Friday, July 3, 2015

My Breastfeeding Legacy

This will probably be one of the most painful blogs I will ever write. I have dreaded touching this topic for a long time, because it still stings. But, I have learned, I am not a terrible mother for my decisions.

Breastfeeding my babies was always my goal. I wanted to try for a year MINIMUM. Little did I know that it was a lot easier said than done.

(My Boys)

As you already know, I have two beautiful boys. My oldest will be four at the end of the month, and my other child just turned nine months. When I first found out I was pregnant with my first, I was adamant that I wanted to breastfeed. Every pamphlet they hand out to you at the OB/GYN office talks about the wonders of breastfeeding. "It's so easy, just latch on your baby to your breast, and let the milk flow from your breast!" Well, those pamphlets can take their glorification and shove it.

Breastfeeding is hard work. It's even harder when you have a preemie.

I was already laid up in the hospital due to recently diagnosed Pre-Eclampsia when I had my first child. I was 36 weeks gestation, and when he first came out, he appeared very healthy. As I was bonding with my first-born in his first couple hours of life, I attempted to feed him for the first time. Getting a latch was very hard, because he wanted nothing to do with it. Every time I brought him to my breast, he cried. When he was finally latched, it was in an awkward position, so I would re-adjust, and he would lose his latch. I noticed though, when I was trying to nurse my baby, something didn't seem right. Not only would he fuss after suckling for a bit, but he was also very "grunty." When I said something, I was told, "he's probably just congested a bit, that's normal." About 30 minutes later, they took him to the nursery for testing and to clean him up. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

I was getting anxious. Why has no one brought my baby to me? After a couple hours, I asked a nurse,
"Could you bring my baby to me please? I'd like to try to feed him again and bond with him."
"Oh, his blood sugar was a little bit low, and his body temperature was a little low, so we have him under some heat right now to warm him up, and we gave him some glycerin water to help with his blood sugar. Don't worry, we'll let you see him soon once he's okay."
Red flag number one.

I waited for about 5 hours to see my baby. (I would walk every once in a while to see him in the window of the nursery, but was never able to hold him.) No one could tell me anything other than "His blood sugar is low, and his temperature is down." I was getting very worried. What's wrong with my baby? Why can't I hold him? Why won't anybody tell me anything?

 It wasn't until around 10:00PM that a Neonatologist came to speak to me. He then informed me that one of his lungs was not 100% developed, and due to this, he could not keep his blood sugar or temperature up, so they had moved him to the NICU. I walked with my husband and the doctor to see my son. When I finally saw him, I couldn't hold back my tears anymore. There was so many machines, so many sounds, so many tubes. I hated myself. I felt like it was my fault that my baby was so sick, that he wasn't healthy. As I got to touch my son, finally, after several hours, a nurse explained to me how visitation and care worked in the NICU. She said I could be there as often as I wanted (with the exception of shift change), and I could come nurse him as often as I wanted to. She encouraged me to pump breast milk if I couldn't come down, and that for now, his feedings would be administered through an NG tube, unless I wanted to feed him myself. I felt a lot more at ease, and I was ready to be strong for my baby, so he could be healthy and go home.

He spent 5 days in the NICU, and by that time, I had pumped almost every feeding, since I was also trying to recover from major abdominal surgery. I had decided at that point that I would pump and feed, unless I felt inclined to try and nurse, since most attempts to nurse, he was not interested. I had told myself "I can still bond with him if I give him a bottle, after all, it has my milk in it!"

(My oldest getting mama juice)

Two weeks at home went by, and I was in a good routine of pumping and feeding my little guy. That particular day, I was at my parents' house, so they could assist me with the baby if needed, since I was still healing. I had just finished feeding him with a bottle, and was getting ready to go pump in a separate room, when one of my family members (I won't mention whom) said to me,
"What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna go pump. Why do you ask?"
"No. If you're going to breastfeed him, you have to do it the RIGHT WAY."
I was speechless. As a first time mom, I wanted to do everything right. And now, I was being told that I was feeding my baby wrong. I grabbed my son and ran into the other room. With tears in my eyes, I struggled to get him to latch. Nothing was working. I was angry.

I kept attempting to do it "The right way," and ended up completely drying up within a week. I had some milk still frozen, but it was quickly fading. I needed to do something so my baby could eat. So, at that point, I had to make the tough decision to formula feed my baby. I was devastated, and I felt defeated. I felt I had failed my baby, that I couldn't give him the very best thing for him.

