Category: Family Life

In this section, I write about my life, my family, and insights into relationships, marriage, and parenting.

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

You just had a baby or adopted a newborn. Congratulations! This is a momentous occasion and a life-changing event. You may have anticipated the bonding experiences with your baby, those quiet moments of cuddling and cooing, singing and playing. The first time he or she smiles or laughs will warm your heart.

All babies are unique. Some are mellow little cherubs content to eat, sleep, and snuggle with very little fussing. Others may be more of a handful, perhaps due to a more sensitive nature or physical challenges like reflux. Still others can make the first month or so a nightmare, with unconsolable crying for hours on end, barely sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, or being awake for hours during the night.

The first two months, though filled with lovely and wonderful moments, can also be quite difficult for parents. Here is my practical guide for surviving these tough times. If you are new to motherhood or fatherhood, this survival guide will help! (Dads, there is a special note at the bottom just for you.)

1. Sleep!

I know, I know. Everyone tells you about the importance of sleep and to “sleep when baby sleeps”. You are probably thinking right now: “Sure, it is easy to say but I can’t sleep when baby sleeps or nothing would get done.”

Perhaps baby is nursing every hour or you have to pump on a rigid schedule. Maybe just when you close your eyes to rest, the baby starts fussing or your older children demand attention. Maybe baby has finally fallen asleep but it is almost time for dinner and all of your dishes are dirty in the sink. I know how you feel. I have been there. 

But let me also remind you of something you already know: sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. Two to three hours a night, broken up into ten minutes here and twenty minutes there, is not sufficient sleep. The days and weeks after childbirth are already challenging, but if you do not get enough rest, you may unintentionally contribute to postpartum depression.

I was there. I experienced this with my second child. We had an extremely fussy/needy newborn and an 18-month-old who was teething at the same time.

The sleep deprivation contributed to my own postpartum depression, which did not resolve itself until about five and a half weeks postpartum when baby was finally sleeping for two to four hours stretches so I could sleep, too. I was too prideful to admit that I had a sleep problem. I was determined to fix it on my own, but I needed to ask for help. My husband was a lifesaver. He would watch the kids while I napped or drop the toddler off at his parents for the afternoon.

To be able to function, you need to consistently get 5 or more hours of sleep within a twenty-four hour period of time. Have your spouse watch the baby while you take a nap. Ask family to come over to watch the baby. Do what you have to do to get some sleep.

2. Eat healthy and eat often.

With the craziness that a newborn brings, you might find yourself skipping a meal here and there or grabbing a less-than-nutritious snack instead. If it only happens on a rare occasion, you are probably fine, but this can cause problems if it becomes a common occurrence.

You just had a baby so your body is in recovery and you may be breastfeeding as well. Your body needs proper nutrition to fuel recovery and to make the milk your baby needs. If you skip too many meals, your daily caloric intake may drop too low too fast. This can negatively impact your milk production and might even contribute to health problems for you.

Make sure you eat well-balanced meals throughout the day.

You may find that you need to eat a little less but more frequently (like when you were pregnant). Even if you do not feel hungry, eat something healthy. (Oats are good for you and aid in milk production!) Or maybe you have discovered that you have a ravenous appetite and you are afraid you will either gain more weight or not lose the baby weight so you are trying to put yourself on a diet.

Firstly, it is too soon to go on a diet. Your body is already going through so many changes right now, don’t make it have to work even harder. Secondly, if you are breastfeeding, some women find that they have to have a little extra weight to maintain a healthy milk supply. (I am one of them.) Thirdly, it took nine months to gain the weight, allow yourself at least a year to lose it.

If you eat healthy, snack healthy, and do moderate exercise on a daily basis, you will gradually slim down.

3. Shower at least every other day, but everyday if possible.

You may find yourself hyper-focused on caring for the new baby’s needs that you neglect your own most basic needs. Showering not only keeps you clean, but it can help you relax and deal with stress. Find the time to take a shower.

Whether it is in the early morning before the baby wakes up, mid-morning when your mom or sister or best friend comes over to watch the baby, the middle of the afternoon when baby is napping, after your husband comes home from work in the evening, or late at night right before bed. The when does not matter. Just do it. You will be glad you did!

Perhaps you are alone. Maybe you are a single parent, your spouse works long hours or is away from home for days at a time, or you have no family nearby to help. Maybe baby is crying hysterically even though s/he has been fed, burped, and changed.

My advice is to put baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet, rock ‘n play, etc.) and take a quick five or ten minute shower. Hard though it may be to listen to, it is okay for a baby to cry a little. It is better for baby to cry in a safe place for five to ten minutes while you take a much needed emotional break then for you to become overwhelmed and, perhaps, lose your temper.

4. Understand that some housework won’t get done for awhile.

Dishes may pile up in the sink, toilets may not get cleaned for a week or two, vacuuming may go undone, clothes might pile up in the basket. And it is okay!

If you gave birth, remember that you just gave birth to a human being! Not only do you now have this precious little bundle to care for, but you are also physically recovering from a very physically demanding and sometimes traumatizing event. In the immediate days and weeks after childbirth, your body will be flooded with various hormones as your body shifts from pregnancy-mode to post-pregnancy-mode.

