Our Breastfeeding Story (or Why I’m Formula Feeding my Baby)

Breastfeeding is the hardest thing that I have ever done. I am in literal awe of the women who manage it for any length of time, because I just couldn’t do it. So Benjamin is a bottle fed baby, and has been on formula for at least a month. And you know what? I think we are both happier for it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bottle vs. breast debate. To me, fed is best and everyone has to do what’s right for them – and it turns out, bottle feeding with formula is what’s right for us. It took a little soul-searching to get to that point, but I feel like the discussion so often leaves out people who are *happy* to have made the decision to bottle feed so I wanted to throw our story into the ring in case someone who needs to hear this (like I did just a few weeks ago) happens upon it. 

I had all the best intentions of breastfeeding. I *wanted* to breastfeed, but I was under no illusion that it would be easy. I wasn’t, however, prepared for how difficult I found it – both physically and emotionally. It makes sense that it’s not a walk in the park – both you and the baby are new to it, after all. I did find it amazing to watch my tiny baby so clearly learning every day, but progress was slow and I was in agony by the end of the first few days. They say it’s not supposed to hurt if you’re doing it right, but I call bullshit on that – even if you’ve got a good latch, you’re still essentially chafing a sensitive body part for up to an hour at a time, maybe ten times or more a day. It takes time to get used to that. Plus, unless you nail it first time, you’re bound to do a little damage that you have to work through in the first few weeks and days. 

We were incredibly lucky that we received a lot of breastfeeding support. I know that is a key reason why many women give up, and I want to be clear that wasn’t the case for us. Every single person who came to see us, from midwives to dedicated breastfeeding support workers, was absolutely lovely and so supportive. We were assisted constantly at the hospital, and visited almost daily for the first week. There were plenty of places to go for support after the home visits stopped, too (at our request – we could have asked for more). I know that’s not necessarily the norm across the nation, and I am grateful for all of the wonderful people who helped us out and never pressured me in any way. 

It wasn’t just the physical pain that was wearing me down, though. It was the emotional burden of trying to feed my hungry baby and feeling unable to do so. On many occasions I was in floods of tears as Paul helped Benjamin latch on, reassuring me as I cried that my baby deserved a better mother. The cries of a hungry baby are hard to take at any time, let alone when you’re in pain and sleep deprived, knowing that you’re the only one that can help them but feeling that you absolutely can’t. It’s an overwhelming thing to go through, and I was thinking about quitting from just a few days in. 

The pain became enough that I really felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, and so we caved and gave him a little cup of formula within the first week. I was beside myself, convinced I had already failed my baby. Although, as I said earlier, I truly believe that fed is best and I would say so to any friend of mine going through the same thing (or any stranger, come to think of it), it was hard to apply that grace and forgiveness to myself in the moment. One little cup became a bottle, and a bottle every now and again became regular bottles. I needed a break to try and heal (at one point my nipples were bleeding, which is really not an ideal situation…), and Benjamin needed the food. 

Thoughts of breastfeeding occupied almost all of my waking moments. I worried that every bottle we gave him was hurting my chances of breastfeeding long term (even though I didn’t really *want* to breastfeed long term). I was feeling guilty for desperately wanting to stop, and even when he wasn’t feeding I was in pain. It turns out we both had thrush, which wasn’t helping matters, but by the time that was diagnosed I already felt beaten by the whole thing. I was dreading him wanting to feed, and I didn’t feel confident enough at latching him on to feed him when we were out and about. It wasn’t the happy, bonding time that I had hoped for and I remember saying to the midwife at our three-week-ish appointment that I just wished someone would tell me it was okay to stop. She essentially did just that, which eased a little bit of my guilt, but I persevered for another week or so after that, intermittently feeding him myself and bottle feeding him when it all felt too much.

