Night Weaned My Toddler

In June, I wrote about how I needed to night wean Jack for my own health. In September I posted how we made some good progress, only nursing to sleep and a little cluster feeding towards the morning. I am happy to report now that he is night weaned and sleeps in his own bed. Has been for a month now. It took nearly 9 months, but we did it.

I kept up with my plan. Nursing to sleepy, not offering my breast first when he wakes up, and only giving him milk when he is about to be really upset. I figured out quickly he still really needed morning milk for awhile. I could hear his tummy growling and his lips were dry with thirst. We were still getting his food allergies under control so he wasn’t meeting all his caloric needs during the day. I let the morning cluster feeds go on for months, until  December when I suspected I was pregnant. I knew morning sickness would set-in soon and I was going to be in rough shape. It was going to be hard enough to eat or drink anything, let alone with a toddler sucking it out of me. I needed to fully night wean him in order to be a good mom to both babies.

Every other night or so, he would sleep through the night. His food allergies were doing great. And he wasn’t nursing as long as before in the morning but still waking often during them. I concluded it was probably more habit than need at this point.  One morning he cluster fed from 5-8 AM….so I drew my line in the sand. We had a chat the next day. I explained that the milkies need to sleep all night long or else they would be too tired to make any milk. So that night when he awoke at 4 AM,  I refused him my breast. And yeah…it did not go well. He screamed and screamed, I started to cry. Michael snuggled him and I went to the couch. An hour later, I heard silence and went back into the room. He was snuggled up on Michael, so I got back in the bed and felt horrible. I kept telling myself I did not let him cry it out. Michael rocked him and soothed him the whole time, we did not abandon him. He was just working through his feeling in this difficult time.

Rough night=clingy toddler
The next night wasn’t much better. He nursed on the couch with me after his bath, but then Michael took him into the bedroom without me. Jack was very upset again. Michael brought him out three times to show him mommy was still here, just in the other room. Nearly two hours later he went down, Michael stayed patience and just loved him through it. I went to sleep feeling horrible, and it only got worse. He awoke at 5 AM demanding milk. I had on a high collar sweater with no boob access at all, which made Jack furious. I just kept snuggling him and telling him it would be okay. I hardly got any sleep that night and still felt horrible. I started reading “Mothering Your Nursing Toddler,” and was assured I wasn’t doing anything horribly wrong. I was doing very reasonable techniques, and I just needed to listen to my heart for what was best for my family.

If I can’t have milk tonight, guess I’ll clean my plate.
But things changed the next day. He ate a lot more food during the day. He asked for more water, too. When my mom put him down for a nap without me, he did so happily. When he woke up, he asked for milk. I said yes, and he nursed eagerly for only a few minutes. He didn’t ask again until bedtime. And then didn’t protest when I said milkies needed to go to sleep. He just flipped over and went to sleep! He didn’t wake up until 7 AM, had some milk and went back to sleep until 9 AM! We both woke up happy and had a lovely day.

He likes daddy putting him to bed now
This went on for a month or so. Maybe milk to sleep, maybe not, depending on how bad my hyperemesis was that day. Some small protest, but usually would go sleep with a few books and some snuggles. When he did wake up at night, I would ask him what he needed. Most of the time it was a pat on the back to go back to sleep. Sometimes it was a glass of water (I started keeping one by the bed each night). A few times it was some cereal because he was hungry. Usually he would be back to sleep within 15 minutes and not wake again until morning. He could have milk if it was 7 AM or later. It was a huge lifesaver, more sleep helped me cope with hyperemesis.

Then one day in February, all signs pointed to move him into his own bed. My mom complained that his crib mattress was taking up too much room in the closet and I need to come get it. I read passage in “Mothering Your Nursing Toddler” on putting a big kid bed next to your bed is a great way to transition toddler out of your bed. And Michael complained Jack kicks him all night long.  I asked Jack if he wanted to try sleeping in his own bed (explaining that he is ALWAYS welcome in our bed, no questions asked). He said sure.
So, we got the mattress from my parents’ house, took Jack to the store to pick out some big boy sheets, and set-up the bed at the foot of our bed. That night we talked about how he should stay in his bed as long as possible, but he can always come to the big bed if he needs to. He nursed a little, we read some books, turned the light out and turned on his glow worm. He was out within minutes and stay asleep till 7 AM. He crawled up to us, had a little milk and slept another hour!

This pattern has continued for a month now.  A few nights we have a fight to go to sleep or he wakes up several times.On occasion, he still needs a pat on the back or some water. But 99% of the time, he goes down easily and sleeps 7 or 8 hours straight and sleeps another 2-3 hours in the bed with us without any milk. And most mornings he doesn’t even ask for milk when we get up. And at least once weeks, he sleeps totally through the night.

Loves his Avengers sheets , Foxy and Glowy .
Maybe in a few months if he’s sleeping longer, we will move the bed farther away from ours or encourage him to stay in his bed if he wakes. After the new baby comes, I am expecting a little relapse due to stress of all the change,  so I am in no rush.

So my advice to encourage night weaning? Love. Like what I said about Sleep Regressions, just love them and help them through it. Also I suggest:

  • Keep reading “Nursies when the Sunshines”.  I suggested this in my last night weaning update, too. It takes awhile for kids to comprehend, so just keep reading it. One night when I said the milkies need to sleep, Jack answered “No sunshine, milkies sleep”.
  • Make a new (flexible) bedtime routine that doesn’t revolve around nursing. If it’s bath night, we play up the bath. Otherwise we make bedtime stories a big deal. “Hurry baby! Daddy is waiting to read to you! Go pick your books and get in bed! Oh, looks! This book has trucks!” At my parents’ house, he gets very excited to watch TV with grandma until he’s sleepy. I say flexible because if he’s had a rough day—like skipped his nap or had an allergy issue— he may need some extra love and gets nursed to sleep.
  • Be patience.  This is a big step for a toddler. How many adults still have trouble putting themselves to sleep? Jack usually needs a full hour to unwind and go to sleep, regardless of who puts him down and if he nursed or not. I know one day I will be able to kiss him and turn the light out as I leave. But that day is not today, he’s still learning to control his body. I got greedy when dropping night feedings started to work months ago and pushed him too far. All my progress fell apart and I learned my lesson.
  • Follow your heart. If you try night weaning and something doesn’t feel right, stop. Maybe you aren’t ready and feel forced into it. Maybe your toddler isn’t ready and is feeling abandoned. Maybe there is another issue going on and ignoring it will make it worse (like Jack’s food allergies and him needed my milk for calories at night). You have the ability to be best mom possible for your child, don’t ever forget that. If Jack had one more night of truly upset and making me feel horrible, I would have thrown in the towel and waited a few months.
  • Find a Lovie. Something they can snuggle and love to find comfort. It can be anything. A blanket, a pacifier, a toy, mommy’s shirt, daddy’s sock—anything! Jack has two, his stuff fox named Foxy and a glow worm named Glowy. Glowy sings him to sleep and he likes the feel Foxy’s soft fur next to him. He sees them in the bed and knows it’s his secure space to rest.
  • Along those lines…Make their own bed special.  Your bed was special because you were in it. Now they have to sleep in a strange bed without your warmth? Help them by making it their own space. Let them pick out their own favorite sheets. Let them help set-up the bed. Lay down in it with them for awhile so it’s not scary. Make it comfy and happy.
  • Don’t expect perfection. At first it might be 1 step forward and 10 steps back. One night of easy sleep, and several night of crying in mommy’s arms. That one night of sleep was GREAT progress, don’t dismiss it. Wouldn’t it be nice if toddlers just slept through the night as soon as told them to and never relapsed?It’s a great dream, but don’t hold this in your mind as the ultimate goal. Focus on helping them learn how to listen to their body and relax to sleep.

 

 

Guest Post, Jaleen Vickerson: We are going Vegan (+ fish!)…

Jaleen Vickerson is a fellow Brand Ambassador for Wrapsody. I have offered her a guest post on my blog to discuss her parenting struggles to a baby with allergies and eczema.  I haven’t posted about it yet, but over the past 6 months I have been struggling with suspected allergies with Jack. It is nice to hear from another mom going through it as well. 

