Thursday, May 22, 2008

Breastfeeding Advice for Mommies-to-Be

Breastfeeding isn't easy at the beginning for some women. You and the baby might have a hard time figuring this breastfeeding thing out. It's ok; you're both new at it. The hospital should have a lactation consultant to come help you with things like making sure the baby has the correct latch.

The baby will want to nurse all the time at first. That's normal. The 1.5-2 hour time between nursing sessions which books talk about is measured from the beginning of one session to the beginning of the next. You could find yourself nursing for 45 minutes, then having only 45 minutes to sleep before it's time for the next nursing. Those first weeks are hard. Take up your friends and family on offers of help. Eventually, the baby will nurse more efficiently and go longer between nursing.

Don't put the baby on a "feeding" schedule. Nursing whenever s/he wants and for however long is what gets your milk supply up. Hold that baby all the time. You both need it. Let the baby nurse on one side for as long as s/he wants; don't time it. Don't take the baby off one side, just to put him on the other side because the baby is 'supposed' to feed on each side so many minutes (which is what I mistakenly did at first). Just offer the other side only after the baby has let go and finished with the first side.

I had a rough time at the beginning because my little guy was in the NICU for the first 36 hours. I had to start with the hospital pump. Little Bit also had a huge, huge appetite. Though many breastfeeding advocates say to never supplement, my doctor finally suggested supplementing with formula. It was the right thing to do for us. After hours and hours of crying that first weekend, my baby sucked down a full bottle of formula and finally went to sleep with a full, happy tummy. The plan was to supplement a few days just until my milk supply caught up to his appetite.

I continued to nurse him first, then supplement with a bottle. I was supposed to use the breast pump after every feeding to help stimulate my supply. Bleary from lack of sleep, I just couldn't get myself to do it. Sleep was more important. I now wish that I had known about getting a supplemental nursing system (the formula supplement gets to the baby through a tube that is next to your breast). It would have cut down on the time it took me to get him fed, and it would have stimulated my supply so I could stop supplementing. I felt guilty for not being able to produce enough breastmilk and for having to give him formula. But, it doesn't have to be either all breastmilk or all formula.

One of my lifesavers was this nursing pillow. It helped save my sanity, literally. With Little Bit snuggled against me securely on its surface, I was able to have my hands pretty free to hold a book, the TV remote, or feed myself. It helped ease the transition from being able to do whatever I wanted when I wanted to being tied to the needs and demands of this new little being.

After those first few months, breastfeeding got easier. Eventually, I was able to just nurse him in the middle of the night without also having to give him a bottle afterwards. It's so amazingly easy to just 'plug the baby in'. I learned how to nurse him lying down, so we could all get more sleep. I'd drift off as he nursed and so would he.

When I went back to work, I pumped. I used the Ameda Purely Yours pump, because it's the only pump that protects the pump parts and tubing from contamination.

Just before Little Bit's 1st birthday, I was able to use a month of unpaid FMLA leave before it expired. That time with him, nursing on demand, really boosted my milk supply. I'm sure that's part of why I've been able to continue nursing, even though I supplemented and even though I work full-time.

I continued to send both breastmilk and formula to daycare until he was done with formula at about one year. Soon after, I tapered off pumping at work - hallelujah! - but continued, and still continue, to breastfeed Little Bit when he and I are together.

He continues to receive the immunities and vitamins and all the benefits of breastmilk. I continue to receive the health benefits of nursing him (reduced chances of breast cancer, etc). Instead of walking around with a pacifier or carrying a 'lovey' like some toddlers, Little Bit comes to me for comfort. As DH says, I'm his lovey. That's not such a bad thing to be. Eventually, he will outgrow the need to nurse. It will be another letting go on the road to growing up.

Book Recommendations for Mommies-to-Be

Margaret and her hubby are expecting a baby later this year. In honor of this, there's an online baby shower to shower her with tips and advice. Here are my recommendations for reading.

When I was pregnant, I stocked up on books since I'm big into researching things. As a soon-to-be and new parent, you get lots of parenting advice from everyone you know, including the older generation (your mom, aunts, grandmas, etc). They have a lot of good tips, but they also grew up in a different time.

For the 'big picture' on recent science and ideas, I liked the following two books. The Science of Parenting relies on scientific studies to tell what actually happens in the brain and body of a baby/child. It's not a dull science jargon read at all, but argues for a nurturing approach to parenting. (Margaret, if you can't find this one or some of the other ones I mention at the library, I could probably lend you my books since we both live in Houston!) Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent is a cross-cultural look at baby care and child-rearing. A lot of wisdom/advice on baby care is based on your culture as opposed to biology. It's interesting to read other views on babies, and to think about what you might like to incorporate in your parenting.

I used the The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby as a general reference about going through pregnancy, options about childbirth, etc. The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy is a hoot and filled with from-the-hip advice about all the side effects of growing a human being! :-) For more specific baby and parenting advice, I liked a lot of Dr. William Sears' books. Also, definitely read The Happiest Baby on the Block - it has really good advice on soothing the baby and getting through those first ~3 months when babies cry a lot.

La Leche League's books about breastfeeding and/or So That's What They're For! are great for breastfeeding info.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Birthdays, books, and bouncy what?

