Friday, September 22, 2017

1,367 Words About Pumping and Weaning

When I first started pumping, I had an oversupply of milk. For a long time, I was one of those people who had an abundance of milk; the joyful burden of leaking breasts and spraying milk all over the room. It was funny, but it was comforting, knowing I didn't have the supply struggles of so many new moms. It was a luxury I was grateful to have. Over time, as I was pumping more often than I was nursing during the day, I went from often pumping in excess to pumping "just enough" for the next day. In my three pumping sessions per day, I would pump the requisite 16, then 12, then 8 ounces - my body somehow knowing to adjust output based on what my baby needed. It felt something like magical, and I tried to trust my body to make what my baby needed. I felt lucky, and #blessed and all that. And my body has continued to keep up with Margie's needs, even though that means now I'm barely getting 3-4oz per day. "It's ok; that's all she needs," I tell myself, though it's hard to reconcile.

It's not a problem; it's a natural phase. My baby is almost one. Eating solid foods. Not requiring as much breastmilk in her diet. And my body knew this, though my heart didn't want to accept it. My baby is growing up. I would come home from work to find she hadn't finished her second bottle; she'd only consumed 6 ounces while I was away, and now I had to feed her from a bottle instead of from the breast to avoid wasting precious pumped milk. But even though this change was happening, and I could see in front of me what she was drinking, coming home from work with "only" 6 ounces of milk felt like a failure. And over the next few weeks, I started coming home with 5, or 4. Occasionally 7, for reasons I don't really understand, but blame on hormones. I'm grateful that my body has been able to give me this experience, even if I don't fully understand the "magic"-seeming parts of it.

And now that I'm producing just enough for one bottle, and she's old enough to have cow's or non-dairy milk in a bottle, I've decided to start weaning myself off of pumping. She will likely still nurse in the morning and before bed, and she is still waking to nurse at least once overnight, and often more than that. But during the day, she doesn't need the one 4 ounce bottle I've been pumping three times a day to bring home to her. It's time for me to give myself a break, and release myself from the routine of pumping.

I had an epiphany in therapy recently: one of the reasons I've kept up with pumping for so long is that it feels like something I am doing for my daughter, even though I'm away from her all day at work. The milk I bring home is a gift I've made for her each day. While I'm away for 9 hours, I'm still spending 90 minutes thinking of her, working for her, producing for her. It feels like a kindness, a motherliness, something that tugs at the most biologically basic need inside me to provide for her. And I didn't want to sever that connection.

A friend told me that when it's time to stop pumping, "you'll just know." But I couldn't decide when to start weaning off the pump, and I was losing my mind going around in circles about it - clearly I didn't "just know". So I just decided to keep on keeping on, three times a day, until I "knew" I was ready. And last week, I knew.

It's not that simple, of course. It's not easy to just stop cold turkey. I am a person who is apparently quite sensitive to changes in my hormone levels -- when Margie consolidated her afternoon bottle and post-work nursing session into one, I started having hot flashes and hormonal mood swings. I've heard that it's best to be gentle on your body if you can, dropping one pumping session per week until you're down to zero. I had planned on this week being the last of 3x/day, and dropping to 2x/day next week, and so on, but a delayed work meeting schedule meant that I had an accidental 2x/day on Monday, so I just took it as a sign to start now. I wasn't in the office Tuesday or Thursday, so this week hasn't been a full pumping week, but I figured I might as well rip off the emotional bandaid anyway.

It's weird to only pump twice a day. When I clean up after the second session, I have to remind myself to clean all the way up and not just stick things back in the fridge until next time. When I'm pumping for the second time, I have to accept that that's all I'm getting for the day - I won't squeeze another ounce or so out of a third session. I have to remember to get the bottles at the end of the day, since my final session isn't immediately followed by my leaving the office anymore. It's not a big deal, and I recognize the privilege of even being in this position, but it's still taking emotional and mental energy to sort out.

So today is Friday. My last day of pumping twice a day. Next week it'll just be one session, midday, assuming my breasts can handle that (I assume they can, since I very rarely even have full-feeling breasts, much less engorgement, anymore). I've barely taking home 3-4 oz per day so far, and I'm guessing that next week will be even less. And that's ok - that's kind of the point. When we run out of 4oz bottles in the fridge, we'll move on to the 3oz bottles. There are some 3oz bags in the freezer. We can supplement with cow's milk or soy milk, or nothing, says her pediatrician, as long as she's still eating dairy (and this girl loves cheese in all forms, so no problem there). After next week, when we run out of milk in the freezer, we'll be done with breastmilk in bottles.

