Belinda's Blog,  Life

Lessons from Sir Henry: things I didn’t know before motherhood

I was not the kind of expectant mother whose Kindle was filled with parenting books and weekends were filled with new parent classes. (Actually, I don’t even have a Kindle. I like the way books smell. But that’s another story…). I halfheartedly slogged through parts of “what to expect” and then went back to binge watching Fixer Upper on HGTV (Best. show. ever.) I figured that babies and mamas have figured out a way to co-exist for a long looong time, so I would let nature and my instincts guide me along.

For the most part, that has worked out really well for Henry and I. Babies don’t come home from the hospital with a user guide but they do come home with parents, and for the most part we can trust our instincts and that is enough. The best advice I received was just that- “You know best. Listen to your baby, and listen to your heart.” I have learned though, that there are times such as 3 hour long evening “purple crying” sagas when the guidance and learning of the moms and dads and even scientists who came before Henry and I could come in really handy. And so, I’d find myself trolling the blogosphere at 3 am while nursing, because that is the only time I had to read about the issue of the week that we were facing.

In hindsight, perhaps some of this learning could have taken place as preparation during pregnancy . Perhaps those Kindle loving mamas had the right idea. Or perhaps I would have no way of knowing what I needed to know until I needed to know it. Whatever the case, whether you are a soon to be mom or dad looking for advice on the adventure ahead, or a mother in the throes of a middle of the night google fest who came across this blog, I hope that the lessons Sir Henry and I have weathered will be of help.

#1- Swinging, shushing, swaddling, side, sucking. The 5 s’s or “cuddle cure” is outline in the book the Happiest Baby on the Block. My mom brought me this book from the library and showed me the popular youtube video how to calm a crying baby in 5 seconds. During that purple crying phase, this method was invaluable to us. Proof that Grandma knows best!

#2- Your baby needs sleep like he needs food. It is essential to his learning and development, his mood, and his health. Well, I sort of knew that. But here is what I didn’t know- past 2 months or so of age, and your little one is probably going to need your help with sleep. Most babies at that age will have grown out of the “I can sleep anywhere, anytime, all the time” stage. The book that was recommended to me that helped me learn how to help Henry sleep was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. The book explains how sleep works for a baby (spoiler alert- VERY different than our adult sleep!) and how to help your child sleep.  It is the Weissbluth side of the Weissbluth v. Ferber showdown, which you’ve probably heard about if you’ve also been googling around the interweb at 3 am desperately seeking sleep. His research and advice remains a useful read, whichever side of the debate you are on. I can vouch that the advice within this book was incredibly useful to us, even though we have not yet chosen to “cry it out.” We opted for the graduated check in method and Henry adjusted really quickly to the bedtime and nap routines we established, resulting in very little crying. Now, Henry goes to sleep with very little protest, about every two hours or when he seems tired. Usually by the time we change him, read a book and begin zipping him into his Zipadee Zip he is smiling and cooing, thankful to be taking a nap! It blows my mind. He is a child who loves routines, and has really put US on HIS schedule, not the other way around.  The key take away from Dr. Weissbluth was this concept: sleep begets sleep. People generally have an adult  idea of sleep, and so figure that if they keep a baby awake during the day, it will result in longer or deeper night sleep. Dr. Weissbluth explains the flaws in this method, and we have seen the results in our house with a very well rested, no longer “Cranky Hanky.”  Another excellent sleep resource for us was the website troublesome tots. Bottom line is, find a way, whatever way works for your kid, to help your baby sleep. Well rested babies= happy families!

