Category Archives: Breastfeeding

A Farewell to Nursies

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This photo might cause a letdown. Proceed with caution.

The time has come, and I am no longer a nursing mother. Just like that.

My breasts have been in full production mode for more than three years, and though I had never nursed a child for my previous 36 years of life, this had become such a deep part of my identity that I almost feel like I’ve lost a bit of myself.

But I’ve also gained. No longer obligated to wear a nursing bra, I might be able to have one that actually fits me now. (No one ever talks about this, but apparently nursing bra designers think that only women with large ta-tas breast feed. I am here to advocate for all of the Bs out there, we need bras too! I digress…)

Dresses and shirts that promise no easy access will now be worn again!

My body is my own again, I can eat and drink what I choose, and apply topical creams at will!

So I guess as with all things in motherhood, we trade one phase for another, full of ambivalence. While every step toward independence brings some degree of relief, it also forces us to realize that our children need us just a little less.

This is as painful as it is glorious.

No one ever said that motherhood wasn’t heartbreak and joy in equal measure, but this, this one is difficult. It’s final. The last two times I nursed my little Lila Jane, I was reminded WHY I WANTED TO WEAN.* In all caps.

In December, Sugarpie weaned completely (Yes, she was almost three). Two months ago, I cut Little Sugar’s sessions back to mid morning and early evening. Two times a day, that was it. Surprisingly quickly, she would go all day and not ask for it. I went with it, but wondered if I was really ready for this. A missed session turned into a missed day, then a few, then a week. Here we are.

But I didn’t want to let go, even though it had become unbearable in the most compelling way. I thought, the last time should bring that feeling of peace, love and oxytocin. But it didn’t. My body was done, even if my girl wasn’t. That much had been proven. So I tuned out the irritation, looked into her beautiful big eyes one last time and knew that this was it.

Now, onward we go. I am no longer a nursing mother. I am no longer the mother of a baby. Before I know it, I will no longer be the mother of toddlers, I will be the mother of school-age children, then teenagers, and so on.

But I am so lucky, because I still get to be their mother.

So to my no-longer-nurslings Georgia and Lila: let’s celebrate this new phase. I have grown you in my body, fed you from my body.

We will always be connected in a way that is profound beyond comprehension and because of you, it is lovely beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

 

*Nursing agitation, it’s a thing. Read about it here.

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38 weeks Pregnant and Sugarpie is working a shiny new Toddlertude

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The space in that belly has quickly become prime real estate.

Bullet pointing, again:

*We are 2 cm dilated and 60% effaced. (I guess pregnancy is the only time in which it is acceptable to speak so openly about one’s cervix, no?)

*Baby has lowered down into my pelvis (at about -2), which means she is enjoying rolling her little head around on my bladder. It also means that my discomfort has ratcheted up a bit. Lower back pain, mid-back fatigue, feeling like my hips are unhinged, etc…I guess this is good because I would have been happy up to this point being pregnant much longer.

* Speaking of unhinged, Sugarpie is reveling in her show of 18 month old will. Her new and (not-so) improved toddlertude is on full display.

*HELLO pubic bone pain and general pelvic discomfort, ugh. It’s getting worse and I can barely walk. Putting my pants on is enough to make me want an epidural. Up to last week I could keep myself from waddling with some concentration. That is over.

*Sugarpie has been going through something (see above), so I’ve been relaxing my we-only-nurse-at-bedtime rule. It always works, I’m so glad that I decided to continue rather than weaning. It was the right decision for us. The upside (at this point in pregnancy) is that for the last week it has induced some pretty intense Braxton-Hicks contractions. Any bit of dilation I can achieve before actual labor begins is welcome!

*I am so over trying not to surpass my first pregnancy weight gain. In celebration, I have put on a good pound per week since 36 weeks…since I can’t eat very much, I am assuming that Baby Girl #2 is getting nice and fat!

