My partner Ryan, 25, and I welcomed our first baby, Aräia, just before Christmas. She was born four weeks and four days premature, which caused jaundice and lung problems, and she was in NICU for the first week so that her oxygen levels could be evened out. I stayed with her in hospital, but Ryan was only allowed to visit for a few hours a day which was so hard, especially over Christmas.
Aräia also had feeding issues as a result of her prematurity. Our biggest challenge has been that she struggles to latch on. Premature babies generally have a slower start with feeding as their sucking muscles aren’t fully formed.
When I first tried to breastfeed Aräia in hospital, I wasn’t sure what to do and the midwives didn’t really show me, which felt isolating. She would cluster feed at night and scream for hours as she couldn’t latch on. Fairly early on, I decided to combination feed using formula for night feeds to make sure she was getting enough food and to help me get some sleep because I was exhausted.
Then, when Aräia was two weeks old, she suddenly developed a rash all over her face. At first, I thought it was baby acne, but I noticed that it flared up after feeding. We took her to the GP, who diagnosed her with a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) and prescribed us an omega-based formula. Thankfully, the rash cleared up. However, to carry on breastfeeding, I had to cut out dairy from my own diet.
Aräia usually has between 10 and 12 feeds in a 24-hour period. During the day, I don’t really follow a schedule – breastfeeding her and topping her up with formula. During the night, I use formula and try to follow a schedule, settling her by 11pm and then giving her a feed between 2am and 3am, then another one between 6am and 7am.
She drinks very quickly and struggles with reflux, which can make her cry and vomit and also makes her difficult to wind.
Two months after having a caesarean section, I feel that my body is still adjusting. I’m incredibly proud of what my body has achieved and the beautiful baby it has given me but, my goodness, does it look different! I’m covered in stretch marks, have leaky boobs and my back is always sore. It can all feel a bit draining and can affect your mental health.
Lockdown has been very challenging too. The previous lockdown last year – before having Aräia – never really affected me mentally because I was busy working in my local government administration job. But now I’m on maternity leave, this lockdown has taken its toll.
Ryan is currently doing his job from home – he works in local government too – but I haven’t been able to see the rest of my family and it’s been lonely. I’ve missed some of the things you expect to experience in early motherhood, like meeting up with family and mum friends and taking Aräia to baby swimming classes. The truth is that this has all affected my feeding journey, but I try to stay positive because I don’t want it to affect Aräia.
When Aräia was only a week old, I had a meltdown because I wasn’t sure how to deal with a crying baby or when to feed her. It was a learning curve that a new mum would usually be supported through, but I didn’t have that.
What’s the one thing that you think all feeding mums should know?
The one thing I would definitely want other mums to know is that it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to feel that things aren’t going right. Also, be prepared to have absolutely no time to yourself during the first eight to 10 weeks. Feeding will take up most of your day, especially if you’re breastfeeding as babies tend to cluster feed. And always have breast pads on you!
What products can you not live without?
Aräia struggled with soothers at first because normal-sized teats were too big for her mouth, But when we tried a MAM Soother, she instantly latched on. They’re the best fit for her mouth and we couldn’t live without them – I now have one set in every room. I also use MAM Anti-Colic Bottles as they’re the only bottles that don’t cause her severe reflux.
Disclaimer: This diary is an accurate representation of a week in the life of a real parent. All products linked to are products that have been used throughout the seven-day period. Mumsnet champions and supports breastfeeding and its benefits, but we also know that many mothers and parents on Mumsnet feed their babies in other ways, and we champion and support those parents too. Please see UNICEF and NHS guidelines on the benefits of breastfeeding, and NHS guidance on safe mixed feeding.
8am: Aräia is awake after having a 4am and 7am feed. We’ve tried giving her a bath later at night to help settle her and also use a swaddle, which is helping to settle her. It’s an improvement on last week when she was up almost every hour for night feeds. As DP works full-time, I do most of the night feeds.
