February 9, 2017

A (Not So Successful) Breastfeeding Journey

Forgive me in advance as this is a lengthy post. I didn’t realize how much I had to say, and how traumatic the experience was until I started writing it all down. I share this in hopes that others who experienced the same will realize they are not alone.

I also need and want to give a really big thank you to Shiraz who was there by my side and supported me every single step of the way through this journey, and continues to do so today.

TO BREASTFEED OR NOT, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Prior to getting pregnant I never really gave any thought as to whether babies were fed via breastfeeding or formula. I felt (and still do feel) that how a parent feeds their newborn is not my business. As long as the baby is fed that’s all that matters. For the first few months after that positive pregnancy test I continued to live in ignorance and not think about this subject. However, as the pregnancy progressed and we started prepping his nursery, buying all the adorable baby clothes, and thinking about what else we would need for those first few months of his life, the subject of breastfeeding vs. formula become unavoidable.

Shiraz expressed that he would like me to at least try to breastfeed (because he wanted the baby to receive the immunity that comes with breastmilk) and my mother gave her two cents in the form of “so you are going to breastfeed, right?”.  While I was not enthusiastic about the idea of a baby attached to my breast, being the baby’s only source of food, and the potential difficulties around making it work, I had read all the literature about the positive benefits of breastmilk so I committed to at least trying (plus breastfeeding is the cheaper option). When we checked into the hospital we reaffirmed this intent.

THE FIRST 48 HOURS

Immediately after Kian was born and they had cleaned him up they handed him to me and we did the first latch. While the sensation was weird I wouldn’t describe it as painful or uncomfortable. He ate for only a few minutes and then immediately drifted off to sleep. Over the next 24 hours he spent most of the time sleeping and periodically nursing for that little bit of colostrum. As the day progressed I became more and more uncomfortable with the breastfeeding. He wasn’t staying latched, I couldn’t get the proper positioning/hold, and it started to become painful. I was reassured that this was all normal and that we would eventually find our rhythm. In the meantime, until my milk started coming in, I would need to keep at it as even just letting him suckle would stimulate the milk. Since newborns don’t need much to eat in that first 24 hours we managed to make it through the first 24 hours. And then everything went to hell.

Because babies do nothing but sleep that first 24 hours you get lulled into this false sense of “oh hey this won’t be too hard” (on a side note I highly recommend you don’t let any visitors come that first 24 hours so that you can rest, I wish we had done this). At about 36 hours of life our angelic newborn suddenly woke up and would not stop crying for food. For approximately 9 hours he cluster-fed. He’d nurse for 10-15 minutes, then be ok for 15-30 minutes, and then would start wailing for more. By about the 3rd hour of this my nipples had started to feel dry and chapped. By the 5th hour every time he latched on it would send sharp shooting pains up through my chest that I would have to fight through for the first couple of minutes. By the 7th hour I was at my breaking point and cried, a lot. By the 9th hour I was pretty much going crazy, not able to understand what was going wrong, and wishing the nurses would just take him out of the room for a little while so I could sleep (at that point I think I had only slept 4-5 hours over a 72 hour period, including labor). The nurses reassured me that this was all normal; that most babies have a period of time on the second day where they are ravenous and non-stop feed, that eventually my nipples would become stronger, and that once my milk came in everything would be ok. When the nurse finally took him for his next set of newborn tests I was so relieved that it was finally quiet. When she brought him back (after only 45 minutes or so) I was so exhausted at this point and couldn’t think straight so I had Shiraz take the baby and walk around the ward with him just so I could close my eyes for a little while. At some point while I was half asleep my Dad stopped by and left a cup of coffee for Shiraz and a pint of raspberries for me. I was so grateful that I nearly started to cry.

Right after Kian was born and the first latch.

