Tag: baby

How to cluster pump with an example schedule

How to cluster pump with an example schedule

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my secret weapons — aka most effective methods — I used to increase my milk supply was to mimic a nursing baby’s cluster feeding.

Just joining us? Discover how I increased my milk supply in 8 weeks with seven simple steps.

In the days before and during a growth spurt, nursing babies usually demand a lot more time at the breast. It may feel like they are nursing all the time! Often, these cluster feedings happen in the evenings or at night.

Milk production, after all, is a supply and demand process. When more is demanded, supply is usually increased to meet those demands.

As a pumping Mama whose baby was unable to nurse, the traditional wisdom of letting baby nurse, nurse, nurse would not work for me and my baby.

So I had to figure out how to make my body think the baby was demanding more milk using just my pump.

This is where Cluster Pumping comes into the picture.

Pumping Mama, be sure you have a good quality, hospital grade double electric pump.

I love my Medela Pump-in-Style, which was used 6-10 times a day for 10 months with my first child and is being used that frequently again with my second.

And a hands-free pumping bra is a great investment, too!

Cluster pumping is when you switch from your normal pumping session of 15-20 minutes every 2-4 hours to do the following:

  • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Break for 5 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Break for 5 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.

I set the timer on my cellphone so I would remember to take the breaks and return from the breaks.

You might be thinking: “I don’t have time for that!”

Well, I hear you. I did not think I would have the time to do this either. With an extremely needy newborn and a toddler under the age of two demanding my attention, trying to get the 15-20 minute pumping sessions in every 3 hours was hard enough!

But once I started, I actually found the cluster pumping sessions were far easier to manage than my regular sessions! 

That is because, when the baby started fussing, I knew I had only three or so more minutes of pumping before I could take a break and tend to his needs.

Or when the toddler came over crying: “Mama! Mama! Food! Wawa!” or whatever it was he wanted, I could gently say: “When you hear the beep-beep, Mama will get you food or wawa or whatever.” That quickly ended the tears and tantrums, and it became a fun game to wait and listen for the cellphone’s alarm announcing a 5 minute break!

Or when my husband shouted from the back room that there was an extremely messy diaper that he needed assistance with, I could say: “Be there in 2 minutes!” or whatever was left on the timer.

So cluster pumping in this way is possible!

Choose at least three of your normal pumping sessions in a row to become cluster pumping sessions and do these consistently for 2-3 days.

Example Schedule

When I began cluster pumping, I was already on a strict 3 hour schedule with a large gap in the morning for much needed sleep.

Remember to take care of your health, including sleep!

This is an example of what my day looked like when I was cluster pumping:

6:00 am – Normal pumping session
9:00 am – Normal pumping session
12 noon – Cluster pumping session
3:00 pm – Cluster pumping session
6:00 pm – Cluster pumping session
9:00 pm – Normal pumping session
12 midnight- Normal pumping session

I repeated this for 3 days in a row, then took a 2-3 day break where I returned to a normal pumping schedule. Then I would cluster pump again for another 3 days. I saw noticeable results in my daily milk output within a week.

“But,” you protest, “I work! I can’t do this!”

Yes, you can!

You will just have to do your cluster pumping when you are home. So if you work 9-5, you might cluster pumping in the evenings after work. If you work an afternoon/evening shift, cluster pumping in the mornings might work out better.

Make it work with your schedule!

And stay tuned. A future post has resources and tips just for the working Mama!

NOTE: As mentioned in this previous post, sleep is a vital component for your physical and mental well-being. You may have noticed from my example schedule above that I went midnight to 6:00am without a pumping session.

Once I had recovered from five and a half weeks with barely any sleep (only averaging 2-3 hours a night) and was well rested, I threw in an extra early morning pumping session around 3:00 am for about a week to help. Now that my supply is holding consistently (and I’m working full time), I have cut the 3:00 am pumping session out again to make sure I get enough rest.

