6 Months: My Breastfeeding Story…So Far.

I did it. 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. Evan hasn’t had a drop of formula. I am so proud of myself for sticking to it because it wasn’t always easy. And it still isn’t easy.

First, a note: While I am proud, I would never think to judge anyone for their own personal decisions about feeding their babies. There were many times I wanted to give up, and I totally understand why people do. I also know that some people cannot physically breastfeed or do not have lifestyles that are conducive to nursing and pumping (I was adopted and formula fed myself). I am extremely happy with my decisions so far, but they are my choices. You all can make your own. We’ve got enough to deal with as moms without all of this competing.

I do want to share my breastfeeding story, though. For myself and for anyone out there who wants or needs to see that we all have our own struggles.

The Painful Beginning – The First Six Weeks

E had this breastfeeding thing down from the beginning and in that way I was very lucky and had it much easier than some other moms I know. My hungry little boy had no problems latching on. And boy did he eat. 45 minute feedings every hour and a half (so basically 45 minutes on, 45 minutes off).

I, on the other hand, was having some major issues. It HURT. Like, REALLY HURT. Worse than child birth. I dreaded feeding time because I really wasn’t sure how much more of the 60-seconds of intense latch on pain and the soreness that continued throughout the feeding I could take. And I couldn’t do anything to stop it. His latch was fine. Every position was painful. It seemed to be me that was just built wrong. I read that it would stop hurting at 2 weeks. It took 5 1/2.

Mentally, I was a wreck. I was, at best, uncomfortable. I still had those crazy hormones running through me, and I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life sitting on the couch, watching Friday Night Lights, and nursing this baby while crying.

While I was so happy to have Evan, I did a lot of complaining during this period. Thank you to all of you who listened and offered advice and shared similar stories. It helped me more than you probably realize.

The Honeymoon Period – Weeks Six through Twelve

Once the pain went away, everything else started to fall into place. Evan started eating faster, and, eventually, started going longer than 90 minutes between feedings. I was able to leave the house without experiencing massive anxiety. I got comfortable nursing in public. I began to enjoy the time I was spending nursing Evan. I was also able to pump after each morning feeding and start building a freezer stash.

Back to Work – Month Four

And just as we hit our stride, everything changed (I suspect this will always be the case with parenting). After twelve weeks of maternity leave, I went back to work full-time. This meant that Evan needed to have two or three or four bottles each day and that I needed to pump.

Many days, this isn’t really a problem. I have an office with a door that locks. I can pump and sit at my computer and continue to do my work. But there are days that I am away from the office at court, in deposition, attending mediations. These are the challenging days for me. I spent one whole week sneaking out of arbitration to pump in my car in a parking garage. The things we do for our children.

I am very lucky. My employer completely supports my decision to breastfeed. And I even have the opportunity to go to Evan’s daycare to nurse him at lunch most days. This has made it so much easier.

Struggling with Supply – Months Five and Six

Once again, as soon as I hit my stride as a pumping mom, things changed. In those first few weeks, I was pumping more than enough and banking at least a few ounces for the freezer stash each week. Then my supply suddenly dropped. And Evan started eating more. Simultaneously.  I was pumping 2 ounces when Evan was eating 4. I started taking fenugreek, drinking that awful Mother’s Milk tea, and eating lactation cookies. I had to start pumping before I went to bed to make up for what I didn’t pump during the work day. I am just barely keeping up at this point, but I am keeping up and that’s all that matters. It might be extra work, but it’s for Evan so I can do it.

Going Forward

We are going to start solids now. I don’t anticipate that this will reduce Evan’s milk intake at all to start with so I am going to keep nursing and pumping. My original goal was this first six months, but my new goal is to keep breastfeeding until Evan is a year old. It is nice to know that I made it this far, and if I do have to supplement with formula at this point, it’s less of an issue.

