Goodbye, breastfeeding

ashley jennett

I sat down to feed Sonny the other day and felt that wave of excitement that comes when you’re close to completing something you set out to do but also couldn’t wait to be over. That much defines my relationship with breastfeeding. And so I’m here today to write about the excitement with being close to done with breastfeeding before we’ve actually called it quits because we all know that if written after-the-fact, it ain’t nothin’ but a hormone induced slide down a slippery slope of sentimental memories of a bobble-headed baby that needed you, only you, desperately in a way that he will never need you again. So, you see, I’m writing this now so that my future self, who’s sure to be drowning in some sort of sea of anguish, has a reminder that it’s okay to move on and it’s okay to celebrate the newfound freedom that comes with not having a child attached to you, and only you, several times throughout the day (and for many, but thankfully not me, night).

Some I-can’t-wait-to-be-done-with-this ramblings:

I can’t wait to get rid of my nursing bras. They’re like glorified sports bras with snaps. For the past month I’ve been wearing an underwire and have been suffering the inconvenience of getting totally undressed to feed him simply so I can have the appearance of well-lifted bosoms.

I won’t miss the time suck that is pumping; especially at this stage in the game when I’m literally taking the same amount of time I was to pump 5oz but only now yielding 1-2oz for the mere purpose of keeping things afloat. All the while, skipping breaks and relying on fellow nurses to care for my patients in addition to their own patients. Oh and getting up extra early to pump before I even leave for work. Not to mention the cleaning and the storing and the lugging shit back-and-forth. I hate pumping. I want to burn everything right down to plastic little valves.

Smelling like maple syrup. Adios, fuck-u-greek.

That feeling that I’m being touched all. the . time. I truly am touched out and am ready to yearn to be touched again instead of shrieking inside every time someone reaches for me.

How about being able to wear a dress that doesn’t have buttons or a a neckline that can be pulled down? A shirt that I prefer tucked in that can, well, stay tucked in.

More even breasts. I mean, thanks leftie, I do appreciate the greater output but really, let’s be fair and practice equality.

“Sonny’s up, you gonna feed him?”. Nope, fucker, you’re turn.

And while I’m all about keeping to a schedule for my own benefit, I mean it’s the only time I get to work with one less distraction, and a substantial one at that, I can’t wait to not be tied to it the way breastfeeding ties me to it… to have to be there for each waking and each put down… no mas.

Date nights with my lovely husband, who I just teasingly called a ‘fucker’ because we love each other like that. But really, nights away, with no (less) guilt and dammit, maybe even a weekend getaway (mom, are you reading this? — my birthday is in July. Friendly reminder). I should also add that there is an inherent stress, in my opinion, put on a relationship when the mother is breastfeeding; it’s a true sacrifice for all involved.

Currently we’re down to just two feedings a day; morning and night. And I no longer feel the sadness that truthfully was tormenting me when I thought of calling it quits before. A reminder to myself to not be forceful in decisions that don’t require force. As we’ve steadily dropped to two feedings, I can feel my milk supply diminishing. The pump is of absolute no use and there are times sweet Sonny’s patience for my let-down gets the best of him and we both throw in the towel before any really gulping takes place. And so, the end is near. I know it, he knows it, and we’re all good with it. In fact, the only real reason I’m holding on at this point is because we’re in Maui and I’m hoping for a miracle on the plane ride back and hoping my magic mother goodness may just do the trick. With a little patience, anyway.

And then, I think* we’ll be done. For good.

And I’ll try not to be sad about it.

Breastfeeding Anxieties

There isn’t a lot many can say when it comes to having three children and drawing any sort of similarities out amongst them. I mean, leave it to being the mother of three to prove to you that each one, cut from the same cloth or not, is bound and determined to be their own being. And yet, there are just a few similarities I can say about all three of my boys: each of them came in the 41st week of gestation. In fact, I think damn near 41 weeks and 4 days if we’re being precise. All three waited until their 9th or 10th month to cut any teeth. All three were early walkers, Hooper and Van both in their 10th month, Sonny in his 9th. And breastfeeding; all three have followed the same path.

You would think that by the third time, I’d have it down. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. For starters, time has passed. Older people joke that they can’t remember their grown children as infants. I joke back that I can’t remember my 4 and 6 year olds as infants. And it’s only a partial joke because there is truth embedded in that statement as well. I’ve forgotten.

My experience with Sonny up until a month ago was seamless. Not without effort, but certainly without bumps in the road. He’d eat when I offered and I’d offer often. If it was before a nap or before putting him down for the night, it would put him to sleep.

I’m seeing things more clearly now from hindsight and I can pin our latest struggles down to the following: he’s far more aware of his surroundings than he once was. He’s easily distracted and half of the time I feel like I’m forcing him to eat which seems silly having always prided myself on ‘on demand’ feeding. Some days I feel like I need a basket filled to the brim with various toys and knick knacks that I can dangle in front of him to keep his attention. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I fed him without holding something on my chest. I suppose I wouldn’t care so much about him refusing feedings if I weren’t so worried about maintaining my supply.

You see what’s happening here? It’s a cocktail I’m mixing.

I wouldn’t even know about my supply if it weren’t for working so much lately. I worked three days in a row in the hospital (which is the only time I pump) and became growingly concerned seeing just how little I would get from the pump. Sure, it’s argued (and presumably true) that baby’s are more efficient than a pump but instinctively I cannot help but be concerned when I used to pump a combined 4 ounces and now, only 1, maybe 2. It’s also stressful to take time out of my day when I’m working as a nurse to only bag a mere ounce (leaving my patients, walking to another unit, pumping, cleaning, storing, walking back… Point being, it’s a process that takes time and takes me away from my patients).

And now, from the position of hindsight, it’s beginning to dawn on me that the same thing happened with both Hooper and Van, around the same age. While I’m blessed with good sleepers, the 9 or 10 hours of consecutive sleep at night causes my supply to plunge.

It’s also right around this time, with all three, that my body begins regulating itself once again and my period returns. I mean all three, at or damn near the 10 month mark. And I know menstruation has ill effects on milk supply. Or can, anyways.

Combine all this – working more and therefore pumping more, the return of my period, and a baby who is distracted by everything and loves solids (and is eating those like a champ) and who is sleeping through the night and then some – and it’s clear to see why my supply is suffering.

I was beginning to talk myself into the idea that maybe he’s just weaning and while, sure, he probably is to a certain extent (definitely transitioning into the world of solid foods) he’s not done with breastfeeding. And nor am I. It’s my goal to make it to a year and now that I’ve gotten over this hump, I know we will.

So how did I get over the hump, you ask?

Well, I reached out and heard back from so many of you via instagram. Sometimes you just have to talk yourself through something to be able to understand the issues.

The consensus was this: the distraction at the breast is normal for this age. Several suggested feeding in a low lit room. While I find this to be helpful during feedings he needs/wants, the reality is that we’ve simply had to cut out some of the feedings we once had… which is fine. I try to cram in as many daytime feedings as I can because I know not feeding at all throughout the night has had an effect on my supply. I’ve also given up on multitasking, gone are the days I could send a quick email or scroll through instagram while breastfeeding. And I’m fine with that, it’s nice to give him my full attention.

