in which I am confident that things will be great

No lie: the past two weeks were brutal. Week One of classes is always rough, as your body adapts to the getting-up-on-school-hours thing while your brain still wants to go, go, go when you should be shutting down for the night. Add in developing and refining new morning routines, and it was not easy.

Last week was a new level of hell stress as I continued trying to live in to the routine. It didn’t help that I dropped my phone on Monday and shattered the cover (necessitating a run to get it fixed and more time out of my schedule). Wednesday I forgot a key piece of my pumping equipment, which made the day very NOT pleasant. I also tried juggling in student meetings in every free moment (which was GREAT because I WANT them to meet with me during the writing process, but stressful because I was just a mess last week). Thursday was simply long, and by Friday, the students were ready to leave at 8am because of the holiday weekend and the heat.

But then. THEN came the most glorious thing of all: a THREE-DAY WEEKEND!!!!!!!

Just think about that for a moment.

Three. GLORIOUS days. There were snuggles with the baby, walks with the dog, a visit to Grant’s Farm, dinners with friends and family, opportunities to catch up on Broadchurch and check out Homeland, and – above all – time to prep and grade.

I feel much better now, thank you very much. I feel much more like myself and less like the not-so-fun madwoman version of myself.

This week will be epic.

These things will get easier, or at least I will discover how to adapt.

This week, I will breathe. And maybe watch more episodes of Love it or List it.

Care and Feeding of Baby, Part 3

It’s naptime – for the moment – and I’ve meant to say something here about how things changed in regards to baby feeding a few weeks ago. And of course, there’s plenty more to say, since I go back to work next week and am now also facing the transition to combining work and motherhood, clothing my postpartum body, and, you know, juggling. (Or I could just write about watching a whole bunch of Dr. Who this summer and reading a ton of books…)

Last time I checked in, things were going well with nursing, and I really thought so. He was eating every couple of hours, he had sufficient wet and dirty diapers – by the looks of it, things seemed to be going well. On July 22nd, though, I went to a moms group at the hospital where he was born….and the scale told me something different.

In two weeks since I’d weighed him on that scale, he’d dropped 3.5 ounces. I won’t lie: I panicked. Babies are supposed to ADD weight, not lose it. At his one-month appointment, the doc calculated that he’d been gaining about 2/3 an ounce per day in his first month, which is okay (and not necessarily problematic for breastfed babies), but she said she’d like to see him at an ounce a day. She’d suggested offering him a bottle after each nursing session in case he wasn’t feeling entirely full; I’d decided to go by his cues – or what I thought were his cues – and wound up only giving him a bottle (a “chaser” as we like to call it) right before bedtime.

My first thought was that I’d been a terrible mother and starving my kid inadvertently. My second thought was that I’d need to follow that supplementing plan ASAP. Then I stepped back a little further and gave it a bit of rational thought. We would simply implement the “going-back-to-work” plan.

The plan has always been that I’d return to work this month with the start of the school year; consequently, I’d pump and he’d nurse mornings, evenings, and weekends. For almost 3 weeks now, that’s exactly what we’ve done. When he wakes in the morning, I nurse him, then offer him a few ounces in a bottle. After that, he gets a bottle only – at first it was 4 ounces every two hours; last week he decided he needed 6 ounces in a feeding and consequently spaced to every three hours for eating. In the evening, I first offer nursing, then a small bottle as a chaser. Mostly, this means he nurses once, has a small bottle once, and nurses one last time before bed (with no chaser). He’s also moved his bedtime back to somewhere in the 9 o’clock hour, and – aside from one weekend in late July – he continues to sleep all night.

Currently, he gets about half breastmilk and half formula. I’m able to pump about 12 ounces a day, and I’m happy with that. Would I love to see more? Sure (and I’m taking a supplement and doing things to try to help with milk production) – but 12 ounces is 2 bottles, and that’s fantastic. I won’t complain about that. From the beginning, my plan was to try pumping, but at any point it becomes too stressful, the pumping can end. At the moment – a few days before I return to work – my hope is to pump successfully through the first trimester of school, or even better, the end of November, when A is six months old. The dream would be 9 or 12 months, but right now, I’m looking at the short term.

