Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moments...

There are many moments as a mother that I'm not proud of at all and scared to admit....

I have yelled at my 3 month old baby for crying uncontrollably. Obviously it doesnt work. It only makes him feel worse, cry louder, and me feel guilty.

I wonder what I've done to make him cry so much and why I can't soothe him back to his happy self.

I growl under my breath sometimes....sometimes its at him, sometimes at DH, sometimes at the cat.

I cuss way, way too much around him (not at him though, but still) and really need to get it under control before he really understands and starts think that "shit" is a good word to say in mixed company.

There are days when I have to consciously remind myself and say out loud "He is just a baby and it's not his fault. I am the adult here and its my job to help him navigate his way in his stressed out little world." There are days when I have to remind myself and my body that he senses my energy and I need to relax in order for him to relax.

Today is his 4th day in a row without a decent afternoon nap despite my every effort. By no nap, I mean he naps one hour in the morning and then only 20-45 minutes in the afternoon...its not enough at all. He is still sleeping 10 straight hours at night but his daytime is totally messed up and he is. Just. Plain. Crabby. He is so overtired by evening its insane. Last night, even my husband lost his cool. He cried for 3 hours straight until I finally turned on my blow dryer which seemed to be the right fix. Finally he fell asleep.

I need to get this boy a white noise machine.

Anyway, last night after he finally calmed down, just before he closed his eyes, he was sucking on his soother, wrapped up in his sleeping bag, his sweet little hands folded on top of mine on his chest, and he looked up at me with his deep blue eyes. His eyes at night are the best, they appear an even richer, darker blue than during the day, like the darkest parts of the ocean.

He was looking up at me with his little eyes and they appeared to plead with me...implore me...beg me..."Please maman...don't give up on me."


I teared up as I watched my son finally fall asleep. Teared up in exhaustion and remorse for the painful evening we had just endured together. Total surrender to his plea.

After ugly moments, there are beautiful, soul stirring moments. Moments that gently nudge and remind of what is really in the heart.

Mutual unconditional love...

Even when the crying and screaming is seemingly never ending. I love him.

Even when he won't take a nap and I can't get anything done. I love him.

Even when he has a massive blowout in the car seat. I love him.

Even when he barfs on my hand at the bookstore. I love him.

Even when I have to put him down and collect myself. He loves me.

Even when I don't always use nice words when he's around. He loves me.

Even when I raise my voice a little too loud. He loves me.

Even when I grumble at him, his dad or the cat. He loves me.

Even when he's on the edge of sleep after a bad night. He loves me.



Baby boy, I wont give up you if you wont give up on me. Promise. Forever.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Home and Busy...

We're home from the States and my house is in shambles.

You know when you return from a trip and there is just shit piled every which direction while you try to do laundry, get groceries, entertain the cat who was convinced you weren't coming back thus shedding out all of his hair EVERYWHERE in stress and promise the baby you wont put him in his car seat for the next week because 20 hours one way was more than enough for a lifetime for a 3 month old??

Yep...thats been life the last 3 days.

I promise an update and pics soon. Oh and that whole project I talked about...I havent forgot about it and plan to start it in September after summer is over and life is somewhat slowed down around here.

Oh and Maxim is 3 months now and quickly moving to 4 months....where does the time go??

Anyway, a real update soon! Promise! Here's a pic to tide you over...

Me and Maxim on my grandfather's farm

Monday, August 9, 2010

Whipping It Out....


Hehe....such a funny phrase, "whipping it out."

I cant imagine my 40H bo.obs (yes you heard right...38C to 40H in 10 months...it's a bit freaky) being whipped anywhere...they are simply too heavy and cumbersome to move that fast. But naysayers of public nursing have said that many women "whip it out."

I'm not here to take up a cause about infant feeding. I just feed my baby. Most breast feeding mothers will say that though so I'm not saying anything earth shattering.