I'm feeling an odd combination of relief and freedom and sadness. I don't even want to imagine how it will feel to be done with breastfeeding altogether, but I'm not ready for that yet, and thankfully, neither is Margie as far as I can tell. I'll be glad to be done with the "brain weasels" of counting ounces and timing how long bottles have been out or thawed or frozen or not. It will be nice not to have my work day broken up by my dates with the machine. I'll miss catching up on Netflix or just looking at baby pictures.

When I enter the pumping room (which is great; it's lovely; I designed it - I'm very lucky), I sigh at the effort of getting myself set up. Locking the door. Closing the blinds. Taking off my shirt. Putting on the strapless pumping bra. Attaching the pump parts. Etc etc etc. repeat in reverse at the end. I'm definitely ready to be done. But when the letdown starts, and I'm watching videos of my baby while watching little drops fall into the bottles, I think it's not that bad (thanks, oxytocin) and feel twinges of sadness about this part of my life ending. I've been doing it for almost 10 months now. That's a lot. It feels like a lot. And yet, I can't believe it's almost over.

But it's time. I suppose I'll report back when I'm officially done pumping. It feels like I should have some sort of ceremony or celebration on my last day, or at least tell my officemates that the pumping room is no longer being used. But I feel a little too melancholy and not quite celebratory enough for that. Guess I'll blame the hormones.


I'd love to hear your pumping and weaning stories below, if you want to share them!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Glamorous Life of a (This) Working Mom

I don't know what happened last night. There's a lot running through my head this morning, and rather than send a flood of eleventyfive tweets, I figured I'd write a blog post. It's been a while, anyway.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm Having it All. I'm crushing it at work, my side hustle is churning along smoothly, the baby is sleeping in regular, 4-hour chunks throughout the night, and my jeans fit comfortably.

Most of the time, I look at Having it All Me, and I don't even believe that those things have ever happened independently, much less all at once. I feel barely coherent at work, I go days without responding to side hustle emails (much less working on projects), Margie's awake every hour needing to be nursed or held and rocked back to sleep, and my jeans are too tight. I think you can guess what kind of time it is today. I'm two cups of coffee and a green tea in, and it's only 2:30, and I don't know how I'm going to make it through the rest of the afternoon and evening.

This was *hilarious* to me at 8:45 this morning.
Sleep has eluded us for a few nights now, but the whole sleep training thing is sort of out the window because of The Trifecta: Teething (#4 is large and in charge and right under the gum), Developmental Changes (crawling and pulling herself to standing), and Probable Illness (Will and I both have sore throats). Last night was epically rough, returning to the world of The Thunderdome (aka having a newborn), where she would only sleep if being held. I think there may have been one stretch of 2-3 hours of sleep in a row, but honestly, I can't remember. I barely stumbled to work and stayed awake all day, and now it's almost 4:30 and I'm finally finishing this blog post while pumping.

I made it through the work day, and somehow I'll make it through tonight, because that's what has to happen, and that's how this works. But man. I have two more long work days ahead of me, and we're going camping this weekend, and I am praying to St. Swaddlesnooze that Margie starts sleeping again.

I'm always full of questions and research and trying to Figure Things Out -- trying to find a reason for the behavior change because understanding why might help us turn things around. But lately, I'm trying to lean into the chaos. To throw my arms in the air and just ride the wave, because what else can I do? Babies are gonna baby. And there might be different or better ways to do things, but all I can do is take it one day at a time and hope that I don't look back in years and think I was an idiot. Or even I do, I hope I can be kind to my sleep-deprived past self and realize that I was just doing my best to survive Thunderdome.





