Well, one thing I can say is that the first few weeks were super challenging, but now nine months later it feels like a distant memory. I wouldn’t have coped half as well without a lot of support from my husband, mum, mother in law and fantastic Doctor. In fact, thanks to Sienna arriving with a host of complications I think I probably would have gone a bit loopy had it not been for my support network. The difficult days felt like they would never end, but looking back it truly is such a short amount of time and, as with all babies, it passes. On to another challenging phase, but they all pass and you do get through it.
We brought Sienna home about 2.30pm following squeezing her out at 3.15am earlier that day. Isabella hadn’t long been up from her nap and was so excited to have us home. She was intrigued with what/who was in her car seat, but wasn’t completely sure about the whole thing. She knew she had missed mummy that’s for sure, and after flinging her arms around my neck, eyed up my somewhat smaller bump. We had been telling Issey her baby sister was in my tummy as soon as we found out we were pregnant. So we introduced her to Sienna that way. “This is your baby sister Issey. She is big enough now to come out of mummies tummy”. Issey peered in the car seat and said in her tiny high pitched voice “bubba?”. Most of her words sounded like a question then. She was fascinated by me nursing Sienna and sat as close as she could possibly get to have a look at what was going on. The same happened with nappy changes that afternoon. We immediately encouraged her to look after her own baby or pass wipes etc. so she felt involved. I think it was all very much a novelty at that point.
Mum had been looking after Isabella whilst I was in labour. She had been amazing and was really pleased I was home and both Sienna and I were ok. She went home not too long after we got back as she looked worn out and wanted to give us the chance to settle in as the four of us. I was still on edge about how things were going to pan out, or how on earth we were going to manage day in day out, but whilst daddy was on paternity leave I tried not to think about it too much. Marcus is completely hands on and when he is at home he is the most amazing daddy and a huge help to me. I was absolutely dreading him going back to work!!
That evening we put Issey to bed as usual; bath, bottle, story and into bed by mummy and without Sienna for now. I was having a good go at breastfeeding, so Sienna snuggled in the bed with us so I could easily nurse her through the night. My top tip would be to have a flask of tea, bottle of water and some biscuits to hand as you get really hungry and dehydrated feeding so regularly. It also meant I didn’t really have to move from the warmth of my bed. Hooray. I hadn’t been able to successfully breastfeed Isabella so I really wanted to give it another hearty push for Sienna. Unfortunately, Sienna and I were useless at it so by late night I’d enlisted the help of nipple shields as she just kept sliding off me. They helped at least to keep her on and feeding. I used the laying down feeding position through the night so I could easily nod off when she did, and I just swapped her from one boob to the other. Having a baby in the bed is, of course, a huge risk, but I just followed all the advice they give you and found it a lot easier whilst breastfeeding her.
Isabella wasn’t sleeping through the night at this stage and one of my first worries was how on earth I was going to manage both of them at night. Surprisingly they never seemed to wake each other, which was a small miracle. I used to have to sneak out the bed trying not to wake Sienna, but managed it each time even if it was a pain! Sienna went through a period of crying loudly and for long periods at night around three weeks in, but somehow it never woke or bothered Issey. We only have a modest two bedroom cottage, so it really was amazing that she wasn’t disturbed. Isabella was up at least once for a bottle at that time. I really should have worked on losing that night bottle beforehand; that is something I’d definitely do differently looking back. It was actually a lot easier to drop it than I thought and I really just needed to toughen up a bit. A few months into being big sister I just offered her water instead. I also stopped changing her nappy unless of course she had leaked through. Initially, she drank quite a few ounces of water. “Typical”, I thought, “this isn’t going to work”. But after a few nights she didn’t want any at all. She has a dummy for sleep and I started putting in a few spare ones, so she started just reaching out for one when she stirred. We use a video monitor and I highly recommend them. You can watch what they are actually doing instead of just hearing them and jumping up to the rescue. Issey would moan or call out and I’d watch for a few mins to see what she did if one of us didn’t come running immediately. Low and behold she’d find a dummy, her comforter and roll over to snuggle down. Hey presto baby sleeps through by 16 months. Hooray. One thing I would now recommend is a Dummy Bunny. I’ve had Issey’s for ages but she never really got the idea of it when she was younger. Now it works a treat. I attach at least two spare dummies to the bunny and have a few floating. If the floating spares fall out the cot she grabs the bunny instead.