May is one of our busiest months. There is our wedding anniversary, Mother's Day, my birthday, and Little Bit's birthday to celebrate. We didn't get a babysitter for our anniversary, but got one for a few days after my birthday for our big celebration date. DH and I saw a movie (at the movie theater!), had dinner, and even browsed a bookstore. It was great. Little Bit got to run his little legs off. Two teenage girls, our babysitter and her friend, have enough energy to *almost* keep up with a toddler.

I love to wander around the bookstore with a cup of some sort of coffee flavored, creamy, sugary goodness. Sometimes I buy books. Other times I just window shop. I used to do it a lot after work, BC (before child). I had wanted to go bookstore browsing on Mother's Day, but it didn't work out. It's so nice to just be. To not have to be constantly watching where LB is and what he's gotten his hands on. Buying something for me isn't bad either.

At the beginning of May, Little Bit's daycare teachers had the class plant and then water seeds for several weeks. On Mother's Day weekend, they sent each child's sprouted plant home in its Styrofoam cup, decorated with stickers and crayons scribbles. It was my first 'flowers' from my baby boy. They are sitting on the back porch where I can see them everyday.

We are celebrating Little Bit's birthday with a party at our house - just snacks and cake, nothing fancy. It allows us to also have friends over for that housewarming party we never had last fall. Hopefully we won't have any accidents from little ones or adults tripping over the piles of still packed moving boxes.

Maybe one day we'll do a big birthday party for Little Bit, complete with water slide and a bouncy house. We saw one of those parties at a public park during our Hawaii vacation. I was really wishing they had an adult size water slide, and that I was brave enough to crash the party.

Speaking of bouncing, I noticed that most of my google hits have been for my post about boobs. I had to laugh at that. So, here ya go, it's time to draw in some more hits. :-)

I may have given Little Bit life, but he gave me boobs. For which I am very grateful. Not only is breastfeeding good for his health and mine, it's a natural breast enhancer. How cool is that?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My baby is growing up

*sniff* My baby is sleeping in his big boy bed tonight. Above is a picture from his nap in the crib on Sunday. We took the crib down earlier today.

He climbed eagerly onto his new bed this evening as soon as he saw it.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

So, what has your vagina done for *you* lately?

Little Bit's second birthday is fast approaching. On May 26, it will have been two years since I pushed a human out. Well, that is, since a human, with a 14 cm head no less, was yanked out of a 10 cm dilated cervix with the help of two huge-mongous metal salad tongs. Is it any wonder that I actually remember the following weeks of painful sitting on pillows even more than I remember the almost 24 hours of active no-drugs labor? I'm thinking that having one human come out of my vagina is enough.

I was one of those women who wanted a "natural childbirth" and no unnecessary medical interventions. You know that those nurses were laughing their asses off when they looked at the birth plan attached to my chart. After active labor for 14+ hours with no relief, I asked for the epidural. I wanted to kiss the anaesthesiologist, but, dude, we'd just met, and I was having another man's baby. It would have been awkward.

Having to be told when a contraction was happening, because you couldn't feel the pain? Priceless. Having your doctor, plus another doctor, several nurses, and five or so doctors-in-training, plus possibly a janitor, staring at your business, while your legs are in the air? No problem! Nope, it doesn't matter what I had on the birth plan (no doctors-in-training). Just. Get. This. Baby. Out!

Yes, looking into those beautiful blue eyes for the first time was amazing and miraculous. He stopped crying and just looked at me when I spoke to him; a new soul had entered into the world. He knew my voice! Wow.

So, two years of being a I the only one who still feels so inept sometimes? While we waited at the airport for our plane to Honolulu, I went with Little Bit to buy something to drink. DH waited with the luggage. As I checked out at the cashier, Little Bit decided to grab the candy that was so conveniently within his reach.

He grabs one piece. I wrestle it away, while also trying to find change to pay for my drink. He immediately grabs another candy bar, while I juggle my open wallet, purse, and try to move him out of range of the candy. He throws the candy on the floor. Awesome. I feel flustered and embarrassed.

A few days later I have to say that I was amused to watch another mom ineffectively try to manage her two toddlers while we waited in a checkout line. Her little boy stayed close by, pulling advertising handouts off the counter, but the little girl wandered off to the refrigerated drinks, all the while crying. When the mom asked the little girl to "come here", the girl sat down on her bottom and wailed even louder.

Hah! I'm not the only one with a child (or children) running amok in checkout lines. Does it make me a bad person that I was inwardly snickering? The thought of trying to manage two little ones makes me hyperventilate, though.

BTW, taking an almost two year old to see the monument at Pearl Harbor where people tend to be reverent and somber, the day after that almost two year old was forced to sit on an airplane for 8+ hours? Worst. Idea. Ev-er.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Conversations with an almost two-year old

I was sitting on the edge of the back door frame with Little Bit playing next to me this past weekend. He tried to squeeze between me and the closed door, then reached out to pull at my pant's waistband in the back.

"What are you doing?!" I asked him.

Little Bit looked up at me and said, " (Is) there poo-poo?"

Me, LMAO, "No, there's not poo-poo in my pants!"

I check his pants sometimes, so I guess he felt he needed to check mine!

(all of us sitting at the table eating)

Little Bit says, "(something) (something)"

DH tries to translate the toddler-speak. " 'Who farted?' I don't know."

I LMAO, because it did sort of sound like that's what he asked.