Monday, October 26, 2009

My Brain is Officially Fried

Dammit! I was doing so well!
But the past few weeks, I've noticed that when I leave the house and try to have a real conversation, I act like a total idiot.

Scenario 1: I run into woman from baby yoga at a park.
Her: "Hey! Are you still doing the baby yoga class?"
Me: (blank stare.)
(I know the answer. It's 'no,' but I was thinking about how the baby yoga class is useless once you know all the moves because then it feels like it goes too slowly and plus it's baby yoga and massage, and I don't want to do the massage, and... etc. But all I could do was stare at her as no words came to me.)

Scenario 2: talking to favorite salesperson at Giggle of Greenwich.
Laura: "How's the baby?"
Me: "Good!" (I look at her. Loooooooong pause as she waits for details. I can't think of anything interesting to say.) "Um. Wow. I just realized that I'm really tired."

I think of myself as a really good conversationalist, so it's sad to see myself failing miserably but be too wiped out to do anything about it.

I mean, obviously the baby is worth the brain-fry, but this makes me wonder how I'm going to do my teaching job when I go back in January. I think I need to give the baby a full feed, rather than a half feed, when he wakes up at night. I keep thinking, "Oh, he's supposed to be able to sleep through the night, so he doesn't really need this food (breastmilk), so I can just give him one side and maybe he'll go 3-4 more hours before he wakes again." But noooo he'll wake after 1 or 2 hours, and it's killing me. I just have a feeling that he needs the calories, because he is not crazy about solid food. He likes hummus, but those baby fruit and veggie purees, he could take them or leave them. Maybe I should puree some of the turkey chili I'm making today? Kidding, kidding!
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Breastfeeding: Wish I'd Heard More Good Things!

This month I’m thrilled to be participating in Blacktating’s Carnival of Breastfeeding, where moms contribute posts on a theme. This month’s theme is “If I’d Known Then…” Links to other blogger’s thoughts on the topic are at the end of this post.

I’ve been breastfeeding for almost seven months now, and it’s been so much cooler than I expected. I wish I’d known ahead of time how wonderful and easy breastfeeding could be.

I’d heard terrible things about breastfeeding; how it hurt, how it was hard - general doomsday stuff. But I had a hunch it could be OK, because on my visits to my sister I saw her breastfeed my nephews and niece and it didn’t look that awful. In fact, she made it look easy. Maybe it will be that easy for me, I thought to myself. But when I was pregnant and people asked me, “Are you going to breastfeed?” I’d say, very casually, “I’m going to try.” I’d heard so many stories of failure that I dared not hope I’d be able to manage it. I think I also didn’t want to hear any more bad stories about breastfeeding, so I tried to give the most noncommittal answer possible. Now I hate to think of how wishy-washy I sounded, and I wish that I could have given a more confident answer.

So far I am amazed by how much I have enjoyed breastfeeding. I didn’t know that in those tired days after the baby is born, breastfeeding makes pleasant hormones course through your body. I didn’t know how breastfeeding teaches you to read your baby so well. I didn’t know how it was so convenient to be able to feed the baby at a restaurant, in the car, or while walking around Target without having to do anything but adjust my shirt. I didn’t know how easy breastfeeding made life with a baby. You can pacify a baby on a 6 hour flight to CA with hardly any effort. I had no idea! You can let a fussy baby nurse for an hour straight when nothing else works… and you can lie down doing it! Does it get much easier for an exhausted mom?

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a few problems: bruised nipples from a bad latch at day five (my fault, not the baby’s), clogged ducts at month three, and a decreased supply after the baby nursed poorly at month five when he had a bad flu. I got through it all with the help of the lactation consultants at my local hospital. I cannot say enough about how much they have helped me. I was also lucky enough not to be working, so I had plenty of time at home to resolve the issues with little outside demands on me.