My Advice to Future Breastfeeding Moms

  • Surround yourself with supportive people. Find a lactation consultant, a breastfeeding group, and/or friends who have been through it (I found twitter to be full of encouragement).
  • Do your research before you have the baby. I did not really do this and I wish I had. Instead, I spent HOURS googling “_____ and breastfeeding” during those first few weeks. Find a resource you like and can use as a reference (I like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and kellymom.com).
  • Don’t let the breastfeeding nazis scare you. If you have to supplement, your child will be fine. I was formula fed and I turned out to be a healthy, intelligent adult.
  • Talk to your daycare provider about your wishes. Or, if you’re obsessive like me, write a two page document about how to feed your child (you should see my pumping spreadsheet).
  • Talk to your employer about pumping. If your employer is large enough, federal law requires that they provide you with non-bathroom space to pump (although they generally don’t have pay you for pumping breaks). Explain how breastfeeding will actually benefit them, since your child is less likely to get sick, requiring you to take fewer sick days. 
  • Pump while driving. I promise this is a lot safer than it sounds. And it saves so much time on days that you have to spend a lot of time in the car. I set it all up under my nursing cover with my hands-free pumping bra, turn it on, put on my seatbelt, and drive. After 20 minutes, I pull over and take it all off. Voila.
My breastfeeding story isn’t over. I plan on continuing until one of us (hopefully Evan) is ready to start the weening process. Thanks again to everyone who has supported me in this adventure so far.

The Great Cloth Diaper Adventure

Warning: Baby Break. While this is still very much a book blog and not a mommy blog, I think you can probably expect me to take a break from the bookish talk to blog about baby things now and then. This is one of those times.

***

When you mention cloth diapers, just like with most parenting decisions, people have their opinions. But a lot of people don’t know what modern cloth diapering involves. So today I am sharing all of the answers you could ever want about my cloth diapering experience so far.

Did You Always Use Cloth Diapers?

No.

Prior to having the baby, I looked into cloth diapering. I liked it for several reasons: the cost savings, the environmental concerns, and they just look so cute. But I wasn’t prepared to invest several hundred dollars on cloth diapers before I even knew what it was like to have a baby. So when Evan was born, he went straight into disposables. And let me tell you, you change A LOT of newborn diapers that first month. I couldn’t imagine not using disposables then. What with the exhaustion and the hormones making me crazy and the constant feeding and peeing and pooping.

I got used to disposables and kind of forgot about my cloth diaper plan for awhile.

How Did You Get Started?

When Evan was about 4 months old, I’d been back to work about a month, and things were starting to calm down, I began thinking about it again. Once my daycare provider agreed to using cloth diapers, I figured I didn’t have any excuses. So I found an online trial through Jillian’s Drawers. JD sends you a variety of brand new diapers (prefolds, covers, all-in-ones, pocket diapers, etc) and you get 3 weeks to try them out. At the end of 3 weeks, you return them and you get your money back (less $10 shipping, $10 deposit, and anything you keep). Not only did it let me try the various types of diapers, it let me try cloth diapering in general. And it was especially helpful for my husband, who was probably less committed to the cloth diaper idea than I was. This gave us a chance to see how easy it really was.

Which Diapers Do You Use?

I decided to go with the BumGenius Freetimes. I went for the all-in-one because we’re both working parents with limited time and I didn’t need to give us  or Evan’s sitter any extra work. These have two flaps that you fold in so you can customize the absorbancy where you need it and because they are flaps, they don’t take any longer to dry than pocket diapers (which was a previous flaw in old all-in-ones).

At $20 a piece, the Freetimes are on the pricier side. But the extra money was worth it to me for the time I’m saving by not stuffing or folding diapers. They also will fit him until he’s out of diapers competely. The Freetimes can be used on babies from 8-35 pounds – you adjust the size with snaps in the front.

How Many Diapers Do You Have?

I currently have 14 diapers. This means that I do end up washing them almost every day (he uses around 7-8 per day), and while I really don’t mind washing them every night, I would like to get just a few more so I can start washing them every other day.

How Do They Work?

Amazingly well. I don’t think I’ve had a single poop explosion since the switch. And no leaks either. The Freetimes aren’t really any harder to put on or take off than disposables.

What About Overnight?