My next realization is that we all have limits. At least one person that responded mentioned getting up in the middle of the night to pump which, I agree, would be helpful in breaking the 10 hour hiatus I take from feedings while he sleeps. But, with working two (sometimes three) jobs and wrangling three kids, I need a full nights rest. And I feel very fortunate that I get it. I do, however, wake Sonny a couple hours after I put him down for the night, before I go bed myself (around 10pm or 11pm) and feed him one last time. And I will continue to do so to alleviate the long lapse in not feeding him. That particular session is my favorite; it’s the only one that doesn’t require the extra effort. Very rarely does he even open his eyes. It’s sweet, the kind of feed breastfeeding cliches are made of.

I’ve also increased my water intake. Or at least most days I try to. The amount of water we should all be getting each day is kind of baffling and I firmly believe so many of us – breastfeeding or not – are walking around partially dehydrated. On the days I work in the hospital, I make it a point to down two glasses of water every time I walk into the patient nourishment room. At home, it’s a little harder to come up with something similar because I’m distracted and multitasking with no organization about 90% of my day when I’m at home. I could probably stand to eat more greens too, but hey, we all have limits. I’m trying.

I’ve also started taking calcium + magnesium as well as fenugreek. I tried putting it off for as long as I could because I don’t necessarily care for walking around and smelling like a pancake house. Please tell me there are others who agree that fenugreek makes you smell like maple syrup? I was sitting in a class and thinking that someone near by smelled weird only to get home and have Willy point out that that somebody was, indeed, me.

I’m back to my regular work schedule for the most part and in the past few days I’ve had ‘off’, I’ve found comfort in the fact that he is still taking a significant number of feedings. And while it’s hard to ignore the pump, he does seem to be more efficient and able to draw out more than the pump.

And at the end of the day, he’s healthy. And there’s loads of comfort in that. I worried so much when Hooper was little and his weight percentile dropped all the way down to the 10th percentile. But not the case with Sonny. He’s chunky enough, with thighs that demand to be pinched. All in all, if it weren’t for pumping and attaching a number to the issue at hand, I wouldn’t even second guess anything. And the realization that I’m not alone, not in my worries or in my hatred of pumping, is something too (I’ve enjoyed reading some other breastfeeding stories, here, which have made for a nice late-at-night-oh-hey-look-at-that-I’m-not-alone time suck).

The breastfeeding relationship changes so much in the course of a year and it’s as if you’re constantly having to adjust and re-assess. From the early days where it felt like I was a slave to feeding him to the current days where the anguish derives from just how little time he’s willing to sacrifice to eat. It’s enough to make my head spin. In any event, wish me luck this week as I’m scheduled for a couple 12 hour shifts and will be returning to the dreaded pump to learn my fate as if the pump is some magic 8 ball determined to tear my confidence down. Trying not to let it.

Would love to hear from others in regards to the changes in the breastfeeding relationship and how feeding your 9, 10, or 11 month old and so on is different than when they were younger.

Pumping & Building a Supply of Breastmilk

MattandTishPhotography-37MattandTishOh the dreaded pumping. I hate pumping, to be honest. I also hate worrying about my supply. And it’s because of the latter that I partake in the former.

I initially started pumping to build a small excess supply of milk for times I would be away from my babies, namely for return-to-work purposes. As my excess supply started pouring out of every crevice of the freezer and exceeded the amount I needed to return to work, I donated. I kept up with pumping for the purpose of keeping up my supply and donating was an added benefit. It felt great to be able to give to someone else who wanted to provide the same but was not able to. It also felt good to have a plentiful supply.

Because I had to return to work in the hospital, just after Sonny was a couple of weeks old, I started pumping once a day. I would pump just after his morning feed, when my supply was most abundant. On an average day, I froze anywhere between 3 and 5 ounces. And when our freezer started to swell, once again, I found someone to donate to. Win, win.

Looking to build a supply as well? Here’s what has worked for me:

-Start pumping early, when your supply is still calibrating to your needs. I started when Sonny was two weeks old. I vaguely recall reading advice from lactation consultants saying to wait longer. For me, starting earlier produced the best results. A reminder, I suppose, that any post I publish that may seem like it’s advice-giving is in actuality just a personal account of my own experiences.

-Use a double electric pump, as they’re most efficient. I use a hospital grade pump when I pump at work (Medela Symphony) and honestly notice no difference in the amount of milk I produce. It does, however, seem a little more efficient in terms of time, but not enough to justify the price tag of a hospital grade pump (it retails for nearly 2K — you would think for that price that it would be able to magically turn your breastmilk into straight cash. The kind you could fold.). At home I use the Medela In-Style double electric. It’s the same pump I’ve used since Hooper was born and I have no complaints.

-Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is key when breastfeeding, even more so if you’re pumping in addition to breastfeeding.

-Pump in the morning, as your supply diminishes throughout the day. Pumping after Sonny fed first thing in the morning worked best for me; as there was no need to feel guilty for ‘stealing’ milk when he already got what he wanted / needed, first. If I were to add another pumping session, I would do so one hour into his morning nap with the knowledge that I’d be able to make more by the time he awakens to feed again.

-Stimulate multiple let-downs. There are two settings on the pump, one that is quick and intended to bring on the let-down and one that is slower and pulls the milk from the breast. When my milk more-or-less stops flowing, I switch it back to the quick setting and try to stimulate another let-down. More times than not, it works, and I’m able to draw out another ounce or more.
-Bottle training. No sense in pumping milk you hope for your baby to one day drink if your baby is unable to take a bottle. Think it’s a matter of it-they’re-hungry-enough-they’ll eat? I thought so too and the fact it’s actually a learned skill for newborns caused a lot of stress and turmoil and tears when Hooper was a baby. I have Willy give just an ounce of pumped milk once a week or so to Sonny to keep up on his ability to take a bottle. We also found that giving him this ‘recreational feeding’ works best first thing in the morning, before he feeds and just after he wakes, as he’s not as aware of what’s going in his mouth.

I’m no longer pumping. Sonny is 5 months and sleeping through most of the night (on and off) and I’ve found that my milk has calibrated to such. Slowly I stopped having any excess. But I still have a freezer full of frozen milk, so the relief lives on.

What was your experience like with pumping? Did you pump in addition to breastfeed? Any tips or tricks others would like to share?

And if anyone in the LA / OC area has a plentiful supply of stored breastmilk they can donate, I have a local mom that I’ve given my excess to that I know would be grateful to have more.

Image by Tish Carlson

Hashtag: Normalize Breastfeeding

MattandTishPhotography-33MattandTish MattandTishPhotography-13MattandTish MattandTishPhotography-27MattandTish

I had a post written, ready to share, about the good that has come out of social media in terms of breastfeeding and the whole ‘normalize breastfeeding’ hashtag that may better be classified as a movement; because hot damn there’s a lot of moms out there sharing – what truthfully is – a significant part of any new breastfeeding moms life. Breastfeeding an infant is pretty damn close to a full-time job. But then I was talking to a friend who confided that she shared different feelings about all these moms sharing about their dedication to breastfeeding and flashing images left and right of them feeding their babies; an over-saturation of sorts with a message that may have gotten lost in the abundance, the point – possibly – distorted. Where perhaps an innocent message of comradery somehow started to translate into a ‘my way is the best way’ message of inferiority. Hard to say if seeing it in a context such as this is produced from the images themselves or through the eyes of the one viewing them. I thought it was an interesting debate so I figured I’d bring it here, so others could weigh in.