GOING HOME

Before we left the pediatrician came by to check Kian. Because he had already lost over 10% of his birth weight (7-10% is generally considered normal) and was showing signs of jaundice (not uncommon for newborns) a follow up appointment was scheduled for the next day. When we left the hospital later that morning (around 10:30 am), I was still determined to make breastfeeding work. The first 24 hours at home continued the trend of the previous two days at the hospital, only this time we were in the comfort of our own bed. I sent Shiraz out to get lanolin nipple cream and a nipple shield to help make the experience easier. Armed with those items I continued to try and breastfeed while fighting through the extreme pain. At about 4 am Kian became inconsolable and I finally reached my breaking point and became despondent. The baby cried, clearly wanting food but unable to get enough from me, until we left for the pediatrician at about 8:15 am.


The day we went home. Looking back on this picture it’s so obvious how yellow (jaundiced) he is.

As we were driving to the pediatrician I had a feeling we were going to have to supplement with formula because he wasn’t getting enough and my milk still hadn’t come in. Part of me also wanted to just switch over to formula for good and give up any attempts at breastfeeding. At his appointment the doctor told us he had now dropped over 12% of his weight and he was looking fairly jaundiced. I meekly told him if he thought it was a good idea that we would supplement with formula until my milk came in. He agreed that supplementing was a good idea and gave us some samples. We gave one of the two ounce bottles to Kian right there in his office. He drank it down so quickly, as though he was starving. The minute the food was in his belly he immediately became a different baby. He was content and calm. I wanted to cry with relief. I think Shiraz did too. The doctor also confirmed that Kian had a tongue tie, something that I noticed in the hospital but the nurses didn’t, and that this likely impacted his ability to properly latch (and thus the reason he was wasn’t getting enough food). Before we left he gave us a referral for a ENT that could do a frenectomy (releasing the tongue tie).

SO NOW WHAT?

When we got home we talked about still trying to get my milk to come in and breastfeed. Before the baby was born, knowing that I would eventually be going back to work and would have to pump, we had bought a breast pump. We decided that I would would pump until my milk came in, supplement in the meantime, and then go back to breastfeeding after Kian had his tongue tie released (which did happen that Monday). Within the next 24 hours my milk slowly started to come in and we were able to stop feeding the formula and instead feed breastmilk from a bottle. Worried about my supply I began taking Fenugreek and Milk Thistle (both of which are galactagogues) and continued to pump 7-8 times per day. Over the next week or so we established a good pumping and feeding rhythm in which I would pump and Shiraz or my parents would feed the baby. Kian started rapidly gaining weight, we began getting some decent sleep, my milk supply increased, and peace returned to the house. Kian never ate directly from the breast again.

Eleven weeks later and Kian continues to exclusively consume breastmilk via a bottle. I attempted to breastfeed a couple times after his tongue tie was released but he had ZERO interest in getting his food via the breast (a bottle is so much quicker to him). I also like that other people can feed him when needed so the responsibility does not only fall to me. Additionally after the trauma my nipples suffered I am extremely hesitant to go through that kind of pain again (which would be necessary to reestablish a good nursing rhythm and latch post tongue tie).

I AM A DAIRY FARM

While it was a slow start I have been extremely lucky that my supply has been fantastic; in fact it is so good that so far I have been able to freeze over 1000 ounces (I pump 45-50 ounces a day and the baby only eats 24-30 per day). Basically I am a dairy farm (I use these for storage and freezing). As I was establishing my supply I was pumping 7-8 times before dropping it to 5 times a day for the last month. The last few days I recently started cutting out the middle of the night pumping and one pumping in the middle of the work day so I am now pumping three times a day (about every 8 hours, my max time between pumping for it to not feel painful). Despite only pumping three times a day I am still generating 45-50 ounces in a 24 hour period (about 15-17 ounces each time I pump for 20 minutes). I will likely continue to pump until he starts eating solids at which time I will slowly start decreasing the volume I produce and use the frozen breastmilk (for which we had to buy a small chest freezer after filling up TWO freezers in our current refrigerators). By the time he hits one year old I hope to have weaned from pumping completely, though we will likely still have leftover frozen breastmilk which we will continue to feed him until it runs out.