I still put Evan in disposables at night. I have not been brave enough to try the cloth diapers at night yet since he goes 10+ hours without a diaper change and I don’t want him to be uncomfortable since he can feel the wet diaper more in cloth (allegedly a plus when it comes time to potty train).

Where Do You Put Dirty Diapers?

Since Evan is exclusively breastfed, I just toss them right into a reusable bag (I use Planet Wise Pail Liners) in the same container we were putting disposables before (the Babies R’ Us version of the diaper genie). I would really like to get just a regular trash bin instead but it works for now. I have two bags so that I can use one while the other is being washed. The bags go in the wash with the diapers, so there is no touching the dirty diapers after I’ve taken them off the baby.

Once E starts solids, I will buy a diaper sprayer to attach to the toilet. Wet diapers will still just go straight into the bag, while dirty diapers will get a quick rinse over the toilet first.

My Set Up

What About When You Go Out?

When I go out, I just take a reusable wetbag with me to put the dirty diaper in. I bought my wetbags on a friend’s recommendation from Monkey Foot Designs. They are super cute and very effective.  I have a small one that fits two diapers for quicker trips, and a large one that fits six diapers for longer trips. I send this larger one to daycare with Evan every morning and take it home in the afternoon. Like the pail liners, the bags are washable so I just dump the diapers in the wash, then throw the bag in with them. I never have to touch the diapers once they’re in the wetbag. I will probably buy a few more of these because they are so useful.

How Do You Wash Them?

My washing routine:

  • Pre-rinse with cold water.
  • Wash normal with hot water and 2 tsp of Rockin’ Green detergent.
  • Second rinse with cold water.
  • Machine dry low.

I put them in the wash after Evan goes to bed and they’re out of the dryer before my own bedtime.  On the weekends, I wash them in the morning so that I can dry them in the sun and let the sun bleach any stains away (@bookishlyfab taught me this trick and it is AMAZING).

Do You Really Save Money?

Yes. I did a conservative estimate of what I would spend on disposables over three years and got $1500. I’ve seen even higher estimates around the internet.

With cloth, I spent less than $500 for everything – diapers, cloth wipes, and reusable bags – but that’s just a one time cost! The only ongoing cost I have now is detergent (my water bill isn’t affected because is part of my flat HOA fee, but even with the water, cloth is supposed to save money). And if you use prefolds or other less expensive diapers, you can spend much less.

So I’m saving about $1,000 by cloth diapering. And I’ll save even more if we end up using the same diapers on a second kid.

How Did You Get Your Daycare Provider to Agree to Cloth Diapers?

Well, I have a pretty amazing sitter for Evan. She generally does things the way I ask her to without complaint. After I ordered the Jillian’s Drawers trial, I asked her if she’d had other kids in cloth diapers. She said she did in the past, but not recently. I asked her if she’d consider using cloth diapers. She said sure. It was that easy.

I brought in a diaper for her to look at before we got started and she was pleasantly surprised. She was apparently willing to do cloth even when she thought it was still diaper pins and rubber pants! Then I asked her to try them one day and see what she thought. She was amazed at how easy it was and really likes them. Now it’s just part of the routine.

It doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst that will happen is your daycare provider will say no. You can still cloth diaper part time (that was my plan when I assumed she wouldn’t even consider cloth diapers).

Who Else Uses Cloth Diapers?

On Twitter: @wordlily, @elibrarian13, @jennandtonica (she cloth diapers her TRIPLETS), @theecochic (she is local-to-me and runs a cloth diapering blog). I bet they would all be happy to give you their perspective.

I also have some real life friends who cloth diaper and they were really helpful when I was getting started.

So Are You Happy With Your Decision?

Absolutely. Just the other night, Ben and I were discussing how happy we are with this decision. And look how cute this little guy is!

Baby Basics

Now that I’ve been parenting for four and a half months, I figure it’s time to start giving advice. Actually, I wanted to do this post because back when I was pregnant and trying to figure out what I would need, I had NO IDEA what I really needed. This is a list of what I’ve discovered to be the essentials – the things I couldn’t live without (or at least wouldn’t want to). Obviously much of this is personal preference, but I hope someone can benefit from this list.