There are a few other things I wish I’d known. I knew I didn’t want many visitors at the hospital so I could focus on feeding the baby, but I didn’t know that even having a few visitors would impact my ability to feed my baby on demand. The baby was fussing while company was there, and I tried everything else except feeding him to calm him down. I was still too new at breastfeeding to be able to nurse in front of people I wasn’t fully comfortable with, and plus, I didn’t really understand that my baby was fussing because he was hungry. I couldn’t fully fathom that babies needed to eat ALL THE TIME those first days. I think back to how I rocked and shushed him until the visitors left, and I feel terrible because now I realize I ignored my baby’s hunger signals. I have to wonder if that’s why my milk took an extra day or two to come in, which made the baby a bit jaundiced and the doctor worry about his weight. It worked out fine, but with the next baby, I’ll do a better job of feeding the baby often right from the start.

I also wish I’d heard about cluster feedings before I experienced them. It’s hard to believe a baby would nurse for three hours straight… until midnight, 1 am, and a couple times, 2 am. It’s easy to start thinking you don’t have enough milk. A couple times we even broke into the formula cans we’d received in the mail and made a bottle, but each time, I looked at the bottle and said, “I’ll feed him just a little more.” I kept nursing him and eventually he fell asleep. If I weren’t such a stubborn person, I would have used the formula, and in doing so, possibly not allowed my breasts to know how much milk the baby really needed from me. Breastfeeding is a leap of faith, and you have to trust both yourself and the baby. If you trust that your baby really is hungry, even if it’s only been an hour or two after the last feed, the milk supply will most likely follow. My lactation consultant emphasized that theme in the hospital’s New Mothers group, and that lesson of listening to the baby and reading his signals has driven pretty much all of my breastfeeding decisions since then.

I hope to be able to spread the good word about breastfeeding. I know some people have a hard time, but for me, it has been intuitive, calming, and yes- easy. I don’t want other people to end up with a long list of “things I wish I’d known,” so I offer simple advice to my friends who are pregnant. I tell them to line up a lactation consultant ahead of time, so they know they can call someone in the morning for help (after a 3 am freakout!). I also tell them to get a copy of The Nursing Mother’s Companion, which I think is one of the easiest to use and most organized breastfeeding books. I think every nursing mother needs support, even the ones who have a relatively easy time like me.

Read other mothers' stories:

--When breastfeeding begins badly, and what I should have done about it by The Milk Mama

--What I Wish I'd Known Back Then About Breastfeeding by Christina at Massachusetts Friends of Midwives

--If I'd Known Then... by Whozat

--You don't have to grin and bear it by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite!

--Robin Elise Weiss at Birth Activist

--Barbara at Three Girl Pile Up

--Adria at Happy Bambino

--What I Wish I'd Known Then: A Poem by Lisa at My World Edenwild

--AP Principle #2: What I wish I'd known when I started breastfeeding by Hobo Mama

--I wish I would've known! by strwberryjoy (Maria)

--Rebekah at Momma's Angel

--Breastfeeding Mums: 15 Breastfeeding Facts I Wish I'd Known as a First Time Breastfeeding Mum

--Rita at Fighting Off Frumpy: When Breastfeeding Feels Wrong

--Cave Mother: Nursing Wisdom

--Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Trust Yourself and Your Body

--Breastfeeding is life changing at Blacktating

--Claire at Mum Unplugged
Click here to read full entry.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Mini-Me

It's weird, how attached I feel to this baby. I just can't get enough of him. Looking at pictures of him is weird, because pictures make me try to see objectively what he looks like- but all I can see is a little extension of myself, and someone I know so well that he feels like me.* I am so lucky to get to be with him full time for ten months.

Holding him feels so natural. It feels odd to be without him. Right now he is sleeping, which is why I have to time to write and reflect. I guess his better sleeping is one of the ways that he and I will become separate as he gets older.

