My breastfeeding journey week 6 – ‘The dreaded sleep deprivation’

Week 6 – The Dreaded Sleep Deprivation (and the consequences when breastfeeding)

Sleep deprivation.  It’s the one thing parents all talk about and as soon as anyone becomes pregnant for the first time it’s the one thing they warn you about.  Typing these simple sentences is actually hurting my brain a bit.  It feels like I’ve been at an all night rave… for 6 weeks!  You see, doing breakfast radio for the best part of the last ten years I thought I’d be geared up for this OK.  I’m used to the 4am alarms and living off 3 hours sleep and functioning reasonably well.  I honestly thought this would be a doddle.  The difference though is that I didn’t do that ALL the time.  Yes I worked hard and very long hours but when I wasn’t working my time was spent watching TV, spending quality moments with the husband or socialising.  It wasn’t spent permanently attached to a little person, responding to their every need and cry.  Plus I always caught up on the sleep at some point, usually the weekend or I’d occasionally manage a sleep in the daytime.  This is just not the case with my little man. 

The six week mark is a common point in which many mothers give up breastfeeding because they’re just too tired and I can understand why.  There are a lot of myths out there that giving a baby who won’t sleep formula milk will ensure that they sleep through.  A friend of mine down south was told by her doctor that her baby didn’t have colic like she thought, it was just hungry and she should give the baby a few formula feeds.  This resulted in the baby refusing the breast and she had to give up breastfeeding (and was devastated).  Some mothers ‘top up’ with forumla for the last feed of the night and swear that this helps get baby to sleep longer.  However, not all babies are the same.  My sister breastfeeds her daughter and she slept right through from 2 weeks old.  I have another friend who’s 10 week old has only been fed formula and he’s still getting her up 3 or 4 times in the night for a feed.  There is no right or wrong way here to get your baby to sleep and some take longer to sleep through.  My little boy is one of them!
Because Blake hasn’t been sleeping, he has been feeding more often, sometimes every 1.5 – 2 hours!  The not sleeping and the feeding more often means I have been an absolute wreck and just totally exhausted.  Being exhausted means my supply has been terrible.  It’s like one big nasty vicious circle!  I had been getting quite stressed about it but I sought advice from some other breastfeeding mums online and they suggested a few things to help:

– Fenugreek herbal tablets*
– Eating oats
– Drinking at least 2 litres of water every day
– Rest

* Always check with your doctor or lactation adviser before taking supplements

The last one here is the simplest but yet the hardest thing to do.  As a stay at home Mum I feel obliged to have the house clean and tidy and a meal on the table for Shaun when he gets home.  It’s ridiculous really as this is 2011 and my husband is by no means a caveman and pitches in.  It was Shaun who insisted that I did nothing round the house and just tried my best to sleep when Blake did and see if that helped.  It worked like magic!  The combination of all of the above meant my supply was back to normal within 24 hours and Blake was also feeding better, longer and going for longer spells in between feeds.  Hooray!  I was also recommended to get this book:

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So I’ll look forward to reading that when it arrives (if I can get a spare minute!).

Having lots of milk again meant I could start expressing for the donor milk too.  I hadn’t wanted to compromise Blake’s feeds when my supply was running low so I hadn’t expressed in a few days.  The first time I did after taking the fenugreek and eating lots of porridge was crazy!  I couldn’t believe how much milk I was able to express in such a short space of time.  It took about 10 minutes to get all of this (it would normally take me double that amount of time to get half the bottle):

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Whilst I was expressing in the kitchen, Shaun was playing on the dreaded Call Of Duty in the front room making Melling sound like a war zone once again.  He shouted “make us a brew will you?” and I was soooooo tempted to make it ‘extra milky’.  If I wasn’t a milk donor, knowing every last drop is precious then he would’ve got the lot in a mug!  Luckily for him it went in one of the sterile bottles in the freezer ready to be taken to the Wirral Mother’s Milk Bank.

In other news, Blake has been weighed again and now is a healthy 9lb 14oz!  I am so so proud his weight is going up and up each time.  It’s all down to me and that feels brilliant.  I’m eating really well, drinking loads of water, have cut down on dairy (I think it’s making him sickly) and I’ve lost another half a stone!  So breastfeeding means he’s getting fatter as I’m getting thinner… win win if you ask me!

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