Some Thoughts on Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant with Shepherd, I didn’t do much to prepare for breastfeeding until the last few weeks before his birth. I knew I wanted to nurse Shepherd, but I was very conscious that, no matter how hard some families try, it just doesn’t work for everyone. These thoughts are based on my experiences with breastfeeding.

Here are a few things I found helpful:

I took a breastfeeding education class offered by a local nurse and lactation consultant. The instructor recommended bringing husbands along, and so Aaron skeptically joined in. Neither of us knew what to expect, and Aaron kept me laughing with the assumptions he was making about what the class would entail. You can only imagine. In actuality, we spent about two hours just discussing situations regarding breastfeeding, nursing a newborn, schedules, latch issues and where to find support. It was a thorough education for many things, but it didn’t cover the main thing I thought we would learn, which is how to actually do it. We did go home with a couple exceptional little books, more like brochures, that taught me a lot more about the actual process.

The lactation consultant stressed a few things that stuck with me in the first few months.

  • your baby will pick up on the stress cues you give him or her. Try to calm yourself by breathing deeply before the baby latches. Eventually, you won’t have to think about it, but for the first couple of weeks, this advice kept me relaxed and comfortable with a new, slightly uncomfortable, task.
  • Find a support person who will encourage you to “stay with” breastfeeding if you are committed to it. For me, that person was Aaron, but it could have easily been my mom, my mother-in-law or any one else who would willingly support me through those first trying days. Ideally, your support person will be with you through the first week.
  • Ask your support person to be in charge of writing down the time and duration of each nursing session, wet diaper and dirty diaper. Aaron kept a log of this information for the first week, and after that, I kept the log. It was very helpful to have Aaron in charge of this for the first few days, when I was exhausted and not very good about remembering to write down information. Although he was exhausted, too, he always made sure this task was done, and it gave us great peace of mind and let us know we were on the right track until Shepherd’s first doctor appointment. You can use an old-fashioned pen and paper or one of many apps. We used the (free) iBreastfeed app from Medela. It has a timer and charts to log all of the important stuff. 
  • Have an overarching goal about how long you want to breastfeed, but focus on short-term goals. The LC and nurses at the hospital where Shep was born both gave us this advice, which I am paraphrasing: 
    • At your baby’s birth: Nurse your baby as soon as he or she is born. 
    • For the baby’s first two weeks: Set a goal that you are going to do everything you can to breastfeed for two weeks. Seek all of the support you need if you have trouble during that time. This is the hardest period, and it does get easier every single day.
    • Three weeks to a month and a half: Set a goal to breastfeed for a month. Then, set a goal for another month. Most women find they are more comfortable with nursing by this mark, and they can continue to successfully breast feed for as long as they want at that point.

I read, but not too much. I read The Nursing Mother’s Companion and I read the literature provided at our breastfeeding education class. I just wanted an idea of what to expect, both in good situations and bad. 
I asked friends for their advice and experiences. There’s nothing like talking with somebody who has been there. This is my favorite piece of advice for pretty much any aspect of pregnancy, birth, postpartum and baby care. My friends were so generous with their stories, and they told me the whole truth, which was invaluable. I am glad I asked the questions I did, and I am happy to share my own experiences and what worked for us and what didn’t work for us.
Utilize the nurses and lactation consultants. At our hospital, all of the nurses and lactation consultants were willing to help me immediately. They knew I was a first-time mom, and I was really blunt with them in stating that I had no idea what I was doing and just needed them to help me and teach me. They did, and they were angels. Don’t be afraid to ask again and again and again, as many times as you need to, and don’t think your questions are stupid. You are likely spending a lot of money to be in their care, and it’s important to take advantage of all of the wisdom they offer. Don’t be shy in telling them that you are uncomfortable, that you don’t like a certain latch, etc., as there are myriad ways to nurse a baby.  
Find out what supplies work best for you. I posted some of my favorite things about nursing in the early days here. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes good products that I liked a lot and used religiously for about a month. Get a stack of pillows, a Boppy, or a My Brest Friend pillow to help you with positioning. Drink a lot of water, and keep a water bottle and some healthy snacks nearby. I made a nest on our chair/couch with my phone, a blanket, remote control, drinks and snacks, pillows and just rested for a few weeks. It was nice to have everything at arm’s reach. 
Immediately following Shep’s birth and for the first few months, these tips helped me out tremendously. I’d also note that you should feel free to call your pediatrician at all times, and keep a lactation consultant or nurse’s number nearby if you need it. Don’t worry about feeling silly for calling; that little baby is worth far more than feeling silly for asking a question! And, most importantly, relax. Enjoy the tiny baby. Seriously. Enjoy every blessed moment!
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week end

