Friday, August 29, 2014

Lessons learned in breastfeeding

What a journey breastfeeding has been; all while in the thick of my newest journey with our last baby.  I never knew how strongly I would feel about providing food for my babies before I began this journey.  Though I know that breastfeeding is not the right choice for everyone for a wide variety of reasons...for me, it was.  I knew that I would "try" to breastfeed Caleb when he was born.  What I did not anticipate was how hard "trying" something that is supposed to just come naturally can be.  I wish I would have taken a class or read a book or prepared for this journey in some way.  I did not.  We hung in there and I managed to nurse for 9 months before having so supplement some with formula.  I continued to breastfeed until he was 16 months old and weaned himself.  Eight months later, I was pregnant again and knew I would again be having a new journey with a new baby.  Nursing was much easier this time (three weeks of painful nursing versus 6 weeks).  I was prepared better with supplies that were helpful the first time, and was mentally prepared for what I would be going through initially-all while knowing it gets easier, WAY EASIER.  I nursed Kinley for 6 months before getting pregnant again.  I continued to nurse while pregnant, and actually until about three weeks before Hazel was born.  I again supplemented around the 9 month mark due to low supply while pumping.  We made it almost to 16 months.  And, now, I am nursing a newborn again.  It is SO much easier this time around and I think so much has to do with my comfort, knowledge, and experience.  I have learned a lot about nursing over the years, mostly due to trial and error.  I never did read a book about it or take a class, but somehow seemed to manage okay.  I know I will never nurse a baby after Hazel, and so I thought I should sum up some of the most important things I have learned throughout these journeys as I continue to embark on this next one.  Here goes:

  1. It will hurt to begin with.  Do not listen when people tell you to "rough up" your nipples.  It will just cause you more unnecessary pain during an already painful process.  Expect it to hurt, and for a few weeks.  Mentally, it will be easier to overcome if you know to expect it. 
  2. The hurting will go beyond your nipples.  Nursing will also cause your uterus to contract.  This will not feel good.  Going to the bathroom before nursing, every time, will help.  Even if the baby is screaming-go to the bathroom.  Once, I did not and I was cramping very painfully for over an hour.  It was excruciating.  Using heating pads will help.  Relaxing your body will help.  Being tense makes it worse.  Don't worry, it will go away. 
  3. Have supplies ready, and be proactive with them.  Lansinoh soothie pads were amazing and helped a lot when things got really painful.
  4. Engorgement is no joke.  Use a washcloth while showering to shield your breasts from the water, because it hurts like hell.  In fact, the water also hurts sore nipples, so having a washcloth or towel in the shower for the first couple of weeks will be a godsend.  
  5. Use your breastmilk to heal your nipples.  Squirt a little on and let them air dry.  It is very healing and will do wonders.  Side note; breast milk also does wonders for baby acne, adult acne, pink eye, and many other ailments.
  6. Air dry your nipples as much as possible.  Change breast pads often.
  7. Lansinoh cream is also helpful in the beginning when things are painful.
  8. Store up breast milk early.  If you are like me and respond poorly to the pump (if you have to work) having a good amount stored up can be very helpful.
  9. Drink lots of water!  Eat enough as well.
  10. Skin to skin works wonders in the beginning for milk production.
  11. Nurse the baby while he or she is naked (diaper only) to help the baby stay awake and nurse more effeciently.
  12. The My Brest Friend will be your best friend.  It is wonderful for nursing in the beginning.  Lay a blanket over it, and under the baby to help to avoid having to wash it frequently because nursing can sometimes be messy.
  13. You can download an app to help you remember what side you nursed on last and for how long...or you can use a hair tie on your wrist and move it from side to side to let you know which side is next for nursing.  I used an app before, but three kids in I don't have time for that, nor do I feel the need to keep track of how long she nurses for.  The apps are also cool if you want to keep track of dirty diapers and such...but again, no time for that now. 
  14. Watch the babies latch, it shouldn't hurt too much.  If it does hurt a lot, seek help.  Ask about your baby being tongue tied (all of mine were).  A small procedure can make this problem so much better!  Don't be afraid to talk to the lactation consultant as many times as needed.
  15. Your milk will come in.  Many doctors will try to freak you out about weight gain and such.  Sometimes they want you to go in multiple times for weight checks.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Your milk will come in and the baby will begin to gain weight (most times).  Stressing about it will just make it worse.  Stress=bad for milk production.
  16. Relax.  Enjoy the quiet time with your baby.  Read while breastfeeding.  
  17. The chiropractor can be your best friend.  Middle of the night nursing sessions while falling asleep can reek havoc on your neck.  Regular adjustments help a lot!
  18. Storing frozen milk could have it's own post, but some of the things I have learned are:
    1. Freeze in small quantities (4 oz for me).  It sucks to use more bags, however, when thawing milk to use it is much easier when all the bags have the same amount of milk in them.
    2. Lay bags flat to freeze for easier storage.
    3. Put frozen milk in a bin and mark the dates on the outside of the bin.
    4. Thaw frozen milk in a container with sides.  Sometimes the bags leak and you WILL cry over spilled milk.
    5. Freeze in a chest freezer in order for the milk to last longer.  
  19. Pump a little each morning to build a stash.  I pump for five minutes each day and store up at least 4 ounces each day.
  20. is a wonderful resource for all questions regarding breastfeeding, and I check it often still.
  21. When pumping at work, try to make it as enjoyable as possible.  Watch videos of your baby (sounds work way better than pictures for milk production).  Bring something that smells like your baby.  Drink water while pumping.  Take your time and pump for at least 5-10 minutes after you think the milk has stopped.  Take deep breaths and tune out any distractions.
  22. Store pumping parts in a freezer bag in the fridge between pumps to avoid having to wash them each time.
  23. Nurse for as long as you want to, deciding when to stop is a decision that is made between you and your baby and no one else gets to have a say in that.
  24. Nurse in public, however you feel comfortable to do so.  You won't want to feel trapped in your house and if you are afraid to do it in public you may end up feeling very isolated.  It is like swimming in a cold lake-you just have to jump in.  Ignore the comments and looks you hear and see from others because its truly none of their business.  When I am nursing in public or attending to my kids in any way I tend to tune everything else out.  Often my husband will tell me later what someone said or tell me about a look he saw.  I just don't care--anymore.  I wish I had felt this way at first.  With three kids I just don't have the luxury of being as discreet or planning around nursing the way I could before.  Now, though, I appreciate the ease of it and could care less about what anyone thinks.
So, there you have it.  Some of my most important lessons and tips.  I know someday this will be just a blip of my entire journey of parenting, but I have loved nursing and have felt a tinge of sadness each time I have been done.  This last time will be especially sad for me since I know it is my last and I am aware of just how quickly it will go by.  For now, I am just trying to enjoy each tender moment (as tender as they can be with two other children in the mix) I have, knowing it is a countdown to the last...and you just never know when that will be. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hazel 1 month