How do you feel about moms sharing images of themselves breastfeeding their young? Do you feel that the message ever gets misconstrued; that perhaps some of the authors of these images have a pretentious air of inferiority? Does the author behind the images you see impact the meaning you derive from the image’s content? In other words, maybe it’s not the subject matter at all but perhaps the voice behind an image that may lend to a less-than-desirable translation?

Seeing so many images of moms openly breastfeeding has made me less shy about breastfeeding – especially in public – this third time around. I stressed much more about breastfeeding when Hooper, and then Van, were babies. Staying home felt most comfortable in terms of avoiding having to feed them in public. I remember wandering the flea market with Hooper as an infant and asking a vendor if I could use his car to feed him in. I was there the other month with Sonny and I fed him on the stairs in the middle of the bustling food court. It wasn’t that I yearned for anymore privacy when I chose to use the vendor’s car with Hooper, it’s more that it simply felt more socially acceptable; I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it to protect everyone else.
I can’t say for certain whether it’s different because Sonny is a third-born and my cares have gone with the wind or if the movement of normalizing breastfeeding has spread visually so abundantly that I feel, well, comfortable. I’m even comfortable with others feeling uncomfortable.
I used to think of breastfeeding as such a huge commitment and, sure, it is. But this third time around it doesn’t feel like such a ball and chain; it feels like a privilege. Maybe that’s because I know it may be the last baby I breastfeed. I’d like to think it has at least something to do with this “normalize breastfeeding” movement because, dammit, I need to feel there is some good coming from social media and not just one rolling instagram feed of picturesque kitchens, sponsored posts, and curated mumbo jumbo.

Anyway, curious to know your thoughts. And for those that don’t breastfeed or didn’t breastfeed or aren’t going to breastfeed – for whatever reason – do you feel like an image of a breastfeeding mother is a back handed judgement on you? Do you take images like that personal? I suppose ‘fed is best’ could be a separate post on its own, but worth a mention here anyway. Because, really, fed is best.

Images by Tish Carlson

A Guest Post, from Diapers & Skinny Jeans

Today’s guest post is from Kate over at Diapers & Skinny Jeans. Kate is a beautiful mama to two and a freelance photographer. So, ya know, same same but different. She’s here today to talk about breastfeeding. Many thanks, Kate, for sharing.
If I could have just told myself, had a sit-down conversation and taken my own hand, I’d have said, “Listen up.” Gentle, yet stern. I would tell myself all the things I’d learned through this breastfeeding experience.  I’d talk about the pressures, the struggles, how from the moment I started that it was ok to be a little embarrassed.  That it would be hard going back to work full time and trying to pump, and that I should go easy and rest often.  I’d remind myself to drop the “you-know-everything” act, and let the lactation consultants do their job.  To ask for help when you needed it.  To be okay with feelings of failure, doubt, sadness; they happen to everyone.  To remind myself that I was doing the most important job, the very best job, of being a mother.
After beginning the breastfeeding journey with the birth of my second child, Alba, it put a lot of things into perspective for me.  There’s a certain confidence that comes with experience.  There were many things that I had to make peace with first, like weaning my first daughter before I was ready.  I never expected it to resonate so deeply inside of me, all of my past memories both good and bad, but they did.  I remembered how absolutely clueless I was the first time around, though I had tried my damnedest to read every instructional how-to ever made.  It’s funny how that works.  You can never really prepare yourself for it. I plan on breastfeeding my new daughter up until she chooses it’s time to quit.  Definitely over a year, maybe even two.  Do I know I can get there for sure?  Absolutely not.  But I’m okay with that now.  The experience itself goes by so quickly, and really, all I’m trying to do is enjoy every second that I have.  It’s so hard to quiet the chatter of what society thinks, what the stranger sitting next to you thinks, your mom, your in-laws, that ever opinionated friend you have – I know.  I’ve been there.  And for what it’s worth, the most important advice you can ever get is to not take any of it and go with your own gut instincts.  You just gave birth to your child, the most powerful thing that I’m sure you’ve ever experienced.  You are a mother.  You are learning, and your child is growing and thriving and completely your own.  You are perfect.  This whole breastfeeding thing is more intuitive than we give it credit for, and babies are the most masterful of teachers.I look at the two of them and everything they’ve taught me and how they continue to be the greatest blessings I’ve ever known.  My eldest and her fierce independence, my baby and her cautious, careful gaze.  My opposites, yet perfectly complimentary to one another. Ying and yang.  So much in motherhood has become all about balance.
If I want to breastfeed in public, I do.  If I need to call in sick because I miss spending time with my kids, I will.  If your body starts to make less milk before you’re ready to quit, it’s okay.  If you chose not to breastfeed, or were unable to, you’re supported.  This is the hardest, most rewarding job on the planet, and no matter how you do it, we are all just feeding our children with love.
Thank you so much to Ashley for having me over on The Stork & The Beanstalk. I’m tickled to be among who I consider to be one of the most inspiring mothers and writers I’ve ever met.  This lady right here?  I swear.  She tells it like it is and I love that about her.
 You can find Kate here: Blog // Instagram // Facebook

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Breastfeeding

You can’t see things straight when you’re depressed, you just can’t. I knew enough in those dark two days after I weaned to know that I was in a funk, that things that were once exciting were no longer exciting. I shared my thoughts here and here. The fact I’m still writing about it has got to tell you I’m an emotional person. I mean I declared that post to be my last breastfeeding post and that was what is now four breastfeeding posts ago. Good grief, get ahold of yourself Ashley.
And, well, I want to give an update because I don’t think it’s fair to leave things on a sour note. My mind is clear and I’m back to my happy place, so I can reflect on our breastfeeding relationship with a sparkle in my eye as I reminisce on how things were at one time, in the beginning.
And that’s part of why ending your breastfeeding relationship is hard; it’s the end of a very long and tiring and emotional first chapter.
But there’s a second chapter and a third chapter and so on and so forth. As I type this, Van is handing me an over-sized birthday card my Aunt and Uncle gave him for his first birthday. When you open it, music plays and each time he drops his little bottom back and forth toward the floor. He sees my chapstick on my desk; it’s the same chapstick I had to take away from him yesterday when he managed to get the top off and began eating the contents of the tube. He whines and points in the chapstick’s direction and when I take the chapstick and hide it away in the drawer, he cries. He looks at me with tears in his eyes and I comfort him, his thumb in his mouth, his head on my chest.
Every time he has his thumb in his mouth, I think about it being my replacement. When I was breastfeeding him, he never sucked his thumb. And as I look down at him, I think how amazing it is that he’s able to comfort himself. I see, for the first time, the beauty in his independence.
And so, you see, the second chapter reads just as beautifully as the first. It’s just different. He’s not a baby anymore. But he’ll always be my child.
And thank you, again, to all of you that leave such beautiful comments. Sometimes it’s your own words that make me see things differently and I appreciate new perspectives more than you know.
You can check out my other posts on breastfeeding by clicking here

