Friday, October 31, 2014

Feeling Torn

Nora and I have reached that point in our breastfeeding relationship where things are...complicated. I realize each child has different sleep patterns and habits, but Nora's apparent sleep allergy is making for one tired (and often cranky) mama. At 20 months, she's still nursing anywhere from 4-7 times a night. On a good night, it might only be 3 times. On a really rough night, it could be up to 9 or 10. Lately, I've been feeling a bit of resentment that nursing is the only thing that puts her back to sleep. Do you know how nice it would be to have my husband be able to put her back to sleep?! This has prompted us (and by us, I mean more me) to consider some gentle night weaning. We've been looking at Dr. Jay Gordon's method, as well as the No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers.

I don't want to wean Nora completely, especially now that what I fondly call "sickness season" is upon us. I know she gets so many benefits from nursing. I also know I'd get lots of benefits from waking up less each night :) However, even after making the decision to start night weaning, I've changed my mind a few times. We know we aren't comfortable with any type of traditional cry-it-out methods, but we are realistic in understanding that there will be tears. At least we will be there to comfort her and attend to her needs in ways other than nursing. My husband and I have been geared up to go a few times now, fully prepared that a weekend would allow us to nap with Nora during the day, as we know things will get worse at night before they get better. Yet each time, we've managed to find an excuse as to why this weekend just wouldn't work. I have been feeling some twinges of guilt, because I know parenting is a full time job, no matter what hour of the day or night.

However, I keep reminding myself that it is okay to think of my needs sometimes, and me being a happy mama will ultimately be better for Nora. Besides, judging by this photo, I know she's capable of sleep sometimes!

So tell me, mamas - have you ever night weaned? How did it go and what worked for you? How long did it take before your little one was able to go back to sleep without nursing?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Survive a Growth Spurt in 4 Easy Steps

Ah, growth spurts. Those few days that feel like a few years, when you have to double-check to make sure you're nursing a baby and not a piranha, when you forget if you've had a shower in the last week and you KNOW you haven't slept.... Yep, fun times.

But have hope! Growth spurts don't last forever (THANK. GOD.), and in the 21st Century, there are all kinds of resources that can help you come out the other side more or less in one piece, with a slightly fatter baby than you had before. Just follow these steps.....

1. Know what to expect!

Forget the What to Expect books; you're a modern woman and you need the latest information delivered electronically to carry you through this 48-hour hell! There are two resources that will be indispensable to you during these spurts: One is the wonderful Kellymom, with all the answers to the desperate questions that will come up at 3am when you're trying to latch that screaming infant and she's just not having it.

The other is the Wonder Weeks app. This magnificent tool gives insight into what is happening, biologically and developmentally, to that adorable, squishy, screaming, voracious infant of yours. It will tell you when to expect growth spurts so that they don't catch you by surprise!

Pro Tip: Keep a phone charger next to your nursing station so that you can access these lovely resources any time you need to without having to relocate.

2. Keep water and snacks within reach

It always happens: you sit down to nurse the baby and as soon as he's latched, you feel hungry and thirsty. But alas! There is no food or drink in sight and you just KNOW this is going to be one of those 45min sessions.... So make sure you have several gallons of bottled water scattered within arm's reach of all your favorite nursing spots. You need to keep replenishing your body's fluids both for your milk supply and for your own health, so drink up! Also consider the type of bottle that you can open with only one hand, in case the other is occupied with baby.

And as for food, it's whatever you want, mama! A little indulgence never hurt anyone, but that said, it's best to pack as much of a nutritional punch as you can into your snacks, since your little bundle of joy is getting all his nutrients from you right now. I always found I felt best when I ate something with protein, which usually meant cheese, nuts, something with nut butter. Trail mix or a good old-fashioned granola bar worked best, although the bars tended to make less mess since they came wrapped and all in one piece! Again, pile those suckers up right next to your nursing station: you don't want to run out!

3. Fire up that Netflix queue!

This is hands-down the best advice I got from another mommy-friend during those early weeks. Seriously, if your baby is going to be nursing non-stop for several days, this is the time for a marathon. Never seen Scrubs? Well, there are 9 seasons, so now is the time. How I Met Your Mother? The Tudors? Battlestar Galactica? Doctor Who? (Whoops, sorry, my geek is showing....) Queue up those guilty pleasure shows (sorry, anyone who did not recently give birth doesn't get a vote), plunk your butt down on the couch and just nurse the baby. Forget the dishes that need washing, the inlaws that need entertaining, and the pile of mail that needs sorting. Enjoy your show and don't worry about anything, unless of course your 3-year-old appears to be attempting to burn down the house.

