Charlie is one month old today! I’d say “insert crying emoji here,” but it’s more like “insert conflicting emotions emoji here.” (Why doesn’t that exist?) Of course, one part of me wants to keep him my tiny one-day-old baby forever, but another part of me loves seeing him become more alert and engaged! It is honestly crazy how much he changes day-to-day. I swear he almost smiled back at me today!
As we hit the one-month mark, I feel both like I’m figuring things out and like I’m totally lost. As soon as I think I have Charlie figured out, he changes, and I’m back to square one. He’s starting to make his opinions more known, and we’re going to hear about it if we don’t respond accordingly. But, overall, I really can’t complain. Charlie is a really good baby, and motherhood has felt like a more natural progression than I anticipated. I think waiting until I was 32 made a huge difference in how I embraced this next chapter. After working with kids for the last 10 years, I didn’t harbor any illusions about raising my own. I knew it would be hard, but I’ve been genuinely surprised by how little the lack of sleep and monotony of each day bother me. His little face makes it all worth it.
Although I’m generally enjoying motherhood, there are a lot of things that are still really hard. I figured breaking it down by category would be the best way to describe Charlie’s day-to-day-
AKA the #1 thing I mourned before Charlie arrived. I’m a sleeping machine, and I was still managing to log 10+ hours in my final month of pregnancy. I swear I put off having a baby just because I wasn’t ready to bid my sleep adieu. Now that we’ve made it through the first month, I can honestly say it hasn’t been as bad as I feared. I realized day #1 in the hospital that I didn’t sleep well if someone wasn’t up and watching Charlie (yes, I know I’m an overly anxious first-time mom) so Denny and I worked out a sleeping schedule that allows someone to be awake at all times. We’ve been really lucky that we’re both home during these first few weeks, and I swear that both of us getting some rest creates a better environment for Charlie.
Charlie’s sleep is definitely still a work in progress. The first few days in the hospital he was trying to sleep 5 hour stretches which was crazy! Once we were home, it was obvious he had his days and nights mixed up (which is common in infants), and his sleep wasn’t following much of a pattern. I felt pretty lost so I decided to try the Taking Cara Babies sleep course that tons of people recommended. It was so helpful for learning to identify “sleepy cues,” and it also helped me understand what an infant’s typical day should look like. I put all my energy into implementing that shit like crazy- for about 3 days. Then I stopped.
Charlie wasn’t ready for the course, but, more importantly, neither was I. I felt like our first week together was so great because I just focused on getting to know him and learning his little quirks. After taking the class, I put so much pressure on myself to follow the steps that I started to feel disheartened, and I think Charlie could sense the increase in my anxiety. Now, I still think the course itself is great, and I have a lot of the tips in the back of my head as we go about our day. They actually make a point to say the class isn’t designed for newborns under a month, and I would totally agree. That being said, I definitely believe in setting the foundation for good sleep now while Charlie is still tiny. Maybe we’ll revisit the class this month. As of right now, Charlie has figured out his days from his nights, and we’re getting some good 3-4 hour stretches of sleep so I think we’re headed in the right direction.
Everyone says that breastfeeding is the hardest part of having a baby, and I’m here to tell you- it’s absolutely true. I don’t think it’s really a surprise considering there’s no way to prepare for it beforehand, and it’s a 24/7 job. A loose poll of friends revealed that women are all over the map when it comes to breastfeeding- some love it, some hate it, and some view it as just another necessity that comes with having a baby. Truthfully, I didn’t feel strongly one way or another before Charlie arrived. I knew I wanted to try, but I also didn’t want to drive myself crazy if it didn’t work out. Then, as with most things baby, Charlie showed up, and I suddenly felt like I will be the worst mom ever if I do not successfully breastfeed this child.
Charlie was, to put it kindly, a chonk when he was born. He weighed 9 lbs 7 oz, and he wanted to eat a lot. I got lucky that Charlie had a great latch right away, and he took to breastfeeding really easily. It was such a huge relief because I knew getting the latch game down was half the battle. However, I was having a hard time keeping up so, when a nurse offered some formula to supplement, I was down. I had never been opposed to formula, and I liked that Denny could help with the feeding. We continued to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding throughout our time in the hospital, but I noticed Charlie could usually suck down an additional 1-2 oz of formula immediately after nursing which seemed odd.
When I brought up Charlie’s feeding with our pediatrician, he suggested I make an appointment with a lactation consultant. I had already been considering it since tons of friends said it made a huge difference with their breastfeeding success, but I was also really nervous. Charlie seemed really happy and content with our current system, and he was gaining weight like he should be. I assumed the lactation consultant’s primary goal would be ridding our dependence on formula, and I was scared that all hell would break loose.
