Author: Jacquelyn

I'm a Seventh-day Adventist Christian with a passion for Christ and His Gospel. Also web developer, aspiring author, artist, frequent blogger, loving wife, and new mother to an adorable little boy.
3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

When you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first child, there are many things that you anticipate and mentally prepare yourself for: sleepless nights, dirty diapers, cries and giggles, spit up and smiles, and so much more.

In the first six months after our little one’s birth, I discovered a few very interesting things that I did not expect postpartum. I can honestly say that these three things blindsided me.

Excessive Hair Loss

This first one you may have read about in pregnancy books or on mommy blogs, but I did not fully grasp what it would mean to me until it happened. Every lady is different, but for me, I had excessive hair loss between about Week 3 postpartum until Month 5. I am not talking about a few strands here or there; after all, everyone sheds on average 75-100 strands of hair a day.

No, I was loosing hair daily in the hundreds! My shower walls would be covered in hair, hair would stick to my shirts and sweaters, and I would have to carefully examine little Peanut’s fingers and toes to make sure none of my hair had gotten tangled around his little digits. My once thick, luscious hair was suddenly thin, scraggly, and pathetic looking.

So why do some women lose large amounts of hair after childbirth?

Hair has three stages: active growth, resting, and loss (shedding). During pregnancy, the raise in certain hormones slows down the natural life cycle of our hair so more hair stays in the growth or resting stages and less strands shed. This gives pregnant ladies that thick mane many people notice and comment on. Unfortunately, after childbirth when the pregnancy hormones decrease, all those strands start entering into the shedding stage – often at the same time. This can lead to excessive shedding and what seems like hair loss.

Be comforted that this phase is not permanent. It may take a few months, but your hair will get back into a normal cycle and the excessive shedding will stop. While I waited for my hair to stop shedding, I cut it to shoulder length. Previously my hair was layered so the thinning made it look scraggly and awful. Cutting it helped to give my hair a little bit of shape again.

Fortunately, by six months postpartum, my hair stopped the excessive shedding and began to regrow.

Severe Gas Pain

The first episode struck about 10pm on the sixth day after little Peanut was born. It was the first day I ventured out of the house – Bradley took us to visit my parents (twenty-minutes away). It was a day that was full of success and achievement, as I had finally been able to pump milk successfully and relieve my poor, engorged breasts.

Around 10pm, though, I began to experience a strange pain in the center of my chest, located directly beneath/behind my sternum. As the minutes passed, the pain intensified. I tried lying down but the pain radiated around my ribcage. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest while, at the same time, all of the muscles of my core (abs, sides, lower back, shoulders) were completely frozen or locked in place.

A few hours later, the pain had worsened to excruciating, beyond even the pain of childbirth, and it was terrifying because I did not know what was causing it. I leaned against the bed, praying for relief and groaning, wavering in my mind on whether I should ask Bradley to take me to the emergency room or not. What if we did go – call my parents, pack up our six-day-old infant, drove to the ER – and the mysterious pain vanishes as we are in the waiting room?

Bradley was very concerned. Our little one was fussy that night. It was the first time he scream-cried inconsolably for hours, and I was in too much pain to move, let alone help with the baby. Just when Bradley was about to call my parents and take me to the ER, the excruciating pain suddenly – Yes, it was very sudden! – vanished. One moment I was frozen in searing pain and the next: Poof! It was gone. All that was left was a little ache in my muscles.

This debilitating pain in my sternum seemed to happen once or twice a week for the first month postpartum. By the third episode, I was terrified that something serious was wrong with me. I tried gas relief tablets, but they had a marginal affect on the severe pain. It was about a month postpartum that I discovered that the unbearable pain was gas getting stuck in the upper part of my large intestines and putting pressure on a nerve.

When the gas started to built up, I would feel a strange pressure in my sternum and middle back. I remembered what the nurses told me in the hospital about walking, re-enforced by advice from my mom. To my relief, I found that when I took some gas relief tablets and went on a long walk, the walking helped to move the gas along and prevent it was getting stuck in that spot.

Also, I had to overcome decades of training on appropriate and inappropriate lady-like behavior and allow myself the freedom to pass gas. My poor husband! And what an embarrassing issue to discuss in public, but I am bearing my soul in the hopes of helping some other new mother who might be experiencing a similar situation. It is better to “toot” then to feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out.

With the walking and passing gas, the excruciating, feel-like-I’m-dying, pain was avoided. By the end of the second month postpartum, I no long experienced the gas pains.