You will be bonding with your newborn, experiencing your milk coming in, figuring out breastfeeding via nursing or pumping, possibly figuring out bottle-feeding, barely sleeping, and so much more. Your body is going through many changes (not all visible) and this can wreck havoc on your emotions.

If you have adopted a baby, you now have this precious little bundle to care for and many of the baby-related things I mention above also apply to you! Bonding with your newborn, figuring out feeding, barely sleeping, emotional rollercoasters, etc. It is okay if the house is not spotless.

5. Ask for help!

Bottom line, Mamas, you have a lot to cope with in the first two months. And if you have older children, it will be that much harder as you navigate caring for your baby and your old children, too. So give yourself grace. Focus on what is most important: your child(ren) are fed, clean, and loved and you also are fed, clean, and rested.

If the mess really bothers you and causes stress or anxiety or you cannot get enough sleep or you need a break, ask for help. From your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors. Do not allow your pride to cause you to suffer in silence. It is not good for you, not good for baby, and not good for your family.

Be specific in what you ask for: please watch the baby while I do dishes, can you make us a meal, would you be able to clean the bathrooms, can you babysit the older child(ren) for two hours, etc.

 

Remember, you are amazing! You gave birth or adopted this precious little one. The first two months can be heavenly if you have a more mellow child, very challenging if you have a fussy newborn, or anywhere in between.

Sometimes your newborn maybe quite contented and then, suddenly, s/he cries hysterically. Go through the checklist first: fed, burped, changed, held; and repeat if necessary. Most babies cry for a reason, but it might be hard to pinpoint the exact reason in the heat of the moment. It is okay to feel confused and overwhelmed.

You may or may not know that many babies become more fussy during growth spurts (physical and developmental). After all, baby’s main job during his or her first year is to grow, grow, grow! These growth spurts tend to happen between Weeks 1-3, Weeks 6-8, three months, six months, and nine months. (But all babies are different so yours might hit a growth spurt sooner or later.)

If you are still not sure what is going on with your baby or concerned about a symptom (perhaps excessive spit up, unconsolable crying for hours every day), ask your pediatrician.

As my mom always said, “Motherhood is hard enough on its own, don’t make it even harder on yourself.”

Some women experience a beautiful, storybook newborn stage, and that is wonderful. However, many of us will face challenges, often outside our control, and we have to navigate those challenges carefully.

Do not expect every newborn to be the same. Just because your first was an angel who slept through the night within a week and hardly ever cried, does not mean your second will be the same, and vice versa. Do not compare yourself with other moms or your baby with other babies. Take advice — from people, books, and the internet — with a grain of salt. Do what feels right to you, but always keep your baby’s health in mind.

And, above all, remember that God chose you to be this precious child’s mother. Trust your instincts. If something feels off with you or the baby, get help. You do not have to be superwoman. You do not have to do this alone.

And if you need help, do not think any less of yourself or think you are a failure if you cannot do things perfectly. The fact that you recognized your need and sought the right solution (whatever it may be) means that you are absolutely amazing.

Yes, you are AMAZING.

 

Side note to fathers:

Dads, your wife just had a baby. Were you present during her labor and delivery? If so then you realize just how physically demanding giving birth is, and the recovery time can be weeks or even months, depending on her unique situation. If not, just take my word for it.

If you are the kind of guy who normally helps out around the house, then you are already ahead of the game. I want to thank you on your wife’s behalf for being awesome. Keep doing what you are doing and know that you might have to do a little extra for awhile until your wife is feeling better.

If you are not used to helping and have always relied on your wife to maintain the house, then we need to have a little chat. Your wife just had a baby. (I know I already said that, but it needs to be said again.) Her body is recovering. She will be uncomfortable, exhausted, and might even experience pain. She might have difficulty doing things she normally can do. Her emotions might be on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, she is also severely sleep deprived, and if you have older children, she will probably be even more exhausted.

Now is the time for you to step up and be her hero.

Make a meal (it does not have to be fancy), tidy up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, watch the crying baby for an hour or two while your wife naps, anything that you can do, now is the time to do it. Sure, you may have no clue what you are doing but you are smart, you can figure it out. And don’t do it for the recognition, do it because you love your wife and you want to help her recovery.

 

To recap: sleep, eat healthy, shower, don’t fret over housework, and ask for help when you need it. This is my survival guide for parents with a new baby. If you are a mom or dad, what tips helped you survive the first two months? Share your experiences in the comments below!

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

Disclosure: The links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases. Learn more. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

Our oldest son is just a few months shy of his second birthday and our youngest is now three months. Where does the time go? When you are in the midst of the newborn stage, it may seem like the days last forever, but once you reach the toddler age, it seems as if time is flying by. Peanut, our oldest, is now forming very basic sentences, holding conversations, able to answer questions, and follow simple instructions. Pickle, our youngest, is starting to smile, coo, and try to grab ahold of things like his blanket or bottle.

Over the last two years, we have made quite a few purchases specifically for our children that we absolutely love. To find quality products at affordable prices, we often turn to Amazon. We like that delivery is timely, and we have not had any items arrive damaged. When you are a parent with toddlers and/or babies, ordering from Amazon is often easier and more cost effective than trying pack up the kids to drive to brick-and-mortar stores.