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

33

Last night, Margie gave me the sweetest birthday gift of all: nearly 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. She's started occasionally dropping her midnight feeding, which means that she sleeps from around 8pm to 4:30am before needing to eat. Now, she was hungry (so hungry) when she woke up at 4:45, but eventually that will stretch longer and longer, I'm told, and she'll just wake up ravenous at her normal 7:30am wakeup time :)  I fully expect her to wake up at midnight to eat tonight, which is fine. I'm following her lead and (somehow) cherishing these little middle of the night moments we spend together. But if her lead means that she starts sleeping longer? Ok by me. And if we plateau here, and eventually I need to sleep more, and we have to train her not to eat overnight? We'll deal with that then. For now, it's manageable, and I'm hopeful that the fact that she's done this twice in the last week is a sign of change to come. Wow, it's easy to get sidetracked by baby sleep talk.

Anyway. I turned 33 today. And I'm feeling more like giving back than anything else. It's a real shit time for our country, and I realize how lucky I am to be relatively sheltered from the mess. It's a position of privilege, to be able to look at it, read about it, and go back to my little life where not much has changed. I am very, very lucky. Hashtag blessed.

Between Planned Parenthoodsupporting refugee families, rides to support the environment, and friends dealing with unexpected medical expenses (how is it acceptable in this country that people have to crowdfund their cancer treatments?!), opportunities to help are definitely out there. And I'm trying to make a dent wherever I can. If you can, I urge you to as well. Disqus (where I work) gives the option for employee birthdays to have an edible/drinkable item to share with the office, or a donation to the cause of your choice. This year, I put my birthday funds towards Planned Parenthood.

It's just little things - I still have a family to look out for, and I'm not about to win any philanthropist of the year awards or anything...but it's nice to reflect on what I have and am able to provide for my family, and give something to people who aren't so lucky. Giving is a luxury I'm glad I have.

Give to yourself. Give to others. Do what you can. <3



Friday, April 21, 2017

One Year

One year ago today, my dad died. So did Prince, and my family quietly mourned our own loss amidst the swirling grief of the world. As did the families of all the other people who passed on April 21, 2016. Our grief is not special. Our grief is not unique. But it is our grief.

One year ago today, for the first time, we felt external movement from the baby growing inside me. I'm sure many other people felt their unborn children move, too. Our joy and excitement were not unique or special or different, but of course, to us...to me, it was. I wrote about it here.

This morning, I forgot to light the Yartzeit candle for my dad before I left the house. I was late for work, and in the rush to get extra baby snuggles and still get out the door, I left the candle sitting on top of the fridge. I knew I should have put it on the counter last night, where I'd be sure to see it this morning, but I didn't. My brain has a hard time remembering things, which I hear is perfectly normal. It's hard to not be hurt by my forgetfulness sometimes, though I remind myself that these things happen. That it's ok. That it's not really a big deal. And it is ok, and it's not significant in the grand scheme of the world, and my dad would not likely be offended by my slip. But still. We'll light it when I get home from work, and it'll burn for 24 hours, and we'll remember my dad, as we remember him always.

There are good days and hard days, and life with a baby certainly provides a number of distractions I hadn't even imagined. Some days I forget, and I reach for my phone to call my dad, but those days are fewer and farther between. I think I'm starting to learn.

Healing is a tough thing. Reconciling living your new life with remembering your old one. I've been doing a lot of that lately, with the grief over my dad and the challenges of motherhood. Eventually it's not your "new life" anymore, it's just your life. It just is.


I'm about the same age as Margie in this picture, and I still have that satin Paramount jacket my dad is wearing. It's a trip, as my dad would say, to think about the passage of time, and to think that I was once this small, and he was once this young, and here we are today. It just is. And we just are.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bun Maternity

While I have recently taken most of my pre-pregnancy clothes out of storage, and thankfully, much of it still fits, there's still this ever-constant issue of what shirts to wear. I look at every shirt with my "can I nurse in this?" glasses on, which means some of my favorite shirts and dresses are just out of the picture for a while more. Make way for flowy tops that are easy to lift, or low-neck wraps that won't get stretched out when pulled to the side! Lots of cardigans and zip-up hoodies in my life for that easy-access front, for sure.

I recently became familiar with a company called Bun Maternity...and their super cute nursing hoodie. I'd seen it around the internet, in my Facebook feed, on the mommy blogs...and I wanted to try it for myself. When they offered to ship me one for review, I was super excited! And it did not disappoint.

I love how it comes low enough to cover my bum!
It's just fitted enough to be cute, not frumpy, and its front panels are a cute alternative to the standard front-flap nursing top. My husband didn't even realize it was a nursing shirt - he just thought it was a hip, artistic sweatshirt :)  It's warm but not too heavy, and the fabric is super soft.