Earlier I had mentioned that when pregnant nursing in public freaked me out. Not witnessing others doing it, but me doing it. One of my friends was breast feeding her baby at home and said she never nursed in public because she couldnt just "whip it out" and always had a bottle at the ready if she went out in public. So it made me even more freaked out at the prospect of doing it when one of my friends was one of the naysayers.


At first I just nursed him at home and tried to manage his feedings with the time I would be out of the house. This was more for my comfort since he had such bad latch issues that it would sometimes take more than a minute or so to get him on properly. I also couldnt use a cover during this time because I really needed to see what he was doing down there. During this time, I was worried I would never be comfortable nursing outside the house since it was such a pain in the rear to get him on and feeding him in the first place.


When my parents got here for their visit, I moved my nursing sessions to the nursery while they sat in the living room. I did it for their comfort not mine since I wasnt sure how they felt about it but after the first day of it, I just moved out to the living room with them. I just didnt want to sit alone in the nursery while my parents were waiting for us and since nursing takes a lot of time throughout the day, it would mean a lot of lost conversation, laughs and fun times if I had stayed in exile. I falsely assumed that my parents would be uncomfortable with it when in fact, they behaved quite normally and said that it was a good thing to be nursing my baby. My mom and I had a discussion about nursing in public and generally came to the same philosphy about it.


After the magical 6 week mark, he started latching on right and it started getting easier. By this time, I was not confined to my house anymore but nursing at the cottage in front of DH's family for a few weeks. After the latch improved, I started nursing in front of my other friends at parties, my DH's frisbee games and at the table of the restaurants we went to together. At a friend's party, she offered her daughter's room as a place to nurse and change the baby. I only used her change table, I just nursed on the couch in the living room. A friend offered me a cover at a frisbee game but sort of backpedaled when she said it was to keep the sun out of his eyes and not to cover up the act itself. I dont know how they really feel about it but nobody has ever said anything to me.

My sister-in-law who wants to formula feed when she has children has said that I'm very discreet about feeding him which she meant as a compliment because she said her other friend has no regard for others, sprays them with milk on purpose and other silly things. My brother-in-law was squeamish about breast feeding because of this friend but now he doesnt even react at all when I nurse Maxim. I think my sister-in-law is more comfortable with it as well At a family party, my DH's 11 year old cousin was simply fascinated with the baby and sat next to me during every single feed to ask me questions about breast feeding, burping, napping, and other things about babies in general. She was so curious about everything and it was fun to talk to her about it and teach her a little bit too.


This week I'm attending my 10 year high school reunion. The friend I mentioned earlier who always had a bottle ready for public feeding offered her parents house to pump and feed Maxim "because they wont mind." Nah, thats ok...I'll just feed him wherever we are I told her but thanked her for the offer. She did it her way, I'm doing it my way. She thinks differently than me and neither of us are wrong. Nursing and my extended family like my grandparents will be interesting to be sure. I hope I'm pleasantly surprised to say the least.


So to sum it up after nursing in public for just over 2 months, its not that bad. In fact, its necessary for me to feel normal, to be able to enjoy being in public with my baby. Its not shameful or embarrasing. Its second nature now. I dont make a display of myself. I dont "whip it out." I don't use a cover unless I'm with people I've never met (DH's co-workers for example) and just feel uncomfortable around in general. I act normal so others act normal too. He's just eating and getting a little comfort after all.


Writing about my nursing experience is cathartic as well as a way to document these early days with my son. I didnt think I would write so much or have so much to say about the topic. I wouldn't say that I'm very passionate about infant feeding because ultimately one has to make choices that honor their family. But I am passionate about my baby and he's a big enough cause for me. Thanks for reading.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Inquiries and Comments

"How long do you plan to nurse?"

"He sounds like he's just staaaaaaarving."

"Give him a bit of water, it won't mess with your supply."

"Chamomile tea worked for your sister to calm her down."

"When are you giving him pablum?"

"Breast milk doesn't really have any value past 6 months."

"Is he sleeping through the night yet?"

