Breastfeeding Ups and Downs – The end of our road

When I was pregnant with Annabelle b/feeding was always something I had wanted to do and had assumed I would be able to do. Neither my sisters nor my mum had ever had any problems and I hoped I would be the same.

I will never forget the first moment Annabelle was put to my breast; in the operating theatre while I was being sutured up. It was truly awe-inspiring. Her beautiful big brown eyes gawping at me and my beaten and bruised body providing nutrition for her tiny and needy body.

Meeting Annabelle for the first time

Meeting Annabelle for the first time

The first few weeks of our breastfeeding relationship weren’t plain sailing but they also weren’t half as stressful as some friends I know. We had engorgement and we had cracked and bleeding nipples. I also had a slight oversupply so I had numerous embarrassing leakage moments. I remember my sister saying to me “you’ll not want to give up” and I thought she must have been mad. In my mind I was aiming for 6 weeks and if possible 6 months. But no way would this be something I wouldn’t want to give up!

 

My sister was right. After the first 2-3 weeks we managed to get the hang of it and by six weeks Annabelle was a total pro. We both enjoyed it. I found it convenient, easy, soothing, enjoyable and a wonderful way to have quiet time and to bond. It’s fair to say I loved it. I hated pumping and so feeding was the one thing that only I could do and that felt nice.

 

Now at 11months Annabelle has decided that her time is up. Boobs are for babies and she’s a big girl now, nearly one after all! She literally woke up one morning and decided she was offended by the sight of my boob; she looked up at me and burst in tears. I wondered what was up? She had only just woken up so surely she was hungry. I decided to offer her the other breast, nope. Equally as repulsed at that idea, clearly. I made up a cup of formula and she glugged it down like I’d been starving her! This went on for the whole day but I thought to myself ‘at least at bedtime I know she will take it’ as she loves the bedtime sleepy feed/cuddle. Nope. She didn’t want it. The realization set in with me and the tears followed shortly after. How could this possibly be the end? My husband made up a bottle of milk and she snatched it from me and started drinking.

 

How Mummy Feels

How Mummy Feels

I have pumped when I can and she’ll drink whatever is in the cup or bottle, it seems she just doesn’t want it from the source.

What’s funny is that I was thinking of weaning at 12months anyway since my husband and I have many weekends away and Annabelle has lots of dates with Grandma and Granny. That was my plan. For her to beat me to it and decide to give up a month early has caught me a little of guard. I feel like we’ve had a massive argument and she’s using this as a tool to win the fight, being defiant. Of course I know she’s not.

Is there milk in here?

Is there milk in here?

I am looking at the positives though; 11 months is a great achievement and I should be proud of that. Plus I have heard horror stories of weaning older children so at least we’ve had a fairly easy transition. Now I can look forward to the odd night away and to having my body back. Also, now when she feeds she plays with my fingers and it feels wonderful.

But what about my excuse for eating? What will I blame it on now?

Thank you, kind strangers

I have recently returned from Dubai, only a short 2.5hr flight, but it’s still hard work on your own. Annabelle used to be such a sleepy head but nowadays she is in to everything and on a plane this generally means pulling passengers’ clothes, trying to snatch food off their trays and sticking her hands in her own food.

Waiting to board at Mumbai's new airport

Waiting to board at Mumbai’s new airport

Both the flights I took to Dubai and back again were daytime ones. I thought Annabelle would take her naps onboard, I was wrong. Instead I just had a fidgety overtired lump to manage instead of a calm and sleepy princess. I am sorry to say that on the way back my child was THAT child. The one we all roll our eyes at wondering what could possibly have possessed their incapable parents for even thinking about flying with IT. She screamed on and off every 15 minutes for 15 minutes. For the whole flight. Excellent.

Just lulling you into a false calm...I'm gonna let rip on board

Just lulling you into a false calm…I’m gonna let rip on board

However, I was surrounded by such kind strangers. It genuinely reassured my faith in the human race. I was sitting at the front, in the four sets in the middle of the plane. I had the aisle seat on the right hand side. To my left was an Emirati woman and her aged parents. She spoke little English and seemed rather stern at the beginning of the flight. To my right, across the aisle, were two Indian gentlemen, business partners in a children’s toy empire. Before the plane had even taken off (we were delayed on board for 45mins) they had Annabelle on their laps, playing with bottles, the menu, paper, their watches, glasses…whatever. Annabelle was in her element.

Towards the end of the flight when Annabelle was becoming increasingly irritable (and irritating!) the Emirati women took her from me. Allowed me to nip to the loo even. Bliss. I came back and found her using her abaya to play peek-a-boo, a very sweet sight. She even made sure I got some food from the stewardess and insisted I eat every last crumb, I felt mothered by her and it felt good.

