Baby land: where the world turns slowly

Time moves slowly in baby land. After the third night of that kind of sleep, you feel like you’ll never sleep again. These few hours of whatever you’re struggling through roll themselves out into months.

I’ve locked myself in my mind many a time and played soothsayer with my child, divining the future, only to be proven wrong by evening time.

Talitha hasn’t really been gaining weight. She didn’t lose much in the initial postpartum days but excitingly gained that and more by day ten. Two weeks later she’s gained nothing. OK. Not worried. Much. Two weeks after that she’s gained two ounces. Huh.

“Don’t worry yet but we want to keep an eye on it and discuss it next week.”

How do you not worry when a baby that is at the breast all the day lit hours that God gives has gained two ounces between ten days and six weeks of life?

I know it could be nothing. It could be something that sorts itself out next week. I know no one worries like a new mother. But… I figure I’m as entitled to an opinion as much as anyone.

And I’ve been thinking since week two that something’s not right. “Newborns feed constantly.” I know but there is never any time between feeds unless I make it. The most she’s happy for is a few minutes, then her fist is violently in her mouth again.

You shouldn’t compare babies, especially with ethnic differences but I can’t help it. I’ve never really looked at babies this young before. Not really. I keep meeting babies her age or younger who look like they could eat Talitha for breakfast.

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The baby who sucked and sucked and sucked

“We get so many women in here who have trouble getting their babies to latch,” said one of the assistants in Born on the Gloucester Road, “but I’ve not seen a baby refuse to do the opposite.” Well, at least we’re broadening some horizons.

Remember when I talked about how much I love breastfeeding my tiny daughter despite our issues of oversupply? That appeared to be the difficulty when Talitha would wake up every 20 minutes, sucking everything and everyone in sight, sticking her fists in her mouth, rooting around and screaming for the boob.

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In praise of the boob or How my daughter put me back together

You may have read about my worries over how my little baby was going to manage feeding herself off my titanic baps.

How much of these great orbs of areola did we need to get into that mouth really? [Quick biology lesson: the areola is the dark bit around the nipple. Babies take this into their mouths to get a good suck.]

This was my first concern when Talitha was handed to me for feeding.

Feeding soon after birth had been in my birth plan.

But like so many things in my plan, I felt like I didn’t care about it anymore. I was too tired, out of it and disconnected. I looked down and saw a baby but couldn’t yet think of her as mine. Thankfully, feeding was not phrased as an option.

They [I was still a bit drunk from all the entonox and exhaustion so when I say “they” I’m guessing my mother or a midwife but I really don’t know who] handed her to me and I hadn’t a clue how to hold her let alone how to stuff the moon into a golf hole.

When I got her on there, I was sure that I hadn’t got it right. Was there *any* areola in there? Was she comfortable? Could she feel how scared I was?

“They” assured me that everything looked fine and I was left to feed her for what felt like hours before having a bath and being wheeled to the ward for the night.

The birth had been rough – I suppose labours generally are – and I’d been delirious for quite a lot of it. I’d forgotten a number of times that I was having a baby while lost in a dream world.

Talitha thought she’d suck me back to reality by staying awake until 5am, which I thought was impressive, considering she’d been born around 9pm. In those hours, she sucked and sucked and sucked.

In fact, she sucked so much that I worried she wasn’t getting what she was looking for. I asked a nurse about it the next day and she taught me to hand express. When I saw the clear fluid [colostrum – they call it “liquid gold”, it’s so good for babies] I could have cried. My body knew I was her mother even if my mind wasn’t ready to acknowledge it.

Breastfeeding has not been easy. Every time I think I’ve learned the rules, Talitha changes them. There is no schedule other than “whatever the day feels like”.

But the unpredictable nature of early breastfeeding has done me a lot of good.
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Getting the baps out: a boob journey into breastfeeding

When I took my bra down from the airer yesterday, it looked more parachute than lacy object of sexual interest.

It’s scarcely believable that I use to envy the other girls in my class their new lady lumps. Or that I would play with my mum’s bras, stuff them and preen in front of the mirror.

I was a late developer. When I started wearing a bra, I didn’t really need one. I just wanted to stop being called “chicken chest”. I even prayed that God would give me breasts. And He did. And He took the blessings overflowing thing a little far.

By the time I was 16, I was getting backaches from the orbs of doom. By 18 I had to hold them if I was going upstairs bra-less. When I finally got a decent fitting at Bravissimo I found out that I was 30FF. Well, blow me down.

Over the past five years, getting to grips with how to dress my figure, wearing bras that fit and generally outgrowing my adolescent lack of self-esteem, the big boobs have been ok.

I don’t know that I’d say I’ve embraced them. They’re still uncomfortable, the bras that fit them are expensive and they sometimes get more attention than I do.

I thought about them a lot when I found out I was pregnant. Firstly, because they often felt like they were on fire but also because I thought: “Can I possibly get bigger?” Friends reckoned I wouldn’t. I did. And, though nighttime requires a little more organisation, that’s been ok too.

Knowing that new things are happening inside them for a purpose has actually been pretty gratifying. The prospect of breastfeeding is both exciting and a little scary. Suddenly these baps aren’t just about me.

We went to the last bit of our NCT antenatal course last night, the breastfeeding session. I’m taking a double-hit of breastness this week because that’s what my NHS antenatal course is covering tomorrow (oh yes, I’m doing it all).

It’s something we both want for our baby but we’re also aware that it can go wrong. I don’t have any friends who’s been able to stick with it though they’ve wanted to. And I did find it a little difficult that the session didn’t have a look at what can go wrong.

But then again, maybe it’s better not to focus on those things because for some people it’s absolutely fine. It’s just that I keep hearing that big-boobed women sometimes have difficulty getting it all sorted in a non-awkward way.

When the question of whether size matters came up, it was quickly dismissed with something along the lines of “It doesn’t matter how small you are.” I know I should have asked: “But what about the opposite?” but I didn’t.

I’m hoping instead that I can put aside my worries about it and let things happen naturally, then address any issues that might come up when or if they do. This’ll be something the creature and I will learn together.

Image: Beatrice Murch