So if you have little ones of your own or looking for gift ideas, I want to share with you ten of our favorite baby and toddler products that we either purchased from or are now available on Amazon.

Boppy Nursing Pillow
We added the Boppy Nursing Pillow to our baby registry at the recommendation of a friend who loved hers. Ours has been used for many, many things but, unfortunately, rarely breastfeeding! (Read Our Breastfeeding Journey and Breastfeeding Challenges, Round 2.) I must say that the boppy pillow was an arm saver during our second son’s extremely fussy newborn stage. I spread a large receiving blanket over the pillow and was able to lay him down on the pillow next to me when my arms got tired. I am so glad that we had this pillow!

 

SwaddleMe Slumber Buddies, Elephant Soother and Sound Machine
When it comes to a soother and sound machine, there are so many choices out there. We saw this adorable elephant soother that plays three different lullabies, the sound of running water, and a heartbeat in addition to projecting the stars and the moon on the ceiling. We have used the music/sounds with both boys to help them fall asleep, and now our oldest also loves staring up at the stars projected on the ceiling.

 

BabyBjorn
If you are looking for a baby carrier, I tried four different carriers and wraps with our first son before settling on the BabyBjorn Carrier Original. We live in the Arizona desert, and in the summer temperatures often reach 110-115 degrees for days (even weeks) at a time. Wraps with tons and tons of fabric was miserably hot for me and our baby. I came close to overheating once! The BabyBjorn also provides a sense of safety and security that the I did not have with the wraps. As for carriers, it is one of the more affordable, especially if you wait for a deal online or find one in good condition at a local secondhand store.

 

Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker
My parents actually purchased this for us, and we are so grateful! This chair was helpful with our first son and a lifesaver with our second! It rocks or locks in a reclined position, and has a nice vibration that helps lulls fussy babies to sleep. Even our toddler likes to climb into it (as long as his baby brother is not already there). I highly recommend the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker, and it comes in multiple color choices and fabric patterns.

Mom’s Choice: If I had to narrow down my recommendation to just one item, it would be this vibrating rocker. It was tremendously helpful for both of our sons during their infant stage. It is also lightweight and relatively small. We have taken it with us many times while visiting family, especially if we plan to stay all day.

 

Baby Adjustable Head Shoulder Safety Pad
When our oldest started standing, we gave him the nickname “Mr. Wobbles” because he was so unsteady and often fell. After a few hard bonks on the head, we knew we had to find something! We searched and eventually decided to give this adorable head and shoulder pad a try. It worked like a charm! Our son continued to tumble while learning to stand and then walk, but this pad saved his little noggin!

 

 

Tommee Tipee Bibs
We tried many, many different types of bibs, but on the recommendation of our cousins, we gave Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs a try. I absolutely love them! We ended up getting four so both set of grandparents could keep one at their respective houses and we have two at home. These bibs are waterproof, which makes them super easy to clean, and the large scoop shape at the end of the bib catches food and beverages. No kid is ever going to be super clean (Where is the fun in that?) but this does help contain the mess and makes clean up a breeze. Bonus: you don’t have to throw these bibs in the laundry!

Dad’s Choice: My husband absolutely loves the Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs and highly recommends them. He does the laundry in our household and is also a stay-at-home dad, so he understands the value in a fast and easy clean up after meal time! I cannot believe we went 17 months without these amazing bibs.

 

NorthStates SuperYard
If you need some way to contain your crawling baby or walking toddler, I highly recommend NorthStates SuperYard. We initial bought ours after brainstorming what we might need when we were taking our oldest camping for the first time. You can use it indoors or outside! We even put our SuperYard with gate to good use dividing our living room area from the kitchen/dining room areas in order to allow our children a dog-free zone to play. (And to provide our poor old dog some much needed relief from the kids!)

 

 

Eric Carle Bear Backpack, Children’s Safety Harness
I am going to be honest. When my husband first suggested getting our oldest one of those backpacks with a leash, I bulked at the idea. But after our son slipped from my grasp twice and immediately ran towards the neighbor’s driveway and the street, I knew we needed someway to help him learn to “stay with Mama” or “stay with Dada” that would not put his life in danger. Especially when the new baby arrived! So we purchased this adorable backpack. We have used it a dozen times so far, and usually in places where we wanted to allow him the freedom to walk on his own but needed to ensure he stayed close to us for his own safety.

 

Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups
The house we are renting uses old plastic blinds with long cords. Two blinds in particular — one in our boys’ room and one in the living room — pose potential safety risks as our oldest can now reach the dangling cords when standing on his bed or the couch. We knew we needed to get those cords up and out of his reach. Not sure what would work, we gave the Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups a try. Because our cords are extra long, we have to use two of the wind ups per window, but it secures the cords high out of our son’s reach. We just have to remember to pull above the wind ups if we need to lift/open the blinds. Still, for a very affordable price, this safety tool is very useful.

Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed
We knew we needed to transition our oldest son to his own big boy bed before the baby arrived, so we searched and searched for the perfect toddler bed at nice price. Eventually, we discovered the Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed. Not only is it a good size that he can grow into, but it has a divided drawer underneath. In a house that has very limited storage, the drawer was a nice bonus. Peanut loves his bed, especially climbing in and out of it.