You may find you have to make temporary adjustments to your schedule, too. Experiment and find what works best for you.

If you are struggling with low milk supply, don’t delay! Start cluster pumping today! I went from barely producing 8oz a day to consistently pumping 32-35 oz in only eight weeks!

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn


Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.




Steps 5-7: My secret weapons for increasing milk production

Steps 5-7: My secret weapons for increasing milk production

First I shared our struggle with breastfeeding and low supply. In the previous post, we talked about how to properly care for your own health. Before we continue, I just want to restate the importance of making sure you are hydrated, getting enough calories, sleeping well, and managing stress. Taking care of your health is the foundation for what comes next.

Today I am going to share with you my secret weapons. When I implemented steps 5-7, my milk production went from barely there to supercharged!

Now I know the phrase “secret weapons” makes it sound like it is an easy, peasy snap-of-the-fingers fix to the low or dwindling milk supply problem. Let me repeat:

I was able to significantly increase my milk supply over time and with diligence and hard work.

However, it is true that after I added these three steps, the amount of milk I was pumping each day significantly increased. So let’s get right to the good stuff!

5. Eat lots and lots of oats.

Ancient wisdom passed down through the generations says that oats are good milk-inducers. Now, let me be frank with you, I rarely eat oats. I am not an oats person, and the only way I ate oats growing up was in the form of General Mill’s Cheerios.

Then in 2011 I found out that I cannot eat gluten, so it was harder to find oat cereals that were also gluten-free. (Oats are naturally gluten-free, but there is a lot of cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains during harvesting, transport, and production.)

Oatmeal, you say? I cannot stand oatmeal. Even when I was a kid, I literally could not stomach the stuff. I even somehow managed to avoid having to eat oatmeal when pumping for my first son.

But with Pickle, my supply was so low and diminishing so quickly, I forced myself to start eating gluten-free oatmeal. I hated every bite, but I ate it and continue to eat it for my baby. After two months, I no longer mind it… as long as it is Nature’s Path Gluten-free Spiced Apple + Flax. (What can I say? I’m picky!)

Fortunately, General Mills has found a way to extract gluten-containing contaminants from their oats and now most of their cereals, including regular Cheerios, are gluten-free. And to top it all off, Silk now has a probiotic blend of almond and cashew milk with added oats.

There are also a lot of recipes online for oat-packed smoothies and lactations cookies. With an active toddler, a new baby, and returning to work full-time, I just do not have the time for making my own. Our tight budget and my food allergies also limit my ability to purchase ready-made items.

So I took the easy way. Between the oatmeal, Cheerios, and Silk probiotic blend, I am consuming a lot of oats on a daily basis. Within a few days of starting this high concentration of oats, I began to see an increase in my daily milk output. It was about 1-2 oz increase over a 24-hour period, but for me it felt like a huge win.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

6. Lactation tea is my friend.

Disclaimer: Herbs are drugs and can be dangerous if used improperly. Always consult a medical professional before trying any new herb or drug, especially while breastfeeding. This information is based off personal experience and shared for educational purposes only.

I love tea. I’m a tea drinker.

With my first child, I discovered that there are some herbs you want to avoid while breastfeeding because they can dry you up or can be harmful to the baby. I highly recommend taking a peek at the resource Herbs to avoid while breastfeeding by KellyMom.com.

When I was unprepared for my son’s first growth spurt, I began looking for something to help boost my supply. I discovered lactation tea at a local store and decided to give it a try. I drank one cup of Earth Mama Organic’s Milkmaid Tea daily when increasing my supply and then one cup every other day to maintain. For moms who only need a slight boost or want to maintain their supply, this may be an option you should discuss with your doctor.

With my second child, I first tried herbal supplements like fenugreek, milk thistle, etc., but found that the doses needed to make a difference in my milk supply were too high and caused me to have dizzy spells. Learn from my mistake, do not try these herbal supplements without first consulting a medical professional.