(here’s what’s spinning around in my brain:)

I’m so ready for a weekend with my boys.

This is the first Memorial Day weekend in a long time that we have zero plans. I wish we had plans jto travel.

It’s amazing how much money is saved by avoiding Target.

We haven’t bought groceries in almost a month. We are squeaking by until Saturday.

Aaron’s movie is screening at Phoenix Comicon Film Fest tonight.

I get pangs of homesickness for Nebraska around this time each year. I told Aaron this week that I wanted to buy some land there, even if it’s just a few acres. I really wasn’t kidding.

I wish we could go camping. Our tent sits unused in our storage.

My handwriting is one of my favorite distinctions. I wish I knew calligraphy.

We are thinking about moving apartments. It’s a long story.

Shepherd wakes up with the happiest smiles. That little boy brings me such joy.

His sitter has sent us home with cookie cupcakes, pecan coconut cookies, Mexican pizza and German Chocolate cookies this week. In a word, awesome.

I read a book this week that is making me rethink just about everything we buy and our motivation behind it. It didn’t stop me from getting bux this morning, though.

I have so many errands to run, but since I’m taking my lunch and eating at work + picking up Shep, I haven’t done a single one in two weeks. I need two hours and I’ll feel a lot better.

I keep thinking about the pedicure I wanted to get before Shepherd was born and how he surprised us and thus no pedi. My sister’s rule is to wait 30 days before buying something to make sure you really want it. If I’m still thinking about that three months later, should I get it?

We have been going to 9 a.m. church and I love it. The Sunday night midtown service we’d been going to begins right at Shep’s most fussy time. Oh well.

On our trip to Hilton Head I discovered I loved peanut butter M&M’s.

Most people ask me if Shep is five or six months old. I am going to have to fold a lot of clothes this weekend and put them away in storage. He’s growing like a weed.

We have been working on becoming morning people. Most mornings we just repeatedly tell each other it’s time
to wake up and alternate falling back asleep. This goes on for about 20 minutes. It’s pretty funny.

our baby essentials part two

Yesterday, I posted the first part of our baby essentials; you can find that post here. Today I’m posting the second installment of things I would recommend to new parents. I plan to update this as Shepherd grows older, but this is a list of what we have used often and enjoyed in the three months since Shepherd’s birth.

Clean

1. Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Wash. I love the light smell of this smell and wash. The fact that breastfed babies’ poop is water-soluble, combined with the fact that you don’t need to bathe newborns and infants every day, means a little bit of this goes a long way. I used the SkinDeep database to try and keep as many harsh chemicals away from Shepherd’s skin as possible.

2. Diaper Genie Elite. It does what it says it does. I miiiight have gone with Diaper Dekor instead, but really, no complaints. Also, register for the refills! They are nice to have a stock of.

3. American Red Cross finger nail clipper with magnifying glass. The magnifying glass on this clipper is genius. Shepherd’s paper-thin nails were impossible to deal with until I found this nail clipper.

