Thursday, April 25, 2013

Loving the Cold Spring!

Judging by my Facebook feed, and the numerous comments like "when is it going to get warm??" I think I'm in the minority.  But I have to admit: I LOVE the cold Spring this year!  I seriously dislike hot weather (summer is my least favorite season), so any delaying of the inevitable Memphis heat is a-ok in my book - even if that means we were in the low 40s last night.

(Our furnace and A/C might disagree, though, as they've both been turned on and off a few different times over the past month.)

But Bates and I have really enjoyed the weather.  We've done a lot of playing outside.  We've been to the zoo multiple times, we've romped around Shelby Farms, and we've taken Hank on a lot of walks through the neighborhood.  These activities have been a little on the chilly side for April, I suppose, but I guarantee it's a lot more fun to play at the park in 60 degree weather than 110!

Two weekends ago we went to an event called Rock N Romp, which takes place about once a month.  They are held all over the city and the one we most recently went to was at the Mud Island Riverwalk.  It's basically a rock concert for kids.  It's free (although they ask you to make a donation), there's free food (while it lasts) and free beer for the parents!  It was such a gorgeous day; we all loved being down by the river, enjoying tunes, and drinking brew.

Last weekend our neighborhood hosted its annual Spring Fest.  We walked down with Bates' wagon and hung out for a little bit.  There was a live band, food and drink, and bouncy houses for kids.  Again, it was a gorgeous sunny day and it was so nice to go out and enjoy it.

Bates adores being outside.  Whenever someone opens the door, he cries if he isn't allowed to go out, too.  We spend many afternoons just sitting in the front yard exploring and throwing the ball to Hank.  I don't know how much he'll like being outside when it's blazing hot, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  (Although I guess kids don't mind the heat as much as parents - it certainly never dissuaded my from playing when I was little.)

It seems like colder-than-normal temperatures are widespread this year - are you guys enjoying the cold spring?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I Stopped Exclusively Pumping

I realize this post probably isn't applicable to most of you, but I wanted to write it anyway because I think there's a huge lack of information out there about women who exclusively pump breastmilk.  I did all kinds of google searching when I was ready to wean myself off of the pump - and for the most part, my search came up dry.

One blogger I follow (Healthy Tipping Point) wrote about her experiences weaning off the pump here and here.  I took a slightly different approach than she did...

So I was counting down the days until Bates' first birthday when I could quit pumping!  One thing to keep in mind is that you might want to mix breastmilk and cow's milk together for a couple weeks after they turn one before you give the baby straight-up cow's milk (so he/she can get used to the taste).  I say keep this in mind because you want to have enough breastmilk to be able to do that.

I hoped to quit breastfeeding slowly so as to avoid emotional side effects.  I've heard of women who didn't have much postpartum depression, but then had a lot of trouble with the hormonal fluctuations of ending breastfeeding.  I personally did not experience any postpartum depression - so I definitely didn't want to go through anything a year later.  I figured the slower I took it, the easier it would be on my body.  I imagine one could quit breastfeeding faster than I did (actually, that's how Healthy Tipping Point did it), but as much as I was ready to quit, I decided to take the slow route.

So.  The week before Bates turned one, I took my pumping down to two sessions a day (morning and night).  At that point, I was still completely emptying both breasts at each pumping session (taking about 30-40 minutes).  I saw a decrease in milk supply just from dropping the mid-day session, but I was still pumping a fair amount (maybe 20 ozs/day?).

So a week or so after bringing it down to 2x/day (and getting my body stabilized there, thus producing less milk), I started cutting the time of each pumping session.  That is, I would only pump for a certain amount of time, which would not completely empty the breasts.  Again, I did this slowly.  So maybe initially I would cut 5-10 minutes off of each session.  Then I'd do that a day or two.  Then I'd cut maybe 10-15 minutes off the original time, and do that for a day or two.  I thought it would be super uncomfortable to quit pumping when there was still milk left, but actually, I did it so gradually that I didn't feel any pain or discomfort.

I got myself down to two 10-minute pumping sessions a day (which was a good 20-30 minutes less than my "baseline" - note that your own baseline might be different).  So then I started to bring it down to one pump/day.  To get there, I did a few days of pumping less than 24 hours between each pump.  So maybe if I pumped before bed, I would hold off on my pump the next day until lunchtime or 5pm.  Then the next day I'd pump in the morning or during his morning nap. So a little less than 24 hours between each - and still limiting the time to less-than 10 minutes.

A few days of that led to pumping once a day.  For 10 minutes.  And it only took a day or so for my supply to adjust to that.  At this point, my supply had greatly decreased.  And Bates was on 100% cow's milk, so I knew I could quit whenever my body would let me.