Nursing

Now I can’t make nursing easier or less painful for you, but I can recommend a few items for you.

***

Boppy

If I could only have three things from this list, my boppy would be one of them. It makes positioning the baby easier (especially during those early marathon nursing sessions). Plus, you can prop the baby up with it!
 ***

Nursing pads

If you are breastfeeding, you WILL leak. These will save your clothes (and what remains of your dignity). I was using the disposable ones for awhile, but I really love these Nuk reusable ones. They come in a pack of six and are easy to hand wash.
 ***

Nursing bras and tanks

When I am just at home, I wear a nursing tank. The rest of the time, I wear a nursing bra and nursing-friendly clothes. The ease with which you can quickly start nursing make them a must.
 ***

Pump & Hands-Free Pumping Bra

If you’re a working mom, you definitely need to invest in a good breast pump. Some people rent hospital grade ones, but I’ve gotten by with the Medela Pump-in-Style. I also have the Symphony manual pump which is great for traveling or more discrete/quicker pumping on the go. The hands-free pumping bra allows me to keep working while I pump.
***

Honorable Mentions 

(I could live without these but they’re nice to have around)
  • Glass bottles – I try to limit Evan’s exposure to plastic, so I love my Born Free glass bottles.
  • Burp cloths – I actually never use these for burping. But I do use them for everything else.
  • Bottle brush – I like this because it is designed for bottles and it stays separate from my regular dish scrubber.
  • Drying rack – Again, I like having a separate drying rack for the bottles.
  • Storage bags – Great for freezing serving-size amounts of milk.
***

Unnecessary

  • Bottle warmers – Evan takes his room temperature no problem.
***

Sleeping

After eating, sleep is a new parent’s greatest concern. Here’s how I got mine to be the good little sleeper he is.

***

Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle

Evan is crazy strong. And blankets are hard to swaddle with. Enter, the sleepsack swaddle. It allowed us to swaddle Evan in a way that was easy for us and hard form him to get out of. I almost cried the day that he outgrew swaddling. I miss my baby burrito.
 ***

Pack N Play

Newborn babies eat A LOT. Having your newborn as near to you as possible is the key to getting some sleep in those exhausting early days. Co-sleeping made me nervous, and I knew I would want a Pack N Play eventually, so I just put it next to my bed and used that as his crib for the first three months. Worked perfectly.
 ***

Unnecessary

  • Bedding sets – I just got a few sheets. You can’t put blankets or pillows or bumbers in a crib anyway. Why spend $200 on a set when you can just buy a fitted sheet for $15?
  • Bassinet – They outgrow them so quickly. At least the pack n play will grow with them.
***

Diapering

I am currently transitioning from disposable diapers to cloth diapers, but either way, the basics are the same. You need diapers and wipes. But these are the specifics of what I’ve used.
 ***

Target brand disposable diapers and wipes

I tried the more earth-friendly brands as well as the name brands, but the Target diapers are my favorite and work the best. Same with the wipes.
 ***

Jillian’s Diapers 21-Day Cloth Trial

I’m actually in the middle of this right now. I love that I get to try a bunch of different types of diapers before committing. And it gave me a chance to see how easy cloth diapering is. I’m excited to get started.
 ***

Unnecessary

  • Wipe warmers – Unless you have the pickiest baby ever, s/he’ll be okay with room temperature wipes.
  • Diaper cream – Haven’t used it once.
***

Soothing

The best way to comfort a fussy baby is going to depend on the specific baby. This is what worked for us.
***

Bouncer

Oh my goodness – this thing kept us sane. The only way Evan could bear not being held by us (while standing), was in this thing.
 ***

Pacifier

I wouldn’t register for too many of these since you don’t know which ones your baby will like. Evan ended up with the Mam pacifiers, but it took a few tries to get there. He’s still not a HUGE fan but the pacifier works when he’s really tired and fussy.
 ***

