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Life with a Windy Baby Nine Months On...

Our wee man is nine months old…where on earth did those months go! With baby number two, I’ve made such a conscious effort to enjoy many more mindful moments because children just grow much too fast! I look at Isabella and can’t believe that not so long ago she was a young baby herself and now a beautiful wee girl is before us. It’s truly magical watching children grow and being part of a world seen through their eyes. It really is one of my favourite things about parenthood.

I’ve spoken quite honestly about our wee journey with Louie who has completely blindsided us with his sleeping patterns, or lack thereof, especially overnight. The odd thing is, he is the happiest most contented wee man during the day, but nights, my goodness, are a different story! Many will take one look at our healthy, bonnie boy and cannot fathom that he does not sleep that well or that I’m up with him for hours on end. But I promise you it is true and until I'd experienced what it is like to have an uncomfortable sleepless baby with wind and reflux, I had no idea what other parents went through or are going through. So if you have been there or are going through it, then this is for you. You are not alone and I’ve found simply writing about it, highly therapueatic! I think sharing truths and experiences, especially when it comes to children very helpful. This is of course, when it is done without judgement or shame and when we allow others to share their experiences while also allowing readers to use what resonates with them and works in with their parenting and family values. A key point about this blog post is that it’s not written to evoke pity but rather to share my experience and thoughts in the hope it may help others while also being a  reminder that not everything is perfect all the time. But that you can still achieve small wonderful things if you remain positive and find a system that works for you and your family. And above all, that you will get through it! My husband and I often joke about the stories we will have to tell Louie around the dinner table in a few years’ time. Like that night he keep us awake all night or that morning, I took him for a drive at 4.40am in the car just to get a little rest, only for him to wake again as soon as I drove into the garage! And yes, we've even brought the pram inside at 3am to try that too!

The short of it is…

The first three weeks of Louie’s life, like many newborns were a blissful melody of sleeping and feeding. However, from about three or four weeks of age he developed terrible colic/reflux and would refuse to sleep on his back, waking up screaming every 40-45minutes both day and night with either wind or to bring up milk. To say it was horrendous was an understatement. Unlike his sister, feeding more frequently overnight to help him back to sleep didn’t work and in fact, made his wind worse! Often the only thing that worked and that allowed me rest at the same time was to co-sleep with Louie slightly elevated on my shoulder tucked up safely while I slept on my back with my baby boy beside me. This went on for months.  My husband moved to the couch because at the same time our house was being renovated and so there was nowhere else to sleep other than in bed with either child! When I look back at it now, I have no idea how we did it. I remember going to bed in those early months often at 6.30pm just to get an hour of unbroken sleep before the night would begin. Before I’d be standing on my feet for hours on end while rocking a baby over my right shoulder singing ‘You Are my Sunshine’ as I felt Louie bring up wind and then let sleep peacefully occur before carefully propping up a pillow or transferring him to my shoulder once laying down beside him to snatch a few hours of sleep. If I transferred Louie to his bassinet or cot once asleep on my shoulder, I would most often only get 30-45 minutes before the whole process started again. So I took the other non-approved approach of co-sleeping or sleeping sitting up with Louie on my chest. If that didn’t work, he’d go to my husband’s chest on the couch while I rested for a few hours before he woke for a feed.  Throughout these early months, I often longed for precious time with Isabella, because time alone with her was few and far between while I tended to Louie so frequently. However, this stage passed rapidly as the bond between them grew quickly and strongly and now I can’t imagine life without two babies in it. Isabella is an empathetic wee soul, not only from her time in Wellington hospital with mum but also from helping me with Louie. Their love for each other is simply infectious.

I can’t remember the exact point in time, but I knew something had to change because the current situation of one or two hours of broken sleep a night wasn’t sustainable for me or my family. Louie seemed to be doing just fine, especially during the day because he’d more than make up for a sleepless night by snoozing comfortably in a front pack for hours on end. And to be honest, I'd didn't mind because I knew he needed it.  However, while I adore wearing a baby, sleeping or awake, it didn’t offer me any chance to rest because I’d have a heavy wee body attached to me almost 24/7. However, now that he is almost too big and alert to wear sleeping in a front pack, I’m so grateful for all of those hours I had with him sleeping there. Again another reminder that babies grow much too fast and to remember the bigger picture after a sleepless night. I wore Isabella until she was 14 months but she was a lot more mobile and definitely not as heavy. Louie is like wearing a 10kg plus sinker!

The first thing that changed was I moved Louie to sleeping on his tummy and it was game changing. Please note, I’m NOT recommending this for all windy babies, it is simply what worked for us. He then slept for two to three hours at a time between feeds overnight rather than waking every hour or more. But, I knew this wasn’t the only solution to helping his wind and reflux. I’ve ended up changing a number of things that have all together helped and thankfully I can see light at the end of the tunnel as if things are getting better…finally. Before we carry on, I’ll mention here that I’ve been told many times that I simply need to show some ‘tough love’ and that teaching Louie to drift off to sleep on his own will mean he’ll sleep through the night or resettle on his own. However, I’m a firm believer in parenting in a way that feels natural to you and when you have a baby with wind or reflux, leaving them to cry it out doesn’t seem fair because often they are crying out in pain. More times than not, I’d pick up Louie to soothe him and he’d bring up wind or milk before settling calmly and going back to sleep. Again, this is just what we chose to do and every family is different.

