A friend has just had her second baby. A message she sent me the other night brought back memories of those early postpartum days and weeks here – now 6 months ago. Of course, it feels like a lifetime ago but, at the time, when you’re living it, sore, bleeding, exhausted and engorged, with hormones raging – the arrival of a second baby seems like the ultimate shock to your depleted system.The fourth trimester is one of the hardest parts of becoming a mama. Before you know, though, it’s gone.
In a (semi) tongue in cheek reply, I told her that copious amounts of ‘tea, tears, gin and guilt’ defined my fourth trimester. It got me thinking though… what couldn’t I have coped without? It goes without saying that bonding time, patience, self care and snatched sleep were crucial, but here’s my ‘Top Five for the Fourth Trimester (and beyond)’…
A Decent Sling. It was (and still is) important to me that Wilf gets the same type of ‘attachment’ time that Primrose had, though that’s trickier when you have a toddler to chase around after. Sitting together for long periods of time on the sofa and napping next to him weren’t viable options once my husband returned to work. Out came the Close Caboo, which I’d used with Primrose until she was 4.5 months. We couldn’t work out why Wilf kept ending up by our tummies, rather than with his head in kissing distance of our faces. It finally dawned on us that it was his chunky weight that was dragging it down, so out came the trusty Connecta, with a newborn strap to shorten the material between his legs.
For 5.5 months, I had my hands free and barely used the double buggy – it’s only in the past few weeks that Wilf’s been in it. Sling for the win!
(Check out our guest post on babywearing here for safety guidelines when using a sling).
A Snuggle Chair. When I was pregnant with Primrose, I bought a gliding nursing chair. I barely used it as the arms were a funny height for us and it made a farty noise every time I stood up. We switched to the trusty old Ikea Poang, which remains in Prim’s nursery, but I knew I needed a comfy chair in our room, and desperately wanted one that Prim would be able to sit in with Wilf and I, to snuggle and read. We got this Next seat second hand but brand new. It’s really worth looking out for them on eBay/Gumtree/local FB selling sites, as people often get them with suites and find they don’t have space for them. If you have the space yourself, one of these is invaluable – more support than sitting on a bed to nurse, with the ability to snuggle your toddler. We still use this chair every day, and each evening, for a bedtime story.
A Naturebond. I hadn’t come across these amazing little bits of kit when I had Prim and used to spend time each morning using an electric pump. The Naturebond makes life so much easier – it’s a one piece, no-fuss, silicone hybrid between a pump and breast shells and means you can catch the let-down milk (plus a bit more) from the opposite breast whilst your nursling feeds, rather than a) watching it disappear into a muslin or breast pad or b) getting tangled up in wires with an electric pump or c) getting hand cramp from a manual pump. It ‘suckers’ on to the breast, gently drawing out enough milk to relieve engorgement (and more, should you wish). If I’d been more organised, I would have had quite a little freezer stash by now. As it happened, I used to give Primrose the expressed milk as a bit of an immune booster. I plan to get my act together an actually freeze some at some point soon(!) If I was going to be away from Wilf for part of a day or evening, this would fit discretely in my bag and could be used to relieve a full breast quickly – it’s a really clever design.
A Lactation Consultant/LLL on speed dial. Ideally, you will have attended an LLL meet or two whilst pregnant, or at least done some preparatory research into breastfeeding. You can never be too prepared. If it hadn’t been for my knowledge of breastfeeding, I would not have known that Wilf was tongue tied. The midwife I saw at the hospital was non-committal and didn’t have the understanding or knowledge to diagnose it. Fortunately, I’d heard amazing things about Suzanne Barber, at BabyToBreastLtd (Bedford, UK) and we visited her on Day 1. Sure enough, Wilf had a pretty substantial tie, which she cut there and then. Feeding instantly became easier and the residual pain dissipated within a week.
£150 sounds like a lot BUT when you think how much the average family spends on baby paraphernalia – nurseries, travel systems, clothes – and when you’re desperate to protect your breastfeeding journey, it seems pretty reasonable.
(For the record, I’m not saying that all pain from breastfeeding means your baby has a tie, just that it’s worth going to a IBCLC to check, and get them to help with positioning and latch.)
The UK Breastfeeding Helpline, manned by other mamas: 0300 100 0212
LLL Helpline: Details here.
Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners
Books and toys that can be used whilst sitting down. We love reading and in those early weeks our consumption of books went through the roof! One of our first trips out involved a visit to our lovely local library and friends kindly sent books to Primrose so she could ‘read’ to Wilf. We also used a lot of sticker books, plus other toys that could be played with whilst sitting/with mama feeding or holding the baby/independently with occasional input from me. The wooden shop we bought last Christmas was brilliant – Primrose would get a ‘shopping list’ from me, pootle off, fill her basket and bring it back. A tea set, too, provided a lot of hours of quiet play. My sanity remained intact (just) thanks to these books, toys and a bit of imagination/forward thinking before I sat down to nurse.
What were your sanity savers in those early days with a newborn and a toddler?
Jo, The Mother Side x
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