These are probably the most common things I've heard or answered in the last 3 months, especially the first one about how long we will nurse and the last one about sleeping.

The first one always surprises people when I say exclusively for 6 months and then to a year with solids. I'm not sure why the amount of time matters to people because quite frankly, it should only matter to the nursing family. I answer this one as politely as possible and with as much patience as possible. However, I don't justify it with any explanation or reasons why because I don't feel the need to explain myself unless the person is asking with genuine interest. So far I've only been asked by Canadians and my parents though...it will be interesting to answer these questions next week when we travel to the States to visit my family.

The staaaaarving thing came from my mother on their last night here when Maxim would NOT settle down no matter what we did, other than feed him. He was in serious cluster feeding mode and working on his 6 week growth spurt. At that point, I could pump a solid 5 oz from each breast which is a bit oversupply (most women can only pump 1-3 oz per session) and I actually pumped just after feeding him to show my mother that he was in fact not starving (because I barely got an ounce of milk from the pump) as well as to explain that breast fed babies cluster feed (formula fed babies do as well but its slightly different) and that he's behaving normally. She was seriously skeptical though. I stuck to my guns about it though and she respected it.

The water and chamomile came from her too. My sister had serious colic...even I remember it and I was only 6 when she was born. The neighbor lady had apparently suggested chamomile tea and it apparently worked to settle her down. Mom also suggested some water between feeds to "keep him full." Breast fed babies do not need extra water...the breast milk changes to hydrate the baby in the beginning of the feed and then fatten them up when the hindmilk starts flowing. In fact it is potentially dangerous to give young babies under 6 months water as they can not process it properly. Maxim does NOT have colic but he does behave like a normal baby with normal fussy hours. Fussy hours are normal because often the babe is overstimulated and stressed from the day and needs to get it out. I explained all of this to my mother (well minus the water/tea thing because I dont think I would have convinced her anyway since it seemingly worked for my sister). His fussy hours started right around 7 weeks and they lasted until 10 weeks with a predictable period of crying from 8:30-10:00pm. DH is amazing at soothing him so between the cluster feeding and soothing, we survived. Maxim now has maybe one night of fussiness that cant be soothed easily but now his predictable fussy hours are much less.

The pablum question has been leveled at DH from his co-workers almost weekly since Maxim was 3 weeks old. They have always added onto the question that "the baby will sleep longer if you give him some pablum." DH asked me just once if we would be giving Maxim pablum and I said no we would not be giving him anything but breast milk until he was 6 months old and then explained to him why I felt this was best for Maxim. From what I've read, I've decided for our family that pablum doesnt have any real value other than "filling him up." He gets everything he needs from the milk and I dont mind getting up to nurse him.

As for the value of breast milk, I've just explained to those women that the breast milk changes as the baby grows and that it is still valuable past the newborn and 6 months stage. I dont get into it any further than that because then I feel like I am justifying my choices.

As for sleeping through the night, people seem to have this false idea that all babies should sleep 12 hours from 7pm to 7am from the time they are 6 weeks old....wrong. Some babies are wonderful sleepers and some are up every 2-3 hours for many months. All babies are different and yet it seems to be a testament to your ability to parent based on your child's sleep patterns. I have been blessed with a wonderful sleeper, thank my lucky stars. I think he is just as lazy as my DH and I and loves his sleep. My baby wont sleep for the night at 7pm but he does cat nap. In fact, he wont go down any earlier than 10pm and believe me, we've tried. He has been sleeping from 10:30pm or 11:00pm until anywhere between 5-7:30am since he was about 8 weeks old. Every now and then it may be earlier than 5am but not all that often. I dont do anything special other than feed him on both sides before putting him down. After he wakes up for the first time, I'll feed him both sides and then he'll go back down for another 3-4 hours. Seriously, I think its partly because he's been in his crib since day one and most of it I'm sure is because I'm just lucky.