The easy-access front is great for nursing in cooler weather (side note: this was taken in February - she already seems so small in this picture!). And while I don't care much about nursing modesty, if you are someone who does, I think you'll like the modesty it provides. 

I typically wear a size 12/14 in tops, and the XL fits me great, even after going through the wash (on cold) and dryer (on low) (that's how I wash everything). I also tried their Nursing Tank Top (the XL is a tad too big on me) and the Long Sleeve Cross Top Nursing Maxi Dress (looked kind of frumpy on me, but I think it would look awesome on someone who isn't so high-waisted), but this hoodie is by far the best thing of theirs I've tried. I'm considering buying one in another color, just to have two.

I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to write this post, but not embarrassed at how much I love this hoodie. Seriously.


Full disclosure: Bun Maternity sent me a few items for free to try and review, but did not ask for a specific type of review. My opinions are my own.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sleep Training: One and a Half Weeks In

Well here we are, one week into the official world of Sleep Training.

Night 1
Night 2

The other nights have gone like so:
Night 3: Asleep within seconds. Fussed herself to sleep a couple times overnight. Fed only at 5:30am.
Night 4: Asleep after 4 minutes of crying. Fussed herself to sleep a couple times overnight. Fed at 1am and 5:30am.
Night 5: Asleep after 30 minutes of crying (it was awful). I have officially forgotten how many times she woke up overnight to eat. I think it was once.
Night 6: Asleep within seconds. Fussed herself to sleep a couple times I think. Fed at 12:30am and 6:15am.

The next few nights were similar - falling asleep easily and quickly with zero to minimal fuss. Last night (night 11 if you're keeping track), she was wide awake in her crib for at least 5 minutes, maybe longer, quietly looking around before falling asleep. She woke to eat around 1:30am, and then...woke up at 4am. It was too soon for her to be hungry, so we thought we'd try to do the intervals, but she just got louder and louder. Will thought something might be wrong, so we checked her physical needs -- diaper: dry, gas: not apparent; pain: possibly teething. She was pulling on her ear a lot, so we thought maybe it was teething pain. At around 4:30am, maybe 4:45, I honestly have no idea, we gave her some ibuprofen. Back to the intervals. By 5:30am, I was ready to give up. She'd been sleeping or quiet-like-sleeping for a maximum of 10 minutes, but usually only 2-3 minutes, for an hour and a half. I threw in the towel and nursed her to sleep. She slept until her usual 7:30am wakeup time. It was the first time we'd needed to do intervals in the middle-of-the-night/early-morning, and it did not go well. Oy. Hopefully that was just an April Fool's joke (she's still figuring out what a "joke" is, I suppose) and tonight will be better.

We've had slight variances to her bedtime routine over the last week or so, and are figuring out what works and what doesn't. I'm tempted to log this all in an app or a spreadsheet and really be able to analyze the data...or I could just roll with it. Which I think is the better thing for my sanity. Try to let go. Try to learn but not control the uncontrollable. I don't think I could handle more tracking anyway.

The biggest news for us is that we're doing no arms swaddled now - she's in a sleep sack, which we started with the swaddle "wings" around her chest. It was hot the other night, so we tried a sack without wings, and she's been doing fine in that. From now on, it'll just be in the zip up sleep sacks, or just pajamas if it's warm enough, I suppose. No more swaddled arms, no more hands-as-weapons.

Relatedly (I think), I'm struggling with my supply - I was always a "more than enough" person, and now I'm becoming a "just enough" person, at least where pumping is concerned. It's stressful to pump at work and not get enough for the next day. Stress decreases supply, so it's a vicious cycle. I'm trying to relax, to drink more water, eat more oatmeal...and I'm back to pumping three times a day at work (I had gone down to two and had been getting the same output). Margie seems to get plenty to eat straight from the tap, so I've thought it could be an issue with the pump, but it doesn't seem like anything is wrong with it. Might just need to re-train my body to pump.

We're trying to sleep train for naps now, which means she's somewhere between crying for half an hour before we give up the nap and sleeping for an hour in her crib (so far, just for Lorena). Usually if she nurses I can get her to nap for half an hour.

