my little Bubba would like to welcome our guest blogger, Lori, with her honest mummy blog about living with a child with Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA). We love Lori’s forthright account, which made us laugh out loud and relate to it at the same time! This is just the introduction to a series of blogs she will be writing, so watch out for the next chapters. Enjoy reading, we certainly did!
Hi, I’m Lori – an Irish-Indian 30-something-year-old mummy to 14 month Arlo, reluctant southeast “Londoner”, a Bollywood enthusiast with a penchant for mixing up idioms (hence the name of this blog), parentheses and a garlic chips obsessive. This is an insight into the trials and tribulations of dealing with extreme sleep deprivation (not just the expected new mummy levels) and my musings on bringing up my gorgeous son. As I have too much to say (which my husband will no doubt agree with) I am going to chronicle our year in chapters (roughly corresponding with babies’ clothes sizes).
My inner Carrie Bradshaw voice is saying “oh ffs not another mummy blog – what a cliché” however if you are a fan of Stephen King read on…
*Disclaimer* – If you are hoping to read this and get tips for your own sleepless child – stop reading now as I have none** and we tried everything.
Chapter 1: “Routine, Routine, Routine” – 0-3 months
Babies crave routine – BULLSH*T!
Chapter 2: “He’s small because you’re small” – 3-6 months
If I hear this one more time, I am going to throw this nutribullet full of baby sh*te all over you…
Chapter 3: “Seeing Ghosts” – 6-9 months
Me to my husband “Ok, really, enough is enough – it’s really time that Arlo sleeps now”
Husband – “Ditto”
Chapter 4: “Losing sleep means losing teeth” 9-12 months
Apparently you lose a tooth per child
Chapter 5: “The Sleep Ninja” – 12 months and upwards
Our Messiah!** (the above isn’t entirely true as we have one big tip – hire her!)
Introduction to my blog
“I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee, won’t my mummy be so proud of me?, I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee – Ouch! It stung me!”
On the 15 th of December 2016 my life as I had known it over the past 31 years was punched in the stomach hard by a rude awakening in the form of my beautiful son Arlo. He arrived in hurricane fashion earlier than expected (3-ish weeks), and despite my husband driving at 140km/hr up the wrong way of a tramline (more about this in Chapter 1) – I was on my own for the delivery. And I was also alone the first time I set eyes on the little chipsy, who was to become the love of my life. From that moment onwards, I experienced Guantanamo levels of sleep deprivation in the form of precisely 401 nights of less than 3hrs sleep a night (broken).
Everyone expects that a new baby will not sleep for long periods at a time; this is one of life’s dirty facts not so well hidden. This is not a blog to give me an outlet to whinge about how tired I was because I had a new baby. This is a blog about navigating the waters of becoming a new mum whilst being completely oblivious to my child’s allergy from birth which was causing his sleeplessness. We got there in the end, so bear with me, like I’ve repeated; I have a lot to say! I soldiered on bleary eyed but optimistic that Arlo would hit the magical weaning stage and then suddenly sleep for chunks longer than 40 mins at very best. I had a lot of help from my husband who worked from home mostly, but as we know breastfeeding means a baby is almost completely reliant on its mother. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is not possible when your baby never sleeps, and the snippets of time when they do, there are a million other things to do, as all mothers know. My health and relationship was visibly suffering. And those closest to me were wondering if I had post natal depression, as my normally positive spirits were dampened despite being in love completely with my son. Being an incredibly self-aware person I knew the signs to look out for, and this was most certainly not the case (despite my appearance not being too far off Worzel Gummidge most days) – I was just plain exhausted, and more so than any new mum I had ever met or spoken to. This bothered me. A lot.
The advice from well-wishers kept pouring in, “have you tried a comforter?”, “have you moved him into his own room yet”, “how about you start cutting out the night feeds” – the advice was coming as fast and thick as his many many nappies. I will refrain from using the obscenities that crossed my mind on a daily basis, as yes; I had tried all of the above and then some. Husband and I battled on with the help of family, but we never felt we ever had any real rest and our bones just hurt. Adding to our woes was the fact that although Arlo fed pretty much every hour, he didn’t seem to be gaining much weight – sliding from 25 th centile to off the charts at his worst. There is again an abundance to write about on this topic alone, so I will save that for my, “He’s small because you’re small” chapter.