Difficulties breastfeeding

If you have read Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced breastfeeding. I will not repeat the entire story here but just the main points.

I was not expecting our little Peanut to be born small, with a severe tongue-tie, and be unable to nurse. For the first month, we tried unsuccessfully to nurse at least once a day and each time he could not latch, I felt like a failure as a mother. The whole time, I was pumping every 2-3 hours and there were a few times when he had to be supplemented with formula because I just was not making enough milk. Finally, at the end of the month, I had to give up trying to nurse for my own sanity’s sake and for the happiness of our little family. I had to realize that him might never be able to nurse and that it was ok, as long as he was getting food and growing healthy.

During month three, he latched very weakly. With some help from a pacifier to strengthen his sucking muscles, he was able to nurse a few ounces by month four. I began nursing him through the night. At seven months, he is now a nursing pro. I still pump every 3-4 hours, as I work outside the home and need to keep my supply up, but he is also eating baby food twice a day now and he gets a bottle of formula when needed.

I was not expecting challenges with breastfeeding and, I will be brutally honest, it was an extremely difficult hurdle to jump emotionally during a time when my emotions were already all-over-the-place (postpartum hormones fluctuations!). I made it through due to the love and support of my amazing husband and my parents, especially my mom. If I could go back and do those first month over again, I would. Because of my stress and self-deprecation, I did not have the energy to leave the house more, see friends and family more, and do those precious “memories” things with Peanut… like take infant photos and stamp his little hands and feet. I have no footprints of when he was 4 lbs 7 ounces except for the one foot stamped on the certificate the hospital gave us.

My advice to other moms who might be facing difficulties with breastfeeding is something my older sister shared with me when I was very low: Fed is best. A fed, happy, and healthy baby is best, no matter how you end up providing that nourishment: through breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding.

While the first few days may seem to drag on, they really go by so fast. Do not waste that time with anxiety and needless stress over things beyond your control. You are amazing! You birthed or adopted this adorable precious little one so cherish every moment you have together.

Bonus: Just how much I love my little Peanut!

Okay, okay. When expecting a little one, most women are likely to be excited and eagerly anticipate the bonding that will happen between mother and newborn. However, what really surprised me was just how quickly this bonding occurred and how much I love my little Peanut. Even when he is crying and fussy, even after the fifth time he has woken me up in the middle of the night and I rolled out of bed, stumble to his room, and pick him up like a zombie, even when I find myself momentarily frustrated or overwhelmed, I just love him so much!

Baby cuddles, toothless smiles, little giggles, and the first time he said “Mom-ma” (even though he was crying and I’m pretty sure he did not do it on purpose) get me through the sleepless nights, the fits of crying, the explosive diapers that only the shower can wash away, the spit up all over my work clothes and the couch minutes before I was supposed to be walking out the door.

After all, who could not love this adorable little face?

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

I just love being a mom — especially his mom — and I would not trade this experience for anything.

So, in summary, when it comes to childbirth and its immediate affects, perhaps the old adage says it best: Expect the unexpected. In addition to these three things that blinded me, I also had some great experiences.

So remember this: no matter if you are losing your hair in clumps, experiencing severe gas pains, having trouble breastfeeding or whatever it might be — you just gave birth to a beautiful and precious little one. Cherish this gift that has been given to you. The other things will sort themselves out.

9 inexpensive ways to personalize a rental property

9 inexpensive ways to personalize a rental property

Do you find yourself daydreaming about owning your own home some day, browsing home decor blogs, or creating Pinterest boards to pin your favorite looks? Are you tired of empty white walls and a lack of personality in your home? If you are one of the millions who rent and thought that you cannot customize your temporary “home”, think again!

There are a number of things that you can do to personalize a property you are renting without spending a great deal of money or breaking your lease contract. Here are nine inexpensive ways we have and are currently transforming our current rental house into a cozy home that fits us.

1. Hang Curtains

Yes, I know it sounds simple, but you would be surprised how a properly hung curtain can radically transform a room. We went two years with a makeshift curtain in our master bedroom even though we already had a rod, curtain, and sheers simply because 1.) we were not certain we would be staying in this rental long, and 2.) we were lazy and did not want to remove the hideous and broken vertical blinds.

When we finally decided to make the switch, it took us maybe twenty minutes to remove the old vertical blinds and the plastic mounts, mount our nice double curtain rod, and hang the sheers and curtains. We went two years with a cheap curtain draped over a plastic mount and closed with clothes pins when we could have been enjoying a gorgeous and relaxing master bedroom with a mere twenty minutes of work!

