Last night we had one of those times that new parents dread. Baby Taiwanxifu (aka Angry Bird) was hungry and inconsolable, howling and screaming for hours. And then the noise woke up Taiwanxifu Toddler, whose cries added to the chorus. On and on this went, from 10.00pm to 12.30am, then from 3.00am again for another two hours, and a brief grizzle once more at 6.30am. Happy Father’s Day!
Today is the 8 August. In Chinese this is referred to as ‘ba yue ba hao’, which sounds like father (baba). It is an easy way to remember Father’s Day as it is always on 8 August each year. But perhaps Mr Taiwanxifu doesn’t feel the joy of being a new Dad after the long and difficult night we had.
Baby Taiwanxifu is a big baby, and has an insatiable appetite to match his size. When he is fully fed he is an absolute angel, but when he is hungry (which is often) he turns pink and howls. And screams. In hospital he even cried himself hoarse one night. I felt sorry for the young couple in our shared ward, whose petite and quiet baby daughter usually slept in the nursery except for when she was wheeled out for feeds.
It is times like last night when I think that a stay in a luxury postpartum confinement centre with a 24 hour care nursery for infants might have its benefits. Like being able to hand over the baby to someone so that Mum and Dad can get some much needed rest. And leaving settling the baby to expert nurses clad in surgical gowns, facemasks and caps — who strike me as if they are working in a chemical weapons laboratory rather than a baby nursery. Having one of these resources at hand would certainly save a lot of arguments about how to ‘fix’ the problem of baby crying.
Actually, the problem is simple. Baby gets himself so worked up with crying in hunger that he is too impatient to attach and suck. He wants mother’s milk (or as they say in Taiwan ‘nay nay’) right NOW. I currently have a 50/50 rate of breastfeeding him, although I do believe it is getting a lot better. The rest of the time I pump and feed him expressed milk. We have been trying to use a spoon instead of a bottle, which has been the source of the discontent — a lot of crying over spilt milk, literally.
But in the morning, all was calm. Our lovely maid, Marissa, arrived as did our confinement nanny, Mrs Yang. With their help and advice, I was able to feed him again this morning. And Baby Taiwanxifu was an angel again, gazing upwards at us with his bluey-green eyes and responding warmly to cuddles.
One of the benefits of postpartum confinement (zuo yuezi) is not just having someone on hand to look after new mothers, but also to assist with baby as well. And thankfully for me, Mrs Yang knows what she is doing. I am also fortunate to have the expert support of lactation consultant Dr Cynthia Mao from Pojen General Hospital. I despaired that baby would never be able to latch at all before she calmly assessed the situation and gave me some useful tips and advice to try. Hey presto, baby was eating Mum’s nay nay before too long.
One of the things to adjust to when practising zuo yuezi at home is the relative lack of privacy. Since this is my second child, I am relatively open to breastfeeding in front of other people. However, even I find it a bit strange to have so many people clustered around checking out my breasts (and making comments on their size and shape). During Dr Mao’s visit, at one point I had five adults all standing around staring at me intently watching to see if baby would latch. Then Taiwanxifu Toddler decided to pop by for a sticky-beak as well. Thankfully, Mr Taiwanxifu decided there were a few too many people at this point and shooed half of them out.
If you can get past this fairly hands on approach (which I have), the advice and support is fantastic. Mrs Yang in particular is proving adept at helping me get baby to latch. If I had come home from hospital when my milk was coming in she would have helped me massage my breasts to prevent engorgement as well. And she has looked after enough babies and their mothers to know that breastfeeding can be painful initially, so she understands when not to force the issue.
I will persevere, and I am sure baby Taiwanxifu and I will coordinate our issues before too long. But thanks to Mrs Yang, at least I managed to get a few hours shut-eye in between feeds this morning. And thanks especially to Mr Taiwanxifu, a wonderfully supportive and involved Dad who has changed many more nappies than I have. Happy Father’s Day!