What is or was your favorite(s) baby or toddler purchase? Share in the comments!

3 ways to make special songs for your children

3 ways to make special songs for your children

Some of my fondest childhood memories include music. My mom almost always had music of some kind playing, especially in the car. As I grew up, I would remember bits and pieces of the songs. Songs like Baby belugaThe ants go marching one by one, an early Sesame Street audio tape with songs like Rubber Ducky and Low, Medium, High, and (my personal favorites) Psalty: Kids Praise 1-6. Sometimes there would be classical music or Maranantha Singers albums playing, too.

Now with two little ones of my own, I want to fill our house with music. Pandora has made it much easier to find the good old classic songs and new songs that fit our musical tastes. We created a “toddler” station and have customized it to play the songs we like. We have also created a separate “Sabbath School” station with children’s praise songs to listen to on Friday nights and Sabbath afternoons.

However, what is even more fun is creating your own, specialized songs just for your children. You do not have to be extremely musical to do this. I began making our own special songs when Peanut was just a few days old! Tired of singing the same children’s songs over and over and over to your young children? Maybe you need to change it up a bit! Here are three ways I make special songs for our children, and you can too!

1. Personalize a song you already sing.

This is one of the simplest methods for turning a song you already sing to your child into a special song. Find little ways to personalize the words. This could be adding your child’s name. For example, the little diddy Patty Cake (or Pat-a-cake) can be personalized by switching out the letter “b” for the first letter in your child’s name and word “baby” with your child’s name.

Patty cake, patty cake, Baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Roll it. Pat it. Mark it with a “B“.
Put it in the oven for Baby and me!

2. Add more verses to a known song.

You can take it one step further and add a new verse or two to a song you sing regularly. When our son reached the age of fussing and wriggling during diaper changes, I began singing The wheels on the bus song because it could be as long or as short as I needed to keep his attention while I changed the messy diaper. He also loved making the various bus sounds. As the weeks turned into months, I began adding personalized verses with my son’s name, mama and dada and, now that he has a younger brother, baby, too!

The child’s name on the bus says:
Hip-hip hooray!
Hip-hip hooray!
Hip-hip hooray!
The child’s name on the bus says:
Hip-hip hooray!
All through the town.

The dada on the bus says:
Sit on down!
Sit on down!
Sit on down!
The dada on the bus says:
Sit on down!
All through the town.

The baby on the bus says:
Waa! Waa! Waa!
Waa! Waa! Waa!
The baby on the bus says:
Waa! Waa! Waa!
All through the town.

The mama on the bus says:
I love you!
I love you!
I love you!
The mama on the bus says:
I love you!
And dada loves you, too!

3. Put new words to a familiar tune.

If you are very bold (or perhaps tired of singing the same songs over and over for years), you can create your own special song using a familiar tune. As parents who sing a lot to your kids, you might have noticed that Alphabet Song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Baa Baa Black Sheep all use the same exact tune. Guess what? You can use it, too! You just need to make sure that the syllables in your words match up with the notes close enough for the song to flow.

There is a common nighttime prayer that has many different variations. When our first son was born, we received an adorable little praying teddy bear that recites a version that goes:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my soul the Lord to keep
Your love be with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.

The cadence matches the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star perfectly. It just needed two more lines, which I actually wrote before I had the idea to put the prayer to music. I created these additional lines late at night when trying to lull our firstborn to sleep during his first bout of teething. It is kind of an exhausted mother (or father)’s mini-prayer!

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my soul the Lord to keep
Your love be with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.
May I sleep the whole night through
And Mama and Dada sleep well, too.

Then, late at night while trying to soothe our son to sleep and after exhausting all of the other songs, I would sing the nighttime prayer to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle. Here is a recording:

 

Another familiar tune that makes a great melody to personalized songs is Jesus Loves Me. I sometimes sing the above nighttime prayer song to this tune as well!

 

One of our son’s favorite songs is what I call “Little Dino-saurus”. It is a fun action song that uses dinosaur imagery, because what little kid is not fascinated by dinosaurs? Best of all, it is sung to a modified version of “Little Bunny Foo Foo” (sometimes known as “Little Rabbit Foo Foo”).

Little Dino-saurus (lyrics)
Written by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Little dino-saurus
Running through the forest.
Rawr! Rawr! Dino-sawr!
Chasing you and me!

Run, run, run, run
Run from dino-saurus!
Run, run, run, run
Run from dino-saurus!

Little dino-saurus
Running through the forest.
Rawr! Rawr! Dino-sawr!
Chasing you and me!

You can easily customize the song by changing the “dino” to part of your child’s name. For example, a Benjamin could be “benji-saurus” or a Zachary could be “zack-a-sarus” or a Molly could be “molly-saurus” or a Sara could be a “sara-saurus”. It is actually quite fun! Here is a recording I made with two examples.

 

The best thing with these three simple ways of making special song(s) for your children is that you do not need to be overly musical to do so. It just takes time, creativity, and a bit of basic rhyming. You can play around with the words and rhymes each time you sing the song until it sounds right to you. I have spent the last twenty months perfecting the examples I shared above as well as a few other songs. Children love to hear their names in songs and as they get older, they will sing with you!

