2.09.2016

On Breastfeeding

I wanted to share some thoughts with you about how nursing has gone/been going for me, but please understand that these are my personal opinions about my own journey and are in no way intended to reflect or represent anyone else’s breastfeeding experience.
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I always intended to breastfeed R if possible. I know that there are a lot of moms who want to nurse but can’t for various reasons: not enough milk, schedule difficulties, baby won’t latch, and a host of other unforeseen problems. I realize that I have done absolutely nothing to make it possible for me to nurse R for almost six months, and I don’t take that for granted. 

I hadn’t read much, but I had read enough and heard enough stories from friends to expect a lot of pain in the beginning. As it turns out, I swung way too far to the negative side of things (as I tend to do) and expected nursing to be much worse than it actually was. Like, I was expecting the absolute worst and ended up being pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t the horror I was dreading. The one thing I heard over and over was that if you can make it until six weeks, something snaps into place and it all becomes better. I would say for me it took about a month for me to feel like I wasn’t a giant ball of stress about the whole thing.

The First Few Weeks

One thing I didn’t know was that breastfeeding helps your uterus return to a normal size in the first few days after giving birth. I was initially surprised (in a bad way because ouch) to feel a cramping sensation (like a period) during every feed for the first few days, which I was told was my uterus contracting. Even if you are not planning to breastfeed your baby, you might consider nursing at least in these very early days to assist in this process.

The first few weeks of nursing were very stressful for me, and there were many tears of pain, confusion, and frustration. First of all, it is very painful for obvious reasons, but it does (or should) get better over time. After about a month it completely stopped hurting at all, but in the beginning I just had to suck it up. For me, it wasn’t completely unbearable pain like it can be for some people, and there are creams you can buy to help. I used Lanolin, which was great. But overall, my boobs just hurt a lot, and there's not too much you can do about that.

I had heard some pretty bad stories about lactation consultants (being mean or rude, etc.), but thankfully the one who came to my room in the hospital was amazing. (Are you seeing a pattern with me hearing horrible stories and things not being as bad as I thought? You think I would learn not to freak out so much.) She was helpful those first few days, and I made an appointment to come back in a week to visit the LC. This was a game changer for me. I would highly recommend you visit an LC at your hospital during the first few weeks. I wasn’t even experiencing huge issues, but it was so nice to sit in a quiet room with an expert and have her watch me nurse R and show me different holds and what to be looking for in her positioning to help her latch better. And if it sounds awkward to have a stranger's face literally inches from your boob, I assure you that labor takes all that right out of you and you don't care two cents about it. I've flashed so many people in the last six months. It's whatever at this point.

While I was at the LC she also weighed R before and after a feeding to see exactly (by the gram) how much she was getting from me, which let me know that she was definitely getting enough milk and made me feel so much better. R didn't gain any weight during her first week half home from the hospital, and I was a wreak about it, so it was nice to know that she was getting enough milk.

I originally almost cancelled my appointment because I felt dumb for going, but it seriously was one of the best things I did in that first week. My opinion, of course.

Supply

I have a pretty good supply of milk. Until about a month ago I pumped sometimes not out of need for milk to store but because my boobs are aching from being so full. It was mostly just in the morning once R was consistently sleeping through the night, but it happened very often throughout the day in the beginning months until my body regulated my flow a little better. This was annoying because I had to carefully plan my day or else they would get too full and be uncomfortable.

Pumping

I was really overwhelmed by the idea of pumping. I think just because of all the parts and keeping things sanitized and storing the milk properly. It is a lot, but it’s very simple once you get the hang of it, which really doesn’t (or didn’t for me) take long at all. Now that I'm back at work, I have noticed that I don’t pump quite enough as R needs to fill her bottles, which is super frustrating, and to be honest the last few weeks have been pretty terrible as far as pumping goes. 

She takes 5-oz bottles, and I have been pumping around 3 ounces each time. I used to pump 4-5 ounces, but lately it's been around 3. Babies are much more efficient at getting milk than the pump is, and when I'm nursing her I don't have issues with milk, but I don't think my body is taking to pumping multiple times a day very well. I have been needing to add in an additional pumping session so we have enough to fill her bottles for daycare. I do have milk that I’ve pumped and froze, but I’d like to not have to start going through that just yet.

Pumping to build up a stash is one thing, but knowing exactly how much you need to pump in each session to fill your baby's bottle is very stressful and I kind of hate it a lot. It's on the list of Reasons I Wish I Didn't Have to Work. I could go on, but I'll leave it at that.

Breastfeeding is Hard

Even though I realize that I have done nothing to “deserve” to have had the ability to breastfeed R, I have a hard time not being proud of myself for making it this long. Because you guys, the honest truth is that even with pumping aside, breastfeeding itself is hard. I expected it to be painful, yes, but I didn’t expect for it to be this hard on a daily basis. Not hard in that it’s an effort to physically breastfeed, but I mean it’s hard because it’s a constant juggling act with my schedule, and it’s exhausting.

every. single. day. for almost six months I am silently doing reverse math in the back of my mind.

R ate at xx time, so she will need to eat again at xx time.

I need to run to the store, but R will be wanting to eat in ten minutes, and it will take this long and so I need to be back by xx.