A properly hung curtain can take a room from shabby to chic in as little as twenty minutes!

Curtains do not have to be an expensive purchase. Browse your favorite home decor stores to find the style and color that fits you. If you are on a tight budget, visit online retailers to find better deals on similar items or wait until the store has the desired item on sale.You can also try visiting secondhand stores, consignment shops, or even asking friends and family if they have old curtains they no longer use.

Just be sure that you get two matching panels (one for each “side” of the window) of the correct length. Measure your window!

To take it up a notch also hang sheers. Sheers allow light to enter a room while protecting your privacy, and sheers can take a window from looking average to elegant.

2. Change Out Toilet Seats

Though toilet seats may not be even on your mind when you move into a rental home or if you have been renting for awhile, they can transform a bathroom. Toilet seats wear out and some even break over time due to daily use. Some seats are heavy and tend to SLAM! if accidentally dropped. Some are just plain uncomfortable, ugly, or so old that the cleanliness is questionable.

Take a trip to your local hardware store and browse the toilet aisle. There are many options to choose from and at $30-$40 dollars, it is fairly inexpensive to change out a seat. Just be sure you choose the correct shape (circle or oblong) and color (white or beige) for your toilet!

We recently replaced the oblong toilet seat in our master bathroom with a wood, no-slam toilet seat for around $35. It has made a huge difference, especially during those middle of the night or early morning bathroom visits when, before, we would accidentally drop the toilet seat lid and it would make the loudest sound ever! We will be replacing the circle toilet seat in the guest bathroom this weekend.

Toilet seats are very easy to replace. Just follow the instructions on the box to remove the old seat and add the new one.

3. Switch out basic fixtures

Since we are already talking about changing out toilet seats, how about switching out other small and basic fixtures, especially in the bathroom? Sometimes towel rods and toilet paper holders in rental properties are old, mismatchy, or, let’s be honest, some landlords go too cheap and simply slap a dowel rod up on the wall where a missing towel rod should have been.

A new towel rod or toilet paper holder, especially one that matches the finish of the bathroom faucet, can bring a sense of cohesion to a small space.

Also in the bathroom, switching to a brand new shower head — especially one with multiple settings — makes a world of difference. No matter if the shower is old, a nice and new showerhead can turn your daily routine into a spa-like oasis! Depending on the type you want, you can get a multiple settings showerhead for as little as $12.

One more tip: improving the atmosphere of a room can be a simple as changing out the type of light bulbs used.

4. Remove accordion doors

One of the worst inventions in home decor, at least in my opinion, are those heavy and hard to use metal bifold doors. They tend to be found in older homes and used for closets. More often than not, they no longer slide smoothly on their tracks, may not even close all of the way, and can pinch fingers and hands.

We had one on the coat/pantry closet in the house we are currently renting and after months of fighting with it, my husband simply removed the door.

If you desire, you can leave the closet open, for example in an office or child’s room. There are really cool things you can do with a door-less closet, such as turn it into a little office nook by adding a desk. If you would still like the privacy, you can hang a curtain that compliments your decor on an inexpensive tension rod and place it inside the closet opening.

5. Brighten up cabinets and drawers with lining

If your kitchen and bathroom cabinets are older or stained on the inside, you can easily pick up inexpensive rolls of lining and lining paper. The second night after we moved into our current rental, I cleaned and put lining in all of our kitchen cabinets and drawers before unpacking our dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. It gave me peace of mind and also made cheap and very old white cabinets look presentable-ish.

Recently, I picked up some cheap paper lining with a subtle white and gray chevon pattern to place underneath our kitchen sink. When I say “cheap”, I mean it was literally $1 from a local dollar store. Dollar stores and the “dollar” or “clearance” aisles at other stores are the perfect place to shop for things like cabinet/drawer lining, because you can experiment with the look (and texture) without spending a lot of money.

The nice thing about utilizing lining around your house is that it freshens up a space, can be customized to fit your individual style, and if it is damaged, it is easily replaced.

6. Display themed artwork beautifully

Nothing screams “rental” more than empty walls or, even worse, poorly hung artwork with no theme or cohesiveness.

First, you need to talk with your landlord about their policies when it comes to wall hangings. Some landlords do not want you putting nails/screws in the walls at all so you will have to look into using an alternative method (such as command strips) that will not “damage” the wall. This may limit the size and weight of the artwork you choose to display. Other landlords have no problem with you drilling into the walls but may require you to spackle over the holes before you turn in the keys on move-out day.

