeding, which is a result, but over a week in, I'm still needing to make an effort to breathe through the pain of her attempting to latch on.
The greatest success though has been Quinn's decision to feed from both breasts happily. I don't know what caused the switch, it will pretty much be put down to being "one of those things", and something that she "grew out of". It certainly made life easier and to my relief - my supply on the left side hasn't been effected - so we're now swapping merrily between the two!
This week we took Quinn to Canterbury, to the clinic that the breastfeeding  counsellor had recommended on day 1. Quinn's tongue-tie had been further confirmed at her paediatric checkup, but the paediatrician had been reluctant to agree that treatment would be appropriate. At the clinic however, a lactation consultant was more than happy to refer Quinn to have her tongue-tie treated, on the grounds of the damage that her feeding is causing me. It's a weight off of my shoulders knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that eventually I should be able to really enjoy feeding my daughter.
At the moment I get a great sense of accomplishment and joy from knowing that I am nourishing and allowing her to thrive; that in itself is enjoyable. I just want to be able to put her on to a boob without wincing and wanting to cry!
We're now expecting an appointment for this week at a private hospital just over an hour from home to have Quinn's tongue-tie snipped. I feel guilty that she'll have to undergo the surgery because of the pain that breastfeeding is causing me, especially when she's feeding so well in her own way, but I know that it will mean I go on to feed her for longer - which has to be a good thing, especially for her.
I was foolish to think that breastfeeding would just happen. I am so glad that I a) made the decision to breastfeed Quinn though and b) have persevered and made it in to the second week without deciding to stop breastfeeding on account of the pain.
I wanted to share our experience to encourage others to realise that breastfeeding doesn't always happen just because you believe that it will, but that there are lights at the end of tunnels if you're proactive about seeking them out.
I'm really looking forward to sharing the next part of our breastfeeding story in a couple of weeks, when hopefully I'll be feeling a lot more positive about it!