To Boob or Not to Boob- That is the Question

I am coming to a cross roads with Chick’s feeding.

Because he was born early, we were sent home with formula to add an additional 24 calories. Instructions were to add it to every feeding, include breast milk. This has meant that I have been chain to my breast pump as Prometheus was to his rock. (Yes, I do view pumping as torture akin to having one’s liver eaten out. Why do you ask?) I breast feed him twice a day, but only for limited time so he doesn’t tire out. After 20 minutes per boob, I’m supposed to pull him off and feed him formula or breast milk plus.

When we do breast feed, Chick is pretty good. His latch is great. By comparison to pumping, it feels like a goddamn massage for my nipples. He does get a little too comfortable and falls asleep, but I know he is taking in food because a) he gets it on his face and b) he bottle feed intake after being at breast is always lower, which leads me to believe he is filling up whilst on boob.

Through pumping, I have had mixed results. I’m currently producing about 2/3 of his intake, but I’m fairly convinced that is because my body rejects pumping. How do I know this? I don’t. But I have heard from other folks that pumping isn’t necessarily indicative of supply, and I’m hanging my hat on that.

STOP THE MADNESS.

STOP THE MADNESS.

I have been itching to integrate breast feeding. I looooooathe pumping. It’s the most dehumanizing experience I’ve every had. I’m attaching vacuums to my nipples, which are now sore all the time. There is no way around that sad and painful truth. When I’m done with my pump, I fully intend to take a baseball bat to it ala Office Space.

It’s exhausting, and depending on when it lines up with Chick’s feeding, impossible to juggle. If, for example, his late night feeding lines up with my pump session, I am up for 1.5 to 2 hours in the middle of the night. I have to feed him, then pump, put him back down, then wash up all the pumping equipment. Even though Chick is a great sleeper, I don’t see the benefits of it. If it doesn’t line up, I won’t sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time because these blocks of sleep are interrupted by motherfucking pumping.

The other night Mr. O was feeding Chick. Afterwards, Chick was sleeping on his chest. I walked into the room and thought, I totally envy him. Mr. O, that is. I envy Mr. O because he gets to bond and hold Chick after a feeding. I’m in a mad hurry to put him down because my boobs are usually about to explode and I need to get my pump on. I’m not bonding with him because the pump keeps getting in the way.

When I went in for his one month earlier, I was all set to lay down the law. Either the formula goes or I do. I can’t keep this up. But with his new found milk allergy, the NP didn’t want to change up too much in his diet. So I’m stuck with this stupid scenario for at least another week. In the meantime, I have some thinking to do…

If I honestly ask myself why I haven’t given up already, if has nothing to do with breast milk. I know this is terribly unfashionable, but I don’t believe that breast milk will give Chick super powers. There are some perks, sure. But for every La Leche League devotee, there are other researchers that say benefits are inconclusive. I’m not really interested in a debate on this– we all do what we think is best for our child, and that’s that.

I keep holding on to breast feeding because I love the feeding part. I can’t tell you how much I love the connection between me and Chick when I’m breast feeding. It almost doesn’t matter how much food he gets– that 40 minutes twice a day is the best part of my day. It doesn’t really matter to me if he needs a bottle to top it off with afterwards.

What I’d really like to do it isn’t to wean Chick from formula onto breast milk, but to wean me from pumping.

Any thoughts or ideas on how to do this rationally and sans baseball bat?

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POST: Adopting a Buddhist Ritual to Mourn Miscarriage and Abortion 

Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of experience with grief. The two heavy hitters were my infertility and my mother’s death. My mother’s death was a public grief. I was allowed– encouraged– to take time off, given space and time to heal, and offered support by so many friends and family. There were rituals associated with this grief too. A wake, a mass, a memorial- this were public events set aside for the explicit purpose of honoring her life and expressing our own sadness that this life was now over. 

Infertility, on the other hand, is a private grief. Though I never experienced a miscarriage, every failed cycle felt like a profound loss. But I couldn’t really talk about it. I certainly could take time off work because why? Because I got my period again? That never seemed like a good enough reason. Every 28 days, like clock work, my heart broke a little as I began to come to terms the death of what I wanted so badly. And yet, I couldn’t really articulate this out loud. It was sorta like my own personal Voldemort.

