baby, Parenting, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Four Months

Elliot is four months old and continues to surprise us every day. He’s definitely growing into his personality and has developed a really adorable “serious look” when he meets new people. He’s also started daycare every weekday since I returned to work and seems to be having a blast.

How I’m Feeling:

Well, I returned to work last week and I have to say, the anticipation was much worse than the reality. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t want to go back to work, but since we’ve been paying for daycare for the last month, I couldn’t really afford to take off much more time. I was kind of a mess the weekend before I went back, but I knew he did well at daycare because we’d been sending him a day or two a week for the last month. That really helped my peace of mind as I wasn’t worried about him as much as just missing him. And being back at work has been great. I’m rediscovering how much I love my work and reconnecting with coworkers. Plus, so many people I encounter on my daily commute welcomed me back that I felt so missed and appreciated.

That said, I was dropped right back into the middle of our most hectic time of year. It’s our organization’s annual meeting and that means a lot of early mornings for me. Thankfully, I’ve done okay with my morning routine, and I’m grateful that Elliot has been pretty cooperative with his sleeping schedule so that I’ve been able to get out on time the last couple of days. I’m a little worried I’m going to crash before the end of the week, but for now, I feel like I’ve gotten through both the initial return and the busy period. Tomorrow, we take him to the pediatrician for his four-month checkup, which is a bit of a break for me because I won’t have to commute in.

The main thing that has helped me stay balanced during this transitional time has been my yoga and meditation practice. I talked a bit earlier this month about restarting my yoga practice last month, and this month I also restarted a regular silent meditation practice. Yoga helps wake up my body while meditation helps focus my mind. And when I started having some anxiety over pumping, I was able to use meditation to help relax.

Speaking of pumping, it’s only been a week, but so far I’ve been staying on top of Elliot’s milk needs at day care. Pumping is a weird break time, but it’s just become part of my new routine. And the hospital-grade pump my work provides is pretty awesome (I actually think I got a little too excited and may have set it a bit high last week, which caused some issues). I have my fingers crossed that that stays.

How Elliot’s Doing:

Elliot is generally a happy little guy. He’s still quietly observant of the world around him and loves to watch things happen. He loves watching me make my tea in the morning and is intently interested in the pour over coffee when we go to Vigilante Coffee on the weekends. He’s been going on more outings with us as we become more comfortable taking him out. We’ve been looking for a new house, so he came out to look at houses and we even stopped for lunch in a restaurant with him in tow with success.

He’s also started rolling over on his own, so pretty much all the time is tummy time. And he’s started playing with toys from his tummy as well as grabbing them while on his back. His physical development is really cool to watch and it looks like he’s already trying to figure out how to crawl (he can get his butt up off the ground and kind of does a little inchworm crawl). Dan and I are getting a little concerned that we need to start thinking a little more about how to keep him safe when he becomes mobile because that’s going to happen sooner rather than later. He also figured out how to get his legs over the edge of the bassinet, so we had to move him to a Pack and Play for the night while we ordered a crib!

Finally, Elliot and Sophie are interacting more. She’s become a little braver and more interested in coming near him to investigate, and he’s started reaching out to try to touch her and has become more interested in watching her. Luckily, she’s a very gentle and patient cat, so hopefully they make friends soon.

baby

Adventures in Babywearing

Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have noticed that Dan and I often wear Elliot, especially for walks, or around the house. What started as a passing interest during my pregnancy turned into a full-blown necessity when it became clear that Elliot loves to move and I was not strong enough to carry him around in my arms as much as he wanted. Since Dan and I have both gone through a few iterations of babywearing carriers, I thought I’d share our experiences and talk a little bit about the styles we each prefer.

We started out with stretchy wraps, as many parents do. We were fortunate enough to be gifted both a Moby and a Boba wrap from some generous friends, and our doula helped us figure out how to tie the wrap during her postpartum visit. Dan was immediately excited about wearing the baby because it usually fell to him to walk Elliot around the house while I was recovering from my c-section. I was less enthused by the stretchy wrap because I couldn’t really handle anything around my middle without it causing pain for many weeks.

So I got a ring sling. The ring sling was amazing because it puts absolutely no pressure on your abdomen, and, once I had a friend show me how to use it, I still find it the quickest way to get Elliot up and into a carrier when he’s being fussy around the house. I purchased two linen slings from Sleeping Baby Productions and I would absolutely purchase them again (I bought one, loved it, and bought a second when she had a sale on because I wanted a backup for when my first was in the wash).

But my favorite way of wearing El for longer periods of time, such as our daily walks, has got to be the woven wrap. It is, of course, one of the more expensive ways to babywear, but I found a beautiful 100% cotton woven wrap from Little Frog for under $100, shipped from Poland. I use this wrap in a simple front wrap cross carry for all our outdoor walks now. The wrap is supportive enough that Elliot doesn’t try to kick out of it like he sometimes does with the ring sling, it distributes his weight evenly across my back so I don’t end up with a tweaked back, and the woven material doesn’t sag or stretch out as we walk. And they’re super gorgeous.

We both decided that we don’t love the stretchy wraps. The stretch makes tightening a bit more forgiving, but that also means that they sag and feel less supportive. I once went on a walk with El in the Moby wrap and by the middle of the walk, his wiggling had stretched out the wrap to the point where I basically had to carry him home. Dan decided he prefers a soft structured carrier. We got him a Boba 4G, which he wears around the house in the evenings. Since we’re different sizes, I let his carrier be his (plus, I tried it once, and I’m not a huge fan of it).

So those are our favorite babywearing methods. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more carries with my woven wrap as El gets bigger and more developed. And maybe I’ll treat myself to another woven wrap sometimes (or ask for one for Mother’s Day!).