I’m not sure what it was that made me decide to give up entirely. I think I just got to the point that I knew I was going to at some time in the near future, so why not make it that day? I held on for a bit longer because I didn’t want to regret it, but really I knew that I was going to stop within days and I was just going to have to live with that decision. But really, I’m not just living with it – I’m happy that we made that decision and know that it really was the right thing for us. I am more relaxed now that I am not in constant pain, worrying about the next feed (which is helpful, because Ben is still feeding every two hours at best during the day most days – that’s a lot of time to spend worrying!). And I have no doubt that having a relaxed, happy mother is better for my baby than any benefits he would be getting from breast milk. These few weeks have been a joy rather than a stress, and I attribute that to being able to feed my baby a bottle when he’s hungry – knowing that he’s had enough for him, and without me becoming an emotional wreck each time. Not to mention that I don’t have to be the only one that feeds him in the middle of the night if I really need to sleep, and that I can leave him for a few hours if I want (or need) a bit of time to myself. 

Do I wish that I had been able to breastfeed? Yes. It would be cheaper and more convenient if I had been able to get the hang of it, and I know that breastmilk has all that extra goodness that can never be replicated by formula. But do I regret my decision to stop breastfeeding? No. I am happier and so Benjamin is happier. I think we all need to give ourselves a break when it comes to parenting, and so this is the break I am giving to myself. 

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What to Buy For Your Newborn Baby

What to Buy Your Newborn Baby // Amy Elizabeth

Newborn babies don’t need as much stuff as you think they do. You could drive yourself mad trying to cater for every situation, but they’re pretty simple creatures, really. There will come a time, I’m sure, when we need to cart everything but the kitchen sink around in order to keep our little one fed and entertained, but right now he’s happy with a cuddle and a bottle of milk. That said, there are a few things that are making our lives that much easier and which I would recommend to new parents looking to stock up ahead of time on top of the usual sleepsuits and nappies… 

Snuzpod & Sleepyhead 

I fell in love with the Snuzpod as soon as I saw it – and the love affair has continued ever since. It’s recommended that babies sleep in your bedroom for the first six months and the Snuzpod is the perfect solution for their sleeping arrangements. Rather than the traditional Moses basket which doesn’t really match our bedroom decor, the Snuzpod is a stylish alternative and the zip down side makes it the perfect compromise between separate and co-sleeping (for us, anyway). I like being able to reach out and put a hand on him to settle him, and since he’s right next to me, I don’t have to get up to check on him when he stirs. 

We also caved and bought the Sleepyhead a couple of weeks in, when it became apparent that our little man felt a bit adrift in his Snuzpod. He’s now nice and cosy, and we all sleep the better for it (not perfectly, mind you, but as good as can be expect). The only downside is that our baby is ridiculously long (like his father) and so I’m pretty sure he’ll grow out of it before the six month mark, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it! 

Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine

So many people swear by this life-saving contraption, so you probably don’t need me to throw my recommendation into the mix – but here it is anyway. I had all the best intentions to breastfeed, but when I had a screaming, hungry baby in my arms and it was all going a bit pear-shaped, I was incredibly grateful that I had bought this machine ahead of time. In three minutes, you can have a perfectly made up bottle of formula with no faffing about – which is about as long as I can take the screaming for once Ben decides he absolutely has to eat that very second. 

Pre-mixed formula bottles  are also a lifesaver for the same reason, and great to have on you when you’re out and about, and a bit nervous about breastfeeding in public. We use the Aptamil ones, but they’re all pretty much the same. Even if you don’t end up using either, it really took the pressure off knowing that I *could* feed him easily if I needed to. 

Tommee Tippee Dummies

There is a lot of stigma around dummies, and I’m not sure I totally get it. All of my NCT friends and I were reticent to use them but have all done so within the first couple of months (with no ill effects, I might add). Ben is generally a very chilled out baby, but there are moments when nothing but the dummy will settle him – and if something will comfort him, then why not use it? We use the Tommee Tippee bottles, so he likes the matching dummies best as they have a recognisable shape. 

