On nursing... (problems, pitfalls, and progress)

So, this post is entirely about breastfeeding.*  Consider yourself warned.  If you are disgusted or uninterested, I completely understand, but while I was on maternity leave and learning to nurse, I turned to all sorts of blogs and websites for guidance and encouragement.  Nursing is hard, but it is a good thing.  If my own personal experience could help one other mother, then the effort taken to write this post is worth it.  This is way more information than I typically would share and I am a little uncomfortable doing so, but alas, here it is.
First, I have a ton of friends who recently had babies.  Every single one of us has made an effort to nurse, and each one of us has found it to be initially incredibly difficult.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  Some succeeded and others switched to formula.  All of our babies are beautiful and thriving, I am so thankful to say.

Why is it so hard if it is so "natural"?  In Breastfeeding Made Simple, the authors opine that it is b/c breastfeeding is done behind closed doors in the USA with very few (if any) witnesses, while in other countries, young girls learn how it is done from an early age because breastfeeding in public is not taboo and is commonplace.  I can testify to the fact that, although my mom had my two youngest siblings when I was 11 and 13, I do not remember her nursing (though she did).  My first experience (that I remember) of seeing someone breastfeed was the same year that C was born, while I was visiting a friend of mine who was also a new mother.  It kind of freaked me out, kind of grossed me out, and totally fascinated me all at the same time.  When C was born, and it was my turn to give nursing a whilr, I was completely lost.

My experience with C: When C was born at 7:40 p.m., the lactation consultant had already gone for the day.  Thank goodness my mama (who nursed 4 children, so she's kind of a pro) was there.  I made sure to nurse within the first hour of her birth because I had heard somewhere that my chances of successfully nursing were increased if I nursed within the first couple of hours.  So there I was, holding this tiny precious bundle in my arms and trying to figure out how in the world I was going to feed her with my chest. I felt like someone had given me a ticking bomb and expected me to deactivate it.  With my boobs.  Yeah - I was clueless.  The nurse on duty assured me that I was doing fine as the little Bean slurped away, but it hurt. BAD.  So very very bad.  For the rest of the night, C ate every 2 hours or so (I honestly can't remember), and every time, my nipples hurt worse and worse.  Not only had I been through 15 hours of labor, major surgery, had a huge cut across my abdomen, and now the boobs were cracked, bleeding, and bruised.  HELLO MOTHERHOOD!  Oh yes - there was an infant, too. :)

That first month with C was terrible.  Due to the epidural and the pain meds for the c-section, it took a full week for my milk to come in.  I had read all about "nipple confusion" so I was adamant that we not give her any bottles for that first couple of days.  Poor thing was so dehydrated, her skin was getting wrinkled and papery.  We tried cup feeding, with little success, and we gave in to using some bottles.  When my milk finally came in, I was using a nipple shield to help protect from further scabbing and blisters, and she wouldn't nurse without it.  Then, when I finally weaned her from the nipple shield, we both got thrush and I got a clogged duct.  By 6 weeks, we had finally gotten the hang of it and C had really chunked up.  She still didn't love to nurse, but she loved to eat, if that makes sense.  Unfortunately, when I went back to work, C immediately preferred bottles over nursing, and it got to a point where the only time I could get her to nurse was in the middle of the night.  Once she stopped wanting to nurse even then, I weaned her.  I was not willing to pump and then feed round the clock, so at 6 months, we made the switch to formula.

My experience with V:  Nursing V has been easier, but it was still incredibly hard at first.  She was born in the morning (with lactation consultants there all day), but I didn't get to nurse her until almost 4 hours after she was born.  Her blood sugar was low when she was born, and they kept her FOREVER.  Ugh - I get mad even now just thinking about how long they kept me from my baby.  With V, my milk came in 2-3 days, so that definitely helped with my nursing anxiety.  Also, I did have an idea about what I was supposed to do, although I still got the scabs and blisters initially.  For a few days, one side was so bad, I pumped on that side and fed V on the other.  I guess my girls are hearty munchers!  I tried a nipple shield, but V wouldn't have it.  She also didn't like a pacifier at first, so there were days where the only way she would go to sleep would be nursing.  I distinctly remember texting my sister in law about how I had spent the last 2.5 hours laying on my side, while V slept and nursed.  V was definitely a comfort nurser - She has infant reflux, and I think nursing (at least temporarily) soothed her throat, so she wanted to eat all the time.  In the evening, she would eat every hour.  The Knight would give V one bottle at night, so that I could sit on the couch for an hour, watch TV or talk, and not have a child attached to my chest.  She still likes to nurse a lot now, but thankfully, her feedings stretch to about 3 hours now.  THANK GOODNESS I can have my chest back, at least part of the time.  :)

