Thursday, March 26, 2015

Before You Give Up on Breastfeeding Early, Read This!

Dear Momma,

Do you struggle with breastfeeding? Is it just 'not for you?' Or, is your body just 'not made for it' Or does it just plain hurt?

You are struggling. I've been there. You're probably teetering on the edge of driving to the drug store and buying your first container of formula. I've been there too (curse those free Similac samples!). If you're looking for a reason to keep going, you've come to the right place.

This is my story.

On Monday night, I removed the very last bag of pumped milk from my freezer. I plunked the chilly package in a bowl of warm water and took a moment to reflect. I stared sadly at the defrosting Lansinoh bag and came to the harsh realization that my baby boy no longer depended on me for one of his basic survival needs, breast milk. To put it honestly, he hasn't needed me that bad for about 4 months. He's been such a champ at eating solids.

The mommy hormones flooded my body.
Anxiety - "Is he really ready to start weaning? Will he start losing weight?"
Regret - "I should have kept pumping. The W.H.O says you should breastfeed for TWO years now!" Sadness - "Oh, how ever will we bond now??"

I'm assuming that's normal. I reminisced for about 2 minutes, and then some other thoughts came into my mind.

Relief - "I'm SO happy I don't have to pump at work anymore!"
Pride - "My kid basically feeds himself these days. He's so smart!"
Eagerness "Now that we won't be nursing all the time, what else can we do together?"

All this happened in about 3 minutes. I came to the conclusion that I was ready to finish up the weaning process. Then, the BIG feeling came.

"I almost quit. I'm glad I didn't."

If you have breasts, and a baby; chances are you've tried nursing at one point in your life. It's freakin' hard. I didn't think any of it came natural, except the urge to do it! It was harder than labor. Yes, I said it. I had a un-medicated natural birth and even I would have gone through the pain of labor AGAIN if I could have avoided the non-stop pain and headache I endured  the first 2 months of breastfeeding.
Milk Drunk

I remember latching him on in the birth center. 'I'm supposed to connect this thing to my nipple?' No amount of reading prepares you and believe me, I read a lot. Nothing prepared me for picking up that warm body and assembling him to nurse.

Why was I so committed? 

Four of reasons. One, I'm stubborn! I don't give up. I knew I had the body and means to breastfeed successfully, and by golly, I was going to. 

Two, breast is best. (yes! I sad THAT too!) For the same reasons I chose a midwife, I chose breast milk over formula. Better outcomes overall, and I'm just kinda natural like that. 

Three, I did it for the woman who can't. There are some woman who just lack the ability to breastfeed. Call it hormone imbalance or genetics or the environment. But whatever the reason, I know they wished and hoped they could. I had the means, so I couldn't give up.

Four, I wanted the magic. Breastfeeding was supposed to be a magical bond between baby and mom. I wanted my damn magic!! (it came later, keep reading)

I wanted to quit! I wanted to so bad, but I didn't (see 'One'). When my nips were cracked and bleeding from an inexperienced latch. Or swollen from a bacterial infection, or on (insert expletive here) FIRE from thrush or mastitis, I kept it up. I remember crying to my husband (literally, tears) "This is supposed to be amazing. One day, I'll get to that point!"

Your nurse will tell you it gets easier after 2-3 weeks. It didn't for me, so don't get discouraged when you find that piece of encouragement incorrect for you as well! My theory is nurses tell us those incorrect words of wisdom to keep us going as long as we can!

I could go on, but this blog is meant to inspire you to KEEP GOING when you want to quit quit quit, so I'd like to get to the really good part! The part that makes it all freakin' worth it....

When you get past the bad stuff (which was right around 3 months for me), one day, you will sit down and feed your baby, and that will be it. The latch will be correct. The pain will be gone. All that is left is the bliss of a happy baby nursing away and you staring down at him/her, or playing on your phone, or reading a book, or sleeping (which is what I learned to do). Let's all take a deep sigh of relief because that feeling, that moment - it's wicked awesome.

You can be out in about in public, and in an instant, find a nice place to park it, whip out the milkers, and feed that precious baby. Use a cover - or don't. I did at first and then I quit. I've NEVER had a negative comment from a single on-looker though I was quite prepared to deal with someone if I need too.

You can end a long day at work (if you're working) with a nice quiet bonding session. Your baby will love to nurse first thing when you pick them up from daycare. All those lovely mommy hormones will kick in, and you'll feel aahh-mazing.

You can pump out the ounces at work and send them off to daycare with pride. Your baby is getting the best of you, even when he's away.

To sum it up, breastfeeding eventually became a non-event. I even learned to do it in my baby carrier. I was able to relish in the joys of a breastfeeding mother.

Continuing to nurse was the best decision I could have made at the time. It provided an amazing maternal experience and it gave my baby a ridiculously good start to his life! It also helped shed the baby weight (40+ pounds). If that's not a reason, I dunno what is!