Have you personalized a song or created a new song for your children? Share in the comments!

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Disclosure: One of the links below is an affiliate link, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. I use this product myself on a daily basis. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient.

First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps.

Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

It has been seven weeks since our second son, I am calling him Pickle here, arrived into this world. He was born Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long.

For those interested, this is our birth story.

During the two weeks leading up to his birth, I was experiencing prodromal labor, or more simply put very real contractions that would not progress. Some days it would last for a handful of hours, other days it lasted all day long. Sometimes the contractions were mild and other times they were fairly strong. However, every time I thought: “Hey, we might be getting close…” the contractions would either slow or stop completely.

At our last check in with my doctor, she suggested we give Pickle the weekend to decide if he would come on his own and, if not, schedule to be induced early that next week. By this time, I was exhausted and agreed. So the induction was scheduled for 8am on February 6th, which happened to be my younger sister’s birthday. We went home and made all of the plans we needed to make. My in-laws were going to come over to watch our son, and my parents were going to meet us at the hospital.

Everything seemed all nice and neat, but I was praying all weekend long that Pickle would still come on his own. I tried whatever I could to encourage him. I bounced on the exercise ball, I raked our front yard, I did housework… Monday I really thought he would come. The contractions were more intense but never stayed at 5 minute intervals for a full hour. When I went to bed, the contractions stopped altogether. That night I had the best sleep I had had for quite a long while.

Proud Dada with our second son!
Proud Dada with our second son the day after he was born.

I awoke suddenly the next morning and happened to be checking the time when the first powerful contraction hit. The clock said 5:43am. I slipped out of bed, suspecting it might be labor, and decided to hop in the shower very quickly. It was the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life and I had two more contractions while in there. It was clear these contractions were only about 2-3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. I woke Bradley up and told him we needed to get to the hospital. Since we were already scheduled to go to the hospital that morning, he asked: “How long do we have?”

“We need to get there as fast as we can,” I told him. He jumped in the shower while I called my parents. Then I dressed and he called his parents. We did not have time to wait for the in-laws to get to our house so we decided to take our son with us to the hospital and they could pick up him there. We grabbed the hospital go bag, loaded up the car, and were on the road. The contractions were getting stronger each time. Thank the Lord, the hospital is only five minutes down the road from our house. Bradley stayed in the car with our son, as he was sleeping, and I went inside to check in.

A very short time later, I was in the triage room getting ready for the initial examination. Bradley joined me there and, though my water had not yet broken, I was in active labor. The nurse helped me into a wheelchair and I was whisked off to a labor/delivery room. My parents were able to join us there. It was nice to have my mom there. Like with my first, I decided to labor without pain medicine, but since Pickle was bigger, it was a little harder. I also had quite a bit of back labor that made pushing more of a challenge. In that moment, I completely understood why most women get pain medicine and even epidurals. I was a bit dehydrated since we had come directly after jumping out of bed, and I had the worst uncontrollable shakes the entire time. (I did not have that with Peanut!)

Exactly three hours after I felt the first contraction, Baby Van Sant (Pickle) was born! He was immediately laid on my chest and we snuggled for quite awhile. During my labor and delivery, the hospital’s computer system went down so the staff had to chart everything old school. That meant we were able to stay in the L/D room a lot longer than usual before being moved up to the recovery ward. My older sister, who was working that day in the Emergency Department, stopped by for a quick visit. After such a fast and intense experience, it was nice to relax. I ended up with a second degree tear and quite a few stitches and even just the thought of the wheelchair ride was painful.

Proud Mama holding our little Pickle.
Proud Mama holding our little Pickle before we were discharged from the hospital.

Eventually we were moved upstairs to a nice private room. My parents helped us settle in, gave me some food to eat, and then left to let us bond with Pickle and rest. The peaceful atmosphere did not last long. The nurse came in to help me use the bathroom and check my postpartum bleeding. I passed a rather large clot and the volume of blood was enough to concern the nurse. She brought her supervisor in to have a look and they decided to call my doctor back to the hospital. (Her office is, fortunately, two minutes down the road.) By now, both Bradley and I were getting worried.

My doctor arrived quickly and proceeded with a physical exam. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life… and mind you, I birthed two babies without even a tiny bit of pain medicine. I remember screaming and crying. It was decided that the best course of action was to send me to surgery, be put under local anesthetic, and have a full examination to find the source of the excessive bleeding. Though the word was never mentioned by anyone, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about postpartum bleeding is hemorrhaging and that is often life-threatening.

In tears, I grabbed Bradley’s hand and asked him to call my parents. He did and then called his parents to let them know what was happening. Then he held my hand and said a prayer. Pickle was taken to the nursery.

Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother.
Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother. He kept shouting: “Baby! Hi, Baby!”

I was helped into a wheelchair (yet again) and wheeled back downstairs. It was all very surreal as the doors to the surgery ward opened and I saw the medical team waiting for me. Everyone was very nice, friendly, and smiling but at the same time there was a certain quickness to their actions and words that was serious. Bradley gave me a kiss and then I was taken into the operating room. I admit, I had many thoughts flash through my mind, some of which went like this: “Dear Lord, I don’t want to die. I’m not ready and I cannot leave Bradley to raise Peanut and Pickle on his own.”