Most of the questions and comments I've gotten havent been that bad and I havent gotten too annoyed. I guess I take it as an opportunity to talk about my normal breast fed baby and to give a little information about breast feeding in general. I try to frame it in a non-argumentative manner because they did it their way, we're doing it our way and neither way is wrong. I think by framing it that way with a firm tone, as in this is what we've decided and we're sticking to it for our baby and gently reminding that he's normal as opposed to...le sigh, you're a douche bag leave me alone. Instead of me getting insulted or annoyed, people have been more accepting and respectful when they see that we've done our research, we know our baby and what he needs and seem confident in our decisions.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In the Beginning...

Within the first 10 minutes of my son's birth, he was placed on my chest skin-to-skin. It was the most magical moment I've ever experienced. My favorite pictures of us are those first few taken during that precious time. Within the first hour after all the excitement died down, my son and I started to nurse.

After being on IV fluids for 2 days and then gripping the bed rail to push my son out, my left hand was the size of a blown up latex glove. It was insane and it hurt immensely. They wouldn't let me take the IV out of my hand until I peed though. So I was stuck with a hand I couldn't use very well. In addition, my breasts were enormous, filled with fluid. So enormous that my already flat nipples had no chance of protruding properly so they gave me a nipple shield to help with nursing. They also gave me a pump to use and taught me how to do the football hold because they said it would be an easier position given the size of my fluid-filled balloons. My hand was a foreign object on my body though, and it just made it so much harder to hold him properly. When the IV finally came out, it felt amazing and my hand immediately shrunk back down to its normal size.

We were left to our own devices after the baby was born and only got checked on if we called them or had to fill out paperwork. It was nice to be left alone but it didnt help me to get a good start with nursing. I knew very well that the baby was only getting a little bit of colostrum and that his little tummy only held so much at a time but when the nurses did come in and I wasn't nursing, they said he's hungry. Well how did they know? They werent in the room with us the entire day. My DH had his finger in Maxim's mouth at one point and they asked if he was hungry...no he had just finished nursing and wanted to continue to suckle.

We went home and Maxim slept for 6 hours before eating again. We spent the day at home, nursing and marveling at our new baby. The third day after his birth, we had to go back to the hospital to see the nurse for a well-baby check. My milk was not quite in yet but I could tell that it would be in soon because they were starting to feel heavy.

It did not go well. She was nice but a bit of a battle-axe too. My husband is very systematic in his thought processes and he needs lists, instructions and key-phrases for Googling. The nurse was mostly talking to him because she said I wouldnt remember because I was so tired. When he asked for a pamphlet or a pad of paper, she said "You'll just remember it because she won't." DH was so frustrated and I felt so bad for him. She admonished me for not pumping after every feed due to the nipple shield and she said that Maxim was jaundiced (his bilirubin levels were fine prior to discharge) and lost almost 10% of his weight. She gave us phone numbers for the pediatric unit "just in case but I think he'll be fine" for the weekend in the event that we felt the need to go to the hospital for a jaundice eval. She instructed us to nurse and then pump for 20 minutes after every feed, wake him every 3 hours to eat and give him 1 oz of formula until my milk came in and then expressed breast milk. She readily gave us a package of pre-made formula and I was too tired to protest saying I didnt want it because everything she was telling me about his jaundice and weight was NORMAL. I didnt want to give him a bottle, I knew it could possibly mess with his already precarious latch. My DH didnt know either and he likes solutions to problems right away. She also seemed snarky when she asked about my eating and sleeping as if it was my fault I wasn't sleeping well..."so you're eating ok but you're sleep quality is poor." Well no shit sherlock...I just had a baby 3 days ago and for the first 24 hours I was running on adrenaline, no wonder I'm crashing and exhausted...growl...snark...kiss my ass lady.

Anyway, I was so wiped out after an hour of listening to her that I almost fell asleep in the car on the way home. It was exhausting because my tired mind was running a mile a minute trying to keep up with her and then questioning myself. So instead of listening to the voice in my head about what I already knew...I pumped for 20 minutes after every feed and we gave him some formula as well.

