Breastfeeding: a complicated journey

The end of an era is upon me.

After 13.5 months, I can feel LJ and my breastfeeding journey is drawing to a close. For a few months now, LJ has become more and more interested in food (and eats a ton!) and less and less interested in breastmilk. My supply has naturally adjusted and dwindled. We’ve gradually been dropping feeds and for the past month have really only done morning and night feeding. Recently, he’s become obsessed with all things daddy so Justin has been putting him to bed and the night feed has faded. Now we’re only consistently feeding in the morning and even that is becoming a 1 minute event before he’s ready to go downstairs for breakfast. My parents are watching him this weekend and I’m not going to pump or anything. I have a feeling this may signal the end of the road for breastfeeding.

While it’s a little bittersweet, I know LJ and I are ready for this. It’s been quite the journey for us and if I’m being completely honest, my feelings towards breastfeeding have been complicated. I am so grateful that I was able to do it so long and don’t take that for granted. But while breastfeeding is awesome and beautiful, it’s also freaking hard and brought about a lot of contradictory feelings. Today I just wanted to take a look back at some aspects of my experience. This post is mostly to help me process that it’s drawing to a close but also to offer encouragement to anyone who might be breastfeeding as well. For the record, I in no way mean for this post to shame other moms who make different feeding choices for their babies. This is simply what my personal journey looked like.

Things I wasn’t expecting

How awkward it felt in the beginning. I just expected LJ to pop on and go to town and it just be a natural thing. Nope. Didn’t work like that. It was awkward and stressful and took several weeks before we got into a good, comfortable routine.

My supply to tank around 9 months. All of the sudden, I barely had enough milk to keep LJ satisfied, which led to stress and panic, which obviously did not help my supply. I started using supplement mix and eating lactation cookies (I bought these and also made some using a recipe I found online) and this greatly helped boost my supply. It was a stressful month though!

How isolating it was sometimes. We went to a minor league baseball game and the stadium seats are not exactly the most comfortable place in the world to breastfeed (and it was like 90+ degress that day). Luckily, our local stadium has a little room for breastfeeding moms. I was so thankful to have a much more comfortable place to sit and feed LJ; however, it meant that I had to remove myself from the company of my family for half an hour and that was a bummer. This scenario repeated itself often – there would be a more comfortable place to breastfeed, but it meant I had to leave the conversations that were happening with friends, family, whomever. I sometimes resented the fact that for me to do what I needed to do comfortably, I had to choose to leave the company of whoever I was with.

How hungry it made me! I had heard that breastfeeding burns calories but man, I was not expecting for it to make me want to eat all. the. things.

Letdown. It’s a really strange, hard-to-describe feeling when your milk lets down and I just wasn’t expecting that!

Things I’m SO glad I did

Utilized the *FREE* resource center at my local hospital. I met one-on-one with a lactation consultant in the first two weeks when his latch was super painful and it made a HUGE difference. I also attended their weekly breastfeeding support group. I made some great mama friends and got SO much support, not only for breastfeeding, but also for transitioning to solids, sleep questions, travel tips, and general mama wisdom. I think it is so important to look at what is offered within your community and take advantage of any available resources to help make your experience with feeding the best it can be!

Kept a nursing cover in my diaper bag. I used this one and appreciated the stretchy, breathable fabric. I know some mamas prefer no cover and that’s 100% fine – there were times I didn’t use one as LJ grew larger. But I think it’s so important that both mama and baby be comfortable during feeding and this cover significantly helped my comfort level as a new mama feeding in public.

Used a nursing pillow. My boppy became my best friend during nursing – it made the experience so much more comfortable and I took it with me on all trips as well.

Things I hated

Middle of the night feeds. I will be the first to say I am not someone who functions well on little sleep. I need my sleep and I’m very cranky when I don’t get it. Until he started sleeping through the night, it was really hard for me to deal with getting up at 2 am, 4 am, etc to feed.

Pumping. Oh my gosh. I even had a pump that I loved, but I just did not enjoy having to be hooked up to that machine for 20 minutes. I would use a hands-free bra, but that meant taking off my regular bra first and I often ended up having to apply pressure to certain parts of my boobs to get all the ducts going anyways. Plus rinsing all the parts is a drag (although Justin often did the actual washing later and that was so helpful), then you have to label milk, reassemble parts again, store everything…it’s just a big process to repeat. I know it sound like I’m being super whiny about this, but it felt like a lot of work every time and was just not enjoyable.