Sollybaby Wrap

This was a bit of an indulgent purchase on my part, as I had to have my chosen wrap shipped over from the States and paid the price as a result – there are undoubtedly cheaper versions that are more accessible for UK parents. But I’ve seen so many of the Sollybaby wraps on US mamas that I follow via social media or blogs, and I’ve coveted them for a long time, so I splashed out – and I don’t regret it. The material is beautifully soft and it’s basically a baby sedative. Once you’ve got the hang of tying it, it’s a really simple way to chill babies out whilst keeping use of your hands! I wore Ben in the wrap for a walk in the park last week, too, as the pram couldn’t really get round on the paths, and it was perfect. We have an Ergobaby carrier, too, as Paul didn’t like the idea of the wrap, but I prefer the softness and look of the Sollybaby, especially whilst he’s so (relatively) small. 

Joie Dreamer Baby Bouncer 

This isn’t so much a specific product recommendation as a more general one, as I’ve only tried the one type of bouncer. That said, this one fits with our decor (we have grey & white stars pattern), and the combination of vibrations and (surprisingly non-tinny) lullabies that it plays keep Ben chill for long enough for me to unload the dishwasher, pack my changing bag and make breakfast in the morning.

Having somewhere to put him down that isn’t horizontal is so helpful; he’s so inquisitive and hates to be lying down when he’s awake as he wants to be looking around so the bouncer is perfect now he’s started to be a little more alert but not yet needing too much stimulation or entertainment. We pop him in this when we’re eating, too, and we’ve managed most meals without too many interruptions, which is a miracle. 

Large Muslins 

I bought a whole bunch of muslins before Ben was born, as everyone says how useful they are, but the ones I bought are on the smaller size so I recently invested in some larger ones from Mamas & Papas (and I have my eye on these Aden & Anais ones for after payday since spotting them on Catherine’s Twitter), which are so much more useful. We use them to swaddle his arms at nighttime, as otherwise he flails and fidgets and wakes himself up. I’ve been using them as a sun shade for the pram when we go out, and, of course, they are good for mopping up all sorts of spills and the like. 

A Netflix Subscription 

Not strictly for the baby, but you’ll be spending more hours awake and sat on the sofa with your newborn than you probably imagine so a Netflix subscription is an essential for those newborn days (and nights). Paul’s been chain-watching Rick & Morty and Bojack Horseman, whilst I’ve been making my way back through Gossip Girl. 

What to Buy For Your Newborn Baby // Amy Elizabeth

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One Month with Benjamin

I think this is the part where I’m supposed to express surprise that Benjamin is one month old today, but in truth it feels as if he’s been with us forever. Whilst I know in my head that the random mish mash of genetic material could have given us any baby, my heart feels as though it was always him, as if he was just waiting in the wings for the right moment to join us. 

We have been blessed with a relatively easy and chilled out baby. He may not always be this way, but he has definitely eased our transition to parenthood for us. I am so proud of how he is adapting to the world; I can see every day how he is learning and progressing and it is so impressive to me. 

The first couple of weeks were overwhelming for sure, and there have been momentary wobbles since but overall I think we’re all doing pretty well, especially when you think that our whole world has changed so suddenly and completely. There are moments where I am frustrated and tired and daunted, but they are swiftly followed by moments where my heart could burst for the cuteness and sweetness of my little babe (for like all new mums, I am convinced that my son is the cutest and sweetest of all). 

In just one month I feel as though I know him inside out; his silly little faces, how he likes to be held, his squawks and gurgles. But at the same time I feel as though he is a stranger to me; there is still so much more to come and I really can’t wait… 