Dearest Hazel,

I tear up a bit realizing that this is the last time I will write a letter to a one month old...your place in our family of 5 will be as the baby and what a wonderful baby you are proving to be (tear).  We know you will be our last and I think that helps me savor each moment with you so much more...maybe not completely during the hours of 7-9 pm (cranky pants), but mostly.

It always amazes me how different you all are, even from birth.  In the middle of the night when your dad is trying to rock you to sleep trying all the tricks that worked for Kinley (while sometimes calling you by her name) I have to remind him that you are a new baby with different needs and likes.  You like to be bounced (specifically while swaddled and being held up at a shoulder).  More than your brother and sister combined.  You also love to be swaddled, a strict no-no with the others.  For a while you were quite cranky at night and we "tried everything" before realizing we had not tried swaddling you.  Apparently that is the ticket.  It doesn't work every time, but helps a lot!  You love the swing, again a loathed baby item by your brother and sister, and often nap during the day in that or while being held.

Comparison:  L-Kinley R-Hazel

Comparison:  L-Caleb, R-Hazel

You know what you like and are not afraid to protest if someone is doing it wrong.  For the most part you are content but the second we are doing something wrong or you need something you let us know-loudly!  You are my biggest baby by far, weighing 10 lbs 2 ounces at your 2 week appointment.  Your sister was just a little over 8 pounds at hers.  You seem longer than each of them were and have been outgrowing everything very quickly.  With your brother we had to get some preemie clothes to get us through his first three weeks.  You on the other hand outgrew newborn clothes within 2 weeks and are very comfortable in your 3 month clothes.  You are in size 1 diapers and seem to be outgrowing those as well.  I am glad that you are eating and growing so well!
Happy? Mad?

You are a champion nurser, despite being tongue tied at birth (we got your frenulum clipped right away which helped your latch immediately), eating every 2-3 hours a day and every 4-5 hours at night.  I started pumping right away out of fear that we would run out of milk for the third time when I return to work.  So far I have 120+ ounces saved up.  I pump each morning for about 5 minutes.  I have also been smarter this time and I am only freezing it in 4 ounce portions for a much easier time preparing bottles when I go back to work.  Speaking of going back to work, I set the date for October 22nd.  I decided a mid week slow start up is what I would need...because honestly going back is going to be very hard this time.  We have also started giving you a bottle (just twice so far) to get you used to drinking out of something other than me.  The first time was a colossal fail, the second time you drank 2 ounces.  We will probably try bottles a few mornings a week since I am already pumping in the morning.  I am not too stressed about it, but just want to make sure you are introduced to them so you don't starve at daycare.

You love to be carried and with two other kiddos, the ring sling has been a lifesaver!  You fuss for a second and then fall right asleep every time.  It makes quite a bit easier to go places and get things done.  I have not yet mastered taking all three of you somewhere on my own (other than the chiropractor), but am feeling more confident to tackle that soon.

baby foot peeking out

Fawn Doe Rosa


We have haven't had too many outings in your first month.  We went to the zoo, splash pad, family fun day in a nearby city, Costco, chiropractor, out to eat, and several trips to Target.  Right now it is pretty easy to get out (as long as we have enough arms) since you spend most of the day sleeping.  We are not yet to the point of having to work around naps, and not sure that we will be able to be super strict with that when you are napping more consistently.  I guess that is part of being the youngest...we will figure it out though.

Splash Pad

First night out as a family of 5--Success!

You can sleep through just about anything at this point (screaming kids, barking dog, doorbells, television, music, toys, banging, talking).  When we bring you to bed at night I chuckle when your dad and I start whispering.  I am convinced that the quiet wakes you more than the loud.

Kisses (smothering) from your big sister

tummy time nap

Great Grandma!

Never alone.

Always being touched.  Always.

What tummy time looks like the 3rd time around...

You have been plagued with all of the super fun baby things like acne, cradle cap, diaper rashes, jaundice....poor baby.  You take it in stride and we think you are gorgeous no matter the crazy things that are happening to your fresh skin.

Right now you are napping a lot, actually sleeping through most of the day with short bursts of awake times.  It has been nice to see the whites of your eyes more.  You get a little cranky when you are awake for longer periods of time, like you just don't know what to do with yourself when you are up.  You have started to enjoy looking at toys hanging above you or while doing tummy time.  You frequently fall asleep during tummy time, surely because it is so tiring.  You are very strong, little one, and are lifting your head off of my shoulder with a lot more control and can lift it and turn it when doing tummy time.

While the big kids play, we rest

Enjoying our one on one time when I can!


Basically, my littlest baby, we love you to pieces and are so happy you are here to complete this family!  Our hearts grew three sizes the day you were born and continue to grow as we fall more and more in love with you everyday!


Kinley 18 months

Dearest Kinley,

Oh my sweet, vibrant, stinker of a baby do I summarize you at 18 months?  Aside from you being such a bright ray of light in our lives, you also happen to be one of my favorite ages right now.  The age where your personality really shines and you are coming into your own.  You are such a spitfire and I love it!  You are talking a ton right now and picking up new words each and every day.  You are into everything, climbing on everything, and basically getting yourself into trouble throughout the entire day.  You look at me with this sheepish smile when I ask you to get down from whatever dangerous item you have decided to climb on, often laugh then get down and repeat this again and again.  You tend to get into the most trouble when I am nursing your sister and am trapped.  You have figured out this is the best time to figure out how to do your most dangerous tricks.  As much as you are a daredevil you also are very good at following the rules.  You love to close doors to rooms that are not being used, you try to close the baby gate after coming up the stairs, and you generally steer clear of most dangerous items.  The dog has started to listen to you too.  At mealtimes you will tell him "couch" for him to go there while we are eating.  Never mind that he is much bigger than you...we all know who is boss around here!


Fun at the zoo

Such a big girl all of a sudden!

Such a ham!

You answer almost every question with a definitive "uh huh" or "yeah", basically always in the affirmative.  You talk all the time and I just love hearing your little voice.  Sometimes you have to be reminded to use your words when you scream instead.  I also love how you use words for things that would not make sense to anyone else but us.  You say "Maya" when you want your hair in a ponytail.  That is the name of a little girl at your daycare that is about 1 month younger who has been wearing her hair in a ponytail for a long time.  I think you associate pony tails with her and it is so cute.  You also follow just about every direction we give you, and often follow two-step directions.  You get things for us when we ask you and seem to understand just about every thing we say to you.

Your big brother is your favorite person, by a long shot.
Sick, but still in good spirits
Sitting on the smallest couch will all of my kids...why not?
This captures your personality right now 100 percent!

You eat well and at least try most things we give you.  If you do not like it you will put it in your mouth then quickly spit it back out.  You will keep putting more pieces in if we ask you, but promptly spit them out again.  When you are done eating you will typically start squishing the food or "accidentally" throw it off of your tray.  Your favorite foods are cheese, grapes, bananas, apples, toast, pancakes, bread, yogurt, strawberries, and peanut butter.  We have not had any issues with allergies or sensitivities thankfully.  Your least favorite foods are most vegetables and meat.  You have climbed out of your high chair a few times, and I have witnessed you trying to climb into it by climbing on a chair and then trying to climb onto the tray to get in.  I stopped you, but was curious if you could have done it.  Sometimes I let you do things just to see how you figure it out, because you usually do.

Who doesn't love a popsicle?


Your hair is finally long enough to get into a small ponytail and if I do say so myself it is just the cutest thing ever.  You look a little like Pebbles and it is adorable!  I love dressing you in the morning, and have gotten you and your sister some adorable matching outfits (something I never thought I would do).  You like to help me pick out your outfits as well, following me to your closet and pointing to the clothes you like.  You are quite the helper and want to help with everything.  You will often grab a tissue and try to wipe your own nose or grab a wash cloth and wipe off the table or chairs.  You also like to help with your sister, so I try to give you jobs that you are able to do like giving me a diaper when I am changing her.  Otherwise, you are trying to pick her up.  You love your sister and have really seemed to enjoy helping take care of her, the only way a toddler can.  The other day I found you in the living room sitting on top of her while she was doing tummy time, playing your harmonica.  Note to self:  do not leave toddler unattended for a second!

Meeting Hazel for the first time.

Fun in the pool while I soaked my swollen pregnant feet!


We are still using the crib, and will probably keep doing so until you are at least 2.  Your brother was in the toddler bed at 18 months...but you...nope.  The plan is that once Hazel is bigger, she and you will share a bedroom.  She will be in the pack and play while you are in the crib.  When you are ready, we will move her to the crib and get you a toddler bed.  The next phase will be bunk beds when Hazel is big enough to be in a bed.  That is the plan for now, though you know what they say about the best laid plans....  I may just decide to keep you in that crib until you are 10, you just never know.

So baby girl, that is you.  My adorable, happy, spunky, smart little girl!  We love you to the moon and back!



Caleb 4 years

Dear Caleb,

How can I possibly summarize the essence of you at 4 years old in one measly letter?  I honestly won't be able to and will miss a lot.  I always hope that I will remember everything to be able to share with you someday...but since I can hardly remember to take something out for dinner these days, I am sure I will forget a lot.  What I will never forget is just how much I love you, how proud I am to be your mom, how kind and thoughtful you are, and how lucky I feel to be your mom.  So here goes....

One of your biggest strengths right now is your imagination and creative play.  Nothing is what it seems in our house these days.  Today, your otter beanie baby was a dog.  Notebooks are tablets, remotes are phones, basically your mind is always working and creating new ideas and you are using your imagination to show us what you are thinking.  You continue to amaze me with your intelligence.  You have known every letter, upper and lowercase, for a long time and you also know the sounds that each of these letters make.  You are beginning to sound words out and do well with rhyming and alliteration.  Your vocabulary continues to amaze us and others.  You also are not shy to correct us if you feel we use a word incorrectly.  You can identify the numbers up to 20 and can count to 30.  You have started to wonder "why" everything happens and have been asking us a lot!  You are wonderful at organizing and know where all of your toys belong...I'm sure your type-A mom has nothing to do with that!  You also love art and love doing any type of "activity".  You need to work on writing and drawing more instead of scribbling...but we will get there I'm sure.  You are getting very good at following directions for activities and completing ones that have multiple steps.  You also love to play games, though you often want to deconstruct the pieces of said games afterward and use the pieces to play with instead.  Your favorite games are "Go Fish", "Don't Rock the Boat" and "Uno Moo".

Enjoying a Kiwi Crate activity

You had a lovely 4th birthday party with a superhero theme.  Of course, right before the party you decided that you wanted a princess party...but, alas it was too late to change it.  The party went off without a hitch and honestly it was super easy and fun to plan and execute.  There was a good mix of kids and adults and most importantly you had a great time!  We served fruit and veggies, meatball sandwiches, taco dip and chips, soda and juice boxes.  Your cake turned out adorably and was super easy.  Typically I make all the birthday cakes, but this one was semi-home made.  I got a layer cake from Target frosted with just white frosting and decorated it at home.  We used ribbon and home made decorations.  You insisted on being part of the decorating process so how it was all arranged was up to you.  You loved it and that is what makes me happy!  You made out like a bandit on the superhero front...getting lots of super fun presents even though we told everyone not to bring gifts.  When we asked you what you wanted for your birthday your response was, "nothing, I just want the toys I already have".  I love that about you.  No fuss, no muss.  However, I am certain you also like your new presents!

Your new bike, our present to you!

You say the funniest things, sometimes on accident and sometimes on purpose.  You are sensitive and sometimes get upset and ask us to, "stop laughing" if you say something funny that wasn't meant to be.  I always feel terrible when this happens because I never want you to feel sensitive about things you say or feel made fun of.  We are becoming more aware of this and try to make sure we only laugh when you are being intentional.  I teeter on the edge of validating your emotions and helping you to regulate them appropriately.  You sometimes try to cope with being upset by starting to laugh, but it is clear that you are still upset.  I always feel sad when I see you do this, but I am sure it is just a way for you to figure out your strong emotions.

Speaking of emotions, you are so loving, caring and protective.  This mostly shows up with your sisters.  You love them and always want to be near them, touching them, and making them happy.  You are very affectionate some of my favorite times are when we are reading stories together and you squeeze up next to me and put your hand on top of my arm while I am reading.  Though you are affectionate, you are picky about who you are affectionate with.  This can be hard for people outside our immediate family, like your grandparents and such.  They want hugs and kisses but you will not usually give them out.  I refuse to make you hug and kiss anyone so typically they leave kind of disappointed, sadly.  However, I feel that your body (and your sisters') are your own and you get to determine who to give affection to.  I never want you to feel that you have to give physical affection to others if you don't want to, so I do not encourage you to hug or kiss anyone if you have shown that you do not want to.  You are confident enough to say no to them when they ask, and that is such a great skill.  I hope you always feel confident enough to say no to things you don't want to do, despite the pressure you may feel.

You love your sister(s) so much!

You are extremely helpful and I often feel badly that during the day when I am here alone with all three of you little munchkins that I need so much of your help.  I know this is a season, and that I will not be so tied down with what your littlest sister needs (especially with nursing) forever.  Right now it just feels like something happens as soon as I sit down to nurse!  Thankfully, you like to help (most of the time) so you hopefully do not share my same concern and will not have negative memories of this time when you are older!

When it comes to things you don't like as much, I would say sports and more physical things like riding bikes are high on that list.  I think it has more to do with confidence.  You tend to be tentative and cautious when trying new things and it is a goal of mine to help build your confidence with trying new things.  We enrolled you in two "camps" this summer to help with this.  The first was a farm camp at a local farm.  It was two mornings at the end of June.  It was a drop off camp, and was your first experience doing something completely away from me (other than daycare).  You did great and I think you really liked it!  You still talk about it two months later.  At the end of July we sent you to a "sports camp".  This was four mornings and was another drop off camp.  This was not your favorite.  I think you preferred the art activities and the games more than the actual sports.  Overall, you seemed to enjoy going and also seemed a little sad when it was over.  This fall you will start an evening preschool two nights weekly.  I think this will be great for you, though I am sad that I will barely see you two days a week.  You start this the week after I go back to work.  However, you have been excited about "school" and love your new minion backpack!  When you are playing outside on our swing set you tend to be pretty cautious.  You are nervous to do the monkey bars by yourself and though you know how to pump your legs on the swing you prefer to be pushed.

First day of camp

You have become a lot more confident with dressing yourself, putting your shoes on, and playing outside by yourself in the backyard for a few minutes.  You have also been playing by yourself more often in your bedroom, especially when your sister messes with your stuff.  Though you have had the skills to do many of these activities for a while it seems your confidence is now matching your ability.  I try to praise you often just for trying something new and for accomplishing things on your own.  I want you to know that I believe in you and love when you take a little risk every now and then.  Recently, we went to the Como Zoo and you agreed to get your face painted.  This was huge for us.  For well over a year I have been asking you if you want your face painted every time we pass a place where they do it.  Every time you say, "no".  This time you said, "yes".  I was stunned!  You chose a Spiderman face and loved it when it was done!  You even said you would do it steps my cautious one!

Your favorite toys by far are your stuffed animals, and the each take a turn in your rotation of play.  You love animals and every animal you spot (wild or not) is deemed ours.  You have asked us for many new pets from hamsters to dogs to birds.  We tell you that we are filled to capacity for pets and so far you have taken that answer in stride.  You seem content just pretending that every animal you see is ours instead. 

Well, I am sure that I am missing a ton but I think this captures your essence.  You have been such a blessing in our lives and I am so lucky to be your mom.  You were the first and always will be.  You are my first four year old and I am loving every minute of it (mostly)!  You are the best big brother and I know your sisters love you just as much as we do (and I promise we will all emerge from the newborn fog soon)!

Meeting Hazel for the first time, love at first sight I think.

Love always,