V liked to nurse so much, I didn't have much of a freezer stash built up when I went back to work.  That is probably my biggest regret with V - I don't have much of a supply in the freezer, so when I'm done nursing, she'll also be done getting breastmilk.  Some of my friends who have an enormous supply have managed to feed their kids for another 3-6 months with frozen milk.  That would be wonderful, but I was not so lucky. 

I really feel like nursing is a journey, with the destination being a healthy, well-fed little kid.  The internet has some great resources, but it can also make you feel pretty insecure.  With C, I was super crazy about making sure she was eating enough, and worried about all those things that the Le Leche site talks about - nipple confusion, milk production, overactive letdown...if it is an issue, I probably was convinced that we were dealing with that or doing it wrong.  I was convinced the formula equaled poison, and no way would I poison my baby.  Once C transitioned to formula, I realized that it wasn't so bad, she was still thriving, and it was kind of awesome that the Knight could feed her too.  I think that him feeding her tremendously helped them bond.

With V, I promised myself that I would not be crazy, and that if nursing didn't work, I would not get all sad about having to use formula.  So far, nursing has worked and is going pretty well, but I am still crazy.  Just about other things. :)

Back to Work:  First off, this website is immensely helpful for all kinds of advice, tips, and tricks: http://www.workandpump.com/
I've been back to work for a month and a half now.  I rented a hospital pump because I read that they were better than the ones you can get in the store.  I don't know if that is true, but it does seem to work well, and is quiet!  A friend of mine gave me her pump, and I replaced all the tubing, and keep that one at home.  It is nice that I don't have to lug home Bessie (yes, I named my pump after a cow), and still have a pump at home in case I don't pump enough during the day or V sleeps through a meal.  Here is my two cents on pumping at work:

1. Lucky Lock:  I asked my firm to put a lock on my door, rather than designating a "lactation room." I understand that is a luxury many don't have, and I am thankful.  It is probably why I am even willing to do it...since it really doesn't interrupt my day that much.  The best part about that is that I can just keep working while pumping. My pump is so quiet, you can't hear it even when I'm on the phone. 

2. Hands-Free: There are alot of hands-free bras out there.  Some are pretty expensive.  Guess what? You don't need them.  If you have four rubberbands, you are set.  Go here for how-to: http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/pumping/hands-free-pumping/.
3. Bottle-watching:  It is easy to get stressed about how much milk you are or are not pumping.  C ate 4 ounces a meal, and V eats more like 5-6.  Most days, with V, I have about 16 oz pumped. With C, I pumped around 12-14 oz.  My body made/is making just enough for each.  While pumping, I prefer to just keep working and not worry about the quantity.  If I watch and worry, I think I pump less.  If you are the curious type, I feed V one last time at 7:30 a.m., I typically pump about 8 oz in the morning (around 10 a.m.), around 5-6 at lunch (1 p.m.), and then around 3-4 (3:30 p.m.) in the afternoon.  I pick the girls up around 5:30/6, and feed V when I get home, and one more time before bed (7-730ish).  She usually eats at 1:30 a.m., then again around 4:30 - 5:30, and then again at 7:30 a.m. and we're off to work again.  I don't use the fancy freezer bags anymore for my daily pumping. I just send the bottles I pumped the day before with V the next day.  Less work, and you don't have the thawing/refrigerating issue that I sometimes worried about when I used the freezer bags.

