Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Closing the farm

When I got pregnant, I said I didn't want to breastfeed.  I wanted the baby to have breastmilk, but wasn't interested in whipping out the boob in public, or when company was over.  I also wasn't interested in being the ONLY source of sustenance for this child.  I had a very clear objective - I would pump and pump and pump and we would feed using a bottle, and that would be that.

After discussing this with our doula, she advised that it would be smarter to start off breastfeeding so that my supply would be established, and then we could move to pumping part-time/full-time once I was producing enough milk.  I read up about this, and realized it was probably the smarter, less stressful route, and so this is what we did.  It wasn't long before I was pumping and building a stash, and we were also able to feed her one bottle per day.  This got her used to it, and also gave me a break in the evenings.

Starting out, breastfeeding wasn't easy.  In fact it was pretty terrible.  M had the hang of it right away, but my boobs paid for it.  While her latch was...aggressive, it wasn't perfect, and this caused a lot of destruction and pain.  It took several weeks to heal, and while my plight wasn't as bad as my friend Jenn 's , it wasn't easy, wasn't pleasant, and really wasn't fun.

We persevered because I knew that breastmilk really was best.  I had some ups and downs with supply levels, but eventually we got on track.  Right now I am breastfeeding once a day (in the morning) and pumping the rest.  I love knowing exactly how much she is eating, and I also find she spits up less while eating from the bottle (which I know sounds odd, but there you have it). 

I read a lot of blogs, and visit even more parenting forums, and am overwhelmed by how many people love breastfeeding their babies.  They say there is nothing like it, that they want to do it as long as they can, that the feeling of bonding is incredible.  But the truth is, I don't feel this way at all.  I think I may actually hate breastfeeding.  The only upside to it for me is that when I do it in the morning, I don't have to get out of bed to warm a bottle.  Maybe this means I am the opposite of maternal and M will grow up sorely maladjusted and psychologically stunted, but I can't help how I feel.  And I have given it more than a fair shake, I think.  Even now that it has become easy to breastfeed, I don't like it any more than I did when tears sprang to my eyes each time she latched.  In fact, I may like it even less since at that time I still held out hope that once it became easier I would enjoy it more. 

So I'm pondering when to quit completely.  I have quite a freezer stash, and I get a good amount each day when I pump.  However as she grows, if she isn't breastfeeding, my body may not interpret the signs of when to produce more milk, so I foresee running out at some point, or not being able to keep up.  Will I just continue supplementing with formula (currently I cut each feeding with a small amount of formula just to get her system used to it, and also to keep the pressure low for me to keep up)?  Will I quit pumping altogether?  I don't know.  For now I'm playing it by ear.   I feel guilty that I have had it relatively easy and even feel a bit selfish giving up since so many people who strive to succeed at this never get to do it.  But I know it will stop sooner than later - I know that if I don't like doing it, then it's not doing anything for her emotionally, and may even be harming her in that respect.  Bad Vibes Man.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In our 10 weeks of child rearing and 38 weeks, 6 days of gestating said child, I have come to realize something. 

This baby thing is basically one big science experiment. 

From "Let's try to get pregnant" to "why won't she sleep" every outcome has been up in the air, and each has been dependent on so many variables it would make your head explode if you really thought about it for any length of time. 

Keeping this kid alive in itself doesn't seem so hard, but trying to excel at it so that she will thrive, THAT is a challenge.  I read and google and ask around, and come away with more advice than I would ever be able to execute.  But how to decide how to proceed?

As you may or may not know, we are currently trying to get a handle on this whole sleep thing.  We continue to be extremely lucky that M sleeps through the night for the most part.  And for the most part I mean probably 1 night out of 14 is off, and the rest she goes to bed between 7 and 8, and gets up no earlier than 6 am to eat, then hits the sack again within about 45 minutes for another few hours.  We love this schedule.  This schedule is the bomb.

Her daytime schedule remains slightly less than ideal.  Meaning we get short 30-40 minute naps throughout the day (maybe 4-5 each day) and maybe once a week she will take a great afternoon nap of between 3-4 hours.  This is overkill, I would settle for 2 hours. 

So, we've been working on sleep issues.  We had been practicing attachment parenting, which worked for us for the first 8 weeks.  When she cried, we went to her, soothed her, fed her, whatever she needed.  But heading out of week 8 was when the short naps arrived on the scene, so we moved to a slightly more humane version of what people refer to as "Cry It Out".  We don't let her cry indefinitely, but only 5-10 minutes.  If she doesn't settle, we soothe her and put her back down.  For most naps, she never cries more than 10 minutes.  Maybe once a day she will go on and on, and as soon as I pick her up to soothe her she settles and then falls fast asleep when put back in her crib. 

I was feeling torn about this strategy.  The theory behind attachment parenting is that if you let your newborn child cry and cry until she stops, she is learning to soothe herself, but is also learning that you are not there to soothe her.  This is the last thing that I want.  I may not be the most competent parent, with the most sunshiny disposition and the most enthusiasm for kid-related things, but I want my kid to know that I've got her back, no matter what.  However, I also don't want her to feel like we resent her in any way, and I think that is the danger of ALWAYS being there for her, especially since I don't have the most sunshiny disposition nor the most enthusiasm for kid-related things. 