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The Perfect Ending

You can’t always get what you want, but in the end you get what you need.
I spent the first days after stopping breastfeeding mopping around, declaring myself to be in “a funk”; Unable to enjoy things that normally excited me, unable to be truly present to my children. I’m writing this in past tense because I didn’t feel like writing anything but dark, sad, moppy posts like this just a few weeks ago when all the tears were streaming down my I’m-so-sad-I’m-done-breastfeeding face.
Willy and I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. We had tickets to see Willie Nelson at the Hollywood Bowl and plans to leave the kids at my parents for the entire night. But I just couldn’t seem to shake the post-breastfeeding-blues.
I can’t tell you when the change occurred but what I can tell you is that Willie Nelson played his Stardust album from front to back and it was beautiful. There really is nothing better for the soul than music, in my opinion. We woke up the next morning and went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market by ourselves and in the absence of the munchkins, we got to dig through buried treasures and stroll leisurely through the aisles. We picked up the kids in the afternoon and went to the Ventura County Fair. We rode rides, pet goats, ate chocolate covered Twinkies. And when we got home and put the kids to bed, Willy and I climbed up on the roof and laid there under the stars to watch the meteor shower.
And, just like that, my funk disappeared. It only took a country phenom, some time with my main squeeze, a ferris wheel, and a sea full of falling stars to shake it. But alas, I shook it.
Then again, it was probably that chocolate covered twinkie because, um, hello they don’t even make Twinkies even more. Hash tag: deadstock. Oh ya, and I didn’t have to worry about breastfeeding. That was nice.
Oh ya, and you see that little San Francisco shirt Hooper has on? It’s something I bought when I lived in SF years ago, before I knew my husband as my husband… when I had only dreams of motherhood. And seeing my first born in it now not only makes me one happy Mama, but also puts things in perspective. Life is good.

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The Double Edge Sword

Motherhood: Making the double edge sword sharper than ever before. Motherhood is funny in that way, isn’t it? I feel like I’ve encountered scenario after scenario since becoming a mom where the conclusion is the same: I can’t win.
Take Breastfeeding, for example. I dedicated myself to a year and I bitched and moaned the majority of the 365 days and you know what happened on Van’s first birthday? I felt guilty for wanting to quit. All along I’ve anxiously awaited my freedom only to be on freedom’s doorstep with a trickle of tears running down my cheeks, mourning the loss of my baby and our bond. I feel far from the celebratory state I imagined I would be in and then that makes me sad too.
Oh you little weaning monster, you really are an emotional jerk, aren’t you? (side note: thank you for all the sweet comments on yesterday’s post. Your words mean more than you’ll ever know)
The other day at work we were using leeches on a patient’s wound. The purpose being that leeches suck blood and increase blood flow. I know, gross, but bear with me while I share my epiphany. One of the leeches wasn’t sucking and the shift prior decided to tape the leech to the wound. The pharmacist laughed when I told him this because he said taping the leech wouldn’t make it suck. I said, “sounds like breastfeeding”.
Toward the end of Hooper and I’s breastfeeding relationship, I wanted to tape him to my breast. He was growing less and less interested and it was becoming such a chore to feed him. Nowadays I want to tape him to his chair to eat, but that’s besides the point. My milk supply diminished because Hooper weaned himself, not because my body failed to produce. And that was my epiphany. I blamed my body for a long time, you see, when in actuality Hooper was getting exactly what he needed and wanted.
I had a moment of clarity today and decided I’m going to stop beating myself up over wanting to wean. It sucks that I have to make the conscious decision to throw myself a bone and pat myself on the back. I hate that it doesn’t come naturally; that I need a moment of clarity in order to feel proud instead of guilty. I’m making a commitment not to feel guilty because commitments don’t come naturally and neither does not feeling guilty. It’s that double edge sword thing. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. But the truth is, I’m ready to quit.
Throwing myself a my-ta-tas-are-my-own-again party doesn’t have the same appeal as it did a few months ago. Nevertheless, I completed my goal of a year of breastfeeding (and then some) and I have a cranky waddler pulling at my clothing to congratulate me. But, as is with all things, this too shall pass. I feel back to my normal self today, just a few days afterI wrote yesterday’s dark and depressed post. Thank goodness.

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Breastfeeding

It’s so hard to say goodbye.
This is the last post in my breastfeeding series and I’m writing it in tears, which is a far cry from the jumping up and down excitement I envisioned. Maybe the tears are from the thought of this being the last time I ever breastfeed, maybe they’re from the hormones associated with the transition, or maybe they’re from the unnatural ending.
It’s because of the latter that I feel this impending feeling of guilt. As much as I’d love to lie and tell y’all that both Van and I were ready, this is not the truth. In fact, I’ve been dealing with an incredibly clingy and cranky baby for the last few weeks of what has been a weaning process and as I admit that, another tear streams down my face. I was ready, he was not.
I had no experience with weaning. Hooper naturally weaned himself and our breastfeeding relationship ended very naturally. With Van, I cut our 8 feedings in half for a week, then in half again the following week. I fed him first thing in the morning and last thing at night for the past few weeks and when my supply diminished and my nighttime feed no longer put him to sleep, I stopped that one too. And just like that, Aunt Flo came back into my life despite me having referred to her as the weird, smelly Aunt; she never seems to hold grudges even though I wish she would.
And so we stuck to one feed a day, first thing in the morning. And each morning, I’d look down at that little sweet face and reassure myself that indeed today would not be the last day, but instead tomorrow. And the truth is, I couldn’t handle feeding him knowing it would be my last time.
It’s like knowing your best friend is going to die tomorrow. How do you say goodbye? And I realized, I couldn’t… I couldn’t feed him knowing that I wouldn’t feed him ever again.
So, I fed him on a Wednesday. Then I went to work on Thursday and pumped one single ounce. CombinedOne ounce, people. On Friday I had a meeting and I decided not to pump at all. And just like that, our breastfeeding journey has come to an end. I didn’t have it in me to say a formal goodbye.
And now, I’m in tears.
How was the weaning process for you? Did you experience depression after weaning? If so, you may want to read this post (I found it comforting).

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Breastfeeding in public

photo source
…Because the zoo, that wedding you were invited to, the beach, the park, that doctor’s appointment you have to be at, and the dinner reservations you made won’t come to you…
I’ve never had a problem breastfeeding in public. I lean more toward the side of hippie feminist who feels it’s my god damn right. If someone has a problem with it, which truthfully I’ve never encountered, I assume it to be their problem as opposed to my own.
When I knew I’d be breastfeeding Hooper, I always made sure I had a hooter hider and dressed with feeding him in mind. I’d get apprehensive before going wherever we were going; an inner anxiety would fester over where I would feed him and how it would all work out. In any event, it always worked out.
The second time around, I’ve thrown caution to the wind. The apprehension and anxiety, while still there, have diminished significantly. I’m no longer shy about where I am or how frequently he eats or if my nipple is visible for the 2 seconds it takes before he engulfs it in his mouth. I breastfeed him wherever and whenever he’s hungry. If someone has a problem with this, I write it off as their problem and their problem alone.
We used to take Hooper to the Rose Bowl Flea market when he was an infant. I remember breastfeeding him in a vendor’s van. When we went the other month with Van, I breastfed him while sitting on the curb. When you have more than one, you don’t have the luxury of finding the perfect spot. As it is with much of life, the more you do something the more confident you become at doing it.
I rarely use the hooter hider anymore. It’s most always buried somewhere in my car in case I need it, but more times than not I free ball. Van gets too distracted with the hider anyway and instead of hiding my ta-tas from people that aren’t looking anyway, it looks as though I’m putting on a puppet show and all the characters are getting ready to come out as they dance behind the curtain.
The other day, I fed Van on a bench at the zoo. A dad walked by with his little girl and the little girl would not stop starring. The dad looked in my direction to see what was keeping her from walking in a straight line and instantly he grew noticeably uncomfortable. My heart, however, did not skip a beat. His discomfort is his own problem. I wouldn’t be feeding my child in public if I weren’t comfortable with it and I try to own that as much as I can.
Things I keep in mind when nursing in public:
-I try to keep a low profile. If we’re sitting in a restaurant, for example, I may switch seats with Willy if the direction he is facing is more private.
-I make eye contact with people around me. People are less likely to stare, I feel, if they catch your eye the moment they glance over. If you’re looking down at your baby, creepy creeperton may try to sneak a peek. That’s what I tell myself, anyways.
-Think about what you’re wearing. Tops that pull up, down and over, or button down all work for breastfeeding, but tops that you can lift up provide more cleavage cover. With your baby covering your abdomen and your top covering the base of the mountains, the only thing left to show is nipple which is down your kids throat anyway.
How do you feel about nursing in public? Any tips worth sharing? Any funny experiences?
Minus the ad for Luvs, a cute video and oh-so-true.
You can read my other posts on breastfeeding by clicking here.

