Tag Archives: breastfeeding

An Evolution

7 Aug

I always knew I’d breastfeed. But when I set out to nurse, I think I saw breastfeeding as a static, uniform thing — you did it or you didn’t, and for those who did, it was just all the same. As a new parent, it was both enlightening and reassuring to discover that’s not true. It is, in fact, extremely nuanced, as individual as the ones doing it. But I also discovered that as soon as you find your footing, things change. Like your baby, breastfeeding and the breastfeeding relationship is a living, ever-changing creature.

So in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m sharing with you the evolution of my breastfeeding experience… two and half years of the ups, downs, tears, joys, and mundane of nourishing my little one (and myself) in the process.

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Pre-birth – I suppose this started years ago when I watched my step mother nurse twins for 18 months. I’d never seen a baby breastfeed before and this seemed revolutionary to me at the time (at 15). Closer to time for z-baby’s birth, though, I took a breastfeeding class at work and attended some lunchtime discussions at work for nursing moms (led by a lactation consultant). A few days before I gave birth I started getting nervous and watched every video I could find from Dr. Jack Newman. I watched healthy newborn latches over and over and over…

Birth – Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. I wanted to nurse right away but z-baby was in a transition nursery for over 6 hours. When I did get him, we started right away and he latched — but not a great one. I had already asked for a lactation consultant and we saw them three times before we left the hospital. Z-baby was a sleeper… he wanted to eat, but he wanted to sleep even more. So my most vivid memory of those days was stripping him down each and every time he needed to eat (so he didn’t feel too cozy) and gently nudging him awake throughout every feed. Z-baby’s papi took this very seriously, like his personal mission those first few days.

Month 1 – My milk came in quickly and plentiful and z-baby was a great eater. I loved nursing, but it was soooooo painful. But not in the way I could have imagined. I had a bit of Carpal Tunnel during the pregnancy, and it kicked into overdrive those few weeks following birth. My hands would freeze up like hooks and I was terrified I’d drop the baby. And my hands didn’t just go numb, they ached and pain shot up through to my elbows. I remember crying through several of those feedings from the pain. My mom or husband would have to either support the baby or my breast or both. It sucked (no pun intended). I couldn’t sit down to nurse without water and a towel because there was so much milk it seemed to get everywhere!
*Nursing equipment was very important: Boppy upstairs, Brest Friend downstairs, multiple towels, nipple cream, pads for the bra, nursing bra.

Months 2-3 – When the painful claw hands went away, nursing became a breeze. I loved it still, and enjoyed every minute of it. Then I had to have my gallbladder taken out and we happily fell into co-sleeping, which made the night-time nursing even better. Z-baby loved nursing and was still in that pre-wiggler phase where he’d pretty much stay put through a whole feeding and was serious about his nursing… no playing for this guy… yet!
*Equipment: We dropped the nipple cream around this time and started trying the pump and bottles. 

Nursing z-baby, 5 weeks

Months 4-9 – I went back to work after 3 months and it was hell. H-E-L-L. Z-baby refused all bottles and reversed cycled. My first day back I had an off-site meeting and tried to pump in the car, only to realize I had no batteries or charger. I got so engorged but survived. I was at a leading public health agency in the country and they had lactation rooms and pumps which were great, but it was still a challenge to find the time during the day to do it and an open time slot in the rooms. I luckily telecommuted several days a weeks and had someone watching the baby in the house, so I could just nurse those days. But on days when I wasn’t home, z-baby waited for me all day and then we nursed all night. I welcomed the nursing, but he would be so hungry that he’d overeat and puke everywhere and I could never keep up with the laundry. We introduced some solids in here but he could care less. Most of this is a blur for me because the postpartum depression set in during this time, though I wasn’t fully aware of it. But I know I worried all day about z-baby not eating and raced home to be with him and only then was I ever at ease. And in those early days of still undiagnosed postpartum depression, it was the nursing that kept me going… alive even.
*Equipment: Pump, pump, pump. And pump some more. Sometime during this time we also stopped using the nursing pillows.

Months 10-14 – I finally started getting treatment for the postpartum depression, and while this was still a very difficult time, it did start to get a little better. Breastfeeding was still the light at the end of the tunnel each and every day. Looking down and seeing z-baby and seeing him relish the time as much as I did left me speechless. Or maybe it was from the biting, I can’t remember. No longer just a wiggler on the couch, he’s a roller during nursing, too. He nurses upside down and sideways, bouncing and swaying. I never knew my nipples were so flexible… I still overproduced and donated gallons (and gallons…) of it to a friend. But I’m finally not gushing every time I go to nurse.
*Equipment: I think I still used nursing pads when at work or separated from z-baby, and the pump, of course.

Months 14-24 – I stopped working, put away the pump, and started staying at home with z-baby full time. Life is goooooooooooooood. Nursing becomes something I do often throughout the day, but no longer think about. Z-baby became vocal about his nursing during this time and asked for it frequently. Nursing in public became both easier and more difficult. Easier because he could just sit in front of me and I could angle away from people… harder because he never stayed in one position and insisted my shirt be ALL the way up to give him total access. I struggled with the decision to wean or not so that I can get pregnant again, but it just never felt right. Z-baby went through lots of ups and downs… times when he needed to nurse a lot (usually growth and developmental spurts and teething) and periods where he didn’t nurse as much. Biting still an off and on issue, and the nipple fiddling started (playing with one while eating off the other). Momma became a serve yourself buffet during this time — z-baby would pull up my shirt and insist on his “deeta” whenever he wanted it.
*Equipment: A chair. That’s it. No pads, towels, creams, pillows, nothing. Oh, and a nursing bra. But I had to be careful somedays because he sees the act of sitting down as an open invitation.

Months 24-30 – Here we are, nursing at 2 1/2 years. Nursing is still an acrobatic act, day and night. We’ve pared it down to going down and waking up from naps and bedtime. He’s starting to respect my wishes some — needing to wait or stop during the night, for example. But he manages which side he wants and the exact position he wants it in. I also have to nurse cars and trains, and he’s even tried to push it up so I can have some, too (such a helper!). He even managed to get chocolate milk out of me one day (that’s a post for another day)!!! He had his first sleepover with grandma (our first night apart!), which was his first night ever that he didn’t nurse. And just very recently did I hit the nursing wall. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m ready to wean. I know I’ll miss it, and I can’t imagine motherhood without it (at first at least), but I’m ready. Is he? I don’t think so, and we’re working on potty training so I won’t do anything right away… but we’ll see what the future holds for us.
*Equipment: Nada. Except for the darn bra! There are times when he needs a quick comfort session of about 3 seconds and I don’t even sit anymore… just bend over.

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Two and half years of breastfeeding. No cracked nipples, plugged ducts, or mastisis. A little bit of yeast once. Overproduction and numb hands. Gallons of milk in my freezer. Lugging the pump to work and z-baby on a week-long business trip. Surgery and anesthesia. Postpartum depression and medication. Nursing pads, pillows, and towels. Reverse cycling and cosleeping. Nursing in bed, on the couch, at the table, typing, writing, on the phone, in the car, in public, in therapy, on planes, in meetings, standing up, sitting down, bending over. Two and half years. And I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it for anything in the world.

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The gravitational pull of balls

27 Jul

Z-baby has officially been ball crazy since before he could even walk. Soon after sitting up, he was throwing them. Later we’d hold him up by his hands and he’d stand in place, wobbling to and fro. But if you rolled a ball to him, he’d kick it nearly without fail. Even his first word was “ball.”

Los pies con America

Fútbol in the genes...

Aside from the occasional and shameless photo opp (ahem, see above), we didn’t push him towards balls… he just gravitated. He’d have nothing to do with dolls or stuffed animals, could care less about TV, and while he tolerates books most of the time, only things with wheels have recently come close to sharing the stage with balls.

And then a month or so ago, he watched a soccer game with sig-o. Now he asks to watch it all. the. time. “¿Ver fútbol?” (watch soccer?) is something I hear regularly throughout the day now. So as a treat, I’ve started letting him watch the sports channel for short bits during the day. It’s a channel that literally has some sports on all day without annoying commentary shows. Just sports. And they’re alternative sports, I guess you could say — no baseball, basketball, or football. And some don’t even use balls…

So the first evening we watched track and field. After watching a race and some high jumping for a few minutes, he stood up and declared, “Bebé unning!” and took off and completed about 7 laps through the house. His finale was to run full force towards the couch and jump up onto it, landing on his back. When pole vaulting came on TV I leapt on the remote control and found something else for us to do.

Then it was ping pong. It’s one thing to make your child laugh by tickling them or making faces. It’s entirely another to hear them laugh independently at things all on their own. And z-baby thought the slow-motion replays in ping pong were hi-larious. He laughed and laughed and I couldn’t help but joining in.

Swimming was next. It was a replay of all of Michael Phelps’ Olympic races in Beijing. Z-baby was mesmerized. He kept shouting, “Big agua!” and swinging his arms around. When we next went to the pool, he went under and popped up repeatedly all on his own in the kiddie pool, taking big breaths each time. And in the big pool he swam with his arms in addition to his normal kicking.

And then there were the gymnastics. We recently put z-baby in a gymnastics class, so he recognized it right away. He studied them walking on the balance beam and practiced his forward rolls in front of the TV. He jumped (lots of knee bending and then hops on one leg) and threw his arms up in the air as if he’d just completed a triple back handspring and sang “Ta-da!”

It took z-baby time to warm up to his gymnastics class. The first day he just stood there, looking around, as if he was trying to figure out where all the balls were and exactly what they were supposed to do since there weren’t any. But now he loves his gymnastics class, and while he’s the lone boy and shorter than all the girls in there, his balance and coordination are spot on. He likes his class so much that we can’t talk about it at home because he runs and puts his shoes on and tries to get out the front door. When we were getting ready for class the other morning he was jumping on the bed and doing forward rolls. I asked him if he could do his backwards roll and he looked at me for a minute, then ran to the headboard on our bed and sat backwards on my pillow and rolled back, trying to fling his legs over his head. When that didn’t work, he tried two pillows.

Gymnastics class

I’m sometimes amazed at how much he gravitates towards all things typically “boy.”

But then there are moments when I’m reassured that he’s much more than that. Like when he asks me to nurse his cars. And like the other day when he came into my bedroom carrying a blanket up by his head. I asked him what he was doing (I don’t think I’ve ever seen him carry a blanket) and he replied, “Bebé carga, choo choo night night,” which is his bilingual Toddler-ese for, “I’m carrying and rocking my trains to sleep.” And then he proceeded to bounce them, to pace the floor with them, and to shhhhhhsh them, as if he’d studied the Happiest Baby on the Block.

Amongst the chaos of all the jumping, running, and kicking, it’s a side of him I don’t get to see very often. But when I do, I drop everything and just watch, soaking in every drop.

Unicorn

21 Apr

Z-baby is an early riser. Not too early, but since I’m not a morning person, anything feels early. He wakes up, nurses a bit, and then hops out of bed and plays with toys in our room. Unless I forget to shut the door at night. Then he has free reign of the house while I struggle to heave myself out of bed. We do have a baby gate up in the hallway to reign him in… but that only lasted a few months before he figured out how to work it.

One morning this week he hopped out of bed and promptly headed out of the room. Sig-o and I lay in bed talking and then we heard the crash. From the sound of it, I can only surmise that he was standing up in his big, wooden Mexican truck while cooking at his play kitchen when he fell out and hit the entertainment center? I jumped out of bed and he met me at the door crying. He asked me for a bebo (beso = kiss) for his boo-boo and stopped crying and ran out of the room to play again. I tried not to freak too much and shrugged it off.

By the time we sat down to breakfast, he had a big, honkin’ coco (bump) on his head… and he was so proud of it. It looked like he was sprouting a unicorn horn. Here are some really, really bad pics of the little sprout.

Co-sleeping Blues

13 Apr

Before z-baby was born, we painstakingly picked out the “perfect” pack n’ play/bassinet combo and placed it beside our bed. When we brought him home from the hospital, we would carefully swaddle him every night and place him in it. He woke up every two hours, nearly on cue, to nurse. I would get up with him, nurse him, and then hand him off to sig-o to change his diaper and get him back to sleep. We tag-teamed like pros.

Then when z-baby was almost 7 weeks, a series of events threw us into the world of co-sleeping. First, my gallbladder whacked out and I had to have it removed. Then, that very same day, sig-o got sick with the flu. To complicate matters, we were in the very early stages of what ended up being the swine flu pandemic, and we didn’t want to take any chances with the baby. So I sent sig-o to stay with his mom for a few days.

So here I was, still recovering from the emergency c-section, still recovering from the gallbladder surgery, and alone with a newborn. And barely taking any pain killers for it because of the breastfeeding and my fear that I’d be too drowsy or out of it to care for him.

My mom had come to help and before she left, she had tucked the baby neatly away in the bassinet. But when he woke up, I realized that I couldn’t get him out. I could either 1) bend over or 2) pick up the baby (from the bed, say), but I couldn’t bend over and pick up the baby from the bassinet. After 20 minutes or so of him crying I must have had enough adrenaline or whatever pulsing through me that I just gritted my teeth and hefted him out of there.

I collapsed on the bed with him and it was that day that we finally were able to get the hang of nursing while laying down. And we’ve never looked back. I remember the sheer elation I had that night… just the two of us in a big ole king size bed. Never had to get up to nurse. Slept better than I had for a long time.

Sig-o eventually came home and was like WTH? He had had to sleep in the guest bed for probably the last half of the pregnancy. Partly because I was uncomfortable and wanted to sleep diagonal across the bed, and partly because my (big) dog never wanted to leave my side while I was pregnant and insisted on sleeping diagonally along with me. So it was like a little honeymoon for us after the baby was born and we could sleep in the same bed together. But that day he immediately knew he had been trumped again.

Fast forward two years. We both love co-sleeping and regret not bringing him into the bed earlier. But this kid isn’t seven pounds anymore. And for a kid who is in the low percentiles for both height and weight, he can really take up some real estate in what now feels like a tiny, itsy, bitsy, king size bed.

Two years. Two years that sig-o and I feel like we haven’t been able to just… touch. Sure, we’ve managed to get him down in his crib (also a painstakingly picked-out waste of space) a few times and could sleep in each other’s arms until z-baby woke up wanting to nurse. And a few times we’ve put him off to one side in the bed and hoped he doesn’t fall off. We tried to sidecar the crib, too, but that never worked. Z-baby insists on being sandwiched right in between us. Two years is a long time.

And I’m not even talking about sex. Which is also a huge issue. Between the co-sleeping and just plain old parental exhaustion, it hasn’t been easy. Lately, I’ve literally resorted to setting the alarm for around 3am so we can wake up, grab a quickie while z-baby is fast asleep in the other room, and collapse into bed again… each of us on either side of the bed, not touching. But at 3am, who really cares, right?

Through it all, sig-o has been fine with it. There’s been a little whining every now and then. Even some pouting. But tonight it clearly moved beyond pouting. He’s actually… despondent about it all. He’s mentioned from time to time that he’s ready to start transitioning the baby to his own bed. But I had no idea he felt so dejected, so sad about it.

As I sit in the baby’s nursery writing this, z-baby is asleep in my bed and sig-o is snoring in the guest room on the futon. He refused to go to bed without me tonight. He’s basically waiting on me to… put him to bed. I’m talking about my adult husband here. I mean, I miss him too, but really? I think he’s just overtired and cranky and exasperated (sounds like I’m talking about a toddler, right?). And I get that. And it’s not always easy for me, either.

One day this will all be behind us and we’ll be pining away for the days that z-baby slept sideways between us, toes in his papi’s ribs, head in his momma’s. In the meantime, though, I have a 32 year-old I need to go put to bed.

Say what?

31 Mar

When I started this blog, I only told two people about it: sig-o and my sister. My sister has had full access to it from the beginning, whereas sig-o only reads it if I ask him to. They’re still the only ones who know about it.

When thinking of what to name the blog, The Vaca Loca immediately came to mind. Loca? Because I felt like I was absolutely losing it at the time due to the postpartum depression. Vaca? Because sometimes (and sometimes still) I felt like that was all I was and all I was good for — a dairy cow, lactating for little z-baby. The Vaca Loca? Well, it was also a little shout out to Manu Chao (me likey mucho!). I knew my husband got it, and I thought I had told my sister what it meant, too (she doesn’t speak Spanish). But maybe not…

The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone and z-baby came up and wanted me to read him a book in Spanish. There was a picture of a cow so I asked him, “¿Qué dice la vaca?” He responded with a cute little, “Muuuuuuuu.” My sister said, “Wait, what did you just say?” I said, “Vaca. You know, like my blog.” There was a long pause. Turns out she thought my blog was called The Vacay Loca, as in the crazy vacation.. And I get it. It never would have dawned on me, but I get it. And I thought that was cute.

Even cuter though was when she visited for Christmas. Z-baby calls all his aunts tía regardless of whether they speak English or Spanish. So one day my sister finally asks, “Why do you all keep talking about tortillas all the time?” It took me a second but then it hit me… we kept saying things like, “Lleva la bolsa a tu tía… Dale un beso a tu tía… Este vaso es de tu tía…” Said fast enough and enough times and yeah, it sounds like we’re obsessed with tortillas! I had to laugh. (Love ya sis! And rest assured that I’m laughing with you!)

Anyway, it made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it with blogdom. We have bilingual mix-ups and blunders with the family all the time… and with a toddler who is talking more and more every day, we’re sure to have a lot more to come.

“Deeta” Decisions

1 Mar

Sig-o and I have been trying to conceive for several months now with no luck. I’m convinced the complicating factor is that z-baby still nurses (we call it “chita, z-baby calls it “deeta”). AF returned when I was 5 months postpartum and exclusively breastfeeding and I’m pretty certain that I am ovulating. Which leads me to think that my prolactin levels are high and my luteal phase is just too short to sustain a pregnancy. Ugh…

When I had z-baby, my plan was to exclusively nurse for at least 6 months with an overall goal of nursing at least a year. But deep down my goal was to make it to 2 years, which we achieved last week (and I feel very fortunate for). So now I feel like I have some decisions to make…

Do I wean altogether? I don’t think z-baby is ready for that. He still nurses around the clock (but mainly when we goes down at night and naps) and shows no signs of letting up soon. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I feel like I want to run out the front door if I hear “Deeta?” again. I mean for 2 years — 730 days — I haven’t been apart from z-baby for longer than 10 hours at a time and that was a stretch. That’s a lot of “deeta.” And did I mention he never took a bottle and reverse cycled? But I digress. Overall it has been a great experience, and I’m not sure that I want to push him towards something he’s not ready for.

Do I just post-pone another pregnancy and let nature runs its course, no matter how long that may take? I wish I could be that patient. And that may ultimately be what happens anyway (isn’t it always, I guess?), but I’d like to nudge it along if possible so that I can take advantage of being at home right now and for as long as I can stretch this stay-at-home mom thing out.

Do I try to adjust his nursing schedule? It seems that if you can stretch out the nursing sessions, it gives the body’s hormones a chance to level out enough to get pregnant while continuing to nurse. That sounds like a win-win and the most logical place to start since I’m not quite ready to wean completely. But how to do it? Everyone says the “easy” option would be to drop the night nursing. MUCH easier said than done, though. I think we may have better luck dropping or greatly reducing the day nursing. Right now he’s teething again so he’s asking for it more often, but hopefully that will settle down soon.

So I guess I’ll sit with this decision for a while and see how it goes. And with any luck, z-baby will start to self-wean more quickly. As I look over at him playing with the dog, trying to take the dog’s toy away with his mouth, I’m thinking he really needs a human sibling 🙂

I want to believe…

16 Mar

What can I say?  It’s been a rough week and I just haven’t been able to post anything. I’m still trying to bounce back from a lack of meds in my system, which hasn’t been so easy. And stress has been HIGH as we try to figure out just what we’re doing with our lives. I was thinking today how I lately seem to have these moments of clarity (it’s either clarity or …well, I’m not sure what) and I see the world around me and I’m struck by how much it sucks. I know, quite the pessimist today. I do have moments when I find beauty in the most simple of things…but not often. And recently I haven’t seen any of that beyond z-baby’s face. But since he cut his two top teeth and has been into biting the shit out of me when he nurses, well, sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty there, too.

I worked my butt off last week trying to get the house ready (and sig-o did pitch in) to have a realtor come in and take a look and talk with us. Long story but basically, we can’t sell our house because we’d lose too much money in today’s market. So we’re trying to rent it now. Sig-o had another job interview and I nearly quit work altogether last week. We think the interview went ok but are waiting to hear something back. It’s all just way too overwhelming for me right now…some days I think I can’t deal with it anymore. Hence, my view that life is hard and it sucks and I don’t know what I’m doing and maybe this is just what being an adult is all about or maybe it’s what being an adult with postpartum depression is all about or I don’t even know what anymore.

I know, I know…I should have some faith, right? But I’m too blah-ed out to even focus on faith right now, to talk with the universe, to believe that everything will be ok. I keep asking sig-o to tell me that everything will be all right and I want to believe… I really, really do.