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…

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, 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!

childbirth, Dan

An Ode to the Other Half, Part Two: Birth Partner

In this series, I’m giving my partner, Dan, his due as a fantastic partner at all stages of our journey to parenthood. Today, I’m going to talk a little about how he prepared for and participated in the birth of our child. I can honestly say that Elliot’s birth would not have been the largely positive experience that it was without Dan’s help.

I’ve already told the story of Elliot’s birth and how I used my Hypnobabies techniques to keep calm and mostly comfortable during labor, especially before getting an epidural. I’ve also talked about how my first epidural started failing on one side because it was improperly placed and I had to have it redone while experiencing the height of pitocin contractions. But that’s the middle. Let’s start at the beginning.

First of all, though he was dubious about its effectiveness, Dan was always willing to participate in the Hypnobabies training. He took to the scripts and the cues right away, and I felt confident that he would be able to help, which made the anticipation of labor less scary. We checked into the hospital at 4pm the day of my induction and he stayed with me for the entirety of my hospital stay, which was almost 36 hours of labor, a c-section, and four additional days, sleeping on couches and staying up all night to soothe the baby so I could rest and recuperate as much as possible.

When we first got into the perinatal room, he helped figure out the TV options while I chatted with the nurse, and later on, he made sure that I could comfortably eat while mostly stuck in bed because of the monitors. Other than the time he spent sleeping the first night (I was pretty oblivious to my increasing contractions while on Cytotec, so I let him sleep as much as he could), he was engaged in the process and made sure to touch base with the nurses to know what was going on. He also was in charge of bringing my cold snacks to the nurses’ station to get them refrigerated, and then fetching gelatin and broth for me later on. I ate a lot of gelatin after we moved to labor and delivery.

But Dan truly started to shine when my contractions became more intense on pitocin. I had a private conversation with him that I was thinking I should get an epidural before I mentioned it to anyone else, and he supported me, while also encouraging me to wait until I talked to the doctor and the doula again, so that I didn’t regret getting it too early. When I did finally decide it was time for the epidural, he was right there with me, helping me relax through the contractions while I had to sit up for the anesthesiologist.

And when that epidural failed and I didn’t think I could keep going on, he was right there with me. I’m so glad our doula was able to snap the picture above of him comforting me through what would turn out to be the worst part of my labor experience. When I had to sit up for the second epidural placement, he was right there with me, helping me with relaxation cues to help me through the contractions while staying still for the epidural. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to do it without him.

Eventually, we decided that it was time to move to the c-section, and I was so glad they allowed him in with me. I had to go in first, to get prepped, and then they showed him in. I was having really bad shakes from the spinal and it was making me anxious, which made me shake even worse. As soon as Dan came in and sat next to me, he started using Hypnobabies cues and some tricks the doula showed him to help me relax. Even though he claims it didn’t look like it made a difference, I felt much more relaxed and felt like I was shaking less.

Once Elliot came out (greeting the world with a fountain of urine!), Dan was the one to cut the cord and held him the rest of the time the doctors were finishing up. And once I was back in recovery, doing skin-to-skin time, Dan and my nurse made sure to watch us so that I didn’t have to worry about feeling drowsy from the effects of the anesthetic (and over 36 hours of labor and surgery with very little sleep!).

Throughout our hospital stay and the weeks after, he was the one who made my recovery possible. When I had trouble picking up Elliot because of my incision, he reminded me that most people who have abdominal surgery are told not to lift anything, rather than “nothing heavier than the baby,” so that as long as I had him to help, he would do the lifting. Every night when Elliot woke up to nurse, Dan was right there to pick him up out of the bassinet and hand him to me. Sometimes, Dan is better at soothing him to sleep than I am!

His quiet resilience and willingness to help with everything that was possible for him to do made it possible for me to rest and recover from my surgery, while his emotional support has helped me through some of the mentally toughest moments I’ve had. I feel lucky to have such good support and know Elliot feels lucky to have such a good dad.

[photo by Jenny Corbett]

breastfeeding, Recipes

Recipe: Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies

So I’m seven weeks postpartum today and I thought I’d share a little recipe I’ve developed over the past weeks. See, when I first had Elliot, it took four days for my milk to come in (it came in the first day we were back at home from the hospital). While we were in the hospital, El was losing weight and we had to supplement with formula. So I was a little worried about milk supply.

Plus lactation treats just seem like one of those things pregnant ladies and new mothers are supposed to research, right? Well, I no longer worry about supply, but I’ve found that a healthy-ish, hearty cookie is the perfect snack to bring upstairs with me when we go to bed so that I have something shelf-stable, tasty, filling, and easy to eat with one hand when the inevitable hunger strikes in the middle of the night while I’m feeding him.

So I developed this recipe. It’s very, very loosely based on this recipe (kind of like culinary jazz). I added peanut butter because it’s higher in protein (and delicious), and a used brown rice flour instead of wheat flour because brown rice is one of those supposedly-milk-increasing foods. Oh, and I use nutritional yeast instead of brewer’s yeast because I accidentally bought the wrong thing, but supposedly brewer’s yeast is better for milk supply, because it has chromium, I guess? I take a multivitamin with chromium in it, so I’m not too fussed about the difference.

Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sucanat (unrefined cane sugar)

1 egg

2 Tbsp nutritional (or brewer’s) yeast

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Mix together the melted butter, peanut butter, salt, and sucanat in a bowl. Add the egg and beat well. Add in the vanilla, yeast, oats, flour, flax seed, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Roll into walnut-sized balls (I use a heaped tablespoon of dough) and store in the fridge or freezer until needed.

To cook from frozen: Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put frozen dough balls on the cookie sheet 2″ apart. Bake for ten minutes, then flatten to about 1/2″ thick with a spatula and bake five minutes more. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack, cooling completely, and packing in an airtight container.