#3- breastfeeding during the first 6 weeks can be difficult. For many moms and babies there is an adjustment period where they’re both learning how to do it. This is also the time when a baby needs to eat the most frequently. I think a lot of people are afraid to tell you that it can be tough, in fear that it will be discouraging. I disagree. For me, setting small goals has always helped me work towards a bigger end and feel encouraged by hitting my accomplishments along the way. I’d rather know what lies ahead and then challenge myself to get through the tough stuff.  I remember nursing Henry half awake every two to three hours each night for the first couple of months and reciting to myself aloud the benefits of breastfeeding to keep motivated. “Best nutrition for baby, reduces allergies, gastro-intestinal issues and increases immune system for baby, bonding for mother and child, helps the mother’s healing process, linked to reduction of ovarian and cervical cancer in women…”For me, and for most new moms I know, there is an initial adjustment period to breastfeeding. It may seem hard, or really tiring.  This makes sense and its ok, after all, we’ve never kept anything alive solely using our body’s natural resources before! Similarly, our babies have never had to think about eating in utero, so learning to eat is a pretty big deal. To keep myself encouraged and accountable to my goal of breastfeeding Henry, I first set my sights on making it through the first 6 weeks. Having support during this time from my mom friends who I could text at 2 am with feeding questions made all the difference! I also visited a lactation consultant once to help with positioning and to ensure Henry was eating enough. After the first 6 weeks, Henry and I had it pretty well down and I set my sights on continuing to breastfeed for 6 months. Now, at five months, I find it easy, convenient and incredibly bonding. I hope to continue breastfeeding through his first year. I recommend breastfeeding if you can, and highly encourage anyone who is having a hard time to reach out to me through the comments. I’d be happy to send you lots of praise and virtual high-5’s, even at 3 am. You got this, girl!

#3- You be You- I went through a bit of an identity crisis a few months after Henry was born. Thankfully it was short, but it was telling.  Behind on world news, sick of yoga pants (a borderline sacrilege thing to say, I know, as yoga pants ARE amazing and critical wardrobe pieces for every girl), and obsessing about my child’s schedule I wondered where the girl my husband had married had gone to. Where was the girl who scheduled time for yoga each week, was praised at work for her competency and creativity and kept up with the cool kids? Especially since I knew I would be returning to work soon and spending more time away from him, I panicked at the thought of being away from him unnecessarily.  Well, I think its pretty normal for moms to be obsessed with our children, that’s just the natural order of things. But after a few months of new mom obsession, I started to realize that it was time to expand our perfect little world a bit. By four months, Henry was a happy, growing and cooing little boy, but my hair was accidentally ombre!(That’s what 4 months of grow out + prenatal vitamins will do to a lady!) It was time to take advantage of all of the free babysitting offers we are so fortunate to have and it was time for a cut and color. Finding a balance of motherhood, wifedom and personhood is my current goal. I try to incorporate Henry into the activities I already love, so that we still get time together and I can still be a hip and with it, and over all happy mom. I’ve started doing some yoga with Henry in the Boba wrap. I’m downloading podcasts and listening to NPR sometimes instead of talking to him for the entire car ride. I treat myself to lunches, coffee, and BEER with friends often, even if it means swapping a crib nap for a carseat nap. When Henry goes to bed, my husband and I try to take time for one another, just talking, hot tubbing, eating dinner or catching up on shows. Henry and I are also starting kindermusic class so we can spend time singing together with other moms and babies. (I am aware that for some people singing children’s music in a room full of toddlers and babies and tambourines sounds like motherhood hell, but we both love music and I can’t wait!) The bottom line for me is this- I am a better mom and wife when I am also a woman who can define herself beyond those two things. And I have to keep reminding myself that. ‘Cause he is really  cute and its easy to get lost in those big blue eyes.

#4- ignore the percentile growth charts. If your child is eating, and going through 6-8 wet diapers per day, they are probably just growing at their own pace.

#5- buy bagged salad. I never would have guessed while pregnant that I would crave salad in those first few weeks home from the hospital. At the end of my pregnancy, normally veggie loving me wouldn’t touch the stuff. After he was born, we had awesome meals dropped off from family and friends that were super helpful. But my favorite part was always the salad. Why? I craved the satisfying crunch of fresh salad badly and salad is time consuming. Veggies have to be washed, chopped and dressed and that is hard to do in the little time you get to eat. In the past, I had a full garden and lots of time and made all of my own dressings. For now, while he is little, I just buy pre-bagged salad. And it is GOOD, y’all. This lesson applies to more than just veggies though. In general, relax a little. Let things go (sing it with me, now!) Let household chores and strict principles fall by the wayside. Buy your veggies pre washed, chopped and packaged if you need to, for this is a short season.