Sophie

Sophie is a magic toy. Evan is already teething and he loves chewing on her head. When he fusses, all I have to do is hand him Sophie.
***

Traveling

Eventually, you will leave your home. Here’s how you do it.
***

Ergo

This was great for traveling through the airport and on a plane. It is also great when you’re grocery shopping and you need to push a cart (much safer than placing the car seat on the top part of the grocery cart). I’d skip the infant insert though. I stopped using it at two months – it made both Evan and me too hot.
 ***

Car Seat/Stroller System

I love being able to get Evan from the car to the stroller without waking him up. I also love that our carseat snaps into our swing. Sleeping baby stays sleeping. I have the Graco Snugride 35 Cars eat with the one-handed fold stroller and I’ve been happy with both (though the big car seat is a bit heavy).
***

People will buy you a TON of clothes and toys. You can skip buying these yourself.

***

I hope this was helpful to any soon-to-be parents out there. Let me know if you have any questions or if I missed something that you couldn’t have lived without.

Audiobooks with Baby: Yay or Nay?

As I’ve mentioned here many times, I love to listen to audiobooks in the car. It makes me almost enjoy the commute and ridiculous traffic (okay, maybe not the traffic). Since Evan came along, I’ve continued listening in the car, whether or not he is in it. I figured, “hey, books are good for kids, why not?” Plus, he usually falls asleep (although I never know when since my car and those headrest mirrors do not get along).

Then I listened to Battle Royale and exposed my not-quite-4-month-old to the deaths dozens of children.  The next book after that, The Ugly Duchess, had some serious sexytimes that made me want to cover my own ears (clearly, I am winning mom of the year here). So I got to thinking: SHOULD I be listening to these adult books with a baby in the car?

My concerns:

  • If I don’t listen to audiobooks with Evan around, I lose about half of my audiobook time.
  • Are these books really any worse than the music on the radio or the stories on NPR?
  • If I decide that they are bad for the baby, am I then stuck listening only to kid-friendly radio stations for the foreseeable future? Because there is only so much of the Jack-Johnson-filled-Pandora-stations I can listen to and I already get my fill when we’re home.
  • Is it realistic to attempt to listen to baby-friendly books with Evan in the car and reserve the more mature books for when he isn’t with me?

Evan is 4 months old. He is soaking up the world like a sponge. But he’s obviously not understanding the books at this point. So maybe I’m okay for awhile and will only have to limit my audiobook listening sometime in the future?

What do you say, dear readers? Advise me, lovely commentors.

The Sunday Salon [7.29.12]

The Sunday Salon.com Finally. A Sunday Salon. Earlier this month I wasn’t feeling chatty. Then I was busy. But I am back.

Right now I am in Michigan. We’ve taken Evan up here for a visit. We’ve been here a week and we don’t go back for another 11 days. The length of the visit has resulted in something much calmer than our usual running around. And today is Evan’s big party. All of our family and friends in the area are invited over to meet the little guy.

Speaking of Evan, he just turned two months. Can you believe it? Time is FLYING.

I’m still reading but I’ll save the updates for next week’s July recap.

Evan Michael

So I had a baby on Saturday. And he is this amazingly perfect little boy that I am madly in love with. I may never accomplish anything ever again for all the staring.

This post is incredibly long. But I want to share this birth story (and I want to share it now while it’s fresh in my memory) because it seems that most of the birth stories you hear are the awful ones. The marathon-length labors that end in c-sections anyway, the emergencies that always involve lots of blood, etc. This is what people like to tell you when you’re pregnant. It isn’t helpful and I did not appreciate it.

My story isn’t like that. Sure, there are some less-than-pleasant details (not here – I will spare you), but they pale in comparison to the story as a whole. Evan came into this world in an amazingly calm and controlled way. I couldn’t really have planned it better if these were the sorts of things you could plan.

So here it is.

