Saturday, April 30, 2011

Breastfeeding Part V

Finally I am wrapping up the breastfeeding series!  This post is a collection of things to do and buy that can help you have a smoother experience.  I hope these posts have been helpful!  Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

1. Read "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" (8th ed.)

This is the "bible" of breastfeeding.  It's published by La Leche League and covers pretty much everything you need to know about breastfeeding.  Read it while you're pregnant and have it on your bookshelf for when questions come up after the baby is born.

2. Take a breastfeeding class

Most hospitals offer a breastfeeding class to expectant mothers.  Our Bradley class covered breastfeeding, and I also took the hospital's class.  The latter was the most helpful.  It was taught by a lactation consultant for the hospital so she was able to go over information specific to the hospital. 

3. Have a plan

Think about what you want to happen in the moments after the birth and make sure you convey it to the nurses.  If you want the baby placed on your chest immediately and you want to nurse before they take him away to weigh/measure, make sure they know that.  Think about what you want to happen if you have to have a c-section.  I reached down and pulled Avery up on my chest as soon as I saw her, and I held her there skin-to-skin while they stitched me up.  I also got her latched on before the pediatrician examined her.  (We also didn't give her a bath until like 2 weeks after she was born, and I wouldn't do that again either!  Sponge bath is enough; poor baby was traumatized.)  I keep telling Adam that IF I decide to have another baby, I'm planning to do it either at home or in a birthing center, and that I don't want my newborn baby taken from me and crying hysterically while some stranger pokes and prods under a bright light.

4. See a lactation consultant

Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff.  After you and baby get to your room and get comfortable, ask to see the LC!  She can answer any questions you have, help you get baby latched, and show you some different positions to nurse in.  While you are at it, go ahead and make sure the pediatrician you choose for your baby has a LC on staff too, so if you run into any problems or have any questions after you leave the hospital, you have someone to call.  Don't hesitate to talk to a LC and nip any nursing problems in the bud.

5. Lansinoh

Buy a tube of this stuff.  You will want it a few days after the baby is born when your nipples start getting dry & cracked from being sucked on.  It won't hurt the baby, so go ahead and slather a bunch of it on.  You probably won't need it in the hospital, but go ahead and put it in your hospital bag.  Have your husband put it on the baby's bum before diapering her: it will prevent the meconium from sticking to her skin and make it easier to clean her up!  That stuff is like sticky tar.

6. Nursing pillow

First I had a Boppy, but after I saw the hospital's LC, who showed me the Brest Friend, I was sold.  Get the Brest Friend.  The name is ridiculous, but the concept is golden.  With the Boppy, the baby kept sliding down into the space between my belly and the pillow.  Since the Brest Friend fastens around you, it prevents that from happening.  It makes it much, much easier to get the baby positioned and latched, and lets you relax without the baby sliding away when she's so tiny.  I used my Brest Friend pillow until Avery was seven months old, and even brought it back to the mainland with me in my suitcase when we traveled to my sister's wedding!

7. Nursing station

Find the chair you like to nurse in best, and set up roost there!  Have your ipod, computer, books, whatever you like to entertain yourself, plus plenty of water, burp cloths, baby blankets, Lansinoh, and snacks nearby.  Now sit down and nurse the baby.  Have other people bring you drinks and food!  I stayed in my room and the nursery in my rocking chair for at least two weeks - did not even come downstairs.

8. Nipple shells

Ah, yes.  I would have loved to have some of these, but I couldn't find them locally and didn't want to wait for them to come from Amazon because I figured I wouldn't really need them anymore by the time they arrived.  I suggest you have some on hand in case you want to use them.  Basically they keep your bra or shirt (or anything) from touching your nipples.  When you're sore and the skin is chapped, the last thing you want is your bra getting stuck to the nipple skin or rubbing on them!  It was only a few days... ok, two weeks, maybe?  Less?  ... that I really needed these.  I actually used saran wrap over some lansinoh inside my bra instead and it worked, though probably not advised because there's no air circulation.  I would express some milk and dab that on the nipple area, let it air dry, then slather on Lansinoh and cover with saran.

9. Bookmark Kellymom is a lifesaver!  I was on that website CONSTANTLY in the first few weeks, reading pretty much everything she had posted.  It's a wealth of awesome information.  Definitely bookmark the page and poke around on there before you start nursing.  Then when questions come up, you'll know, oh I saw something about that on Kellymom, and you can go find the answer.  I still go on there regularly whenever I am wondering about something breastfeeding related.

10. Check out Dr. Jack Newman

This is another FANTASTIC breastfeeding website.  Go watch all his videos so you know what a really good latch looks like!  Then check out his articles too, in case you have any questions.