Baby sleep is vexing. I'm surrounded by people who are in the same boat, so it can sometimes feel like the only topic there is to talk about, at all. It's hard and it's exhausting walking the line between "do whatever it takes to get some sleep for everyone" and "try to make some progress to get her sleeping independently".

But that's where we are. We know she can do it. We know there will be setbacks. We know there will be more heartbreakingly painful cries. We know there will be more nights of uninterrupted sleep. But man, it's tough.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sleep Training: Night 2

You may recall (since I just wrote about it yesterday) that we've started sleep training.

I was pretty nervous about Night 2, because I'd heard that the second night can sometimes be harder than the first, and also Will was going to be leaving right after bedtime to play in a hockey game. He'd be there for the initial put down (assuming it took <30 min like Night 1 had) and then gone for a few hours, and I was worried about being alone and her waking up crying. I wanted to take a shower, and I wanted to get some sleep, but mostly I wanted to not be alone to do the crying intervals. We'd tried this method for her evening nap and it failed miserably. We'd been told that if after 30 min it's not working, to end the nap and wait until the next time, so we stopped trying. She stopped crying and was her usual joyous self. But I was nervous about bedtime.

At about 8:15pm, after getting her all ready for bed, I nursed her - she fell asleep within 15 minutes like she usually does, but woke a bit when I stood up to put her in her crib (I was trying to wake her a little so I would put her down sleepy but not asleep). Good! This is what we want! She started crying as soon as I set her down, which was to be expected. I patted her, shushed her, kissed her goodnight and told her I loved her, and then I walked out to the sounds of her crying. I texted a friend that we were off to a loud start on night 2, and I whimpered to Will (who was in the bathroom getting ready to leave) that she was crying. I braced myself for a rough evening.

I went out into the living room to bury my head in my parent-friend chat groups...and, my friends, she cried for literally 2 minutes and fell asleep. I didn't believe it, and when Will left and was all "she's asleep! woo hoo! amazing baby!" I was skeptical. I believe I meekly shrugged and said, "maybe, we'll see." He left. And she stayed asleep. I had a glass of wine and some chocolate. I watched some Netflix. After over an hour, I was (mostly) convinced that she was out, and I took a shower (with the monitor in full view). I washed the pump parts. I was practically high off the 2+ hours of sleeping baby, and wasn't tired, so I watched some more Netflix. Around 11:30, Will was home and I finally got in bed.

At 11:40, I heard a little yelp from her room, and it made my heart stop for a second. Will was in the shower, and I just laid there, listening, not sure what to expect. She fussed quietly for 10 minutes but didn't cry, so I didn't go in her room (them's the rules). And then she was asleep again. At 4am, I heard some quiet fussing, but it lasted about 5 seconds - long enough for me to think, "Wow! It's 4am! She's probably hungry. Maybe I'll get up and feed her--oh wait she's asleep again." I thought about pumping, but decided to opt for more sleep. Same thing happened at 6am. And then she woke up for real at 7:30 (her normal wakeup time).

I did not enter her room between 8:30pm and 7:30am and she slept and slept and woke up happy and hungry (she ate for 10 min vs her usual 6). It's bittersweet. Last night was the first night of her entire life that I haven't fed her overnight. A part of me is sad about that, about her not needing me as much. I was just starting to like our little middle of the night nursing sessions (when they happened twice a night, anyway). I'm worried that my milk supply will drop if I'm not feeding her at night anymore. I missed her last night, and the 30 minutes we spent together nursing and playing while I got dressed before I left for work felt very short. But on the other hand, I didn't stumble out of bed and fall asleep in the glider while nursing at 2am. And tonight, maybe I'll even go to bed before midnight.

And of course, this could be a fluke. It's only been two days. By no means do I think we've wrapped this up. If this holds, it's been the luckiest, easiest sleep training ever. We may have a bad night tonight, or in a few nights. And surely we will in the future if she's sick or teething or going through some other development thing. She napped poorly (only two 30 min naps) the last two days, so maybe she was just extra tired. Maybe she'll nap well today and sleep less well (though I hear sleep begets sleep). But it's a good sign regardless, knowing she can do it. And knowing she can do it makes it easier to handle the crying. Not easy, of course, but easier.

This post was long, yes, I know. And maybe only interesting to me (and maybe not even to me). But I'm in "document it all" mode so that I don't forget. Here's a baby.

happy and awake and playing on our bed while I get dressed