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Breastfeeding

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I’ve completed my goal of breastfeeding for a year and, despite huffing and puffing at times, it’s been an enjoyable experience. Endings are always that way, aren’t they? Endings make you forget the struggles and remember the good times all for the sake of the positive memory. I gather that’s why many of us go on to have second and third children; because we forget what being pregnant in those last few months feels like and we forget how it feels to have every organ in your body feel like it’s going to fall out of your vagina after giving birth, choosing only to remember the joy of seeing the plus sign on that stick you just pissed on and the complete and utter elation in holding a freshly born baby, your freshly born baby, for the first time.
The memories of my hair being constantly pulled on and living my life in two hour increments is beginning to fall to the wayside as I start to enter the mourning phase of the fact my baby is no longer, well, a baby and that the days of him crazily crying when I get home after a day a work, eager to connect with me again, are also going to fall to the wayside.
Having Van was never a debate for us. We knew we wanted a minimum of two kids, maybe three. Now that we have two healthy boys, having a third has become a debate. I want a third. I didn’t hang on each moment of pregnancy and babyhood like it was my last. And now, it saddens me to know that I may never breastfeed another child.
My relationship with breastfeeding is nearing an end not only because I’ve reached my goal but because I physically cannot go much further. Van loves solids and ever since he started embracing the idea, my milk supply has decreased. There was a time when I pumped 14 ounces in the morning, then it plateaued to 8 ounces, and now I’m lucky to get 5. I have decided to trust that what I make is what he needs and now that I’ve reached my goal of a full year, I’m less neurotic about my supply.
I started to wean last week and got emotional about it, so my plan at this point is this: I will leave the weaning up entirely to Van. I will not stress about being away from him and I will allow the stress of maintaining my milk supply show it’s way to the door. And I will hold on to these last few weeks, or months, knowing that it could be the last time I have this privilege.
Currently I’m breastfeeding four times a day and supplementing with 1-2 bottles of breast milk from my ridiculous frozen stash supply.
When did you decide to end your breastfeeding relationship? Was it difficult? Do you miss it?
You can read my other posts on breastfeeding by clicking here

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Breastfeeding: The Perks

If you’ve followed my breastfeeding journey, you know I’ve bitched and complained along the way. And if you’ve hung on every word I’ve written, you’re probably rolling your eyes because – in comparison- I’ve had an easy time. Neither of my babies had any trouble latching. I’ve heard horror stories from other moms who had to battle latching issues all while walking around in the zombie state that is the first few months of life with a newborn. I’ve heard about dry and cracked nipples, though I’ve never even had to use that nipple cream stuff. Oversupply was never an issue either, so engorgement never occurred and the leaking subsided after the first few weeks or so. I work part time, so pumping isn’t a huge ordeal. I know, I know, I have it good. I’m grateful, I am. What I’m trying to say is that breastfeeding is like having a newborn in that even under the best circumstances, it ain’t easy.
But, as I get closer to reaching my goal of one year (and then some, perhaps), I’m already starting to grieve the loss. That’s because, believe it or not, there is some good to go with the bad. Quite honestly, if it were all bad, I wouldn’t do it. This post is about the perks of breastfeeding. And I’m not talking about the lower rates of cancer in women who breastfeed or the better immune systems of the children who were breastfed, I’m talking about the real perks. And by the “real” perks, I’m talking about the less important, but lets-be-truthful, really important perks. Like having big juicy tits. Here we go:
-Yes, I will have a milkshake for dessert, thank you. It’s all for the sake of milk production. I know everyone is different, but I’ve lost all my pregnancy weight via breastfeeding. I have not done any extra exercising and have not been conscious about what I eat. There are plenty of other postpartum things I hate about my body, which I can bitch about in a separate post, but the fact that breastfeeding is like going to the gym without leaving the house and without breaking a sweat is a win in my book. I’ve thought about making a bumper sticker for my car that says, “I don’t workout, I breastfeed”.
-Sorry honey, looks like he wants Mama. The bond through breastfeeding is beyond a simple preference for the mother; it’s so innate and natural and tied to a babies quest to survive and that’s all pretty magnificent. I know Van prefers me over anyone else because I am his source of food and I don’t try to play it off any other way (though I do tease that I must smell better or hold him better, etc, and lets face it, I do smell fantastic). I’ve never felt so needed and loved and, well, important. There ought to be an infomercial that goes like this: Have any insecurities? Ever feel helpless or small? Feel like you aren’t contributing in life? Breastfeed. Sure, it’s easy to joke about but the reality is that there is nothing more beautiful – in my opinion- than feeding your child straight from the tap.
-Every time I shop at Whole Foods, I leave with two bags and over a hundred bucks missing from my wallet. You know why? Because buying organic shit is expensive. Want to get the most organic milk around for free? High jack a lactating mother’s bosom. Seriously though, there is nothing more pure and, perhaps best of all, it’s free. The price of formula alone is reason enough to breastfeed. And the fact that the alternative to formula is free and gazillion times better, the breastfeeding versus formula discussion seems like a silly debate (granted, I know plenty of moms that are not able to breastfeed for whatever reason and I feel the pain in their loss and am thankful that formula exists for these special situations).
-Do we have all that we need? We have a diaper bag we rarely use. More times than not, we bank on the fact that there are a few diapers somewhere in the car and some wipes buried under a seat. I usually have some snacks and small toys in my purse and a blanket, always, in the back of my car. But my ta-tas? I never forget them. They’re always there when I need them. In the event that I didn’t anticipate having to feed him and am not wearing something breastfeeding friendly, I can go to the car or an empty room (depending on where I am). Sure is nice never to have to bring a bottle or a bottle warmer. Being that milk is perishable and not something I can keep in my car or purse at all times, chances are I’d leave it behind anyway. But the ta-tas? They’re always there. I’ve even thought about weird scenarios, like us being trapped in the desert as a family and how we’d survive… and, well, you know where I’m going with that.
-Wanna get away? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that everyone has some degree of social anxiety. I’m not tormented by it by any means, but it’s always nice to get a break and sneak away with my littlest love during social functions. I enjoy the peace and quiet when we’re in a room with the door closed; chatter and laughter spilling through the crack under the door from the party on the other side. To be honest, these are my favorite times to breastfeed and reconnect; a reminder than no matter where we are, I will always be there for him.
-Is Aunt Flo gonna be there? I haven’t had a real period for (::scratches head::) almost three years now. THREE YEARS. That’s one thousand, ninety five days. My period returned briefly when Hooper was 9 or 10 months old and then the next month, I was pregnant again. My period has yet to return and given the fact I’m not ready for a third, I don’t miss Aunt Flo one bit. She was always the kind of Aunt that smelled funny anyway.
What has your breastfeeding journey been like? What were the perks for you?
You can read my other posts on breastfeeding by clicking here.