Being the only parent who could feed. LJ originally took a bottle well, but that meant I had to pump, and you know how I felt about pumping. In order have enough pumped milk for Justin to regularly feed LJ  and keep up a big enough freezer stash to have what we needed for babysitters/emergencies, I had to pump daily. It also meant sometimes I’d  breastfeed LJ and then pump afterwards, which is absolutely no fun. It’s like feeding two babies in one go! Or Justin would use stored milk to feed him, but I’d have to pump anyways because I was so full so that wasn’t actually a break for me. All this meant I didn’t pump often, which led to not a ton of stored milk, which meant Justin could not feed LJ often. I’m not proud of it, but this was something I resented at times. Every other aspect of parenthood was shared with Justin but feeding was something I had to be the one to do 6-8 times a day and somedays this was frustrating.

Things I loved

Knowing my body was providing nourishment for my son. There is something really empowering about that feeling!

The sense of accomplishment when we finally hit our stride a few weeks in. LJ had a very painful latch at first and I worked with an LC to learn how to help him learn a proper latch. It felt amazing when he finally started latching correctly without any intervention from me. I wanted to throw confetti I was so happy!

When he was super little, breastfeeding almost always made him fall asleep. It was so cute to see him become more and more sleepy until he would finally drift off, curled into my body. ❤

Quiet morning moments when he’s still a little drowsy, his salt lamp is casting a glow around the room, and we’re just rocking softly in the recliner in his nursery as he feeds. There is something really magical about starting a day in such a way and I will miss these moments.

When I think back on breastfeeding in the years to come, I hope I don’t put on the rose colored glasses and only remember the good parts. I also hope I don’t become cynical and only remember the hard parts. The truth is, breastfeeding was both beautiful and challenging. There were days I was so thankful to be doing it and then days I strongly resented it. It’s bittersweet to be ending this journey but I also kind of want to throw a party. I hope to always remember this experience for what it truly was: wonderful, difficult, complicated, and life-giving.

 

 

 

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A Day in the Life

A few weeks ago, I noticed #onedayhh floating around my social media. The idea was to document your day hour by hour so you have a little photo record of an ordinary day. I wanted to participate, but that was the day I was in Philadelphia for work so it was anything but an ordinary day for me.

Instead I decided I wanted to do a blog post documenting a normal day in my everyday life. I always enjoy reading these types of posts on other blogs and honestly, I love the idea of having a record of an ordinary day with LJ at this stage of life to look back on someday. I chose Friday, November 16 as a day to document.

A few disclaimers: this post will be long and contain a lot of pictures! They are not perfect pictures. Some pictures are dark or grainy. They reflect our true day (aka no make-up, the house not totally in order) but that’s our real life so I’m embracing it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Lately, I have been trying to get up when Justin leaves the house for work around 6:30/6:45 to have some quiet time to eat breakfast and complete my morning devotions. On this particular morning, I listened to my body when it begged for a little more sleep and didn’t get up until I heard LJ around 7:15 am. I got up, made my bed (which really just involves pulling up the sheets but I feel like this small thing makes a big difference!) and headed into the nursery.

I’m still breastfeeding so LJ and I spent some time in the rocker so he could nurse. These quiet morning moments are so precious to me – I know we won’t always have this time so I’m cherishing it now.

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We headed downstairs around 7:30. I had made a big batch of pancakes earlier in the week so I put LJ in his high chair and reheated two small ones for him. While they were warming up I let the dogs out, put food in the dog bowls, got out some blueberries to cut up for LJ, and poured myself a bowl of cereal. We ate our breakfast together and I loaded up the dishwasher as LJ finished his last few bites.

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We headed into the playroom around 7:55 and played together for the next 45 minutes.

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I put LJ down for his morning nap at 8:40 and quickly brushed my teeth, changed into workout clothes, and headed downstairs. Normally I start working for my part-time job as soon as nap time begins but since I had slept in this morning, I first completed my daily bible study.

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By 9:00, I was at my desk working for my part-time administrative job. (If you’re curious to read more about what I do, I wrote a blog post about it here).

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I quit working when I heard LJ wake up around 9:40. He was in such a good mood after his nap!

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I changed his diaper and outfit and we headed downstairs to the playroom again. LJ played while I checked his diaper bag contents to make sure it was all set, got my tennis shoes on, and let the dogs out again.

I generally don’t worry about picking up the playroom during the day, but since I wanted to run the Roomba while we were gone, I quickly picked up the toys and put them away. I also quickly threw in a load of laundry. (My laundry style is: it all goes in one load. Makes life easier!)

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I grabbed the diaper bag and started the Roomba on our way out the door. (Side note: the Roomba was a purchase I made with money I received recently for my 30th birthday and it was so. worth. it. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a game changer this is with keeping dog hair under control!)

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We left the house around 10:05 and arrived at our local YMCA in plenty of time for me to drop off LJ in childcare and make it to my hour-long bootcamp class.