A couple days worth of “excess” pumped milk.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?

There were likely many things that led to the inability to breastfeed. It certainly didn’t help that even before he was born I wasn’t enthusiastic about the experience and that I had gotten it in my head that it was going to be difficult. Additionally the nurse that was responsible for us the night that Kian decided to cluster-feed (and when I was the most vulnerable and desperately needed guidance and assistance) was less than helpful and actually scolded me at one point for not holding him properly while attempting to feed. And then of course there was Kian’s tongue tie that prevented him from properly latching, thus causing me excruciating pain, and the fact that my milk took a full 4-5 days after giving birth to come in (this is normal for a first child, but combined with the above made it very difficult). By the time all of the above had resolved it had already been one week since his birth, he was used to a bottle, and I was irreversibly emotionally scarred.

If we were to have another child I am honestly not sure if I would even attempt to breastfeed. It’s likely that I would do the first latch immediately birth and then exclusively pump from there on out. Even though Kian is not fed directly via the breast he still receives breastmilk, and we still have a strong bond (we did a lot of skin to skin those first few weeks). However, if I were to get over my fears and give it a try there are many things I would do a lot differently. Before giving birth I would take a breastfeeding class (I did not do so this time), I would inform the hospital of my unease and inability to successfully breastfeed the first time, I would reach out to La Leche League for assistance and guidance, I would immediately have them check the baby for a tongue tie after birth, and I would ask for formula in the hospital if I am not able to provide enough and the baby is starving. But even if I did all this and the baby and I were unable to successfully breastfeed I would have ZERO qualms or guilt about pumping or even formula feeding.

SO WHAT ADVICE WOULD I GIVE?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help; whether that is help from the hospital staff, your significant other, your parents, or another group or individual. If something doesn’t feel right (physically or emotionally) say so immediately. If you need a break so you can get a couple hours of sleep while still in the hospital ask someone to wheel the baby around the birth center or have them take them to the nursery so you can get some peace. If you feel like your baby isn’t getting enough food and you are ok with it, ask them to provide a little bit of formula (many hospitals won’t offer, you have to explicitly ask). Formula won’t hurt your baby, but being extremely stressed can ultimately impact your supply and make breastfeeding less likely to be successful. Don’t every let anyone judge you for the decisions you make about how to feed your child; not the doctors, your family, your friends, or even yourself. And whatever you do, try not to feel guilty if you aren’t able to make breastfeeding, or exclusively pumping, work for you. At the end of the day, no matter what all the articles and studies say, FED IS BEST.

February 8, 2017

Our Top Ten Baby Must Haves (The First Two Months)

Everyone has their favorite baby items that they consider must haves (seriously, there are a bajillion other blog posts and articles about this, so of course I have to add another one). In our first two months as parents we have quickly developed a list of our favorites; things that we have come to rely on. Admittedly every baby and family is different so what we love, others may find to be frivolous or pointless. After consulting with Shiraz here are our top ten baby must haves; ones we can confidently say we use nearly daily.

Boppy Support Pillow – Originally we bought the Boppy for breastfeeding. While I wasn’t able to make breastfeeding work (that’s an entirely different post) we still use our Boppy pillows regularly. It is fantastic for helping with tummy time (especially if your baby doesn’t like being on the floor face down, flat on his stomach) and for keeping the little one propped up when our arms are too tired to hold him but he still needs to be fed (like that middle of the night feeding). We also stick him in it and have him sit between us while we are on the couch or in bed, that way he gets to socialize with us and isn’t on his back all the time.

4Moms MamaRoo – This is such a cool gadget. It was a bit of a risk purchasing it because we didn’t know if the baby would enjoy it, as some babies don’t take to the rockers/bouncers. We got lucky that our little one loves it. With a number of different motions and sounds it’s great for keeping the baby entertained when you need to get something done around the house. We primarily use it when he is getting fussy and needs to be soothed. Stick him in that for 10-15  minutes and he is calm as a clam (important question; are clams actually calm). This is definitely a splurge item, but for us is worth the cost.