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They come in all shapes and sizes.

I had a conversation with a dear friend who is also breastfeeding. Like me, it’s a love hate relationship. Much like my breastfeeding relationship with Hooper, she expressed concern over how much milk she was giving her baby and if it was enough. I remember these concerns all too well and I probably sound like a broken record talking about it yet again.
I still have the same concerns that I did with Hooper, with Van. The only difference is that all I need for reassurance is to grab Van’s chunky leg. I encouraged my friend to feel good about her decision to breastfeed and reminded her that her baby looks perfectly happy and healthy.
Then the conversation turned to percentiles and I found myself reassuring her that the 50th percentile is a wonderful place to be and found myself diminishing her fears and justifying mine by reminding her that Hooper was, at one time, in the 10th percentile. As we talked, I got on the computer and began searching for a picture of what I remember to be a very scrawny Hooper. And the conclusion I came to was this: He wasn’t ever that scrawny. I think hearing “the 10th percentile” scarred me more than any image of him during that time.
So the take home message is this: They come in all shapes and sizes. Percentiles, smerpentiles. If I had to do it again- because living in hindsight is one of my requests for when that genie pops up- I’d ask our pediatrician not to even share the percentiles with me. In the end, the percentiles did nothing other than cause me unnecessary turmoil.
The first photo above is of Hooper when he was 36 weeks old and in the 10th percentile for weight. The one below that is of Van, in the same week of life, and I believe in the 60th percentile (though, to be honest, I’m not even sure what percentile he is anymore) for weight. I can’t even tell that much of a difference. I know, based on the clothes Van’s wearing, that Van is much larger than Hooper was at his age. But the picture of Hooper certainly doesn’t scream TENTH PERCENTILE out at me.
How do you feel about percentiles? Did hearing your child’s percentiles cause you any unnecessary worry?
Side note: Same house, different kitchen. A reminder that I still need to share our kitchen renovation…

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Breastfeeding

Before I gave birth, I had a warm and fuzzy vision of what I imagined breastfeeding would be. I learned a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding in nursing school and wondered why anyone would chose anything different for their child. I combined the benefits with the earthy notion that breastfeeding would build a strong bond and I’d be like a fairy in the woods, naked amongst nature, bringing my lovely baby to my bosom every now and again to soothe a hunger for nutrients and connectedness.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that breastfeeding is hard. Here’s why:
You alone are your child’s food source. This means you must always be close by. Imagine how difficult it would be if you kept your refrigerator a few miles away. With this reality comes other realities: You alone are responsible for keeping your child alive, for getting up in the middle of the night, and for being close to your baby constantly.
Sure, being close to your baby constantly may not seem like such a bad thing. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s not. I love being with Van and clearly if I wasn’t happy breastfeeding, I wouldn’t do it. But this post is not about the great things about breastfeeding, it’s a reality check about why it’s a challenge. Back to the challenge.
Think your time alone gets drastically diminished when you become a mom? Being a breastfeeding mom diminishes your independence even more. Every now and again, Willy and I will designate time for “papa time” or “mama time” or dare I say “papa and mama time”. He’ll spend his time golfing or going to the horse tracks or going to a Laker game. I spend my time returning something I bought at Target. That’s because, unlike Willy, my “mama time” has constraints. I have just a couple hours before I need to be back to feed Van. Which begs the issue of resentment.
I came to resent Willy when I began breastfeeding Hooper. It didn’t seem fair that I was the one who had to make so many sacrifices while he got to get on with his relatively regular life. It bothered me to see a sink full of dishes while I sat on my ass breastfeeding Hooper and Willy sat playing games on his phone. I would daydream about how clean the house would be, how all the laundry would be done, how I’d put on some makeup, etc, if only I wasn’t breastfeeding. We’ve resolved this issue this time around because I’ve come to see breastfeeding through his eyes and realize that it sucks, for different reasons, for him too. What’s that you say? That’s a separate point? You’re right. Excuse me while I give that it’s own one liner.
Breastfeeding is a challenge for your husband too. Don’t believe me? Check out this post I wrote on breastfeeding from a father’s perspective. It made it easier to cope with the resentment I had the first time around when I was able to put myself in Willy’s shoes.
If I spend any length of time away from Van, not only do I have to work out how he is going to get fed but also how I am going to get empty. Breastfeeding works like a supply and demand system. Ideally, if you are away from your baby, they should be consuming the amount you are pumping. So if I pump every three hours and get 3 oz, 5 oz, and then 4 oz respectively, then Van should also be eating every three hours and be offered the same amounts that I’m putting out at those times. This keeps the system in check. If he consumes more while I’m gone, then our system is out of check. Sound complicated? It is. Which leads me to my next point about why breastfeeding is hard.
There’s a lot to learn. And it’s not all intuitive. Thinking that you should wait to feed your baby until your boobs feel full, for example, is a very common misconception. It too will throw off your supply. Which leads to one of things I hate most about breastfeeding…
Worrying about your supply; Wondering how much your baby is getting and questioning whether it’s enough and worrying that your supply is diminishing. I’ve never been an anxious person, but breastfeeding has made me more anxious than anything before. It’s a big responsibility to make sure your child is growing and thriving.
I won’t even touch on issues of painful engorgement, or cracked nipples, or dare-I-say, mastitis.  And pumping, oh the dreaded pumping.
My next post on breastfeeding will be positive, I promise.
You can read other posts in my breastfeeding series by clicking here.

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Breastfeeding

Willy and I argued a lot about breastfeeding when Hooper was an infant. He fed my fears that Hooper wasn’t getting enough and instead of patting me on the back for the commitment I made, he often aired on the side of ease and suggested formula. It hurt my feelings and made me feel that despite all of the time and energy I was putting toward breastfeeding, my efforts alone were not enough. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want the best for our child.
With Van, weight is not an issue. He’s perfectly plump. But still, the dreaded formula was brought up again. And it wasn’t until then that I started to look at breastfeeding from a husband’s perspective. As soon as I put myself in his shoes, I wanted to tell my milk ducts to put the show on hold. Close the curtain. Offer refunds. I wanted to quit. And here’s why: breastfeeding sucks for fathers of breastfeeding mothers. Here’s what brought me to this conclusion:
-We’re out to eat. Van starts screaming. Willy picks him up. Willy bounces him around. Willy takes him outside. Last resort: Willy gives him to me, I put him on the breast, and Van’s quiet. Mom one, Papa zero. Ah, the humbling feeling of defeat.
-Bottle training. With both of our boys, I delegated the task of getting them to take a bottle to those who would be giving them a bottle. Have you tried giving a baby who is not familiar with drinking a bottle a bottle? It sucks. Willy’s said it’s one of the most frustrating things he’s ever had to do. As a front row cheerleading witness, I agree. It sucked.
-Want to get away from the kids? How about a romantic date night? Sure would be nice to tell the babysitter how to warm up a nice bottle of formula. Instead, Willy has to put up with my neurotic behavior and forgo extended periods of alone time away from our little members because I’m a lunatic about missing a feeding and/or pump session. I’m always worried my supply is going to diminish.
-Going back to work as a breastfeeding mom is not fun. The workplace, in general, is not breastfeeding friendly. So this time, I’ve gone back part time until I’m done breastfeeding. In this sense, breastfeeding means less money coming in. Oh gosh, I suddenly got that worrisome feeling that I’m taking all the thoughts out of my husband’s head and compiling them in one neat little post for him to in turn throw in my face. So, for the record, breastfeeding alone is not the reason I decided to go back part time.
-Good thing my husband’s not a “boob guy”, cuz there is no way I’m letting him honk these honkers. They may be larger than ever, but they not made to fondle. Watching as your wife squirts milk from her nipple and finds it funny isn’t exactly a turn on either. I guess I have myself to blame for that one, but I can’t help myself from a good squirt.
-Returning from the grocery store and throwing some frozen peas into the freezer isn’t as easy as it used to be. Our freezer is filled to the absolute max with breast milk. You can’t even open the damn door without one of those little mommy’s milk bags falling on the floor. If it’s annoying for  me, I imagine it’s like nails on a chalkboard for Willy. All the extra milk led to be becoming a milk donor, which you can read about here.
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The Food Dilemma