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24 Signs You Are a New Mum

  1. You’ve lost count of how many people have fondled your boobs in the last couple of weeks… 
  2. Do you even own any clothes that aren’t pyjamas? ‘Cos if it doesn’t have a stretchy waistband then it may never see the light of day again. 
  3. Food has never tasted so good to you. Gimme all the cheese and sushi! 
  4. Caffeine is no longer optional in your life. Can you hook it straight into your veins or…? 
  5. You can’t stop yourself from referring to yourself or your partner in the third person. Yep, Mama does need you to stop crying and for Dad to get her some wine… 
  6. You thought you were obsessed with cleanliness before?! Think again… *washes hands and sanitises everything in sight*
  7. Your phone is out of storage because you’ve snapped so many almost-identical photos of your newborn. They’re just so cute, though!
  8. You might have strained your eyes from rolling them at people who claim that they’re ‘exhausted’. They don’t know the true meaning of tired!
  9. It’s now totally normal to discuss bodily functions with almost-strangers. 
  10. Google has become your best friend and worst enemy. 
  11. You swore you wouldn’t be those parents… but at least 50% of your conversations have been about poop in the last couple of weeks. 
  12. You’ve gone from productive girl boss to putting ‘shower’ on your to do list (and not really even being that fussed if you tick it off…)
  13. You have a lot of opinions about property development because of your slight addiction to Homes Under the Hammer. 
  14. You’re a little convinced that staring at the baby will keep it alive. Constant vigilance! 
  15. Gourmet meals are ones that you get to eat with both hands whilst they’re still warm. 
  16. Have you stumbled into some kind of time warp? Because you could have sworn that only 10 minutes has gone by but it seems to be getting dark again?! What day is it?!?
  17. You don’t dare leave the house without a suitcase packed to the brim with baby supplies. What if they need their nappy changing 10 times whilst you walk round the block?! *packs more nappies* 
  18. You have strong opinions on nappy brands already. Aldi, FTW! 
  19. You’ve had a moment where you wondered whether you should have just gotten a puppy instead… 
  20. Are you in some kind of musical? Because you’re spending a lot of time singing these days… 
  21. You’re convinced that your baby might be smarter than they let on. How do they know to scream as soon as you are otherwise occupied?!
  22. You’ve completed at least three new series on Netflix since your little bundle of joy arrived. 
  23. You feel a little bit devastated and a little bit ecstatic when people point out that your baby has grown. You mean they’re not going to be a little squishy newborn forever?! 
  24. You’re a bit smug because you’re convinced that you have the objectively cutest baby on the planet. It’s not because you are biased or anything… 

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What I Want to Remember

There’s a lot that I want to forget, but here’s what I want to remember… 

Paul offering the midwife our bath caddy (which she had admired) if she could get him out in her shift… As the first of many midwives to come to our home, she didn’t manage to coax him out so I am luckily still in possession of said caddy! 

Falling asleep between contractions and not being quite sure how many people were in the room at any one time. That nitrous oxide is powerful stuff, man… 

Paul holding my hands through every contraction for hours on end. I couldn’t have done it without him. 

Watching the clock and being convinced he would arrive any second. Noticing that hours had passed…

Using an ambulance and a wheelchair for the first time. Thinking of that bit in About a Boy when we’re blues-and-twos-ing to the hospital. 

Being worried that I wouldn’t love him because of the hell he put me through, until the very moment he was put into my arms.

How weird and purple and cone-shaped his head was when he came out. Being a bit concerned that it might stay that way (thankfully, it didn’t!). 

How weird and soft and still pregnant-looking my stomach was. I’m not sure I’ll be as impressed with that a few weeks on… 

Finally telling people his name after months of secretly whispering it to myself. Still calling him bubba because old habits die hard. 

Paul holding Benjamin next to me and letting me hold his little hand to help me cope with all the other medical stuff that has to happen post-birth (it’s not over once they come out!). 

Knowing that he’ll be as tall as his father if his current length is anything to go by. Realising that the tiny Jeremy Corbyn onesie that Paul’s colleagues bought for us will probably never fit him. 

Feeling a bit like a superwoman for surviving such a long labour without extra pain relief. Wanting to boast about it to everyone. Eventually realising that this really doesn’t make me special, and wanting to go round congratulating every single mother I know. 

Swearing blind that I wouldn’t do it ever again but knowing secretly that I might. 

Tearing up when I rang to tell my Mum… I’d been thinking of how excited she’d be throughout the process (although I was glad I hadn’t texted anyone early on as they’d have been on the edge of their seats for days – too much pressure!).

Choosing the perfect filter to disguise his slightly odd colour when sending round his first photo. 

Realising that I was lying comfortably on my back for the first time in around 6 months… 

Seeing myself in the mirror right afterwards and realising I should probably get some under eye concealer because these bags aren’t going away any time soon. 