Before you rush out to buy new artwork (if you do not already have some), take time to consider your personal tastes in art, colors, subject matter, and where you would like to feature pieces. The last thing you want to do is throw random pieces all over your walls.

Also, like I mentioned with curtains, you do not have to spend a great deal of money on artwork. Depending on your location, a visit or two to some second hand shops may result in a few treasures at severely discounted prices. If possible, try visiting a second hand shop in the higher income area of town. Some places have beautifully framed paintings and prints that originally cost over a hundred dollars for anywhere between $5 to $20.

Keep an eye on sales at your favorite home decor stores as well.

However, be careful not to rush into purchases that do not quite fit your theme and color scheme simply out of a desire to fill your space. It is worth living with an empty room for awhile to save your money for the perfect fit.

When it comes to hanging artwork, browse Pinterest and home decor blogs for visual inspiration. You can hang a large picture by itself or you can cluster a variety of small pieces for a gallery look. Before drilling into the wall (or applying your command strips), cut brown paper into the size/shape of your artwork and tape those on the wall to get a feel for placement.

Image of potted plants, one of nine inexpensive ways to personalize a rental property

7. Add a few potted plants

Potted plants not only bring a bit of life and color to a space, but the oxygen that they provide has a cleansing affect on the air within your home.

But not just any plants will do. You need hardy specimens that will thrive in the low-natural light of your apartment/home or won’t die if you forget to water them for a few days or can adjust to the temperature variations (if you do not use air conditioning in the summer).

Some of my personal favorites include philodendron, snake plant, aloe vera, and spider plant. We have little potted plants, mostly philodendron, on a buffet table beneath the dining room window.

The nice thing about philodendron, specifically, is that it is a trailing plant, which means its stems grow very long. You can let them trail, wrap them up, or snip them off. Place the trimmings in a jar of clean water, and they will grow roots so you can replant them. More plants for free!

A sweet bonus about keeping an aloe vera plant or two around is that you can cut a piece off and spread the gel it secretes on your skin to treat sunburns.

If having live plants is a no go for you — perhaps you travel too often or every plant you ever had died on you — try adding a few nice fake plants. Just be sure you clean the fabric leaves as they easily collect dust and dirt.

8. Paint

If your landlord has granted you permission to paint, a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color with an accent wall is a relatively inexpensive way of customizing your rental home. Take your time to consider your color options. I recommend getting the paint samples from your local store and placing them in the room(s) so you can see how the color looks throughout the day and night in various types of lighting. When painting, take special care to protect the floor and ceiling from ‘accidents’.

Some landlords do not allow tenants to paint — and for good reason! Many people have no clue how to paint so the floors and ceilings end up a disaster or the tenants choose horrible colors that the landlord will have to paint over later. Before moving in to a new rental, consider asking your potential landlord if he or she is willing to give the home a new paint job in a neutral color of your choice or even just white, off-white, light sandy beige, or a light gray. These neutral colors will usually compliment any decor scheme.

If your landlord originally did not allow painting but you have been a good tenant for a handful of years, you may want to bring the subject of painting up again. Having “proved” yourself by taking care of the residence for two or so years, the landlord may allow you more freedom to re-paint or may offer to re-paint for you.

9. Change out light fixtures

This can be a little more expensive, depending on if the landlord covers the cost and, if not, where you purchase your light fixtures. Landlords are obligated to replace damaged or broken fixtures (if it is not your fault), and some landlords may be willing to replace a fixture that is inconvenient, old, or simply hideous if asked.

If your landlord decides not to replace a light fixture for you, you may want to consider replacing the fixture yourself. Talk to your landlord first to see if he or she is willing to deduct the cost of the new fixture from your next month’s rent. (Our landlord deducted the cost when we replaced our kitchen faucet.) If not, it might be in your best interest to just eat the cost.

For example, we had a functioning light in our kitchen but it was hideous and hung too low over a high-traffic walk area. We have some friends who are taller-than-average, and one in particular kept banging his head on the light. The final straw for us was when he hit his head so hard I heard the impact of it in the living room over the hum of conversation.

So we found a nice four-bulb track light on sale at our local hardware store for around $60, and my dad helped my husband remove the old light and install the new one.

For a little out-of-pocket expense, we not only removed a hideous light that some of our guests hit their heads on, but we also were able to direct the bulbs to the areas of the kitchen that needed it most: the fridge, the stove, the sink, and the island. Now the kitchen is brighter and is a more pleasant space!

We are thinking about replacing the three outside lights with lights that are either on a timer or light-sensitive to help us save money on our electric bill, especially in the summer when the sun rises early and sets late.