11. ... and Dr. Sears

Another website.  I love Dr. Sears, and his website has some great info on it.  If you're like me, you like to research everything and get several opinions, so add his site to your bookmarks too.  The link goes right to his breastfeeding articles, but he addresses other parenting topics as well.

12. Get a nursing bra

Preferably one with no underwire.  Oh, sure, they will tell you at Nordstrom's that underwire is just fine for nursing moms.  Maybe.  But understand that the milk ducts go under the breast and around the sides near the armpits and you're more likely to get plugged ducts and mastitis with hard wire compressing those areas.   My favorite nursing bra is at the link above (Bravado Bliss), and it's great for those with larger breasts.  Or check out Birth and Baby where they have a bra fitting guide, as well as recommendations for the best bra for your shape/size.

13. And a nursing sleep bra

I started wearing one of these to sleep while preggo because my chest got so large that it was more comfortable to have some support.  Even if you aren't on the larger side, you will probably still want a couple of these sleep bras, both to sleep in and to lounge around in.  At night, in the early days, you will want something to hold nursing pads in place because you will probably experience some leaking.  The Medela sleep bras in the link are the ones I like.

14. And some bra pads

I leaked for months, so these were a necessity.  Nothing like being in public and having your boobs leak!  And at night, on the rare nights I got 4-5 hours of sleep, there would inevitably be some leaking too.  After a while your supply evens out and you just produce whatever baby is eating, so the leaking stops.

15. Have a nursing cover 

You won't need it right away if you follow my advice to hunker down in your nest for a few weeks and don't go out in public, but eventually you will want to nurse away from home and these make it easy because they hook around your neck.  I actually more often use an Aiden and Anais muslin swaddling blanket knotted around my neck because it's so hot here and they are really breathable.

16. Find La Leche League in your area

To me, it's really helpful to go to the meetings just to be around other breastfeeding moms!  But there have been a few times when I've had questions answered at the meetings.  Or felt like I've been able to give support to other moms.  It's a good resource to have available.

17. Consider a breast pump

Before Avery was born I got a Pump in Style (PIS) and planned to use it.  I wasn't sure whether I would go back to work, but I figured I would need one either way because if I didn't go back, I would still want to pump a bottle every once in a while.  As you know from reading my previous posts, Avery never took a bottle, so although I did pump milk occasionally, it wasn't often, and I haven't pumped in months.  I probably still would have gotten the pump even knowing how little I use it.  I'm not even sure I would have gotten a cheaper pump because I wanted something easy to use that would last through multiple children.  So, should you get a pump or what?  Here's my $0.02.  If you know for sure you are going to stay home with baby, and that bottles won't be more than a few times a week if that, you can probably get away with a less expensive model or even just a hand pump.  You might find yourself pumping even LESS than you expect (like me) and you don't need to spend the money on something you won't use.  You can always go get a better pump if you find you are pumping more than you expected or you just want a better pump.  If you know you are going to be away from the baby for any length of time, and you're going to be pumping frequently, definitely spring for a PIS or similar.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Avery's Birthday Party!

It was such a fun day! I can't believe it's come and gone already!

Untitled from Michelle Seiler on Vimeo.

Music is "Lo Boob Oscillator" by Stereolab

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Avery!

Oh my. Can you believe this day is here already? I sure can't. Hard to believe it was already a year ago that we were in the hospital meeting you for the first time. Happy Birthday to the little love of my life. And Happy Easter too!

We celebrated her birthday yesterday with a small party (fairy theme!). Pics and video to follow soon.

For her birthday, Avery is learning to walk. Here's a video!

Untitled from Michelle Seiler on Vimeo.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Avery's First Year

I love reliving all these memories!  I've watched this at least fifty times and I get misty every time.  I love this little girl!  Hope you enjoy.

Music: "So Damn Lucky" by Dave Matthews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Breastfeeding, Part IV

Before I wrap up this series with my final post about the stuff you can get and do to have a smoother breastfeeding experience, I want to address Megan's question about the role of the father.  It's an interesting question!

First I want to point out something about natural selection.  You've probably all heard Darwin's theory reduced to the maxim "survival of the fittest."  Well, that is true, to some extent, but it's only part of the story.  If natural selection was all about survival of the fittest, then how on earth do you explain a peacock's tail feathers?

That extravagant display of beautiful feathers certainly doesn't help him run faster.  To the contrary, it probably slows him down!  It definitely doesn't help him be less conspicuous to predators.  How could you hide that costume?!  It doesn't help him find food.  In fact, at first glance, it would seem the peacock's tail feathers make him LESS fit to survive!  So why would evolution select for such a seemingly maladaptive trait?  Well, the answer is obvious if you look at the picture above: to attract a lovely peahen mate!

