SHARING MY EIGHT MONTH MATERNITY LEAVE UPDATE
HEAR WHAT HAS CHANGED THE MOST, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING AND WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT.
A few months ago, I shared how the so-called fourth trimester went for me (if you missed the post, check it out!), but another four months have passed and I am now well into my maternity leave. So so so much has changed over the last few months. When I look back and try to compare the two time periods, I think my confidence has changed the most. Hudson is a little human now (and has moved on from just being "there"). He can communicate what he likes and dislikes and this has made such a big difference in being able to interact and build a relationship with him (and has definitely helped my confidence in being a mama!)
While so much has happened over the last four months that this post could go on forever, I am highlighting below the four things that have been the biggest change in our family.
For those not familiar with this term, sleep training is the process of teaching a baby to self-soothe during the night. This does not mean they will "sleep through the night" per se. Instead, it means when they wake up during the night (which every human does multiple times per night), they will be able to put themselves back to sleep without help from you. This is a really important skill for a baby to build because no one wants to be getting up at 4am just to pop back in the soother.
Sleep training was also by far my biggest worry and becoming the most dreaded part of my day. Before sleep training, I would hold Hudson in my arms and walk around the house until he fell asleep and then carefully transition him to his bassinet or crib. Not only was he was becoming heavy, but the amount of time it was taking him to fall asleep was increasing (some nights I would walk for 45 minutes and get 5,000 steps before the little man would fall asleep!). At this point, I was just waiting for the holidays to be over to start sleep training.
So, the first week of January, we officially started. And it was AMAZING!! I really just think Hudson was ready for it and this helped make the transition so smooth. We used the Baby Sleep Trainer method and tips from Susan Yara (a mommy blogger) and Natalie Willes (a sleep trainer). Check out their great YouTube video for an in-depth Q&A. We also stayed inside for five days straight days - no car rides, no stroller, no grocery shopping. Every single sleep was in the crib with the same routine. This really helped Hudson learn sleep association quickly. I definitely went stir crazy at times, but I would 100% do it again too (it also helped that it was January and freezing cold outside). Yes, there were tears during the process, but not as many as I expected.
Hudson now sleeps from 5:30/6pm until 6/7am with one feeding around midnight. I am so much more rested and now I can stay up past 8pm (which my husband likes too!)
Donating my Milk
Around the same time we started sleep training, I was cut out one of Hudson's early evening feedings (around 10pm). Since I have been so blessed with such a strong milk supply, I decided to go through the process of donating my milk. Breastfeeding was so so so tough for me at the beginning and was incredibly stressfully. So, to be able to take some stress off of a new mama and give another baby the most nutrient-dense food available when they really need it, meant a lot to me.
In Ontario, the Roger Hixon Milk Bank manages all donations for the province, so I reached out and started the process. Since donation milk is in very limited supply, your milk is going through the Sick Kids network to help preemie babies, so the requirements for donations are very stringent (I learned this the hard way). The requirements include a minimum 5L donation, a mandatory health questionnaire, blood testing, restrictions on alcohol and supplements and more stringent sanitation guidelines.
5L is A LOT of breastmilk to donate. If you pump an extra 4oz a day, then it will take about 40 days to build your donation. The thing is, since milk operates on a supply and demand basis, you cannot miss a day of pumping. So, every night around 10pm, I would break out my pump (I even pumped in the car at my sister-in-laws wedding). I had a few false starts on building my donation stockpile since I was not sanitizing my pump parts properly, had alcohol within a 12-hour window of pumping (no more dinner wine, tear) and was taking an unapproved supplement. But, in March I was so proud to pack up my golden magic and send it off to Sick Kids.
If there was one thing I was most looking forward to, it was Hudson starting solids. Breastfeeding had become so much easier, but I still found it incredibly draining and starting real food would mean less nursing (or so I thought...)
After doing lots of research on food introduction for babies, I decided to jump into the baby-led weaning method. This means that the baby chooses when, how much and what to eat. There is practically no intervention or help from mama. So, rather than spoon feeding purees or offering rice cereal, you give the baby a fairly large size piece of food to munch on. Especially when you breastfeed, the baby chooses when and how much to eat, so the baby-led weaning method is a natural extension of that choice. I shared the plan with my mother and mother-in-law early on and while they were both respectful, it was a complete departure from how they fed their children growing up, so it was definitely met with some shock and lots of questions.
Right at six months, we offered Hudson real food (fruits, veggies, meat) and he has never looked back since (see the photos for proof!). Knock on wood, but there has never been a choking incident and he continues to be so incredibly curious about new food around him (he even swiped a little girl's snack at our music class last week). Right now, his favourite foods are steamed mushrooms (so strange eh!), tomato slices and chicken. My only surprise is that the amount of time breastfeeding has not changed really at all over the last few months. He still feeds every three hours, but may drink a little bit less at each feeding. I have been really happy with the transition to food and the baby-led weaning process has made it such a fun and stress-free process.
In the first few months, Hudson pretty much just tagged along and joined my in my routines. I took Hudson grocery shopping, to waxing appointments, folded laundry, emptied the dishwasher and even went to the dentist with almost no issues. Over the last few months, especially as he started moving more and being awake more often during the day, that has all changed.
I have made a conscious effort to do more things that are kid-centred to help Hudson explore and learn. We signed up for an art and music class, go to stroller class twice a week, have taken more walks, spend more time just playing together and have had a few playdates with other kids his age. This means that the laundry does not always get folded and the cleaning the floors is left until I realllllyyy need to vacuum, but Hudson is one happy baby (like 95% of the time), so I like to think he appreciates the attention.
This weekend I am off to a bachelorette party for my very first night away from Hudson. I have quite a bit of anxiety leaving him for the first time (am I leaving enough milk, how will he do with a bottle, will he have good naps...), but I know he is in the best hands with dad. I am also REALLY looking forward to having a baby-break, enjoying the night with friends and hopefully missing Hudson (I have never ever missed him because I have never been away).
I am also starting to think about transitioning back to work and have a call soon with my boss to discuss my next role. We have also found a daycare provider who we feel really comfortable with, and this makes it feel like the next few months are going to fly by.
This spring/summer we, of course, have renovations going on at the house (finally some grass in the backyard) and at the cottage. I am most looking forward to immersing myself in a lot of quality family time and helping Hudson explore the great outdoors before heading back in work in August. More to come!