Tag Archives: breastfeeding

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!

 

Vegan Parenting

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I am a vegan.  I am a parent. Does that make me a vegan parent? It sure does! Hence the name of this blog.

Jack does not exclusively eat a vegan diet. This was a compromise between my husband and I (see here). But since I am his primary caregiver, he eats a lot of vegan meals with me. One of his favorite meals is my Dhal and Aloo Mattar. But veganism is a complete lifestyle, going vegan chances many aspects of your life besides just diet. So, the other day this lead me to think about just what does being a vegan parent mean? How does veganism affect they way I raise my son?

"Why do you keep telling me eggs from chickens?"

“Why do you keep telling me eggs from chickens?”

Before Jack was born, Michael and I discussed the major parenting choices like punishments and sex education. This lead me to think about what kind of parents we would be, so I looked up parenting styles.Oh boy, there are a lot! And there are some very strong opinions out there (the whole Tiger Mom controversy). I was overwhelmed and kind of turn off by the whole idea of defining the care of my child in such blunt terms.

So I asked myself what values that my husband and I both share do I want him to learn? After some soul searching, I came to that we want to teach him compassion, understanding, and patience. I also want encourage our love of science, nature, and education. Then I realized I kind of gave a broad definition of what vegans stand for overall. Compassion towards all living things! And to understand such ideas, you need to know science and nature—which is done through education.
After searching the web and reading a bunch of articles, I found this one from She  Knows Parenting the easiest to follow with great definitions. The article lists 5 main styles:

  • Instinctive: Based on the way you were bought up, following your parents’ example. Trusting your instincts that you know what is right for your child.
  • Attachment: Focused on creating a deep emotional  bond and encouraging them to express their feelings. Some see it as a holistic parenting approach.
  • Helicopter: Being deeply involved in every aspect of the child’s life. Overseeing and sometimes controlling their actions and experiences. Know to shielding and prevent all obstacles from ever even reaching their child.
  • Authoritative: Clear and direct rules and expectations. And if they are not obeyed, direct consequences will be enforced. However, the rules are usually fair and are in place to protect the child’s development. Are nurturing when need.
  • Permissive: Letting the child be who they are with little rules and expectations. Very open, non-confrontational, and nurturing. Based on the idea that children do not have the mental capacity to understand maturity and responsibility.

But without a baby, we had no idea what kind of parents we would be. Like I said, I was not going to pigeonhole myself, so I read read over those options with skepticism. Nothing clicked. Instrictive kind of sound nice, we both had nice childhoods, maybe just did what our parents did? Overall those were all just words and abstract idea. We needed a baby in front of us and to figure out what worked for us.

Once Jack arrived, I slowly fell more and more into attachment parenting without even realizing it. I just did what made sense for our family. I decided to exclusively breastfeeding for the health benefits and to save money. Then I bought a baby carrier (and later many more), since Jack wanted to be held all the time and I want free hands on occassion.This lead to me attending (and later becoming a member) of both La Leche League and Babywearing International meetings. Extended breastfeeding and babywearing are two huge aspects of attachment parenting, so these groups naturally led towards other attachment ideas. Now we embrace co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, gentle discipline. And last week we started on cloth diapers. So here I am one year in, an attachment parent by accident. Michael is on board with all of it too. He sees how happy and healthy Jack is, so he has no complaints

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Attached daddy wearing his son for a daytrip to Napa, melts my heart!. 

What does attachment parenting have to do with veganism? Well, it stresses compassion and understanding of your child. Hopefully one day he will spread this idea of ever-encompassing love towards every living thing on the planet.

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Jack LOVES animals so far. Especially our cats. This was the first time he pulled himself up, to pet Zoey!

I am trying very hard to explain veganism to him a simple and non-invasive way right now. Right now the greatest thing I can do is treat him animal compassion. I show him every animal we come across and explain why it matters to the planet. For example, “See the duck on the pond, Jack? It says quack quack. Ducky eats the plants and algae in the water to help keep the pond healthy. See her little ducklings following her? She takes care of them like I care for you.” That way the duck is something is way more than a restaurant menu item to him. I want him to understand why that duck and all over ducks matter.

"Yeah yeah, the dhal is made  from lentils that come from plants...thanks mom..."

“Yeah yeah, the dhal is made from lentils that come from plants…thanks mom…”

Then there is the dietary stuff as well. When he eats lentils, I tell him those came from a plant. When he eats cheese, I tell him that is made from a mama cow’s milk, like the milk you get from mommy. When he eats meat, I tell him that is from the body of an animal.