 

Whether you are renting an apartment, a condo, a single-family home, or a mobile home, we hope that you have been inspired by these nine ways to personalize a rental property.

Disclaimer: First and foremost, remember to talk with your landlord so you know what is allowed and not allowed with your lease and renting policy/rules.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Almost five months ago, our little Peanut was born. (Six month update below.) I intended to breastfeed exclusively by nursing during my twelve week maternity/family leave and then nursing and pumping after returning to work. I did not need to think long and hard about the decision, I just knew that was what we would do. In fact, I was more nervous about picking out a pump then I was about nursing. I figured that mothers’ bodies naturally produce milk and babies instinctively know how to get the milk.

Unfortunately, our breastfeeding story did not go according to plan.

In fact, it turned out to be more of a journey than a story. Some parts are very challenging and others rewarding. So let me take you back to the beginning.

Peanut was born small. 4 pounds and 11 ounces, to be exact, though he dropped down to 4 lbs. 7 oz. after he had his first bowel movement. Though he was a mighty tiny thing — able to lift his head moments after birth — his small size created a challenge to nursing. We tried hard throughout the night and into the afternoon of Day 2 to get him to nurse even just a tiny bit to get the colstrum he needed, but he just could not get his tiny mouth around my large nipples.

Jacquelyn's baby at two days old and only 4 lbs 7 oz.
Peanut at two days old, the morning we were discharged from the hospital.

Around noon on Day 2, we had our first visit with the Lactation Consultant. She helped me position him, tried coaxing him, and then wrapped him onto my chest for skin-to-skin. She said not to worry and try nursing again in the evening, but I was starting to worry. Something just was not right. Babies are supposed to know how to nurse instinctively, right? I tried to put on a cheerful face when Bradley’s side of family came to visit, but when my parents came later, I shared with them my concerns. My mom tried to cheer me up.

That night, after quite a few more failed attempts to nurse, a nurse helped me select the right size flanges and pump the first time. We collected .5 ounce of colstrum and fed it to Peanut using a syringe. The next day, they were concerned that Peanut had not nursed even the tiniest bit. Due to his tiny size, he had to eat just once, even a tiny bit, before we would be given the all clear. If he did not eat and began to lose more weight, he might have ended up in the NICU.

Despite regularly pumping, after that first time, I was not getting enough colstrum to even get into a syringe to give him. Just a drop on my finger.

So the nurse brought us formula.

I was terrified.

Here I was, only three days into being a brand new mother to this tiny little fellow, and I was praying desperately that Peanut would eat something… anything. I barely slept that night. Lying on the bed with my hand in the bassinet to touch his leg, I just prayed. Please, Lord, let him eat a tiny bit, keep his blood sugars steady, and not let him loose any more weight.

I could not get him to eat from the bottle, the Lactation Consultant was able to get him to eat just a small amount, and a few hours later, my mom was able to get him to eat about 1 ounce. I was relieved yet still a little worried. I thought to myself: “Just once or twice on the formula, and then surely he’ll figure out how to nurse.” After all, he rooted for my breast, he put the tip of nipple in his mouth, he was was showing all of the right signs. Was it just his tiny size? Was I too big for his little mouth?

The Lactation Consultant visited again – a wonderful lady – and worked with us some more.

She then noticed something all of the rest of us missed: Peanut had a severe tongue-tie.

He could not lift his tongue nor move it forward, two motions vital to latch on the nipple and draw the colstrum/milk out. Until the tongue-tie was fixed, there would be no possible way for Peanut to nurse. Unfortunately, the hospital did not perform these minor surgeries anymore, and we would have to visit with a pediatrician after being discharged to arrange for the procedure. It could take days, maybe up to two weeks, before the tongue-tie was fixed!

I was disappointed.

Peanut would have to eat formula until the pumping resulted in actual colstrum/milk that I could give him and the tongue-tie was fixed. Now let me share a disclaimer: I know there are many reasons for mothers to formula-feed their babies. Sometimes it is by choice and sometimes it is the only option. I have nothing against anyone who uses formula. It just was emotionally disappointing for me to learn that, for reasons outside of our control, Peanut needed formula because it had been my desire to breastfeed. I had not even imagined a scenario that would make breastfeeding impossible.

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, my parents bought the pump that was recommended to us and I continued trying to pump every two-three hours. I was determined to get him off the formula and onto my colstrum/milk was soon as possible. Still nothing. By Day 5, my breasts were engorged as the colstrum began turning to milk but the pumping expressed nothing! I tried the electric pump, I tried hand expressing, I tried hot showers, I tried massages, I tried everything to get the milk to express. Nothing would come out! My poor breasts just kept getting bigger and more painful. It became agony to touch them, agony to move, agony to sleep!