Thanks to a buzzer-beater IVF treatment, I did get pregnant and had Chick. And yet I find myself wondering why can’t we honor private losses in a similar way to public ones. In the U.S. at least, I think this is because we don’t have a language for private loss. It isn’t as clear cut. There are no rituals, so expression of private grief is much harder.

That’s why I think this post about how some westerners are adopting a Japanese ritual specifically for miscarriage and abortions is so interesting. When we say something out loud, when we name our sadness and our pain, we can learn how to live with it. Not how to let it go– I don’t think there is such a thing as forgetting something so profound– but how to weave it into the story of who we are.

Fare thee well, Dairy

Chick went in for his one month check up, which ironically coincided with his actual due date. He is, for the most part, doing well. He is at 7 lbs, 7 oz, and 20 whole inches. As per last time, he didn’t enjoy the check up one bit, but the hard part (i.e. the poking and prodding) was done quickly.

The smart kids in the room may make note of the “for the most part” bit I mentioned. Because there is a way in which the check up did not go so well.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a hint of blood in his stool. Like any panicky first-time parent, I immediately called the 24 hour nurses line to see if I should be rushing to the ER. The nurse said that it was probably fine. Keep an eye on him, and if symptoms get worse to come on in. I talked about it with his doctor and she said pretty much the same thing.

Fast forward to this week. I found a little more blood in his stool. I make note of it, but didn’t think too much of it. He was acting fine– eating and sleeping well, no fever, no swollen stomach. He’d get a little dramatic while digesting and pooping, but most babies do. And since it didn’t happen again- Fine. Fine.

Then he got another one. And another one. Basically, one every other day. It was like he’d get to the 24 hour mark, I’d think it was just some fissure near his bum, and then we’d see another one. Since we had his one month appointment coming up, I just figured I’d bring it up then.

Of course, the day before this appointment, he had two in a row. Panicky first-time parent called the nurses hotline again. Since he hadn’t been showing any signs of distress, the nurse recommended bringing in a few diapers for testing and discussing it at the doctor’s appointment.

The practice I go to has teams of doctors and nurse practitioners. I really like the doctor we’ve chosen for him, but the NP on her team… not so much. She is just a little cold, and not terribly helpful. I suppose she is fine to do the general weigh in sort of stuff, but I’ve never really found her guidance helpful. (Mind you, this is based off of two visits.)

Anyway, the doctor is out on vacation. So the NP saw Chick for this visit.

Because we all know I like to google, I had already done some research on potential causes. My guess was that he was demonstrating an intolerance to cow’s milk. His doctor still has him on formula for additional calories, which I also add to my breast milk. This formula is based off of cow proteins.

The treatment in this case is usually to eliminate cow milk from my diet so it doesn’t get transfer into the breast milk, and to switch to a different formula. Yes, I will miss my cheese dearly, but what can you do, right?

I went into the visit ready to talk serious business. Instead, I felt like I knew more than the NP. Honestly, I don’t typically get up on my high horse about this shit, but COME ON. Here are some choice moments:

Me: I understand that it could be an allergy to cow milk proteins. Are all cow proteins a problem? Should I, for example, be avoiding beef too?

NP: Hm… that’s a good question. [BLANK STARE]

Not only did she not know (which I found a little irksome) she made no effort to find out. Literally just acknowledged that I had asked a question. And it was good.

Also

NP: So it looks like you’ll have to remove dairy from your diet. That can be really difficult.

ME: Yes, but I’m not too worried. I eat mostly whole foods, like vegetables and grains. And I don’t eat a lot of processed or prepared foods.

NP: You’ll have to read a lot of labels. You’ll be surprised where you find it.

ME: Really? Like where?

NP: Well, in Mac & Cheese for example.

NO SHIT. There is dairy in mac & cheese? I know that packet of bright orange goop doesn’t look like cheese, but I always suspected that there was some basis in cheese-dom before it got processed to all hell.

I mean, how am I supposed to take this person seriously? I wasn’t really given any helpful information other than “avoid dairy in mac & cheese.” If I’m changing my diet and Chick’s, it would be awesome to have actual information.

She’s an idiot. Whatever. Moving on.

