baby, postpartum, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Three Months

Elliot is three months old! We’re officially at the end of the so-called “fourth trimester” and I can definitely see it. Sadly, this also means that I need to start thinking about going back to work next month. I’m definitely not ready.

How I’m Feeling:

This month, I got back into my yoga practice and we started venturing out of the house more. I also got the chance to see how I deal with parenting by myself while Dan took some trips out of town. It’s nice to get out more and be able to take some time for myself during the day. It’s not so nice to have to do the bedtime routine by myself!

My incision is almost completely pain-free now, though it will get irritated by clothes or the occasional body product. I imagine that will linger for a while, but for the most part, I don’t think about my incision as much during the day. I definitely think about it while I do yoga, though, since I’ve noticed that I feel the pulling in my lower abs when I try to do back bending positions. So I’m taking it easy and listening to what my body wants to do.

Obviously, I’ve also been carving out more time for writing this month. There have actually been a few posts this month! Elliot is taking more predictable naps, which means I get a little guaranteed downtime during the day. Unfortunately, I sometimes don’t know whether he’ll nap for 45 minutes or two hours, but such is life. I generally try to prioritize getting a snack and a cup of tea first, and then use any remaining free time to decompress.

I will say, I’m not missing work at all yet (though I miss my coworkers a little). I know plenty of people are eager to go back to work and get a break from being alone with the baby all day, but I’ve rather been enjoying it. I suppose that comes with being a little introverted and more than a little lazy.

Also, Elliot started daycare this week. We were able to get a spot at convenient daycare, but they would only hold the spot until now, so we had to start paying a month before going back to work. So I figured it would be good to send him a day or two a week to get used to it (for both of us). He seemed to enjoy it, but I was a bit of a mess for most of the day. That said, by the end of the day, I was more used to the idea of him being at daycare, and realized that he was handling it fine.

How Elliot’s Doing:

El continues to grow and develop. This is our first month without a pediatrician checkup, but I can tell he’s getting bigger every day! He started outgrowing his 0-3 month clothes a while ago and has started officially wearing 3-6 month sizes!

He’s also doing great at tummy time, and even seems to be enjoying it for longer. I’m seeing a little personality shine through, especially when it comes to exploring new things. I had to leave him on the floor with a toy nearby when I had to go to the toilet a couple weeks ago, and while I was in the bathroom, I heard him grabbing at the crinkly leg of his stuffed dragon. He’s started reaching out and grabbing for things, and has definitely started trying to put more things in his mouth.

He has also started tracking things with his eyes. He’ll watch a toy if I move it back and forth while we’re playing, and he loves to look for me in the mornings when Dan is changing his diaper. I’m excited to watch him achieve these milestones and see his development!

I’m also noticing that he is starting to need more quiet and dark during his daytime naps. He stays awake longer when I take him for walks, and I’ve started taking upstairs to the bedroom for naps so he sleeps longer. I have my fingers crossed that this is the beginning of the so-called “four month sleep regression” and that we’ll have time to figure things out if he stops sleeping at night before I go back to work. Plus, we’re probably going to have to move him out of his bassinet sooner rather than later…

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breastfeeding

My Breastfeeding Journey: 0-3 Months

When I was born, my mother didn’t have any support breastfeeding and eventually chose to switch me to formula pretty early on, so I know that formula-fed babies turn out just fine. And, having gone through the first three months of breastfeeding myself, I totally understand why she gave it up. The first days and weeks of breastfeeding can be really tough, and while I have a solid breastfeeding relationship with Elliot right now, it wasn’t always easy and I came very close to quitting a couple of times. Now, I don’t know what will happen as I go back to work and Elliot goes to daycare and I have to start pumping more regularly instead of nursing, but since it’s been almost three months, I thought I’d share a little of our breastfeeding journey thusfar.

Our breastfeeding journey started well. I will start by saying that I never had any leaking at all during pregnancy, and like a lot of women, I worried that that meant I wouldn’t produce colostrum right away. Well, immediately upon arriving in the recovery room, the nurse was helping me get set up for skin-to-skin and was able to express a big blob of colostrum. El latched on well from the start, and things seemed off to a good start.

Then the second two nights hit and El stayed up screaming all night. The first morning after that happened, the nurse noticed that he was shaking his hands a lot and tested his blood sugar, but it was okay. And he wasn’t showing any signs of jaundice, so we decided to stay the course. But our third night in the hospital, the nurse explained that he had lost 10% of his birth weight and that the pediatrician would probably want to talk about supplementing with formula in the morning anyway, so we might want to consider giving him just a little bit to top-up to see if it helped him calm down.