At 3am during one of my unsuccessful pumping sessions, I searched the Internet for any piece of advice for how to get the milk to come out. I was terrified that I would end up with mastitis. Most sites and forums dealt with nursing or formula-feeding, and I was finding very little helpful information for pumping. Then I stumbled on to the Exclusive Pumping section of KellyMom.com and one of the first articles I read recommended ice on the breasts for 20 minutes before pumping to counteract the swelling and allow the milk to be expressed. That day at my parents’ house, I rolled two frozen water bottles all over my breasts for 20 minutes. It was sooo cold and hurt sooooo bad, but I was desperate.

That pumping session, I produced 10 ounces of transition milk and the engorgement was gone. I was so relieved that I cried. For the next five or six sessions, I had to roll the frozen water bottles on my breasts before pumping. Gradually, the milk began expressing without the need to freeze my breasts. It was nearing the end of Week 1, and I was finally producing milk. I was able to feed Peanut on mother’s milk and put the formula bottles away.

Though we saw the Pediatrician quickly, the soonest we could schedule Peanut’s procedure to correct the tongue-tie was at the very end of his second week. I was worried it had taken too long. He had been exclusively bottlefed (first formula and now with my milk), and I had heard of and read about “nipple confusion” where bottlefed babies are supposedly never able to nurse again. Fortunately, one of the nurses at the Pediatrician’s office told me that her son had been born with a tongue-tie that took almost a month to diagnosis and fix, and he went from bottlefed to nursing without a hitch. That gave me hope!

Jacquelyn's baby about a week old.
Little Peanut at about a week and a half old. He was still so tiny and thin, but that adorable smile!

Hope died during Weeks 3 and 4.

I was completely unprepared for the Week 3 growth spurt; I did not even know it existed. Week three rolled around and suddenly Peanut was ravenously hungry! I was not producing enough milk to satisfy him. I was determined, though. I pumped every two hours for anywhere between 20-30 minutes. I literally pumped my poor breasts raw and was in pain from blisters. I tried everything to produce more milk. Despite my valiant efforts, I could not keep up with him.

In the middle of the night, as Peanut cried in his bassinet for milk I did not have, my loving husband gently said: “I’m going to give him a bottle of formula.” He picked Peanut up and walked to the living room. I buried myself underneath the blankets and pillows and wept.

I was devastated.

The one thing that was supposed to be natural for every mother, I could not do. I could not provide enough milk for my baby. I had to resign myself to the fact that in addition to what I pumped, Peanut would need supplementing with formula. We bought a can of a standard formula (same brand as the hospital gave us since he did not seem to mind it). After a few days supplementing, I was growing concerned about using a milk-based formula.

You see, I have a severe dairy allergy.

While I was a little apprehensive that my son might have inherited this allergy from me, what really concerned me was that I was beginning to react to the powdered formula. It is impossible to scoop the powder from the can and get it into the bottle without spilling even a little bit. My hands were starting to react whenever the powder touched my skin (my hands would get red and itchy), and as I fixed a bottle, I noticed that some powder always gets into the air. I was concerned that I would accidentally breathe the powder and have an allergic reaction.

Now my allergy to dairy is not lactose intolerance. It is a severe allergy on the same level as many peanut allergies: even trace amounts of dairy will cause me to break out in hives, suffer bad itching fits, and experience respiratory difficulties (meaning I cannot breathe). This was not something to be taken lightly. I began researching non-milk based formulas, but most of the soy-based formulas were over 50% corn syrup. That did not seem right to me.

I did more research and remembered that my dad, when he was a newborn, could not have milk-based formula either. His parents had to give him goat’s milk, and he is one of the healthiest people I know. So I began looking up goat’s milk formula — extremely expensive and not always available — and found websites that shared how to make your own goat’s milk formula at home.

Since I was still pumping and the majority of Peanut’s nourishment was coming from my milk, I just needed something to supplement with. I gave Peanut goat’s milk and waited. He seemed fine and his appetite was finally appeased. Then my mom helped us mix up a batch of goat’s milk that was fortified with some additional nutrients.

Towards the end of Week 4, my husband also found Earth Mama Angel Baby Milkmaid Tea at our local Target. I began drinking it twice a day, and my milk production increased significantly. Soon, we no longer needed to supplement with goat’s milk. A little while after that, I was expressing enough extra milk to start filling up the freezer to use later when I returned to work.