So then I started pumping every day and a half, and I only pumped for 5-10 minutes.  But I only did that a day or two, because then I could just tell I didn't need to pump anymore.  My boobs started to feel different.  They wouldn't really hook up to the pump that easily anymore.

My last pump ever, unfortunately, wasn't that ceremonious because I didn't realize it would be the last time.  I felt like I needed to pump (like, felt that sort of duct-cloggy feeling on the left side), and about 2 minutes in, I realized the right side did not need to be pumped, so I unhooked that one and just did the left side for about 5 minutes - enough to take the cloggy feeling away.

I had the cloggy feeling on the left side two other times (one a few days after the final pump and one about 2-3 weeks after), and I just heated it up in the shower and then hand expressed enough to get the clog out.

So like that - voila - I weaned from the pump!  I'm really glad I did it slowly.  There were a couple super-emotional days, but that's about it.  I obviously don't know if I would've had the same emotions or worse if I would've done it quickly, but I'm glad I didn't risk it.  I'm also glad I didn't get a final round of mastitis (I had it twice during the year).  I think if your body has been prone to clogged ducts/mastitis during your breastfeeding journey, it would be best to cut down the time of your pumps slowly (so you aren't constantly leaving very full, un-pumped boobs before your supply goes down).

As I said in my other post, I'm so glad to be done!  It was actually sort of weird to put on a normal bra again - like, it fits a lot different than my nursing bras did.  And I can't wait to wear some shirts and dresses that didn't fit across my nursing chest last year.

Good luck if you're weaning from the pump!  I hope this helps a little.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Breastfeeding: A Year in the Life

I'm finally done!  When Bates turned 1, I got the green light to start cow's milk with him.  We did a few weeks of mixing breast and cow, and now he's completely off the breast.  After a couple more weeks of weaning myself off the pump, I'm done, too.

(Well...sort of.  The pump has been put up, so that portion is done.  But just last Friday, I felt a duct fill up that I needed to express in the shower.  My pre-pregnancy bras are fitting a little snug, still, and there's definitely some milk still in there.  BUT - I'm done for the most part.  I've heard from friends that milk can stick around [even if you aren't expressing it in any way] for quite awhile, so I think what I'm going through is normal.)

But anyway - what a year!  It's crazy to think that almost 2 years in the life of my body have been dedicated to Bates.  I have a thousand different reflections on the experience...they might be better said in a bulleted list.

1) I'm really proud of myself for doing it a full year.  Bates never had a drop of formula.  I don't think formula is bad (I was 100% formula fed), but I think breast milk is best if your body can produce it.

2) My main motivation was financial.  (Are you judging me now?)  Of course I wanted him to have the best, but I wouldn't have felt uncomfortable, I don't think, switching to formula after 6 months.  But I just couldn't justify the cost of formula when my body produced such an abundance of milk.

3) I exclusively pumped for the majority of the year.  We had a few weeks in the beginning when I fed him on the breast - and then the random breastfeeding session here and there - but for the most part, I was hooked up to the pump.  And that made for a sort of interesting year.

4)  Exclusively pumping was awesome in some ways.  I was able to leave him for more than a couple hours when he was a few weeks old to, say, go out to dinner with Jonathan (because he could be fed while I was gone).  We were also able to sort of manipulate the timing of his bottles so that we could give him a big one before bed - ie, we could all have a longer stretch of sleep.  And given our latch troubles, it was a lot more comfortable for me to pump.

5) Exclusively pumping sucked in a lot of ways.
          a) Even though, in theory, having a pumped bottle would mean Daddy could get up with him in the night while I slept, it didn't work like that because I needed to get up and pump.
          b) When he got older, it was hard to pump when he was awake and Jonathan wasn't home.  I had to put him in his exersaucer and he didn't like being in it so long.
          c) Jonathan got annoyed a lot because he felt like he was doing so much childcare when he was home (since I tried to pump when he was home [to avoid the exersaucer]).
          d) This might be TMI - but my boobs would get really engorged if I stretched the time between pumping sessions.  I don't know if this is just an individual woman's thing (that is, maybe the same thing would've happened if I fed him on the breast), but all I know is that after a night of sleep (once he was sleeping through the night), I would wake up and pump 14 ounces.  Every. Morning.  14 ounces is not comfortable to sleep on.
          e) It wasn't easy to quit breastfeeding.  I'm going to do a separate post on this.  But basically, it took a lot of planning.  When I talked to my sister in law about her weaning experiences with her kids (3 of them), she said when she was ready to switch to formula, she just did.  Like, she breastfed one day and then never did again.  That wasn't an option for me.

6) One of the worst parts of pumping was in the beginning (maybe months 1-3?) when Bates would wake up twice a night to eat.  Jonathan would feed him the first time (while I pumped), but the second time I would get up, feed Bates, put Bates back to bed, then go and pump.  I would get back in bed around 6am.  Those were a hard couple of months.

