Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Tummy Tub

So our friends Tatum and Miles have an 18 month old (adorable) little girl, and one night we were talking about bathing babies (exciting topic), and I mentioned this thing that I wanted called a Tummy Tub. Now basically a Tummy Tub is just a glorified bucket in which you bathe your baby. The thing that is supposedly so great about it is that it is "womb shaped" and makes your baby feel like he is back in utero, where it was perfectly warm and wet and the livin' was easy. Unlike a traditional baby bathtub, they sit in the tub in the fetal position and the warm water rises up and covers them up to their shoulders, so they feel secure and warm the whole time. Well, turns out Tatum and Miles had a Tummy Tub that was handed down to them, and since their daughter didn't enjoy it very much and had outgrown it, offered to pass it along to us to try! So nice!

So one night, we busted out the Tummy Tub and put Levi in it. Now, he used to not be a fan of bathtime, but had been getting much better at it to the point that he almost started to enjoy it. We had been using a regular baby bath this whole time, but I figured if he started to like the regular tub, he'd reaaalllly love the Tummy Tub and bathtime would be amazing!

Well...the first time we used it, he cried. Not sure why...maybe it was just because it was different or maybe because it was just his fussy time. Anyway, we decided to try it again the next night, and except for a little water in his mouth (whoops), he seemed to like it a little more. The next time we used it, I filled it up less so that the water didn't rise so high. My only complaint is that it is way harder to clean them in the Tummy Tub. For starters, the baby isn't reclined like in a regular tub, they are just sitting up straight. Since Levi doesn't have full head control yet, this means you have to support his head up while trying not to get water in his mouth while trying to clean him. Which brings me to gripe #2: it's hard enough to bathe a slippery, squirmy baby, but even harder in such cramped quarters, and one handed. I didn't feel like he was as clean as he could've been. Upon researching tips on how to use the tub, since I figured with all the rave reviews it got I must've been doing something wrong, I found that I was doing everything right, but that it was meant as more of a comfort tool rather than for actual cleaning of the baby. Hmm.

Since I didn't have to pay the slightly ridiculous $45 price tag, we will still use it unless Levi decides it's a no-go. Plus, it is insanely cute to see a baby in a bucket. :)

Summer in December

Although I'm always talking about itching to move away from Southern California, I must admit that it definitely has it's perks...namely, the weather. It's pretty dang good year-round.

But since this year we were ROBBED of a proper Californian summer and sat at the beach in fog and drizzle for the majority of June, July, and August, I feel that Mother Nature kinda owes us one before 2010 comes to a close. And she delivered, albeit for only a couple of days. Better than nothin!

Where else in the Northern Hemisphere can you say you went to the beach in the middle of December? In this respect, the west is best, baby.

Sunday was a picture perfect 80 degrees, so Levi and I decided to take a stroll down to the beach so that mama could soak some sunshine into her pale legs. We walked to a little coffee shop and got a huge, overpriced iced mocha (remember Levi indirectly eats what I eat, so I can get away with saying "we", like a crazy mom. That said, you will not hear me saying "Oh look at how BIG we are!" "Are we hungry?" "Do we need a diaper change?". I do draw the line somewhere). Then we walked along beach, and finally ended up at Ole Hansen, where we sat on a park bench and watched the beach goers and seagulls.

Yesterday we went down to the beach again and I got to read a magazine for a bit while Levi snoozed in the shade, then we got some tacos and headed home.

Unfortunately, winter returned today , so Leevs and I got back to reality with a grocery shopping trip to Trader Joe's, some chocolate chip cookie making, and some t.v. watching to pass the gloomy day away. I seem to always get the blues during wintertime and find myself constantly sleepy, no matter how much rest I get. I also don't really like being cold. Bundling up makes me feel claustrophobic, which is why you will usually find me under dressed. Is that weird? Sometimes I think I might have the oddly-fictional-sounding SAD...that is, "Seasonal Affective Disorder". But um, don't the seasons affect us all? Can you say "looking for any excuse to pop happy pills?" Ok, I shouldn't judge, especially since I probably have SAD. Anyway... the heat wave was nice while it lasted, hope everyone enjoyed Mr. Sun as much as I did! :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What I Learned about Breastfeeding...the Hard Way

OK, so I realize that this post will probably not appeal to nor interest many of you, but it might for some, so here we go! We're gunna talk about boobs.

Or more specifically, the biological purpose of them.

Now, if you have ever breastfed, I'm sure you will relate to this, at least somewhat. And if you are planning to ever breastfeed, I'm hoping you will learn things from my experience that will one day help you!

Before I even got pregnant, I always assumed I would breastfeed my babies. And when I found out I was pregnant, I just knew it's what I would do, no questions asked.

Then my old pal, a.k.a Unsolicited Advice, came a-knocking. I heard stories about how "hard" breastfeeding was and how painful it was and how great it was for the baby and tons of other opinions about how to feed one's child (I'm still bewildered at how opinionated people are about motherhood and others' child rearing methods...but that's another topic in itself). The main kernel of "advice" was that breastfeeding was great, but that the first two weeks were no walk in the park. People told me it was very hard and very painful. No matter, I thought to myself, I would have to just tough out the rough patches and fulfill my goal of breastfeeding.

Now, by "hard", I assumed what was meant was that it was difficult to get the hang of; getting the baby latched on and positioned right and maybe some sore nipples. (By the way, I am no longer shy of throwing around the awkward word "nipples", so just bear with me). In hindsight, I realize that no one ever really articulated what they meant by "hard" and that I didn't ever get the advice I really needed....but anyway, here's my story:

So I decided to prepare myself as best as I could, because I was truly determined that "breast is best" and that if I couldn't go through with a natural birth, I would most certainly go through with breastfeeding! So I armed myself by taking a breastfeeding workshop class - which was quite helpful in explaining techniques and other facts I knew nothing about, watching videos, and reading books and online articles. I researched the positioning and latching tips like a madwoman. When Levi was born, I had both the hospital's nurses and lactation consultant (yep, there's such a thing) come and make sure I was doing everything correctly before I was discharged, and was told that both Levi and I were pros. He seemed to get the hang of it better with every feeding and seemed full and satisfied. Hard? Psh.

The first few days were great! My milk came in with abundance, resulting in very large, hard boobs - excuse the visual, but it's what happens, and it's a good thing. I knew I was making milk and Levi was getting good at latching on and I was barely sore. Things were going great for the first week or so and I thought I was just so lucky and talented to avoid those notoriously "bad" first two weeks....until all of a sudden things started going downhill, fast.

First it started with ol' Leevs deciding that he favored the left breast, and he flat out refused my right one. I figured it was the way I was holding him, since I was using my non-dominant arm to support him, and he felt insecure or something. So I tried putting him in different positions, putting myself in different positions, nothing worked. Then I thought maybe it was my nipple that he didn't like, although there was no visual difference between the two...you never know. In the meantime, my right boob was filling up with milk and becoming engorged (which is when your breasts are overly full and can result in plugged ducts and infections...not to mention it is uncomfortable and you leak milk - NOT good!) So I got a thing called a nipple shield, which is this flexible silicone nipple looking thing that sticks onto your real nipple to help the baby latch. That seemed to work better, and he started to latch on. However, because this nipple shield makes it much easier for the baby to latch, they don't have to work as hard as they would when drawing a real nipple into their mouth, so he ended up preferring the nipple shield and wouldn't nurse without it!

So he finally started latching on to both breasts, which was good, but another obstacle loomed...Unexplained Fussiness. All of a sudden, he would cry and fuss and pull off of the breast for no apparent reason, even though I KNEW he was hungry....which leads me to villain #3, Constant Hunger. Now when I say constant, I'm not exaggerating. I was told that newborns usually want to eat every 2-4 hours, with feedings that last an average of 20 minutes or so, which seems pretty standard to me. I was also told that newborns usually ate about 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. But Levi was apparently not standard, because he would eat for 45 minutes to an HOUR and be crying with hunger a half hour later. By this time, I could read his signals and I knew it was a hungry cry, but for good measure I would burp him, change him, hold him, and try giving him a pacifier, just to cross those things off the list before feeding him again. And sure enough, he was ALWAYS hungry, nothing else satisfied him. So I nursed. And nursed and nursed. I felt like I couldn't go anywhere or have anyone over because he just always wanted to eat! I felt captive to a 2 week old baby.

I started attending two different breastfeeding support groups (yep, those exist too), one at the hospital and one at a "breastfeeding boutique" called Milkalicious. By the way, if you are a BF'ing mama, you will love that store! They had lactation consultants and nurses talk to you and watch you nurse to help you do everything right. I started weighing Levi at these meetings too, so we could track his weight gain. Everyone said he was positioned properly and that I seemed to be making plenty of milk. No one could tell me why he was fussing and constantly hungry.

Well, all this nursing did finally lead to sore nips. So not only was my kid ALWAYS nursing, but it also hurt like heck every time. I busted out the breast pump to put some milk in a bottle so that my poor nipples could have a break, and was shocked to discover that I could barely pump 3 ounces of milk on a good day.

One night I was SO exhausted from feeding him all day (not to mention the sleep deprivation from the night feedings) and STILL having him fuss and cry that I myself broke down in tears and we cried together on the couch. I didn't know what I was doing wrong and I figured I just must not be making enough milk...so I committed the ultimate breastfeeding sin: I supplemented with formula. Now, let me tell you, it's a sad day when you lose trust in your own body's ability to provide food for your baby and turn to the "Evil Manufactured Formula". And everybody tells you that supplementing usually always sabotages breastfeeding. I admit that I kind of felt like a failure! I told the lactation consultant and she just sympathized and told me "the main thing is that your baby is fed, no matter how you do it." She also gave me a list of ways to increase my milk supply, because I was determined that supplementing would be just that: a supplement, not the main source of Levi's meals.

Frustrated, I decided to take matters into my own hands and research all of these symptoms to pinpoint the cause of Levi's fussiness and hunger. Google became my breastfeeding savior! The more I searched for answers, the more I learned that not only was I definitely NOT alone, but that all of these obstacles I had faced were totally, completely NORMAL!! I found tons of information that I wished I had found or been told sooner. Here, my friends, is what I learned:

(I realize this post is getting looong, but hopefully you're still with me, cause there IS a happy ending!)

#1. The most useful bit of knowledge of all: breastfeeding works by supply and demand. The more your baby demands milk, the more your body supplies it. In the first 6 weeks postpartum, your body is establishing your milk supply based on your individual baby's needs. Every time your breasts are emptied, your brain tells your body to produce more milk to fill them back up. Therefore, when your baby nurses frequently, he is working with your brain to tell your body to produce enough milk for his needs. Once you realize this, everything starts to make sense. Who knew how perfectly designed our bodies really were to sustain life?! Amazing!

#2. Babies go through intermittent growth spurts. As a newborn grows, so does his stomach, meaning your milk supply has to cater to this growth. As we have learned, it's supply and demand, people! So when your baby is suddenly ALWAYS hungry, he is telling your bod to start crankin up the milk production to fill his newly enlarged tummy capacity! Growth spurts usually happen at 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, and then at 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. So Leevs was right on target.

#3. Normal pumping output is anywhere between 2-4 oz of milk TOTAL for both breasts for the first couple of months! Anything more than that is simply considered extra good. Also, breastpumps are not as efficient at draining your breasts as your baby is, so chances are your baby is actually consuming more when they nurse directly.

#4. Music to my ears...the unexplained fussiness is 100% NORMAL! Babies usually tend to get fussy during the late afternoon and early evening, regardless of whether they are breastfed or formula fed. No one really knows why. For breastfed babies, it is because your milk supply is at it's lowest point of the day and they are trying to fuel up before going to sleep for the night.

#5. A lot of babies suckle just for the comfort of it, not just when they're hungry...yep, I'm basically a human pacifier a lot of the time!

#6. Super duper long feeding sessions start to get shorter as your baby becomes more efficient at nursing and emptying your breasts...we're down to about 10-20 min sessions now, depending on how hungry Levi is!

SO RELIEVING! Now if anybody ever asks me if breastfeeding is hard, I would tell them yes, but unlike the advice I got, I would tell them WHY. I would tell them that it's not as hard as it is time consuming. But...it is only for a short period of time, really the blink of an eye in respect to your baby's whole life... and it's so worth toughing it out. We rarely need to supplement with formula anymore, and if we do, it's only a couple of ounces and it's AFTER I've nursed him at the breast. That way I know I am still stimulating my milk supply.

By the way, after having experienced both breastfeeding and formula feeding, I can honestly say that breastfeeding is a LOT easier to deal with now that we've gotten the hang of it. For starters, cleaning and sterilizing bottles and bottle nipples is pretty time consuming (especially since we don't have a dishwasher), not to mention having to buy special infant water and heating it to just the right temperature in a separate container before pouring the exact amount into a bottle and then measuring out formula to mix...which doesn't seem SO bad until you have a screaming baby who is hunnnngggrrryyy now. Not to mention the insane cost of formula!

I still usually bring bottles when I have to go out, and believe it or not I still haven't nursed in public yet! I didn't plan on not nursing in public...it just kind of happened I guess. I got a few nursing friendly shirts and a poncho type thing to nurse with, but the after Levi's whole nipple shield/latching problem episode, I learned it was easier to just bring a bottle with me than to fumble around with my boob potentially hanging out. Not only am I pretty shy about such things, but because I worry it would be more work to find a discreet place to sit down and nurse than to just whip out a bottle no matter where I am. But, the great thing is knowing that if I should ever forget a bottle or run out of one while I'm out, I wouldn't have to worry because I am fully equipped to feed my kid whenever, wherever! It's also easier because I can feed him one handed and do lots of other things while I sit and nurse, like go on the computer, talk on the phone, read a book, eat...you can't do that with formula until the baby is old enough to hold their own bottle! I also highly recommend investing in a sling or wrap ( I happen to love both, but use them for different purposes)! You can literally nurse NO HANDED. Today I put Levi in the sling and he nursed while I did dishes, and he is actually nursing in the sling now as I write this using both hands! Levi sleeps in a bassinet right next to me, so when he wakes up in the middle of the night I can just scoop him up and feed him without even leaving my bed, no warming bottles required. I even take naps and nurse him simultaneously! How's that for multitasking?

All in all, I have grown to love breastfeeding and have gone from the brink of giving up to being such an advocate of sticking it out no matter what. I would never look down on people who supplement or stop to fully formula feed because I've been there and I know how hard it can be IF you are not forewarned and forearmed with the right information. And I'll bet most women stop because they think they are not making enough milk or just can't get the hang of it,when inadequate milk supply is rarely the main problem. When I started sharing my troubles, almost every woman I talked to admitted they had the SAME problems! I wish I had known before Levi was born what I know now, but some things are just learned by experience. I can also see how difficult it would be to continue through the hurdles if you didn't have supportive people around you. Fortunately, Clay was very supportive and even went with me to that breastfeeding workshop, even though he was only one of 2 guys there. I was proud that he went with me anyway. My mom didn't breastfeed me or my brother and sister at all, so I couldn't really ask her for advice in the bf'ing department, but she was really supportive nonetheless. I hope my struggles and discoveries can help other women, though! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me! I've learned things that even lactation consultants didn't tell me and I feel like I've become alllmost an expert by now! ;]


By the way, this website was VERY helpful: www.kellymom.com


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