Why A Birth Center and Midwife

I want to be clear first: I think modern medicine and hospitals are awesome. Seriously, they have been my good friend this pregnancy. Rehydrated me 6 times now due to hyperemesis. My son bashed his chin open a few weeks ago and the wonderful local children’s hospital glued him back together. I had repeated tonsillitis and ear infections (so bad it was damaging my immune system) in college, my amazing ENT took out my tonsils and my hospital took great care of me afterwards. Seriously, wonderful and totally awesome when you need that kind of treatment. But I don’t view a pregnancy with no major complications as a something that needs that kind of treatment.

 

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Jack was a few hours old, both of us doing good.

Jack’s birth was good. Nothing horrible happened and we were both given reasonable care. It was very standard Medical Model of Care. They followed protocol and did all they could to ensure we both were healthy and alive. I gave birth in a very busy county hospital, so some resources took longer to get. But when they did come, they tried hard to give us good care with the limited time they had. Overall, I say it was just good.

However, now that I am more educated on birth, I want better than good. I want my requests respected (within reason). I want the Midwife Model of Care this time. In a nutshell, the Midwife Model of Care believes that birth is a natural process that your body already knows how to do on its own. You just need a little guidance and enough time to relax to do it. There is still medical care offered—a midwife doesn’t just leave you alone for 40 weeks and only show up if you have a problem in labor. Standard procedures like blood tests, ultrasounds, and exams are offered. The key difference is you build a closer relationship with your midwife, so you feel comfort and trust her during the birth process.

That last part was what drew me to midwife the most. My OB with Jack was not the person who delivered him. I adored her and wish she had delivered him, but that’s not how my clinic worked. The on-call OB at the hospital at the time delivered Jack. I had no idea anything about her, only her name and that she was a doctor. I didn’t know her stance on natural childbirth practices, c-section rate, or anything else. And I had no choice but to just trust this random woman when I was the most vulnerable. It was worked out okay, but it’s not something I want to do again. There are a few things I want to avoid now that I know better.

First of all, when I got to the hospital, they did not believe me that my water actually broke. The triage nurse looked at me like I was lying…despite the fact that I was carrying a SOAKED towel between my legs. She left me standing next to the bed leaking and gave me no instructions. I had a contraction, so I leaned over the bed and set my towel on the tray. She came back in and freaked out! Threw the towel at my husband and said NO NO NO! She immediately got cleaning supplies and sanitized everything again…leaving me hunched over wanting to cry from the contraction and still no instructions. Then she left again. I just grabbed the gown on the bed, got undressed, and laid down. She came back in and asked if I was having contractions. I looked at her crazy and said yes. I told her they were 2 minutes apart and 90 seconds long. She kinda rolled her eyes. She hooked me up and looked very surprised to see I was right. Then she asked for a urine sample. I told her I did not have to pee and really needed to lay down because my contractions were coming faster. She said I had to, they needed a urine sample to admit me. So Michael helped me hobble to the bathroom. I tried, but only got a big gush of fluid. I came out and told the nurse I couldn’t. She took the cup and said fine, she will check to see if it’s actually amniotic fluid. Then she announced it indeed amniotic fluid and without saying anything else really, she checked me. I was 2 cm. I was kinda bothered that she didn’t ask first, but it got me away from her faster so I didn’t argue. She left without saying anything again and came back close to an hour later. At this point, I was starting to transition. I couldn’t talk during my contractions and was started to shake. While Michael was asking if I wanted him to sign the epidural form just in case, I started to vomit. The nurse once again couldn’t believe it so she checked me again, I was close to 5 cm. They quickly took me to my room and I was so happy to be away from that nurse. Looking back, I can understand her attitude. She had to follow the Medical Model of Care and I was not following the procedure she was set to do. I didn’t come in as a women not sure if she was in labor who had the time wait as she checked all the boxes. That being said, she did have poor bedside manner.