I will say, supplementing with formula brought up a lot of feelings that I was trying very hard not to have. I have nothing against formula-feeding, and I even made sure to get plenty of samples of formula because I knew I wanted to make sure my baby was fed, even if breastfeeding didn’t work. Well, now that I was faced with the reality of needing to use formula, I felt broken and inadequate. But we gave him supplements and he was happy and I’m forever grateful for that nurse for broaching the subject in a very pro-breastfeeding hospital.

One we got home, we kept supplementing. The second day at home, my milk came in fully and El started refusing his formula supplement. The next day, the pediatrician found out he’d put on a lot of the weight he’d lost, and we were given the okay to stop supplementing. So we had a short supplementing journey, but I’m still glad we did it. I also had some issues with cracked nipples, and there was one night where I couldn’t face switching the baby back and forth between two already-raw nipples, for more than an hour, so I handed him to Dan for a top-up to see if it would satisfying him and give my nipples a break.

Ironically, after our issues with weight loss, the next major issue we had was an oversupply and an overactive letdown! All of a sudden, he went from nursing for 20 or more minutes per breast, to barely 5-10, and he would pull off, cough, sputter, and get fussy. Luckily, our pediatrician has a lactation consultant on staff and they strongly recommend having an appointment with her the first or second time you visit, so we were able to do a weighted feed and realized that he was eating for so short a time because that’s all he needed.

Since then, as my milk supply has been regulating, I’ve done a little bit of pumping to help take the pressure off, especially as he started sleeping longer stretches at night. We introduced a bottle of breast milk at about eight weeks to make sure he’d be used to it before he went to daycare. I will say, I think he prefers the breast because it’s actually a faster flow than the newborn nipples we use. It takes me less time to pump the amount he eats in a bottle than it takes him to eat it from a bottle!

As far as things that have helped me in my breastfeeding journey, here are my favorites:

A Nursing Pillow:

I got a My Brest Friend pillow at my shower, but I found the style to be limiting. I couldn’t use it for the football hold, plus it was occasionally irritating on my incision. So I splurged on a Moon Womb pillow from the Sustainable Baby Co. and, wow, it’s probably my favorite baby thing ever. If anyone finds a pillow that is the same shape, and stuffed with buckwheat instead of batting/foam, please let me know, so I can recommend a cheaper alternative. And a nursing pillow is totally worth it. When I need to wash my pillow cover, I miss my pillow when I have to try to rig up something with other pillows. Plus, the weight of the buckwheat-filled pillow felt amazing on my incision in the early weeks, and it smells like lavender and chamomile.

Medela Hydrogels

I had cracked nipples the first week or so, and in addition to nipple balm and all-purpose nipple ointment, I loved the hydrogel nipple patches from Medela. I got a handful of them from the lactation consultant at the hospital and bought more off Amazon. I will say that I absolutely have to change them every 24 hours or else my nipples get itchy. The lactation consultant said that some people can go up to 36 hours without changing them.

All-Purpose Nipple Ointment

Also called Jack Newman’s ointment, Dr. Jack’s ointment, Dr. Newman ointment, or just APNO, this was a lifesaver. Even now, I’ve noticed that if my letdown gets a little more painful than usual, a day or two of dabbing on APNO will quiet it down. If you have a doctor who will prescribe it and a compounding pharmacy where they’ll make it for you, it’s worth it, even though it’s not cheap (mine was $40/oz., but I’ve been using the same 1-oz. tube for three months).

Nursing Sleep Bras

I have a bunch of different styles of bra, but hands-down, my favorite nursing bras are the cross-over style sleep bras, like these from Kindred Bravely. I also have a bunch from Target, if you’re not feeling spendy. I like to wear a sleep bra with a deep v-neck or wrap-front top as my ideal nursing outfit.

A Giant Water Bottle

On the advice of a coworker, I bought a 32-oz. water bottle for my hospital bag and I’m so glad I did. Breastfeeding is thirsty work, and dehydration will 100% affect your supply negatively. I drink 3-4 of these bottles of water per day, and if I had a smaller bottle, I’d definitely be up too often to fill it. At the very least, it’s nice to have a bottle big enough not to need a refill in the middle of the night.

Snacks

Breastfeeding is also hungry work, and you will need a variety of snacks. My favorite snacks are cereal, oat bars, and meat-and-cheese snack packs that my husband found for when I was getting sick of sweets.

So that’s where we’re at on our breastfeeding journey. I’ll try to update in a few months to see how going back to work and sending El to daycare affects it. But for now, I’m going strong towards my goal of at least one year of breastfeeding.

baby

Meditations on the Beginning of Spring

One year ago, I didn’t know I was going to get pregnant that month. I had just turned 35 and was still recovering from my loss the previous autumn. My oldest friend had just welcomed her son, a son that was supposed to have been born a mere three months before my own. But it was spring, a time of new beginnings, and I was trying to embrace that.