That weekend I started to resent the pump....especially when my MIL came over to take the baby away from my DH while he is trying to parent and I'm stuck in the nursery feeling like a dairy cow. Especially when I couldnt enjoy those visits with them right away and they acted as if I didnt matter. I gave in to the formula in the middle of the night when I was so tired from pumping and nursing. It just plain sucked.

On that Monday, a different nurse came by the house as is protocol and we had a discussion about nursing, his weight etc etc. He had gained 4 oz over the weekend but was still jaundiced. She said to keep nursing and giving him bottles after feeds to get his weight up and jaundice out. She gave me tips with his latch and positioning which really helped a lot. She said she would come back on Friday to weigh him again.

She came back and he had only gained 2 oz. I was nearly in tears because I was so frustrated. My nipples were sore and cracked, he wasnt gaining like she wanted to see and he was still jaundiced. I knew in the back of my mind that the jaundice was still normal. Maxim also had a very bad fire-engine red diaper rash. She said its probably thrush, I said it was probably the diapers because I had heard the Pampers dipes were giving babies really bad rashes. She said it was thrush because of my nipple pain and I argued that it was simply a really bad latch. Then I started to question my supply and she gave me information on herbs and ways to increase my supply. But I didnt really think supply was a problem, I really felt like it was the latch. My husband was so confused and just wanted answers on how to do this and help me.

I nearly gave up. I was so frustrated. My breasts were screaming at me, my husband was so confused and I was so tired of pumping. He said that I could stop only if I felt like I had tried everything because he knew that it was important to me to nurse. I said I gotta make it to 6 weeks, it'll get better then. I said I'm not paying for formula, I need to fix his latch.

That night, I said no more bottles. He was going on the boob whether he liked it or not. We worked all weekend to fix his latch. Every single time he went on, he went on wrong and every single time I pulled him off to fix it. It was exhausting. By Monday I threw the nipple shield away because it wasnt helping anymore and I knew it was about breast feeding not nipple feeding. I did block feeding to heal my sore nips, I changed positions, I stopped pumping completely and just nursed. I worked, he worked...we worked hard to fix his latch.

The nurse came back that Thursday and he had gained 11 oz in less than a week!! She was shocked and asked me how I did it. Satisfied and happy, I said he went off the bottles and we just worked really hard together to make it work. I knew after that appointment with her, we would be ok.

The 3 week growth spurt was brutal. The cluster feeding at night was brutal. It was not a fun 6 weeks at all. At times it drove me nuts to just be nursing constantly day in and day out. It felt like a lot of my time was spent nursing. It was but looking back it wasn't as bad as it felt at the time. There were times I felt isolated and alone. There were times I wanted to cry because he was demanding me again.

And there were beautiful moments too. When he would fall off the breast, clearly milk drunk and satisfied. When my DH said he was proud of me. Reminding myself that he wouldn't stay little forever and wouldn't want to cuddle forever. When I got up in the middle of the night knowing he needed ME and only me, it made it easier to think of it that way instead of disrupted sleep.

If I hadn't had the information in my head and had not stopped listening to the well-meaning but bad advice, I would have given up. Without my supportive and amazing DH cheering me on, I would have given up. Hell, without my bull-headed stubborness I would have given up.

I said in my previous post that we were deciding that we would breast feed Maxim. Me and my DH were going to breast feed, not just me. Because while I'm the one with the equipment, it takes both people to make it work in my opinion. The only support I had was him in those early weeks and without him, we wouldn't have made it.

Next: Inquiries and Public Nursing

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Contemplation and Preparation

In the stages of "planning" for parenthood before trying to conceive, I contemplated how we would feed our new baby. I come from a family of formula feeders. I figured that breast feeding would be very challenging for me without the appropriate support. My family members are quite ignorant about breast feeding because they didn't do it and didn't have models for breast feeding. So they have all the myths and misinformation about breast feeding in their minds, not the truth and facts. So I debated knowing this and wondered if I would be able to do it without them behind me 100%. My mother would never question my parenting choices but she did question whether or not breast feeding would work. I wondered if I would be able to make it work too.