4. Work productivity:  Although pumping does take time, I don't think the set-up and clean-up is that much of a hindrance to my productivity.  In some ways, pumping makes me more efficient, because I know I have to bill the same number of hours, no matter what, so I focus better.  I figure that the amount of time it takes to set up and clean up 3 times a day is equivalent to 3 coffee breaks or 1.5 smoke breaks.  I keep those pacifier wipes in my desk, and quickly wipe down the plastic horns after each pumping.  I keep a little lunchbag cooler with ice packs in my desk, so there are no long trips to the kitchen for storing or cleaning.  Each night, I take everything home, put the pumped bottles in the fridge for V the next day, wash the horns, wipe out the inside of the lunch bag, refreeze the ice packs, and pack up for the next day. So far, V still loves to nurse, so I'll stick with it as long as she does. :)
Thoughts on diet and exercise: With C, I trained for walking a 1/2 marathon.  I started training when she was 6 weeks, and she was 4 months by the time the 1/2 rolled around.  With V, I started walking at 4 weeks, was walking about an hour every other day by 6 weeks, and stopped exercising when I got back to work (just too busy!).  I have never noticed a drop in my milk production.  In fact, I think it is better when I'm working out.  Maybe because I'm happier and I feel better about myself?  I have other friends who say the opposite.  I don't really think it makes a difference.  I do think cutting your calories affects your milk, so if you are dieting, be careful and maybe talking to a dietician schooled in breastfeeding would be good.  As long as you are eating enought and drinking enough liquid (to satisfy thirst), I think your body knows what to do. 

The best and easiest nursing position: Do you nurse lying down?  If not, I highly recommend it.  Here are two websites that are very helpful in getting the positioning right: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/breastfeeding/rightstart-techniques/best-breastfeeding-positions and http://www.mother-2-mother.com/tut-layingdown.htm.
I think it is the number 1 reason why I didn't feel so sleep deprived with V early on.  Holding a baby, even a tiny one, is hard work on your shoulders and back.  You have to hold their floppy heads, sit just so, and wrangle those scrawny arms and legs all why trying to keep that demanding little snapping turtle focused on the right spot.  When V was first born, I liked to swaddle V, lay her on her side facing me, and lay on my side facing her, with my head on a pillow.  I usually put a pillow behind her to prop her up and a pillow behind me for the same reason.  I can snooze while she eats, and then flip her to the other side and continue.  She's comfy and I'm comfy.  My neck and shoulders don't hurt, plus I can't imagine that my body minds taking a load off every few hours.  Also, having a free hand to stroke her sweet little cheek is kind of nice too.  I don't nurse lying down all the time, but it is my favorite way to nurse. 

In conclusion...If I would give anyone trying to nurse some advice, it would be to trust your body.  It knows what to do, even when we don't. Also, try to find some friends to talk to about it.  If your spouse is supportive, he'll probably talk with you too.  The Knight is way more schooled on all the ins and outs of breastfeeding than I ever thought he would be.  If I was a nursing rockstar, he would be my roadie. :) 

If you are really hating nursing, or it isn't going so well, trust your instincts. My precious sister in law pumped for months because her babies just couldn't get the hang of nursing.  God bless her for her efforts - I simply can't imagine the time and effort that required.  If it hadn't worked out for me, I might have tried that, but also might have switched to forumla right away.  And that would have been okay, too.  If you really think that your baby isn't getting enough (and that is validated by no weight gain/ no dirty diapers) or you hate nursing so much it makes you cry all the time, then try something else.  We all want to give our kids the best possible start, but I don't think that feeding your baby formula is the equivalent of feeding them junk food. It may not be the "perfect food," but it is still pretty good. Most days, we can't be the perfect mom - pretty good is good enough, in my very humble opinion.  Also, no one knows you and your kid(s) like you, so to each her own. 
Okay, so that is my two cents on the whole breastfeeding thing.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at curtsies (at) gmail (dot) com.  If you are offended or grossed out by this post, I apologize, but I did warn you at the beginning, so... your fault. :)

Nipples and neuroses,
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* I am not a medical provider.  I have no medical training, and am not a licensed lactation consultant.  I am writing solely from personal experience, and nothing I say is intended to be used as medical advice.  Just sharing personal anecdotes and anec-don'ts from one mom to another. :)

A little whine to go with my cheese...