As you might guess, I have spent a fair amount of time in the past few weeks wondering what happened. Sure, he had enough wet/dirty diapers, but in hindsight, those wet diapers weren’t anywhere as wet as the ones he has now. And I think I’d constantly misread his cues: he loves to have his hands by his mouth, so I never took that as an “i’m hungry!” sign. And nursing babies frequently DO nurse every couple of hours, and everyone will tell you to just let them nurse on demand, particularly to help you establish your supply.

From a technical standpoint, he had a good latch – I’d been told that repeatedly. Moreover, while latching was painful in the early weeks, it was ONLY pain upon latching, which is not uncommon in the early days of nursing (and lasted only a couple of weeks for me); a lot of moms will tell you that it’s really only around the 6 week mark that things get much more comfortable. Could he have a lip tie or tongue tie? Possible – particularly on the former – but that doesn’t always interfere with eating; I investigated this possibility briefly, but decided against pursuing it because our plan is working and I don’t really *need* answers right now.

Additionally, there are always the basic possibilities that either (A)he never became efficient at sucking as he needed to for breastfeeding and/or (B) that my milk supply is low (or that my milk supply is low because of (A)). I tend to think I have low supply, personally – but yes, I know that pumps aren’t as efficient at removing milk as baby is (supposed to be, at least), and that many women have plenty of milk and just never take well to a pump.

Bottom line: my baby is getting the food he needs. In the last two and a half weeks, we’ve fallen into a better rhythm, even – while I lost some of the time I got to spend reading while he nursed, he sleeps better during the day now (including deeper sleep when he naps), he falls asleep without nursing, and he seems so much more satisfied. I saw an amazing world of difference in just a day – my happy baby is now REALLY happy and able to enjoy doing things!

This is where we are, then, at 10 weeks old. Next week, big changes in store…

Three Out of Five

With babies, change is the only constant.

In the final week of June, he surprised me by waking every couple of hours one night, then slowly getting back to longer stretches of sleep like he’d been doing before.

For the first two weeks of July, he went to bed by 11 or midnight, woke once to eat, and woke again around 6:30.

This past week, he’s gone to bed mostly around 11 (with one night at 10:30 and last night at 10). He stopped waking for nighttime feedings, although he did get up at 4:40 one morning.

Regardless, last night was the 3rd night this week that he slept later than I did: 10pm to just before 7am. The seven hours of sleep I got AND the bonus ability to shower before he awoke — incredible.

Keep sleeping soundly, little guy. Keep sleeping soundly.

Story Time

Many people I know may be surprised to hear I haven’t tried to put Baby on a schedule, but there it is. Going into this summer, I figured there would be no point to a schedule;  Baby would do what Baby wanted, when Baby wanted. I had zero expectations of how things would work (sleep routines in particular).

While things change weekly – sometimes daily – we have a pretty good sleep rhythm right now. During the day, he’ll sleep in my arms off and on. He’ll only nap in his crib after his first morning feed; after that, don’t you dare put him down! For now, I embrace it; when he starts daycare it will all change, so we’ll do as we like for now.

This month, he’s frequently gone to bed between midnight and 1 am. Sometimes it’s earlier (fell asleep at 10:15 the other night), but by midnight I can generally have him in his bed asleep. I’d love to see him go to bed earlier, but the plus side is that he’s sleeping through the night; for two days this week, he’s slept later than I have, so I’m not complaining at all. (The trade-off: no morning nap in his crib.)

The only type of “schedule” we’ve started is really just a routine: before he was born, we would read to him in the nursery. It didn’t happen every night, be we did it from time to time. This week, we brought back story time. Somewhere after 9 – often closer to 10 – we go into the nursery. He’s all set in his sleep sack, so The Spouse turns dims the lights, turns on a bedtime playlist on the iPod, and settles in to read to him while I nurse him in the glider. The dog comes in and lays down next to us – all in all, it’s pretty much the classic domestic bliss scene.

Last night, though, a variation: Baby didn’t seem hungry right away, so I held off on the nursing part. I snuggled him in my arms, facing outward. For the next 15-20 minutes, he sat contentedly, watching and listening to his daddy read.

That moment when everything feels incredibly awesome. YES.

 

(And then I got 7 hours of sleep. YEAH!)