Throughout the first month while all of these things were happening, I was still trying to nurse Peanut. Every other day, I would try to nurse him, but even after the tongue-tie was fixed, he just could not latch. I watched videos and read how to articles. I did everything I could, but Peanut could not latch.

I was an emotional wreck. I was severely sleep deprived. He needed to eat every two hours and it took an hour just to warm the bottle, feed the baby, and pump. Then I would sleep for an hour and have to do it all over again. My amazing husband did so much to help: he would often feed the baby and clean the bottles to give me even just ten or twenty minutes more sleep. He also calmly put up with my emotional outbursts: frustration, fear, self-loathing, fits of crying.

I felt like a failure.

Every time an attempt to nurse failed, every time someone casually said some variation of “Oh, so you’re not breastfeeding?” or “Don’t you know breast is better than formula?” when they saw the bottle of my milk, it was like another nail being hammered into my heart and ego.

Jacquelyn's baby around a month old.
In the beginning, babies sleep a whole lot and they are so cute when they sleep!

After an entire month, one morning I almost lost my temper with Peanut. Even though the logical part of my brain understood that his mouth was just too small to latch and it wasn’t his fault, the emotional part was very close to losing it. Nothing happened, but I was shocked at how close I felt I had come to possibly hurting him, even unintentionally. I laid Peanut back down in his bassinet and called my mom in tears. I told her I had tried for four weeks and I just could not do it anymore. For my sanity and the happiness of our little family, I had to stop trying.

My mom was so supportive and calmed me down. She told me she was so proud of me for trying as long as I did and that I had to do what was best for us. Her words helped get me back in the right frame of mind, and I am so grateful.

That morning, I finally came to terms with something I should have come to terms with weeks earlier: Peanut might never be able to nurse.

Sure, maybe one day in the future, he might outgrow the physical barriers that were preventing him from nursing, but in that moment I had to let go of my unrealistic “dream”. I had to make myself “ok” with the idea that he might never nurse, that I would have to continue pumping to provide him with milk and that, in his next growth spurt he might need to be supplemented again. I had to embrace that reality and let go of my fantasy.

I had to stop treating myself like a failure.

I had carried this beautiful little boy for 38 weeks, gave birth, and was now raising him. I loved him so deeply and would do anything for him. I would gaze at his tiny face while he slept in awe that this precious gift was our son. I was not a failure. So what if he could not nurse? So what if he got his milk from a bottle? So what if sometimes he got a little extra that wasn’t from his mother? He was happy, healthy, and growing incredibly fast.

For all of month two, we did not even try to nurse. We simply lived and were happy. When the Week 6 growth spurt hit, I was producing enough milk that we did not have to supplement even though he was sometimes gobbling up 9 to 11 ounces in one sitting!

At the beginning of his third month, Peanut was rooting around while we snuggled on the couch one morning and so, merely curious, I offered him the breast. To my surprise, he latched! It was a weak latch but a latch! He drank a little bit (not much) but he actually nursed for ten minutes!

At the middle of month three, we introduced the pacifier. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and the pacifier helped to strengthen his sucking muscles. We would attempt a nursing session every few days, but it was very relaxed… nothing like during the first month when I was so stressed out. Just a week after introducing the pacifier, he was strong enough to nurse!

By the middle of Week Thirteen, Peanut was nursing twice a day. We would nurse early morning and once in the evenings. We still fed him a 5-6 ounce bottle of expressed milk before putting him to sleep to help him sleep longer. By then he was usually sleeping 9pm to 4-5am.

Jacquelyn's baby at four months.
Little Peanut around four months. He grew a lot and got a bit chunky!

Today as I write this, Peanut is just shy of five months, and he nurses as if he had been doing so his whole life. I still pump during the day, especially during the week when I’m working, but I try to nurse him before work, after work, and on the weekends. He also is bottlefed during the day and always gets one bottle before bed to help him sleep through the night. He has absolutely no sign of the dreaded “nipple confusion”. He goes from breast to bottle to pacifier and back without even hesitating. Just yesterday, he had his first taste of real “food”. His grandma (my mom) fed him a little bit of oatmeal, and he actually ate it! (It was so adorable.)

Update (March 6, 2017)
Our little one is six months now, and I wanted to share a quick update on our breastfeeding journey. He is still primarily eating breast milk, and he is experimenting with baby food. He loves peaches and applesauce, severely dislikes peas, and has tried tiny amounts of avocado and hummus.