As breastfeeding was still new to me I was a bit unsure if Sienna was feeding well, long enough, and getting enough. Every time we tried without shields she just couldn’t get on and two weeks in she was feeding so much that I barely had time to pee, let alone spend time with Isabella. I found that the most difficult. I cried a lot in the first weeks for Isabella. She couldn’t understand why this little person was attached to mummy all day long. Sienna would come off for mostly 10 minutes or so and rarely half an hour snoozing. I really felt trapped. Fortunately daddy day care was still around so she coped better with it than me. She loved having her daddy to play with. Occasionally she would cry when I had to put Sienna back on, but daddy would quickly make a fuss and engage her in something. I think, in hindsight, we should have engaged her more with me and Sienna whilst nursing at that point. It might have made it easier on my own if we’d encouraged her to sit with me and read a book or bring a toy to play with, rather than just daddy distracting her. To be honest, the feeding was relentless so I don’t think realistically we’d have been able to do that all the time, but maybe more might have helped.
I was a bit worried about feeding Sienna in public as I was such a novice and having to rely on nipple shields. However, the actual feeding wasn’t so bad. It was more juggling Isabella. I would sterilise the nipple shields and wear them in my nursing bra so we were all ready to go. I also had a full nursing cover from the early weeks with Isabella, so that became a new addition to the change bag. It had a wire frame at the front and a strap around my neck so I could see what I was doing, could use both hands and still feel modest. I didn’t really fancy being on full show whilst using shields, but all credit to nursing mummas who don’t mind. I felt a huge sense of pride every time I did have to feed her whilst we were out. It was clear there was going to be no way I could manage nursing Sienna and be out with both girls alone, however. Issey is not a sit in a highchair kind of baby, nor would she be ok sitting in the car whilst I fed Sienna, so the only time we went out whilst I was breastfeeding was if I had a second pair of hands to help manage. I still don’t know how I would have moved on from that without someone else’s help!
Issey soon realised Sienna was a permanent feature, and a mummy stealing one. She didn’t like her at all. Every now and then she would be interested, but on the whole wasn’t impressed. I’d really try to encourage her to look after her own babies (dolls) whilst I dealt with Sienna, but it wasn’t until she was a bit older that that really captured her imagination enough. Sometimes she would be interested in actually helping me with Sienna; undo her nappy, pass wipes or a new nappy. But it often backfired when Sienna would kick her in the face or grab her hair. Small babies just thrash around and grab out at the nearest thing so having a small toddler up close didn’t always pan out well. She’d point to Sienna crying “bubba” and point to anyone else who was there to take her so she could have mummy back. Or if we were on our own she’d pat the baby swing or rocker whilst saying “Bubba” to let me know she wanted me to put Sienna down now. It was really heartbreaking at times. She also developed hitting out when she was angry, and on occasion her target became Sienna. I really had to dig deep remembering that she is only a baby herself, and how huge this has been for her. She went from having mummy 100% of the time (I only went back to work two days a week for 10 weeks in between whilst my mum looked after her) to now only having mummy for short periods. I bought a book called ‘Hands Are Not For Hitting’ and that had a really positive impact on Issey. Thankfully the hitting phase didn’t last very long.
My mum and mother in law decided between them, after witnessing the juggle I had once Marcus was back at work, to set up a sort of rota to come over and help. I didn’t really want to need such a lot of help. That feeling of my babies, my job, was still very prevalent from when I became a new mummy with Isabella. But I can’t tell you how grateful I am now looking back. Again, though it made it easier for me to plod on trying to meet Sienna’s feeding demands, as well as mine and Issey own need for food, it probably didn’t help Issey adjust to needing to share mummy. Someone was on hand almost every afternoon for the first few months so we only had to get through some mornings and the occasional full day as the three of us.