*We are paying out-of-pocket for maternity care (will post on this in the future) because you can’t buy an individual plan with maternity coverage in Texas. This will change in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act will require insurance to provide coverage. Doesn’t help us now, but hopefully others like us will benefit! So we will try to forgo the epidural which will to cost nearly $3000. Yes, I meant to put 3 zeros. Can you believe that?! Can you just believe it?

*Sugarpie came 9 days early, so I am assuming this one might not want to wait either. We’ll see! I am trying not to be in a hurry.

Please read this article in the New York Times about the cost of having a baby in America. Very interesting stuff and it paints a great picture of what we’re dealing with.

Any day now!

35 Weeks Pregnant: “Still” Breastfeeding, Getting Close, Advice Welcome

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Well here we go again, TMI Tuesday.

Bullet point blogging:

*As of last week, I am officially already at the weight I was when Georgia was born. Oops!

*I thought I had life-threatening tumors in my thighs, but it turns out they are just varicose veins that you can’t see yet. Yay.

*Sugarpie will be 18 months old tomorrow, and yes I am “still” breastfeeding.

*Baby Girl #2 is a little over 5 pounds right now. This is smallish, but not worrisome.

*I have a few of glasses of wine a week. (No more than one in a day, people) Yes, it IS ok.

*Baby Girl #2 is stubbornly in a breech position one minute and transverse in the next. She flip-flops A LOT. I have been doing all kinds of weird things to get her to turn. (Will elaborate later) Mamma don’t want no c-section!

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Can you make out the sweet baby face? She’s sticking her tongue out.

*UPDATE: At our ultrasound yesterday, she had turned head-down and seems to be there still today! What worked? All of that hanging upside down from the couch?

*I am almost a centimeter dilated. Nice to arrive at the party prepared, no?

*I am now taking advice on how to keep a 19 month-old from wanting to banish her newborn sister from her kingdom.

Baby Jet Lag is No Joke and Sugarpie’s First Meal in Italy

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Mmmmozzarella. She could eat her meager weight in it.

Having had a grand total of 4 hours of sleep (3 1/4 if I’m being honest) in the first 24 hours of our travels, one would think that a little stinker might sleep like a rock the first night in Italy. One would be very mistaken.

The agriturismo provided us with a nice play yard for Sugarpie to sleep in. But since we were in a hotel and share walls with others, we couldn’t quite get her to sleep in it. This would have required about 10 minutes of crying before getting comfy and finding her sleep groove, which I just couldn’t subject our neighbors to!

So at 8 pm, she snuggled in bed with us nursing, and we all fell asleep exhausted after the difficult journey. At 10:30, Sugarpie woke up and was ready for action. After 4 and a half hours of walking her outside, nursing her in bed, walking her outside, nursing her in bed (repeat repeat repeat), she finally gave in. We slept until 9 am. Whew! Hubs and I will likely never forget that night!

I was a little bit of a hostage to her because we had to do everything possible to keep her from crying and babbling loudly. But we survived.

Naps next day were wonky but she went to bed around 9 pm downstairs in the car seat next to us while we had dinner. She woke up for about an hour and slept again until 9 am.

Fast forward to Friday (in Tuscany now), and we have finally reached some semblance of a normal schedule. She slept all night, albeit late to bed, but she slept in the crib that they provided us. I’m so proud!

I read somewhere that babies get their circadian rhythms on track more quickly than adults. That is a lie, at least for Sugarpie. I think we adjusted before she did.

Anyway, that’s the nitty gritty.

Why such a dainty bite?! I had no idea. This is why I don’t like to post pics of myself.

The good news is that her first meal in Italy was mozzarella di bufala. And this is her having her second…

Is It Worth It? Lactation Cookies

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So I’ll skip to the moral here. Yes they are worth it.

I’ve eaten my weight in Milkmakers brand. I found them at my favorite nursing store, Special Addition right here in Austin.

They have 3 ingredients (galactagogues) that are believed to increase milk production. These are brewer’s yeast, flax seeds, and oatmeal. They are also chock full of yumminess. They have chocolate chips. What more does a hormonal, new mommy need besides chocolate chip cookies? (Sleep would probably be #1, but you can’t buy that.)