So we’ve already switched him to a non-cow-milk based formula and I have said good bye to dairy. One day, when Chick is old enough, I will impress upon him the great sacrifices I made for his well being. I mean, a glorious cheese shop just opened up down the street. I can now only go in a smell things. Ah well, thems the breaks…

It should take about a week for it to pass through his system. In the meantime, I see his little face get all squished up in discomfort when he is digesting or working on somethin’, and I feel so terrible for him. And his tiny inflamed colon.

Anti-Mommy Strikes Again

So yesterday we had some people over for dinner. This, it turns out, is the best way for me to socialize these days. People come to me, and in exchange I feed them.

This time, it was Mr. O’s friend from high school who recently moved back to town, along with said friend’s wife and toddler. If I am being honest, I was looking forward to it in part because I really like said friend’s wife. She has a similar sense of humor, reads the same kinds of books I do… and now we have that whole “I had a baby” thing in common. What I’ve really liked about her is that she has, in the past, expressed frustration with parenting. Not in the typical “Being a mom is so hard, but it’s great!” way. In the real “Sometimes my baby is a jerk” way. This isn’t schadenfreude– I appreciate the honesty. It’s a form of parenting I can get on board with.

I harbored fantasies that we would go out to lunch, join book clubs, and maybe even occasionally admit that we like our children.

Perhaps you’ve figured this out already, but this didn’t go exactly according to plan.

I’ll spare you a minute by minute recap. In general, the evening went well. Ish. Well-ish. I made a lasagna which came out nicely, and a berry almond cake. Tasty as hell, if I do say so myself. Our apartment was fairly clean– or at least as clean as having a newborn will allow.

We had a few funny exchanges about how I rarely leave the couch, and binge watching ALL THE THINGS is now completely acceptable. Their daughter is about a year old, and recently discovered walking. She tore through the apartment, picking up anything that wasn’t nailed down, spitting out peas on the floor– you know, acting like a toddler. I wasn’t bothered, but I could tell that my future-best-friend was a bit embarrassed. I kept telling her it was okay, because well, it WAS okay.

Anyway, there were a few times over the evening that clued me in to the fact that my future bestie may not be so bestie after all. For example, FBFF had exactly zero desire to return to work after her daughter was born. I can’t imagine feeling that way. I know it is still early, but I not only miss the adult contact, I also genuinely enjoy my work. When I mentioned this, she wasn’t so much judgey as she clearly couldn’t relate. That’s fine and all, I just wish I could find someone else who feels the same way. Strike one.

Later, she admitted that she has basically stopped paying attention to anything, like the news and current events type stuff, once her daughter was born. She is okay with this. I too have lost track of what’s going on in the world, but this makes me really sad. Like the GOP debates– I was soooo looking forward to watching the trainwreck known as Donald Trump, but I missed it. As in I completely forgot it was happening. I used to watch the Sunday morning news shows, and that crap… I don’t anymore, and I honestly miss it. Strike two.

But the final sign that our bestie status was not meant to be was when I put Chick down in his crib. He had been passed out through most of dinner in a Rock n’ Play, and I decided to put him in his crib. I scooped him up, put him down, and came back to the table.

FBFF: Wait… Did you just put him in his crib? And walk away?

Me: Um, yes. Is that a problem?

FBFF: No, I just could never do that with my kid. I couldn’t let her out of my sight.

To be clear, I don’t think she was trying to call me out or anything. I think she was genuinely surprised that someone could leave their kid’s side. But I did have this split second when I questioned if leaving a child asleep and unattended in his crib on his back with no blankets or stuffed animals around was in fact a reason to call child services.

I love Chick. I love love love him. But I do not need my hands on him at all times. Sometimes, I even let him cry– like if I’m on the toilet. I know he isn’t dying, and I need to finish peeing. Besides, he is okay on his own. FBFF and her tot want and need to be closer (physically.) That’s fine, but clearly not the direction Chick and I are headed in.

Striiiike three, and you’re outta here!

Other things: I made dinner and dessert. I sleep okay. I’m trying to resume normal activities– I’m REALLY hoping my doctor clears me for running at my 6 week check up tomorrow. All these things seemed like the exact opposite of her experience. She has become consumed by her kid.

It isn’t like I think she was being sanctimonious or anything. It was just a bit of a let down because I had so hoped I could find someone I could be frank about stuff with. I still like her tremendously, but there will be no matching tattoos in our future.