Those mornings went surprisingly well, but I’d be on the edge of my seat waiting for whoever was coming over to help. I’d try to keep Issey busy with a treasure box, the occasional new toy I’d bought whilst pregnant to bring out if I was struggling, snacks and the TV. She hardly watched TV when it was just the two of us at home, but now kids TV had become my best friend. If I get through a day alone without needing to turn on the TV at all I feel like a superwoman. I would put Sienna in her baby rocker in the bathroom (still do) so I could shower and get dressed, and although half the time she would start crying I always managed to get myself and Issey ready. Issey would usually be happy in our bed watching TV whilst I showered, or she’d be running around between the bedrooms/bathroom. The whole house is ridiculously baby proofed now and Issey is a really good girl when it comes to what she can and can’t have in the home, so I never worry about her when I’m in the shower. For example, Marcus hates Rastamouse and if it comes on the TV she comes into the bathroom as she knows daddy doesn’t like her to watch it lol. Not sure how long that sort of amazing behaviour is going to last! We also had a baby swing downstairs so I’d feed Sienna and put her in there so I could play with Issey. Sometimes she’d nod off and it was lovely to be able to fuss over Issey properly. To get through breakfast I’d put Sienna in a baby rocker seat in the kitchen or wear her in a wrap. It was always a juggle and largely went more smoothly if Sienna would have a little sleep and Issey was in a good mood. An absolute necessity for me is having baby seats all over the house. Or at least one upstairs and one downstairs. I got a few second-hand ones to save pennies and the baby swing was a life saver the early weeks.
I used to freak out about the full days and bedtimes I did have to do on my own to begin with. I was almost afraid of looking after both of them. If Marcus had to do something, like get his hair cut, it had to be during Issey’s regular nap time otherwise I’d start to panic. That seems crazy now, but it was just so daunting. Essentially, when I eventually got over that (had to get over it) I let Sienna cry a bit from time to time. It was quicker and easier to meet Issey’s immediate needs and then try to work out what Sienna wanted. Toddlers, even the very young ones, have developed some form of communication, so I could work out what Issey was yelling or crying about and sort it. Or in some cases ignore it if it was a tantrum. But with tiny babies, that’s their only way to communicate. Then the checklist starts; bum, food, burp, tired? When putting Issey down for a nap I’m ashamed to say I did have to leave Sienna for far longer than I’d have liked roaring in her swing or crib whilst I settled Issey. Fortunately, I’d already established a tight routine with Issey so it was only a quick nappy change, into a sleep bag and story, before popping her in her cot with a dummy, comforter, and soothing music. She was completely self-settling for both bedtime and naps by then and so I could always get back to Sienna super fast and smoother her with apologetic cuddles. I thought it might actually mean she would learn to settle herself quicker, but I think her reflux has again been a massive setback where that is concerned. If anything it has possible had the opposite effect. Sienna is now completely included in all nap and bedtime routines and looking back I should have done that way sooner. I was almost too protective over Isabella’s routines and making her naps and bedtime as calming as possible. But as with dropping her milk in the night, I just needed to be tougher and not worry so much. She would have certainly still gone down for her nap or to bed even if Sienna had been whaling in the rocker whilst I went through the normal motions.
Anyway, getting into week three we were still finding she was never satisfied longer than half an hour, still struggling to feed without shields, and more worryingly she had only done two poops after the sticky black stuff. She also started to become increasingly unsettled by late afternoon. The health visitor referred us to check out if she had tongue tie and after a very long week of Sienna screaming from 6pm – 1am without any let-up, my gut told me something wasn’t right.
