Quiet Evenings

Some time ago, I read an article by Arianna Huffington on the importance of sleep and her incredible and impossible nightly sleep routine. I remember thinking then that I certainly don’t need sound-proof walls or nightly baths and warm milk to sleep well. All I need is the exhaustion that comes from taking care of kids; or conversely to have no kids!

Still, it struck me recently that I’m quite awful at this sleeping business. There were many nights when I would wake to feed Isabel, and then despite feeling absolutely exhausted, would not be able to sleep for another few hours, sometimes until dawn! So in the spirit of better sleep, over the weekend, I started diffusing lavender oil and putting on quiet, soothing music before bedtime. (Also this weekend Ning’s new bed arrived so we now have a massive nine-and-a-half feet, super comfortable bed to accommodate all four of us!)

For Ning, what made the difference was probably switching from a hard mattress to a super luxurious one. Isabel seemed indifferent to it all. I did sleep well but I can’t tell if it’s really the lavender scent and music. But Isaac certainly did sleep the best he did for a while! In fact, he didn’t rouse or wake at all at night!

The best part is, he quietens down a bit better because the music is enough to hold his attention so he doesn’t feel the need to yap on until he tumbles to sleep. And we get to have little chats about music! Initially, I started talking about what the music make me think of, how it made me feel just to get him to lie still. But I realised it was such a lovely conversation — I was telling him how a piece made me think of a green lush garden, the pitter-pat of rain and how each glistening drop would roll off from petal and leaf to the soft wet ground. He asked why the music sounded like rain and I explained it was because of the rhythm of the melody. Then when I asked if he liked music he said no! But later, when I wanted to turn it off he asked for it to be on.

And I realise, just as with speech, listening is perhaps the important aspect of a musical education. Even before playing, even before theory, even before pitch — just to listen and feel the music and learn to love it. Even if Isaac (and Isabel) never learn to play instruments or become technical virtuosos, I hope they would learn to always take a moment to be still and listen and listen and feel.

So more of that tonight! Music and scent also makes for a lovely spa-like atmosphere — always a good way to end the day =)

Breastfeeding, Second Time Around

Breastfeeding, Second Time Around.

I nursed Isaac for 26 months — without really meaning to. I had some vague idea at the start that I would like to breastfeed exclusively for at least three months, maybe six months if possible, but certainly I would stop nursing once he grew teeth.

Of course that didn’t happen. Despite us starting him on the bottle since he was three weeks old, Isaac suddenly rejected bottle feeding at around two and a half months. He steadfastly rejected it ever since, despite us trying every single bottle and teat out there. Even when I returned to work after eight months, he would rather starve for the day, or just take the bare minimum to survive (30 ml? 40 ml?) from SPOON FEEDS rather than take the bottle. So there was no question of feeding him formula milk (though I very optimistically bought a tin when he was six months old) because you can’t feed formula milk from boob.

With Isabel, I was determined that she not reject the bottle. Because I would be returning to work after four months, she would still be too young for solids so she had to be able to take the bottle. So we bottle-fed her quite a bit more, and because she fed well and slept well when bottle fed, we ended up with her taking expressed breastmilk for most of the feeds except for the first morning feed and her one night feed.

But it also meant that it was a lot more stressful for me to keep up my milk supply. I would really like to breastfeed her exclusively for at least a year — but a few times, when I fell ill or when Aunt Flo visited, I found my supply dropping and on the brink of not being able to keep up. Each time, I did all I could — drinking copious amounts of water, eating salmon for every meal, taking all the galactagogues possible, forcing Isabel to latch before every single feed just to stimulate more production…

And it worked. Each time, within a week, the milk supply would return and I could even freeze additional bags of milk for future supply dips.

But this time, I found myself faced thawing my very last bag of frozen milk and knew that it was time. I can eat all the fenugreek and salmon and drink special teas all day but I was returning to work where it would be even tougher to keep up regular pumping, Isabel’s appetite is growing and she needs to be fed.

Still, I felt very sad about it. Ning and I spent ages at the supermarket comparing the tiny print on ingredients, googling whatever term we didn’t know — but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t really that sort of mother. I just wanted to avoid the reality of having to give something other than my own milk to Isabel.

So I was strangely happy that Isabel rejected the formula milk at first! At least she could tell the difference! Still, she finished it eventually. And I try to console myself that there’s nothing bad about formula milk — so many of us grew up on it.

But also, I’m not going to give up! I won’t insist on total breastfeeding just for the sake of it, but I’ll keep pumping and latching for as long as I can, so that she can continue to benefit from breastmilk. Even if it has to be supplemented, some is better than none.

It’s daunting trying to maintain all this pumping while at work, but#nevergiveup YX! Here’s hoping this tin of formula milk would also be wasted in the end!

A Good Night’s Sleep

It’s a wonder what a difference a good night’s sleep can make!

Last night we decided to keep Isaac and Isabel separate again (because she was starting to develop a bit of runny nose and cough); but instead of having me nurse Isabel at night, we tried to just have Ning soothe her. The two nights before that, she had actually refused to nurse when she woke at night so we thought perhaps she didn’t really need any night feeds anymore.

So I managed to have unbroken sleep for quite a while – Isaac slept well himself – until Ning came in at some point with Isabel and said she couldn’t sleep anymore. It was still dark out so I thought perhaps it was three or four am but to my pleasant surprise, it was half past six! My very first eight hours of continuous sleep since Isabel was born!

Of course I’m very grateful to Ning because apparently Isabel did stir and fuss a couple of times in the night but he managed to soothe her with a combination of patting, pacifiering and changing her position.

But also, it’s really a stroke of good fortune that Isabel has been so easy to take care of. With Isaac, I didn’t have unbroken sleep until he was close to two! It was not just that he continued to need feeds at night — he also steadfastly rejected bottles and anything else that is not boob. So there was really no way for Ning to help although he was happy too!

So! It’s a happy morning and I’m feeling all bright and ready to run my various errands, and all resolved to start work!

It also helps that Isabel gives such brilliant smiles all the time!

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