I had started acupuncture a few weeks earlier, and my acupuncturist had suggested I meditate on the green and growing things of springtime. He suggested that I focus on the fertile time of year that it was. And I was following my Circle + Bloom meditation program as well. I was meditating a lot. I meditated a lot in the months following my loss.

I didn’t know that I was standing on the cusp of a new period in my life. That a couple weeks later, I would see those two pink lines, and all the excitement and fears they brought up. This year, one year later, I’m sitting in a quiet house, watching my nearly-three-month-old son nap. We went to my friend’s son’s first birthday party this weekend.

I can feel the air warming and the world moving into springtime again, just as I did last year. This year, I won’t be blooming quite so obviously with the spring, but I’m still growing, becoming a mother, slowly but surely. And I get to watch my own little sprout grow as we nurture him.

Despite the years I’ve had in my life, I’m always amazed at the difference a year can make. As we emerge from winter, it’s nice to touch base with the constants in life — the spring, the sun, the flowering trees, the migrating birds — as I consider all that has changed. And I can sit here and appreciate every moment of my journey, joyful and sad, and appreciate that spring has come again.

baby, childbirth

My C-Section Recovery Essentials

So even though I had an unplanned c-section after almost 36 hours after the beginning of my induction, including 14 hours of pitocin, I probably had an easier time of recovery than a lot of unplanned c-sections because I never tried to push, so I had pretty much no perineal damage. That said, recovering from a c-section is never easy, and I thought I’d share a little bit about my recovery, and the things I found absolutely essential while recovering.

Of course everyone is different and every recovery is different. It’s my hope to help other women facing c-section see that it’s not the end of the world, and while recovery may be rough, it’s not impossible. If a c-section is what your body and baby need, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And remember that you just went through surgery; it’s okay to need help. This was particularly difficult for me because I was so active before and throughout my pregnancy. To just be able to lay on the couch all day and not do anything more strenuous than nurse my baby was a big shift, both physically and mentally.

One thing that helped immensely was some perspective from my husband. About a week after we went home from the hospital, I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible abdominal cramping. Worried that something was wrong, I went in to the doctor to get checked out. She said that I’d strained a muscle. Strained a muscle? I thought. How, exactly did I do that when I’d been doing nothing but lying in bed? Well, from the location of the strain, I realized I’d probably strained it twisting over to the side to pick up Elliot from his bassinet to feed him. Which was disheartening to say the least. Until Dan reminded me that most people who have abdominal surgery are told not to lift anything, rather than “nothing heavier than the baby,” so it made sense that even lifting the baby could cause problems.

Which brings me to my list of essentials:

1. A Supportive Partner

My number one c-section recovery essential is a supportive partner. In my case, I was lucky that my husband was not only able to take off work for a month, but willing to stay away from his job for that long. I would say, at the very least, you should plan on someone being around to help you all the time for the first two weeks, until you know how your body is going to heal. I spent all my time laying in bed or on the couch, so I needed Dan to do pretty much everything else. I fed Elliot, but Dan fed the two adults. He did all the laundry. He kept me hydrated. He rocked, burped, and changed Elliot. Heck, when Elliot was still on formula supplements, Dan fed him most of his formula supplements. He made sure that all I had to think about was breastfeeding and recovering.

2. A Good Robe

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t buy this robe (which I’m wearing in the picture above) sooner. It’s not cheap, but it’s fantastic. It’s soft, thick, comfortable, and the belt is attached so you can’t lose it in the wash. I came home from the hospital with a belly the size it was at five months pregnant, and an incredibly sensitive lower abdomen. Wearing real clothes was out of the question for a while, and breastfeeding meant I needed frequent easy access in the front. This robe over a nursing bra, and some thick socks was my uniform for at least a week.

3. Maxi Dresses

The first few weeks of my recovery, I couldn’t stand wearing anything with a waistband. Wearing underwear was bad enough, but even leggings or a jersey skirt was out for everyday wear. While my robe was perfect for at home, I had to leave the house occasionally for doctors appointments. When that happened, I turned to my maternity maxi dresses. I have this dress in three colors and it’s basically all I wore out of the house, or when people visited, for weeks. It’s soft and comfortable, looks like real clothes even though it feels like a nightgown, and it’s cut ideally for easy breastfeeding access.

4. Cold Packs

My doctor clued me in that the perineal cold packs that were in my postpartum recovery bag at the hospital are also great for soothing an angry incision. When I got home and ran through the extras that the nurse gave me to take home, I found these, for a reusable option. They stay in the freezer and I wrap one in a dishtowel to prevent frostbite. Cold on the incision is key.

5. Postpartum undies

One thing for which I was completely unprepared was how much I would hate my normal underwear when I got home. I used hospital disposable undies for a while, but eventually, I wanted to feel like a normal, underwear-washing person again. I got these from Kindred Bravely, which are fantastic, if a bit delicate (some stitching is already coming undone on a few pairs), and when I went to order more, I tried these, which probably wouldn’t have worked for the early recovery days, but are great now that most of my immediate soreness is done. Seriously, wearing the wrong underwear caused a lot of my worst pain days after the initial healing period.