4. Get your support system in place

Husbands, boyfriends, mothers, sisters, friends, and assorted other helpmates are indispensable during a growth spurt. As mentioned above, you will have neither the free hands nor the time to be dealing with chores or unruly older siblings, so someone else needs to be prepared to step in and take care of these things for you. They will also need to refill your food and water as needed (it does sound a little bit like caring for a pet, doesn't it?), bring you the remote control, change the baby, hold the baby while you take a few minutes to pee or even (GASP) take a shower, and say "Yes, dear" as you wax poetical about what damned liars everyone was to tell you that this breastfeeding thing was natural and easy.

This helper should also become an expert feeding pillow-adjuster, amateur psychiatrist, and foot-massager. Make sure they understand that payment is to be rendered in baby snuggles and a few screams as a bonus. DO NOT HESITATE to ask for help when you need it, no matter how silly the request may seem. If you don't have access to someone to help you in your home, make sure you have people on speed-dial who don't mind you calling at any time for a little venting session. Oh, and don't forget to include your lactation consultant in that call list!

.... and two big DON'Ts to keep in mind during these spurts, too: DON'T supplement without express direction from a knowledgable pediatrician, and DON'T try to put your growing baby on a feeding schedule. Both of these actions can harm your supply and negatively impact your baby's growth. Trust your body to feed your baby by nursing on demand!

These are the growth spurt survival tips that worked for me, but maybe you have some I didn't mention. Share your ideas here or on our Facebook page, and nurse on, mamas!

Monday, October 6, 2014

These are the Moments

I'm at a significant point in my breastfeeding adventure. I've been breastfeeding Boo for 18 months and I'm 14 weeks pregnant with #2. While I plan to continue nursing Boo for the foreseeable future, I do know that anything can happen at this point, so I'm doing my best to savor our nursing moments today as well as memories we've made over the past year and a half. There have been some doozies!

Dumb and Dumber Moment

Photo credit
I'm almost too embarrassed to include this in the list. In the early days I struggled with over-supply. My breasts were engorged, hard lumps began forming, and I developed mastitis. I applied warm compresses (warm water poured into newborn diapers worked amazingly well!) and massage. I also pumped a bit to relieve pressure before Boo nursed so the poor thing wouldn't sputter and choke on the fast letdown. After each nursing session I took that pumped milk...and poured it down the drain. I know, I know. If I could go back in time I would smack my sleep-deprived, bleary-eyed face. The thing is, I had pumped colostrum at the hospital that I wasn't using and had to toss. What was I supposed to do with all this breast milk anyway?

Fortunately I had sweet friends who quickly informed me what an idiot was. I made a run to Babies R Us and picked up some freezer bags for my milk. I never made the same mistake again.

Apocalyptic Moment

In the early days I don't think there was a single 90 minute nursing session that went by where I didn't feel like my nipples were being sawed off, cauterized, then stuck back on with Krazy Glue. Yet there's one moment that sticks out. It was probably about 8 am, though I had lost all sense of time with the 24/7 nursing thing I had going on. I was sitting in my glider with my sweet newborn bracing myself for another painful latch. Teeth gritted, tears streaming down my face, I brought her to my breast. And I howled in agony, unknowingly in solidarity with other moms. Somehow I freed one hand (how that happened God only knows) to grab my phone and called my mommy. "Hey mom." Trying to play it cool. "What are you...sniff...up to?" The wobble in my voice betrayed me. All it took was a "Honey, are you okay?" and I was reduced to a blubbery, wailing, pitiful mess.

Fortunately I have an awesome mom who came right over with a hot breakfast and some grandma love so I could crawl into bed slathered with nipple butter. Ahhhhhhhhhh....

Merida Moment

My first time nursing in public was at a Panera down the street. I busted out the cover, peeked through the constantly collapsing top to try and get baby in position, and began to nurse like a champ. It didn't feel remarkable though. The place was buzzing with middle and high school students just out of school. The chaotic din made me feel inconspicuous so it didn't feel like a breakthrough moment. One that did, though, was the day I figured out how to nurse while I was wearing Boo at the grocery store. I felt brave and invincible, like, "Haha everyone in the grocery store, my boob is out and you don't even know it!" 


All the Moments

The funny thing is that while a few of these memories stick out in my head, most of them blur into each other so that my breastfeeding journey is made up of impressions and feelings rather than distinct happenings marked on a calendar. The late nights with my sweet girl where her smell and warmth filled the silence. The nursing mannerisms she's adopted as a toddler, like standing with her bottom in the air as she chooses which side she wants this time. The way she attacks my breast with gusto that causes my family to laugh hysterically every time.

One great thing about the next baby is it's like having a do-over. Of course I know it will be different and this baby will have different needs. But I get a second chance at not being stupid and dumping out liquid gold. I get a second chance at knowing how it feels to have a tiny human nestled in my arms day and night. I get a chance to experience a new set of missteps and discomfort that will inevitably fade into success, until one day while nursing I'll think to myself, "Hm, this is so easy! When did that happen?"