So, with all that being quite passionately said, I urge you to keep it up. It will get better. It will be worth it and one day you can share your journey with other moms who are attempting to give their baby exactly what it needs.

Our society isn't exactly an easy one to make this commitment in. Lots of woman need (or want) to return to work. Our bodies are meant to breastfeed around the clock. The pressure of dieting and body image helps very little...we need those good calories to make milk! The ridiculous misconception that breastfeeding is sexual and should be done in private is enough to drive any new mom mad. Who wants to only feed their baby in private?

 It's not always easy, but you CAN do it! Here are some useful resources that helped me get through my journey.

Latch On (Video)
How to Breastfeed - Deep Latch Technique (Video)
Top 10 Breastfeeding Duties for Dads
Search "Breastfeeding" on Pinterest and you'll find more information than you'll know what to do with.

You can do it!

If breastfeeding came completely natural and pain-free to you, congrats! I wish it was like that for all woman. Please give your support to those who need it!

(I do know that some women choose not to breastfeed, and others simply can't. I respect you both. This blog was written to encourage those who truly want to succeed and have full physical capabilities to do so, but are otherwise lacking support from those around them, or haven't had the chance to speak to anyone who has overcome these issue.)


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Your Alley Family Update. It's a New Year!

Out with the old. In with the NEW YEAR! Welcome 2015. 

2014 was an amazing year. Let's review, shall we?
  • January: Spent most the month waddling. 
  • February: Jackson was born! Learned to parent. 
  • March: Continued parenting. 
  • April: I returned to work. 
  • May: Seth finished didactic classwork at UMKC, School of Pharmacy
  • June: Celebrated our Four year Wedding Anniversary 
  • July: Hot! Started training for a 5K, learned how to jog. 
  • August: Jackson turned 6 months! / Discovered consignment sales
  • September: Ran my first 5K!
  • October: My 26th Birthday / Ran two more 5Ks
  • November: Jackson's first Thanksgiving. Ran three 5Ks
  • December: Jackson's first Christmas. Ran a 5K. 
It was an action packed year for sure, and the turning point of many more to come. The past few months have been a whirlwind of baby milestones, holidays, and general health & life. 

Jackson is now 1 week shy of 11 months! He turbo crawls everywhere. Pulls himself up on all the furniture. Says Da-Da when I try to get him to say Ma-Ma (stinker...). Scuttles around the apartment hiding blocks and throwing things and is in all fairness the most adorable creature I've ever laid eyes on. Jackson continues to captivate our hearts, minds and souls. Seth and I have spent countless hours staring at him in the typical "new parent" way, watching him learn and interact, and just acknowledging the fact that he is ours! Yea, we still can't believe it. Jackson sleeps through the night and has taken to solid foods with a vengeance! I pretty sure breast milk is "dessert" to him now. We're continuing to nurse until a year, and then slowly taper off from there. 

Seth has been hard at work studying at his various rotation sites around the Kansas City Metro. He graduates in June!! **big celebratory applause** and we are uber excited to finish that chapter of our lives, and move onto the next. I'm so proud of what he has accomplished over the last 5 years. Being a student, husband and now a dad, isn't easy on anyone, but he's come out the other side seemingly better at all three! I don't know how he does it, but I sure am grateful. 

I myself have been busy mothering sweet baby J. His cheesy giggles and toothy grins keep me smiling and glowing with joy! My heart stays melted, and its such a privilege to be his Momma (even if he never actually says "ma-ma"). I cherish every morning, evening and weekend with him. Our favorite past times are lazy mornings on the weekends (nursing in sleepily in bed, making breakfast, playing on the carpet) and spending times outside (visiting parks, taking walks in the Tula carrier, jogging with the stroller).

This year is bound to be as exciting as the next, and I look forward to these highlights.

  • January: 
  • February: Jackson's 1st Birthday! 
  • March: My first 10k on March 1st
  • April:
  • May: Seth's Commencement from UMKC. Soon after, he'll begin studying for his board testing, and then start work as a pharmacist at CVS. 
  • June: 
  • July: Summer lovin'!
  • August: Apartment lease is up, moving to KS (hopefully!) 
  • September: 
  • October: 
  • November: First 1/2 Marathon (13.1 miles) 
  • December: 

I'm a planner, and sometimes I get caught up in "what's next?" Two of my Four New Years resolution is to Live Simpler and Choose Happiness. That being said, I'm adding Enjoy the Now as a subcategory. I want to relish and cherish what's happening now, and not get so involved in what up-and-coming. To sit back, and just breathe it all in...right now.

However, that still doesn't stop me from writing things on my calendar 6 months in advance ;) It is a resolution after all. Until next time! Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about my remaining two New Year resolutions.