Now that I’m past the initial healing period, I’m still not wearing most of my normal clothes. I stick to soft-waisted bottoms, like yoga pants, wide-waistband leggings, and jersey skirts. I can’t imagine when I’ll ever want to wear jeans again, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep my maternity skirt in rotation when I go back to work. But just shy of six weeks from the surgery, I woke up one morning and realized that I didn’t hurt at all. And since somehow pregnancy has made me sickeningly optimistic, I will say that the bright side of the c-section was that Dan was able to bond immediately with Elliot and I think it makes it easier for him to soothe El when he’s fussy.

I spent a lot of time preparing for the possible things that could happen during delivery, but the one thing I never planned for was a c-section. If I had it to do over, I would know to make sure I had the above things on hand (if I didn’t already have them), as a relatively simple way to make sure I was prepared for everything. And, seriously, that robe is awesome and I still wear it to and from the shower every morning!

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Two Months

Elliot is two months old! He got his first major round of shots yesterday at his two-month appointment and he handled it pretty well (although the nurse who gave them was a total ninja and I could have sworn I only saw her give one shot!). He did cry a lot at first, but a little nursing helped and he was just a little fussy later in the day. I had planned for lots of fussiness, so we spent most of the afternoon snuggling. And he got that awesome Wonder Woman bandage (the other leg has Superman).

How I’m Feeling:

I’m doing okay with the whole taking-care-of-a-baby-during-the-day thing. Last week was nice because Dan only had to go to work two days (he had off Monday and Wednesday for a holiday and snow, and had already planned on taking off Thursday for a dentist appointment and some other things), but this week we’re mostly back to the routine. I actually had my first excursion out without Elliot since he was born. I went to the dentist on Wednesday while Dan stayed home with him. Apparently, he mostly just napped and then woke up to have a bottle right before I came home. I was a little worried, but the amount of work Dan has put into helping care for El when we’re both home left me totally confident he could handle it.

Now that breastfeeding is more established, we’ve started introducing bottles of pumped milk in preparation for when he officially starts daycare later this month. The spot we got in the daycare started a month before I go back to work, so we can ease into it, sending him one or two days a week to get used to it, but the one thing is that we want to be sure he’s comfortable with the bottle before then. So I’ve been pumping a little bit between feedings to build up some extra milk to give him for one feeding on days when Dan is home, and then I pump while he feeds El. So far so good, but who knows what will happen to my supply when I’m actually back at work and pumping for at least three feedings per day.

Therapy has been going well. My therapist has even checked in on me via email when she knows something stressful is coming up. And my OB gave me a very low-dose prescription for Zoloft, which I’ve been taking for two weeks now. It’s not clear that it’s helping, but at least the initial side effects only lasted a couple of days. I’ve been feeling a lot better lately, mentally, and it’s probably some combination of the treatment and just feeling seen and supported.

How Elliot’s Doing:

El continues to grow and develop and it’s adorable. He’s sleeping well at night, and we’re currently working on naps. We set up a Pack ‘n Play in the living room so he can nap in a separate area from his play area. He can do half-hour naps with no problem, but longer naps remain mostly elusive (although he napped for an hour after his shots yesterday). But I’ve heard that no matter how well they start sleeping early on, it all changes at four months anyway, so I’ve been pretty relaxed about letting him nap in the ring sling or on me.

He still tends to get fussy in the afternoons and wants to be held a lot, so the ring sling has been a lifesaver for me. I’m getting more confident with him in it by the day, and even made part of dinner the other night while wearing him. This week we haven’t gotten any walks in, but we try to take a couple walks per week at least most weeks, which he appreciates until he falls asleep.

He’s also discovered his hands. The other day when he woke up from his nap, he wasn’t fussing, so I let him stay in the Pack ‘n Play for a little bit and when I looked in, he was just examining his hands. He’s also started “talking” a lot, making “boo” and “goo” and “gah” sounds. He also says “ow” a lot, which I like to think is the sound he thinks his mumma makes because I did say it a lot in the first month of my recovery.

Other than that, we’re just hanging out most days. We still play and “chat” and do tummy time a few times a day, plus he likes his Montessori mobiles. And I try to read him a story at least once a day. He enjoys being around people, especially his parents. Now that he’s gotten his first round of shots, and it seems like flu season is calming down, we might start venturing out of the house more.

As far as his doctor’s appointment, the doctor said he looks great and healthy and very alert. His weight gain has slowed down a bit, but she’s not concerned, especially since he’s still gaining, and getting longer. He’s probably just going to be tall and thin like his parents (especially his dad!). And we even managed to get him weighed without him peeing on everything and everyone this time!