Gemma Fraser takes time out from her hectic schedule of feeding a newborn 24/7 to bring you this guide to the many stages of the night feed...
While motherhood can throw up many a controversial debate (breastfeeding vs formula, disposable vs cloth nappies etc), there's one thing most mums will be able to agree on: night time feeds suck (no pun intended). Being woken up several times every night can really take its toll in those early days, weeks, and months if you're unlucky. And as all mothers will know, it's not quite as simple as getting the baby fed and plonking it back in the Moses basket all in the space of five minutes. Oh no. There are many, many stages and complexities of the night time feed...
You hear the baby cry out. Your body stiffens. You hold your breath so as to not make any sound. You open your eyes to survey the scene around you. Nothing. Phew, it's a false alarm. You start to relax your body, exhale, close your eyes and cuddle into your pillow, hoping you can pick up where you and Tom Hardy left off....
But no. There is another cry. You don't want to believe your baby is waking up for yet another feed . You're sooooo tired. Surely it's just a false alarm. They're maybe having a bad dream (about what their mummy is getting up to with Tom Hardy in the Land of Nod, perhaps....). More crying. Louder crying. They've probably just got wind. Prolonged crying. A poo maybe? Off the scale screaming....FFS.
THE FEED ITSELF
Whether you're just whipping a boob out (now which boob did I use last time...?) or having to drag your sorry ass out of bed to make up a bottle, the feed itself can provide many a challenge in the middle of the night.
Breastfeeding can last an age, with your baby happy suckling away for what seems like an eternity, while it takes every last ounce of willpower to stay awake. And just when you feel those last flutters and start singing "hallelujah" in your head, your baby gets a second wind and re-latches with an impressive vigour.
Once the initial ballache of making up the bottle has been dealt with, night time bottle feeds can be a much quicker option. Get the bottle down your baby's throat as quickly as possible, Bob's your uncle. But wait. They've guzzled too fast and are full of wind so you have to keep them upright for as long as possible to get that wind up. Come on, burp! Burp goddamit! Eventually your baby complies, but just as you're about to burst into a chorus of "Congratulations" on their achievement, you feel something hot and sticky on your shoulder. And in your hair. And as you cautiously look down, you see it's also all over your baby's sleepsuit too. Cue a debate in your head about the moralities of leaving your baby in a wet, sick-covered sleepsuit for the rest of the night...FFS
THE NAPPY CHANGE(S)
With every feed comes a poo, especially in those early days. So you feed. They poo. You change. They're hungry again. You feed again. They poo again. You change again....FFS.
THE NAPPY CHANGE GOES WRONG
You think you've got the night time routine (I am obviously using the word 'routine' as a sick joke) nailed. You've got your method of feeding sorted. You've got a week's supply of nappies to hand. Changing mat. Even spare clothes. You're totally winning at this, what could possibly go wrong? They catch you off guard with a shart, that's what. And they skillfully do it in those nanoseconds between the dirty nappy coming off and the clean one going on which means it goes absolutely everywhere. Including all over your Egyptian cotton bedsheets. WTF?! This is beyond disgusting, what the hell are you going to do? Move house! Burn the mattress! Order a new bed straight away!
Actually, the moving and burning and buying can wait till tomorrow cos you're pretty tired. The least you can do is change the sheets though...yeah, definitely have to do that. Although, if you give it a good wipe down with a baby wipe, you can hardly notice it. Yeah, it's not that bad, it's only milk after all. And it's not as if *YOU* shat the bed, it was your cute little baby, therefore it's actually kinda cute....Yeah, it's totally fine to sleep in poo-stained bed sheets for the night. As you settle down, a little less snuggly this time,you can't help but wonder what you have become....FFS.
THE GREAT 'IT'S YOUR TURN' DEBATE
The bickering with your partner over whose turn it is to get up with the baby is like a rite of passage for new parents. If you're breastfeeding, you inevitably lose every time, however that doesn't give them the right to fall back to sleep and start snoring right beside you, rubbing salt - and vinegar - into the wound. No, your partner should remain awake at all times to keep you company while you're feeding - at least that way you can avoid the inevitable daily fights over who has had least sleep...FFS.