Once the plane landed, Annabelle’s screams had died down and all the passengers were standing itching to get off, a gentleman from the seat behind me lent in and said to Annabelle “weren’t you a good girl eh?” and I thought “were you even on the same flight as me?”. Not one person scowled at me! So, thank you all, kind strangers.

It Gets Easier

It’s a lie. There, I said it. I don’t want to depress any new mums out there that are waiting and waiting for ‘it to get easier’, but I really feel like it’s gotten harder.

In the beginning, the sleep deprivation, the responsibility and the sheer emotional and physical shock of having a baby is seriously overwhelming. So when people say “it gets easier”, they do mean it. They mean that soon you will learn how to cope with sleep deprivation (or perhaps your baby will start to sleep better), they mean you will soon get something back for all the effort you put in, a smile or a giggle, and they also mean soon you won’t worry so much, you will get to know your baby and know how to read him or her and deal with each situation.

Before: When I could leave her on the bed and know she'd still be there...

Before: When I could leave her on the bed and know she’d still be there…

Annabelle is now 9.5 months old and I have found the last two weeks much harder than I found the newborn stage.  I feel I should add a disclaimer here; I am a baby person. Every mother is different, some like the newborn stage, some the mobile stage and some the toddler stage. For me, it’s all about the newborns. I enjoyed that stage, I enjoyed being able to lay her on the sofa whilst I nipped to the loo and know that she would be there when I came back. I enjoyed that all I had to do to nourish her was provide milk. I enjoyed that she slept so much, even if it was disrupted. Now, however, she is everywhere. I can’t sit for 2 seconds without having to get up and chase her.  If I am not chasing her, I am pulling things out of her mouth. The other day she actually had a stone in her mouth! I must have turned my back for 3 seconds only. I honestly don’t get to the loo in the day!

Now: On the terrace eating stones and plants!

Now: On the terrace eating stones and plants!

I also find it such a chore to think about what to cook all the time. Most of the time she has our leftovers, but anyone that knows me well will know there are rarely any substantial leftovers. I am lucky that she eats well and enjoys her mealtimes, but by 10am every morning I am rummaging through the freezer in the hope I still have something in there for her lunch and supper. Now she needs less sleep too, perhaps 2-3 hours in the day. This means that I get less time to get anything done. I’m also starting to think that maybe she has a monitor on me; I think I heard Mum open her computer, cue “wah wah wah”, I think I heard Mum nip to the loo, cue “wah wah wah”, is that Mum trying to take a nap, we can’t have that “wah wah wah”. She definitely knows what I am up to!

All that being said there are a huge number of positives to this age or stage. The obvious one is the full nights sleep (sleep regression aside). But the smiles, the giggles, the cheeky chuckle as she scampers into the kitchen wanting me to chase her, the babbling and chatting, the gummy yoghurt covered grins. I love it all, I do. A friend told me this week that a study was done on mothers and their time spent in the day. Apparently every mother said they were happiest when doing chores over childcare, but when they reviewed their day they were happiest talking about their child and of course the washing up or laundry didn’t enter the conversation. We should remember how lucky we are to have our little cherubs, and enjoy every moment. Even the incessant chasing up and the down the house!

I love her really - especially when she's sleeping!

I love her really – especially when she’s sleeping!

Becoming Annabelle’s Mum

I am sure it is something most new mums or ex-career women can relate to. Before, I used to wear a jacket to work, sometimes a suit, always makeup and heels. I used to pass out my business card at meetings and discuss ‘strategy’ and ‘budget’, I used to go to early morning networking events and evening drinks. Then I had a baby.

Taking Selfies...

Taking Selfies…

Now I wave goodbye to my husband with a baby on my hip, dirty hair scraped back and normally a touch of vomit on my shoulder. Getting a shower is now the norm, but I don’t always bother with the slap and I usually just throw my hair up in a ponytail. Strategy normally relates to sleep and budget would only be discussed when talking about cots or car seats. How things have changed.

I used to introduce myself as Amy H, sometimes depending on the situation I might have to say “Matt’s wife”. Now, more often than not I will say “Hi, I’m Amy and this here is Annabelle”; I’m Annabelle’s mum! Not Amy or even Mrs H!

I don’t really mind. I enjoy it for the most part. I am lucky that I get to spend time with Annabelle, I am grateful to have friends to meet with and to talk about feeding strategy and pram budgets.  And one day in the future I hope to don my sleek black dress, suit jacket and heels again, hand over my business card and say “Hi, I’m Amy H” but until then I’ll wear my sick medals with pride.

Getting covered in food.

Getting covered in food.

Worrisome Mothers

When your baby is first born you worry about everything. And I mean everything. Especially in Mumbai you worry about the water, the dirt, to have vaccinations or not to. But the world over a mother worries whether their baby is eating enough, sleeping too much, not alert enough. “Is this normal?” is all a mother thinks in the first few days.