Then I switched to the amazing Pink Stork’s Liquid Gold tea. I drink 1-3 cups of tea a day and saw a boost in my daily production within 24 hours of starting the tea.

What I especially love about Pink Stork’s Liquid Gold is that it is delicious hot or cold, and cold tea is so refreshing here in the desert during the blazing hot summers. I highly recommend this tea for any moms like me who are under-producers and looking for a significant boost in milk production. (Before starting, be sure to discuss this with your doctor.)

Even now at fourteen weeks postpartum when I am consistently pumping between 38oz-42oz a day, I make sure to have at least 1 cup a day… Sometimes two!

7. Replicate cluster feeding when pumping.

If you research increasing milk supply via pumping on the internet, you will find tons and tons of sites and forums tell you to:

  • pump more often
  • pump for longer
  • have a “pump in” over the weekend where you basically pump all the time

Come on. How is this even realistic? I was already pumping every 3 hours on a very, very rigid schedule. I tried making my pumping sessions longer, but it was not working.

My nipples were red, blistery and each pumping session was so painful that I often cried. There was absolutely no way I could do a mega-pump or pump-in over the weekend. (Not to mention, I also had a toddler to care for!)

While pumping, I read a lot and I stumbled upon cluster feeding. Newborns especially but all babies go through periods of dramatic growth (physically and developmentally) at somewhat predictable intervals. (All babies are unique, so some may hit a “growth spurt” earlier or later than others.)

In the days leading up to a growth spurt, babies often switch from a regular eating pattern to what is called cluster feeding. It is when baby, usually in the evenings, eats in ravenous bunches. They may be fussy, hard to console, and consume more milk than usual.

For moms who nurse, they may find that during these periods, baby always wants to be at the breast. This almost-constant nursing by baby triggers the mother’s body to produce more milk. (Think supply and demand. The baby is demanding more milk so the breasts up production.) Babies need this “extra” food to help nourish the physical or development growth spurt.

That is when it dawned on me: us pumping mamas can replicate that cluster feeding and coax our bodies into producing more milk.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

Here is how I replicated cluster feeding via cluster pumping and dramatically increased my own milk supply:

  • Use a double electric pump. I use Medela Pump-in-Style, available in Tote or Backpack or Metro Bag, but any powerful double pump will do.
  • Pump on a regular schedule every 2-3 hours.
  • Pump 6-8 times within a 24-hour period.
  • Choose 3-4 pumping sessions a day to mimic cluster feeding:
    • Pump for 10 minutes.
    • Take a break for 5 minutes.
    • Pump for 10 minutes.
    • Take a break for 5 minutes.
    • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Continue for 2-4 days in a row.
  • Take a 3-4 day break (return to your usual pumping routine).
  • Repeat.

Don’t be discouraged. It takes time.

I discovered how to replicate cluster feeding about 4 weeks postpartum. It took eight weeks to go from a daily output of about 12 oz to 32-35 oz.

You have to be consistent in your pumping schedule. This may mean skipping a social event or taking your pump with you. I have pumped in single occupancy bathrooms, the car, the mother’s room at church, and other unusual places. I am no longer shy about saying: “Sorry, but I have to pump.”

If you are a working mom, you may have to get a bit creative with your schedule. Perhaps instead of cluster pumping in the middle of the day, you cluster pump in the evenings and at night before bed.

Many women find that they produce their largest haul in the morning. If you are getting enough sleep, try adding another early morning pumping session in, especially during the days you are cluster pumping, to take advantage of this “extra” milk.

So here are my three secret weapons: oats, lactation tea, and cluster pumping. In the next post I will share about cluster pumping in more detail and provide an example schedule.

These simple seven steps helped me to increase my milk supply from barely 8oz a day to 32-35 oz a day in just eight weeks! Pumping is hard. So whether you are a part-time pumper or, like me, are an exclusive pumper, it can be very hard to ensure that your supply keeps up with your little one’s needs.