In my room, I was progressing so fast and was exhausted. I knew I needed an epidural to relax. They needed my blood work results before the anesthesiologist could come. One nurse really fought for me. She put a STAT order on my blood work and refreshed the screen every 5 minutes to check. Then once the results came, she called the anesthesiologist immediately. She held me while the needle went in and stroked my hair when I had contraction at the same time. So, I know nurses can be very amazing and really help you when you need it.

 

Would you keep telling this face they need to flip on their back?
Would you keep telling this face they need to flip on their back?

However, there were some other issues. She and another nurse kept insisting that I had lay on my back for continuous monitoring. I physically couldn’t. That made contractions unbearable. Plus, I knew on your back is the worst position possible for labor progression. And continuous monitoring is unnecessary if there are no complications. I did go onto my back for a bit every hour or so to check if Jack was still okay, but flipped back on my side once they said it was good. I finally asked if there a major reason why and they said no, just protocol. Then they backed off. Once again, they didn’t do anything bad really. They had a system to follow, but my body’s needs didn’t fit into it.

 

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Taken the day I posted this. The red mark is permanent. It should have been our consent to give it to him.

I pushed for 1.5 hours and Jack was stuck with his 1 head inch out. The doctor stuck an external probe on Jack’s head to check his vitals since he had been in there so long. No one said anything to Michael and I, just told me to stop pushing for a second. At the time I didn’t really realize what she was doing. He was fine so she told me to push again. In general, I have no objection to having this done. He was stuck for awhile and it was important that she made sure he wasn’t in distress. But, it left a scar on Jack’s forehead. If anyone was going to make the choice to permanently mark our child, it should have been ours. I would have totally understood if they said “I’m going to stick this on his head to check his vitals, okay?” It was not an emergency situation, no one was rushing, they did have time to ask. I resent the lack of communication and consent, not the actual procedure.

 

About this time is when I saw what the IV bag said...
About this time is when I saw what the IV bag said…

After Jack finally came out, they plopped him on my chest and encouraged me to nurse him. I vaguely remember them saying my placenta came out intact and no excessive bleeding. I thought yeah yeah, I’m trying to feed my child. Then I looked up at my IV and saw the bag said Pitocin. I really wanted to get mad. I said out loud and in my birth plan that I did not want Pitocin unless it was truly necessary. They started a bag to get my placenta out quickly and never mentioned it to me. They gave me a medication I did not consent to. If they said something like, “We would like to start Pitocin right now to get your placenta out quickly because we need to make sure you are okay before the doctor has to leave for the next delivery”, I would have totally understood and said okay. I know this is standard Medical Model of Care, but I resent not being informed of what was happening to my own body.

I was one EXHAUSTED and stressed mama, don't let the smile fool you.
I was one EXHAUSTED and stressed mama, don’t let the smile fool you.

I also hated my hospital stay. The nurses were all super busy because the ward was full. Many of my questions and requests barely got answered. Also, being woken up to be checked every few hours stressed me out beyond all belief. I was exhausted and the hospital was not restful. The second night there, Michael went to sleep in the car because he was so exhausted and had to drive us home the next day. I was alone in the room with screaming Jack and so exhausted I couldn’t even think straight. I burst into tears and was shaking. The nurse came in and said I just needed to sleep. I explained that I can’t because he won’t calm down, and you are going to come back in shortly to check us. She just shrugged and left. I know there was nothing she could do, that was not her role and she was just following the Medical Model of Care once again. But it was stressful and hard for me in that moment. It made me feel like I was already a horrible mother.