I woke up at 2am on Saturday morning. I’d been crampy the last day and a half, which, looking back, was definitely early labor and contractions, but it wasn’t until 2am that I realized that this was definitely happening. The contractions were about a minute long but still 10-15 minutes apart. I got up, went downstairs so Ben could sleep, and read my book in between them. During each contraction, I just took deep breaths until it passed. Around 7am, they started coming more frequently (5-8 minutes apart). I stayed on the couch just watching tv (16 and Pregnant actually), and continued breathing through each contraction. They were uncomfortable, but I could talk through them.

I’d been told not to come to the hospital until they were 4 minutes apart for at least an hour. So I stayed home.

I continued this all morning.

At 12:30, my water broke. I wasn’t really expecting the gush of fluid that I heard only a small percentage of women experience, but that’s what I got (and thank goodness this didn’t happen anywhere but at my house). So we grabbed our things (which we had packed earlier that morning) and headed to the hospital.

I got to the hospital (despite all of the beach traffic trying to keep us away) and had to wait for a few other people to be admitted first. No one seemed to be in too great a rush, so I patiently waited. When the nurse finally checked me, I was 9cm! She actually didn’t believe it – she said I was way too calm – and had someone else check before calling the midwife. But I was almost ready to have him and they told me to let them know when I was ready to push.

[Meanwhile, my mom was trying to get here in time for his birth. She left Detroit at 8:30 that morning, flew through Charlotte, and landed in Tampa at 2:30. My friend, Colleen, picked her up and drove her to the hospital.]

My favorite midwife was on call, which I am so very thankful for. She was fantastic.

I was kind of waiting for my mom, so I continued to just hang out, but at some point I felt like I was ready to push. And, with timing that could have been scripted, by mom walked in during my first push. I tried to use the Hypnobirthing “breathing down” method rather than actually pushing, but after a few attempts I gave in to the pressure (both physical and peer) and really started pushing. Although I tried to breathe during it rather than holding my breath like they instructed me to.

I pushed for an hour. And this was the most frustrating part of the process. They kept telling me the next one was it, so when it wasn’t, I was disappointed. But my midwife let me control the process. I pushed when I wanted to, and I even sat out a few contractions when I felt I didn’t have the energy. Ben was amazing. He just kept talking to me and encouraging me and I was able to focus on him when I was frustrated by the others.

And at 4:34 pm, with all of the strength I had left, Evan Michael was born.

And he is just perfect.

Everyone says I did amazing and genuinely seemed impressed with me. I have nothing to compare it to and it didn’t make sense to me to go in with anything but calm and control. It’s really as simple as that. I knew I didn’t want drugs so I never even considered asking for them. I do credit my Hypnobirthing classes for giving me the knowledge and confidence that I could do this naturally and without fear. I didn’t really end up utilizing the techniques during my labor or delivery other than the breathing, but the preparation I got from the course was incredibly helpful. I highly recommend it as a natural childbirth method.

So that’s my story. I know I’ve been plenty vocal about my pregnancy complaints (and I’m sure you’re all ready for those complaints to stop), but there is very little I would change about Evan’s birth. And I think I’d choose an “easy” birth over an “easy” pregnancy. Evan is so calm and perfect and I like to think that the way we brought him into the world has something to do with it.

Thank you everyone who left me a kind message on twitter and facebook. All three of us are doing well and we appreciate all of the support – even the virtual kind.

My Baby Can’t Read. But He’s Already a Book Collector.

So it’s been a week since I posted anything. I apologize. But we moved this weekend so be reassured that while my blog is taking a backseat, THINGS are happening for me behind the scenes. But I do have a quick post for you today.

On Saturday, I was given an absolutely lovely baby shower. I could show you pictures of the amazing cake, gorgeous table, or fabulous diaper cake made by my equally fabulous mother-in-law, but I am going to skip right to the thing you all like most: books.

My hostesses, knowing we are a family of readers, gave me a surprise. They asked every guest to bring a book or two so baby will start his life with his very own library. Obviously I love this. My dad is coming this Sunday to help me paint and set up the nursery and I can’t wait to see this little library on display.

My best friend back home is also having a baby. Her shower invitation included instructions to send a book with an inscription instead of a card. Have you been to showers that had a bookish element?