It is my hope that these steps will help you increase or maintain your milk supply as they have helped me.

As of this writing, I am fourteen weeks postpartum and I’m consistently pumping 38-42oz a day. I have returned to work full-time outside the home and am building up a freezer stash with about 5-6oz a day!

If I can do it, you can too. Don’t give up yet.

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn


Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.




Steps 1-4: Take Care of Your Health

Steps 1-4: Take Care of Your Health

In the introductory post, I shared our struggle with breastfeeding and low supply. I became a pumping Mama through necessity, and it has been a struggle at times. With my second son, my supply plummeted and nearly dried up. I was able to significantly increase my milk supply over time and with diligence and hard work by following seven simple steps.

Today I am going to share with you the first four steps, which all have to do with caring for your health.

Yes, Mama, I know it can be very hard to tend to your own needs when you have a new baby, possibly older children, and everything else in your hectic life. I understand! I made the mistake of not taking care of me, and it nearly cost me my milk supply.

Don’t let it happen to you.

So let’s dive right in to the first four steps towards increasing your milk supply.

1. Drink lots of water.

Proper hydration is a key component in milk production. As a busy mom, it is easy to think you are drinking enough fluids when you actually are not. If you live in a hot or dry climate, it is even more important to make sure you are drinking enough.

Some women I have spoken with swear by beverages like Gatorade or Powerade. Personally, those types of drinks mess me up and wreck havoc on my blood sugar. So I prefer just plain ol’ water.

If you are drinking a lot but it still does not seem to be enough, make sure that the water you are drinking has electrolytes, the minerals your body needs to function. (Read more about electrolytes.)

Personally, I did not notice a measurable increase in my milk output after adjusting my water intake, but I felt better. It was a step in the right direction!

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

2. Eat enough calories a day.

A new baby can completely change your daily routine and if you are hyper-focused on the baby’s needs, it can be easy to forget your own. (Guilty as charged!) Make sure you are eating enough calories a day.

Yes, I know, post-baby bodies may be pudgy and loose. You may not look like those celebrity moms who are teeny-tiny again a month after childbirth. You may have gained more weight during pregnancy than you are comfortable with. Your clothes might not fit. You may look in the mirror and want to cry. The struggle is real and it is okay!

Your body took nine or so months to make a human being. This is absolutely amazing! You are absolutely amazing! 

If you want to breastfeed your precious little baby, now is not the time to be trying crash diets, restricting calories, or excessive exercise. Your body is in recovery mode after pregnancy and childbirth and your body requires extra nourishment to be able to make liquid gold for your baby.

Eat enough calories a day, but also try to make healthy choices. A well-balanced diet will help your body make the best milk possible for baby. If you are worried you are loosing too much weight (it happens!) or you are not eating enough calories, try adding a healthy fat like avocados or nuts into your diet.

Breastfeeding, whether pumping or from the tap, can make you extra hungry so keep healthy snacks on hand. I know I reach for protein-packed snacks all the time… nuts, hummus, etc.

Within about five days of regulating my own diet, I had increased my daily milk output by 1-2 oz.

 

3. Get more sleep.

Alright, it is time to get real, Mamas. Sleep. It is almost a dirty word. Who has time to sleep? Baby needs tending, perhaps older children need attention too, and then there are meals to be made, dishes to be washed, a house to clean, and don’t forget about the laundry or grocery shopping!

Perhaps you have a part-time or full-time job to do, too. So you have resigned yourself to barely getting any shut-eye. You might even mumble half-heartedly: Sleep, who needs it?

YOU DO, Mama!

As I learned the hard way, it is not about having the time but making the time.

Two to three hours of sleep on a regular basis is not enough sleep. Your body needs sleep and your mind does, too. If you are one of those Mamas who has gone days or even weeks without proper sleep, you need to make a change today. Seven to eight hours are ideal but try for five to six to start with.