Female peacocks over the millennia selected to mate with the males that had the biggest, um... tails.  They liked the guys with the prettiest display.  Who knows for sure why peahen tastes lean the way they do, but we can infer they like the guy with the grandest, prettiest display because it signals his fitness.  Any guy who has to carry around that huge decoration has to be strong, fast and cunning enough to evade predators, as well as healthy enough to grow the tail in the first place and keep it looking nice.  Females mate with the pretty-tailed guy and his genes get into the next generation.  Meanwhile, those whose tails don't measure up don't get as many chances at reproduction and their genes dwindle.

[This is less to the point, but as you can see, the female is less spectacularly adorned.  That's because she doesn't need to look nice to attract a male.  The males take it wherever they can get it (so to speak).  Because in many species sperm is infinite and males don't have to spend time gestating, they maximize their reproduction by sowing their seed far and wide.  Females on the other hand have to be choosy.  They can only get pregnant by one guy at a time and then they have to invest in their unborn and even young offspring.  So obviously they want only the best.  The males use their tails to prove they are the best and get the females to choose them as a mate.] 

So it's not really "survival of the fittest."  It's more like "survival of those best able to reproduce viable offspring (who themselves are also successful breeders)."  You see, natural selection is the propagation of genes into the next generation, and the next, and the next.  All species have different nuances to their mating strategies; this is only one example.  And of course, not all traits are selected ONLY because they make for an attractive mate... although at the end of the day, that's what much of it boils down to because you can't reproduce or have your offspring be successful at reproducing if you are starving, ill or dead!

Ok, so what about humans?  If sperm is infinite and males maximize their reproductive strategy by sowing their seed as often as possible, why do humans form pair-bonds that endure for many years of reproducing, or lifetimes?  First, because human females selected guys who stuck around.  And secondly because human males probably figured out it was a better way to have viable offspring.  Remember you not only need to reproduce, but ideally see your offspring reproduce in order to see your genes succeed.  You'll also recall that due to bipedalism and our huge brains, human infants are essentially born premature - completely helpless - and require a significant investment from a caregiver in order to survive.  (If only we were like cows and our babies came out and started toddling after us as we went about our business!)  So mom's wrapped up in gestating and nursing for at least a few years: both very energy intensive and not at all conducive to running down dinner.  She needs a mate who will bring home the bacon, as they say.  So the choosy female picks a male she knows has resources to care for her and her offspring.  Over many generations of selectively mating with the guys who want to share and take care, we get human male-female pair-bonds.  Basically what I'm saying is that the males of our species ARE biologically inclined to be very involved with their mate and their offspring.

[Notice I didn't say we are monogamous, though.  I mean, we are, to a large extent, but that is mostly a cultural construct for our species.  Biologically speaking, humans are a mildly polygamous species, which actually benefits females more.  Are you surprised?  Well, think about it: in polygamy, two or three women can share a very fit and "wealthy" (possessing of resources like food, shelter, or able to acquire them easily) male with plenty of resources to go around; under monogamy, each person gets one mate, which insures that all the males can get a mate (good for them and also explaining why adulterous wives are historically severely punished), but that some females will get stuck with less desirable mates.  In this discussion, I'm leaving aside our modern cultural persuasions like romance and commitment.  This is thinking only in terms of reproductive success, i.e., getting the best sperm/resources!  Remember we are talking about the 99% of human history spent as hunter-gatherers.  I'm also leaving out many nuances; this is a bird's eye view.] 

Human males are one of the more involved with their offspring, and they form bonds and attachments to their young, which makes sense because human infants require such a huge investment.  Another species that behaves similarly to humans in this respect is canines.  In the wild, male wolves will range far from the pack to find food and bring it back to their mate and offspring.  They will also spend time playing with their pups.  There are also a couple of primate species where the males will carry, groom and play with their young. 

How does this relate to breastfeeding?  As you can probably surmise, males don't have a role in that, biologically speaking.  They provide food, shelter and protection to the female so she can breastfeed.  No, bottle feeding is not "natural."  But that doesn't mean it should never be done.  I'm not going to say it's just as good to bottle feed, even if it's breastmilk.  It's not.  Breastmilk comes out at the right temperature (mom's body can even run hotter or colder depending on what the infant needs) and is full of a mix of enzymes and antibodies perfectly suited to the infant's immediate environment.  Once breastmilk is frozen, many of the enzymes are destroyed.  And month's old milk doesn't provide antibodies to the germs your baby picked up at the grocery store this morning.  But that certainly doesn't mean it should never be done.

Bottle feeding is not a historically new concept.  Since the advent of pastoralism (and the domestication of animals), humans have been giving their babies other species' milk.  Archaeologists have discovered ancient bottles, so we know babies have been fed by artificial boobs long before our modern times.