Being so grateful to all of the midwives that looked after us so well. Singing their praises ever since. 

Getting my phone back (Paul had left it at home in the rush to get to the hospital) and already having lots of lovely messages to read. 

Staring out into Leeds in the middle of the night with my little Leeds baby in my arms and feeling so grateful (and tired). 

Reading Jilly Cooper to try and stay awake through that first night.

Wishing Paul was there so we could (quietly) giggle at the Darth Vader-style snoring coming from across the ward… 

Paul coming to rescue me and hold Benjamin at 6am after I started hallucinating that Tuna was walking across the end of the bed. She definitely wasn’t! 

Paul popping out for some food and coming back to tell me that he’d seen some of our NCT friends in the corridor. Waiting for the news that their baby had arrived (he was born the next day and weighed exactly the same as Ben!).

Hearing Paul telling Benjamin that ‘I like you, I think we’ll keep you.’ Thinking that was the sweetest thing ever. It might have been the hormones… 

Coming home to some lovely treats left by our friends and immediately bursting into tears. Having the sushi they left me for dinner and sharing a whisky with Paul and his Dad. 

You might also like: What I Want to Remember from our Wedding

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Nursery Reveal // Our Neutral Nursery

Nursery Reveal // Amy Elizabeth

We finally hung the pictures on the wall in the nursery this weekend, so I thought it was about time to show you a little sneak peek of what it’s looking like! Putting together this little room has been one of the funnest things about being pregnant – I love an interiors project at the best of time – but it’s also been a bit fraught. There are so many lists and suggestions out there of the things you might need, whilst everyone who’s actually had a baby will tell you constantly that they didn’t need half the things they bought. Plus there’s the whole tricky business of gender; I wanted the room to be fairly neutral so we’re not pigeon-holing him from the get-go but so much baby stuff is invested in whether you’re growing a ‘princess’ or a ‘prince’ (vom) that it can be hard to navigate. 

Our nursery is the little box room in our house, so we didn’t have a lot of room to play with, and we also wanted it to fit the style of the rest of the decor. Obviously, whilst this is going to be bubba’s little room, he’s not going to have a lot of sense of what he does and doesn’t like interiors-wise for a while and we’d be the ones left grimacing if we went too baby-friendly. So, we stuck with the white walls and the grey carpet that pretty much characterise the rest of the house, and went from there. 

The furniture set is a Mamas and Papas one, designed specifically for small spaces. Luckily, the configuration of the room means we can fit a cot bed, chest of drawers (with changing mat on top) and a slim wardrobe into the space without making it feel too cluttered. We’ve popped his everyday items (mostly a whole load of wipes and nappies…) into the top drawer and his first set of clothes in the other drawers, and relegated everything else to the wardrobe. Whether that set up works for us once we get up and running, we’ll soon see! 

I’ve only picked a few prints for the space at the moment, and I’m still on the lookout for something appropriate for over the changing table, as I didn’t want everything to feel too cluttered. A quick search on Etsy and a dash to IKEA for frames means I feel like the room has enough personality without going overboard. This is actually the only room in the house with curtains, too; we’ve got blinds everywhere else but some blackout curtains felt like they fitted better here and they add a little bit more texture and pattern so it doesn’t feel cold. 

We’ve also added some IKEA picture shelves to one wall, and they’ve been stocked with plenty of reading material for some bedtime stories. My friends and family very sweetly bought their favourite books for us as part of my baby shower, so there are plenty of old faithfuls and new discoveries waiting for us once he’s on the outside. I figure you can never have too many books, although his shelves are already full so we may need to find another storage solution for any future ones… 

There’s some boring, practical things in here, too – a washing basket, a nappy bin and some storage for parts of the pram, but that’s not nearly so fun as the cute cuddly toys and the tiny onesies. Overall, I’m really pleased with how it’s looking for now and I’m excited to see how this little room will grow and change with our little man. Now, if he could just hurry up and get here… 