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My youngest son, Carlos, has been an alert and active baby since day one. But over time, his sunny disposition started changing for the worse. At 2 weeks old, I noticed his cheeks were becoming mottled and red. At week 6, I realized that, instead of clearing up, his skin irritation was only becoming more serious, and—worst of all—it was affecting his mood.

He was screaming more than cooing. He was frowning more than smiling. My friends would joke with me that he looked like the famous painting “The Scream.”  This was not the easy, contented little dude I had met in the delivery room!

We knew that dairy was part of the issue, but even after cutting all lactose out of my diet, his skin problems persisted. At 6 months of age, he was finally old enough to be tested for more than one allergen at a time.  

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I was surprised to learn that, not only did he react to milk, he is also allergic to:

  • peanuts,
  • Eggs,
  • Chicken,
  • Beef,
  • cats, and
  • dog fur.

The strangest discovery was that chicken and beef were irritants to his system; I had never heard of anyone having an allergy to either of these foods!

As we all know, parenting is not one-size-fits-all. For myself and my child, I believe strongly in the developmental benefits to be gained from breastfeeding. As a personal choice, I had already decided that I want to continue to breastfeed until my son detaches on his own.

With this in mind, Carlos’ dietary limitations have become mine.

The diet Carlos and I are now restricted to be largely a vegan one. Being Puerto Rican, veganism and vegetarianism are not practices I am used to in my life (until now, there have been no “Meatless Mondays” in my home, for example). The one big exception is that I still can eat fish and shellfish, as he is not allergic to them (little wins!).

During our visit, his allergist went on and on about how important is to moisturize his skin to help fight his eczema—but that, until I change my diet, we won’t see any significant progress with his skin. His allergies are so serious, I was told, that he will need to have an EpiPen on him at all times by the time he turns 1.

While trying to take in the flood of information from his doctor, reality sets in.

For the first time since his birth, I consider ending my breastfeeding journey. And yet, as the doctor is giving me all of these instructions, Carlos is latched on to me, just feeding and feeding and feeding. I take a step back, and realize that going the route of formula feeding is not right for us.

Though it was a lot to take in, my feeling is—this needs to change for my son’s sake, and it needs to change now. I don’t have time to be emotional about it. So I do what I do best: make a list!

  1. Call the husband & inform him
  2. Call my mom to get some much needed support
  3. Go shopping for veggies, fish, and other Carlos-friendly foods
  4. Make arrangements to give the family cat up for adoption
  5. Buy Lysol to disinfect and clean the ENTIRE house once the cat is gone…

A list is something I can work with. It’s factual, I can follow it step by step, and if I forget (because I will!) I can always check my iPhone, where I keep my amazing lists (phew!). Without an organized plan of attack, I know I will get overwhelmed and emotional.  I think to myself, I can focus on this list and it will help me deal.

So. The first step I take on is to review my entire food intake. Since we were already dairy-free at this point, I try to pick out the other irritants to Carlos that I have unknowingly been exposing him to. Looking through my food diary, I realize that nearly every time I sat down to a meal, I was taking in something that was basically poisoning my child. I feel responsible. I become hard on myself. This is not an easy thing to wrap my head around.

If I think about the next few years it seems like too much to handle. I feel like my normal lifestyle is about to be turned upside down, but I also know that being a good parent is about doing what is best for your kids, not what is convenient for you.  

On the way home from the doctor, I stop and get some fish and some salad ingredients, and we start with just that: simple.  One meal at a time.  One step at a time.  

Lobsters

Until…the next list!

-Jaleen Vickerson

So That’s Why My Nipples Are On Fire….

In my Night Weaning post, I said I would explain why I had so much nipple pain in a later post. First of all, no, I’m not pregnant (sorry family and friends who thought that). Nipple pain and even nursing aversion is very common during pregnancy though, but not my issue. My issue is one I’ve had my whole life and is only getting worse as I get older: Raynaud’s Phenomenon. In a nutshell, I have frequent poor circulation in my extremities. It causes my fingers, hands, feet and toes to get very cold and change color. People touch my hands all the time and go, “AH! YOU’RE FREEZING!” and I just shrug. I am so used to it that I don’t notice it that much anymore.  It can be painful as times, but mostly it’s just freaks out other people when I have blue fingers. It never dawned on me that it could effect breastfeeding.

Jack latched himself on my breast for the first time with no trouble at all, but he latched incorrectly. It was pretty painful, but I was so overwhelmed with everything I just let him suck away. The next day (and two very badly lacerated nipples) later, a lactation consultant came to my postpartum room and corrected it all. It was so much better, but at the point he injured me so bad it was still pretty painful. But I pushed on. Pumped if I needed a break but never gave up on latching him, no matter how much it hurt. My nipples healed very slowly, slow enough that my doctor was getting concerned. But they did heal and I didn’t think too much of it. My mom told me breastfeeding hurt for her and other women in my family, so I just accepted that it was my genetics.

Every once and awhile it would still hurt when Jack nursed.  I get this weird tingling/burning sensation in my breasts and my nipples turn white. But it wasn’t that bad, so I just kept ignoring it. I assumed he had a shallow latch or maybe a minor tongue tie. I joined La Leche League and got to meet other moms with nipple pain problems. Most of babies did have a tongue or lip tie, but what the moms described didn’t sound like my pain. They said it felt like a tiny clamp on their nipple. Never felt like that for me. And we had no other signs of tongue or lip tie.

As time went on, the pain would come and go. Some days it would be unbearable and then nothing for days. Still didn’t think too much of it. Then one day my friend post a link on Facebook called “That Latch Looks Great! Really?!?! Tell That To My Burning Nipples!”  from the Milk Meg. And there it was, number seven on the list of causes common nipple pain:

“Raynaud’s Syndrome! This is when a woman will experience vasospasm in her nipple. Women will actually notice their nipples turning from white to blue or red. This will happen immediately after a breastfeed and is not helped with correcting the latch. It is related to temperature changes on the nipple after the feed and can be exacerbated when a woman has nipple damage.”

Mind blown. My nipple pain is from stupid Raynaud’s! So I did more research and my mind was blown even more. This is why it took so long for my nipples to heal when Jack first bruised them. This is why it hurt even though Jack had a wonderful latch. This why it felt like my boobs were on fire  sometimes after Jack nursed. When I was having a bad Raynaud’s day, my pain would be worse. It all made sense now. This is just a minor disorder and I wasn’t in that much pain, so I didn’t did do too much to change it. Now I try to keep warm, stay relaxed, and apply nipple ointment after nursing if possible. It was just nice to know the reason why it hurts.

Then we moved to Oregon, which was very stressful. We had to help Jack settled in to his new routine, which was stressful. And the temperature kept going from cold to hot when we first arrived, making it hard for me to figure how to stay the right temperate. Also, Jack went through a big mental leap and growth spurt during this time. He needed lots of milk and wasn’t sleeping well. No sleep+too cold+stress+constant nursing= nipple pain city! It’s worse at night because of not sleeping well. No problems during the day, he could be latched all day and I wouldn’t mind. But at night my hands are like icicles and I want to cry when Jack is done nursing.  Things are settling down so it’s getting better. And the night weaning is also going well and hasn’t been too stressful on anyone. Overall, I am glad I know what’s causing my pain and what I can do it make it better.

I want to share this story to encourage other moms to not just ignore nipple pain. Of course check your baby’s latch first, it’s fairly common culprit. If that isn’t the issue, then consider an underlying condition. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for both you and the baby. Just because you heard that magic phrase, “That latch is perfect!” doesn’t mean you should ignore pain. I am lucky that my condition is minor and I can get through it. If you are in a lot of pain and struggling, don’t just brush it off. Talk to Le Leche League, talk to a lactation consultant,  or even talk to a doctor. You can figure it out and get through it! You just need some help and understanding.

Resources:

Vasospasm and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, BreastFeeding Inc.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon Of The Nipple: A Treatable Cause of Painful Breastfeeding, American Academy Of Pediatrics

Seeking Relief, La Leche League

Why I’m Night Weaning My Toddler

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I’ve already posted about all the initial struggles with breastfeeding. How I just set in my mind I was going to breastfeed and pushed through all the it all. As of this post, we have made it 14 months of nursing on demand. Whenever and wherever, I tried my hardest to give my baby milk whenever he asked. This meant learning to walk while nursing a carrier, waking up several times a night and  pumping when I was away. It was not easy, it was a seriously commit it. But I wouldn’t change it for the word. It’s created a strong and secure bond between my son and me.  He looks at me with such love and joy when he nurses—even when he was newborn. One day he will grow up and leave me, but I will always have those memories.