Do whatever you can to get that extra sleep. Ignore the dishes and the dirty living room carpet so you can nap when the baby is napping. Ask your husband to watch the baby in the evenings for an hour or so. Have your mom, sister, best friend, church member come over for a bit.

Turn off that television and computer. Put away the tablet and the cellphone. Blue light from these popular electronics interferes with your body’s ability to fall asleep.

Still not sleepy? Mind won’t shut off? Go for a walk, sit outside in the fresh air, or grab an old-fashion book. (Yes, one you actually have to hold and turn pages!)

When I finally began to sleep more than 3 hours a night (around five and a half weeks post-partum), not only did I feel better but I also saw a slight increase in my daily milk production.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

4. Relieve as much stress as possible.

Ah, stress. My nemesis!

I have discovered with baby #2 that I do not deal with stress as efficiently as I thought. We had a ton of outside stressors hit us after our son was born, and the fact that I nearly lost my milk supply was not helping. Anyone else relate?

I had to go back to the basics when it came to dealing with stress properly. Fortunately, I was already addressing a key factor when I began to get adequate sleep. With being more rested, I was able to handle stressful situations more effectively without feeling overwhelming or having an emotional meltdown.

I also had to determine stressors and either fix the situation or decide to just let it go. It is not easy but you will feel much better if you properly manage your stress.

During the time I was working on my stress management, my supply was slowly increasing. So while I cannot give a certain amount that my milk supply increased, addressing and relieving my unnecessary stress did help.

 

These first four steps are all about getting your own health back in focus. While the gains in actual milk output are often not dramatically large, you need to make sure you are hydrated, eating enough calories, sleeping enough, and properly managing stress.

In the next post, I’ll go into my three secret weapons that really sent my milk production into overdrive!

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn


Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.




How I Increased My Milk Supply in 8 Weeks

How I Increased My Milk Supply in 8 Weeks

Hi there, breastfeeding Mama!

Do you pump breastmilk to provide nourishment for your baby?

Do you struggle with low milk supply?

Are you afraid your milk is drying up?

Are you ready to give up?

I can relate big time.

Don’t give up just yet! First, hear me out.

Our story

My dreams of an idyllic breastfeeding experience were shattered when my first son, Peanut, was born small and with a severe tongue tie. He was unable to nurse on his own until he was thirteen weeks old, and even then it was very irregular.

Read about Our Breastfeeding Journey.

So on Day 1 with Peanut, I was thrust into the world of a pumping Mama!

I had no clue what I was doing, and unfortunately, I did not have much guidance. My mom breastfed my sisters and I without a problem, and my older sister was able to pump for only a short time before the demands of her full-time emergency room nursing job brought that to an end.

But I was blessed with a nine-week maternity leave and an office job that was flexible enough, despite the occasional challenge, to continue pumping.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

Still I had to learn on my own, and I discovered that there are not a lot of resources available for moms who pump exclusively.

Let me clarify: there are a lot of resources for mothers who breastfeed via nursing and pump a little extra on the side, but few resources for those of us who only pump. After all, the biggest tip for breastfeeding moms who are nursing and worried about low supply is to: nurse, nurse, nurse!

But for us pumping moms, that does not always work for us. At least, pumping more frequently and for longer periods of time did not work for me. I tried. I end up with sore, blistered nipples and no milk gain to show for it!

Us pumping moms also get discouraged when we read things like:

  • If baby is hungry, baby will eat.
  • Low milk supply is exceptionally rare or a myth or [fill in the blank].
  • Pumping is not as effective at drawing out milk as babies are.
  • Pumping over time can lead to a decrease in supply.

It is not like most of us are pumping because we enjoy it. After all, pumping is full of challenges! Maybe you work or maybe your baby cannot nurse. Few women willingly choose the hardship of pumping over nursing when nursing is a viable option.

Most of us do it because it is our only option if we want to give our babies the benefits of breastmilk.