My baby smells like feet, and other firsts

Chick and I just finished our first full week together. Not without its ups and downs, this has been full of firsts for us both. When find myself getting frustrated, I try to remember that we are learning– Chick is learning things like how to hold his head up, and me how to summon unending amounts of patience on little to no sleep.

Things we have learned thus far:

– leaning in to kiss my sleeping baby only to realize he smells like feet

– realizing that although he may have spent the last several months in amniotic fluid, Chick hates baths 

– dubbing him Houdini after artfully escaping every damn swaddle

– dubbing him Pooh-dini after discovering he has managed to take the tiniest of shits and smear it all up his back, through his pjs, crib sheet, and liner. At 3:00 am.

– having the most absurd argument with Mr. O which went something like “Can’t you see I’m trying to take out the trash?” “Can’t you see I’m trying to make dinner?” “But can’t you see I’m trying to take out the trash?”

– pumping out breast milk while going 70 miles on the interstate  (Hint: a car adaptor helps.)

– pumping out breast milk at 2:00 am while simultaneously feeding chick from a bottle containing my breast milk 

-calling the 24 hour hotline because I found blood in his stool

– hearing this is normal… Only after I googled it and found the same thing

– dashing into his room to make sure he is still breathing 

– learning the difference between his hangry cry, his diaper cry, his comfort cry, and his “taking a crap is hard work” cry

– debating if he is the most beautiful baby ever or if he looks more like a Minoan death mask  

 – wrestling a tiny human who absolutely refuses to breast feed 

– crying after getting kicked in the nipple 

– experiencing the revelation of a good latch

– discovering the wonders of a white noise machine

– feeling the sweet relief when you’ve successfully changed, fed, burped and put your kid to bed

This isn’t easy. No one said it would be. Is it strange to say I’m enjoying the challenge? (Call me after a few weeks like this, and I’m sure my tune will have changed.) I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is a struggle. But unlike others I’ve wrestled with (IF, mom dying, soul crushing grief, etc.) this one feels like the good kind. I feel exhausted by the end of the day, but not devastated.

Week two, here we come.

POST: Lucie’s List on Latching

As I’m currently in a “fight to the death” with Chick on breast feeding, I’ve been reading up on it. A LOT. (Hell, what else am I supposed to do whilst harnessed to my breast pump like a Guernsey?)

Though much of the baseline information out there is the same, I do find the Lucie’s List take on latching not only accurate, but also refreshingly funny. Because when an infant has just kneed you hard in your sensitive, sore nipple, you need something to laugh at. (Warning: I do not condone the overuse of exclamation points.)

My favorites bits:

On the complexities of getting baby on boob

Depending on your baby, the whole latching procedure requires some precision – like trying to refuel an F-16 mid-air.

On rushing to latch baby

Your instinct will be to get him latched on as soon as humanly possible because OMAGAH, he is starving – just listen to that crying(!!) – and I need to get him food, STAT! Resist this urge to rush through it. It’s hard, but resist.

On unlatching when baby isn’t latched well

Dang, that suck is strong!!! It’s like having a little piranha attached to your boob.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Good golly, I’ve become one of those people who has a baby and stops
blogging. The thing is, it turns out babies are pretty time-consuming. It isn’t like I don’t have things to share or things that are bothering me. I just don’t have the time (or the free hands) to capture it all.

I am at the moment in the middle of another pumping session (Sigh) and Chick is sound asleep so I’ll do my best at a coherent update.

We are all now home, and the kitchen looks lovely. No mold! I’ve spent the last two days with chick all by myself – I’ve managed to take a shower both days, and occasionally even remember to brush my teeth. Chick is still sleeping a ton, but is having more and more alert time where we “play”, if that includes wildly flailing his limbs and making wookie noises.

Because he delivered so early, Chick is eligible for my state’s early intervention program. It is a free service that comes to the house, evaluates your child, and recommends resources if there are any developmental concerns. Oddly, this doesn’t worry me. If chick does have some developmental issues, I would rather know sooner and be able to get him the support he needs. So on Thursday, three people (one social worker and two behavioral specialist) will come over and play with him for about an hour.

In the meantime, chick and I are struggling to integrate breast-feeding into our repertoire. I have got to get off this pump, and he needs to learn that boob is better. When he latches, it goes great. But then there are times he simply refuses even though he is clearly hungry. There has been a lot of crying on both sides, but I’m determined not to give up quite yet. When it does click, it’s kind of magical.