Fast forward 3 years, and I was back in the hospital, pregnant with my 2nd baby. This time, I knew my baby was going to be a preemie, as my water had broke at 30 weeks, and they could only try so many things to stop my labor before it was time to deliver. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital on bed rest, and I was prepared of the obstacle of the NICU. I had learned at that time that nobody was going to dictate how I fed my baby. The only person that had control of how I fed my baby was myself, and If I wanted to give him a bottle of breast milk or my boob, damnit, I was going to do just that.

At first, my second child was fed through an NG tube for his feedings, but we definitely practiced nursing as much as possible. It was still difficult to get comfortable, because there was a lot more tubes, and a lot more to worry about with a 33 week baby than a 36 week baby. One major concern; Apnea. One day, as I was nursing my sweet boy, I got him on a good latch, and things were looking beautiful, he looked so happy and relaxed, and I was as well. Then, his color started to change, and the alarms went off. My baby had stopped breathing while nursing. He was very quickly whisked out of my arms and put back into the isolette. The nurse then said to me,
"I think we're done feeding for now. Let's not stress him out anymore." It wouldn't had bothered me, but the way she said it, and the tone that she used, she made me so angry. I stormed out of the NICU, back to my room, and immediately hooked up to the pump, and I cried. I cried the whole time I pumped. All I could think of was the words that my family member had said to me, and that I was doing it all wrong again. No, I told myself. You are doing what is best for your baby. You keep pumping, mama, your baby needs your milk now more than ever. I ended up pumping 4 ounces of milk in 10 minutes, which is pretty impressive for a mama 4 days post-partum.

(My youngest, the day of his Apnea episode)

My baby was released after only 9 days in the NICU, impressing all of the medical staff with how well he did. And I was a pumping and nursing queen. I had an awesome milk stash and I was comfortable with nursing and bottle feeding him.

And then... there were hormones.

Nobody tells you that certain gynological problems can hinder your breast milk supply, but they can. I have a very lengthy history of issues, from ovarian cysts and a miscarriage, to pre-cancerous cells on my cervix. After about 4 weeks of successful pumping and nursing, I was starting to notice, I wasn't getting nearly as much when I pumped, and he wasn't nursing as long. I talked to my OB/GYN at my follow-up, and she prescribed me a medication to help with my supply, and to try some herbal supplements as well. I picked up about 3 different supplements and the medication. I wanted to try everything. And for a few days, everything seemed to work really well! I decided to drop the medication, and just stick to the supplements. And that's when my supply dropped, FAST! I went from pumping 5-10 ounces, to only pumping 1-4 ounces. Even while engorged, I could only pump about 2 ounces. I was devastated. I was back to where I was with my first child. After 6 weeks, I had to stop, not only because the power-pumping was exhausting, but because I wasn't getting anything. I was having to supplement at least half of my feeding with formula, already. So, I made the switch to formula full-time. After making the switch, I was very upset, but after talking to several people about it, including my lactation consultant, I realized that some is better than none, and I gave it all that I had.

I fed my babies to the best of my ability. Some people may not agree with that, but my sons are healthy, and they are fed. And, in the end, that is what really matters.

Happy. Healthy. Fed.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Babywearing and washing diapers, not for the faint of heart.

It's not as easy as it looks.

No, seriously. Today was the first, and possibly the last time I do this.

Let me start by adding that earlier in the day, my husband I had done a pretty intense workout, including squats, lunges, and sit-ups in an attempt to get healthier. So, I was feeling a burn in my thighs.

My husband had to work today, so I was alone with my 2 noodles at home. I get really bored at home; there's not a lot to do, except for finding SOMETHING to do in an already clean house. Well, I did know that I needed to finish the load of laundry already in the washer, and that I definitely needed to get the diapers washed today. Nothing too difficult. I'm a diaper washing queen! They boys were in desperate need of a nap as well, so I made them lay down while I started on my duties.

I grabbed my 3/4 full hamper of diapers and start to go down the stairs, when my 8-month-old decides that he wanted mommy in the room with him. I left the hamper by the washer and went back up to tend to him until he fell back to sleep. I went back and started my prewash and went on to find something to do in the meantime. As the prewash finished, the baby woke back up, and he was NOT happy. So, seeing that I needed to get things done, I grabbed my Moby, put it on, and went and grabbed him from his naptime spot. I went downstairs to unload the washer with the baby in tow. Then, I started having issues. He was wiggly, and wanted to turn his head to see what I was doing as I tried to balance him with one hand, and unload the washer with the other. I went and grabbed a toy for him, and continued about my business.