Back to my favourite theme of sleep deprivation, ah yes – just to give you the reader an idea of what we were dealing with (as I can see your eyes rolling at my self pity as you read this), this was a typical day in our schedule until January 2018: “Awake” or “Start the day” (cue manic laughter) – 5.30/6am. Feed x 12 times at least, nappy change x 20 times all day long, until cursory “bedtime” at 7pm (rock and roll time!). If we were lucky we’d fit in some playing, but generally I just sang at Arlo, mostly whilst lying comatose on the sofa regaining the initial baby weight I had lost with my daily calorific intake now coming from eating grease.
During the day we thought we were having a very good day if we could get Arlo to nap for 40 mins after rocking, singing, swaddling, hum toying and mobile – playing with him to all hell. Someone once said the love you have for your child increases by 500% whilst they are asleep. In these rare moments, we would hazard a triumphant smile, stick on the kettle, tentatively begin a conversation and sit down to eventually drink the tea and then just like that he would be up again!
From birth we had the same routine – “somewhere over the rainbow” jazz edition no less, massage (with its own massage song coined by mummy – it went like this “massagey massagey” that was it literally), change of clothes/nappy, milk and down – only the down part wouldn’t happen. My husband and I would take turns every 20 mins until about 10pmish to get him down in the cot (or bed depending on what stage we were at) and finally we would get 40 mins rest. Then it all kicked off nightly at 10pm until 6am – with waking every 30-40mins, feeding, crying and not going back down unless any of the above was rinsed and repeated. In essence, the whole household was personifying Lionel Richie’s song by giving All Night Long a whole new meaning.
I eventually co-slept again (as in in my bed, not the Chicco next to me) after the first move to the big boy cot failed miserably at around 4 months. This continued until 13 months with one failed formal sleep training programme and failed breastfeeding wean occurring at around 7 months – both equally traumatic experiences. The wake ups continued and our household was falling apart. I resented every day I spent sitting in pitch black rooms (because the light was keeping him awake?) with white static noise buzzing in my ears, terrified of creaking floorboards and a rustle of a crisp bag. Speaking in barely hushed tones and mostly communicating with my husband in the same house as me on whatsapp was starting to make me miserable. As I was very vocal about our household sleep issues to anyone bored enough to listen (mostly other mums), we finally hit a light bulb moment when two people mentioned milk protein allergy to us (not to be confused with lactose intolerance – which we did confuse it with initially – see “Seeing Ghosts” chapter.) There may actually have been a real underlying reason to this punishing wakefulness in our baby, who had boundless energy during the day despite it all. Silent reflux and CMPA were the eventual diagnosis. As he was such a generally content and happy child, that only seemed to cry when we tried to make him sleep, this had just never occurred to us.
There is an awful lot for me to waffle on about regarding every step along the way and how we have progressed, and not enough time in this intro. Suffice to say, at 14 months old, we now have a son who will nap about 2hrs in the day, and sleep from 7.30pm-ish to 6.30am-ish – with maybe 2 or 3 mini wake ups (going back down within 20 seconds usually). To date, we have even had, dare I say it, a few “sleeping through” nights. This has been the state of play for about a month now, so in a way I am very afraid of jinxing it. This was only a possibility due to our excellent doctor, dietitian and sleep trainer or the “cabal” as I like to call them as they are specialists in CMPA and work very close together.
I am now back at work, having had to postpone my return twice due to extreme lack of sleep (working as a solicitor on 3hrs sleep is probably not unusual for city lawyers but long term I don’t think I could have sustained this). We are now able to exercise again and can sit down together to eat a meal (cooked and not a take away!), and maybe even watch a whole movie without having to run to a waking baby 20 times plus a night. I can finally “say hello to the sun” without my own senses failing miserably, questioning myself for having left the house in the first place, and stuffing my face with KFC.
As the other chapters will explore, getting our baby sleeping cost thousands – we bought every gadget, sleep aid, guide and had two sleep trainers. However, the life quality we are experiencing after meeting the sleep ninja (our nickname for the night nurse that saved us) has gone up exponentially. As my husband likes to say, he would have happily sold our house to get a sleeping baby.