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Wouldn’t go back and change this for the world!

No regrets about my sleepless nights (and if you read my sleep regression posts, there were A LOT of them). I understood that having a baby meant his need come before mine most of the time. I knew it was only temporary. One day he would no longer want to suckle all night in my arms. One day he will have his own bed and I could sleep a solid 8 hours again. I just needed to get through it with love and understanding. There were nights were I cried out of frustration. There were nights my husband had to take over because I was reaching a breaking point. There were many days I just had to power through and smile despite exhaustion.  But I did it, I survived. I did everything I could to help my son sleep the best and get the best nutrition for the first 14 months of his life.

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This is a tired, unhappy mama.

However, the reason I am writing this post is because I came to a realization. In La Leche League, breastfeeding is described as a mutual relationship between a mother and baby. Mutual as in your are both agree to the terms and are happy with the process. I am no longer happy with the sleepless nights. I am ready to night wean him. This was not an easy decision. I have been talking about the idea for several months now and asking for advice. I was trying to push it off because I didn’t think Jack was ready. I follow gentle parenting, and I didn’t want to force Jack to do something he truly wasn’t ready for (physically or mentally). I talked to my husband about it, who pointed out that Jack can sleep through the most of the night—he does so about once a week on a good week. Then I realized the days after he does, I am so much happier. I take him places to have fun. I have more patience for his almost daily toddler meltdowns over nothing. I even take time to do things for myself like work on my blog or take relaxing bath.

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This is mom I like to be. The mom Jack deserves.

Then I began to think about the phrase “Ain’t no body’s happy if mama ain’t happy.” And realized I needed to think about my self this time.  So I talked to myself about what I needed to be happy. It was simple, sleep. I was exhausted from not getting consistent sleep first of all. But I also confessed something else to myself, I was in pain. Night nursing was becoming very painful (I will address why in a later post). I had just been ignoring it, but it was starting to make me resentful of son at night. My nipples would be on fire after he nursed, so much that I was automatically not offering him my breast when he first stirred from sleep. I will think, “Please don’t want milk, please don’t want milk, anything but milk!” But then he nurses, it hurts, and I lay there for at least a half an hour waiting for the pain to go away. Then I fall back asleep for a a few hours at the most, and it starts all over again. I wake up in the morning very resentful. The last part is a fairly recent development, I never used to be resentful over it. I have no idea why the past month or so this has come up, but it has. And ignoring it is not helping anyone. I deserve to be happy. Jack deserves a happy mom who doesn’t resent him. And Michael deserves a happy wife.  It’s time for mama and everyone to be happy.

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He loves his milkies, he is not giving them up easily (and I don’t want him fully to either!)

So I Googled and looked up on Pinterest “Night Weaning”. I found stuff like “How to night wean in 3 nights!” and “Night Weaning Made Easy!”. They all seemed too good to be true. And most were. One mom seriously advocated for shutting the bedroom door and letting them cry-it-out no matter what (including if they vomit out of stress). Not this family’s style. One said she just told her toddler no more milk at night and that was that! Yeah, Jack would never go for that (I even asked him if he could be a big boy and not have milk at night, he gave me a dirty look). One said just drop a feeding each night for a week and that’s it!  Others did things like don’t readily offer your breast, drop feedings one-by-one every two weeks, and have dad do all the comforting until the baby no longer wakes up. All those sound good, but I know my son, he won’t take to that much change so quickly.

I also talked to my previous La Leche League group from the Bay Area online and attending my local group’s meetings They offered various anecdotal advice like trying a pacifier or a bottle of water instead. The leaders suggested I try to figure out why he is waking up—like he is hungry, thirsty, having bad dreams, teething, or too cold/hot. If I solved that issue, then maybe he would sleep through the night. They also said I should ask myself if I truly think it’s the best decision for my family and to make sure I am not giving into societal pressure. I thought long a hard about that—like a whole month long. After one night where Jack woke up 10 times (yes, 10!) and he was a major grouch the next day, I knew we all needed better quality sleep.

"This was taken at 3 AM, the 7th wake-up of the night"
“This was taken at 3 AM, the 7th wake-up of the night”

Once I established that we needed more quality sleep, I came up with a reasonable and gentle way to get it. I do not want to fully wean him, like I said I have no problems with nursing during the day. Jack needs to learn how to put himself back to sleep without nursing. I decided to put all the advice I received into a plan according to what made sense to me. I knew he would not tolerate being cut off cold turkey. But I could start by nursing him to sleepy, then unlatching him and rubbing his back until he falls asleep. Once he okay with that, I could try dropping one feeding. So the first time he wakes up at night, rubbing his back to sleep again. Next dropping another feeding in the same way. Then another feeding. And so on. Eventually we get to no milk until the sun rises the next morning. He understands what I said for the most part now, so I will say phrases like “Night night time” and “the sleepies soon”. I will give him clear instructions so he knows what will happen, “You can have some milk, then it we will lay down together and relax. I will rub your back until you go to sleep.” Most importantly, I will explain everything to him. This is a big change, he deserves to know what is going on and why we are doing it. I will also try to ask him what he needs if he can’t go back to sleep easily. Like are you hungry or thirsty? Maybe he needs milk for another reason like the Le Leche League leaders suggested.

Michael giving Jack kisses to  and snuggles before bed.
Michael giving Jack kisses to and snuggles before bed.

We are on night five of this plan. It’s too early to give a fair assessment, I will update more later. However, I will offer some resources we are using to help the whole family adjust through this process.

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  • Nursies When the Sun Shines— A children’s book that explains how they get to nurse when the sun is shining, but get snuggles and love at night. That way they learn with visuals in a calm, happy setting. I read it to Jack before we go to bed.
  • Sweet Sleep— An awesome book from La Leche League that explains the science behind baby sleep, as well as how to work with your family’s natural tendencies to help everyone sleep well.
  • Nighttime Parenting: How To Get Your Baby and Child To Sleep— Dr. Sear’s in-depth explanation of how attachment parenting helps create a secure, loving environment that encourages good sleep.
  • No-Cry Sleep Solution— I talked about this book more in my 9 Month Sleep Regression post, and it’s still helping now. I got the idea of making a concrete plan from this book. It also has many suggestions on how to end the suck-to-sleep association. And when it is reasonable to night wean.
  • Essential Oils—I have been using some calming oils to help Jack relax when he gets overtired and to help me calm when I get frustrated. Do some research, they work!

 

Advice For My Sister-In-Law

In a few short weeks, Jack is going to have a little cousin to play with! My sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a little girl. They are going to be wonderful parents, and that little princess is going to be very well-loved by the whole family.

When I was buying presents for the baby shower a few months ago, I tried not to buy them frivolous things. Just the stuff that I didn’t even think needing before Jack was born. That got me to thinking about the stuff I wish I would have known before I had a baby. Rather than just lecture her to death over this, I’d thought I’d make a post so she can read it as she needs. And any other mom can share in the advice to.