Pumping exclusively is a struggle. Sometimes I did well. I even built up a tiny stash in the freezer! Sometimes I did not pump enough milk and we supplemented.

But through hard work, determination, and plenty of tears we made it to ten months!

Our older son was born full term but very tiny with a severe tongue tie. Here he is on Day 3, before leaving the hospital. The image at the top of the page is him at a very plump and well-fed seven-months-old!

When our second son, Pickle, was born, I eagerly anticipated that beautiful breastfeeding experience I was unable to have with Peanut. But when he had not regained his birth weight by his two week appointment, it was clear that I would have to start pumping again.

Read more about our Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two.

Unfortunately, by the time I started pumping, my milk supply had already suffered and plummeted. At my lowest point, during Week 3 postpartum, I barely managed to get 8 oz of milk in a 24-hour period. Pickle, meanwhile, was consuming on average 25 oz a day. While I struggled with my diminishing supply, we supplemented with donated breastmilk and formula.

I tried everything I had done while pumping with my first and a ton of new tips, but nothing was working. My baby was not even a month old, and I seriously thought about just throwing in the towel.

Because he knew how important breastfeeding was to me, my husband encouraged me not to give up. Family and friends cheered me up, too. “A little breast milk is better than none at all,” they reminded me. Though I wondered if the tiny amount I was getting really was worth all of the hassle and pain.

There had to be a better way!

I increased my milk supply from barely 8oz a day to 32-35 oz a day in just 8 weeks and you can too! Click To Tweet

Our solution

I dried my eyes and started over. I began researching and experimenting.

Over the next eight weeks, I was able to increase my milk supply from barely 8oz a day to 32-35 oz a day!

Baby Pickle at seven weeks old. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Our younger son had not regained his birth weight after two weeks due to my dwindling milk supply. Here he is at seven weeks, well-fed and content.

If you are reading this, you might be struggling with a low milk supply, too. Mama, I am going to share with you what worked for me. I hope it helps you as well.

Let me be clear upfront: there is no magic to instantaneously increase your milk in a dramatic way. It will take some time and trial-and-error to find what works for you.

You can even experience differences in production with each child you have. Sometimes physical challenges with baby (like my son’s tongue tie) can cause problems. Sometimes our own physical health — hormones, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, severe stress — can be the root of the low supply problem. If you suspect any such problems, reach out to a medical professional: your doctor, your child’s pediatrician, or a lactation consultant.

I was able to significantly increase my milk supply over time and with diligence and hard work by following seven simple steps.

  1. Drink more water
  2. Eat more calories
  3. Get more sleep!
  4. Relieve stress
  5. Oats, the wonder food
  6. Lactation tea is my friend
  7. Replicate cluster feeding when pumping

In the next few posts, I will explain each step in detail and how it effected my own supply. This is for informational purposes.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

If breastfeeding is what you want for your baby, it is worth it the time and energy. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this will work a hundred percent of the time. There are some health conditions and/or medications that may contribute to low supply or cause milk to dry up. If you suspect this may be the case in your situation, consult your doctor. There are some prescriptions drugs that might assist with lactation in these cases.

And let me add that it is perfectly ok if you have decided to stop breastfeeding altogether. Perhaps you have a medical condition that makes it extremely difficult or an experience that has taken the joy out of you. Breastfed, formula fed — what matters the most is that baby is fed and gaining the appropriate weight!

However, if you are healthy, struggling with low supply, and want to continue breastfeeding, these seven steps worked for me and my dwindling milk supply. I truly hope that by sharing my struggles and what I discovered worked for me, you may be encouraged in your own breastfeeding journey. I hope it will work for you, too.

If you desire to breastfeed your precious little one and are willing to put in the time and hardwork, give these steps a try! Progress was barely noticeable at first and it did take me eight weeks to go from under-producing to being a just-right-producing Mama.

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn


Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.




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!

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!