I used a local Chicago company (Lactation Partners) that my pediatrician recommended, and an in-home session was covered by insurance. The process to make an appointment was really easy, but I still found myself incredibly anxious the day of our appointment. Turns out, my view of a lactation consultant was totally off base. My consultant, Judy, was awesome, and she made it clear from the get-go that she was there to provide advice to work with our lifestyle and what we wanted. When I sheepishly told her that we’d been supplementing with formula from day one, she said “He was almost 10 pounds! Of course you had to supplement!” She wasn’t at all interested in getting rid of all formula (unless that was my goal), and her primary focus was making sure Charlie was happy and fed.
The appointment itself provided some great information that I never could have learned on my own. She brought in a scale and weighed Charlie before and after he breastfed, and she was able to tell he was only getting about 0.5-1 oz during his feeding sessions. At his size, he should have been getting 3-4oz per feed so it makes sense he was still drinking a whole bottle afterwards. She also identified Charlie as a “sleepy feeder,” meaning he was putting himself to sleep while eating and not getting enough during his feeds. She was able to give me some tips and tricks for keeping him awake, but she also said I was welcome to nurse Charlie to put him to sleep if I wanted. (I admittedly kind of love our time together when he falls asleep nursing.)
While I was so happy to get the reassurance that we weren’t “ruining” Charlie with formula, I still wanted to work on increasing my milk production. I had only recently learned about the concept of “establishing my supply,” and I was worried that I’d already messed everything up by 2 weeks postpartum. Judy did tell me that my hospital team made a mistake by not instructing me to pump each time Charlie was given formula. In retrospect, this seems like such an obvious thing, but there’s just so much going on after you have a baby that it didn’t even occur to me to start pumping. Judy recommended I start pumping each time we gave Charlie a bottle at home so my body learned to increase its supply, and she also recommended this supplement.
It’s been about two weeks since the lactation consultation, and there have been some definite improvements. I’m able to pump an additional 3-5 oz per day, and Denny gives that to Charlie during one of his night feeds. I’ve also used some of her tips to help keep Charlie awake and nurse more efficiently. That being said, I don’t see us getting to a point where Charlie is exclusively breastfed. He’s still a very hungry guy, and my body isn’t producing enough to replace the amount of formula he eats. I also made the decision not to sacrifice sleep for a few extra ounces of breastmilk. My mental health is significantly better when I get one 5-6 hour chunk of sleep, and it would be impossible to get that if I was feeding/pumping every 2-3 hours. Part of me feels guilty for not making that sacrifice for Charlie, but I also know I’m a much better, healthier mom to him when I take care of myself, too. I’m still playing around with some supplements in the hopes of increasing my supply a little more, but it’s a work in progress.
My Post Partum Health
I’ve been really nervous about the postpartum period since I’m already predisposed to both anxiety and depression. If there’s a “good” side to having a history of anxiety, it’s that you’re very aware of the symptoms and notice changes in your mental health pretty quickly. I stayed on my low-dose anxiety meds throughout my pregnancy, and I’ve continued taking them since having Charlie. So far, I’ve felt really good, and I haven’t found myself in the clutches of PPD. That being said, I’m still really aware that it could happen at any time, and I’m doing what I can to take care of myself.
You may have caught it on my Instagram stories, but I have 3 self-care goals for myself every day- take a shower, go outside for 15 minutes, and stretch. They may seem like small things, but they make a huge difference in how I feel every day. There are definitely days they don’t all happen, and that’s okay, too. However, the days where I do nothing but breastfeed, diaper change, and rock a baby can start to feel really lonely and isolating. I know these days will go by so fast so I do my best to appreciate them, but I’m glad the newborn phase doesn’t last forever.
My friends have been amazing about stopping by to meet Charlie, and I’m able to escape the city and spend time at my parents’ which is great for my mental health. At the same time, I still love living in the city with a baby because it offers so much right outside our door. Charlie has been to Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and too many Nordstrom stores to count. It’s also been hugely helpful having Denny around, and I give so much credit to anyone whose spouse had to go back to work right away.
All-in-all, I’ve loved the newborn phase way more than I ever expected, but it’s not without its challenges. I’ve read that humans are basically born 3 months too early so their first 3 months really are the “fourth trimester.” I think Charlie and I are doing a good job of getting to know each other, but I also know he’ll probably change by the time I hit “publish” on this post. Let’s see how month 2 goes!