Despite the fact that I’m approaching my 30s, I’m actually one of the first among my group of friends to have a baby. This means that, while I’ve spent quite a lot of time around older children – at Brownies, teaching and my cousins – I haven’t spent all that much time around little babies, particularly newborns. Everyone says you can’t possibly imagine what life is like with a newborn until you experience it yourself, and this is definitely true in some ways – although I’m sure another day I’ll talk about how this is also partly scaremongering!
So until I had a newborn to care for 24/7, there were a few things I didn’t realise were an actual “thing” with tiny babies. I liken it now to firefighting all the time – you’re trying to work out one thing and they move onto something else!
Feeding on demand
I knew before Emmy was born that newborns need to eat frequently as they have small tummies – apparently the size of a cherry on their first day of life! This means they can’t hold a lot in them in one go and need to eat again not long after they first ate. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really thought about how often that was until I had a baby to feed myself.
When Emmy was first born, she was jaundiced and very sleepy, meaning she didn’t always wake herself up for feeds. While we were in hospital and the first week or so at home, we had to set alarms for every 3 hours to wake her up if she hadn’t woken us up. That actually meant the clock reset as soon as the next feed started, rather than 3 hours from the end of one – and feeding can take up to an hour too!
Now she’s waking herself up to feed or is already awake and just lets us know by chewing on her hands and smacking her lips, but it turns out this can be a lot more frequently than you realise – they say any time between 1 and 3 hours is normal, although now we’re approaching 1 month, she’s starting to stretch to some 4 hour gaps in between feeds occasionally!
Along the same lines, I’d heard of cluster feeding before but didn’t really know what it was. Essentially, this is when your baby feeds more frequently over a short period of time, usually on an evening before bed. It fills up their tanks ready for a longer period of sleep overnight or keeps them going through growth spurts. The first time we experienced this, it was very strange! Luckily a midwife had given me some words of advice: “Sometimes it will feel like you’ll never fill her, but don’t worry, you will!”, and I’m glad I had that ringing in my ears! She fed 4 times over 3 hours and I felt chained to the sofa – I couldn’t even move to eat my tea and Ben had to bring it to my mouth for me!
Cluster feeding isn’t the easiest thing, but it can result in longer stretches of sleep overnight (yes!) or in your baby learning a new skill through a growth spurt, so it’s very rewarding in the end!
Breast milk like a tap
I had no idea what breastfeeding was really like before I did it! I assumed you put your baby near your breast, they sucked on it for a bit and they were done. In reality, it’s far more complex than that! There’s the whole latching on thing (which can be really tricky – we’re still getting there!) and then the “supply and demand” thing. I didn’t realise that the more your baby feeds or you express, the more your body will produce – it’s so clever! But it was something I had to get my head around quickly.
And apparently I have a good milk supply – or some might say an oversupply. Sometimes I can be feeding Emmy on one side and the other side literally runs like a tap – it’s crazy! This is where my silicon pump comes in to collect the leaks from the other side – and I can get anywhere from 3-6oz (around 80-180ml) from the other side depending on the time of day (who knew that was a thing too?!). Then there are the times where Emmy pulls off from latching on and the milk literally sprays across the room and all over her face. I’ve totally drenched her sleepsuits a number of times too! This isn’t necessarily a thing for everyone, but it’s something I didn’t even know was a thing!
The time Emmy filled her first nappy, I was worried there was something wrong with her – it sounded like she exploded! As it turns out, babies don’t fill their nappies quietly – in fact, sometimes it can be spectacularly loud, which can also be a little bit embarrassing when you’re sat in the silence of the registry office waiting room! At least it gives you the chance to know what they’ve done before everyone smells it, I suppose!
Oh, and a tip I was given in the hospital – when you hear that initial noise of a nappy being filled, give it at least a few minutes before you change them – they’re not always done straight away and that can result in a pretty messy situation if you start changing them!