4. Pampers Swaddlers. These are the diapers we brought home from the hospital, and these have been my preferred brand so far. I love the wetness indicator on the bottom, because hey, it’s the small things that make a difference when you’re exhausted, slightly delirious and madly in love with a tiny little thing! We also use Target’s up and up brand, but they are bunchier and not as absorbent. I wish we could cloth diaper, as I have heard many great things about modern cloth diapering methods, but it just isn’t feasible with our current situation. I am currently kicking myself and wishing I had registered for more diapers; you can always not unpack boxes and return them if you don’t use them before your baby changes size. I registered for a box of wipe refills and still have several left.

Play

5. Fisher-Price rainforest gym. We call this Shepherd’s playground. I actually didn’t register for anything like this because it was bulky and huge, but my mom got it for Shepherd and he has enjoyed the music and the mobile. It will occupy him in moments when we can’t hold him. We also use it for tummy time, although he likes a blanket on the floor just as much.

6. My Little Snugabunny bouncer. We registered for and received this bouncer from my grandma, and it has been put to use! I am fortunate Shepherd was agreeable to the bouncer; we had opened it and thrown away the packaging before he even arrived, so there was no returning it. The bouncer has several music options (that always seem to get stuck in my head) and a volume control, along with a vibration option. It does not swing, and in order to bounce, you must push it or the baby must make it bounce. Shepherd has always been able to make the bouncer bounce to some degree by kicking his legs. I am sure he would have enjoyed a nicer swing more, but this works, and it’s not as big as a giant swing. It is worth noting that he is entranced by the two birds on the swing, even moreso than all of the “friends” he has on his playground.

7. Baby Sophie. We recieved the original Sophie as well as Baby Sophie, but we have used only the Baby Sophie at this point. I put it in Shepherd’s hands and he can put it up to his mouth. It’s a little smaller, so he can handle it better than regular Sophie. I am sure it will be put to good use as he gains more motor skills and begins teething. Also, I just really like how cute all of Vulli’s products are!

8. Bedtime for Bear, among other story books. We received several stuffed animals and toys for Shepherd, but aside from rattles, he hasn’t displayed any interest yet. For now, we are loving how interested he is in the books we read to him every night. Of course, bright colors and contrast draw him in, but he is happy to listen to me read articles from magazines, our insurance statements out loud, blogs from Google reader, etc. I am just trying to expose him to language as much as possible, no matter how silly I sound reading insurance jargon in several accents. Maybe he’s meant to be an actuary? Either way, I would say reading (almost anything!) to babies from the minute they’re born is just a great habit to get in to. I scored a bunch of Golden Books at Goodwill for $5 along with gently used, beautifully illustrated children’s books for next-to-nothing, and I am eager to utilize our library for children’s lit, too.

9. Moby wrap. Let me first say this: I really didn’t like my Moby at first. It was an intimidating football field of fabric that I had to learn to manipulate, on my own, with a tiny baby. No thanks. But one day, at about one month, Shepherd was just inconsolable. He had entered the “witching hour” phase, which began around 4 p.m., and I needed to be able to use my hands but wanted to have him close to me so he wouldn’t cry. Kate, new mom and author of Elefantitas Alegres, linked to a wonderful how-to video that I watched over and over again until I felt comfortable using our Moby. Here is Kate’s post on her experience with the Moby, and here is the video about different Moby Wrap holds. Once I got the hang of it, I have loved having Shepherd close to me both to calm him down during his fussy times and to keep my hands free in times when I can’t easily hold him.

Feed

10. Boon Grass. This has come in very handy since Shepherd started using a bottle. I use it for all of my pumping stuff, too, and I love how fun and happy it looks on our countertop. There is also a larger version called “lawn.”