See what I mean? Every day.

Not that I’m not happy to do it, because hello I’m not going to deny my baby food (free food at that), but I didn’t realize how tiring it would be to do this much scheduling. Although I will say that at six months, it is so much better because she's on a more regular schedule finally.

I personally believe that breast milk is the best option for the baby if you can do it, but just in terms of scheduling and the time commitment, I can see why many women choose not to nurse. Sometimes I think that it would be much easier to be able to hand a bottle to someone else so they could feed R, especially in those early weeks when all I wanted to do was sleep but instead I was up every two hours nursing, and it’s not like Jordan could do it.

That said, I absolutely love that my body is producing food for my baby and she is healthy and growing. 

It really is such an amazing thing and so worth it to me at the end of the day. I do feel like I’ve developed a bond with R through feeding, and I love feeling her little body curled into mine. I love that I can tell when she’s full or when she wants to switch sides. I love the face she makes when she’s just finished nursing and how rosy her cheeks get because they’ve been pressed up against my arm. I love the way she grabs my shirt with her tiny fingers. I love that when Jordan walks in the room and says something to me, she pulls off and smiles at him. (Although I don’t love when she pulls away and a mouthful of milk runs into my bra and down my stomach.)

I honestly don’t really get all the controversy that surrounds breastfeeding. Women need to choose what the best option is for their family, and if that involves breastfeeding, awesome! Let’s support nursing moms and recognize the hard work that it is to feed a child. And if you choose to formula feed for whatever reason, let’s support each other in that too. Perhaps most of us can agree that breast milk is the best option, but please, let’s not act like formula is a death sentence. It’s hard not to hear so much negativity surrounding formula and feel the weight of, but what if I can’t nurse and have to resort to formula??? This kind of pressure adds unhelpful and unnecessary stress to a new mom who is just trying to do the best she can for her baby. (<<-- Totally preaching to the choir right now aka ME with all of this work pumping struggle.) 

Over the past six months, I’ve been blessed that my baby gets full and is happy breastfeeding and feel so grateful that it's worked out for me to nurse. It is such a wonderful thing that I can supply her food, and even though in many ways it’s much harder than I thought it would be, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I hope to be able to continue to breastfeed R until she is one year old. However, we will see how pumping goes at work and reevaluate if needed. I'll keep you posted!

Okay! I think that's all I have to say about nursing for the time being. I hope this post was interesting to you! Leave any questions in the comments or feel free to email me if you have thoughts/questions, etc.

p.s. You might like these related posts:
Claire's series of posts about wanting to breastfeed but it ultimately not working out and how she came to terms with that.

2.05.2016

Week-by-Week: Baby's First Scrapbook

I admit that this is probably the type of thing you make for your first child and then don't have time to make for the rest of them, but I wanted to share the scrapbook I made for R's first three months! Maybe this will inspire you to make something like this for your kids too. 

Now that she's almost six months old, I already treasure having a book of her beginning weeks filled with pictures of her as a tiny newborn and am glad I took the time to put this together.
If you've been around this blog for any length of time or know me in real life, you know how much I love to document life through picture taking and scrapbook making. It's easy to take pictures and have them fill up the memory on your phone or computer but never actually see the light of day, and one of my favorite things to do is print photos to use in scrapbooks or to hang on the wall.

My original idea with this book was to make a page for each week of R's first year, covering all 52 weeks. You're probably laughing at me right now, which you should because that idea is ridiculous. I soon realized that keeping up with this project was fairly time consuming, so I shortened it to just the first three months. A lot of people make baby scrapbooks by month, but I liked the idea of narrowing it more and making pages for each week, sharing photos and writing down the little things we did and milestones she reached.
I think the key to a book like this is to keep up with it as it happens. While going back and making a book by month is feasible, it would be really hard to retroactively make a weekly book unless you've kept good notes and have time to sift through a bunch of pictures.
Each two-page spread in this book is one week of her life. I took so many photos of R in the beginning (and still now, let's be honest), and I love that I have two pages devoted to just those photos. For each week I also included a bulleted list of "things I want to remember." Sometimes it was an observation of R's milestones (like rolling over), and other times it was to document a trip or a visitor or a "first" like our first walk in the stroller or our first time to attend church. It's so fun to look back and see all the things we did in those first few weeks!
I obviously didn't include every single photo I took during that week. I tried to choose my favorites and the ones that told a story or was something I wanted to remember. Each page has a different layout so it looks unique all the way through.
In case you're wondering, this book is a 10x10 size made from Shutterfly. I upgraded to a matte cover (instead of glossy, which it comes with). 

For the most part, I tried to put together the week's spread on the last day of the week. I did get behind a few times but by no more than one week, because otherwise it would have been too hard for me to keep the weeks separate. I would upload the photos I took, edit them, write down that week's memorable moments, and put together the two-page layout. I would say on average it took at least one hour a week, up to two if I had a lot of photos to sort through and edit.

By the end, I was happy to be done because it was hard to keep up with. But now I have this lovely book of R's first three months, so it was definitely worth it!

Questions or feedback? Leave a comment!

Do you print photos or make scrapbooks? 
How do you document (or plan on documenting) your child's year?

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