Advice For My Sister-In-Law:

Labor and Delivery

  • Childbirth is a pain you cannot compare to anything else. I am not even going to try to explain or compare it. It’s something unique and you need to experience to understand. But the phrase hurts like a mother f**ker doesn’t even begin to explain it. And I had an epidural!
  • But you will feel like a goddess for doing it. A gross, sweaty, fat, exhausted goddess. But a goddess nonetheless! You created a life! You are superhero!!
  • Listen to your body. Trust that your body knows how to do this (because it actually does!). If something doesn’t feel right, tell someone. I did not want to lay flat on my back during labor because it didn’t feel right. So, despite the doctor insisting, I stayed on my side because Jack and I were just fine. Later on the pain was different and I wanted to be on my back, suddenly Jack started to crown. My body knew what to do and I am glad I trusted it. This also includes if something doesn’t feel right. Tell your nurse immediately if you even have the slightest bad feeling. Be your own advocate.
  • Don’t be upset if your birth plan doesn’t work out. All that matters is your baby is healthy. Vaginal unassisted, epidural, induction, planned c-section, emergency c-section—all just semantics.  I suggest having a good birth plan so you know how to be your own advocate and can make informed decisions when issue arise. My birth plan went out the window as soon as I was admitted. I just stayed focused on my baby and everything worked out fine.
  • Bring snacks for your husband. Whether your labor be quick or slow, it will be hours  before he can walk away to get food. You are really going to need his support and he is gonna need his strength to do so.
  • Bring something to pull your hair back. Hair ties, headbands, scarves or whatever. Not only will hair in your face piss you off, it might get in the way of medical procedures. I had to put my hair up for the epidural and when the they put the oxygen mask on my face.
  • Push like you have to poop. Seriously. Push like you have to take the biggest poop of your life. I did not get pushing until a nurse said this to me two hours later. Save yourself the trouble, do it from the start. And if you actually poop in the process, that’s okay. The doctors and nurses have seen it all before!
  • If there is not a medical emergency, demand skin to skin contact right away. Pop that baby out and plop it on your chest right away! It is one of the most magical moment in your life. This tiny human that you made will know who are instantly and snuggle up. This time is also important as it helps regular baby’s temperature, breathing, and heart. And encourage the needs to nurse. And if by some chance you can’t do it, have your husband do it. Tell him to take his shirt off and snuggle that baby as soon as possible. Your baby needs that comfort!
  • Try breastfeeding as soon as possible too.  Not that you can’t do it if you don’t try right away, but you will have a higher success rate the soon you try.
  • No visitors until baby and you are situated in the postpatrum room. Your needs that family bonding time. A visitor will interrupt your skin to skin contact and breastfeeding time. They will want to hold the baby and hog up this vital time. No offensive to them, I know they probably mean well, but this is not their place. The only thing that baby needs is mama and papa for the first hour or two. Everyone else can wait. And if they aren’t respecting this, call security. And I am so not kidding, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. Everyone respected this for me so there was no issue. My mom while Jack (followed by Michael) went to the nursery for testing. She helped me get situated in my postpartum room, which was a really nice bonding experience for us. Once Jack came back to me and we had a few more nursing attempts, then I invited the rest of family to come see.

Hospital Stay Advice

  • You will probably get little rest at the hospital. Between the nurses come to check on both of you and the baby wanting to nurse all the time, it’s exhausting. But try to rest as much as you can. I regret not sleeping more the first day so much. I was excited to show off my baby to everyone, despite being exhausted. Don’t be afraid to visitors out when you are ready to sleep. Like I said, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. No one was rude and stayed later than I wanted, I just should have asked them to leave sooner.
  • Going to the bathroom for the first time after birth is scary. Everything hurts down there (and if you had a c-section, the incision hurts when you walk too) and you will probably be exhausted. I’m pretty sure I looked like Bambi walking for the first time, I was so glad the nurse goes with you. The nurse will show you how to wash and clean yourself (especially if you have stitches). Take your time, listen to the instructions, and let them help you. I was still a little numb and needed my nurse to help me do everything.
  • Don’t be scared by the giant pads and mesh panties. They will probably put them on you right after birth. I was so fixated on Jack that I didn’t even notice. But I was horrified when I saw I was wearing a GIGANTIC pad. I had heard about them but they were way bigger than I Imagined. They are really more like open diapers. But once I saw how much blood had come out of me, it made sense and I got over it. And the mesh panties—they totally do not look like the ones stripper’s wear. They are more like mesh shorts. But they are soooo comfy and easy to put on. I took a few pairs with me when I left and wore them for the next few days until I was less sore and less bloated. Embrace them, they are amazing.
  • Eat everything you can. Once you relax and your appetite comes back, you are probably going to be starving. Eat all you can! Eat the food the hospital gives you. Demand your family bring you something from your favorite restaurant. Pack plenty of snacks. You just burned as many calories as a climbing a mountain. Stuff your face, you earned it! Plus proper nutrition will help you milk come in.
The Fourth Trimester (The first three months postpartum)
  • Limit visitors for the first two weeks after birth. This is my biggest regret after Jack was born. Too many came over the first few days and I got very very overwhelmed. I was beyond exhausted and ended up crying after people left one day. And Jack wasn’t happy either. He just wanted to be held by me and nurse, most visits ended with him screaming. It also interfered with us getting nursing down quickly. My advice is after immediate family has their initial meeting, close off visitation for two weeks to give everyone time to settle in.
  • Do not accept uninvited visitors. It doesn’t matter than Aunt So-and-so happens to be in town and wants to see the baby. It’s not about her! She is a grown up who will get over it and can come see the baby later. If you let her come over, I guarantee other people will think that mean it’s an open invitation for everyone to come whenever. Or they will get mad they didn’t get special treatment and cause drama. Spare yourself, you have enough to worry about. So when Auntie knocks on the door, ignore it.
  • Require people to either bring food or do a chore for you if they want to see the baby. I read this piece of advice before I gave birth and thought it was rude. How could I ask my guests to do that? After Jack was born I got it. They aren’t guest, you just had a baby and have no reason to play host to them. You are doing them a favor to see the baby, so they should be paying you back for your generosity. When they contact you about coming to visit and you approve a set time, ask them to help you by bringing food. Even if it’s just a loaf of bread or a cake. You will be so happy to eat a big piece of cake when you are nursing the next night at 2 AM. Or, ask them when they show up if they can please throw the load of laundry in the dryer while you nurse the baby first? That way the baby will be content and you will be free to chat instead of running around. Please you shouldn’t be running around, you need to recover. Your  visitors should understand that. And if they chose not to come when you ask them this, that person isn’t nice and shouldn’t be around your baby.
  • Don’t be afraid to kick visitors out. If you are tired, baby needs to nurse, or you are simply just annoyed, tell your visitors good-bye. Thank them for coming and let them wave bye to baby, then kick them out. And if they won’t leave, take the baby into another room and don’t come out until they are gone. It’s not rude, you are doing what is best for your family. It’s rude that they didn’t respect your wishes!
  • You don’t have to listen to every piece of advice. You are going to get a ton of advice. Some good, some bad. Some wanted, and some very unwanted. Listen to it, and say thanks for sharing. If you like it, give it a try. If not, forget it and never give it a second thought. This includes my advice.
  • Hold your baby, hold your baby, hold your baby!!! I know I said please to ignore advice you don’t like, but please listen to this one. You cannot spoil a baby this young. Please hold your baby all you want. Your baby only has a few needs the first few months, and your comfort is one of them. Don’t listen to people who say you should let your baby cry it out and learn to not be held. It’s horrible advice, your baby will become very stressed out and not develop properly. I also suggest babywearing, they make some very simple carriers that are easy for anyone to use. Or give woven wraps a try, I love mine.
  • You are going to get very little sleep. Between all the feedings, diaper changes, and taking care of yourself—sleep will become a luxury. And of course try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you will probably spend it worrying the baby is breathing.
  • Breastfeeding is hard. While it is the most natural thing your body can do, it doesn’t come naturally to most women. You will need a lot of time, patience, knowledge, and support to be successful. It might hurt, your baby might gave tongue or lips ties that need to be surgically addressed, or you might have a medical reason interfering. All that being said, breastfeeding will become natural overtime. Now I can nurse Jack anywhere, anytime. I love Jack and I breastfeeding relationship, it’s such a powerful bond.
  • But don’t give up when it gets hard. But with the proper help, you CAN overcome most issues. It might not be easy and it might not be a quick fix, but keep going. I almost gave up 3 weeks in, but I turned to La Leche League’s website and gained the knowledge to overcome our struggles. Do everything possible. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. Keep trying, you CAN do it!
  • Join La Leche League. Or some other breastfeeding support group. You don’t have to struggle alone. Do you know why the official book or La Leche is called “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”? Because breastfeeding is an art! You need to be taught by someone with experience on how to do it and talk to your peers on how to advance your knowledge. Obstacles will come up that will blindside you, your fellow lactating mothers will talk you through it.
  • If breastfeeding doesn’t work out, that’s okay too. After you have given it your all and you realize breastfeeding just won’t work for you, it’s okay to switch to formula. Your baby will still thrive. You didn’t’ fail, you just tried something that didn’t work. All that matters is your baby is fed and happy.
  • Don’t look at the clock or follow a schedule for nursing.  “Your baby should nurse 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours.” THIS IS THE BIGGEST LOAD OF CRAP EVER! Most babies do not nurse like this. Nurse your baby whenever they show you hunger cues (rooting, hand sucking, fussiness) and nurse them as long as they want (and you are comfortable).  The best advice I ever got was “Never unlatch a suckling baby”.  Who cares if it’s been 45 minutes, your baby needs it. Even if they are not eating that whole time, they are comfort nursing—which is just as important as eating. It stimulates your milk production and comforts your baby. However, if your baby keeps popping off after a minute or two, make sure you at least keep trying to latch your baby for 15 minutes. Likewise, if it’s been more than 4 hours without your baby nursing (like they are sleeping), latch them on and get them fed. There isn’t really a thing as too much nursing, but they can nurse too little. That’s the only time you should watch the clock.
  • Give yourself time to heal.  The first few weeks the only things you should be doing sitting on the couch nursing your baby or laying in bed nursing your baby. Nothing else. Cooking, cleaning, work, etc.—that all can wait. You are gonna be sore ALL over. You are going to be exhausted. You are going to be worried about your baby constantly. Just sit down, hold your baby, and rest.
  • Don’t worry about losing the baby weight quickly.  Odds are you will not be that one out of a million woman who looks exactly like she did before she got pregnant right after birth. But that’s okay. Just focus on caring for year newborn and healing yourself. Once you are cleared by your doctor, start taking some small steps back like walking with your baby and eating a healthy diet. It took 9 months to gain it, give yourself at least 9 months to get it off before you go crazy. I have lost all my baby weight plus 7 pounds by doing nothing but eat whatever I want within reason that is healthy, walk and nurse. And I’m only 8 months postpartum.
Other Stuff that I can’t explain, but you will understand soon enough:
  • You are going to love your husband even more now.  
  • You are going to love your mom even more now too. 
  • You are going to be a different person from now on. 
  • Your body will never be the same, but you will respect it’s power. 