11. Playtex Ventaire. This is the only bottle Shepherd has taken so far. We have tried the Medela bottles that came with my pump, Tommy Tippee and Playtex Ventaire. I also bought a Dr. Brown’s bottle, but once he decided he liked Playtex, I stopped trying out other kinds. I plan on trying to introduce Dr. Brown’s sometime in the next couple of weeks. We did not register for any bottles because I wanted to buy them to “test” when Shepherd could take them. I wish we had registered for single bottles, but I am glad we didn’t get a lot that we didn’t use. My friend Jenny, a breastfeeding educator at MilkWorks in Lincoln, recommended the Playtex Ventaire based on a lot of studies on bottles that mimic breastfeeding most closely, and this has worked in our case. I am still interested in using glass bottles, and I will update this list based on our findings.

12. Motherlove More Milk Plus. When I started pumping to build up a milk supply for my return to work, I took More Milk Plus and it worked. I was wary to buy this after consulting with a lactation consultant, as she said there isn’t much hard evidence, but she said she has heard good things from other moms who have tried it and asked me to follow up with her if I ended up using it. Motherlove sells More Milk and More Milk Plus; the former does not have fenugreek and the latter does. The Mother’s Milk Plus says to expect a boost in supply in 24 hours; for me, it was even less. I am a believer, whether it was all in my mind or not.

13. The Nursing Mother’s Companion. A great book to read while embarking on the breastfeeding journey, though I wish I had read it once before Shepherd was born just to get acquainted with what could happen.

14. Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream. This stuff is great for the first few weeks when you and baby are learning how nursing works. I used it immediately after Shepherd was born and it helped a lot with the discomforts of nursing. An added bonus is that it is lanolin free, made with cocoa, and it doesn’t have to be wiped off before nursing like lanolins.

15.  Bella Tunno Sassy Sack. I didn’t think I wanted a diaper bag, but after Shepherd’s first month we began doing some traveling, and it was nice to have his things quickly accessible and in a designated place. I use this while traveling and I also bring it to work during the week to keep all of my pumping supplies.

and now, for a few things that aren’t pictured:

16. Medela Pump in Style. I’m a big fan of the electric double pump. A lot of people hate pumping, and admittedly it’s not the most fun thing in the world, but I am glad I am able to continue provide milk even while the baby and I are separated, which makes the inconvenience worth it to me. The slightly scandalous-looking bustier is a must-have, too. It’s nice to have free hands and continue doing whatever you are doing.

17. Medela Harmony manual pump. I bought this pump in a pinch for times when I’m traveling and need to pump but don’t want to haul out the big guns. Manual pumping isn’t that bad; it just takes longer and gets tiring. Bonus? Arm workout.

18. Other pumping stuff: storage bags with adapterstorage containers; a small insulated bag; spare membranes and other parts. I would save gift cards for this stuff in case you find you have a need for it. I got our insulated bag from the hospital; we were sent home with a box full of formula, and the insulated cooler was included with it. I use it to transport milk back and forth, but anything insulated will do.

Phew! That’s seems like a lot, but it is all used regularly, if not multiple times a day! I actually have a few more suggestions, so I will post again tomorrow with a part three. 

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our baby essentials part one

Oh, the world of registering for, getting, storing and using things for baby! I was overwhelmed when Aaron and I first registered for things for Shepherd; the sheer volume of baby stuff out there is just mind-blowing! We had a few guidelines we wanted to follow when it came to baby stuff: we wanted to keep it minimal and we wanted to purchase durable, high-quality items that could be used for multiple children. Our small apartment doesn’t have a lot of room for storing baby paraphernalia, so we tried to keep our list relatively small. We were blessed with many gracious friends and family members who wanted to give us lots of great things, and we are happy to say that we have used almost everything we registered for and received.

These are the things I would recommend to new parents that aren’t highly subjective, like furniture or decorations. I plan to update this as Shepherd grows older, but this is a list of what we have used often and enjoyed in the three months since Shepherd’s birth.

I’ll start with part one and follow up with part two tomorrow. 