Dock-A-Tot (Deluxe) – I am not sure if we got lucky and just have a great sleeper, or if he is a great sleeper because of this amazing item. Regardless, we do not regret purchasing this item one bit. For the first month the baby actually slept between us, in our bed, in his Dock-A-Tot. The sturdy (but cushy) walls kept him from rolling over and kept us from rolling onto him. We then transitioned him into a Pack ‘n Play, with his Dock-A-Tot, next to our bed. The transition was completely smooth. Once he is ready to sleep in his crib we plan to use this to make the adjustment even easier. We also have a trip to Cabo coming up at the end of the month and fully intend to take this with us to make sure he can continue to sleep well while away from home. Basically, GET THIS THING, before the baby is born. Don’t wait for them to have terrible sleep habits that are slowly driving you crazy.

Kiinde Kozii Bottle Warmer & Storage Pouches – As I mentioned, I wasn’t able to make breastfeeding work, however I have been lucky enough to have fantastic production and been able to provide ample breastmilk via exclusively pumping (I will talk more about this in another post soon). Because the baby doesn’t always get the milk immediately after it is produced we have to store it in the refrigerator (and the excess, which there is a lot of, is frozen). We tried feeding Kian chilled milk but he was having none of that, so we invested in a bottle warmer (because waiting for a pot of water to boil is painful when you have a hungry, screaming baby). We have tried three different ones (all available via Amazon) and so far the Kiinde has been our favorite. It’s straightforward, easy to use right out of the box (and during the middle of the night when your brain isn’t working fully), and warms the milk to the perfect temperature. It fits a variety of bottles, including our wide-mouthed glass ones. For ease of storage and then preparing the frozen milk we decided to use the storage pouches by the same brand. The bottle warmer is a bit on the pricier side compared to many available, but worth having if you are constantly warming bottles throughout the day.

UPPAbaby Vista Stroller & Mesa Car Seat – Outside of furniture for a nursery the stroller and car seat is the largest (and likely most expensive) purchase you will make for a baby. We considered and checked out a number of different strollers before we settled on the UPPAbaby Vista and the corresponding Mesa. After two months we have been extremely pleased with our choice. It has big sturdy wheels, folding and transporting is SUPER easy (read the instructions/watch the video so you don’t spend 20 minutes trying to figure out how it folds), it is a really smooth ride, it can easily convert to fit two children, the Mesa car seat snaps directly into it without adapters, and it looks sleek. Additionally it comes with this awesome bassinet that we are still using at 2.5 months. The bassinet (which comes with the Vista set) is great for when we are downstairs and he is sleeping but we don’t want to set up a bulky playpen. It also keeps him up off the floor  out of the way of the three dogs, and allows us to easily bring him into any room. The only con so far is how wide it is (I haven’t gotten used to the dimensions and constantly bang the sides into things…oops).

Ubbi Diaper Pail – NEWSFLASH, babies poop and pee A LOT. There are a lot of diapers, particularly in the beginning. We are now using cloth diapers, but for the first 7-8 weeks we used disposables and holy crap the number of diapers used made our jaws drop. Also, I don’t know if you know this, but diapers smell pretty bad, especially when there is poop in them. And unless you want to be taking your trash out every time you throw a diaper away, it’s probably best to get a diaper pail. The Ubbi is pretty much the holy grail of diaper pails. It’s easy to use, can use any basic trash bag (or you can get a fancy washable reusable liner, which is recommended if you use cloth diapers), and prevents any odors from escaping (or seeping into the pail itself). Seriously, we had it in our bedroom initially and even when it was stuffed full of stinky diapers you couldn’t smell a thing.