Simple Goodness contributor and generally good human being

10 Comments

  • Sangeetha Sabarish

    I can totally relate to what you have here! I went through a looong phase of identity crisis, fear to let go of the baby and breastfeeding trouble..It took me many months before I actually came out of it.. 🙂
    I think it is really important to prepare yourselves for what lays ahead, which I didn’t while I was pregnant! I was in ignorant bliss! it is important to spend time together with your baby, husband and yourselves, one on one and all together! I am glad you are working towards finding your right balance! Well Done!

    • belindalucielle

      Thanks Sangeetha! It is a process, like you say! The beautiful thing is that each of their little stages, challenging as they can be, are so short lived. It helps us both learn as we go 🙂 your point about each parent having 1:1 time and together time as parents is a great one. With both parents working you don’t have much time for yourselves so sometimes I need troy to play with him so I can actually shower ? but I also really love walking or bathing Henry together.

  • Maria Bennyhoff

    Just promise me you’ll stop breastfeeding before he can say boob? 😉 So proud of you. You’re an incredible mama. I need those books though. Going to my library tomorrow!

    • belindalucielle

      I don’t know Maria, I might keep going until he can say “lactation consultant” just for you! ? Haha I hope the book is helpful! If you need tips on what parts to prioritize/ read first, let me know! It is a long book and I was a bit intimidated at first in my sleep deprived state.

  • Dayna Hailey

    Thank you for sharing your blog! I think all mothers should take awesome notes like you have as parenting is a unique skill that our infant(s) seem to teach us more than we really know. It helps us know we are human, and that we don’t have to conform because we are all different. As a mother of 4, ages 21 years old to 23 months, I am astounded at what my children teach me. I just learned of a book called the Anthropology of Parenting, supposed to be a great read, especially for those parents who have different parenting styles.

    • belindalucielle

      Thanks Dayna! it’s funny how you say that, “parenting is a skill.” I would tend to agree. I think because the “birds and the bees” are natural there is this earth momma idea that parenting will just come naturally too. Personally I feel like it is a muscle, one that I was born with, but that I am growing and flexing daily! I will have to check out the book, thanks!

  • G N

    Thanks for the post! Looking to connect with like minded parents, like you, to make this journey more enjoyable !

    My daughter is 6 weeks old and I have couple of questions related to breastfeeding.
    1. She had initial latching issues (when she was 2 days old) and I was advised to use a nipple shield. I started to use and she latched on fine and ate well, gained weight. My problem now is, how do I wean her off the shield. At times I do offer my breast that she takes (when she is really hungry, not otherwise) but I hear this ‘click’ing sound she makes and immediately put the shield on with the fear that she might not eat well. Any ideas on how to wean her off the shield?
    2. This is her feeding routine:- Feeds ravenously on one side, takes a bit on the other, I put her down and she plays and makes cooing sounds, I change her, she gets hungry again and this time she feeds very little (now she needs something to suck on) until she is tired and I swaddle her to sleep. This takes a good 2 hours! Is this normal? How do I know she’s had her full? She’d probably sleep 2.5 to 3 hours after that. Will this get better where she feeds more and sleeps longer?
    3. I pump twice at night and feed her the bottle so that she and I both sleep well. Is that an OK practice to continue?
    4. How to ensure that my milk supply continues until she is 1. Any articles/books you can recommend?

    • Venise

      Hey there! I wanted to reply since I too used the shield with my now five month old. The shield can be a bother but is pretty common for newborns. My daughter was two weeks early so she had a hard time latching. Here are a few things I learned:
      1. Get extras! I lost mine one night after it was too late to go to the store and get another. My daughter would not eat without one so we had a very long night. I had not introduced the bottle yet because I was advised it might create nipple confusion. In the end, I gave up and fed her a bottle because she wouldn’t eat without the shield. Lesson learned.
      2. Try to limit bottle use if she is still on the shield. You may find different advice on this one but I got mine from someone I trust 100% so I followed it.
      3. Try to encourage her to eat without the shield at least once a day. I usually tried in the morning because she was the most hungry and I was the most rested 🙂 I have read that babies and moms usually have a side they prefer. If you have figured out the side she prefers offer that one first.
      4. Be patient, they will get the hang of it. My baby took about six weeks to be off the shield completely. In the beginning she would only latch for a little bit and then when she fell off she would get frustrated and wouldn’t calm down enough to get back on, but it gave me hope that she would figure it out. Eventually she latched a couple of times for the whole feeding. Then literally one day she latched in the morning and then every feeding after that. It was amazing!