Sleep

1. Carter’s onesies. There’s nothing cuter than a newborn in a white onesie. Shepherd live(d)(s) in the short-sleeve version of these. Gerber brand cost less, but we have found they shrink a lot. We also loved the kimono-style when he was first born and his umbilical cord hadn’t fallen off. Since it has been warm and humid since Shepherd was born, we received a lot of long sleeved, footed onesies that we haven’t been able to use much (and some not at all), but these cool, short sleeved guys fit the bill for our hot-natured baby.

2. Aden and Anais swaddle blankets. These are a perennial favorite among all the moms I know. And for good reason; they are the best. We swaddled Shepherd with them at first, and now he uses them both for sleeping and for soothing. I would recommend buying a few; we have the bamboo (absolutely the best!) and the Aden and Anais for Target brand. The bamboo are nicer to the touch, but both are great, and they wash very well.

3. Cloth diapers, which we have used these for burp rags. I drop a few in every room of our apartment, and they are always there when I need them! I expect that once we are past the spit-up phase I will be able to use them as cleaning cloths, too. We have a few that are embroidered with fun fabric scraps, which was really easy to do and cost-effective.

4. SwaddleMe sleep sacks. Shepherd wore a sleep sack to bed from three days old to about a month old with his hands inside the sack and until about two months with his hands outside the sack (at which point he got too long for it). These kept his arms from flailing and waking him; he slept markedly better in them than swaddled other ways. I would recommend a sleep sack for at least the first few weeks just to try it.

5. Boppy pillow. Looking back, I wish I would have got a My Brest Friend (stupidest name ever!) pillow instead, but the Boppy did well enough for positioning during nursing. I did find it lost its shape a bit, but I also used it a lot for Shep to lounge around in. For the next baby, I might consider buying a My Brest Friend pillow instead. You could use pillows, but I liked my Boppy more than a bunch of pillows to prop my arms.

Travel System

6. Chicco KeyFit 30 car seat and extra base. We love our car seat. I was going to get a different color in the KeyFit 30, but after reading Amazon reviews about stains that are impossible to get out in certain styles, we went with Fuego, which was the most highly rated. It has been easy to clean whenever spots appear. The extra base works well so we can snap in the car seat no matter whose car we are in. It’s definitely not a necessity, but for us, it works great.

7. UppaBaby Vista stroller. First, I have to say that this is probably my favorite gift we received. Aaron wasn’t convinced we needed such a nice stroller when I told him it was my choice, but, three months in to parenthood, he is a convert, and, I daresay, an apologist. Our stroller came with the stroller base, the bassinet and the seat you see pictured above (along with rain gear and mosquito netting). For his first seven weeks, Shep slept in the bassinet. It worked like a charm, and it was so easy to wheel around our home if he was napping and I wanted him close by. We take a walk almost every day, and yes, I love this stroller. I love that it can accommodate multiple kiddos in the future, too. The stroller base folds up and latches easily and can be handled with one hand; it fits easily in the trunk of my small car and Aaron’s hatchback. The seat and bassinet components are very easy to install but very stable. I love that I can use the base with the car seat adapter when I don’t want the bulky bassinet, for instance, when we are shopping.

8. Chicco car seat adapter for Uppababy Vista. This was something I wasn’t sure about purchasing when I bought it, but I am so, so glad I did. It is a snap (literally) to attach in to our stroller base, and it allows us to use our Chicco car seat in place of the bassinet or seat. It has been well worth the cost on trips to the mall, Target, grocery store, and generally out and about. It is so nice to easily set up the stroller base and pop in the car seat and be on our way!

One thing I’ve learned through these first few months is that you really don’t need much to take care of a baby! There are some essentials, but for the most part, they are pretty low-maintenance in terms of “things.” So much of what we see for babies has such limited use and life span, but the “baby industry” markets so well that we feel like we might be shortchanging our babies by not buying in to all the stuff. By reducing what we buy, Aaron and I hope to be able to invest in higher-quality items, keep our money and save space. In my opinion, it’s the intangibles that you have to be willing to provide more than the things. Look for part two of our baby essentials tomorrow!

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