My Friday bootcamp class takes place in the gymnasium and is set up like an obstacle course involving a combination of cardio and weights. Here is an awkward selfie I took while the course was getting set up. Ha!

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After the class I headed back to childcare to pick up LJ. My friend who works in the childcare area snapped this pic of us before we left. LJ had a great time playing, which was awesome! He’s at the stage where he’s realizing when mommy is leaving him and sometimes he really struggles with being “left behind” so I’m glad today was a good, fun day for him!

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We arrived back home around 11:50. LJ went straight into his high chair for lunch. Since the laundry room is attached to the kitchen, I took a few minutes to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer and empty the Roomba filter.

For lunch, LJ had chicken salad and avocado slices. I had leftover grilled cheese and soup from the previous night, as well as the second half of the avocado.

LJ ate a banana for “dessert” and while he ate, I prepared ingredients to throw in the crockpot for a potato soup for dinner.

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By 12:30, LJ was done eating and ready to get out of the highchair so I cleaned him up, changed his diaper, and set him up in the playroom. I wasn’t quite done prepping the soup, but I was able to see him from my workspace in the kitchen so I finished up the soup while he played independently out of the corner of my eye.

By 12:45, the soup was ready to cook so I set the crockpot, piled dishes in the sink for later, and headed to the playroom to play and read some books with LJ.

Around 1:45, LJ was rubbing his eyes so we headed upstairs. I nursed him and put him down for a nap, then headed back to my desk to complete the rest of my work for my part-time job.

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By 2:50 I was finished for the day with my job and LJ was still sound asleep. I headed into my bathroom with the monitor to take a quick shower. (My monitor screen is sound-activated. It’s black when his nursery is quiet and the screen will automatically turn on if he’s making noise. So I can just have the shower curtain pushed back a little to see the monitor screen and keep track of his nap).

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After the shower, I had a few things I wanted to get done while LJ was still napping but wasn’t sure I had enough time to do everything so I prioritized the things that are harder to do when he’s awake. I went downstairs and brought up the laundry from the dryer. I left it in the basket and just changed my own clothes.

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My days are too busy to devote a ton of time cleaning but I’ve found if I have one cleaning task each day, I can maintain a decently-clean state of my house more easily. Friday’s task was vacuuming the carpet, which is on the stairs and second floor (the Roomba stays on the first floor). I knew this had a chance of waking LJ up but hoped it would blend in with his sound machine.

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I swept the stairs, the hallway, and all bedrooms except the nursery, which took about 8 minutes. LJ was still asleep so I began to fold some of the laundry, although I didn’t get through much before he woke up.

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LJ woke up at 3:20. I got him up and held him while I quickly vacuumed his nursery. Then we headed into my bedroom where he played with the toys I keep in there while I finished up folding and putting away laundry.

We headed downstairs around 3:40. LJ had a snack of puffs and water while I quick put away the vacuum, watered my plants and returned the downstairs laundry. By 3:50 we were out the door to run a few errands.

Our first stop the Verizon store to pick up new screen protectors. Since it was such a quick stop, I took LJ inside in his car seat and he was not a fan. Ha!

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I stopped for a quick pick-me-up at Smoothie King and we headed to Costco.

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It is all decked out for Christmas and it was so fun to see LJ’s reactions to all the gigantic holiday items.

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By 5:30 we were done with errands and back at home. I grabbed the mail on the way in and sorted it in the playroom with LJ’s “help.”

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We headed back in to the kitchen and I finished up the last few steps of the crockpot soup while my sous chef looked on from his high chair.

By 5:55 we headed upstairs to my bedroom where LJ played with his toys while I did my hair and make-up.

The best part of our day happened at 6:30 – Justin came home from work! LJ is always SO excited to see daddy and today was no exception.

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We ate a quick supper together and I nursed LJ one more time before leaving my boys at home around 6:55 to head to a Favorite Things Party with a women’s small group I am part of.

I had never been to a Favorite Things party before but I compare it to a White Elephant gift exchange except every item is something you actually want. We each brought two items (a $ value is set so everyone’s gifts are about the same price) of the same thing and left with two different items. I took nail polish and nail buffers but there was a huge variety of items – candles, coffee, books, snacks, kitchen utensils, you name it! It was so so fun!

I left with a pair of cute earrings and nesting houses.

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I got home a little after 9:30 and immediately changed into pajamas. Justin was watching TV and I caught up on social media and settled in with The Book Thief. It was so cozy to snuggle up with a book and blanket in front of the Christmas tree we had put up earlier in the week on Justin’s day off.