Care and Feeding of Baby, Part 2

Caveat: The views contained here in are solely mine, based on my own life experiences. I simply want to share my experiences and viewpoint I’ve developed based on that, but your mileage may and should vary. In short, what’s right for me and my family may not be right for you and yours. I respect that entirely.

If you’d asked me a few years ago whether I would breastfeed my baby, I would have said, “Eh, I don’t know. I might give it a shot, but I’m not really gung-ho about it.”

This response stemmed partially from a long-standing belief (and a very real possibility) that I could have a child with physiological problems that might make it difficult for them to breastfeed (I have a cleft lip and palate; I realize some people will tell you this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for breastfeeding, but that’s another story). My response also stemmed in part from watching my mother struggle with breastfeeding one of my siblings (I was almost 12; it was part of my formative years’ experiences). And frankly, I just didn’t care one way or the other. My opinion has always been this: the baby needs to be nourished. How that happens isn’t really a sticking point for me.

As we started discussing family planning more actively a couple of years ago, The Spouse told me he’d really like to see me give breastfeeding (BF or BFing from here on out) a shot. This impulse stemmed primarily from the financially minded side of him, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I told him I would give it a good shot, but made no promises. THEN we got onto the topic of pumping and I was vehemently against it. I had absolutely no desire to feel like a cow, which was precisely what pumping seemed like to me at the time (okay, it still seems that way).

But okay, I figured. If I were TRULY going to give BFing a shot, then pumping would need to fit into the equation – I’m not a stay-at-home mom and have no intention of ever being one. It’s just not me (I spent 6 years in grad school and worked hard to get my fabulous job. I work at an amazing place with wonderful people and I love what I do. I’m not giving that up; I want my kid to grow up with parents who love what they do in life, and this is what I do).

I am the consummate learner and voracious reader, so when a co-worker told me about The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, I checked in with a few friends to see if they’d read it – not all had, but I got the FIRST inkling that oh, yeah, by the way? That first latch HURTS.

This started down my road to research in general. It was always going to happen, but that was my starting point. The thought that latching would not feel good did not surprise me, but no one talks about it. Ask most moms about BFing, and in MOST instances, you’ll hear only good things about how great it is. It IS great, but I wonder if a lot of women forget about those early days, just as most women supposedly forget about the pain of labor.

All this is my backstory. The PLAN looked something like this: breastfeed exclusively all summer, integrating pumping at some point to prepare for going back to work this fall. Once Baby starts daycare in August, pump at work and nurse during evening/early morning/weekend times when I’m with baby. Hopefully make it to one year of BFing, but reevaluate periodically – my job can be pretty busy at times, and I know that stress can affect BFing. Going into it, then, I was prepared to give it up if needed at 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, etc.

You learn pretty quickly that EVERYONE has different input and experiences. Baby latched right away in the hospital, which was great, but then I struggled when we got to the postpartum room. Fortunately, I had a great nurse who helped me fanagle the football hold (with a barrage of pillows). This helped a lot. I had 2 visits from lactation consultants while in the hospital, and both thought Baby was doing well. When we left the hospital, he was slightly jaundiced – normal for BFing babies, they told me, and they figured it would pass.

Of course, getting home is another story. THEN the real work begins. I hear that there are places in Europe where women spend a whole week in the hospital after a vaginal delivery so they can heal and learn to breastfeed – man, that would have been great (aside from the week in the hospital thing – unless the beds were better). First came the frustrations with his hands – he likes his hands A LOT and at night he would tighten up and put his little fists right next to his mouth and cry and it was all I could do to get the hands out of the way so he could eat. (Swaddling solved that problem; we no longer swaddle, but in the first few weeks it really helped him figure out that keeping his hands a little out of the way is a GOOD thing.)

But then there was the adjusting-to-having-someone-sucking-on-you-ALL-THE-TIME thing. Let’s face it: this is a sensitive part of the body, and you have a new baby just trying to figure out this sucking and eating thing. I was sore. Lanolin helped, but family members got some good laughs for the first week as I would kick my leg out in pain reflex when he would first latch (then it would be fine).

Then came the supplementing when he was a week old. For us, supplementing with a small bit of formula seemed like the best thing to do: he was not gaining weight and his jaundice was getting worse, not better. From what I can tell through the lab results and my own research looking at medical guidelines, we were pretty darn close to having him go to the hospital – and that stress might have really disrupted breastfeeding more than supplementing after a few feedings. We supplemented religiously with formula for 5 days, kept at it with the breastfeeding, and added in pumping.