I started Hooper on solids at 19 weeks. I checked with both his pediatrician and my midwife before doing so. He was so skinny and I worried constantly about his weight. Once I started him on solids, I felt less responsible for his low weight percentile. I needed to start him on solids for my own sanity.
This time around, however, Van is perfectly healthy. His weight is dropping in percentile, but I hardly expected a child that came from me to stay in the 90th percentile. I’ve always been skinny, despite the fact that I too was nearly 9 lbs at birth.
The thought of delaying solids the first time around went in one ear and out the other. I couldn’t shoulder the responsibility of feeding Hooper on my own any longer and I didn’t want to throw off my milk supply by supplementing with formula, so I turned to solids. This time around, the idea of delaying solids has been floating around in my head. Van is doing perfectly fine and it’s out of pride, honestly, that I want to continue to be his sole nutrient source.
So I did some research. I found this article on KellyMom which lists the advantages to delaying solids. I went through each one, as it pertained to us:
-Delaying solids gives baby greater protection from illness.
This is because breast milk is the best thing on earth and has a ton of antibodies. Tons of studies have been done that document lower rates of numerous infections when children are exclusively breastfed. I threw this reason out, however, because he’ll still be breastfed. Solids will be added to his diet. And he’s been exclusively breastfed for 6 months already… so…
-Delaying solids gives baby’s digestive system time to mature.
I double checked with Van’s pediatrician on this one. Solids aren’t suggested prior to 6 months because of the immature digestive system. At 6 months, however, their digestive system is mature enough to handle solids. I remember from my experience in feeding Hooper that, more than anything, they are experimenting with solids at 6 months; trying a different fruit or vegetable every three or so days. Solids hardly take over as the bulk of their diet until much later.
-Delaying solids decreases the risk of food allergies.
Food allergies aren’t prevalent in our family.
-Delaying solids helps to protect baby from iron-deficiency anemia.
He’ll still be predominantly breastfed, so this doesn’t bother me.
-Delaying solids helps to protect baby from future obesity.
I’m not worried about future obesity for my children.
-Delaying solids helps mom to maintain her milk supply.
Oh shit, did someone just mention “milk supply” followed by “maintain”? Now if for no other reason, this is IT. This is why I would delay solids: Because I’m a raging lunatic who is completely neurotic about maintaining my damn milk supply and the second something (aka solids) stands to jeopardize it, you better believe I’m on guard. Now the wheels are spinning. Now I’m listening. Go on KellyMom, tell me more.
-Delaying solids helps to space babies.
Breastfeeding alone does this as well. My period didn’t return until Hooper was 8 or 9 months old. And there are other ways to space babies. I’d hardly delay solids as a means of birth control.
-Delaying solids makes starting solids easier.
The reason behind this, per KellyMom, is because babies can feed themselves when they’re older. Hooper is two and I’m still assisting him, begrudgingly, with putting the spoon in his mouth (more so due to lack of desire than coordination). So yeah, I could be delaying solids for quite some time if I’m going to wait for him to be able and willing to feed himself.
Can you tell my mind is made up? The real kicker is when I talked it over with our pediatrician and said something like this, “You can delay solids. He’ll probably just wake up more because he’ll be hungry”. And with that, we came home and I fed him peas. And oatmeal. And he made it until 5:30am this morning, which is a huge improvement. So, the solids have begun.
As a side note, I plan on continuing pumping to maintain my milk supply. And then there’s the added bonus of donating what I pump. A win win for everyone. And, oh ya, Van is more than ready. That kid sees a spoon and begins to throw himself in its direction. These past few weeks of holding out have felt like I was depriving a bee of honey.

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Breastfeeding

He’ll come in later.
As I’ve mentioned a million gazillion times before, I was neurotic about my milk supply from the beginning. My lunatic ways were born from my experience in feeding Hooper. I’ve also mentioned this several times, but to reiterate, Hooper’s weight steadily declined from the 80th percentile all the way down to the 10th percentile. When you’re breastfeeding, this is incredibly troubling because you have no idea how much milk your baby is getting. I considered buying a scale to weigh him before and after a feed but ultimately decided it wouldn’t change what I was doing. The milk I made was the milk I made and while our pediatrician kept a close eye on his weight, he never suggested supplementing.
So yes, I was neurotic from the beginning with Van. Early on, I planned to add additional pump sessions interspersed with our regular breastfeeding sessions in an effort to get my milk production well established and to grow a hearty supply of milk in the freezer for when I returned to work.
Before I started my pump sessions, I contacted a friend who also had a newly born babe. She has utters those of us with a questionable milk supply grow envious of. She’s told me stories of milk literally shooting out of her nipples uncontrollably. I’m talking water gun style. Not to be confused with gangam style. In any case, I knew she would have milk to spare so before I started pumping, I asked her if she’d be willing to donate at some point should I run into trouble. She agreed. (Side note: Willy thought I was such a loon and thought the idea of giving our baby a friend’s milk was ridiculously weird. I couldn’t disagree more… Your thoughts?)
I started pumping. Van was about three weeks old when I began adding in three pump sessions per day.
I was surprised by how much milk I was collecting and one by one, milk bags started infiltrating our freezer. And then they virtually took over our freezer, Little Shop of Horrors style. For a while there, you couldn’t open the door without a frozen bag of milk falling on your foot.
My goal with pumping somewhat transformed from wanting to have a large frozen supply to wanting to keep my milk supply afloat. When I accepted the reality that I had plenty in the freezer, I started to give what I pumped to Hooper. Nearly all the milk he drank in the day would come from my pump sessions.
Because I’m a utilitarian at heart (greatest good for the greatest number), I started to wonder if donating the milk would be more beneficial. I contacted my midwife who gave me information about Breast Feed LA (side note: I originally typed “breast feel LA”… um ya, glad I caught that one as I’m sure that’s an entirely different organization). I browsed the website and, to be honest, it wasn’t user friendly. I didn’t get the instant answers I wanted and I didn’t want donating to become a headache. I also knew I was in a bit of a time crunch as the milk I wanted to donate was already a couple of months old and would need to used soon before it was wasted.
And all you breastfeeding mamas out there know you do not waste breast milk. Don’t cry over spilled milk unless it’s breast milk, right?
So I turned to facebook. I posted a comment on my midwives group page and instantly got a few responses. I made contact with one woman who had an 8 month old foster son. She said finding milk has become a part time job and admitted that she’s driven up to 2 hours just to pick up donated milk. And here I was thinking I was making the ultimate sacrifice in simply breastfeeding. She ended up striking gold and found 500 ounces locally so she declined my offer and on to the next response I went.
That’s how I met Kelly.
Funny thing is that I already knew Kelly. That whole seven degree of separation shenanigans is really true. I had to scold Hooper while I was on the phone with her (wait a second, you say, scolding a toddler?? never…). She instantly picked up on the name and we giggled as we realized her older son and Hooper are in the same play class. I had seen her the day before. It still boggles my mind.
In any case, now we can officially meet Elliot. He is two months younger than Van and I now have the incredible privilege to help feed him too. And I can’t tell you how warm that makes my heart.
Have extra breast milk? Look into donating! There’s tons of mom’s out there that are literally desperate to give their baby the best of the best. It’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience thus far.
You can read my other posts on breastfeeding here, here, and here.
Side note: Thank you to all of you that have been voting on Top Baby Blog. I’m ranked #7 right now, only 20 votes behind #1 last time I looked. How cool. You can vote daily by clicking on the link below. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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Breastfeeding