We are genetically ancient beings living in a modern world.  There are no (or very few) selective pressures operating on our genes today.  It's quite easy in nearly every corner of the modern world to make it to reproductive age and have a baby.  Our biology is at sometimes at odds with our environment.  We expect our babies to fit into our modern lives; we don't want to change our lives to accommodate our babies.  We certainly don't want to be manipulated by our babies (I say this tongue in cheek; I don't think our babies are capable of manipulating us, but it is laughable and sad that my own pediatrician told me this when Avery was only about 4 months old - that if I nurse her at night any more, she is just manipulating me into being a human pacifier).

Our modern baby gadgets - formula, bottles, swings, bouncy seats, pacifiers - are convenient for us as parents, but to the baby, they are second fiddle to nursing at the breast, being worn in a sling next to your heart, gentle motion, and sleeping with mom.

I'm not suggesting you need to be a martyr for your children.  I only want to point out some aspects of human biology that might explain why your infant behaves the way she does and help guide your responses.  At the end of the day, you will follow your own instincts about parenting your own baby.  You still live in the modern world and there are likely going to be times when you make compromises between what is best for your baby and what is best for you.  There are going to be times when you want to give your baby a bottle, whether it's because you've decided to return to work, or just because you want to go out for a while without your baby.  And either way, it's ok to do that.

For me, after Avery was about six weeks old, I started pumping milk to give her bottles.  I was pretty sure I wasn't going to go back to work, but I thought Adam might be able to give her a bottle occasionally at night or in the early morning so I could sleep, or maybe on a weekend so I could go shopping by myself.  She drank milk from a bottle ONE TIME.  That was it.  We tried for months - not every day, but maybe a few times a week or every other week - and she just never wanted to drink from the bottle.  Admittedly, we didn't push the issue since we hated seeing her upset or crying when I could so easily just feed her from the breast and she would be happy.  Would she eventually have taken a bottle if forced?  Probably.  But in the end we weren't willing to put her through that.  (And her reticence to drink from a bottle, plus my reticence to see her upset, WAS a factor in my decision to stay home.  It wasn't the only thing, or even the most important...)  After I decided not to return to work, our efforts petered out and I haven't pumped milk in probably six months.  The same went with the pacifier.  She never wanted it, and we never forced the issue because we were heartbroken to see her cry so pitifully when I could just nurse her (as nature intended) and pacify her.  If Avery would have taken a bottle, I would have happily let Adam feed her sometimes.  If she had taken a pacifier, I would have probably used it at times - like at night or in the car.  (Now I don't mind that she doesn't take a pacifier because I don't have to wean her off it.)

Now I need to wrap this up because my little cave-ling is upset that I'm typing instead of paying attention to her!

Thoughts?  Comments?  Let me hear them!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wish y'all could come!

Avery's birthday is really on the 24th but since it's Easter we're having her party on Saturday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Breastfeeding, Part IV

You've probably heard that babies are takers!  As newborns they take from you SIGNIFICANTLY more than they give back.  As they grow up, babies and kids start to give back, and parenting becomes more rewarding in and of itself.  When your baby stops nursing to smile up at you, or crawls into your lap just to give you a hug: that's the payoff.   It builds you up to want to give more back to your little one.

You can't stop your baby from being needy.  Nor can you expect to be a perfect parent and have endless wells of patience.  There will be times with your baby, and periodically throughout your child's life, when your cup is constantly being emptied by parenting and nurturing and you feel overwhelmed by their intense needs.  The best thing you can do during those times is to make sure your cup is getting filled up in other ways so you can continue to have more to give.  Here are some ways to do that.

1. Take care of yourself.   I mean, this one is obvious, but you need to be reminded.  As they say on the airplane, if you are traveling with a baby or a child, put your own oxygen mask on FIRST, before assisting the other person.  You absolutely cannot take care of others unless you take care of yourself.  So, fill your cup by eating plenty of nutritious food, staying hydrated, sleeping when the baby sleeps, getting fresh air and sunshine, etc.  And prevent your cup from being emptied by unnecessary responsibilities: jettison anything that drains you but doesn't HAVE to be done (now or by you) like housework or errands or too much exercise.  And this leads right into the next point...

2. GET HELP.   If you can get your mom or sister or aunt or that nice lady in the grocery store or seriously anyone helpful to come and stay with you for a few weeks or longer after the baby is born, DO IT.  If friends or neighbors offer to help, take them up on it.  If you need to pay someone to come clean your house for you to feel sane, it's worth it.  Outsource absolutely everything you can aside from caring for the baby.  Let other people take care of YOU so that your energy is freed up for caring for the baby.  If someone can come stay with you, let them cook and bring you food and snacks and water to your nursing station.  Let them do the laundry and the dishes.  And don't feel guilty about it!