I was given a local anesthetic that numbed me from the waist down (aka epidural!) but left a tingling in both feet. It is the weirdest sensation, and once I was lying on the table in that very cold room, the uncontrollable shakes returned. The team was very professional and nice. Someone got me a ton of warm towels and covered me thoroughly from the waist up. Besides the shakes, which had my teeth chattering badly and my arms flopping around, it was actually quite pleasant to be all wrapped up in those warm towels. I could feel the examination but it was a very light pressure and there was absolutely no pain. I am not sure if they ever found the source of the excessive bleeding. I do know the doctor removed something from my uterus, put a few stitches in my cervix, and re-stitched the outside some as well.

When it was all said and done, I was taken to a temporary recovery room for the anesthetic to wear off. Bradley, my parents, and my older sister rushed in as soon as they were allowed to. I know I was a little out of it… Kind of loopy and having a slightly hard time pronouncing my words. I was just relieved to be out of surgery and praying everything was alright. My dad said: “Don’t you ever do that again!” And my older sister was quite upset at me, too.

In that moment, I knew, looking at the mixture of worry and relief on Bradley’s solemn face that this experience was terrifying for the both of us. Praise the Lord, nothing serious was wrong but it easily could have been. I was glad to be taken back upstairs and reunited with our little Pickle.

Pickle… our most beautiful and amazing little gift from God. Our wonderful blessing, born on his aunt’s birthday.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14, ESV

 

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

The birth of a baby is an exciting time. Whether it is the family’s first child or sixth, there is an air of anticipation and celebration when the little one arrives. In the weeks immediately after a child’s birth, there may be visits to see the new baby and gifts given to the parents.

While all gifts are wonderful, after having two children of my own, there were a few practical gifts that I absolutely loved and appreciated very deeply. So I am sharing these practical gift ideas with you. If there is someone in your life who is expecting a new baby or recently gave birth (or adopted!), these are great ideas to bless the family and provide help during a time that can be challenging.

1. Homemade meals

I cannot thank our parents enough for helping us with meals the first few days after giving birth. Homemade and delicious meals, especially that provide easy-to-reheat leftovers like soup and stew, were life-savers. My mom’s delicious tomato soup and quinoa waffles, my mother-in-law’s vegetable stew… It may seem simple but when a woman is recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, homemade meals are a very important gift.

Tip: Be sure you ask ahead of time if there are any foods or ingredients that need to be avoided due to allergies or sensitivities.

2. Housework

Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the toilet… Sure, this is definitely not the most glamorous of gifts but all it costs is a little bit of your time. Especially during the first two weeks home from the hospital or birthing center and depending upon the woman’s recovery, the gift of housework is extremely precious. Most of us probably would never have the courage to ask a family member or friend to do such chores, but if you were to offer and insist in spite any feeble protests, it just might bring tears of relief to the new mother.

My mother-in-law swept and mopped the floors in the main living area both times I was in the hospital, and I must say that it was wonderful coming home to a clean house.

3. Diapers

Going to visit a family with a new baby? Ask them what brand and size diapers they are using and grab a package on your way over. Babies go through diapers very quickly and it is never fun to run out or stress about how to get to the store for more. Does the family have multiple children in diapers at the same time? Grab a pack for the newborn and for the older sibling, too, and the parents will be forever grateful with your thoughtfulness and generosity!

4. Gift cards

Not quite sure what to get for a family with a newborn? You cannot go wrong with a gift card, especially to a store they will go to on a regular basis to buy diapers, formula, and other last minute or unexpected items. Our first son, Peanut, was unable to breastfeed due to a severe tongue tie and though my parents bought an electric pump for us, we suddenly had the unexpected need for bottles, a bottle brush, drying rack, special soap that cuts through the breastmilk residue, and pump parts. With our second son, Pickle, we now have two kids in diapers and are going through diapers and wipes quickly!

Gift cards to Target or Walmart make an excellent gift for the routine expenses. Cards to specialty stores like Babies R Us or BuyBuyBaby also make a good gift to help alleviate the cost of bigger items like high chairs, strollers, etc. that may not have been purchased or gifted earlier.

5. Babysitting

Whether it is an hour watching baby while the mother showers or naps or taking the older child(ren) for the afternoon, many parents would love the offer to babysit in the weeks immediately after a new baby’s arrival. Granted, you have to be comfortable with newborns and young children and also be close, trustworthy family member or friend.

6. Re-gifting

If you have older children and still have some of the items you used for your newborn lying around, you can re-gift them. Whether it is newborn clothes, a baby carrier or wrap, an outgrown high chair, an unused stroller — whatever you no longer need nor anticipate needing in the future. It is good to know that these items are going to a family member or friend who can put them to good use.

These are six practical gift ideas to bless a family with a new baby. Do you have more ideas? Was there something someone did for you that you really appreciated? Please share in the comments below!

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

With all of the false contractions I have been experiencing this last week, this very well might be our last pregnancy update.