Green Sprouts Organic Muslin Burp Cloths – Unless you want to change your shirt multiple times a day you are going to need burp cloths, even if your baby exclusively consumes breastmilk. Like poop and pee, spit-up is inevitable. You can definitely use any hand or dish towels you have around the house, but this will just lead to never having any available in your kitchen and bathroom when you need them (unless you have an excess of them lying around). We have tried a couple, including the highly rated Burt’s Bees organic cloths, which felt nice but were constantly slipping off our shoulders, or not covering enough surface. The Green Sprouts ones (available on Amazon in packs of four) are designed in a way where they cover a lot more surface area and don’t easily slip off your shoulder. Do yourself a favor and stock up on a few sets. Warning, they do shrink a bit in the wash the first time you use them, but are still a great size.

Pacifier Clips – If you have a baby who likes pacifiers do yourself a favor and grab a set or two of these. If you don’t you are going to constantly be picking up and washing pacifiers that have fallen on the ground. Kian likes pacifiers well enough (though he doesn’t yet rely on them for comfort) but is constantly spitting them out or having them slip out of his mouth (regardless of the pacifier type/shape). After a few weeks of repeatedly picking up and rinsing those that dropped on the floor we bought a set of four off Amazon and have been praising their existence since.

Seventh Generation Free & Clear Baby Wipes – We will eventually switch to cloth wipes for diaper changes at home but will likely always have disposable baby wipes around (particularly when traveling). These have been our favorite so far. They are great for sensitive skin (face, bum, all over), are as environmentally friendly as disposable wipes can get, and are affordable. Pro-tip, you can also use them for wiping down counters/surfaces, and in lieu of expensive makeup wipes.