3. Get what YOU need.  What one thing that you're not doing or getting would make your life immeasurably better?  Figure it out and make sure you do or get it.  Find a way.  Negotiate with the other adult caregivers in your baby's life to make it happen, whether it's more sleep or time alone, or time to work out.  A little can go a long way.  Even an hour at the gym, or coffee shop with your book can fill your cup enough to get through a few more days.

4. Change your Mommy Mantras.  Recognize that you are creating your experience with your thoughts.  At 3 am when you're awoken from a deep sleep by a jarring cry, and you find yourself pacing the dark halls of your house, humming and patting, you probably automatically start thinking, "This sucks.  I hate this.  I am so tired.  I don't want to do this.  I can't do this another night!"  You might find yourself resenting your partner, who didn't even stir when the baby cried: "It's unfair that he's still sleeping and I'm going to let him have it in the morning!"  You might even start preparing your speech about all the things that are overwhelming you.  None of these thoughts are helpful!  And you DO have the power to turn them off.  If you find yourself repeating these negative things over and over in your head, stop.  Find something positive to replace them.  Like sometimes I like to sing You Are My Sunshine because it makes me feel more loving towards the baby - "you'll never know, dear, how much I love you!"

5. Think of your future self.  This is another great way to stop yourself from repeating negative mommy mantras over and over, but it deserves its own point.  Imagine yourself 5 or 10 years from now, looking back at your cherished baby's infancy.  You're gonna miss this.  You're going to look back and think fondly of the sweet snuggles and the way your baby felt sleeping in your arms in the small hours of the night when it's just you and her in the quiet house.  Also, you most likely won't remember much of the frustrations or struggles - or at least they won't seem so significant. 

6. Don't pay so much attention.  If you are keeping track, you're going to get frustrated. I can all but guarantee it!  For example, don't count the number of times you're nursing or for how long, especially at night!  It doesn't matter.  Don't watch the clock.  In fact, if you have a clock near your bed or nursing station, get rid of it!  When you're keeping time and counting, you'll start to get overwhelmed and think negative thoughts.  So just don't pay attention.  I have barely a clue how many times I'm nursing these days because I really don't pay attention and I'm definitely more relaxed than when I was looking at the clock and thinking "she JUST nursed for 45 minutes and now she wants to nurse AGAIN and it's the FIFTH time today and it's only NOON!".

7. This too shall pass.  I said it in the last post, but I'm repeating it here.  If you don't like something about how your baby is behaving, just wait a couple weeks and it will change!  This is really true during the first year!  If your baby is fussing all the time, in a couple weeks she will probably be different.  Yes you will invest a LOT in the beginning, but we're talking a few years of intense parenting: such a short season of your life. 

You're not going to love every minute of breastfeeding (or parenting).  These are some things I use to get through those rough moments. 

What do YOU do in those moments when you are feeling overwhelmed?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Breastfeeding, Part III

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting - for me anyway - is how relentless it is.  You don't get a break from being a parent.  Ever!  Whether you are tired or sick or in a bad mood or whatever.  The baby is still there and still has needs.  And that's especially true about breastfeeding.  If you choose to exclusively breastfeed, you're IT!  Forever and ever, amen.  Well, at least until you wean.  If you follow the advice of most lactation specialists to not give any artificial nipples to your baby for at least six weeks (to establish a good milk supply), then you're really, really IT.

Before Avery's birth I felt pretty confident about breastfeeding.  I expected it to come naturally and go smoothly.  Maybe that's why it seemed so challenging to me in the beginning.  Don't get me wrong.   Breastfeeding is wonderful.  Really, it has been one of the best experiences of my life by far.  Knowing that I'm able to nurture and feed my baby is empowering.  I have so enjoyed the bonding, the cuddling and the closeness.  Plus it's so convenient.  You don't have to mess with bottles or powders or how many ounces.  You can go anywhere and your baby's food is always ready to go, no extra fuss.  In the middle of the night when you're tired, you can just plug the baby in; you don't have to fiddle with measuring and mixing or heating.  And it's a powerful parenting tool that I've been glad to have on many occasions.  It's a fast way to soothe, calm, or reassure your baby when stressful things happen, to say nothing of its usefulness in inducing sleep!

All told, my experience HAS gone smoothly.  I haven't had any major problems (supply issues, health issues like mastitis or thrush, baby problems like tongue tie) - we've been pretty lucky to have an overall great experience.   But  it does have its ups and downs.