Unfortunately, at the end of December, my menstrual cycle began ramping up again. At four and a half months postpartum while breastfeeding, it was definitely not welcome. I’ve had a period twice since then. While my cycle is not “back to normal” yet, it is causing a lot of problems with my milk supply. The week before my period, my milk supply plummets significantly. So much so that we had to start supplementing with soy-based formula.

It was a decision we made because, unlike before when we used the goat’s milk as just a little “extra” now and then, this time we needed something that would provide for 50% of our little one’s nutrition for two weeks straight. And no amount of trying to boost my supply would carry our little Peanut through two weeks. Since I’m working outside of the home, a lot of the “tricks” that sometimes help are just not feasible like nursing on demand or pumping every two hours. So we found a soy-based formula that is fortified with everything he’ll need during the time my milk supply is low.

Fortunately, by the end of my period, my milk supply goes back up to normal. I’m also trying hard to increase my supply during the plentiful times by drinking more tea and eating more oats. This is hard for me because I cannot stand oatmeal and most gluten-free oat cereals taste horrible. So I’m risking eating Cheerios to try to get the benefits that oats have on milk supply.

Cheerios are not made with certified gluten-free oats, but they now use a process that removes most of the contaminated grains from their oat supply. Unfortunately, every once in a while, I’ll get a box from a batch with just a little too much contaminates; it causes my face to break out and I bloat… the initial signs that I’ve had small traces of wheat/gluten. Still, it is worth it if it helps boost my milk supply for my son.

Sometimes I really feel like everything is against our efforts to breastfeed. If I let the negative thoughts in, I begin to feel like every time we achieve success, something comes along to sabotage us. However, I refuse to let the challenges get me down. I’m still determined to make it to ten months, and when we cross that line, we’ll see if we can make it to twelve months.

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

It is my hope that by sharing our long, sometimes painful, breastfeeding journey, I might encourage another mother who is also struggling. My advice is to take all the advice out there with a grain of salt. Some of it is garbage, others might not apply to you and your baby’s unique situation, and some might be helpful. Listen to your maternal instincts. The Lord gave us these instincts and intuition for a reason. And don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it.

Also get rid of your perfect plans and dreams. The first few weeks after the baby is born is an emotional roller-coaster anyway, do not add even more stress and anxiety by trying to make a dream reality. Embrace whatever path is best for your precious baby. If it is pumping, pump! If it is supplementing, supplement! If it is formula, find the right formula for you and your baby!

You are NOT a failure! You gave birth to or adopted this beautiful, precious little one. You love him or her dearly so treasure those quiet moments with your newborn. They grow so fast and every stage is unique and beautiful in its own way. Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry about the future!

Be present in the moment and be happy!

Oh, and remember that breastfeeding is not synonymous with nursing. While nursing is one way to breastfeed, pumping is another way. In both methods, the baby is eating his or her mother’s milk. One just is from a bottle and the other is from “the tap” sort to speak. Don’t let anyone make you feed less than because you are pumping, whether from choice or necessity.

Week of Gratitude: Day 7

Week of Gratitude: Day 7

Week of Gratitude – Day 7

I am grateful for the weekly Sabbath. The Sabbath is a special time set aside by the Lord Himself at the end of Creation week as a sacred day of rest. It includes physical rest from our usual daily duties, but even more importantly, it offers a spiritual rest. A full twenty-four hour period, from sunset to sunset, to spend in time with the Lord in worship, prayer, study, and fellowship with family and friends. Discovering the Sabbath in 2002 completely transformed my life, and now I eagerly look forward to Sabbath each week. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Exodus 20:8-10a

Week of Gratitude: Day 6

Week of Gratitude: Day 6

Week of Gratitude – Day 6

I am grateful for the every day blessings and those precious life moments that are too easily overlooked and forgotten. We have no need for fancy or elaborate things. The Lord has provided for us everything that we need — a roof over our head, food in our bellies, and jobs to pay the bills. We are very blessed. “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11

After all, what is most important is not the material things, buying and collecting stuff that cannot bring happiness, but relationships, love and kindness. For these things and all things, we thank the Lord and give Him praise.

Week of Gratitude: Day 5

Week of Gratitude: Day 5

I hope everyone has had a nice Thanksgiving! Today is all about giving thanks, and we’re now over halfway through the Week of Gratitude! I’m slipping today’s in a little before midnight.

Week of Gratitude – Day 5

I am grateful for my wonderful and loving husband Bradley. You are the love of my life, and I am so blessed to be able to enjoy each day with you. You are a fantastic father and my best friend. I am so thankful that the Lord brought us together. I love you always and forever.