As the days move into weeks the worries become more related to what we’ve read; should I stop nursing my baby to sleep? Should I stop rocking my baby to sleep? Should I start sleep training? Should I stop feeding on demand? We worry about creating bad habits and not being able to break them. And sometimes we worry so much a whole week has passed and we missed the first smile or some other milestone.

Happy Baby!

Happy Baby!

When it’s time to wean we worry about choking, we worry about food groups, we worry about overfeeding, underfeeding, allergies, gagging. The list is endless! I have just come out of a phase worrying about Annabelle’s weight and her eating habits, turns out it’s all fairly normal!

Then there’s crawling and standing, crusing and walking. We could worry about the dirt, about the falling, about putting things in their mouths. In fact, what’s not to worry about? Ha!

On top of all these I tend to find myself worrying about Annabelle’s teenage years; how do I stop her getting into drugs? How will I ensure she’s happy, confident & hard working? Goodness me…pass me the wine…!

Don't fall!

Don’t fall!

Non Judgemental Babies

For some time now I have found it heartwarming to watch Annabelle interact, more over crave the attention, from people around her, namely strangers.

Annabelle with our watchman and building sweeper

Annabelle with our watchman and building sweeper

It’s safe to say she’s a pretty social baby and she certainly loves the faces she knows; daddy, our friends, our cleaner, our driver, the watchman and the building sweeper. But lately Annabelle has just discovered that smiling at people keeps the attention on her for that little bit longer, or indeed draws the attention her way. And what’s so heartwarming is that she has no judgements on whom she gets her attention from.

Annabelle with a waitress at a restaurant

Annabelle with a waitress at a restaurant

A month or so ago we had to go to the doctors for a check up with her hips (being a breech baby there is a risk of hip dysplasia, especially once babies start to bare weight). We were sitting in the waiting room and the only other people there were two rugged and scruffy young ‘runners’ (boys that are employed to drop things off and pick things up from all around the city, usually on foot or by bicycle). These boys were curled up sleeping on a chair near by and Annabelle was smiling, laughing even, to grab their attention. Once they finally woke up and looked over, sure enough they smiled back and Annabelle was finally satisfied.

We’ve been in a lift before with a rather fragrant gentleman that had very dirty clothes, no shoes and sadly no teeth either. Did Annabelle mind, hell no… a smile’s a smile, whoever it comes from! So as usual, she went on her charm offensive to get him to smile at her. It’s a lovely icebreaker between the very obvious class (or caste) system here in India. Annabelle doesn’t mind who or what you are, just smile at her and she’ll accept you.

On a recent visit to the clinic where I help out (Foundation for Mother and Child Health) in the Dhobi Ghat, Annabelle was passed from pillar to post and she was in her element. I knew it was a safe environment, so I felt comfortable allowing her to meet all these people but a couple of times I turned around and she was in the arms of some other man, women or child. All of them with such different lifestyles and cultures to her own. I wish I could bottle this acceptance and sell it across the world. I know she will change in time and create her own judgements like we all do (however hard we try not to), but for now I think it’s a lovely reminder of how we all started off the same way.

A gentleman at our Clinic

A gentleman at our Clinic

Is there a downside to this? One small one and I have to be careful how I write this for readers overseas not to get the wrong impression.  However, it is a fairly standard thing here to ignore beggars who rap on your car window for money and it’s something every person in the city struggles with, but for our own reasons it’s the best way to deal with such overt poverty. Annabelle, of course, doesn’t understand this and to her this beggar is just another friend she wants the attention of, so she’s there smiling and giggling and generally drawing attention, whilst I’m being all cold and hard hearted!! Perhaps she’ll grow up to work for UNICEF!

Paediatric First Aid

Last week I participated in a two day paediatric first aid course conducted by Keshanee Shah of Zen Babies. The course was broken down into two mornings, the first consisted of Primary Care (life saving) and the second day was for Secondary Care, as well as a recap of day 1.

Checking for a response

Checking for a response

CPR on a child

CPR on a child

Defibrillation

Defibrillation

Primary care included CPR (and defibrillation), Serious Bleeding, Spinal Injury and Shock and all aimed at saving infants and children. The courses are held in small groups, ours was 4 people, the maximum is 6. Each course is very relaxed but also quite intense and hands on. After talking through each procedure, every participant is required to go through the motions and be critiqued by Keshinee as well as the other participants.

Vault hold and log roll

Vault hold and log roll

Pressure hold and tying a tourniquet

Pressure hold and tying a tourniquet

Over night we were given some home work in the form of a short quiz and the next morning we were each given blind role play examples to have to negotiate our way through.

Although I have done a number of first aid courses, the most recent being battle field first aid for OTC (Territorial Army) at University it was great to not only recap on procedures but also understand, in detail, the differences required for children and infants.

Zen Babies: Keshinee Shah
Keshinee@zenbabies.in / +91 9820323096 / http://www.zenbabies.in
Keshinee also does courses in hindi for maids and nannies.