And you know what?  For now this change is working for us.  M is sleeping more during the day, albeit still in short stints, but overall there is more daysleep happening.  And she is happier.  Gone are the days of many many meltdowns.  Now we have a real scream-it-out, nothing will satisfy her moment maybe every 2-3 days, and they are much shorter episodes than before.  And when I put her in her swing or chair instead of wailing she is content for a while to watch her mobile or some other toy.

I'm also happier.  I don't feel guilty to put her in her swing while I do some dishes or laundry because now she doesn't cry.  Even though her naps are short, I know to expect them to be short so I really get all my shit done while she's in there instead of trying to nap myself or take a break.  Break only happens if I can get all the other stuff done before she gets up, or when SB gets home to take over. 

So which method is better?  Neither and both.  As I said, the first 8 weeks I was happy while AP worked for us.  And when it didn't, when I finally let go and moved on, we became happy again with a modified Cry It Out method.  And I'm sure in a few weeks we'll have to make more adjustments.  And the experiment continues.....

Friday, April 08, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Girl!!

Not that one - this one:
Tess turns one year old today!  I can hardly believe it.  When we met her, she was one of these little furballs:  (this is her litter, but we aren't sure which one was Tess)

She couldn't even walk around yet at that point.

We waited and waited until we could finally bring her home.  I could barely sleep the whole week before it was time to go get her.  We spent quite a while with the females of the litter, and finally we came home with this:
I think she was 18 pounds when she came home, slightly smaller than Simon.  It's insane to think that she now weighs 90 pounds!

I have always known I wanted a Bernese Mountain Dog.  I love everything about the breed - their size, their soft fur, their sweet temperament, their laziness.  But Tess has really exceeded any expectation I could have had.  Her only flaw is her shyness, but I'll take that over hyperactivity any day.  And besides, it's a good excuse not to stop and talk to everyone who admires her in the park or on the street.  It would take us all day to get anywhere!

I am especially enjoying seeing Tess with Marlowe.  She is sweet and curious, but not overbearing.  She loves to smell her and lick her hands and feet.  Her favorite thing is taking walks, although I'm not sure if it's because she feels like she is protecting Marlowe and the stroller, or if she feels like the stroller is protecting her.  Either way, she loves it, and it makes me so happy that I can incorporate time with her and the baby, even though M is still so small.

Everyone told me that when the baby came, I would love my pets less.  Either they don't know me, or it's a total myth, because not only do I not love them less, I think I may even love them more if that's possible.  And Tess especially at this point.  I was so worried she would feel left out or forgotten, so we make a really big effort to keep her included.  But even on the days that are particularly tough and we only have time for the minimum, she is the one who keeps an even keel and only shows anxiousness when she's really gotta go. 

So, after one year, one baby, one trip to the beach, her first snowfall, her first walk on Mont Royal, her work days at the clinic and about one million cuddles, Happy Birthday to my Tessy,  Baby Girl #1. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Learning Curve

I cannot believe that Baby M is already 8 weeks old!  I feel like these two months have really zoomed by, but that may be a bit of the Groundhog Day effect.  Each day seems like it may never end, but when you add them all together, boom!  There go two months!

In this time, we have tried to get to know our baby.  I'm sure any parents out there know, in these first months this is a futile endeavor.  First of all, newborns tend to have very little personality other than hungry, sleepy, and mean (aka cranky).  Secondly, when they do start to develop what one may call "traits" or "habits", they change so quickly that there is no sense in getting used to them.  They will just break your heart (goodbye, napping for hours in the swing.  We miss you.)

I am currently trying to get this nap situation under control.  In the beginning Baby M was often cranky, and we attributed every outburst to gas, cramps, etc.  I stopped drinking coffee, orange juice, cut out dairy, all in an effort to appease her suffering.  But I'm starting to think that we were getting the wrong message from her - I don't think we were making her sleep enough.  So far we have been extremely lucky and M sleeps through the night.  Yes, she has her exceptional, awful, wailing into the wee hours nights, but for the most part we get a solid 6-8 hours, and I feel so lucky for it.  (actually I feel like she senses if she doesn't allow me a proper dose of reloading, I may drop her or put her in the dryer by mistake).  But daytime was a whole other beast.

So I've been really making an effort.  I am trying to create a nap routine to help her wind down and be able to know it's time for resting.  We were doing a bedtime routine, why didn't we clue in that she would need this in the day too?  And you know what?  This week I have seen a huge difference.  During her awake times she is a far happier baby then before, and her naps for the most part are lasting longer.  I am learning her cues and trying to be prompt reacting to them, and I'm starting to learn her likes and dislikes.  For example, she loves to be cozied up in a fleecy blanket, but it's also important she be swaddled tightly because she still hits herself in the face sometimes and scares herself awake. 

I'm hoping this week will bring more progress, and more happy baby time.  But I also know that she'll most likely switch up her preferences about 100 times before we get it, and that terrifies me.