On a few occasions, Marcus or I would take her out in the car late in the night, but she wouldn’t let up at all. I also slept downstairs on the sofa a few nights as her crying was so loud and relentless I didn’t want her to wake Issey or prevent Marcus from getting sleep now he was back at work. One of the dreaded screaming nights was when Marcus worked away. Fortunately, my mum knew it was unrealistic to manage how things currently were alone at night yet so she stayed the nights he was away. Or my mother in law would be staying as she lives in London, so she would come every Wednesday and stay over before heading home Thursday or Friday night. They mainly stayed just to have someone in the house rather than be completely on my own, so in most cases I still managed to look after both girls needs through the night alone.
I can’t tell you how helpless I felt those nights Sienna just screamed and screamed. I hated every minute of it. Not just because it was horrible and absolutely nothing like how I had imagined having a second baby, but more so for her. I couldn’t take away whatever it was that was causing her so much upset. She was completely inconsolable and it was heartbreaking. I’d stupidly listened to people who had said; “your second is so much easier” or “new baby just fits in”. So far it was the absolute opposite and, despite loving her, there were some low moments when all I wanted to do was go back to just having Isabella. I hate myself for feeling that way now. In fact, I hated myself for feeling that way at the time. But this new little person had arrived and it was far harder than I had ever imagined.
I took her to see my GP and she was absolutely amazing. I cried with relief that I wasn’t just going crazy. She listened and was genuinely concerned for everything that had been going on. She thought we needed to see the paediatric team and get to the bottom of it, so sent us, letter in hand, straight off to the hospital. I can’t actually thank my GP enough for all she has done to help me through those really tough weeks, and her ongoing support with both the girls health. We are really lucky to have such a great doctor as I’ve heard/read awful things from other forums etc. Others have had to be so persistent and plead for help. I’m so glad I didn’t also have to go through that kind of struggle. My mum had stayed that night; cradling me at one point, cradling a screaming Sienna in the early hrs, and so she was around to look after Isabella whilst I went off to the hospital. I really didn’t want to go on my own but it was afternoon by then, Marcus was a work and Issey needed her nap. Becoming a mummy has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone at times. I’ve just had to man up when otherwise I’d have crumbled on my own.
The paediatric team were quite matter of fact and less bothered, but I guess they see some horrendously unwell children, mine was just a screamer. They weren’t completely sure what was going on, for example, Sienna should be pooping like goodun being exclusively on the boob juice. It transpired Sienna had colic and silent reflux. She was also not putting on enough weight from my milk alone, despite feeding constantly. They put her on Ranitidine, the highest dose for her size, and recommended I start to mix-feed her breast milk and formula. I was heart broken. I felt like I’d worked so hard to feed her myself, obviously thinking it was the best thing for her, and felt like I had sacrificed Isabella in doing so. Instead, I’d actually been making her unwell. On her first weigh-in, she had almost lost the full 10% of her birth weight but because it wasn’t over they weren’t worried and we just needed to wait for the appointment to see the tongue tie specialist. When actually she was just on a malnourished slippy slope. Babies are pretty tough little things really.
The Ranitidine seemed to stop her screaming for hours at night after only the second day thankfully (definitely not the case for all babies as I’ve read). She started pooping regularly too, with the introduction of formula. Another relief. However, her silent reflux quickly went to very not silent with her bringing up most of her bottle, most of the time. We opted to breastfeed her through the day and use formula at night. It didn’t take long before formula started creeping in during the day too so people could help out etc. I started pumping to keep my supply up but could hardly get an ounce. It was so demoralising and I didn’t know how to fit everything in. By week five she would feed off both boobs and then have a bottle too. It was getting ridiculous really. I was also still using shields because the appointment to check her tongue was later that week and she couldn’t stay on without them.
It turned out she was tongue tied so we had that snipped. It was horrible enough when they held her down and held her mouth open to check, let alone have it cut, so I stepped out the room for the procedure. It bled a tiny bit but she fed straight away after and quickly got over it. Unfortunately, even after a further week it still didn’t seem to make a difference to her nursing. It did, however, mean she spent the next seven months sticking her new tongue out half the time. I got a bit worried at one stage that it had been over corrected, not sure that’s even a thing, but she has stopped that now thankfully. One day a drunk man came up to her whilst we were sat in a beer garden and fully touched her tongue with his grubby finger saying “put that tongue away”. I was horrified!