And that was the frustrating and stressful part. You have a newborn who doesn’t sleep through the night, you’re constantly trying to feed the baby, you’re adding in supplements at a few feedings (at least), you’re exhausted, you’re stressed, and now you need to pump multiple times a day in between things. Yes, because that’s SO EASY to add in, right?

Also, it takes time to adjust to a pump – or at least, it did for me. I was stressed that I wasn’t getting anything; it helped to learn that frankly, the pumping wasn’t REPLACING feedings, so it was really just telling my body to make more milk and thus anything I did get was EXTRA, not a sign that I wasn’t producing milk. So even though I might only pump a third of an ounce between both sides, it was better than nothing, and slowly, we were able to alternate pumped milk in between supplements.

When his weight improved about 5 days after our initial investigation into the jaundice, I began efforts to move away from formula. I knew from my reading and talking to people that I should be seeing more milk production, as long as baby was feeding from me (and pumping doesn’t hurt, but baby feeding directly is the best way to do that). We seemed to turn a corner the last Monday in June. He was almost 4 weeks old, and that day, I couldn’t get off the recliner – nor the two days after that. He wanted to eat and eat and eat; the cluster feeding was INSANE, but I knew it would be good for both of us. After a day or so of “OH CRAP! There goes my ability to do things while he naps somewhere,” I embraced it and just started keeping my devices and remotes and books near me. I freaked out a little about not being able to pump as much – frankly, I never made it to the 8-10 pumping sessions a day that were recommended for increasing milk supply.

The cluster feeding let up a little the following week, as we transitioned into achieving 5 weeks old on July 3. By this point, he was only napping on me, so I was letting him latch whenever (I always had, but the frequency had only gotten so much the week before). When the doc asked how often he was feeding ,I estimated every two hours; she suggested “topping him up” with a bottle of expressed BM (or formula) after each feeding, again suggesting that maybe he was just a little hungry and needed a little more. I liked that advice, but modified it: he seemed fine in the mornings, but by afternoon and evening I could tell when he wasn’t able to get as much milk, so I watched his cues and supplemented when I could see him getting frustrated.

My pumping output continued to improve, by the way – at least in small measures. I can typically get at least the half- to one-ounce output that seems the norm if you are pumping on top of feeding regularly. And I can get more than that if he only eats on one side (like at 3 or 4 am) or in the morning when he’s napping between feedings. This has all been promising and really made me more confident about whether we’ll be successful with pumping when I return to work. Baby hit 6 weeks last Wednesday, and the constant feeding continued (along with the “I won’t nap anywhere but on YOU, Mama!”). Something seems different now, though.

The thing is, I think BFing is a definite process and a learned one at that, one that takes adjustment with each baby (since some women, like my mother, have varying degrees of success with multiple children). I’ve seen people say that after the first six weeks it gets much better, and maybe knowing that made things easier the past two weeks. Maybe getting through the first month made it easier to feel better. But in the last few days, I’ve felt really good about things. I even have a small (but growing!) freezer stash: three bags, each with 4 ounces. This is PROBABLY enough for his first day of daycare – but at the very least, having those three bags, which I was able to do over the past week, means that I’m not going to start out with nothing for him when he starts at school. And that feels GOOD.

Also? We haven’t used formula in a week and a half.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem using it if it’s what we need to do; if we run into problems this fall, I’ll send formula with him if needed and just nurse at night and on weekends – whatever I can do is better than nothing.

I think we’ll also see some good transitions this week, but I’ll leave that for another time. I have a lot more I’d like to say about this breastfeeding thing. Stay tuned.

On the Care and Feeding of Baby (Part 1)

You learn many things in the first six weeks of motherhood. You learn about yourself and how you approach caring for your baby. You learn how you manage exhaustion and baby and pet and marriage. You learn how baby (and related exhaustion) affects spouse and dog. You learn about baby as he grows – quickly figuring out that while he has some “normal” things about him, his routine and many specifics change often and frequently. The baby you have at 3 weeks is a far cry (haha) from the baby you have at 5 or 6 weeks. (For which I’m grateful.)