Baby-Lead Weaning: Ditching The Baby Spoon


First of all, I want to say I am not judging anyone who bottle-feds or spoon-feeds their child. All that matters is you love and care for your child. Everything else is just a difference of opinion.

The story of how I am introducing solid food to my son began when I was still in my first trimester. I pretty much spent every day for the first 4 months laying on the couch coping with morning sickness. To distract myself, I looked up pregnancy and baby stuff on Pinterest. I came across this blog post one day and I was intrigued. I thought “Maybe later when the baby is older..” so pinned it. But I kept coming back to that post and thinking about it, it just seemed too good to be true. Women on my Birth Club kept mentioning it too. I knew I wanted to nurse Jack for as long as possible. And I wanted to make my baby food. Baby-led weaning encompasses all that. But I kept telling myself  “Figure it out later.”

The pin that haunted me….

Once Jack was born and we got the hang of nursing, I knew there was no way I wanted to wean him any earlier than 2-years-old. Jack decided that most days he only wants to nap on me, so I ended up with free time on my hands and back on Pinterest. And that post came up again. It was haunting me. So I downloaded the book to my phone and read it during his naps. A major light bulb went on. It all made sense. I found the way I wanted to feed my son and any future children.

I love e-books!

I had three major concerns about feeding my child. First of all, I wanted him to mostly eat highly nutritious, whole, unprocessed food. No junk food, no food-like products, and no empty calories. I want to change the way the western-world thinks about food, and a great place to start is my teaching the new generation. Second, I didn’t want to create a picky-eater. I’ve babysat kids who threw full-on tantrums the minute you even thought of feeding them something new. One little girl cried for an hour when I suggested dipping her quesadilla in salsa. I want my son to want real food, good food. Third, I will do anything to prevent Jack from developing food issues. I have struggled with them my whole life and it’s not until a few years ago did I get it mostly under control. I want him to learn food is for nourishment—of the body and soul—and not a treat or weapon. Baby-led weaning seems to be the answer to all my concerns about introducing solids.

So, what is this crazy new idea called baby-lead weaning? In a nutshell, you only feed your child milk (breast preferably, but formula is okay too) until he is ready to feed himself. And once you introduce solid food, you allow him to learn to eat and do not worry about how much he actually consumes. Then overtime, as he eats more gradually on his own, he will want to nurse less and less until he weans himself.

It’s not a new concept. This is how our ancestors fed their children. Cavewomen nursed their babies for as long as possible because that’s all they had. And when they were older, the cave-babies sat on mommas’ laps and pulled off pieces of roasted saber-toothed tiger meat (or whatever they ate) and gnaw on it. No spoon-feedings. No jar of nasty mushed up vegetables. No force-feeding a certain amount. Why did they feed their children this way and not like most mother do now? First of all , their babies were thriving on breast milk. It adapts as the baby grows to provide the correct calories/vitamins/antibodies to help a baby grow perfectly. And it’s pretty much free and always readily available. Second, feeding a baby this wastes less. Why portion out a totally separate meal of scarce food that this tiny person probably will only eat a few bites of? And waste all that time and energy making it? That cave-baby can just take what they want, and while the family eats the rest. If cave-baby doesn’t like saber-tooth tiger, that’s fine because they already had some breast milk. Baby-led weaning is not new, but forgotten. Once convenient pre-packaged foods became the norm, the idea of feeding your baby from your plate died. Food companies convinced us that only poor, uneducated people would feed their baby table scraps. Good, loving parents will spend the money to feed their child the food they designed for babies. This way of feeding is actually the new concept.

I know you are probably thinking, “But my parents fed me like this and I am okay.” And maybe you are. But I am telling you that I am not. And I don’t believe many from my generation are as good as they could be either. Like I said I have major issues with food. And I believe that—Mom, please don’t take offense to this, I love you and know you did everything you thought was right—that all my food issues go back to how I was fed as a baby. I was breastfed until I was 6 months old (I am very grateful for that!) then switched to formula. I was spoon-fed at 4 months old,  and given rice cereal at 5 months. My mom did make a lot of her own baby food (I am so very grateful for that!) with fresh vegetables and fruit later on. But it was still pureed and spoon-fed. So, what was so bad about this common feeding method? It didn’t teach me anything but how to overeat non-nutrient dense foods. This led to me not learning how to control my food, which led to overeating.. This led to weigh issues, which led to body image issues. So, I am horribly sick and messed up beyond repair from all this? No. But like I said before, it was painful to handle. I know other people from my generation suffer from these issues too. Plus, there is a major rise in severe allergies, painful digestive issues, and horrible migraines that can be all traced back to food.  I don’t think we are really as okay as we claim.

How does baby-led weaning solve this? Let me explain a little bit more how it works. This is once again a nutshell of the rules, I suggest reading the book for an in-depth explanation.

  • Continue to give them milk as their main source of food. Once the learn how to eat, they will begin to wean later.
  • Introduce foods once your baby has met all the milestones, usually around 6 month.
    • Sit up unassisted.
    • Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
    • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
    • Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
    • Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity
  • Feed your baby what you are eating, within reason.
  • Chose a few, basic whole foods to start out and make them sure they are easy for them to hold.
  • Let them them be in control. Don’t try to help.
  • Let them make a big mess. Don’t try to clean-up during the feed.
  • Don’t offer too much as once or they may get overwhelmed, and get discouraged. Then they will think eating is stressful.
  • Don’t overly praise them when they do eat something. Then they begin to think that eating makes you happy, so I should eat more to keep you happy. This leads to overeating.
  • Don’t scold for not eating. This will also make eating stressful, too.
  • Don’t worry about how much they are eating, it doesn’t matter. Milk will provide them with the correct nutrition and calories for awhile.
  • Don’t force them to eat something they don’t want. They may be full and more hurts their tummy. Or they simply might not like it and forcing them to eat it once again is creating stress. Or they may be allergic to it and rejecting it is their way of telling you it make them feel ill.
  • Remember, it’s not about the food, it’s about learning a skill.