How far along: 37 or 38 or 39 Weeks

Sooooo… As I may have mentioned previously, we were originally given the due date of January 28th, which would make our little Pickle 39 weeks as of now. At our first ultrasound, the tech discovered he was measuring a little small so the doctors decided to push back the due date to February 10th, which would make him now 37 weeks. That is a two week difference, and when it comes to fetal development, that is a huge difference.

Then at our doctor’s appointment yesterday, she mentioned that the ultrasound office had put down in my file “38 weeks” after our most recent two ultrasounds.

*sigh* Apparently, no one can agree with how far along we are. We could be 37, 38, or 39 weeks. I’m going to go with the middle and just say 38 weeks. I have been 1cm dilated and 50% efaced for a week now with no further progress, so — as long as there are no sudden changes — it looks like we just might have another week to go before our little Pickle decides to arrive.

Size of baby: 5 lbs at last ultrasound so he is, hopefully, about 5.5 lbs now. After taking our first son’s lower birth weight (4 lbs 11 oz) also into consideration, the doctors determined that it is probably genetic: we just make smaller babies. But in a society where “average” babies are now being born in the 8-10 lb range, I am more than happy to have smaller babies! I, myself, was around 6 lbs when I was born.

Movement: Except for the hour or so in the middle afternoon when he is napping, this little Pickle seems to be moving all of the time. He especially loves to kick and stretch as his home is getting rather cramped for him. At my last check in, he had already shifted and was in launch position: head down.

Sleep: Much, much better! I think part of it is because he has shifted down so the pressure on my diaphragm and organs have been relieved some, allowing me to breathe easier. Another reason is that we splurged on a memory foam mattress topper for our bed. It supports the belly so nicely when I lie on my left side and removed quite a few pressure points, allowing me to sleep much better with less aches and pains.

Workouts: None. I am not supposed to be doing anything strenuous — not even walking — but I still do more than I should just helping to get the kids’ room ready, the regular chores around the house, and going into work.

Maternity clothes: I am literally wearing my largest pants (jeans) and pairing them with the nicest shirts I can for work, and I change into lounging clothes when I get home. Comfort is the only thing that matters at this point.

Symptoms: Pretty much every single normal late pregnancy symptom that I missed on out experiencing with my first, including muscle and joint aches, Braxton Hicks/false contractions, false labor, bloating, gas, swelling of feet/ankles, tingling in legs below the knees, pain in the right hip upon standing, frequent trips to the bathroom, fatigue, etc.

Cravings/Aversions: Now that Pickle has shifted down and I can eat more than tiny meals (like just a bowl of cereal), I find myself ravenous, especially at dinner. No real cravings, just hungry! The batch of strawberries we just picked up are amazingly delicious, especially with some coconut yogurt (diary-free), but my husband has said the same thing so I would not could that as a craving. Well, I might be craving popcorn, but I have not given in yet because when I eat too much corn, I end up with a headache.

Missing most: Being able to walk and move without pain and being able to play with Peanut again.

Preparing for baby: We just need to re-assemble the bassinet that he will sleep in and find that bin with all of the newborn clothes…

Cannot wait for: Pickle to come!

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Now that the holidays are over, you would expect things to slow down around here but that is not the case. We have officially reached 35 weeks with Baby #2 (we will call him “Pickle” today and see how it feels), and there is still quite a bit to do to prepare for his arrival. Also, at our appointment yesterday, my doctor seemed a little concerned he might come early and wants to prepare for that possibilty.

How far along: 35 Weeks

Size of baby: Pretty big, I would say, but that is just me. We’ll know more after our next ultrasound. (Scheduled for this week!) My belly has expanded quite a bit in the last two weeks, but I am right on target for maternal weight gain at 25 lbs.

Movement: He is definitely a mover and a shaker! It seems that the only time I have a little relief from his physical acrobatics is for a few hours mid-afternoon when he must be napping.

Sleep: I admit that sleep is quite a struggle right now, partially due to Pickle’s propensity for movement throughout the night and partially because even lying on my side leaves my body extremely achy. A pillow between the knees helps sometimes, but for a few nights now, I had to move to the couch so I could sleep in a more upright position. The last three nights, though, I have been falling unusually asleep early while putting Peanut to bed and am so out-of-it that my husband could not wake me up when he tried. Not so sure that is a good thing…

Workouts: Ha! Sadly, I have given up on routine exercise. I do try to walk a little, I take the stairs down (not up anymore), and I try to stand every now and then for a little bit while at work. I am in a bit of an awkward situation: I want to do more exercise but I also do not want to encourage Pickle to come too early. Peanut was two weeks early, and I was on bedrest for the week leading up to his birth.

Maternity clothes: Sadly, due to some weight gain in the thighs and derriere some of my work slacks are now a bit too snug to wear comfortably. I’m wearing my bigger maternity jeans more and more now.

Symptoms: Muscle soreness, joint aches, tightening of the abs, random pains here and there, tiredness… I would say I’m experiencing the usual late pregnancy symptoms. Fortunately, I did not experience any feet or ankle swelling until yesterday, and that was probably due to a number of factors (high sodium dinner the night before, a ton of extra walking in the few days before, and not putting my feet up at work like I usually do). Still, I will need to take it easy from now on.