Many parents are eager to get their infants onto a breastfeeding schedule. When Hooper was an infant I heard other moms talking about how they put their babies on an every-three-hour schedule. It sounded like a nice idea. I tried it. It didn’t work for me. For starters, I think it diminished my milk supply. It’s for reasons like this that lactation consultants recommend feeding your infant on demand. So what’s the happy median between a feeding schedule and feeding on demand, you ask? How about a feeding on demand schedule? An oxymoron, you think? Maybe, but in my experience there becomes a routine when feeding on demand.
Here’s my suggestion: Over a three day period, feed your baby when your baby wants to be fed. Write down the times. When the three days are over, look for consistencies or similar times that your baby fed on all three days. You’ll notice that while they may not be on your schedule, that they do in fact have a schedule. After noting the consistencies, try to keep to their schedule in the following days. And there you have it, your very own baby-made feeding schedule.
Interested in boosting your supply? Milk production is most plentiful in the morning hours. After determining your baby-made feeding schedule, look for holes in the morning hours where you can fit in a pumping session or two. I pump right after Van’s morning feed and, again, one hour after that.
Here’s what our schedule looks like:
6am- breastfeed, followed immediately by pumping
7am- pump
9am to 9pm- breastfeed on demand. If there are any long stretches, I pump. If he refuses a feeding and it’s been a while since the last, I pump.
The reality with a baby-made feeding schedule is that it’s always changing. You may determine a schedule that lasts for an entire month, but then it will change. Therefore, you are constantly having to make small tweaks along the way. But such is life, no?
Would love to hear what you schedule looks like and what you’ve found works for you.
You can check out my other posts on breastfeeding here and here.

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Breastfeeding

Anyone who has done any amount of research on how to increase your milk supply has stumbled upon fenugreek. There’s a plethora of options to chose from, some pricier than others. I use the Gaia liquid filled capsule because the lady at Whole Foods told me it’s the best for reasons that went in one ear and out the other. It’s one of the more expensive options, of course, costing $18 for 60 capsules. When I was breastfeeding Hooper, I was willing to do just about anything to boost my supply. I cared less if the fenugreek worked or not because it helped me feel like I was being proactive and at the time, that was enough. This time around, I have a hearty stash of frozen breast milk in my freezer. And by hearty, I mean I cannot fit anything else in there and am considering purchasing an additional freezer for the garage or even donating some milk. I digress, back to fenugreek. I bought some fenugreek right before I started my daily pump sessions, around 4 weeks postpartum, to ensure that I’d like what I saw when I began pumping. I’ve used it off and on since then and being that my breastfeeding/pumping schedule is pretty regular, I thought I’d run a little fenugreek experiment.
Here’s the details:
-I took 3 fenugreek capsules after breakfast and another 3 capsules after dinner, for a total of 6 capsules a day.
-I recorded how much I pumped daily over a 12 day period. Results are based solely on my pump sessions for measuring purposes. I pump the same time each day (once immediately after Van’s morning feed and again one hour after that).
-I threw out the high and the low and averaged the remaining 10 days.
-I smelled like maple syrup everyday (common side effect of the fenugreek extract).
…And… dun-dun-dun… drum roll please… The Results:
-Without fenugreek, I averaged 3.8 oz. per pump session.
-With fenugreek, I averaged 4.6 oz. per pump session.
-Fenugreek gave me an added 1.6 oz. a day, based on 2 pump sessions a day.
Onto the larger question: Is it worth it? With 60 capsules in a bottle, taking 6 capsules a day lasts for a 10 day period. It comes out to $1.72/day. What do you think? Is it worth it? Have you tried fenugreek before?

Side note: you can still enter Monday’s giveaway!! For those that do not have facebook, you can still enter to win by visiting Cuddle Smart’s website and leaving a comment on Monday’s post telling me what’s your favorite Cuddle Smart product. Good luck!

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Breastfeeding

“The Magic Number”
My magic number is 8-9. I think. That’s what I go with, anyway. What’s that mean, you wonder? It means to keep my milk supply afloat, I need to empty my breasts 8 to 9 times a day.
When I breastfed Hooper, I fed him on demand like all the hippie people told me I should. I read his feeding cues and offered him the breast whenever he wanted and for however long he wanted. What I found, in hindsight, is that while it was enough for him (insert question mark here), it was not enough for me. I stopped breastfeeding just a week shy of a year because my supply was next to nothing. I had no pain physically while weaning because my supply had steadily been declining. I had little milk stored away in the freezer and was always anxious about the ambiguity in regards to how much Hooper was getting or how much I was producing.
This time around, I’m doing things differently. As Maya Angelou once said, “I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better”.
Van’s magic number is only 6. This means he only wants to feed 6 times a day. I try to offer the breast more often for my own agenda of keeping a plentiful supply but find that Van will fuss or have a lazy feeding because he’s simply not hungry. Thus, I pump. I started pumping with the goal of having a healthy supply stashed away in the freezer. Then I quickly realized how much these additional pump sessions were helping my milk supply. Now I have more milk than I can fit in my freezer but I continue pumping for the sole purpose of maintaining a hearty supply.
My midwife/lactation consultant shared this article with me that coined the term “The Magic Number”. Determining your magic number, the article states, depends on breast fullness and breast storage capacity. Here’s the breakdown:
-Breast fullness. Many woman make the mistake of only pumping or feeding when their breasts feel full. Having full breasts, however, actually causes milk production to slow. Imagine breastfeeding as a supply and demand system. If your breasts are full, they are telling your milk factory workers that you do not need any more milk. When your breasts are empty, on the other hand, those little factory workers get to work to fill you back up. Thus, the more you empty your breast, the faster they fill. The opposite is also true: the more full your breast, the slower milk production becomes.
-Storage capacity. This does not relate to breast size, though for me it’s easier to visualize a larger versus a smaller breast for ease of understanding. Storage capacity affects how long it takes for a breast to become full. A woman with a large storage capacity is going to take a longer amount of time to fill, thus milk production will continue until the breast is full. A woman with a small storage capacity, however, will become full quicker and thus milk production will slow when the breast becomes full. Therefore, a woman with a smaller storage capacity must empty her breasts more often than a woman with a bigger storage capacity to maintain milk production.
You can view the whole article by clicking here.
What’s your magic number? Did you find this explanation helpful?

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