Baby-led weaning has the potential to eliminate the issues I talked about earlier. Overeating is reduced because they learn overtime how much food they need to be satiated. Babies are born knowing to only remove enough milk from the breast to be full. Trust me, you can’t force a baby to latch on if they don’t want to. However, you can force a bottle-fed baby or spoon-fed baby to take more than they want. This starts them down the road of wanting more than is necessary. But if you never break their natural ability, they will continue to only eat what they need. The food issues are eliminated for two reasons: there is no drastic change and there is less stress. It’s challenging for a baby to go from being spoon-fed bland tasting mush to suddenly being expected to eat normal adult food. They get used to only one texture and one taste, and then you demand they eat all this other crazy stuff? No wonder picky eats usually prefer simple things. But if you allow them to explore various tastes and textures from the start, it’s not so challenging. Plus, breast milk varies in taste based on what mom ate, so it’s not that big of a leap. With less stress, they have the time to learn at their own pace. Would you like to eat with someone standing over you demanding you eat this or else get punished? No, you wouldn’t! So why do it to a baby? All that teaches you is you are bad and food is bad. This mentality hinders the child from learning the skill. Lastly forcing a child to eat something before they are physically ready can create health problems. Babies are born with holes in their stomach lining to allow the nutrients of milk to seep into other parts of their bodies easier. If you force a child to eat solids before they are ready, these holes do not seal properly and cause digestive and immune system issues.

All this is why I am foregoing the spoon and jar, and letting my son eat from my plate. In my next post, I will explain how the journey is going so far.

Resources:
Infant—Food and Feeding, American Pediatric Association.
Baby-Led Weaning Website
Breastfeeding, World Who Organization

Oversupply and Undersupply

I was one of those lucky women whose milk came in quickly ( 3 days after birth). And I made the correct amount right from the start. The first two weeks I was just engorged enough to meet Jack’s demands during those first few growth spurts but not be leaking all the time. Then I somehow got it in my head I needed to accumulate a massive freezer stash as soon as possible. So I started to pump whenever I could. I also took fenugreek everyday for 2 weeks to boost my supply. By the time Jack was a month old I had over 100 ounces frozen. I was so proud, my baby could eat for several days!

His first milk coma. I should have know if
he was happy, I was making enough milk.

Around this time I got my first clogged duct—and man did it hurt. A few days later I got another. Then another. I also noticed Jack’s diapers where green and frothy. He also started to cough/choke and pull off my breast when my letdown started. I asked my lactation consultant, she said I likely had a strong letdown caused by an oversupply. I told her I was pumping a lot and she said that was really unnecessary. Unless I planned on being away from him often, I didn’t need more than a few bottles worth stashed.

My freezer stash again. I am considering
donating some of it now.

I looked up on La Leche’s website how to correct an oversupply. I stopped taking the fenugreek and right away I stopped getting insanely engorged. Then I didn’t need to pump during the day at all. I only pumped for relief if Jack slept through the night. And when he woke up to nurse at night, I pumped the other side after to keep it from leaking and waking me up. It was painful at first and I got two more clogged duct during the process. Jack’s also stopped choking and his diapers went back to normal. I felt silly for thinking I needed to make so much extra milk everyday. It only caused Jack and I problems.

Then my milk stabilized around 12 weeks postpartum. Many moms mistake this for their milk drying up. Your body figured out how much milk to make for your baby, so you no longer get engorged and will leak a lot less. I knew this was coming and welcomed the relief. I only woke up 1 or 2 times a week to pump at night.
I had just nursed him and he was still giving me the milk face.
About this time I also went back on birth control. I know that exclusively breast feeding can be a very effect form of birth control when done correctly, but I didn’t want to take that chance. Jack is the best surprise of my life, but I am so not ready for any more. I selected Mirena, which the doctor told me repeatedly has little to no chance of interfering with my milk supply. At first there were no issues, so I didn’t think twice about it. Then Jack hit the 4 month sleep regression. He woke every hour to two hours at night, demanding milk. I had plenty so it was not an issue at the start. He was nurse for 5 minutes then would easily go back to sleep. About a week into the sleep regression is when my Mirena took full affect and I noticed right away Jack was nursing for 20 minutes or more. And he getting frustrated. Sometime he even demanded the other side as well. This also started to happen during the day. One day I pumped to make a bottle so I could go out for a bit and hardly anything came out. I mean I spent 30 minutes barely getting 1 ounces from both sides. No wonder Jack was getting frustrated! I know pumping is not a good indication of total output because your baby is better at removing milk, but I always responded well to pumping. Something was wrong.
I realized that it had to be the Mirena, since nothing else changed. I talked to my lactation consultant again. She brought up the whole “most mom mistake stabilization for a loss of supply” thing, despite me telling her I knew the difference. So she weighed him before and after a feeding session right there at the office to show me he was getting enough. Jack nursed for 20 minutes and barely got 1.5 ounces. She said that he will need to nurse more often if that is all he getting. And eventually I might need to supplement with formula if it interferes with his weight gain. She really did not want that to happen though, she urged me to just keep at it.

I asked my local La Leche League for help. A couple moms also experienced a dip in supply when returning to birth control. One mom said that it’s because it signals your body to start having menstrual cycle hormones again. Those interfere with the hormones for milk production. She suggested I take the Mirena out if it becomes a major issue. I didn’t want to take it out, but I also did not want my milk to dry up. I want to nurse Jack until at least two-years-old, and no stupid little medical device was going to prevent me from reaching my goal.

I was going back to work in 2 weeks and did not want to use up my freezer stash. I knew that if I turned to the stash I would be demanding less of my breasts, causing them to make even less. This would only make the problem worse. So I pulled out all the stops. The lactation consultant told me to go back on fenugreek. I could up to 4 pills 3 times a day if I needed. I ordered a two-pack of the big bottles off of Amazon Mom. I also made lactation cookies (check out my food blog for the recipe) and devoured of them all. I also ate oatmeal with a big scoop of brewer’s yeast (also got off of Amazon Mom) for breakfast every morning. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea and a ton of water daily too. I also let Jack nurse all he wanted. I even let him stay latch for 5-10 minutes once he fell asleep for a nap to increase the demand on my body. I also pumped every chance I got.

It took 12 days of being vigilant, but it worked! One night I got up to pump at 3 AM and got my normal 3-4 ounces. Jack stopped fussing at my breast during the day and fell asleep easily again at night (though he still woke up often because of the sleep regression). I cut back on the marathon nursing sessions and only make lactation cookies when I want a treat. I am still taking the fenugreek to keep my supply from dipping again. I scaled back though, only 2 pills 2 times a day.

It came just in time too, the next day I started back at work. The milk I pumped that night became his bottles for my first evening back. It’s been 4 weeks now and my supply is back to normal. I stabilized again and don’t get engorged often at all. I never had to touch my freezer stash (I am actually considering donating my stash now) and I didn’t need to supplement with formula either. Stubbornness paid off big time!

How cute is the romper I got in Napa?

I shared this story because I couldn’t find another one like it. I am not judging anyone who chooses to give formula or needs to supplement at all. Always do what’s best for you and your baby. But I hear from friends and other moms who didn’t get the support and information they needed to push through breastfeeding hurdles. Breastfeeding is not always easy and does not always come naturally. It’s work and takes a commitment. It is possible to succeed, don’t discouraged! If your baby is gaining weight and making enough dirt/wet diapers, don’t worry about needing to supplement. Your body is amazing and can fix the issue if you let it. I have fixed an oversupply and undersupply in the span of 4 months now. Get help and seek out support like I did.

Here are resources I used:
How Does Milk Production Work, KellyMom
Fenugreek Seeds For Increasing Milk Supply, KellyMom
Oversupply, La Leche League
Engorgement, La Leche League
Brestfeeding and Fertility, KellyMom
Increasing Low Milk Supply, KellyMom
Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?, Kellymom

Pumping at Work

In my last post I mentioned that I went back to work two weeks ago. Michael feeds Jack bottles while I am gone, so I have to pump at work. Before I returned to work, I did pump a little. Mostly because Jack was sleeping through the night (stupid sleep regression) and I pumped for relief. I never set an alarm to pump, usually Jack woke around 4 AM, ate from one side and I got up to pump the other. I froze that milk so I had a stash for when my parent watch him next month when we go on a trip for anniversary. Side note: I love the Up& Up and Lansinoh freezer bags. But make sure you seal the Lansinoh really tight or they can leak when you thaw them. The Up& Up are cheaper and have never leaked for me though.

The first bag I ever pumped, I was so proud.