7) Washing bottles and pump parts sucks!!

So it's been a busy year.  I'm sort of curious how breastfeeding will go with any subsequent children we have.  On one hand, I want to try to make feeding on the breast work for us.  But at the same time, it's so hard in the beginning (maybe months 0-2?) because if you feed on the breast, you can't be away from your baby for very long.  Also, it takes them so long to empty the breast when they're little.  A baby's first couple weeks of life they eat every couple hours.  But that's every couple hours from when they last started eating.  So, let's say they eat at 1am.  They'll be hungry again around 3 (even if they were eating from 1-1:45).  After you get past those first couple months, I think feeding on the breast is probably easier, though.

With other kids, I also want to be more comfortable using a nipple shield in the beginning.  Bates and I did well with the nipple shield, but I was terrified to use one exclusively because I heard my milk supply might not come in completely if I did that.  Now that I've met more mothers, I've met a few people who only nursed with a nipple shield for months before they were able to go without one.  Their milk supplies were just fine.  (It's funny how important your milk supply is in the beginning - it was one of the main things I thought about for a couple months.  I drank and ate things that were supposed to boost it, I read internet articles about it, I talked to other moms about it.  I was obsessed.)

But all that to say, I'm glad to be done.  It's so nice to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want and not have to think about my pumping schedule.  It's so nice to be able to sleep on my stomach again!  I'm happy I did it a year - but man, for the first time in so long, my body is mine again.  I'm going to enjoy this while I can!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bates at 1

My darling little boy is already 13 months and I fear that if I don't write down a life update, it won't ever happen.

So here he is on Easter - at approx. 13 months.  (Note: my mother in law made the adorable outfit!)
One of the first things you can notice in this picture is that I am holding him while he stands up.  At this point, he isn't standing on his own or walking yet.  He is a speed crawler (seriously - many, many people comment on how fast he is), so I think he's comfortable with that as his method of travel at the moment.  He pulls up on everything and cruises around while holding on to things (he also has a little walker he loves to push around), but he just isn't ready to take the plunge into walking.

He has taken the plunge, though, into talking.  He babbles all day long.  Lots of "mamamama dadadadada babababa" etc.  He will call his bottle a "baba" and we're working on "dog" right now.  He can also "roar" if you ask him what a lion says.  And he'll repeat other animal sounds if you make them first.

Bates is a pointing machine.  He points at everything and we tell him what stuff is.  He's just a little sponge of learning right now and it usually only takes us one or two times of telling him what something is before we can say, "Bates, where's the _____" and he'll point to it.

He had a super smart moment last weekend when we were sitting in his playroom and said, "Bates, where's Llama Llama" and he went into his bedroom, got his Llama Llama Red Pajama book, and brought it out to us.

I wouldn't describe him as "snuggily" (never in his life has he been snuggily), but lately he's gotten a liiiiiittle bit more into hugging us and snuggling with us.  But for the most part, he's on the move.  He doesn't want to sit still.  The idea of watching tv or a movie with him is laughable at this point.  (I guess that's a good thing, but man, sometimes mama just wants a tiny break.)

Now that the weather is nicer, he loves nothing more than being outside.  If someone leaves our house via the front door, he races over to it and cries in front of the door because he didn't get to go outside, too.  We like to hang out in the front yard and throw Hank the ball.

His eating is ok at this point.  He has mostly fruits and veggies, cheese, yogurt, bread with butter, and sausage or soy sausage.  He hasn't really met a fruit he doesn't like.  We also always offer him what we're having for dinner, but it's sort of hit or miss whether or not he's into it.  He's drinking 100% cow's milk now and likes it (I'm still doing bottles with him), and then he has water in his sippy cup with his meals.

He's still taking two naps and I don't really think he's ready to drop the morning yet.  He sleeps about 10-11 hours at night and rarely wakes up.  When he wakes up in the morning, it's sort of funny because he doesn't really make a peep, he just wakes up and lies in his crib and sometimes plays with the bears in there.  (That makes the 6am wakeup easier for mama and dada because we don't need to rush in to a crying baby.)

Overall, he's a super happy baby (as you can tell from all the pictures I post on here).  He loves to make us laugh and always joins in when we are laughing at something.  He's pretty free with his kisses and rarely cries.  He's strong-willed (like his mama and dada) and has started throwing tiny fits when he doesn't get his way (ie, throwing himself on the floor in protest).  But luckily he can be distracted in the drop of a hat, so whenever he has a tantrum, we just pull out a toy or ask him where something is, and he's back to normal.

His joy brings us joy everyday.  It's crazy that 13 months ago, he was just a helpless little newborn - what a difference a year makes!