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This time around, I know what I want in my birth experience. And unless there is an emergency, I don’t want the Medical Model of Care. There are women who truly need this type of care all along (my friend who has Sickle-Cell Anemia and fought infections most of her pregnancy definitely did). So, it is wonderful this type of care exists. However, I want something different this time. I want a connection with the person I am trusting to touch me when I am the most vulnerable and help bring my child into the world. I want her to know right off the top of her head that I do not want Pitocin. I want to labor on my side without question and not have to argue for occasional monitoring. And I want to recover in a relaxed, comfortable setting with my husband and newborn. I want my provider to believe me when I say something is happening. With the Midwife Model of Care at a birthing center, I get all this. They are not crazy things to ask for at all. I want to be respected, informed, and comfortable. All medical patients deserve this, especially women who just giving birth.

I really suggest you check out Birth Without Fear. It really changed my views on birth and helped me process some of the issues I had with Jack’s birth.

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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

Postpartum Recovery

It’s been six weeks since I gave birth to my beautiful son. This so called “fourth trimester” is the most challenging so far. I not only have to take care of myself and recover from the trauma of giving birth, but I have to care of a tiny little person who is totally dependant on me as well. As hard as it’s been, it’s been so rewarding. Jack has honestly made me a better person in these 6 short weeks.

As far as my recovery, some  pregnancy symptoms vanished. Some lessened, And some new ones have appeared. So let’s start from the beginning…

After Delivery:
Giving birth to an 8 lbs 9.6 oz baby will make anyone feel a million times better. My acid reflux vanished. My stomach settled and I was actually hungry for the first time in weeks. I also just felt a tremendous relief, all my internal organs were no longer squished! And thanks to the epidural, I felt no pain down there for the next two hours.

Selfie about an hours after giving birth, I
looked pretty good for being exhausted!

However, I was beyond exhausted. I rested a little bit after Michael with Jack to the nursery but nurses kept coming in the to check me so it wasn’t that peaceful.  My right nipple really hurt, Jack badly bruised it on his first attempt at nurse. How is a girl supposed to relax with a throbbing nipple? My left knee was still numb too, making it hard move into a comfy position. I needed the nurse to pretty much hold me up when they wanted to move me to my postpartum room. The epidural also left me freezing cold. The nurse gave me a ton of warmed blankets, but it took forever for me to warm up.

Hospital Stay:
Shortly after I got to my room,  Michael came in with Jack. Jack wanted to nurse again so I tried the the other breast, and he bruised that one quickly too. Now both my boobs hurt like hell, but I still didn’t mind because I knew it was best for him.

The nurse then helped me go to the bathroom. I was so sore, it hurt to stand. Plus, my knee was still numb so I really had to lean on her for support to walk. She sat me on the toilet and explained everything. I could not wipe myself for at least a week, or as long as I felt my stitches. So I had spray everything clean with a peri bottle This is when she pulled out the lovely mesh underwear and the huge pad. (look more like a puppy training pad than feminine hygiene product). Then, I was even more horrified to discovered I already had a pair of the mesh underwear on with a giant pad on! They must have put them on after they finished stitching me up and I didn’t notice because I was mesmerized with Jack. Once I saw how much blood was on the pad, it all made sense though.

As the day went on, the bleeding was less and less. And the pain and soreness lessen too (with the help of some Motrin). And about 2 hours later the feeling came back to my knee. Once my IV was finished I got to take a shower. Let me tell you, that was the best shower of my life!!!! It felt good to just have a moment of peace to relax. And it felt soooo good to wash off all the sweat and blood. I brought some of my favorite products so I didn’t have to use generic hospital stuff.

About 12 hours after giving birth, not too bad.

I examined my belly in the mirror once I got out of the shower. I looked about 5 months pregnant still, except my belly was all squish this time. Overall, the damage wasn’t too bad. And right then I didn’t care, I was just happy that squishy belly made my beautiful son.

Then there was the thing pregnant women are warned about and dread…going poop for the first time after delivery. I read some pretty dramatic accounts on other blogs. I will spare you the details and say it really wasn’t that bad. Take the stool softeners they give you, drinks plenty of water, and take it easy. Don’t stress over it.