In the beginning, it hurts!  I'm sure you will read or be told that if the baby is latched correctly you will feel no pain and I say anyone who says that is a lying liar.  Don't believe them!  They will only make you second guess yourself and feel like you're doing something wrong!  If someone suddenly started sucking on ANY part of you for so long, it would generate some pain in the beginning.  You want to smoosh your boob like a sandwich and get the baby to take in a good amount of breast tissue beyond just the nipple, but when they are first born, their mouths are actually really tiny and they have zero head control, so getting them positioned and latched correctly is hard.

For me, the first couple months were a jumble of pain and working on latch technique and struggling to find and keep a comfortable position.  It's already becoming kind of blurry, but I think things started to get better (easier and less painful) after about 6 weeks and then by 3 months I felt pretty confident and comfortable.  The first time the baby latched on was kind of toe curling.  Yikes!  After a minute or two of sucking it got better, but I was feeling pretty sore for at least a month.  At first the oil-producing glands around your nipples aren't working fast enough so the skin gets pretty dried out.  I had dry, cracking skin that stuck to my shirt (adding insult to injury!) and then of course, it's getting sucked on constantly too.  I resorted to slathering on Lansinoh and covering it with saran wrap because I couldn't find nipple shields locally (more on those later!), and that helped.  Taking a shower was murder, I couldn't stand the water falling on my boobs!  I did get engorged, but not horribly or painfully so.  If I was feeling full, I just nursed.  I never had such severe engorgement that getting latched was a problem.  And I found positioning the baby to be difficult.  Maybe it's because I have large breasts (34 G ... as in GIANT; I used to be a 34 C!), but I definitely needed my nursing pillow and the right hold to get a comfortable latch.  I used that pillow for seven months!  I didn't NEED it that long, but it was more comfortable.  It took me a long time to be comfortable nursing away from home without my pillow!

Not to mention, like I said, I didn't want to give Avery a pacifier or a bottle for the first six weeks, so nursing seemed endless and sometimes overwhelmingly so in the beginning.  If it was 3 am or the baby had just finished nursing for an hour and she wanted to nurse again, it was all on me.  I probably spent 8-10 hours a day nursing in the first couple of months!  And maybe MORE during those growth-spurt times when she needed to bump up my supply.  Of course, I've said before that I have a sensitive baby who liked to nurse a LOT and wanted to be held ALL THE TIME and had a high sucking need.  Non-nutritive suckling is important for babies and nature's original pacifier was the boob!  I figured my baby had good reasons for her needs (you read about them in Part I and Part II),  but knowing that didn't necessarily make it easier to cope with in the beginning.  Plus, Avery never did take a pacifier or a bottle, despite our attempts.  Looking back, it hasn't been that big of a deal, but during the newborn phase it seemed sometimes like I was DOOMED to life as a milk cow!  I worked until the day I went into labor, so I literally went from being a busy career girl, involved in the world, working out, reading, doing what I felt like when I felt like it, to suddenly being subsumed by this tiny, helpless creature.  It's a lot to deal with! 

Anyway, all of that got better.  Way, way better.  The baby gets bigger and more coordinated and eventually can just latch herself.  The pain goes away for the most part.  The engorgement and leaking stop.  At some point she stopped needing to nurse for marathon sessions and now she mostly only nurses for 5-10 minutes unless she's trying to go to sleep.  In my next post, I will talk about some things I've learned to help cope with your baby's intense needs.  I'll leave you with just a short piece of advice, though... set your expectations, or rather, DON'T set your expectations!  Be prepared to go with the flow is what I'm trying to say.  It's a true re-shaping of character in some ways.  If you can give yourself over, you will find peace.  Yes, it's very zen.  And remember that although you are putting yourself and your desires on hold, it really is such a short season of your life.  This too shall pass.  I still have to remind myself of that often, but it is certainly true.

New trick

Avery learned a new trick. I think I told you she stood up on her own a few times at the beach last week. Well a couple days ago while skyping with Yaya I mentioned that I'm surprised Avery isn't any closer to walking, when all of a sudden she just stood up on her own. We cheered and clapped and she was so proud of herself! She opened her mouth wide and flapped her hands so much she lost her balance. Then she wanted to do it over and over again while her adoring fans cheered her on. She's been practicing whenever she gets the chance. I have yet to get a picture of it but hopefully I can catch one this weekend.

ETA: I got one!  It's kind of blurry, but there ya go.

Also, baths are more fun with a buddy!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Breastfeeding, Part II

In Part I we were talking about how our biology as human animals influences breastfeeding.  Understanding the evolution of our species helps to make sense of why your baby behaves as he does and hopefully will guide your responses to be more in harmony with his needs (and therefore have a happier baby!). 