The first time you pump is really weird. It might hurt if your nipples haven’t toughen up yet (or were horribly bruised from nursing like mine). To ease the pain, I put a little bit olive oil on my nipples and the flanges first. And once I finished, I put on lots of lanolin. It hurt way less than nursing did at first though. But like I said, it’s weird. You really will feel like a cow. But just remember you are doing something amazing for your little one.

source

Anyways, I first bought an Evenflo Deluxe Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump. I knew nothing about pumps so I just went by price. For the price the machine is not bad and did get the job done. It comes with a tote bag,  a separate mini cooler with ice packs, 2 bottles and 2 different flanges sizes. I also like that it’s not that loud. But, it’s not that powerful. I have a really strong letdown, then afterwards it goes to a weak stream. Without a strong suction to boost the stream up, it just takes forever to drain my boobs. To be honest, I think I wasted my money on it. If you are just going to pump on occasion or don’t need that much suction, it is worth the money. However, for me personally, it just didn’t cut it.

Stimulation mode is awesome and the
suction is good for such a small device.

After awhile it became such a pain to set-up and use an electric pump at night when I was only doing one side. So I thought I’d try a hand pump. I got a Medela Harmony and it worked fantastic! It’s easy to clean and use when I am half asleep at 4 in the morning. I love that it has two pumping modes, stimulation and normal. The stimulation mode starts my letdown way more efficiently than the Evenflo one did. And because I controlled the pumping speed, I could change the suction instantly to my needs. I got way more out with just this simple little pump than I did before. They are fairly inexpensive and totally worth the money. And great to keep with you when are travelling or if you start leaking while away from your baby.

I LOVE this pump. And yeah, I am using the treadmill
as table for my stuff. Joys of pumping in public.

Then when I turned to work I got the Medela Double Electric for free (your insurance company and WIC will provide you with a pump for free). I LOVE IT! It has great suction power, stimulation mode, and several speeding settings to keep my stream going as needed. It comes in its own portable bag too. You never need to take it out, there is a zipper opening on the side to access the controls.

There is a pocket inside to store all the parts. And a cooler with ice packs to store the expressed milk for up to 10 hours. I should have just waited for this pump. It’s more expensive (if you don’t get it for free) but SO worth the money.

As far as pumping at work, first you need to know your rights. All employers MUST give you a break to express milk, a reasonable amount of time to do it in, and a place that is not a restroom to do. This is all under Federal law. Check out the Department of Labor website here for more information. My husband was nice and talked to our HR guy for me while I was on maternity leave. He suggested that the gym was the best place for me to pump. Not many people actually use the gym so it don’t have to worry about people barging in. Plus the door locks and there is a shade on the window next to the door for privacy. A couple people have asked why I keep going into the gym, so I just politely explained and they understood. I also talked with my boss before I went on leave and before I got back. He approved my pumping schedule. It was pretty easy overall, but I really suggest working this stuff out beforehand and making sure everyone who might be affected is on board. That way there are no issues to stress you out (stress hurts your supply) when you get back to work.

I pump every two hours for 20 minutes. Once at 5 PM and again at 7 PM. I chose these times because this is normally when Jack eats each day. I suggest (if possible) having a pumping schedule similar to your feeding schedule so it does not effect your supply.

I suggest either buying or making your own hand-free pumping bra. It really sucks to be sitting there holding  your boobs for 20 minutes. I made one out of an old sports bra by cutting slits wide enough for the flanges to go through.  And bring something with you to do while you pump, it can get boring. I either play on my phone or take some paper work with me.

Since breast milk can be left at room temperature for up to 8 hours, I don’t fully wash the pumping parts after each session. I rinse off them in the breakroom (once again, no one cares, just do it calmly and quietly). Then I put them back in the bag with and use them again for the second session. After the second session I just stick back in the bag and give them a thorough cleaning when I get home.

I first started pumping into the storage bottles that came with the pump. But it got annoying washing 2 or 3 extra bottles at night. I realized that the bottles Jack drinks from fit onto the pump so I started pumping straight into them. I bring an extra storage bottle just in case I make extra.

source

Jack likes the Evenflo Classic Glass 4 Ounce Bottles. I got great advice from a friend when I was pregnant on what bottles to start with—pick ones that look most like your nipples. After some trips to the store and awkwardly trying to decide what looks the closest, I settled on these.  However, you may have better luck with bottles designed for breast feeding babies, like these suggestions from Baby Center. Also, don’t wait to introduce a bottle until you go back to work. They might get too used to the breast and not take it. However, don’t introduce it too until they have latched correctly and repeatedly, or else they may get too used the bottle and reject your breast. We introduced a bottle slowly starting at 3 weeks. He would get maybe one a week. Then a few weeks before I went back to work he started to get several more a week to help ease the transition.

It takes a little guessing on how much to leave. The lactation consultant told me an ounce for every hour I’m gone. I last nurse him 6 hours before I get home, so 6 ounces. So the first day I left two 3-ounce bottles. Jack plowed right through those, obviously this kids needs more than 1 ounce an hour. So the next day I left two 4-ounce bottles, plus a little spare. He plowed through the first, and then happily suck the other down slowly later. I found the winning combination. And sometimes he doesn’t need all of the last one either, I think he knows I’m coming soon and waits for me. To make this all easier on Michael, I line them up in order of use in the fridge.

All lined up and ready to go in the fridge.

Then there is the storage issue. Some moms rotate their freezer stash. They pumped milk while on maternity leave and thaw out as needed each day, using the oldest bags first. Then replenish the stash with what they pumped that day. Others don’t have a stash and just use what they pumped the day before. This is what I do, even though I do have a stash. What I pump on Monday gets bottle up and fed on Tuesday. Tuesday gets fed on Wednesday, & etc.. And since breast milk lasts up to 6 days in the fridge, Friday’s get fed on Monday.

My freezer stash of about 350 ounces.

Before I went back to work I read some other blogs about pumping and it really helped. Happy Home Fairy’s Extreme Pumping- Confessions of an Exclusive Pumper is SUPER helpful. Although I’m not a teacher, I really like Healthful Mama’s Back-to-School Breastfeeding: Pumping in Your Classroom.

So far I have been able to comfortably pump at work and make enough milk each night without having to touch my freezer stash. However, check out my next post about the supply issue I had a few weeks ago that also had me reaching for my stash.

Why I Am Happy I Didn’t Give Up Breastfeeding

Eleven weeks ago, I couldn’t imagine that I would ever say this phrase: I love breastfeeding. I really do! But it was not an easy road to get here. It hurt so bad for the first three week. Jack latch wrong and severely cracked/bruised my nipples. I was beyond exhausted and was so overwhelmed that Jack asked to nurse every hour. I also didn’t understand why Jack wanted to nurse so often so I was afraid I had a supply issues. All this made me consider giving up. But I educated myself and realized I was doing everything right. Check out my previous post on this for the full story.

But I am so glad that I pushed through and did not give up. This is seriously one of the best experiences of my life. Look at this picture and tell me it is not beautiful?

Just nursing Jack on the shores of Lake Tahoe, no big deal at all.

The first reason I am glad I did not give up is the most obvious: I know I am doing the best thing for my son. Did you know that the milk I am making now is designed just for Jack (La Leche League meeting)? I think that is really cool! It is literally the best possible thing I can feed him right now. It is giving him the correct nutrition he needs and the composition of it will change to meet his needs as he gets older. He also gets all my antibodies to help his immune system and nervous system develop. And not to mention he gets my love and affection. The look he gives me when he latches on is the definition of unconditional love.

The milk face. He gets so happy
when he realizes he’s getting fed.

Second reason, it empowered me as a women. Not only did my body make a baby, it is feeding that baby. That is freaking amazing! I am doing something that no man can ever do, a unique privilege reserved for women. It’s creating a bond with my son that only I, as his mother, can provide. I feel like I understand the female body now, and it’s beautiful. I accept all the flaws of my body because I know what it is capable of doing. And  the willpower of a women is the strongest thing in the world. It took such great mental strength to overcome all the initial challenges of breastfeeding. I admit that most men have more brute strength, but I argue that women have a greater overall strength now.

Still look pretty good in my bikini,
not as great as before but I embrace it.

Third, it has made me fearless. At first I hid when I nursed my son. I would always be covered, go to another room, or just bring a bottle of expressed milk. That got old pretty quick. Nursing covers are difficult to put on while holding a hungry baby. And Jack likes to wiggle when he nurses so they don’t always stay on well. And it embarrassing walking around looking for a private place to nurse with your baby screaming their head off. It actually draws more attention and stresses you out more. So one day I decided I was over it. I am not doing anything vulgar so I had no reason to hide. So I started nursing openly in public. No one can tell me stop or cover-up. I am polite and don’t flash my boobs around by any means. I just find a nice place to sit, calm start nursing him, and sit there quietly. I’ve gotten a few dirty looks but it’s their problem, not mine. I am totally within my rights and not breaking any laws. I am fearless mother.