One thing I like about motherhood so far is that I’ve become more laidback. I’ve always liked to THINK of myself as laidback – and in some ways, I always have been – but I’m also an extremely organized and scheduled planner-type person. Planning and organization are the two mainstays of my professional life and long have been. During pregnancy, I kept that up, but also tried to be as relaxed and go-with-the-flow as I could, particularly in regards to pregnancy and baby. And now, I’m apparently pretty chill when it comes to the whole mothering thing. There were times very early on when I got frustrated in the nighttime – when you have a little being who is obviously starving but can’t keep his hands away from his mouth, it can get to be a problem! And then in the 4th week there was that switch when he decided the only appropriate place to sleep was on my lap; after 2 days of being frustrated by that, I decided to embrace it and just began keeping books and food and devices within easy reach of the recliner.

But all in all, it’s pretty much what I expected. I spent my teen years helping care for 4 of my younger siblings. Admittedly, I didn’t do much of the infant care aside from daytime routines, and I also remember more of the toddler years and working with them at that stage. This is where I honed my organizational capabilities and my innate ability to be on time to things (when your family routinely has to get 8 people out the door and never do it on time, you develop an ability to determine how much extra time you will need; it’s not foolproof, but I’m doing well so far – this may change when he’s a toddler, though).

My theory is, and has long been, that you do whatever works for you. For me and The Spouse, it’s all about trying out things and taking what works well and ignoring what doesn’t. Today that means one thing; tomorrow it may mean another. In particular, that means that most of my days right now are spent holding someone who still prefers to sleep on my lap. A month from now, he’ll be at school and so will I, so obviously this will change. For now, it works.

Baby’s awake. I have more to say; I want to talk about my observations on breastfeeding, for example, but that will have to wait.

A Whole Entire Month

20130628-165112.jpgOn Saturday, we pretty much spent the whole day high-fiving each other over our success in managing to keep our son healthy and well for an entire month. These kids don’t come with manuals, and we’re pretty impressed that we’ve done so well so far. We also realize this is just the beginning and that things are likely to get much, much more challenging in the days, weeks and years to come. We’re cool with that.

The picture above illustrates the best time of the day around here. For about seven years now, I’ve been accustomed to a daily walk; our dog feels he can’t keep me under control unless he attaches me to a leash and leads me around the neighborhood for about 30-45 minutes, so I acquiesce. If it makes the dog feel better and helps my overall fitness, why not? Really, walking has been an important daily ritual for me and Sirius, and it was pretty much the only exercise I got while pregnant, since I wasn’t generally well enough to do anything more strenuous.

I also wanted to make sure I continued to make time for my relationship with my dog once the baby arrived, and I figured walking would help with that. In the summer, the catch is that we have to go early in the day (or very late in the evening) to avoid too much heat, but I knew before A’s birth that I wanted to aim for even very short walks, not only to keep the dog happy, but also so I could keep my sanity and avoid feeling like I was stuck at home all the time. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to do a daily walk pretty much from the day I came home. The length varies, depending on the weather, but this kid loves being in his stroller.

In fact, when it comes to A, we might as well revise some laws of physics. In his case, a body in motion tends to stay at rest, if you know what I mean!

Over the past two weeks, I’ve also begun mastering the art of reading while feeding. Ebooks, of course, are easiest, but I can also manage physical books – the nursing pillow I use is broad enough to provide additional support for the books (so if you’re an expectant mom who loves to read – get a good nursing pillow to help support your reading habit!).

Last week, A also became a little more demanding: he decided the best place to sleep was on my lap (at least if it’s daytime). He’ll happily take to the crib as usual at night, but during the day over the past week naps were fairly short and only happened if he could recline on me. This frustrated me for a couple of days, but then I realized that i really had no need to leave the recliner anyway: all I have to do is make sure that I have a book, a drink, a snack, my iPhone, and all the tv remotes near me. This covers ever possible thing I might need or want.

I won’t lie, though – I’m thrilled that A’s slept in his car seat since we came home from his one-month check-up this afternoon. I love holding him and snuggling, but having some hands-free time is also a great way to keep this mama feeling balanced.

That, and the fact that I stole a trip to Baskin-Robbins today (if no one will sell pre-packaged bubble gum ice cream, go to the folks who started it and get a pint from them!). Also, I may have used the insulated compartment in the diaper bag to keep a can of soda cold.