11am: She woke again at 10am and wasn’t happy. We’ve only recently started using a new, different formula, and although it’s been prescribed by the GP, I wonder if it’s causing her a bit of constipation. She cries as I’m prepping her bottle so I decide to offer her my breast until the formula is ready and that seems to calm her, but she still struggles to latch. She breastfeeds for 10 minutes before I change her over to the formula and she takes 120ml. She has a lot of wind afterwards, which is normal for her as she has reflux.
1pm: Aräia has another 120ml of formula. As usual, she’s restless and fights sleep. When she finally drops off, I do some cleaning, as well as washing up her morning bottle and prepping her next formula feed. Around this time of the day, tiredness usually hits me – caring for a newborn is hard.
4pm: As Aräia keeps stirring in her sleep, I don’t get a chance for a nap. It’s Ryan’s day off and I usually leave him to relax, but I’m so shattered that he offers to feed her. She only takes 90ml this time.
6pm: DP and I have dinner and Aräia has a feed. We’re all cuddled up watching a film – some family time is nice.
10pm: Aräia is bathed and has her last evening feed. She has 100ml and goes straight to sleep. DP falls asleep early as he has work tomorrow, but I’m overtired and can’t relax so I stay awake, waiting for the 1am feed.
1am: Aräia wakes and Ryan feeds her 120ml. We struggle to burp her and she’s fighting sleep but finally drops off at 2am.
5am: She has 70ml of formula and goes back to sleep after a nappy change.
8am: She wakes up and has 120ml. She’s a bit niggly and doesn’t want to go back to sleep and I think she may be constipated again. It’s upsetting as I try my best to comfort her but she just cries and cries. She finally drops off at 9.15am.
11am: After her nap, I take her downstairs and pop her in her Joie Serina Swing. She loves it. After another 70ml of formula, she’s asleep by 11:45am. I’m feeling tired now too after an unsettled night and morning.
1pm: I take her out in her buggy – it’s nice to get out! On the way home, she starts grumbling so we stop for a feed. I always have a bottle ready. She drinks 120ml again and then finally has a poo!
4pm: She’s been wide awake since the walk. She has a bit of tummy time and spends time with Ryan now he’s finished work, while I cook dinner. She breastfeeds for 20 minutes and goes to sleep again at 5.30pm for her last nap before bedtime. DP and I spend time together – I feel a bit sensitive and emotional today and need a hug.
6pm: She’s still napping so we have dinner and Ryan goes upstairs to chill out. I have a bit of ‘me time,’ relaxing and watching TV. Then I prep her bottles for the evening and wash up after dinner.
10pm: She woke at 9pm and had 130ml of formula – we’re trying to up her milk intake now she’s nearly three months old. Then I give her a bath and, afterwards, she quickly goes back to sleep. We find that giving her later baths helps her settle more easily.
11.30pm: She has her last feed and struggles to burp again, but settles on DP’s chest before going to sleep.
2am: DP does the feed and changes her.
5am: I change Aräia’s nappy and feed her 130ml, but she brings a bit back up and I think she’s trying to do a poo.
6am: She finally goes to sleep and I’m exhausted by this point because she had her usual 2am feed in the night too.
10.30am: She’s had an unsettled morning and, after having 90ml of formula, she projectile vomits all over me while I’m burping her – I think she might have drank too quickly!
1pm: She’s really clingy today. Ryan takes over during his lunch hour and I go for a quick walk on my own.
4pm: Aräia has been napping since 3pm – I breastfeed her to sleep. I start making dinner, wishing that I could make my favourite comfort food of mac and cheese, but it’s not possible because I’ve had to cut out dairy food while breastfeeding DD due to her CMPA. I cook steak, asparagus and grilled sweet potatoes instead.
5pm: She wakes up screaming with a wet, poo-filled nappy. I’m worried that she seems to be in pain with constipation. I’m going to speak to the GP about it this week.
10.30pm: She goes to sleep after being breastfed, but she struggled again to latch on properly, which was frustrating for both of us.
2am: Aräia has 120ml of formula and brings some of it back up but she then goes to sleep quite easily. The swaddle blanket we’re using is doing a great job.