Time for an honest, down and dirty, grouchy post.  I am trying to be thankful for my life.  I have so many blessings - family, health, jobs, friends, but sometimes, the little irritating things in life seem to drown out the beautiful, lovely parts.  I know that there are perfectly good explanations for all of my gripes that I am about to put out here, but I don't want to think about being reasonable, or patient, or gracious.  I just need to vent.

First off, since going back to work - my house has been a total wreck.  I can't stay on top of the laundry, our house is always covered in a fine white film known as Henry's hair, Betty seems to prefer peeing on the carpet, there are a gazillion toys all over our house, the dishes seem to sit in our sink for days, and our flower beds are more like weed beds with a smidgeon of flowers.  I try not to let it bother me, but I am one of those people that can't really rest and enjoy if things aren't just "so."  We already have someone come clean once every two weeks, but I'm thinking that isn't enough anymore.  Our family has doubled since we started using a maid, so maybe in all fairness, it is time for the cleaning to be doubled up too.  I met with a lady (i.e., an angel) this weekend who is going to come to our house to fold, iron, and put away our laundry and straighten up our house on the weeks that the maid doesn't come, so hopefully that will help.  I just feel like our house will never be tidy again.  I even skipped church this weekend, did laundry ALL day, and still went to bed with more laundry to put away/hang/iron.  SO FREAKING FRUSTRATING!!!  Also, did I mention that our dishwasher has died?  And our bathroom is STILL not done?  Yeah - that's not helping.

(pay no attention to the PILES of laundry behind this little architect)

Secondly, on the weekends, the Knight works from 5:30 a.m. to around 2:30 p.m. Then he comes home, crashes, needs to work out, or mows the lawn. That means I am by myself with both girls all weekend. I understand that stay-at-home moms do this every day, and I must say, I don't know how they do it. I think they keep those kids busy, busy, busy, and then hurry to do the housework while those babies are sleeping. The problem is that all my friends with kids have husbands who are not working on the weekend, so there really isn't anyone that I can meet up with for playdates or trips to the zoo on the weekends. Everyone is having their "family time" when me and girls are raring to go play. I try to take them places by myself, but V is still so little and C is still pretty clingy that it is difficult to do much of anything outside of our backyard. Since I am working full-time, I have that built-in working mom guilt of missing those little moments that only their daycare providers get to experience every day. When I am home with my girls, those hours are precious. I want to spend those moments with them, not just around them. I want to color with sidewalk chalk on the patio with Caroline, not fold laundry while she colors outside. I want to snuggle with V, not let her lay on her activity mat while I try to tidy up the house. I understand that is not entirely realistic, and my complaints are probably familiar to every other mom, but still - it is hard. All of it.

 (a precious and rare family trip to Jones Orchard for strawberry picking!)

Third, the Knight and I are just so tired. And pretty depressed. And there is no way for me to get "me" time anymore. I'm nursing V, and she's still eating 1-2x a night. C has started waking up at the crack of dawn, and isn't quite old enough yet to be entertained for a meaningful amount of time by the TV. Also, she doesn't like to snuggle in bed much, so guess who is also waking up at the crack of dawn? Me, the Knight, and V. Then, we all trudge around the house harumphing and grouchy because no one is getting enough sleep. At night, when the babies are fed, bathed, and finally (and so blessedly) asleep, we just sit on our laundry-piled couch...numb, silent, a little lost, but thankful to have each other. We have both had rocky times in the past, but never at the same time. The one thing that I am thankful for is that we are talking about it...with each other...and that helps keep us both accountable.