Cravings/Aversions: Though I usually do not have a taste for sweets or chocolate, because of the recent holidays, we made cookies and chocolate fudge. While I did fairly well with being moderate in my cookie consumption, I found myself sneaking extra bites of the fudge when no one was looking.

To be fair, due to my food allergies and plant-based diet, I have not eaten fudge for almost eight years! But this holiday, I wanted fudge and found a vegan recipe that was amazingly delicious and so fudge-y. Even my non-vegan relatives and co-workers who tried it had no idea it wasn’t “normal” fudge and were asking for the recipe. I will share it on the blog later this week.

Missing most: Breathing when bending over, lifting my 15-month-old without straining, sleeping through the night without being kicked or waking due to various pains, and being all-around more physically active.

Preparing for baby: We are getting a toddler bed for Peanut so we can begin the transition from crib to big boy bed now, before the new baby comes. This also means we have to get the boys’ room done in the next week and a half! Since we have limited storage space, I also want to go through all of our baby clothes and keep only the ones we are going to use. We’ll also need to pack a hospital bag, confirm arrangements for Peanut, and get the bassinet assembled again. I should also get out the breast pump and make sure all of the parts are whole, sanitized, and do not need replacing. So much to do!

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am kind of hoping he will be a little early, because I would love a January baby. We do not have any January birthdays among our close family and there are already two birthdays in February.

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

It has been quite awhile since my last pregnancy update. Time sure does fly. We had a very busy November and now we are already at 30 weeks (if the updated due date is accurate).

Jacquelyn Van Sant at 30 weeks pregnant and 14-month-old son at Thanksgiving 2017.
This photo was taken at almost 29 weeks with our 14-month-old son “Peanut” at Thanksgiving 2017.

How far along: 30 Weeks

Size of baby: I’m actually not sure exactly because our next doctor’s appointment is this Friday. They say that an average baby would be about 15-inches long and almost 3 pounds around this time. I do know that usually, from this point on, the baby will grow about half a pound a week.

Movement: This little fellow is extremely active throughout the day and night. His preferred position is definitely long-ways right above my hips. (Like last time, I’m carrying low.) Often when sitting down, my belly rolls like ocean waves as he moves and shifts. He also seems to love kicking the right side of my belly, which gets sore more often than the left.

Sleep: My sleep has been disrupted for a number of reasons lately and not all pregnancy related. We do have an active 14-month-old who has had some difficult nights. Some nights I’m so exhausted that I seem to pass out. Fortunately, when it comes to positions, sleep has gotten a little easier and my body is not aching as much as it was a few weeks ago.

Workouts: I do my usual daily activities and lift/carry a somewhat heavy 14-month-old all the time. I do try to do the kegel exercises and side leg lifts daily, and I have been doing quite a bit more walking the last couple weeks.

Maternity clothes: My stomach is now officially larger than it was when Peanut was born at 38 weeks, and some of my maternity clothes are no longer fitting properly around my expanding tummy. My husband was nice enough to buy me a new pair of jeans in a larger size and a few skirts so I can be comfortable again. Well, as comfortable as possible.

Symptoms: There for awhile, I was experiencing quite a bit of muscle soreness and body aches. This last week the aches and pains pretty much went away. However, earlier this morning I experienced a somewhat painful Braxton Hicks contraction (I’m guessing) that lasted approximately 10-11 minutes. It is like my whole lower belly tightened and would not “release” for over 10 minutes. I was almost in tears.

Needless to say, it was a little concerning, and I am trying to drink more water just in case I am dehydrated. I’ll also mention it to my doctor at the appointment this Friday.

Cravings/Aversions: No cravings to report. As for aversions, rice and beans (which I usually love) have not been sounding good to me so I’m eating more potato, quinoa, and lentils than I usually do. Not sure I am getting enough protein, though. I need to work harder on that this week.

Missing most: Definitely being able to bend over without severe pain and pressure. It is also getting harder to breathe in certain sitting positions, too.

Preparing for baby: We pretty much have all of the clothes, accessories, and items we will need for another baby boy. We have continued to (slowly) work on purging and re-organizing the entire house, both to make it more toddler friendly for our son and also to help elevate the stress of clutter for when Baby #2 arrives.

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am starting to really feel tired of being pregnant. This pregnancy has been harder than my first. I am much bigger in the stomach, more uncomfortable, and my metabolism does not seem to be working as fast as last time either. I know others have it much worse than I do so I try really hard not to complain and to just carry on “as usual”. But some days I’m so wiped out that I collapse on the couch after work and can barely do basic things like make dinner, wash dishes, or play with Peanut.

Is it bad that I’m praying this one comes early like his big brother did? (Just without the worry that accompanied Peanut’s tiny size!) However, it is all worth it to be able to welcome our new son either at the end of January or beginning of February!

I’m still hunting for the perfect pseudonym for Baby #2 to use here on the blog. Since I call our first son Peanut, I was thinking about continuing with the “P” trend or maybe the food theme or maybe both. Pancake, Pumpkin, Pickle… Any suggestions?

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

The wellness room at my office and my Medela Pump-in-Style (Tote).

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine.

You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps. That is how you show you care.

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