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We headed up to bed around 11 but I was hooked in my book and nearly finished reading so I stayed up until 12:00 so I could finish. Thank goodness the next day was Saturday!

Looking back, I’m so glad I have an ordinary day documented. LJ is changing so much and our days already look so different than they did six months ago. I think I’ll have to do one of these posts every so often because I love that they serve as a kind of time capsule for our life!

Stay in the picture, mama

In Monday’s post, I shared a bunch of pictures of my family’s recent vacation to Virginia Beach. After publishing the post, I noticed something about the pictures I chose to share as highlights. Mainly, I noticed I wasn’t in them.

Allow me to indulge in a brief trip down memory lane. When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon 5+ years ago, I posted a ton of pictures of our trip on Facebook. I mean, why not? We had an absolute blast on the trip and we documented it well. In many of these pictures, I was in a bikini.

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Everyone from my best friends to my husband’s grandmother could see my bikini pics and I didn’t think twice about it. I was dang proud of my body. In the months before our wedding, I created and stuck to a workout regimen. I went to the gym for at least an hour 4-5 days each week. I ate healthy foods. I ran for miles. I worked hard for months and months and when the wedding rolled around, all my hard work paid off. I felt confident and proud in my wedding dress.  And on my honeymoon, I rocked my bikini like I never had before.

Honeymoon

Flash forward 5 years, and we took another beach vacation. Once again, we had an absolute blast on the trip and documented it well. Once again, I wore a bikini for a lot of the trip. This time, however, when it came time to post pictures, my bikini pictures remained safely on my phone.

My body has experienced drastic changes over the past 19 months. I gained and lost 45 pounds; I was stretched out and didn’t shrink back the exact same way. To be clear, I am so thankful for my body. I was able to get pregnant and grow a human, something I worried wouldn’t happen after the loss of my first pregnancy. I have breastfed my son for over ten months and am so grateful that my body can provide him nourishment. I take walks with my family, attend a weekly cycling class at my local YMCA, and squeeze in a bootcamp class when nap time allows. I don’t say any of this to brag, but to honestly say that I truly am proud of what my body has done and can still do.

But the bikini pictures remained on my phone.

To be completely open and vulnerable, for as proud as I am of what my body has done and can do, I still struggle to wholeheartedly love the way it looks. It’s easy to post a bikini picture when you have rock-hard abs and nothing jiggles. It’s harder to post when your stomach has a stubborn post-baby pooch and you’re soft around the edges. I felt pretty good about the fact that I even wore a bikini on our vacation, but I wasn’t about to share the pictures.

Until I took the time to really look at them.

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Look at my son and his pure joy in this moment. He doesn’t care that his mommy’s belly is squishier than it once was. He doesn’t care that her hips are bigger and her baby pooch never left. He doesn’t care that mommy isn’t standing at a flattering angle to the camera or that oops, her c-section scar is showing (did you even notice that? My inner mean girl sure did).

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My son cares that his mommy is playing with him. He cares that his mommy is focused on him. He cares that he feels safe and loved and knows mommy is going to catch him every time she throws him up in the air. I see love and happiness in these moments captured from my son’s first beach trip and I’m so glad I have these pictures.

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It would be easy to hide these pictures. It would be easy to keep them on my phone or in some remote corner of my hard drive where they’re never seen. It would be easy to forget they exist. It would even be easy to stop taking them in the first place.

But here is the truth. I want to be in the pictures. Even if I’m not looking my best, I want these sweet moments captured from this all-too-fleeting baby stage of my son’s life. I want us both to be able to look back years from now and cherish the fun we’ve had together. Plus, I want to raise my son to know that a woman is worth so. much. more. than her outer appearance – I can hardly teach him that truth if I’m not living with the confidence of knowing it’s true about me too!

So I am going to continue to ignore the narrative in my head, the critical inner voice who says my body isn’t “back” and I’m not “ready” to be in a bikini. I am going to continue to throw that suit on and make memories with my son at every stage. I want to be the mom running around in the splash pad with my toddler, sliding down a water park slide with my six-year-old, and challenging my ten-year-old to a cannonball contest. I can’t waste energy comparing my honeymoon body to my mom body. My body has changed and I am not the same 24-year-old who could spend 60-90 minutes in the gym every day. But ten months ago, I brought a human into this world and I am dang proud of all my body has accomplished since then.

If you are a mama struggling to love on your postpartum body, I just want to encourage you today to stay in the picture. Don’t sit on the sidelines, don’t keep out of the frame. Keep loving on your kiddos no matter if you’re bundled up in snowsuits building a snowman or splashing in a pool in your swimsuit. Make those memories. Cherish those times. Take those pictures. Your kids don’t care what you look like. They care that you’re there. ❤