With the Knight's schedule being the complete opposite of mine, there is just hardly any time for me to do something without babies. And babysitters are SO expensive, that I hate to use one for something unimportant, like running to Pier 1 or catching a movie with a friend. I know that this phase will pass all too soon, and I will one day look at my hormonal adolescent daughters and wonder where those sweet bitty babies went, but right now, it is so hard for me to stay positive. Sometimes, I just want to leave it all behind, drive to the nearest hotel and sleep for weeks. Sometimes, when I pull in our driveway - I think about the dirty house, the toys, the barking dogs, the tantrums...I just want to pull right back out and go somewhere else. Anywhere else. 
 (they are so much alike in so many ways - demeanor, eating and sleeping preferences, and especially appearances!  C is on the left at 5 months.  V is on the right at 3)

 (picnic on the patio - yes, it was a pretty day, but mostly I could not stand the face our dirty kitchen.)

Fourth, apparently I am just a terrible dieter. I have been counting my calories pretty well for the past month or two. Since going back to work, I have hardly worked out at all, so I figured calorie counting would be a good way to try to lose that baby weight. While I have lost the baby weight, I was overweight before I got pregnant with C. Also, how is it possible that my arms actually fatter now than when I preggers with V??? I really need to lose about 10-15 more lbs to get to a size that I am happy with, and fit into the clothes that I really love. I currently weigh 30 more pounds than I did in high school, and about 15 more than law school. Cripes. Anyway, the calorie counting was going well, but then all of a sudden my weight loss just stopped. I am trying to maintain the balance between keeping up my milk supply and not overeating, but sometimes it is just hard. When I watch my calories like a hawk, what I pump at work drops significantly. When I let myself go a little bit, my milk supply ramps back up and the pounds happily come back too. Seriously, I think that pounds jump on me like fleas on a dog. I am going to have to wean V at 6 months, so maybe things will improve then, but the Knight and I are going on a cruise when V is 7 months, so I would really like to look presentable in a bathing suit by that time.  One can dream, right?

Finally (and most importantly), my sister's battle with drugs and rebellion have taken another turn...right now for the worse. She has been in and out of rehab and recently made it clear to everyone that she would rather live in a homeless shelter than live sober at my parents' house. Writing those words is surreal - homeless shelter, drugs, rehab? Never were those words supposed to be a part of my family's life. She doesn't have a phone, but called my parents this weekend to check-in, and she seems to be floating from shelter to friend's house nightly. She has no job, no money...I just shiver with fear when I think about the kind of choices she is making and the consequences that have already occurred and will continue to follow. I really fear for her life. My heart aches for my parents. They have so many emotions when dealing with her - guilt, anger, frustration, profound sadness, fear. I look into C's big blue trusting eyes and I wonder to myself - "how can I keep her from getting into a similar mess?" The thing is...I don't think that I can. I can do my best to give my daughters a firm foundation, but she and V will ultimately be the decision makers when it comes to their paths. I think my parents did a good, no, great job. I hope I can be 1/2 the parent that they have been to my siblings and me. Why one child seems so damaged and the other three aren't is so puzzling. If you are the praying type, I'll hope you will pray for her, for my family, and for the AFS household.

How am I coping with these problems, big and small?  Prayers, precious snuggles with my babies, cookies, wine, and retail therapy.  Mostly the retail therapy.  Then prayers and snuggles.  Cookies and wine aren't quite as prevalent since I am calorie-counting, but they still make an appearance from time to time. :)

Doughnuts and debit cards,
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Vivienne is 3 months!

I cannot believe how time flies.  3 months ago, I was nervous about having another c-section, having another newborn, having 2 under 2 and in diapers, being a mom of 2 kids, just all of it. 

Now, she's here, 3 months old, and I can't imagine life without little miss V. She is wonderful - smiling all the time, gooing and laughing, and the sweetest little nurser. I am smitten. Really, really smitten.

I am back at work, and at the end of the day...I can't wait to rush home, and hold that little chubby angel.

A few things about Vivi at 3 months - starting to really laugh, sleeps from 7:30 at night until 7:30 in the morning with only a couple of feedings in between, loves her paci and "manky", still has acid reflux and spits up all the time but no more crying in pain (yay!), thinks her sister is fantastic and has the smiles to show for it, wears 6 month clothes (sometimes 9 mos!), loves nursing and melts my heart every time she looks up at me, breaks suction and just smiles and goos.

 She is perfect.

sweet sweet babies,
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