It's estimated that we humans became a separate species about 1.5 million years ago.  The advent of agriculture, and hence, civilization, occurred only about 10,000 years ago.  Our species has spent 99% of its existence in a hunter-gatherer type lifestyle.  That means that for most of human history, babies fed only on their mothers' milk.  Supplementation by other species' milk probably occurred once animals were domesticated, but pastoral living did not pre-date agricultural by very much.  We can infer from the studied behavior of hunter-gatherer groups still around in the last couple centuries that their infants were with their mothers constantly - carried during the day and sleeping together at night - and fed on-demand around the clock.  Indeed, babies who demanded this high level of attention were more likely to survive and not be carried off by a lion! 

In addition, the natural age of weaning for a human infant is probably much later than is practiced in western culture - probably between 2.5 and 7 years!  Research on cultural groups around the world, age of weaning in other primates, and human skeletal remains supports this.  Only in the west are babies weaned before one year of age, and most nurse for several years still today.  The drive to suckle continues throughout the first several years, as anyone who has seen a three year old with a pacifier stuck in his mouth can attest.  Human infants evolved with breastmilk as their primary or sole food until about two years of age, and then gradually weaned over a period of several years.  (This research is well documented and a few minutes of googling will unearth numerous sources.)   There are many reasons why human infants would have evolved this feeding pattern including inconsistent availability of foods during the millions of years we spent as hunter-gatherers, protection from predation, nutritional efficiency, and bonding in a social species. 

From a nutritional standpoint, you should breastfeed as long as you can and are comfortable doing so.  The WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years or more.  Studies show many benefits of breastmilk for babies, and the longer babies are breastfed, the more they benefit. 

The mechanics of the breast and lactation also indicate feeding on demand is appropriate.  The more the baby suckles and empties the breast, the more milk is produced.  It's a supply and demand operation.  Nursing as often and as long as your baby wants, especially in the first few months, ensures you have an adequate supply of milk.  When baby goes through growth spurts, he may nurse even more, bumping up your supply and making you hungry, thirsty and tired.

The first milk that comes out of the breast at each feeding is called foremilk.  This is milk left over from the last feeding.  As the milk sits in the breast between feedings, fat is reabsorbed into your body, so foremilk is lower in fat content.  It's more hydrating for the baby, but less satiating.  The fattier hindmilk that comes out after baby has been suckling a while makes him feel full and satisfied.  The more frequently you nurse, the more fatty milk your baby gets because the fat hasn't reabsorbed yet.  Babies who are put on a schedule and only allowed to nurse every few hours may get a bigger volume of liquid at once, but it won't be as filling.  Sometimes if baby is crying after a nursing session, mom may assume she doesn't have enough milk when in reality, baby is not getting sufficient fat content to stay full.

We're going through a bit of a difficult phase around here at the moment.  I think my little cherub is about to pop out her first tooth!  As a result she has reverted to only napping in 15 mintue intervals and waking about 20 times every night.  At any rate, she is demanding my attention right now and trying to "help" mommy type, so I'm going to wrap up Part II and come back to talk about my own breastfeeding experience next time! 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Breastfeeding, Part I

I spent lots of time (while walking the baby around trying to get her to sleep!) thinking about what I want to say about breastfeeding: the tone I want to take and how I want to say it.  This is not a simple topic to address and I'm not sure which angle to approach it from.  I realize I'm potentially walking into a field of contentious landmines.  I know from hanging out on baby-related internet forums and even from talking to friends and acquaintances in real life that breastfeeding can be a touchy subject.  It seems everyone is defensive about their choices and situation.

Those who choose to formula feed from day one feel judged by the "holier-than-thou" breastfeeders who proclaim that "breast is best" and one is not doing the best for her baby by not breastfeeding.  Exclusive breastfeeders also feel judged and pressured, being told the baby is getting too big to breastfeed, or that they probably don't or won't make enough milk so they might as well supplement with formula.   In the middle is a whole spectrum of people who do some combination of breastfeeding, pumping and/or formula for hundreds of different reasons. 

So I'm going to risk wading into the muck and write honestly, but from my own bias, which I feel I must disclose to you so we're all on the same page.  I'm sure you probably noticed that I fall squarely and unequivocally in the so-called "attachment parenting" camp.  I didn't really set out to be this way.  I definitely didn't read how to do it in some book.  I have simply followed my instincts about what is best for my baby, and I can't help but notice whenever I read something about attachment parenting that it more or less describes my parenting philosophy and the choices I've made.  I co-sleep, babywear, and breastfeed on demand because those are things my baby is telling me she needs. 

But like I said, I didn't set out to be an "attachment parent".  Before Avery's birth, I had some ideas about what life with a baby would be like, most of which were more or less wrong, and many of which were more mainstream parenting ideas.  They weren't wrong because they were bad ideas, but because they didn't really take into consideration that the BABY gets a say in it too.  What I somehow failed to fully realize is that the baby will come out with her own unique personality, desires, likes and dislikes that will be evident from day one.  You are able to mold the baby to behave how you want to some extent, and some babies are "easier" than others in the sense that they just go with the flow without putting up too much fuss.  You can stash them in a swing or bouncy seat for a while, or put them on a schedule, and they're cool with that.  Other babies, as I discovered, are more sensitive and have more personal requirements for things to be just so.  My ideas about where the baby would sleep or nap or how much she would nurse didn't matter to her.