This is exclusive to being vegan or attachment parenting? No, you can meat-loving attached parent or a vegan tiger mom. Nothing wrong with either one! But overall, attachment parents and veganism share a lot of the same ideals.

Overtime I will explain more and more why I do not eat animals and why daddy does. I will never force him to be vegan, it will be his choice. I hope one day he does decide to go vegan. But overall I hope he always leads a life full of compassion and always seeks out knowledge, the true vegan spirit.

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

Lactation Cookies For Everybody

Check out my other blog Vegan Babymama for the story behind why I made those cookies. And two things before I get to the recipe. First, I know it says cookies but I made bars. When you have a 4 month old baby, you don’t have time to be scooping out dough and baking one batch at a time. So I spread all the dough out into a pan quickly and pop it in the oven on a cooking timer so the oven would shut off when it’s done. That way I could nurse Jack and not worry about anything burning. But if you have the time, these do make wonderful cookies, so by all means scoop away. Second, these cookies are not just for nursing moms. They will not make you lactate if you aren’t already. I’m referring the men who reading this, seriously? You don’t have functioning mammary glands! They are normal ingredients and the cookies taste great. My husband as stolen a few cookies and loves them. But if you lactating, some of these ingredients are lactrogenic, meaning they have been known to increase your milk supply. The oatmeal, flax seed, brewer’s yeast, walnuts, and whole wheat flour in this recipe are all lactrogenic.

This recipe is based on these two recipes I found on Pinterest: Lactation Cookie Bars and Lactation Cookies for Nursing Moms.
Lactation Cookies
1 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1.5 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 cup hot water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 heaping tbs brewer’s yeast
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (make sure they are dairy-free)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
Pre-heat the oven to 350 and spray a baking pan with cooking spray. I used a 9 x 9 ceramic.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
In a small bowl, add the ground flax seed and hot water. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
Add the flax seed mixture to the butter mixture. Mix well (though it will be very sloppy).
Add the flour, rolled oats, brewer’s yeast and baking soda the bowl. Mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips and salt.
Stir in the coconut and walnuts, if using.

Spread evenly into the baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Note to self: Take pic before you take a piece,
despite how amazing it smells.
These cookies really are for everyone. Don’t let the title scare you away. They are high in fiber and contains good fats. Plus they are very tasty. I really suggest either the coconut or walnuts, or both! And this is a wonderful treat for nursing momma. You earned it, taking care of a baby is hard!

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.

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.

Back to Work After Maternity Leave

I returned to work after 17 weeks of maternity leave. The State of California allows up to 4 weeks off before your due date, plus 12 weeks off for bonding time. The extra week off came from vacation time. I have the same job, but I am working second shift for only part-time hours right now. As Jack gets bigger I might slowly add more hours back to full time, but no rush from my boss as long as stuff gets done.

Michael and I worked it out so we avoid paying for childcare. He works first shift while I stay home with Jack. Then I put Jack in the car, bring him to our work and we trade cars. Then he drives home with Jack and I go to work. Then I get off just in time to get Jack ready for bed. I like this solution for two reasons: we avoid the $1000 a month bill for childcare and we both get time to bond with our son. And so far Jack doesn’t seem to mind. He usually falls asleep in the car with me and wakes up when Michael gets home.
How could I leave this face?
But the first day back was hard. The night before I bawled my eyes out over it. Jack had been my whole world for three and half months, how could I leave him? That day I brought Jack in the building with me because he was awake when I got there. Michael was ready to go so he quickly took Jack from me and kissed me goodbye. I just stood there thinking No! Bring me my baby back!  I went to my desk and started to work, but I kept worrying about my baby. What if he wont take the bottles? What if he wont nap? What if Michael doesn’t do tummy time? What if he just cries the whole time? What if he forgets me in these next 5 hours and never wants me to hold him again!?!?
 

When it was time to clock out, I rushed home. My boys were standing at the door to greet me, and Jack lit up when he saw me. Everything was alright. Michael is an excellent dad and takes great care of him. I had nothing to worry about. That being said, I am a mom and I will worry about them both every day still.

Michael sent me this on my first day.
He was just fine, and even started to grasp his bottle!

But am I exhausted? Yes (especially with the sleep regression still going on). Are there some days I feel like Jack and I are never going to get out the door on time? Yup. Does it suck I get even less time with my husband now? Totally. As much as I wish I could be a stay-at-home-mom all the time, it’s not feasible right now. And everyone at work is so accommodating for what our family needs that there is no reason for me to quit.

I get to come home to this face every evening!

Being back at work also means I’m pumping at work too. I will do a post about how that’d going next, so look out for that.