I was happy to be discharged. I was sick of the nurses coming in every 2 hours to check Jack and I—especially at night. We would have just gotten him to sleep and someone would wake him up to check him. Then we had to start the whole feeding, changing, calming process again. Then another nurse would come in and we had to start all over again. How do they expect new mothers to recover properly if you wont leave them alone!?!?

Weeks 1-2:
I was very tired and very sore when we got home. I was still bleeding and my whole lower body hurt if I stood for too long. For the first week it was pretty much a cycle of feed Jack, change his diaper, put him back to sleep, nap, and wake up to fed him again. Jack only slept 1-3 hours at a time so it was hard to get good rest. My parents were here so my mom was cooking and cleaning for us. I really recommend for at least the first week having someone do this for you so you can rest.

I weighed myself for the first time since giving birth 4 days after. I had already lost 15 lbs! My belly was going down but still all squishy.

2 weeks postpartum, not that pretty.

At week 2 my stitches dissolved. My bleeding slowed down a lot, more like a light period. It would get worse again if I was too active though, which would cause the soreness to come back. I quickly learned I still needed to take it easy. My hormones ran totally wild during this week too. I cried about everything and snapped at people for no reason. My advice is to just not have visitors the first two weeks if you can help it. It’s just too stressful, I really wish I would have know that beforehand. Next baby no one until week 3.

Weeks 3-4:
This is when I started to feel a lot better. My bleeding all but stopped by week 3. I was a lot less sore and actually wanted to start doing things. However, Jack had other plans. He had major growth spurt and wanted to cluster feed all the time. This resulted in major engorgement. I pretty much couldn’t leave the house because I would start leaking. And the scabs on my bruised nipples turned into cracks. So you can imagine how much fun his constant feedings were…

The next week was a lot better. Jack started sleeping almost threw the night and stopped cluster feeding. I got to sleep and regain to sanity. And, my bleeding totally stopped and I was not sore at all. And I was happy to see I lose another 5 lbs, making me only 7 lbs away from my pregnancy weight!

4 weeks postpartum, everything going back into place.

These two weeks were the peak of night sweats. I’ve had them since about 25 weeks pregnant, but it these two weeks was like I was sleeping in the flames of hell week 3 and 4 postpartum. I would wake up drenched in sweat. It was awful.

Weeks 5-6:  No pain, no soreness, and no bleeding at all.But I felt kind of weak still. So I started going for walks with Jack 4-5 times a week too to get my strength back.

I lost another 2 lbs as well, but my stomach is still all stretched out. My non-maternity jeans do fit, but they are not comfortable around my waist. I am not that upset by it, I know I will get back in them in time. I mean really, even having them almost fit less than 2 months after giving birth it pretty freaking amazing!

6 weeks postpartum, I looked deflated.

My nipples are healed and it no longer hurts to nurse. I am still having some leaking issues, but I wear breast pads most of the time so it’s not an issue when I go out anymore.

My hemorrhoids are still there, but getting better. To be honest, I slacked on caring for them because I was busy with Jack the first few weeks. If I stayed on top of them all along, I bet they would be gone by now.

So worth it, look at his big eyes!

Overall, I am very happy with my postpartum recovery. I probably should have focused a little bit more on myself at times (like getting more sleep and not trying to do too much), but when your baby is crying you drop everything to make them happy. But now that Jack and I have a routine established, I am able to do more stuff for me. It’s surprising how just brushing your hair and putting clean yoga pants on makes you feel pretty again.

I love my boys so much.

Speaking of feeling pretty, something that really helped me emotionally recover from all the changes to my body was my husband. As much as appreciated him doing anything I asked him to do with Jack, what helped the most was him just telling me I was the little things he said. Like after I was done nursing Jack and I wanted to cry from the pain, he would kiss my forehead and say thank you for feeding him. Or when I showed him how my stomach is stretched out more on one side because that’s were Jack attached, he put his arms around me and said I was beautiful. He was without a doubt the best thing to help me through these past 6 weeks.

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: