Go feed your infant peanuts right now.

(Okay, maybe not right now.)

But read these new recommendations on food allergies.

Recently we took T to the doctor. We have already started solid foods, and went with infant oatmeal, sweet potatoes, bananas, peas, and prunes (you know, to keep things…regular). These have been a smash hit so far, evidenced by the smashing he does with them all over his face. Adorable, but messy. At this visit, though, one of the doctor’s recommended that we start the allergy-potential foods right away. Dairy, soy, eggs, and peanuts were all to be introduced as soon as possible. Why? Apparently, the new science supports early introduction as a way to prevent food allergies. Especially in the case of peanuts, as evidenced in the new LEAP study. Yes, I was as surprised as you probably are. T is not even close to a year old yet, and I thought these items were way down the line.

Doctors now suspect that avoidance of these foods actually increases risk of development of food allergies. This explains why there are so many children in a particular age range right now that have so many food allergies. Growing up, this was practically unheard of. There might have been one or two kids I ever knew with one food allergy. Now it seems there are a ton! Peanut-free schools are very common. I had always wondered what was causing the rash of children with these sensitivities (see what I did there?).

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But why? In the recent years, many doctors suggested that high-risk foods were avoided in children, especially those at high-risk for food allergies. The high-risk kids were those who have a family history of food allergies or those with eczema. Well, one study that was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice suggest that children who have food-triggered eczema and who avoid the trigger foods are actually at higher risk for developing permanent allergies, and that there are certain limitations to the predictability of blood-test results.

What does all this mean? Basically, if your kid has eczema or sensitive skin and develops a flare-up after eating a particular food—say, dairy, for example- and you therefore avoid giving it to him/her, it is more likely that s/he will not be able to tolerate in the future. By avoiding the food completely instead of working through these skin flares, parents can inadvertently decrease tolerance to these foods and increase risk of immediate [anaphylactic] reactions. If your kid doesn’t have eczema but you are afraid of food reactions and don’t give your kid dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, or nuts until a few years old, the time frame of immune acceptance will have passed and s/he will be more likely to have developed an allergy.

Crazy, right? All of this goes to underscore one of the main facts I’ve learned as a parent thus far: recommendations are constantly changing. It also depends on who you ask. It also depends on your doctor. My doctor recommended we avoid rice-based cereal because of the reports of high levels of arsenic, and instead go directly to infant oatmeal cereal. Another mom friend’s doctor told her to avoid oatmeal cereal because it contains wheat, and go for the less-allergenic rice cereal. Another person, another answer.

So what is a mom to do? The best thing you can do is to be informed. Do your research, but do it responsibly. Be careful of who your sources are. You want to ensure you are educated from academically credible sources, not opinion sites (which is why I am linking what I am talking about, as you shouldn’t just take my word for it). The next equally best thing to do is talk to your doctor and work with him or her on a plan for your child. They will likely not start your baby on these types of foods right away, but may suggest earlier introduction as oppose when your child is over a year old or older.

So far, we have been successful with peanuts and dairy (in the form of yogurt. Babies shouldn’t have whole milk. Who knew?). How does one even begin to introduce these foods? At the guidance of the doctor, I bought peanut powder, which contains only peanuts as the ingredient, and mixed it with breastmilk. I started with a really small amount of powder, and gradually increased it. You could do the same with water, if you’re not breastfeeding. I was instructed to add one new food only for three days, monitoring for immediate signs of reaction (hives, swelling, coughing) for the first 10-15 minutes after consumption. T looked pretty thug life trying his first peanuts: shirtless, in little pants and a beanie (for warmth, obviously). I gave it more than three days though, to oblige my own paranoia.

Next we bought plain, unflavored yogurt, and did the same process, except I mixed it with prunes or bananas to add some sweetness back—plain yogurt is so bitter and blah. Eggs are next, which I plan to scramble and put in the food processor so it is not so chunky. Hopefully we will be able to transition T to formula so I can have my boobs, my diet, and some [limited] freedom back. Fingers crossed!!

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I am a blogger (duh), albeit a very educated one. This means my writing does not constitute medical advice for your child. Consult your doctor before beginning any new food regimen for your child. I am not responsible if you go ham on food introductions before your baby is ready. Ha! Ham.

My baby pooped blood: The breastfeeding elimination diet

What it is and how to survive it

I am officially 7 months into breastfeeding. I never thought I’d be here. My original goal was to reach 6 months after a significantly challenging—okay hellish—start to breastfeeding. After a few months it got better, and eventually became a breeze. One of the biggest hurdles was something I’d never even heard of before.

A few months into life, my little guy started getting greener and greener poops. They were pretty bright…and loose. Soon I started seeing blood flecks in his diaper. Naturally, I totally freaked out. I went to the doctor and she said it was likely a protein intolerance. What, food allergies at 2 months old?!

Nope. Protein intolerance isn’t a true food allergy. It can occur in infants because their tiny, immature little digestive systems can’t handle complex proteins found in certain foods. Most often, the culprits are soy and dairy, but sometimes, egg, nuts, and wheat can also be the cause. After about a month and multiple more visits to the doctor (and several more blood-flecked poop diapers) we eventually decided to do a full elimination diet, which meant I would stop eating dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, and nuts. What the hell was there left to eat?

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It takes about three weeks for things to work out of a mom’s system, and then about 3 weeks after that to flush out of the baby’s system. Needless to say, the breastfeeding elimination diet is a LONG process. I hoped by the end of it I would at least be able to lose the rest of this baby weight.

So what could I actually eat? Well, I had to eat healthy and naturally. I could eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and grains like rice and quinoa. Very healthy, very natural, very boring. Although I had eaten similarly before to lose weight, this time it felt very different, probably because I was being forced into it. I also couldn’t have any cheats, like chocolate or pizza. Sad face crying emoji.

It turns out that I really learned a lot about my eating habits. I ate way more cheese on a weekly basis than I thought. I also ate a lot of wheat-based products, and these processed foods aren’t really all that healthy. The less I ate of all of these products, the better I felt. It was like all my organ systems got a reboot and were finally functioning normally. I have also forgot to mention to you that my baby had pretty decent colic episodes every evening, so I had already cut out gas-inducing foods like beans, broccoli, peppers, tomato sauce, onions, and garlic. Making flavorful food was a challenge! Needless to say, we were eating pretty bland. My saint of a husband ate [almost] everything I ate.

I also learned how much dairy, wheat, and soy were in processed food products. There is an unreal amount of soy and soy protein (soy lecithin) added to food products. I actually found it very scary. I didn’t realize how much garbage was added to our foods. It was definitely a wake-up call.

I was willing to do anything to keep my little guy fed and healthy, and although some people suggested that now might be a good time to quit breastfeeding—and that I had given it a good run—I just couldn’t do it. I had worked so. hard. to breastfeed and I just knew in my heart I couldn’t quit now.

And so I spent the next few months making alternative foods, finding alternative products, slipping up and finding blood flecks return to my baby’s poop. The hardest part was eating at restaurants, which often use soy oil or a soy-blend oil (commonly just called “vegetable oil”), and waitstaff who weren’t thorough, or just didn’t care enough, to ensure that my meals were prepared accordingly. It was a lot easier to eat at home, but it also made it very isolating.

Eventually, I learned what restaurants I could eat at and what food I could eat there, which ones used canola oil only to cook, and how to get creative with the menu so that I could have a full meal that kept both me and my son happy.

I also found a vast array of alternative, albeit more expensive, food products I could cook with. I found rice flour blends, pancake and waffle mix, rice flour noodles, and even chocolate and ice cream made with coconut milk. The company Enjoy Life was a real life saver; they make a ton of products (including cookies and snack bars!) that I could eat. Daiya makes macaroni and cheese and pizza, although how they create the cheese still baffles me. I don’t really care, though. It helps me feel a little more normal to have pizza on Friday nights, and jazzing it up with spices and Italian sausage can make just about anything taste better. Luna and Larry’s coconut milk ice cream, particularly the Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavor, is to die for.

This kind of diet isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t for everyone. For some mamas, it may be easier and less stressful for both mom and baby to just make the switch to formula. For me, I am happy with my decision to eliminate things—and some happiness—from my diet. It’s just food right? Eh….

I have tried over the months to reintegrate these food groups into my diet. Every reintroduction I’ve tried has failed horribly. The blood flecks always come back. Even now that my baby eats Gerber Oatmeal cereal that has wheat in it with no problem, I can’t eat wheat. Maybe it is the way my body breaks down the proteins and delivers them through the breastmilk.

Oh well. Once Baby T is off the boob for good, I guess I’ll just have to have a whole cheese pizza and pint of Ben and Jerry’s by myself. What a sad celebration that will be, right? Winky smiling emoji.

How I overcame my fear of breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding has always really freaked me out. Like I think I truly had an irrational fear of it. I hated seeing breastfeeding women in public, their babies attached to their boobs like an oddly adorable parasite clinging to a mammal. Something that is a little repugnant but you decide to adopt it and keep it anyway. I was definitely pro-covering; I didn’t think anyone should be displaying this kind of behavior publicly. “I don’t want to see that shit when I’m eating in a restaurant,” I would think, shuffling by a mother with what I am sure was a disgusted look on my face.

Cut to me 12 weeks postpartum. Now I am rocketing towards the opposite end of the spectrum—by not giving a damn about who sees me breastfeeding in public. My husband is a lot more squeamish than I am about me whipping out my boobs when called upon by my darling baby boy. In anticipation of dining out he once asked me, “Well won’t you just go feed him in the bathroom?” “HELL NO,” I replied vehemently, “The restaurant doesn’t serve people dinner in the bathroom and I will not feed my son in there either. If they don’t like it they can look somewhere else.” The mix of sheepish and shock on his face was one not to be missed.

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My first experience breastfeeding in a public place was when I went to my first new mom’s event. I had found the group on Facebook and finally worked up the courage to go and meet these other moms that I had only interacted with virtually thus far. The event happened to be at a winery, and the moms, strollers, and blankets were sprawled across the vineyard’s main covered patio. There weren’t that many other guests there at 11 am. “Mom life,” I giggled to myself as I ordered a glass of wine.

By noon there were many more patrons. Some were seated near us along the covered walkway, others were at the picnic tables in the sun. There was a family party being held on the grassy lot adjacent to us. The longer we stayed, the hungrier the babies got. I got to truly see all manner of feeding in public. Some moms went with the less offensive bottle, whether because the babies were formula fed or they had pumped and prepared a bottle in order to avoid public nudity. Other moms had clearly had practice, wearing a nursing dress or shirt and discretely making direct contact of nipple to hungry mouth. Yet I was most intrigued by a tattooed mom about my age, who was wearing a loose tank top but had dropped the strap off her shoulder, the wind pushing it about as her baby latched on, his head the only thing covering her breast from prying eyes. I was probably staring, inappropriately so, but I was fascinated. I was intrigued. I was inspired. She is only doing what comes naturally, and I thought it was so bad-ass. She clearly didn’t give a second thought to who was watching.

Then it was my turn. Baby T was very hungry, so I took out my infinity scarf I thought could double as a nursing cover from my bag, and then proceeded to struggle to balance T on my lap, support his head, lift my t-shirt, undo my nursing top, and simultaneously cover both of us with the scarf. On a hot August day suffice it to say I was profusely sweating, most likely due more to anxiety than the heat. We struggled to unite, my scarf slipping from my shoulder. When T finally found his rhythm and ate happily, I did the best I could to support him while making sure my t-shirt covered what his head didn’t. When he was done, he promptly pooped and was changed. He almost as promptly spit up all over my t-shirt. Down a layer, I felt cooler but without a layer of privacy, should he want to eat again.

He did. I again struggled with the stiff and unforgiving fabric of the scarf, sweating all the while, until I thought TO HELL WITH IT. I whipped the scarf off of me. I felt as free as my bare breast did in the open air, and I felt relief. I didn’t care who might look over from their patio table and wine bottle and see me. I didn’t care what family member might pass by on the way to the main house. We were finally free to eat and bond in peace, and we couldn’t have been happier.

That day was a breakthrough for me. I saw breastfeeding much more differently than ever before, due in part to the tattooed mom at the next table. Not only do I feel free to cover—or not cover—as I feel appropriate in public, but I support any amount of coverage any mom chooses to have. There are few things more awesome than a mama caring for her baby in the most ancient and emotionally tied act, and it should never be shamed. So go ahead mama, free yourself and your lady bit and let your mama flag fly proudly.

Getting through the first three months of breastfeeding: A labor of love

My sweet, little [most of the time] angel is almost three months old, and I don’t know where the time has gone. I had shared my reality of the breastfeeding experience with you before, and am back to share an update with our progress.

At around 6 weeks, it all seemed to come together. The breastfeeding part, anyway. It was like the clouds finally cleared and the sun came out. More like the thunderstorm of the f-king century blew over and the glorious sun shined down upon my boobs. That metaphor is a lot more accurate. The latch, milk let down, nursing—pretty much every part of breastfeeding—no longer hurt. I was nursing a baby, not a viper, which was a delightful change. I was in a breastfeeding honeymoon phase. I still wasn’t wild about the physical feedings, but I loved the bonding it brought for us and the exclusivity of just me and baby time. He needed me, and I needed him. The cutest yin and yang ever.

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Now that we are turning the corner of three months, the non-stop feedings and the protein intolerance diet elimination trials—a whole other mess for a whole other post—leaves me with the resentful feeling that I am kind of over breastfeeding. Maybe it was just because this past weekend Baby T didn’t sleep well, so neither did anyone else, or maybe it is because I feel chained to feeding or pumping. My whole schedule rotates around when T last ate or if my husband has enough pumped milk so that I can see a movie and get lunch with a friend. I’m in a wedding soon, and trying to figure out the ratio of pumped milk needed for hours gone and the logistics of finding a private space so that I can hike up my bridesmaid dress to my chest to feed is a little stressful, to say the least.

We don’t live in our happy bubble at home anymore, where I can whip out a boob at my little guy’s demand and not worry about onlookers. Venturing into the world with a new baby feels scary, and breastfeeding only complicates it further. I’m practicing outings to get used to being a mama on the go, and it is getting a little easier. I’ve come to realize how unfriendly the US is to breastfeeding moms; it’s hard to find a place to get myself set up and feed my baby without feeling extremely exposed! That and the fear that some stranger will reprimand my natural nudity. Even Carter’s, the baby and child store, doesn’t have a dressing room or mother’s room. Seriously? Of all the places you’d think would have one…

I didn’t give up on breastfeeding at the beginning and I was damn sure I’m not going to give up on it now. I’m aiming for 6 months, and I’m halfway there! Just in time to drink for the holidays. Just when you think you have your shit together, motherhood throws you another curve ball. This past Sunday T figured out that the can chomp down while breastfeeding. Who knew that tiny little gums could be so cruel. Since then he has performed his new trick at almost every session. I’m so exasperated I don’t even know what to do. This might be the final straw to weaning him to bottles. It’s a very difficult decision since I have worked so hard for three months to make breastfeeding work. How do you get a baby to stop a behavior? Yell “No” and de-latch? The honeymoon is definitely over. I will have a major decision to make this week. Until next time, mama.

Top 5 Breastfeeding Essentials

The best products I have found that I think every mama should have on hand

*May contain affiliate links

Hey mamas! I wrote before about how tough breastfeeding can be to get started, but there were a few items that I couldn’t live without when I was getting the hang of it and still love them today. I legitimately use these products daily and wouldn’t recommend them to you otherwise– I can’t be bought, bitch. Click the link below the image to shop my recommendations.

1. Brest Friend Pillow

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My Brest Friend Original Nursing Pillow with Extra Slipcover, Blue Bells

I use my Brest Friend Pillow every day, I couldn’t live without it. The reason I love this brand in particular is because it clips around your waist, which allows for greater support of your baby and he won’t slip between you and the pillow. You will be surprised how quickly a tiny baby gets heavy, not to mention the stress it puts on your wrist, arm, and nerves when holding him up. The foam pillow also features head supports built in to keep the baby’s head elevated above his stomach, helpful in reducing spit up. I would definitely get an extra slip cover, because… you know… milk. There is even a handy pocket off the front to keep water or your phone, but I mostly just stick my breast pad in it! Speaking of…

2. Lansinoh Absorbent Breast Pads

pads Lansinoh – Disposable Nursing Pads, 100 count, 2-

Since you are breastfeeding, you will be leaking. And it can be a lot, to the point where your bra and shirt are wet and you’re thinking WTF HAPPENED in the middle of the night. Sorry sister, it’s the price of feeding another human. I can’t go without wearing breast pads. I originally went for the earth friendly wash and reuse pads, but they didn’t provide enough protection. If you leak a little bit they might be okay, but the Lansinoh pads hold an ungodly amount of milk. Like your mind will be blown. I’ve never leaked through. And I suggest a two-pack, you’ll go through them almost as fast as diapers.

If you want to try the washable pads, I had ordered the organic kind below. They wash well and get softer as you wash them. Just make sure your nipples are dry before putting them back on or else your skin will stick, and peeling them off hurts like a bitch. I would also buy two sets of these, you can go through them quickly in a day and then have to wash and dry them. At least the wash bag is included!

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Organic Bamboo Nursing Pads (10 Pack) With Laundry Bag by Baby Zeli – Ultra Soft, Reusable, Hypoallergenic, Washable Breastfeeding Pads

Since nipples were brought up…

3. Lansinoh Nipple Cream

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Lansinoh HPA Lanolin 1.41 Oz (2 Pack)

A lifesaver to prevent dry and cracked nipples, this cream is seriously worth investing in. I usually apply it once a day after feeding or pumping. It’s all natural, hypoallergenic, and you don’t have to wash it off before feeding baby again. Again I’m showing you a two-pack to save you some cash. I keep one by my pump and one in the bathroom for after showers. Or keep one in your diaper bag and one in the nursery. Trust me, the time to think about getting cream isn’t after your nips are sore AF from breastfeeding. Just trust me ok?

4. Philips Avent Thermal Gel Pads

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Philips AVENT Thermal Gel Pads, 2-Pack

For some reason– and I hope its not just me–boobs can get really hot after breastfeeding, especially if your baby is into cluster feedings. Like literally hot to the touch. Cool those bad girls down with these gel pads. I love them because they can be heated or frozen. Heat to help stimulate milk production and let down, freeze to stop it. If you read my breastfeeding post linked above, then you know I only use them to freeze the f out of my boobs so I can get a break and sleep milk-free while my husband bottle feeds Baby T once a night. The downside of these is that if you have really big boobs they don’t cover the entire thing. I usually use both on one side at a time, unfortunately. But, I still can’t live without them.

5. Breastmilk storage

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Medela Breastmilk Storage Solution

I’m very blessed to be an over supplier of breast milk– although sometimes when my boobs are hard as Pam’s bad implants from milk backup it doesn’t feel like a blessing. Anyway, sometimes a girl’s just gotta pump. And trust me, that pumped milk is like liquid gold–you won’t want to just dump it! I like this storage kit because it has a variety of options for storage, as well as a handy fridge caddy. Use the bags or small tubes to freeze or refrigerate milk, and use the big bottles to refrigerate for daily use. The cool thing about the big bottles is that the lid has a built in day tracker so you know when you pumped. Just pop it up and spin to the right day, then push down to lock in place. The bags allow you to write the date, time, and amount of milk stored. You can always order more bags, but this is a great starter kit.

Until next time!

My Jekyll and Hyde baby: Recognizing the signs and finding solutions to colic

It is late afternoon, and Baby T has woken up pissed off as hell. Almost as soon as I pick him up he is winding up. I rush to change his diaper so I can feed him, as it usually calms him right back down. By the time I go to apply the Butt Paste, T is red as a tomato and in full-swing cry. I hustle to wash my hands, but it seems that putting him in his pack and play while I do so gets him more upset, and he is louder than I think I’ve ever heard him. I get momentary relief when I pick him up and bounce him, shushing loudly in his ear. Thinking I’ve settled him down well enough, I sit and get set up to breast feed this being that I suddenly don’t even recognize. The second I lay him on his side to latch, he starts screaming again. Okay, I’m thinking, I can do this, just remain calm and confident. This repeats twice more. Shit, I think. Shit, shit, shit. More often than not lately, I say to myself “I need my mom.” I just need help.

My tiny little banshee is so upset, his little stomach hard, pint-size fists flailing and tiny feet kicking the air wildly. I start to panic. I speed walk to the kitchen, bouncing T on one shoulder, and scramble to heat up some water to heat up a “starter bottle”. I’ve discovered that popping a bottle in T’s mouth for a few seconds to get him focused on a nipple usually results in a quick latch. I sit back down on the couch, praying this works. No luck. T is screaming away, and it seems laying him on his side makes his mysterious pain worse. I remember that my neighbor had given me gripe water and swore by it for her daughter, so I race as fast as is safely possible to the nursery to dig out the bottle. I finagle the bottle open and the dose drawn with one and a half hands, and quickly squirt it into T’s starter bottle. This time I keep him upright and give him his bottle. By some miracle of God, I manage to get him latched on for a little while. This calm respite doesn’t last long before he is wailing again. I try tummy rubs, leg bicycling, and changing positions. The only thing that slightly works is standing and rocking, keeping T upright.

The next day I call my doctor and describe T’s symptoms, desperate for help. “It sounds like he has colic,” the nurse says, “You’re doing everything you can. You can try gas drops, but really the only cure is time.” Mother effing great, I think to myself.

9-3-16 Colic

Colic is defined as the dread and despair of every parent ever. Just kidding, but colic is an extremely frustrating and trying experience for both parent and baby. From what I’m reading, no one knows what actually causes colic, and is suggested to be [God damn frustrating] behaviors instead of an actual biological issue (What To Expect). Colic can pop up several weeks after taking your infant home, peaks at about six weeks, and usually resolves around three months of age. Every infant displays colic differently, but every colicky infant is a uniquely frustrating experience. It can be extremely upsetting for parents because their little angel has suddenly developed demonic vocal cords and seems to be in pain. Of course your doctor should rule out any medical issues, but often the only remedy to colic is time. Not the answer you want to hear I’m sure. I didn’t want to hear it. Gassiness can also be a cause, and peaks in the evening hours. If your little one’s tummy is hard and there’s gurgling, he’s got some gas.

Here are a few things you can do to help your wee one through colic:

Modified diet

I quickly discovered that most vegetables, garlic, and spices (especially cumin and red pepper) were temporarily off my menu. A few hours later, T was extremely gassy and couldn’t sleep well, his poor little GI system louder than a jet engine. Other things that can cause upset are chocolate, dairy, caffeine, soy, nuts, or milk-based formulas.

Stimulation

By the end of the day, T has been exposed to lots of light, voices on the TV, dogs barking, and whatever other sounds the day has brought. I find that if I do T’s evening feed in his nursery with dim lights and no noise and put him in his bassinet at a decent hour, he seems to do a lot better. This kind of habit is also important in establishing a sleep routine, which starts to become crucial towards three months of age.

Movement

Baby T seems to be comforted with movement and being upright. This makes a lot of sense; babies are carried this way for most of the pregnancy. Rocking chairs, swaying, or light bouncing might help settle your baby down enough to quiet the crying.

Sound

Shushing loudly actually replicates the sound that babies are exposed to in utero. Your body makes a lot of noise inside, and this is what your little one is used to after 10 months. Vacuums or blow dryers can also be helpful noise producers. You can also try a white noise machine or the Shusher, which is a great tool to have on hand and on travel!

Gripe water

A natural remedy that is supposed to help calm tummies and reduce gas. I haven’t seen a huge change but many moms swear by it!

Gas relief drops

Little Remedies gas drops have made a tremendous difference for T. I try to stay ahead of the of the dreaded witching hour by giving him gas drops at the same time every evening, right before he usually starts winding up. These drops are supposed to help break up the gas bubbles to make them pass through the body easier.

Time

Yup, sorry. Hopefully your baby doesn’t have colic for too long, I’m praying T doesn’t. I am grateful that his seems to happen during our awake hours and doesn’t last all day. Nonetheless, it is very upsetting to this mama bear. As cute as T’s scrunched up crying face is, I hate seeing him so uncomfortable and feeling so helpless. If you are really struggling to handle a colicky baby, get help. Call someone, ask your partner to tag in, or just put your baby down for 2 minutes in a safe space and go into another room to collect yourself (or scream into a pillow). You can do this. It won’t last forever, and your snuggly bug will be back before you know it.

Need more resources? Check these out:

The Mayo Clinic

Baby Center

Breastfeeding sucks. (Literally. But I did it and so can you.)

Your beautiful little baby emerges into the world, lungs forcing out the first wails of a new life while tiny red fists fly. He is cleaned up and handed back to you, and your heart is full. He latches onto your breast for the first time and there is an immediate moment of bonding.

This is how I thought things would go. This is the impression lots of moms have: breastfeeding is the easy and natural process of feeding your baby. The truth is that breastfeeding is anything but. I had heard stories about breastfeeding difficulties before birth, and was relieved that other moms-to-be had heard the same when one of them timidly raised her hand in birth prep class and said “I heard it really hurts.” My mind was assured when the nurse responded “It should not hurt if you are doing it right.” No problem then, I thought, I just had to make sure I was doing it right.

As it turns out breastfeeding has been one of the hardest parts of motherhood. So much so in fact that I have come  so close to giving up so many times. I wish that I had known the realities of breastfeeding and not just what the class taught me (however the class was immensely educational, so take one of those too!). I want to provide you with my experience so that you, mom-to-be, aren’t in for such a shock, and may be able to put some of the advice to good use.

 

8-1-16 Breastfeeding sucks

I was fortunate that part of my post-partum hospital care was a visit (or two, okay more like four) with a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are usually nurses that have advanced certifications to provide counseling and education about breastfeeding. Since it takes several days for your milk to fully come in, you may only produce a small amount of colostrum—or nothing at all. That is normal and okay. But it is still important to try to breastfeeding right away, as it mutually benefits both parties. It helps bring the milk in for you, and trains your baby to properly latch on. And try I did, shocked each time at how painful it was for my baby to latch on to my breast. It may have been because he was early and smaller, or because it just was what it goddamn was, but it hurt. Tiny mouths trying to learn how to latch often pinch nipples in the process, leaving one sore mother behind. The lactation consultant simply said, “Got to have some pain, mama, for the baby.” I was also told to pump regularly after each feeding to help the milk supply come in.

So after the whirlwind of birth and the hospital stay, I went home, baby and rented hospital-grade pump in tow. I pumped faithfully after each feeding for days. One of the things I wasn’t told was when to stop pumping. Oh and by the way the more you demand (pump), the more you supply (milk). My body started overproducing milk and I got mastitis as soon as the milk came in because my baby wasn’t yet effectively eating—and he was so tiny that he couldn’t drain it all even if he wanted to. My doctor put me on anti-biotics. My left breast was swollen, red, and angry—as was I—and the right one not far behind. Why didn’t they tell me this?, I thought, as I was painfully trying to heat the tissue with rice pads so I could pump out the excess milk that had backed up.

I figured out on my own via Googling and trial and error how to reduce milk production. Mainly, don’t pump after each feeding or pump only enough to release the built up pressure if needed and cold pack breasts after feeding to help stop milk production. Other women have the opposite problem and cannot produce enough milk. As I haven’t experienced this, I cannot speak to it, but I can only imagine it would be equally frustrating and painful. Many women have one breast that produces a lot more milk than the other, which leaves a uniquely frustrating problem to solve. One more thing, for some women milk letdown hurts like an m-f. For me this is the case. It is like painful tingles every time. Others feel nothing. All individual.

I have just about found the right balance between breast feeding and pumping (to store some excess in the freezer), and Baby T and I are working each time together to get a better latch and better positioning so that it hurts less and less. So why didn’t I quit? Mainly because I am so stubborn, and also because I already have developed the revered mother’s guilt. I also like the bonding that this repetitive routine provides for me and my son. As you will be told a thousand times, breast is best, and that is probably true. Your body makes food specifically tailored to your baby’s needs, and also builds intestinal fortitude and immunity. I felt too guilty to quit, and so suffered silently (and not so silently) for about a month trying to get the hang of breastfeeding. I was fortunate enough to not have cracked nipples or other serious breastfeeding concerns—which by the way are not normal and should be consulted by a medical professional immediately.

Last words: you ultimately need to do what is right for you and the baby. Working through breastfeeding for a few more months is what is right for me right now, but it is also perfectly acceptable to choose to formula or to pump and bottle feed your baby. Formula is prepared to be a nutritional and healthy source of food for your baby, and there is no shame in choosing not to breastfeed. If you experience that much pain and stress from feeding, it isn’t worth the emotional damage to you and the conveyed anxiety to your baby. Lactation consultants are a wonderful resource and extremely helpful with latching and positioning, but they too come from a particular point of view and are just one voice in many of feeding options.

Breastfeeding is truly an experience like non-other. If that is what you choose to do, you can do it, I fully believe in you. The most important experience, though, is the one you have with your baby, regardless of how that looks.

Need help? Check these resources out:

http://kellymom.com/

http://www.askdrsears.com/

https://medlineplus.gov/breastfeeding.html