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.

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baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Six Weeks

Officially, six weeks marks the end of the “postpartum recovery period,” according to my doctor and short-term disability (actually I get a little longer because I had a c-section). And, honestly, I can kind of see why. It’s been a good two weeks and Elliot is continuing to develop and hit new milestones. But really, I prefer the idea of “the fourth trimester” that extends up to 12-14 weeks postpartum. And since I’m taking 16 weeks of maternity leave, I have plenty more time to spend recovering and getting to know El before returning to work.

How I’m Feeling:

Actually, pretty good. This past Tuesday, I woke up and for the first time since the birth, I felt no pain in my body. Of course, that’s not a constant thing, but I’m starting to have longer and longer stretches of feeling good. When I got over my first trimester nausea while pregnant, I described it as feeling like I had bad days while mostly feeling good as opposed to good days while mostly feeling bad. I think I’m getting to that point.

Last weekend, I went for a walk for the first time since the birth. I discovered that I can put El in the ring sling and walk for a mile or two with no problem. It was particularly helpful because I found a therapist within walking distance who had an appointment available. You see, with my history of anxiety and depression, I knew I was at risk of postpartum depression. And when El’s pediatrician suggested I discuss it with my own doctors after scoring my EPDS assessment, I decided to make an appointment.

The therapist was lovely and had no problem with me bringing El to the appointment and wearing him while we chatted. Plus, I got to see my acupuncturist because they work out of the same center! And since the therapist started out as a yoga teacher (she went back to school to get a degree because her yoga students kept seeking her out for help she wasn’t qualified to give and she wanted to be able to help), she also had some suggestions for yoga classes I could try.

But being active again has helped my mindset more than anything. Being able to get out of the house and not worry about being in pain later is wonderful. Now that I’ve officially been cleared by my doctor (I had my six-week postpartum checkup a couple days ago) for returning to normal activity, maybe I’ll try to get back into my yoga routine, albeit gently. I’m definitely not going to be going back to barre class anytime soon, but at least I can see that going back to barre is in my future, which was honestly a bit tough the last few weeks, as sore as I was.

How Elliot’s Doing:

He’s growing and developing and having a great time. He’s definitely starting to spend more time awake for reasons other than needing to be fed or changed. We can actually play together, kind of. I bought some toys, including a set of Montessori-designed mobiles to help engage him during his awake time, and I also brought down a mirror from our bathroom. Plus, he has a great library of picture books from our friends and family (especially Dan’s mother). The favorites right now are the Black and White series by Tana Hoban, which have silhouettes of objects, either black on white or white on black, to be more visible to a baby’s sight while he’s still primarily seeing contrasts. But as he develops, we have lots of other books to share with him.

I’ve also started reading to him from books. I’ve read a couple Beatrix Potter stories to him, as well as some of my favorite fairy tales from the storybooks I bought for Kindle. While they don’t have as many pictures and he doesn’t necessarily understand the words, he seems to enjoy listening to me read them. He definitely has started responding to our voices. During the day when Dan is at work, I can calm him down by holding him and singing to him more easily than just rocking him.

But probably the most exciting new development is that El has definitely started smiling. He smiles in response to us smiling at him and when he sees certain things. He gave a huge smile at a black-and-white cow toy that a family member gave us for him, so we’ve decided that’s his favorite toy. And he definitely smiles for his mumma and daddy. No matter how frazzled or tired or sore I might be, his smiles warm my heart. Dan says that he feels like he can’t even remember what it was like to not have him around most of the time, and I kind of agree.

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: One Month

Elliot is one month old today! And what a month it’s been.

How I’m Doing:

Well, I was feeling really discouraged because every time I started feeling a little better, I’d be a little more active, and then suffer a setback and feel like I could barely move. But around last Thursday or Friday I realized that I actually felt much better. I’ve actually started wearing clothing with a waistband again! I’d been in nightgowns, robes, and maxi dresses for most of the month, so wearing a skirt was a big step. And today, I wore leggings to our pediatrician appointment, which is the closest to pants I’ve gotten in a month.

But I’m still managing to overdo it. I think it comes from being a pretty active person during my pregnancy. It’s hard to grasp that I was five times more able at 40 weeks pregnant than I am now, without the belly or all the extra weight. I’ve been experimenting more with babywearing because my arms get tired carrying him and Elliot likes to be walked around. I’ve come to the realization that the stretchy wrap is going to have to wait until I’m a little more healed because I’m having back pain after a couple days in a row of wearing it for a bit. But the ring sling seems to work better, probably because it keeps the baby weight distributed higher and doesn’t go around my middle at all.

This week marks the last week that Dan will be staying home, so I need to take some time now to try to become more independent with Elliot. I’ve started doing a little more at night, although I still need to make sure I’m standing and being careful when lifting El in and out of his bassinet, rather than being able to just grab him while sitting in bed. But we generally do a diaper change when we feed him at night anyway, so once I take over more of the overnight work, I’ll have to get up anyway.

I still haven’t ventured out of the house except for doctors’ appointments, although we have some appointments to tour daycare centers later this week, which should be interesting. I’m hoping I can keep El in the ring sling to minimize his exposure to germs (although I doubt it’s much more risky than the waiting room at the pediatrician). And eventually, I will get out to take a walk in the neighborhood, even if it’s just around the block.

How Elliot’s Doing:

Still growing. At his checkup this morning, he’s still firmly tracking the 45th percentile for weight, despite the fact that he’s been feeding for less and less time. I guess he’s just very efficient at nursing. He also got a shot, which he did not like, but he got over. He did spend the first bit of the car ride home looking grumpy in his car seat, but he fell asleep and wasn’t any worse for the wear.

He’s also started focusing on objects and faces. He looks at us from further away, and will even pay attention to books and toys. And he’s started smiling at people and things. I picked up a stuffed cow toy to show him during tummy time (because it’s black and white and high contrast) and he broke out in a huge grim when he saw it. He’s also started smiling at us when we smile or talk to him. It’s really exciting because it feels like he’s becoming more engaged with the world.

We’ve started getting him toys and showing him some of the (many) books we’ve received as gifts. I got a baby gym frame to hang things from and some Montessori mobiles. The gym hasn’t arrived yet, but I experimented with holding up the Munari mobile for him today and he was entranced for five minutes.

Obviously, we’re still in the eat-poop-sleep-repeat phase of newbornhood, but it’s really cool to see the occasional glimpses of the baby that is to come. Oh and he officially weighs more than the cat.

Current Stats: 9 lbs. 11 oz., 21 3/4″ long

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Two Weeks

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done a weekly update. Last time I checked in, I was 41 weeks pregnant and looking at an induction in a few days. I’ll be posting my birth experience next week, but I thought I’d start by sharing how our first two weeks with Elliot have been going.

How I’m Doing:

So, the postpartum period (or “fourth trimester,” as it’s sometimes called) isn’t just about baby development. It’s also about maternal healing. And I’ve definitely found the postpartum healing period more challenging than I thought it would be. I was completely unprepared for how much pretty much any normal daily activity would hurt with my c-section incision. The first week was mostly spent figuring out how to cope with reduced mobility. Dan has been invaluable, doing pretty much everything except feeding the baby.

I’ll be honest, I’m extremely frustrated that I can’t do almost anything. Earlier this week, I ended up back at the doctor for a last-minute appointment because I was having so much pain my lower abdomen. The doctor said I’d probably strained something, and given where I was hurting, I’m pretty sure I hurt myself lifting Elliot out of his bassinet at night. So I had to pull back even further and rely on Dan even more, which didn’t help the frustration (or the fact that we couldn’t really take shifts at night).

But we’re slowly adjusting and figuring out a sort-of routine. And Elliot is obliging and letting us sleep for a few hours at a time overnight, rather than staying up all night cluster feeding the way he did the first few nights at home.

How Elliot’s Doing:

Well, little guy seems to be having some congestion the past couple of days, but he seems mostly content and healthy. After several days of hourly feeds overnight, he’s calmed down, probably because he finished a growth spurt.

In the hospital, we had some trouble with him losing weight too quickly after birth, so we supplemented a little bit of formula after feeding him at the breast, but the day after we got home from the hospital, my milk came in, and he started refusing his formula supplements. When we had our first pediatrician checkup, he’d started gaining weight again nicely, and we were given the green light to go back to exclusive breastfeeding. At our two-week appointment this week, he’d already gained back to his birthweight (and then some!) so feeding seems to be going pretty well.

Over the last couple of days, we’ve noticed that he’s been a lot more alert and interactive during the day, instead of only waking up to fuss because he’s wet or hungry. His umbilical cord stump still hasn’t fallen off, so we’re being careful with tummy time, but I do occasionally put him on my chest to practice holding his head up and pushing up a little. He has remarkable neck control for a newborn and has since birth (he was holding his head up during skin-to-skin in the recovery room).

He’s also starting to noticeably outgrow his clothes. I think he’ll be out of newborn sizes fully in a week or two, though I’m glad we got newborn-sized clothes because the larger size was slightly too baggy for my comfort while sleeping. But our growing little guy is growing like a weed. As precious as these sweet, sleepy newborn moments are, I’m excited to see how he develops over the next months and years.

Current Stats: 8 lbs. 3 oz., 21.5″

Fourth trimester

Welcome, Elliot

 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this space. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll know that’s because baby Elliot decided to arrive just over a week ago. We’re all very busy at home getting used to our new little family, but as soon as I find some time, I’ll share the story of Elliot’s birth and start updating with how these first weeks are going.