It is so easy to go about my days with him. I love grocery shopping with him, I love going out with friends with him. I love eating lunch while he plays on the floor beside me. I love feeding him while I watch TV (because you have to tune out for just a little during the day, fo real). I like changing his diaper. I like sitting him in the exersaucer while I shower, talking to him while I shower, and opening the shower door to peek at him and make him laugh.

Only down sides of a baby:
Can't go to the gym.
Can't go have long dinners out with husband (altho as we are getting back on a schedule after our trip and illnesses, I can see how that would actually be possible).
Can't get tipsy (have to feed baby).
Less time for crosswords and blogging.
(And, I'd like to get tipsy during those dinners out, but if baby wakes and needs to eat, have to be able to feed him; I'm too lazy to do bottles and pumping.)

But I totally love it.
I am already thinking of the next one. I mean, is that terrible?

*Not to leave the husband out of all this. My husband also feels like an extension of me- or rather, part of me- like, the other half of me- so that I often forget to tell him things, because if it's in my head, it feels like it should be in his head too.

But my baby and I get along GREAT. I want to see who the next one is gonna be, if I am lucky enough to have another!

This post is rambling and absurd, but whatevs. I just want to think about how darling this baby is.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

One Thing I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding

I'd wish I'd heard about cluster feeding, where, in preparation for sleep, the baby NURSES HIS HEAD OFF FOR LIKE THREE HOURS. The reason this is an issue is:
1. You cannot fathom that your baby needs to nurse AGAIN.
2. Your spouse has just gotten home and wants to hang out with you/eat with you
3. You begin to think you have no milk.

What you need to do is just sit on your butt and nurse, but it is so hard because you really feel like you need to be putting on a good, cheery face for your husband. I am so glad that my husband and I realized that evenings might not be so easy and like they used to be. In those first few weeks, if the baby fell asleep at 7, rather than hang out with Corey, I'd go sleep too. I mean, it's total guerrilla tactics, but to survive and thrive as first time parents, you have to do crazy things like nap from 7-9 pm. (Because your damn baby is gonna want to nurse non-stop from 9 to midnight.)

I was just reminded of this when reading Nina Planck's Real Food for Mom and Baby. Yeah, I'm a hippie.
And this is me nursing Q when he was a couple weeks old, not in my nursing nook, but in the living room, still in maternity clothes, of course!

My biggest tip for cluster feeding is:
1. Get an awesome nursing pillow so you can nurse hands free
2. Get a laptop or a book and set it right in front of your nursing chair- better yet, get all the trashy tabloid mags, because your brain is fried.
3. Get a system, like unlimited texting for the iPhone, so you can summon your husband or mom to refill your water bottle, bring you socks for your freezing feet, or whatever.

I finally read "Bringing Your Newborn Home" AS I was nursing in those first few weeks when I was nursing 5, 6 hours a day, letting Q nurse as long as he wanted.

Letting your baby nurse as long as he wants is good for:
1. Making sure he gets to the fattier hindmilk at the end of the feed
2. Stimulating your prolactin receptors so you will always have enough milk in the later months of nursing
3. You, relaxing, reading, while the baby does his thing.

All that stuff about "don't let your baby use you as a pacifier" does NOT apply to the first month or two. Your baby is hard at work making your boobs into nursing boobs, and you need to ignore pressure from the outside world who say, "Didn't you just feed him?" "He's just using you as a pacifier." "Are you sure you have enough milk?" This is the kind of stuff that makes you feel bad about your nursing capabilities, when really, you are ROCKING IT.

Here are a couple of my fave nursing shots from the first month or two:

Nursing Q while visiting our friends Daniel and Zaida, who had their twins a few weeks after Q.

Nursing while watching Biggest Loser with my friends/coworkers. I swear, I nursed ALL THE TIME in that first month or two! Time or place, didn't matter. Just wanted that baby to gain weight.

The one thing I'm going to do differently with my next baby is nurse him or her more often in the first 24 hours. Long story, don't feel like getting into it right now.
Click here to read full entry.