Newborn “talking” and other noises
Who knew that newborns talk? They make a noise and, while you’re still acclimatising, you’re trying to figure out whether that was a cry because they’re windy, a shout because they’re hungry, a grunt because they want attention, or simply a chattering.
So far, Emmy has been fairly quiet in terms of crying – I say “so far” because, at just 4 weeks in (at the time of writing! She’s now 7 weeks and still doesn’t scream a huge amount…I’m still saying “yet” though!), I’m very aware this could still change! She generally just shouts when she wants something – proper crying doesn’t happen until she’s really agitated. But she does something else too – she talks! Especially at 5am in the morning – it’s her favourite thing to do!
Okay, so it’s not really talking – there are no words and she’s not exactly communicating – but she chatters away happily to herself, making various coos and grunts. The other night, she woke me up with this so I tried to feed her and she wasn’t interested; I tried winding her, but that wasn’t an issue; there was nothing in her nappy and her clothes weren’t twisted. So I popped her back in her cot and just watched her for a bit – at this point Ben turned over and asked me what I was doing, because I apparently I looked creepy, staring at my baby at 5am! But she was really quite content – she wasn’t bothered at all, just going through an “awake cycle” and talking away to amuse herself! After half an hour or so, she quietened down and drifted off to sleep.
Then there are the farmyard animal noises – her favourite one is the snorting pig which she does when she’s really determined to do something, like kick her arms and legs or latch on when feeding. There’s also the whinnying horse, the strange shouting duck noise and the squawking chicken noise. Yep, it’s interesting!
Different sleepsuits for night time
I just assumed that a sleepsuit was a sleepsuit was a sleepsuit. I’d been told not to bother with any clothes that were too fancy for the first few weeks at least, and just to let her live in sleepsuits. It’s actually pretty confusing to know the difference and to understand what babies should be wearing at different times (maybe that’s another post in itself?), but I quickly came to learn that there are certain sleepsuits, that are far better for night time than others due to ease of changing in the early hours.
Basically, Emmy is now living in nightie style pyjamas like these every single night now. We started with whichever sleepsuit was nearest at hand, then moved onto ones with zips as they were easier to do up than poppers in the night, then we tried sleeping bags over these and really liked that option, and finally remembered we had these nighties. They’re open at the bottom, meaning you can quickly pull it up and out the way in the night without having to fiddle with poppers and zips, but have sleeves with mittens to keep arms and hands warm. With a vest underneath and a blanket on top, Emmy has been very happy in these – plus she looks SO cute in them!
The overwhelming feeling of having someone that totally relies on you
Keeping myself alive is hard enough work as it is, but I now have a totally separate person who does too – it’s slightly overwhelming if I think too hard about it, especially as there’s the crazy fact that the only nourishment she gets is from my body. It’s wonderful and scary and amazing and such a big deal! And then there’s the fact that when she’s upset, she’ll sometimes just need to hear my voice to calm down, or the fact that, once she’s fed, changed and winded, generally all she’ll want is some attention from me or to lay on my chest and she’ll settle and fall asleep. It’s so wonderful and so strange!
How quickly they grow and change
Everyone says to enjoy the time with your tiny baby as much as possible because it goes by so quickly – and it’s true! It’s been nearly a month, and it’s been such a blur of emotions and learning curves. It’s true what they say about the days being long but the weeks and months being short.
I never understood when people said their baby’s personality was really starting to show after a couple of weeks, but Emmy’s truly is. She has such funny facial expressions (so many blooper photos, see above, just like her mummy!) and reacts to things so comically. We’re starting to get what I think are smiles and she makes noises in reaction to things we do.
And she’s already filling the sleepsuits that were too big when she was born! Her face is filling out and changing, and her thighs are starting to crease in rolls. Her expressions develop and change, and she’s showing off new skills every single day. It’s all so quick and so amazing – they really do take everything in and grow so fast. I’m excited for the future but also trying to take every moment as it happens.