Sources: Furniture Set // Grey Chevron Curtains // Nappy Bin // Washing Basket // Changing Bag // Bear Print // Mountain Print // You Are So Loved Flag // Wooden Arrow // Wild Thing Cushion // Blanket

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Halfway There

So, here we are. Halfway there – or maybe even more, depending on when this little bubba decides to make its appearance. Or, should I say… his appearance! Yep, that’s right – we’re having a boy! Seeing his little face at the scan was honestly one of the most magical moments of my life – he was so cute, with a perfect little nose and he sucked his thumb basically the entire time. I already felt like a proud mama when the sonographer told us that he’d behaved perfectly so she could get all the measurements (even though I know he’s a foetus and doesn’t really ‘behave’ at all!), and it was a *huge* relief that everything seems to be going well and he’s right on track with his growth. 

You may remember that I’ve not been the biggest fan of pregnancy so far, but it’s true what they say that the second trimester is a million times better than the first. I actually feel like my normal self most of the time, and it’s kind of fun having a little bump out there. I’ve started to fit into proper maternity clothes now, and with legging-appropriate occasions the only ones on my calendar for as long as I can see, I’ve definitely embraced the comfort factor. It’s not all plain-sailing, of course; I’m still not able to do quite as much as I could pre-pregnancy, which is a little frustrating, and my skin has decided to fully rebel with a new, unsightly spot along my jawline every day (or so it feels). Also, I have a little confession… at first I was absolutely desperate to feel him moving around but now he’s really started to get his wriggle on, it’s making me feel a little, well, nauseous. I know it’s supposed to be another one of those magical moments, but the feeling of him rolling around in there is a lot like the feeling you have when you’ve got an upset stomach. Hopefully as he grows, he’ll have less space for the acrobatics and that will quell the nausea a little! I’m also signed up to an extra round of injections and blood tests because I’m O-Negative, so that’s something fun to look forward to. 

We’ve started to get ourselves a little bit organised, too. Hitting the halfway point has definitely given us a bit of a kick to start buying things and prepping everything for his arrival. We took advantage of an offer this weekend to buy a pram, and as I type this, Paul is out looking at a new car with his brother (a far better car-buying companion than me) as our beloved Mini is going back to the dealer at the end of the month and we need something with a little more boot space. Not even just for baby-related stuff – I love my car but a full week’s food shopping is a bit of a push to get in the back at the best of times. 

Now I’m just so curious about what he’ll be like. He’ll probably be blonde and blue-eyed, since we both were as babies, but will he be long and lanky like his Dad, or tiny like me? He’ll probably be talkative and stubborn, since we’re both those things now, but he could get any other combination of our traits – creative, practical, optimistic, funny, anxious, pragmatic, sociable… I just can’t wait to find out. Although there is the slight problem of the actual birth before we can get to that bit… The less said about that right now, the better, I think! 

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When 2 Become 3…

So, the secret is finally out! Not that we’ve been able to keep it much of a secret at all… not drinking over Christmas and New Year definitely tips people off, and I’m a terrible liar at the best of times. We’re very excited (and also a little bit terrified) to announce that our first baby is due in July 2017. 

I should probably have titled this post when 3 become 4, because technically we already have an extra member of our family in Tuna but I don’t think she’ll mind on this occasion. In fact, she’s been indifferent to the whole thing (like she is about most things, really…). 

I found out pretty early on, so despite only being 14 weeks along I really feel like I’ve already been pregnant for years but we’re only just getting to the good bit. That is, the bit where we can actually buy stuff for a nursery and think about names. I’ve got some thoughts to share about being pregnant more generally next week, but suffice to say it’s not been my favourite experience so far. The nausea! The exhaustion! The blood tests! The constant worry! In fact, you might even have guessed that something was up by my inability to blog for about three months straight. I’m hoping I’m out of the woods with some of that stuff now, although I’m just about to tackle the fun of maternity dressing now that I actually have a tiny bump (!). It’s all very surreal, let me tell you. 

So, if everything goes to plan, a tiny Paul or Amy (or, more likely, some mix of the two) is on their way this summer. It’s all about to get a little crazy around here… 

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