I don't believe there is anything wrong with feeding formula at all if the family chooses to do so. But I was reading material and debates online about formula vs. breast milk and my mind started to turn the other way about feeding our baby. My husband said that he preferred that we breast feed our baby but that he would leave the final decision to me.

I soon learned that there is a stark cultural difference in Canada versus the United States when it comes to breast feeding. Breast feeding is somewhat protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms however, only Ontario and British Columbia have specific details regarding the rights of breast feeding mothers. In addition, Canada has up to 50 weeks of maternity and parental leave for parents which helps foster a healthy breast feeding relationship. In the States, maternity leave is much shorter in duration and unpaid in many cases. In addition, the rights for breast feeding mothers is based on state laws and not all states recognize the rights in the same manner.

I distinctly remember one of my aunts attempting to breast feed my cousin who was 2 weeks early and "small" (about 6 lbs). I was 20 years old and had never seen it before. I remember feeling slightly fascinated and somewhat embarrassed that I was seeing my aunts breasts in that manner. I also remember the comments from my very ignorant, asshole grandfather. My aunt is small-breasted so he would make comments like "those small tit.ties cant make enough for that baby." "She is starving that baby, that baby isn't gaining any weight." "How does she know how much that baby is getting, does she have a gauge on those bo.obs?" "She should cover herself up, we don't need to see that." I remember feeling sorry for her as she struggled with only her mother to support her and then she eventually gave up after only two weeks. I don't know if she didn't have enough support and information, if she had a low supply or if she decided that she just didn't want to do it.

Witnessing and hearing those things had a profound effect on me and I figured I would never breast feed after that. What was the point if I was just going to hear comments and garbage from people that don't get it? And who will help me if I try? Formula just seemed so much easier rather than dealing with all of that. Also, at that point I was still viewing my breasts as purely sexual and not for feeding.

Anyway, the more I did my own research and reading, the more I wanted to "try it." DH was really on board for it and with his family of whom some women did breast feed, I figured I had a good chance at making it work. I resolved to give it 6 weeks and do the very best I could. I read up on it incessantly, all the potential roadblocks, all the norms of a breast fed baby, everything, so that when the time came, I would have an idea of what to expect and how to arm myself with facts to disarm the potential naysayers. I started to believe that breast feeding would be easier than formula feeding too. I blogged in my pregnancy about a conversation I had at work with a friend that breast fed her babies and she said many times that breasts and breast milk are magical. She is a true advocate without judgment or veiled passive-agressive guilt inducing statements and her influence on me during the pregnancy was huge.

When I got pregnant, my breasts changed immediately. I was a 38 C and went to a 40DD in 12 weeks time. I was blown away and slightly freaked out about the size they would be when my milk came in after the birth. They became vein-y and darker and just plain alien to me. My nips are flat so I worried about the challenges that may have come from that. I kept in mind throughout the pregnancy that I would "try" but that it may not work for me and no matter what happened, I would be a good mother and not worry myself with the comments or opinions of others.

As for breast feeding in public, when I was pregnant, I did not believe I would be able to comfortably breast feed in public without a cover and even then I believed I would probably find a corner to hide myself in so that I could feed my baby in private without all eyes on me. This worried me greatly and I felt that it would be incredibly isolating but I didn't know how to feel about it other than intense fear. Fear that I would hear comments or be told to go away, fear that I wouldn't be able to step out into public without a bottle of expressed milk in tow.

I thought it would be hard but I had no idea how hard it actually is in the beginning. Nobody really tells you how hard it will be or how hard anything when it comes to a baby will be when the wee one arrives and changes your life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. I'm going to write few posts about my breastfeeding journey this week but for now, a picture of me and my almost 3 month old nursling.