At week six I decided that the boob juice was wasting both our times. I never got to the stage where it was enjoyable to feed her because we were still using shields and I was probably as frustrated as she was. She had no qualms with the bottle so I took my boobs back and watched them balloon and rapidly deflate over the coming weeks. It’s pretty uncomfortable stopping that’s for sure, but it only took a few days to feel less swollen. I got Marcus to help massage them, which took absolutely no persuading compared to the occasional shoulder rub. Funnily enough! I was really upset about stopping breastfeeding but it wasn’t meant to be. It took me about 8 months to get over that I hadn’t been able to breastfeed Isabella, and I didn’t want to beat myself up so much again, so I really dug deep to just let it go. The ‘breast is best’ debate is a no brainer for most I’m sure, but if you can’t then it’s awful how much guilt is put on you. A lot of well-meaning family or friends would put their oar in and make me feel like absolute crap when it didn’t work out with Isabella. I felt like I constantly had to justify myself and it really brought me down at times. I blamed most things on not breastfeeding her which, in hindsight, that’s ridiculous. Looking after Sienna, her reflux and a toddler were enough to battle on with, so I had one little cry about stopping nursing and then managed to put it behind me. I immediately sold my breastfeeding tops on eBay and didn’t think about it again.
Sienna thrived much more once I’d moved on from breastfeeding, but due to her reflux, even now, she rarely drinks more than 4-5oz at any one time. It has never been so much the projectile vomit that I’ve found difficult with her reflux, but more her constant discomfort. Nearing 9 months she rarely sleeps longer than two hours at a time through the day or night. In the early weeks, it was more like 30mins to an hour. I’ve a whole new level of sleep deprivation, but that’s easily another blog worth! She hates sleeping alone and so to begin with she slept on me or anyone who was at hand to help out.
I was really lucky that on a few occasions when my mother in law stayed, and once Sienna was on full formula, she actually did a few night shifts for me. I hated the idea of it, but I took comfort in some friends husbands/partners actually doing a few full nights so mumma could catch up on some zzzs. Marcus worked away a lot so it was like she stepped in to help in that way too a few times. She was also great at getting up mega early with Sienna and giving me the chance to go back to sleep until Issey would get up (usually 6.30/7am). I was/still am massively sleep deprived, so I really would not have coped had she not helped in that way a few times. Specifically, when I caught the most horrific flu and she had Sienna a few nights in a row for me. I have to say I am truly blessed to have such fantastic support and that has 100% made things easier even if I did hate that I needed that kind of help.
As part of the rota between mum and my mother in law, most evenings I’d have an extra pair of hands to get the girls and myself to bed (once Marcus was back at work I would get into bed with Sienna soon after Issey had gone to bed at 7pm). Sienna would start being really grumpy at bedtime so it was impossible to put Issey to bed without her screaming. It usually just involved me going through the normal bedtime routine with Issey whilst my helping hands rocked a crying Sienna downstairs, or, if we were lucky she’d nodded off and the just had to hold her. I wanted to move Sienna into a bedtime routine with Issey but that would have to wait until she was a bit older anyway, let alone with the setback of her reflux. I am so grateful to everyone that helped me with any bedtimes as that was a massive struggle those early weeks. I would have never managed to get myself fed, bottles washed, feeds prepared for the night and even get myself ready for bed without help, as I literally could not put Sienna down without her screaming after 6pm. She still isn’t the best at bedtime, but actually bringing her into the routine helped in the end.
We have come a long way since then and despite having a load of help there are so many things I’ve learnt and tried with the girls when I am on my own; bedtime, nap times, getting in and out, keeping Issey entertained, baby groups, dealing with reflux etc. that may or may not be useful for other mums. I’m going to try and cover as much as possible as I know how keen I was to read what other people did to get by. For those early weeks having my mum and mother in law to help, and Marcus and my doctor’s support was the only way I got through the challenges I hadn’t expected. Having a reflux baby is ridiculously more difficult than I could ever imagine.