7.30am: She stirs and has 100ml of formula. She had 110ml at 5am too. She hasn’t been for a poo for a while so I do ‘bicycle legs’ on her to try to get things moving. When she goes back to sleep, I drift off too.
11am: After waking at 10:30am, we have some lovely cuddles and she has a breastfeed. She is a bit clingy again today and doesn’t really want me to put her down.
1pm: She has 120ml of formula. Sometimes she drinks too quickly even with the colic bottles and struggles to burp. She’s fighting sleep so I put some baby sensory on the TV while I carry on with chores.
6pm: After dinner and a two-hour nap, DH feeds her 120ml formula. She did a poo earlier but she seems to be pushing again so I think she probably needs another one.
9pm: I breastfeed her for 30 minutes and give her a bath, which she loves but it takes us half an hour to get her to sleep. She feels warm and has a blocked nose so I think she’s coming down with a cold.
2:30am: DD wakes and has 120ml of formula but doesn’t go back to sleep for an hour. We can see that she’s not well – it’s going to be a long night.
5am: She wakes up with a very wet nappy so I change her and feed her another 60ml of formula. She struggles to settle, but is finally in her cot by 6:20am.
8am: It’s been a tough night – Aräia was up again at 7:30am and now she’s wide awake and won’t take much formula.
11am: I’m so tired but, as DP has a quiet day at work, he’s able to help out.
1pm: I breastfeed her for 25 minutes – I’m trying to increase the amount of breastmilk she has to assist her bowel movements. She still hasn’t had a poo. I’m hoping she’ll have a nap soon as I need to clean her bottles from last night. Luckily self-sterilising bottles save me some time
4pm: While she’s asleep, we get a delivery – it’s Ewan the Dream Sheep! When she wakes up, she seems to like his soothing sounds and now it’s time for me to go and make dinner.
6pm: Poor Aräia is very unsettled, despite having another 90ml of formula – and I am one tired mummy! After an hour of trying to settle her, I breastfeed her for 20 minutes until she falls asleep.
10pm: She’s awake again so we give her a bath and 120ml of formula. Usually she takes her soother easily in the evenings, but tonight she’s fighting sleep and it takes us an hour to get her to drop off.
8am: Aräia seems to be getting into a pattern with her sleeping. She woke at 8am on the dot. We changed her nappy and gave her 90ml of formula followed by some cuddles.
11am: She’s asleep after having some tummy time and then nodding off around 10am. She’s becoming more active during the day so we let her sleep more in the morning to try to prepare her for the day.
1pm: She’s in the swing after a 30-minute breastfeed. I put on some baby programmes on TV and do some cleaning while she’s occupied.
4pm: Nap time again – she finally went down for a nap at 3:30pm after having 120ml of formula. She’s also had a poo at last!
6pm: Ryan feeds her 100ml of formula. She has a runny nose and just wants cuddles. Tomorrow, she’s having her first vaccines and I’m a tad nervous.
10pm: After bath time, I give her some tummy massage before she goes to sleep. I’m going to speak to the doctor tomorrow to ask about her constipation.
8am: Ryan’s alarm goes off at 8am and wakes Aräia. I think she would’ve slept a little bit longer otherwise. After having 120ml of formula, I start getting her ready and dressed for her vaccine appointment.
11am: She’s napping after her injection. She only cried for a few minutes and then went to sleep. My little trooper.
1pm: I think her needle spots are sore as she keeps crying. I feed her 120ml of formula which she drinks quickly before going back to sleep, although it takes her a while to settle.
4pm: She wakes up crying and I think her legs are sore because they’re slightly red when I change her nappy. She refuses her bottle and starts screaming uncontrollably. DP and I spend an hour and a half trying to console her and give her a dose of Calpol before she finally falls asleep.
6pm: She’s awake again and really not happy. We try gripe water, but it doesn’t make a difference. It’s awful seeing her so upset and I’ve got a headache from the crying but at least she doesn’t have a temperature. We pop her in the bath which settles her a little, but I think it’s going to be a long evening.
11.30pm: She’s finally gone to sleep, having had another 120ml of formula. She was really unsettled before she dropped off – we’ve put it down to the vaccines she had today.
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