(Mr. Christian with Patch OTB)

I unloaded the dryer, folded clothes, while keeping the baby from turning around. I took my laundry up the stairs to put clothes away and noticed that he was sagging a lot more than he should from all the wiggling. I looked down, and I think to myself "Okay, we need to resituate things a bit here." So, I plopped him onto the floor to play while I retied my Moby. This time I made sure to make it extra snug. I placed him back in the Moby, and put the clothes away. A few minutes later, the washer was finished, so it was time to unload my diapers. I trudged back down the stairs to my washer, baby in tow once more, to once again unload the washer to put my diapers in the dryer. This time, it didn't take me as long with the prewash, but was still not easy. You can't very well grab with two hands, without risk of squishing your baby, unless you're tall, which I am not. (I'm 5'3".) So once again, I was grabbing with one hand, shaking it out as best as I could, putting aside, grabbing some more, and so on. What would have taken me 5-10 minutes took me about 20 minutes. By the time I got it all in the dryer, I was welcoming a break. While I enjoyed the closeness of my cutie, It made a simple, mundane task very tedious.

Time to take the kids to Grandma's! =)

Maybe when I get home, I can try babywearing and stuffing! (Ha ha ha ha...)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I'm Jennifer, and I'm an addict...

It's true. I'm an addict. Ever since November of 2014. I have been addicted... to cloth diapers.

And you thought I was talking about drugs, you sicko...

My husband and I are broke. We've been broke. Ever since we got married, and even before, we were broke. But we didn't care. We were in love and we wanted a family. So what do happy couples in love that want babies do? Well, have babies, of course!

I have always loved the idea of cloth diapers, but I never had any real resources on how to get started, nor the funds to do so. So, I did what most people in America do when I had my first child; I used 'sposies. My life was a lot like Jennifer Labit when she was first starting out, having to choose between paying bills, groceries, and buying diapers for the baby. Obviously, the baby wins, because he's cute and he can't go without diapers.

Let's fast forward two and a half years later.

I'm sitting in my living room, pregnant with baby #2, and I had recently discovered I was having a boy. I was still broke, but doing a little bit better. My son was approaching his third birthday, and we're living in a tiny one bedroom apartment. We are VERY cramped. I knew though, we needed to do something quick to change our lives for the better and get out of our situation. But I had no idea what to do.

And then, I went to my next WIC appointment.

Of course, when you're getting certified, or re-certifying, they bounce you around from place to place, check your iron, give you a nutrition lecture, and then, my favorite part of all, they pull you into the room for the breastfeeding peer counselor. Breast pumps in every corner, diagrams all over the walls, and beautiful portraits of moms feeding their babies. I love this room! I am ready to jump out of my seat and say "YES, ABSOLUTELY, I WANT TO BREASTFEED, GIVE ME ALL YOUR RESOURCES" And we start talking, and pretty soon, and I cannot recall how, we get on the subject of crunchy living. We started to talk about cloth diapers, and I say "I would LOVE to do cloth, but there's no way I could afford the start up cost" And I see a sparkle in the counselor's eye and she says "Haven't you heard about Share The Love?" "No?" And that's when she handed my.... the pamphlet. My golden ticket to cloth-dom. I must have read it a thousand times. That was the day I put in my application for my diaper loan. Two days later, I was accepted into the program. She just told me to notify her when I had my baby and she would get me set up.

After a very eventful third trimester, I had my second boy at 33 weeks gestation by C-section.  When I finally brought my baby home to our new home, (we moved while I was in the hospital to a 2-bedroom apartment with a lot more space) I was nowhere thinking about cloth, because I was healing from my surgery. It wasn't until the day I had to choose between diapers and gas for the car when I said, "Enough is enough, I'm calling my Share The Love Host,". Two days later, I picked up my fluff. Fifteen brand new out of package BumGenius newborn aio's. Eight Ribbits, Four Clementines, and Three Twilights. I had no idea of the value I held in my hand in the time. I had no idea that I was holding diapers worth HUNDREDS of dollars. What did I know? I knew that my baby was going to be okay, that I didn't have to worry about diapers anymore. That I would have extra money to go elsewhere. And I was thankful.

Since then, My husband and I have been able to get on a budget, save money, and live the life that we want to live. We're still not out from under our debts completely, but we're a lot better. I have now bagged up my current diaper loan, because now, I have made my own diaper stash. Sixteen beautiful BumGenius and Flips, and the same amount in china cheapies. And I am now able to build a rainbow stash. People may think I'm weird or gross for using fluff, but my fluff saved my family.

My name is Jennifer, and I'm addicted to cloth diapers.