Here’s a great link to some info about these 3 ingredients. There are also two recipes for cookies.

I ate two of them a day in my 3 week-long campaign to increase my supply when Georgia was a newborn. I was also taking fenugreek and pumping every two hours. My supply increased but I cannot say which factor helped–I imagine that they all contributed.

Whether or not they really work, they are really good, and full of healthful ingredients for the whole family.

Pros:

*Did I mention yummy?

*Great justification for eating chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

*They might actually work.

*No crap ingredients like hydrogenated oils and such (You don’t want that in your breast milk!)

Con:

*VERY expensive! At around $20 for a bag of 10 cookies, they are an extravagant treat, but I don’t know many moms with a newborn who can muster the wherewithal to make them at home.

Ok, on this last point…I definitely couldn’t be bothered to research a good recipe and bake lactation cookies myself whilst in the swirling hormonal hell of postpartum life, so these cookies were a comfort. Now though, we are getting ready to travel to Italy and I am worried that the shift in nursing times might throw my supply off kilter.

I also want to bump it up a notch in case we can’t get enough solids meals in during the trip over.

Thinking that I had no excuse NOT to make them myself (since Sugarpie only needs to be held 92.5% of the time now), I went a-researchin’.

I found some recipes and settled on this one from The Leaky Boob. (LOVE this blog! She has moved on from the link posted, but her current blog is here. Please check it out, in any case.) In the comment section, the recipe author mentioned that she subtracted 1/4 cup of each sugar and doubled the amount of flax and brewer’s yeast. I did the same and also used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour. I’m sure you could use all whole wheat flour, but I wasn’t sure how they would turn out.

Using pasture butter and eggs also ups the Omega 3 factor as well as the it’s-ok-to-have-just-one-more-because-it-will-help-my-baby’s-brain factor. Very important.

I baked them for 6 minutes, which kept them gooey. So here is the final, adapted recipe that I used:

1 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons flaxseed meal
4 tablespoons of water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup regular flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
3 cup rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix dry ingredients.
Cream together butter and sugar, add eggs, flaxseed and vanilla.
Add to dry ingredients.

Drop on cookie sheet .
Bake 6 minutes on 375º.

They are delicious! My husband likes them too. The recipe yielded about 4 dozen, so I’d say that’s a pretty big savings of money, if not calories 🙂

Breast Milk as Healing Ointment? Yes!

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So Sugarpie got a nasty little scratch on her sweet nose. She was covered in broccoli and cod, and I couldn’t find the Neosporin. Having read somewhere that breast milk, due to its anti-microbial properties, could be used on cuts, I thought I would try it.

I cleaned the scratch with soap and water, then I squirted a little on my finger (again with the visuals!) and dabbled it on her cut. I did this a few times, letting it dry in between. Once I put her down (and cleaned broccoli out of every other crevice), I expressed enough milk onto a Q-Tip to soak it, and I applied it to the scratch. It would have been more sterile to do it this way to begin with, but it’s too late to wring hands over expressed milk.

And I just couldn’t depend on my aim…

Sugarpie carried a thin scab for two days and then it fell off! Just like that.

I guess it worked. Some other uses for breast milk that I found on the internets are:

*cure for pink-eye

*healing for diaper rash

*use in place of saline drops for nose (an older doctor I mentioned this to recoiled when I told him).

*ear infections

*good for mosquito bites and bee stings

*and most practically as a salve for sore nipples

Has anyone out there successfully attempted any other uses?

How My Daughter and I Found Success in Breastfeeding

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Me and little Sugarpie, doing what is natural, but doesn’t come so naturally. This is our happy ending, but the road was anything but smooth.

Reading this fantastic blog post recently inspired me  to (finally) write my breastfeeding story. So many write their birth stories (and so will I, eventually), but I feel a much stronger need to share how Sugarpie and I came to have such a successful nursing relationship. Partly because it is just such a wonderful thing, and partly because of the difficulty we had in arriving at the place where we find ourselves now. I hope that someone out there reading this who might be struggling too can find some comfort in our story. It is long and peppered with references to my nipples. You are forewarned.