What you do to or with the baby in the first weeks (I believe) has little effect on their inborn temperament.  But being able to recognize and lovingly accept your baby's needs - however different they may be from your own expectations or desires - CAN affect the type of experience you have.  My own particular baby was (is) extremely sensitive and needed to be protected from too much stimulation.  She needed to be held and nursed constantly in the first few months.  I was admittedly unprepared for this intense level of need.  Whatever I thought parenting a baby would be like, however I prepared during my pregnancy, nothing prepared me for the reality of having a baby.

I'm sure you've all heard that human babies are all essentially born "premature" because if they grew any more in utero their heads wouldn't fit through a woman's pelvis.  When we got big brains and started walking upright, this compromise had to be made.  Compared to other mammals we humans are born the least neurologically and physically developed and the most dependent on an adult.  If human babies were born at the same level of maturity as our nearest primate relatives, they would be born at 18 months!   So you are essentially parenting a fetus for the first year plus of your baby's life.

I want to talk some more about this science-y anthro- bio-logical stuff because it interests me and I think it's important to the breastfeeding discussion.  As hard as it is to remember as we sit in our air conditioned homes typing away on our computers, taking showers and buying our food at the grocery store, we are animals.  Mammals, to be more precise.

One of the defining characteristics of mammals is that we have mammary glands and lactate to feed our young.  At one end of the spectrum are "cache" mammals and at the other are "carry" mammals.  Cache mammals leave their young in protected nests for long periods of time while they go out in search of food.  Their milk is very fatty and satiating to keep the babies full and happy for the many hours while mom is gone.  Some examples are deer and rabbits.  Carry mammals have very watery milk that is higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat and protein.  This milk is digested quickly and the infants need to nurse frequently or in some cases continuously!   Marsupials crawl inside mom's pouch and stay latched on until they are more mature.  Because of this, carry mammals carry their young around, they don't leave them in nests.

You are a "carry" mammal, like other primates.  Your milk has the lowest fat and protein content of all mammalian milk, and your baby is born very immature.  Knowing this will help you understand why your baby needs to be with you from birth, needs to be held all the time and why she wants to nurse constantly around the clock in the early weeks.   Perhaps you will still struggle, as I did, with your baby's intense needs at first.  Yet again, I come back to our modern life paradigms being unsuited to our species.  Here we are giving birth in institutions, being separated from our babies, and then heading back to our homes alone to cope with the demands of a newborn baby.  All this after growing up with plenty of personal space and a lifestyle that enabled you to do whatever you want whenever you want.  No wonder many first time mothers find themselves reeling.

Now I am no luddite or dirty-hippy, thinking we should all just retreat to tents in the woods.  I enjoy all the conveniences and sanitation of modern life and don't think they should be disposed of.  HOWEVER.  I do believe that modern life has had many negative impacts on our health and well-being as human animals.  We no longer eat, live, interact, or raise our young in ways that are biologically best suited to us as a species and I believe it's had a hugely detrimental effect on our physical, mental and spiritual health.

Because we no longer live in small clan or family groups, we have lost the support system for childrearing.  We don't have our extended network of mothers, aunts, sisters and friends to help new mothers out, or pass along knowledge.   A lactation consultant told me a story about a gorilla in the zoo who didn't know to put her baby to her breast.  The zookeepers were worried, but one of them thought to call La Leche League.  LLL sent some mamas to sit around the primate enclosure nursing their babies.  After seeing them, the gorilla started nursing her baby too!  Breastfeeding is natural, but it's not innate.  It's something we learn how to do.  Most of us in our modern existence have never even seen someone nursing a baby before.  Luckily there are many things you can do to have a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience, which I will talk about in a bit. 

In the next post I'll talk about my own breastfeeding experience, but for now I'll get off my soap box because a certain baby is awake and demanding my attention!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Hanging out at Ko Olina

Avery and I met a friend and her baby at Ko Olina yesterday to hang out by the beach and take a nice walk. Avery loved being outside in the grass, although she wanted nothing to do with crawling through it. Even though the grass there is really soft and nice, she wouldn't put her knees down and insisted on bear crawling all over the place. It was really funny. She also surprised me by standing up on her own a few times. I've never seen her do that at home! Unfortunately I didn't get a picture or video of that, but here she is doing the bear crawling.

Untitled from Michelle Seiler on Vimeo.