How Having a Baby Has Helped My Anxiety

Before I start this post, I want to make it clear that I have never had clinically diagnosed anxiety. I have been lucky that my anxiousness has, for the most part, mostly manifested itself in being highly strung, hard on myself, and very un-spontaneous rather than stopping me from going about my daily life, so it’s never been something that I’ve sought treatment for and, to be honest, I don’t think doing so was necessary. I appreciate that for people who suffer from more extreme anxiety than me might not have the same experience and I don’t want to suggest that having a baby is some kind of cure for what is a serious mental health condition. Far from it, in fact. 

However, that said, I *have* always been an anxious person. I’m a Type A perfectionist who doesn’t really know how to relax and *hates* when plans are changed or things don’t go as intended. I panic when going to new places (especially if I have to drive there on my own) and worry about every little thing it’s possible to worry about. Whilst my anxiety has only very rarely seen me refuse to leave the house, it has regularly sent me into paroxysms of stress before I’ve been able to do so. 

So I assumed that having a baby would only add to my anxiety. There’s a lot to worry about when it comes to babies; their health, their development, their safety, whether they’re too hot or cold, whether they’re eating enough or too much, whether they’re sleeping enough or too much (and whether when they’re sleeping is the right time to be sleeping). You can worry about them in their current state and entertain yourself with all sorts of nightmares about the months and years to come. 

But, despite all the potential for worry and anxiety that comes with parenting, I have found myself a lot more relaxed than I ever expected to be. Whilst being a parent is hard, each individual task is relatively easy (at this stage) but all-consuming, so I have found it easier than ever to let worries slip to the back of my mind. It helps that Ben has, so far (touch wood), been a healthy and chilled out baby. He is teaching me to be a mother every day, and he is so relaxed and happy that it makes me that way. 

I think part of it is just that you have no choice but to get things done. The first time we left the house with Benjamin, I was practically beside myself with worry, but after Paul had gone back to work and it was just on me to get us up, dressed and off to an appointment, I found it much less anxiety-inducing. There was no option to panic, because we had to be there, so I had to just get everything done. Ben is relying on me, and so I can rally myself to do the things I am worried about a lot more easily. 

Being a mother is many things, but once you have a child it is no longer optional. My mantra over the past few weeks has very much been ‘you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do’, which has a dual meaning. Sometimes it means that you’ve just got to do what you need to get by, whether that’s eating cake for breakfast, pouring yourself a glass of wine or binging on Netflix and ignoring the chores list. But it also means that you’ve got to get done what needs to be done, even when it feels like an insurmountable task. There’s no hiding under the duvet when you’re solo parenting a newborn (unfortunately) but it turns out that’s the very best thing for me. 

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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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