While pregnant, I always knew that we would do our best to breastfeed. I say “do our best” because I had heard so many horror stories of bleeding nipples, mastitis, searing pain, and switching to formula. Who was I to think that I could actually succeed? I am small-breasted, with what I always thought of as weird boobies. So why would mine work when so many I know didn’t breastfeed?

I was already a victim of the idea that our society perpetuates of “breastfeeding if you can.” It isn’t the norm, and isn’t supported and embraced WHOLEHEARTEDLY by most hospitals. We all know what a grip big business (and formula is big business) has on our health care industry — but I digress. (Read this article from Best for Babes about nursing “booby traps.“)

I think it is important for new mothers to expect a little challenge, a little pain. No one wants to be blind-sided with obstacles while trying to do something that seems like it should be magical and natural and automatic. This creates frustration and feelings of failure. So I am glad that I knew to expect that it would be hard work. But the moral of the story was, more often than not, that breastfeeding didn’t happen, that it wasn’t possible.

My first mistake was that I didn’t take a breastfeeding class. I thought that the lactation consultant in the hospital would be enough. I was wrong.

So…

The moment my Georgia was born, we had skin-to-skin contact. We were making our first attempt at nursing within a half hour. She latched on and started nursing. Seemed like a good start.

Through that night, the pain started (and so did the hormonal depression) and she would nurse either for 30 seconds before falling asleep, or she would nurse for 90 minutes. The next day, as I was experiencing more pain and wondering if anything at all was being transferred, I anxiously awaited the help of the staff lactation consultant. I waited about 5 hours for her. It was busy, and she was only one woman.

Bonding…oh the waves of love!

When she finally arrived, she inspected my blistered nipples, declared that Sugarpie’s latch wasn’t good, and gave me a nipple shield. She showed me a couple of techniques to get more boob in baby’s mouth, and told me to get The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (that was, after all, how she learned 30 years ago). She told me to try some more skin to skin contact, then she hurried off to the other desperate new mothers in the ward. She spent about 10 minutes with us.

I was reeling. She left me alone with my baby. We had no idea what we were doing! So much depended on these first hours and I felt like I was already failing my new baby. My husband asked everyone to give us some time alone, and Sugarpie and I napped with our chests bare, snuggling together. Something happened chemically as a response to this contact with her because at this point, I became overwhelmed with emotion, overwhelmed with love for her, overwhelmed with the responsibility of this tiny life, overwhelmed with fear that something would happen to her, overwhelmed with missing having her in my body.

But mostly, it was the love.

I wanted so desperately to provide her with her mother’s milk. We kept at it. I was amazed when I saw a bit of colostrum on the nipple shield. There was hope, but there was still pain.

My milk came in on the third night, our first night home from the hospital. Georgia was inconsolable and I was engorged. She tried to nurse and seemed unsatisfied. Looking back, I’ve heard that the first night home is usually pretty horrendous. I’ve heard that when your milk comes in, babies sometimes react this way. I’ve heard that newborns are gassy beyond rational expectations. But I didn’t know that night.

The nurse in the hospital mentioned that if Sugarpie’s latch wasn’t right, I should pump so that my supply wouldn’t be affected. Thank GOODNESS she told me that. But no one told me to get a hospital grade pump. I wish I had known from the beginning. I had a beautiful Medela Pump-n-Style Advanced that a family member generously handed down to me, but I didn’t know that these were great for a supply that is already established. I needed to establish mine.

She was born on a Monday. By that Friday Sugarpie had lost almost 20% of her birth weight (down to 5 lbs 15 oz). The doctor was concerned and told us to pump and supplement her feedings with what we pumped because she wasn’t getting the milk out of my breast (again with the latch!). The lactation consultant that we saw gave me some techniques for holding, latching, keeping her awake, etc. She told me that her mouth was so small that she would have to grow into a good latch. What? How long would I have to wait?