      In regards to the two hour feedings, her crying may be her telling you she is sleepy and not hungry. She may be using the second feeding as comfort to help her relax and go to sleep. You might try the cutting out that second feeding and try the 5s’ belinda talked about. It really does work! Isn’t it fun trying to guess what they need?! 🙂

      I have a few friends who pump at night and feed a bottle.If it works for the both of you, keep it up! I know feeding with a shield in the middle of the night every two hours is rough!

      A great resource I have found for advice with pumping and breast feeding has been Facebpook groups. Search “mom”, “breastfeeding” and “pumping”. They have all kinds of articles, threads about supply and lots of people who are going through the same thing as you! I asked and answered lots of questions on there!

      Good luck and thank you so much for reading our blog and commenting!

  • belindalucielle

    Hi GN! I am not an expert but I am happy to help offer stories from our own experience! My sister and Deyton used the shield as well and I will ask her to comment. I also remember hearing the clicking noise with Henry, and he never had a shield. I read online that the clicking was a sign of an improper latch but he seemed to feed fine despite the clicking and he outgrew it after a couple of weeks. I know Venise would try without the shield when she knew Deyton was hungriest (morning usually) since she felt she had better luck then.

    Our routine was always feed one side, change half way through then swaddle (changing half way through helped him wake up since he would get very sleepy while eating, and putting on the swaddle now ensured he would be ready for a nap when he fed himself to sleep), feed the other side, and he would usually fall asleep nursing on the last side. If he didn’t, I would then rock him to sleep with big wide, swinging motions while walking, or by wearing him in a boba wrap. I kept a sleep/eat log so I know that at 6 weeks he was eating every 2-3 hours and a nursing session would take 30-45 minutes, including the diaper change time. After nursing he would stay asleep for about 1 hour, then have about 1 hour of awake time and be ready to start eating again. His eating got remarkably better, easier, and quicker as he grew. Now he is super efficient and feeds in less than 10 minutes so yes, I definitely think that will improve! (Keeping track on your phone or paper might also help you see these gradual changes and keep you encouraged.) By 6 months now that has spread out a bit more to eating every 3-4 hours and he takes pronounced naps, usually twice a day that each last a couple of hours.

    As for sleeping, I recommend checking out the book I referenced. I think the advice I received from the book helped us a lot, but I think its also important to keep in mind that even if you get in the rhythm of a good routine their schedules can flux. I try to stay flexible and just help him get him the best possible sleep in each day.

    For the nighttime bottle feedings if its working for you why not? My aunt advised venise and I to introduce a bottle for sporadic feedings when both the babies were about a month so that they could learn how to use them and we did for date nights or times when we were out and about.

    The milk supply thing is something I am also working on. The advice I have received so far is to make sure I continue to take care of myself, eat and sleep well and drink a ton of water, and feed him as much as he wants and feed him directly as often as I can. When I am not with him I replace a feeding with pumping. I do try to eat lactogenic foods also, including dark beer 🙂 The biggest thing I have noticed that affects my supply is becoming dehydrated from alcohol or caffeine. If I drink a couple of glasses of wine (check out this article! http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2014/12/breast_feeding_and_alcohol_it_s_fine_to_drink_while_nursing.html?wpsrc=fol_fb) I sometimes notice a difference in what I pump the next day. So I drink a ton of water. As a former hot yoga instructor, I am not stranger to chugging water! I also eat pretty healthily anyway, so spinach, legumes, asparagus, healthy fats, oats, are all things I normally eat. Side note- it totally isn’t fair that my dear sis can eat sporadically and whatever she wants and her supply runneth over. Another reminder that even doing all of the recommended things might not work, and ignoring all of them might work in your favor! He has recently started solids, which I know will also affect nursing in the next few months. I am just trying what I can for now and we will see how things go, I’ll keep everyone posted!

    I hope some of this was helpful, and best of luck! When you’re tired and spent, try to remind yourself this is a short season and appreciate the limited nature of what you’re doing. You’re working really damn hard but you’re doing something amazing and temporary.

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