The below is a summary of the main changes we made to help settle Louie’s wind and reflex. It’s by no means comprehensive or endorsed, just simply what I found helpful.

  • Spacing breastfeeds to every three to four hours. This was much easier to do during the day than at night. Prior to this I look back now and understand I was definitely over feeding him. Something I didn’t think was possible with a breastfed baby! But when feeding at this frequency worked overnight, especially every four hours. his wind was much less and Louie was able to settle and stay asleep for much longer. However, it didn’t always work because on those long nights, feeding was basically the only time I’d get to sit down and rest and so during unsettled nights, feeding was and is so appealing. Sometimes even though Louie had not long fed, I’d feed him again to hear him gulp in great delight as if starving. But overtime, I’ve come to understand his cues, whether the grizzle is due to wind or hunger. It definitely helps to tune out everything else and learn to understand your baby. It’s for this very reason that I have a no phone rule overnight. While also allowing me downtime before bed to help with a restorative sleep (when I do get the chance!), I’ve found focusing on Louie and what’s happening a huge part of recognising and understanding his behaviour and wind cues. I also had a no phone rule overnight with Isabella too and it was lovely especially with her because she was such a dreamy feeder.  Oh the hindsight. See was a breeze! 

  • I sought advice from Baby Cues, specifically about a winding technique that supports babies to bring up wind between feeds. This is something that helped Louie immensely and once you recognise and act on a wind cue, the love and bond you feel is quite simply amazing.

  • Using a pacifier. The one recommended to me was the NUK classic that has a specifically shaped teat. Louie instantly took to it and it became a lifesaver when Louie woke with wind and wanted to suckle to sooth back to sleep but when he wasn’t due a feed. It meant he had the comfort of sucking without the unnecessary milk which would later in the night, result in excess wind! I would often place him in a breastfeeding position but pop in his pacifier instead of feeding him which would help get him back to sleep. We now have three of these pacifiers! I use it as a sleep association; he has this along with an elephant cuddly and his sleep sack to signify that it’s sleep time.

  • In the earlier months, the changes I made to my diet made a significant difference to Louie’s wind. I’ve found it not so important now that he’s nine months old and such a great little eater but I still do make conscious decisions about the food that I eat with Louie’s wind in mind. The major changes I made were:

  • Eliminating dairy – replacing milk with coconut milk, coconut cream and butter with olive oil.

  • I also reduced coffee to one per day and reduced chocolate to the equivalent of about two to four squares a day.

  • I removed bubbly water and kombucha along with sauerkraut and excess green vegetables and windy vegetables such as cabbage, onion and garlic, instead living off carrots, lettuce, kumara and potatoes as my vegetables of choice for many months!  

I’m much less committed to all of these changes now because like I mentioned above, we are definitely coming out the other side now that he’s older and eating solids so well along with taking water from a sippy cup. However, it’s not to say that we still don’t have trouble with wind overnight and have broken sleep! A good night of sleep at our house is up three or four times overnight but when he goes straight back to sleep each time in his cot. 

  • Front pack sleeping. I have worn Louie for hours. I mean hours, especially in the first six months! The good thing is we both enjoyed loads of cuddles and I was able to enjoy long walks while Louie was sleeping soundly. I cannot emphasise enough the value of a front pack and wearing your young baby, especially when you have another child to look after and play with. Isabella and I have had some beautiful adventures while Louie was asleep in the front pack. However, as I mentioned earlier, he is now almost too heavy to wear and so I use the pram instead when a bed nap isn’t going to plan, when I can’t bring up his wind but he is tired and needs a nap.  Or if I feel like a walk and some fresh air. The great thing about the pram is that I can walk him to sleep and then pop it on the deck safely while Isabella and I play or bake and it gives my arms a rest too, especially if the night has been a long one.

  • I will add here that Louie has been prescribed Omeprazole for his reflux and it has been such a big help. He’s only been on it for about three weeks and while I’m a fan of not giving medication unnecessarily it has quite literally been game changing. His reflux was causing inflammation of his gut and leading to slightly reduced iron levels so we are in the process now of monitoring his iron and hoping the reduced reflux will ensure his iron levels improve. At the same time, I’m cooking and providing loads of iron-rich wholesome meals and snacks which Louie has daily. Foods like pate, venison, lamb and hummus alongside colourful vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables to aid absorption.  

  • Last but not least, a supportive husband or partner who has your back and is giving of his time and energy to not only support you but also the running of the home is paramount. I’ve come out from putting Louie down (which some evenings can take a while!) many a night to the dishes all done, lounged cleaned and a red wine at the ready. So very lucky.

But above all, the thing that has kept me going the most is the children themselves. Resilient and happy little humans, just a small amount of time playing with them in the morning is often all I need to forget about the night, along with my morning espresso of course!

For many of you in the trenches with a windy/spilly baby, I wish you well. All I can say is keep going, stay positive, make changes that work for you, be a collective family unit, find things to refill your cup and remember the bigger picture…these days will not last forever and you are creating a family to love and support each other for the rest of your days and that is something we should be forever grateful for.

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