Here she was “stripped down to the diaper” as the lactation consultant recommended to wake her so she would nurse. This was the middle of winter! Yes, I felt guilty about this too.

Would we make it?

That night I broke down. Hubs went to bed and I was left alone to do my turn. The Christmas tree was lit and I was facing a long, lonely night. I hated it. I was depressed, I was sleep deprived, and I felt like I couldn’t feed my baby. I wasn’t making enough milk and even if I were, she couldn’t get it effectively. Waking her was nearly as impossible as keeping myself awake. I was nodding off while attempting to nurse and it scared me.

I was suffering, I was frustrated, I was in extreme physical and emotional pain and I was failing her.

After 5 days of continuous nursing-pumping-supplementing breast milk, we proudly presented Georgia for her weigh-in, expecting big results. She had gained one ounce. She should have gained 5. I was crushed and broke down in the exam room.

The doctor, who is very pro-breastfeeding, gravely said that we needed to start supplementing with formula. Sugarpie needed 2 oz of milk one way or another, every 2 hours, around the clock. We did this for a week, it was terribly difficult. We had to wake her, which took forever, nurse her for 20 minutes, pump for 12, then bottle-fed her with what I pumped plus formula to equal two ounces. By the time one cycle was finished, it was time to start another.

No, I did not sleep.

Our goal was to gain 7 oz in 7 days. Sugarpie threw up the formula, she had such a hard time digesting it. It made me feel so bad for her little tummy. But we stuck to the program out of sheer desperation. At the time I was grateful that we had formula, but now I think that having been able to boost my supply sooner (again, wish I had known to get a hospital-grade pump) would have helped me avoid it.

I would see that some of my peers were nursing successfully and though I was happy for them, I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with me?!”

At our next weigh-in, she gained 13 oz!! Whoa, too much? Hubs looked at the scale and thought it was wrong. We were so proud of our little baby! She had surpassed her birth weight, and we could go back to 8 feedings a day.

I kept working on my supply. There were many moments where everyone was telling me that it was ok to switch to formula. I know they meant well, but to me, it felt like I was being told to give up, that I had gone too far and my daughter was suffering for my stubborness.

As much pressure as many women say they feel TO breastfeed, there is just as much out there to give in to formula feeding. We just can’t win.

I was taking fenugreek, blessed thistle, eating lactation cookies, drinking lactation tea and pumping, pumping, pumping. I was forging ahead with a blind tenacity fueled by sleep-deprived delirium. Every day I was producing almost ONE MORE OUNCE. That tiny bit of improvement was enough to keep me going.

I was running on fumes, but I was running.

As determined as I was, I still thought in the back of my mind, that it would not happen for me and my baby. I really didn’t think it would.

But I was running. And I kept running. Pump by pump, hour by hour, ounce by ounce. I kept going.

My nipples were cracked and bleeding and every latch caused toe-curling pain. But I kept going.

The bottles were calling, the temptation to sleep was great. But I kept going.

“You don’t have to do this. It’s ok.” But I kept going.

We slowly phased out the formula, and I kept going.

Sugarpie seemed insatiable. Was she getting enough? But I kept going.

I was in pain, but I decided to toss the shield, forget the bottles, and JUST NURSE. We needed practice, and we kept going.

And then I got the best advice that made the biggest difference from a family member who is a semi-retired lactation consultant, Debbie Aaronson. She gave me an hour on the phone, even though she was on vacation.

She said, “Try to enjoy this time with your baby. Lay in bed with her and try nursing in different ways. Forget sitting up straight and how her body should be angled just right. If you are uncomfortable, your milk won’t flow. ENJOY HER. Let her find her way. Nursing shouldn’t be a chore. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look perfect.”

That was my lightbulb moment. Soon we were side-nursing in bed. We kept going.

Soon I was able to stop pumping as much. We kept going.

We were enjoying each other! She would break her latch smiling, and it was ok! It was magic. I was a blessing and a miracle. We made it.

And we keep on going.