Carter’s Zip Fleece Sleep Sack – First, let me preface this by saying Kian hates being swaddled and always has. Additionally, he doesn’t NEED to be swaddled because he does not startle himself awake like many babies do. Now, that being said…Nobody, and I do mean nobody, wants to struggle with tight onesies with snaps when it is 2am and your baby needs a diaper change. Additionally, no one wants to worry about blankets and whether or not they could potentially suffocate your little one. Enter the “sleep sack”. We did purchase a nice four seasons Woolino Sleeping Sack, which we fully intend to start using soon (now that he is two months old). However, until then we have been (and still are) using a couple of fleece sleep sacks we got from Carter’s. Put a diaper on the baby, put the baby in the sleep sack…BOOM! You’re done. Unless it is super cold in your room/house there is no need for additional blankets. It makes those middle of the night wake up calls and diaper changes all the more easy.

~~~

As Kian gets older I am sure we will develop new favorites that we rely on. I plan to share another update when he is around six months, and then again at a year (and maybe even yearly after that).

If you have (or have had) a baby, what are your favorite items?

January 23, 2017

Kian | Two Months Old

Today Kian is officially two months old! Here’s a quick look at what’s happened over the last month:

Statistics

  • Weight – 12 pounds, 6.4 ounces
  • Length – 23.5 inches

Nicknames

  • Little Dude
  • Squidgie
  • DJ Squidgemaster
  • Kootchie Koo (by Dadi)

Sleeping

  • 15-18 hours per day
  • 2-3 hour stretches during the day
  • 4.5-7 hour stretches at night
  • Sleeps in his Dock-A-Tot in a Pack & Play in our bedroom

Eating

  • Breastmilk via a bottle
  • 2-4 ounces per feeding (6-8 feedings per day)
  • 24-27 ounces per day
  • Spits up a little more frequently than last month, but still in small quantities

Health

  • Has mild to moderate Cradle Cap (we treat with Mustela shampoo and lotion)
  • Had his first round of vaccinations at 6 weeks old
  • Has periodically had a stuffy nose
  • Diaper rash has pretty much disappeared
  • No longer has newborn rash

Loves

  • Music of all kinds
  • Conversations with Mommy & Daddy
  • Watching hockey in his Boppy with Daddy
  • Having his diaper changed (he often smiles and starts talking)
  • Story time (loves to look at the pictures)
  • Being held so he can see and observe his surroundings

Dislikes

  • Tummy Time
  • Not being fed right away when hungry

Milestones

  • No longer sleeps in our bed
  • First real giggle(s)
  • Slept in his crib a couple of times
  • Slept a 7 hour stretch at night
  • Wears size 3 month clothes
  • Can hold his head up for at least a couple minutes when he is being held
  • First outing without Mommy or Daddy
  • Mommy going back to work
  • Started wearing cloth diapers

Dear Kian –

How are you already two months old? I can’t believe how quickly time is passing. This last month has been a big one for you. So much has happened and you are already starting to show your personality. At the end of the first month you finally gave us a social smile. Since then you haven’t stopped smiling. When you are happy (which is much of the time) you are so smiley and LOVE to have conversations with everyone, but especially your Mommy and Daddy. I have a feeling you are going to start talking pretty early, and once you do, you are going to be chattering non-stop. You also giggled and laughed a few times in the last month. At first we thought it was a fluke because it was so early (we were expecting it around three months), but we were able to make you do it multiple times. And then today you laughed even more for both your Dadi and for us. Your laugh is so hilarious and precious, though yes, we are a bit biased.

This month you celebrated your very first Christmas and New Years, and you got to spend lots more time with us, your Dadi and Dada, and your Aunt Zarin. You also got to meet your Aunt Shannon, Uncle Brad, and cousins Sawyer and Cooper. They came from Vermont and stayed with us for a few days and just doted on you, especially Aunt Shannon. Your cousin Cooper can’t wait until you are a little bigger and he can teach you how to go sliding and get into all kinds of trouble. They even took you on your first outing to Muir Woods, without Mommy and Daddy. You did so well and were a good little dude. Aunt Shannon sent us pictures and you looked so adorable with your cousins.

You continue to be a champ at eating and sleeping. Sometimes you don’t want to eat your full bottle for us (though you will for Dadi), but you are still eating 24-27 ounces per day. At night you still wake up at least once between 2-4 am for a middle of the night feeding, which is to be expected, but you just chug your bottle and then go right back to sleep. At night you are sleeping a good 4.5 to 6 hours at a time, which is awesome. There were even a couple nights that you slept seven hours in a row! You no longer sleep in our bed, though we aren’t quite ready to transition you to the nursery full time, so you sleep in your Dock-A-Tot in a Pack and Play crib in our bedroom. I hope you continue to be a good sleeper and eater. It’s made these first months much easier.

During this last month you had your six week appointment during which you got your first set of shots. You took them like a strong little guy. You cried for a minute or two and then you were fine. You had a little bit of a fever the rest of the day and were a little extra sleepy, but the next day you were back to normal. You are also suffering from a mild to moderate case of Cradle Cap, but since we started using special shampoo and lotion it has gotten a lot better. Luckily you have a lot of hair so it covers it up on your head. Speaking of that hair, it’s getting longer and longer. You have quite the head of hair, even if it is a little thin. It’s so soft everyone loves running their fingers through.

The day after you turned eight weeks old I returned back to work. You stayed with your Daddy for a couple days. It was so hard leaving you behind, but I know it’s for the best. This month you will start spending your days with your Dadi and your new Nanny, Roxana. It’s going to be a bit of an adjustment, but we know you are in great hands and will have tons of fun while we are at work.

We are so looking forward to all the new milestones you will reach in the coming month. Hopefully you start to enjoy tummy time a bit more so you can begin building your upper body strength. It’s important so that you can start rolling over, crawling, and eventually walking! We also can’t wait to see you start to laugh more, and play with toys. We have started reading to your more and you love looking at the pictures and hearing our voices, so we definitely plan to keep that up! You are such a sweet, content, and happy little boy. We love you so much and we know how lucky we are to call you ours. Until next month…

Love,
Mommy