It took 5 minute to get him situated
under the cover. Not worth it.

And so far I received overwhelmingly positive response. A man and his toddler walking by one today told me to not worry about covering up because his wife went through the same thing. An old lady told me I was giving my son the best gift possible. Even at a loved one’s memorial service when I stepped outside to nurse him, someone gave me a shout out of encouragement.

I also need to give a big thank you to La Leche League.I started attending meetings last month and it inspired me to keep nursing. It was refreshing to hear that the other moms have gone/ are going through the same problems. And it’s so empowering to see women nursing for over a year. With the knowledge I’ve gained from the meetings, I am now determined to nurse him for a year minimum. Then I will decide between pumping or continue to nurse for another year. It will just depend on what’s going on in my life then, but either way Jack will get two years of my milk.

Cluster Feeding and Comfort Nursing: What New Moms Need To Know About Breastfeeding

The minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. It’s “free”, helps you lose weight, and provides the best nutrition. Plus it’s great bonding time with your baby. Why wouldn’t I do it? It seemed like a no brainer!

I took two breastfeeding classes, and some of the other child care classes went over it too. They talked about the various holding positions and how to get the baby to latch on properly. And how often to feed them so they gain weight. Seemed pretty basic and easy to follow. Boy was I wrong…

My mom told me that it is harder than you think. She said her mom helped her when she really struggled with it, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I knew your nipples will be sore and you may have painful blocked ducts. Also that your uterus contracts when you nurse and you may leak milk when it’s close to feeding time. And that you need to be near your baby most of the time to feed on demand. But all that seemed reasonable, I wasn’t too scared.

Then the time came. Jack was born and he started rooting for my nipple the minute they put him on my chest. The nurse sat me up and told me offer him my breast. Jack took it instantly—and OH MY GOD DID IT HURT!! But I looked at him happily sucking away and just tried to ignore it. Later when he came back from the nursery, I tried to feed him again and he wouldn’t latch. I started to feel overwhelmed—not to mention that was I exhausted too. My mom helped me get him on but it still really hurt (he had already bruised my nipple).

My nurse called the lactation consultant and she really helped. Jack wasn’t latching on wide enough and I needed to wake him up more so he eat enough before falling asleep. I thought it was all good after that. Wrong. That night he cried every hour to be fed and I didn’t know what to do. The nurse came in and explain it was all normal, and showed me how to massage my boob while nursing to get more out. The feedings in the hospital went a lot better after that.

Then once I got him home he cried to be fed all the time, which once again totally overwhelmed me and I started to doubt myself. I am not making enough milk? Is there something wrong with my milk or my breasts? Is he still not latching right again? Maybe I should just give him formula, maybe it will make him happier?

Then I turned to the internet, I needed more information. If I was doing something wrong I needed to find out how to fix it. To my surprise, I was actually doing things right. Turns out breastfeeding is actually that hard in the beginning. But I found there were a few things I could do to make it easier.

So the following list is things I found out the hard way. But I wish they advertised these better to new moms so they don’t get overwhelmed and give up breastfeeding.

  • It will hurt for the first few weeks. Seriously, it will hurt a lot. A combination of sore/burning/stinging/throbbing. If your baby bruises your nipples like Jack did to me, it will be even worse. And for the first few weeks your uterus will contract as you nurse, it’s like mini labor all over again. Not mention you are exhausted and hormonal, making all the pain a hundred times worse. You may cry as you nurse. It’s okay, let it out.
  • But the pain does go away. I promise. I am 3.5 weeks postpartum now and it just barely stings when he latches and throbs a little bit after. It may piss you off when people tell you to just nurse through the pain, but it seriously works. The more you nurse, the more your nipples toughen up and begin to heal. As you are crying through the pain, look at your sweet angel’s face and remember why it’s worth it.
  • Make sure the is latch correct. Jack bruised my nipples because I let him latch incorrectly the first time and he kept doing it. The lactation consultant showed me to open his mouth wide, put my nipple in bottom first, and gently push his head so his mouth takes in most of the areola. Once I had him on correctly, it was a million times better and I didn’t dread feeding him. Check out this link for more info on the proper latch.
  • Soothe your nipple in between feedings. Put a heating pad on before you nurse if possible. It opens up the ducts so the milk will flow easier and your baby won’t have to suck as hard. After you nurse, put lanolin on your nipples. It’s not vegan, but it’s all natural and works very well. I tried coconut oil but it wasn’t the same. This is one time I am fine with a non-vegan product because I know it is for the okay for my son. Also, if your nipples are still throbbing, put an ice pack on.
  • You won’t have much milk you at first. But you don’t need that much at first.You’ve probably been told that your baby’s stomach is small and so you don’t need a lot of milk at first. So don’t be concerned if when you try to express milk from your breast only a few drops comes out.  It’s totally normal (Ameda)
  • But your supply will increase.  As your baby gets bigger, so will their little stomach. And your body will up your supply with the increasing demand. Keep nursing (despite the pain) and it will stimulate your body to make more (Ameda)
The next two are the most important things I wish someone told me beforehand. But first you need to understand growth spurts. Your baby will go growth major growth spurts several times during their first year of life. During this time they will need to eat more, probably want more snuggles, and sleep more. The first few will be around 3 days, the next around 7-10 days, then 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks. These first few ones will be a major struggle since you still exhausted and recovering from birth.
  • Cluster feeding. I thought something was wrong with my milk supply at the hospital. However, when I pumped between feedings when I got home, I discovered I was making plenty. I didn’t understand why Jack was eating all the time. Then I Googled it and cluster feeding came up instantly. When your baby is going through a growth spurt, your baby may need to eat more frequently, like every hour instead of every 2-3 hours. And they may want to nurse for a longer period of time. Then suddenly they will sleep for longer than normal, like 4-5 hours instead of 2-3 hours. Then wake up and want to start the cluster feeding/sleep cycle all over again. This is all normal—though it will drive you mad. You will feel like you are nursing back-to-back for hours. Your nipples will be throbbing and all you can think about is a nap. Then suddenly the baby is out in a milk coma and stays asleep for hours. As much as you enjoyed your much needed 4 hours nap, now you are all worried something is wrong. I kept thinking, “Why did he sleep so long? Is he okay?”  Then suddenly they are wide-awake and eating their hand because they are so hungry! Now you feel like a horrible mom for letting them sleep so long between feedings. Then the back-to-back feeding starts all over again, stressing you out more. Like I said, it all sucks, but it’s normal. (Sources: Kelly Mom, La Leche)
  • Comfort nursing. I have no problem rocking Jack to sleep and comforting him whenever he wakes up. But I wanted him to get used to falling asleep on his own (trying to avoid co-sleeping because I have insomnia issues and it’s not safe for him to be in our bed if I take a sleep aid on occasion). But sometimes he would be so insanely fussing when I tried to put him to sleep. The only way I could calm him was by nursing him until he fell asleep. Sometimes this can takes 30 minutes. He doesn’t actively suck the whole time, maybe only 10-15 minutes. Then he just gently sucks as he dozes off to sleep. Then he would gently unlatch himself and be sound asleep on my chest. Only then I could transfer him to his bed without him waking up screaming. I was worried I was starting him on bad habit that would lead to him only sleeping in peoples arms or co-sleeping. So I Googled it again and discovered he was comfort nursing—and that it is normal. And it won’t last forever. I like how they phrased it, do you honestly think your child will need to comfort nurse the rest of his life? That they will never outgrow it and be an independent person? That’s ridiculous to believe, he just needs my nurturing and affection right now. So, if I nurse Jack to sleep right now I will not need to go with him to college to nurse him to sleep. (La Leche, Kelly Mom)
If you are truly struggling, ask for help. Contact a lactation consultant at the hospital where you delivered. Talk to  friend or family member who nursed before. Even your doctor or pediatrician can help. Breastfeeding is hard at first, but you don’t have to suffer alone. And eventually you won’t suffer at all, just keep going!

Check out these links for my information and encouragement: