Saturday, April 27, 2013

More on Milk

If something is going well, blog about it and that should take care of things pretty quickly. I re-read my blog post about nursing at 5.5 weeks and I just want to smack me. Jinx things much Kara? This is exactly why I haven't written a word about Eleanor's improved sleeping schedule on here.

Around the 6 week mark, just as it happened with Charlie, my supply dropped significantly. I wasn't doing anything different, eating and drinking the same. I talked to my Mom and it turns out she had the same problem at 6 weeks with all 3 of us. Odd, right?

Unlike Charlie, Eleanor is not a vigorous eater and due to the reflux and that virus she caught a while back would outright refuse to nurse and scream when I tried, no matter the position. In desperation, I pumped and fed her bottles. Boy do my kids love bottles. Both of them. Bottles = awesome. It's so fun when plastic is preferred over you, don't you think?

Eventually I couldn't pump enough. Enter the formula. That was a sad day for me. I was so resolute in making it work this time, of not making the mistakes I made with Charlie and giving up too early. And supplementing with formula is such a slippery slope when you are trying to breastfeed.

To top it off, in typical Eleanor fashion, only a certain formula will do. The expensive stuff, Alimentum. We tried to switch to another and after only an ounce, she broke out in hives. Apparently this is an indicator of a milk protein allergy.

We have visited the lactation consultant often, trying to come up with different approaches to get me back to exclusively breastfeeding. Pumping schedules, herbs, tea, changes in diet, etc. I was pumping all. the. time.

However, when you have a four year old waiting for you to get done feeding the baby so you can play with him, asking him to wait while you pump right after is not popular. You also can't pump right after when you feed baby out and about on play dates and such. And the "nursing vacation" concept doesn't work  when you have an older child to take care of. So I have done as much as I can.

Here are the two most typical feedings for us:

Situation 1: Eleanor shows hunger cues or is about due to be hungry (I try to catch her early) but refuses to latch. Fussiness turns to screaming if I persist. Once she is really hungry, there is no way she will latch. So starving her into compliance backfired big time. We relent and give her a bottle. If I have pumped milk she gets that and if not, formula. I pump right after to try and make up for the feeding, but it is near impossible to trick your body like that.

Situation 2: She latches and feeds for a period of time and then starts to get fussy when the letdowns don't come fast enough. Fussiness and then screaming ensues. It's a partial feeding and when she is hungry 30 minutes later, she won't latch. So we top her off with pumped milk or formula. I pump right after the feeding but barely get anything. Again, you can't trick your body.

Many, many feedings like this and my supply could no longer sustain her. Here at 4 months we are about to hit another growth spurt and I am basically failing at feeding her myself all the time. It is beyond frustrating and disappointing.

My lactation consultant, who has offered me every suggestion she has, gently told me at our last visit that sometimes we just have to deal with what we are dealt. In other words, it was time to make peace with this situation and quit beating myself up.

So that's what I did, though I still struggle with it. The best I can do is make sure every drop I can possibly produce is fed to her. If she won't nurse, it's in bottles. I have the best luck nursing when she is half asleep, so I try to make that happen as often as possible.

I relish those times she will nurse, never knowing if it will be my last. We don't plan on having more children and so this is my last time to breast feed a baby. I anticipate a period of mourning when we are all done, but I think many women go through that.

Since I am 0 for 2 on the exclusive breastfeeding front, I watch women who can with a certain fascination. There was a mom nursing at the children's museum last week and I had to try hard not to stare. She had such a relaxed confidence as she nursed, a feeling I have never experienced. She was feeding her baby, probably thinking of other things, lightly patting him on the bum. And then they were done, not giving it a second thought, until the next time he was hungry. It was just a given he would latch, nurse and become full. Such a simple concept that brings out such complex feelings of envy in me.

I wish it was more of a comfort knowing that I have done, and continue to do, everything I can to make this work. It still hurts. I know eventually the focus of taking care of Eleanor will be on things other than feeding and the hurt will fade. But it still just sucks, you know?

I'm in a routine now with the pumping and attempting to nurse that is sustainable long-term. My goal is for my supply to not drop any more and to partially breastfeed as long as I can. Can I make it to my original goal of one year? Stay tuned. I hope so. Maybe what I can't accomplish in completeness, I can make up for in longevity.

So that's my journey so far. It's somewhat cathartic to write about it. I really can't think of another good reason to blog about it! Maybe it will help me move on.

Adjusting to Two

A lot of people ask how Brad and I are adjusting to going from one child to two. I don't give it a lot of thought most of the time because I can't remember that well what life was like without Eleanor. Isn't it funny how that happens? I think about our time in London and by default try to remember Eleanor being there. Which she was, in utero, but it feels like she's always been a part of the family.

Going from one to two was much, much easier than going from no kids to one. People differ on that I think - some find one more challenging than the other. But going from total freedom and independence to having a baby that required our constant attention was a total life-shock for us.

Not to mention dealing with Brad getting laid off during the financial crisis and starting a new job 5 weeks after I gave birth that required tons of hours and constant travel. And post partum depression. I could go on. Anyways, I look back at those first few months of Charlie as just a huge learning process and very intense, emotionally.

Knowing what to expect this time, as well as already having most of our lives dictated by our existing child, made it a lot easier for us - even though Eleanor was a much more difficult baby in the beginning. Since she started napping and sleeping at night, this whole two kid thing feels totally doable. We already know we have shuffle giving each other free time, that we aren't going out on the weekends much right now, that hobbies are on the back burner, etc.

Having already made those sacrifices once, we are just enjoying the process a lot more, knowing it to be extremely temporary - and that we will miss many of the phases once they are over. Though I do not really miss the newborn sleep pattern, 12 weeks of extreme sleep deprivation while still needing to entertain a 4 year old.  Brutal! Will someone tell me, why did I ever think having one baby was hard?

Charlie continues to amaze us with how accepting he is with Eleanor. I frequently have to tell him to wait or that we can't do something or he needs to be quiet because of Eleanor. While he will sometimes let me know this is frustrating to him by acting out or getting mad, he never directs that anger towards her. It's like he doesn't blame it on her, which to me seems to be mature beyond his years.

And yes, I realize how extremely lucky this makes us. I have watched his friends be horribly mean to their younger siblings, just as I was pretty mean to my sister Meredith when she was a baby. That was really what I was expecting. And we may having issues waiting for us down the road. I can already tell when she gets mobile and grabby, he is going to find it upsetting to have his toys messed with.

So life with two is pretty good now that we are sleeping - and Charlie goes to preschool Monday through Thursday to burn some energy. The summer has me in a white hot panic on how I am going to keep him busy. Fridays already feel like the longest day. I may be singing a different tune by late July!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Three Months of Eleanor

At the risk of jinxing everything and never sleeping again, I say this: we have turned a corner. Starting at 11 weeks, right after my mom came to visit, Eleanor started sleeping a little bit longer at night. At first there were some 5 hour stretches. Then 6 and a couple of 7's. Now we are in the 7 to 8 hour range, followed by a 3 to 4 hour sleep.

She goes to bed around 7:30 or 8, gets up anywhere between 2 and 4, eats, burps and chills for an hour and then goes back down until 7:30 or 8:30. It is tiring to do every night, but Brad helps out when he can, on the weekends and when work isn't too demanding.

We learned an important sleep lesson with Eleanor: she doesn't really like to be soothed or fussed with when it's time to sleep. We had been killing ourselves trying to coax her into a nice deep sleep before putting her down, but I guess that was overstimulating to her.

I discovered this tidbit out of frustration: it was the middle of the night when she was still getting up 2 to 3 times a night and she would just not settle so I could put her down. I was exhausted and about to go haywire, so I put her down wide awake and left the room. Came back 5 minutes later and she was fast asleep. So I tried it the next few times, all with the same result. Let it be known: girlfriend needs her "me" time.

Her nap schedule is still all over the place. I have a friend with a 14 month old and I'm using her rule: at least one nap at home per day. The others we just have to be on the go or Charlie and I would never get to do anything. Her longest nap is typically in the afternoon, usually 2 to 3 hours. The morning nap is shorter and may be two naps if we are home. I'm looking forward to being on more of a nap schedule so I can plan things for Charlie, but so far I'm letting her make the call on when she sleeps.

She is still a very long baby but starting to chunk up a little bit. At least, chunk up for a baby of ours.
We went for a lactation consultant appointment and she had gained another 8 ounces in a week, so she's doing well. I need to do another post on the whole milk situation because that has been an adventure.

Her reflux persists but there's only screaming when we are late on giving her medicine. Some days the pain seems to be worse than others. Is this diet related? I'm not sure. I gave up dairy for the third time and saw no real improvement in her congestion and eczema. Well, I had some soy products and those seemed to really irritate her.

Unrelated: have you ever had vegan cheese? It is the nastiest food ever.

I suppose I could go to extremes and cut casein and whey and read labels like a fiend to ensure I never consumed a drop of dairy anything.  Maybe that would make a difference. But to be honest, my already iffy milk supply dips when I cut out dairy and her congestion and eczema are mild. The reflux has responded well to the zantac.

She spits up a ton, but now that she's gaining weight that's just a laundry problem. When she no longer seems in pain, we'll cut the zantac. When she quits spitting up I'll start wearing nicer clothes.

Eleanor is wearing 3 to 6 month clothes and I can't wait for it to warm up so we can try out more of her springtime wardrobe. Like her brother, a lot of clothes that are long enough are baggy. Where's a baby tailor when you need one? I'm starting to shop more for her and it's a blast. For some reason, though, I still gravitate towards the little boy clothes. Force of habit I suppose. Anyone have a little boy they want me to shop for?

I bought her first pair of little size 1 shoes this month when my mom was in town. Some little cap toe rose gold flats. We went to dinner and had some wine and the next thing I know, I'm spending too much on baby shoes! She also has some little white Keds handed down from Charlie. So we are all tricked out on our feet. Next stop: headbands!

Right before 3 months, she started grasping things, mostly my hair. I've pulled out all the little baby toys from the attic that I tucked away when Charlie outgrew them. She's slowly starting to grab at them too.

Her cooing has gotten a little louder and more varied. She does a high pitched noise occasionally. She's just a soft spoken little thing! She smiles all the time, though, and sometimes looks like she's laughing, but no noise comes out. Obviously, I failed to get a picture of such a face. She stares at my phone or camera and stops smiling when I try to catch it.

Now that I'm not so tired I can barely see, I'm really loving my time with her. She is such a sweet baby and since she's feeling better, she's a happy baby too. She loves to take a bath and have little conversations. I'm looking forward to seeing what little personality is hiding in there!