Tuesday, February 18, 2014

High needs baby

Having a high needs baby means that there will be lots of nights with everyone crying, usually because of over-exhaustion on everyone's part. Having a high needs baby means that breastfeeding is more like an Olympic sport. Sometimes that sport is gymnastics, sometimes hockey. Having a high needs baby means that the pitiful cries of other children are easily tuned out, with the shrill demands of your own offspring echoing in your head. Having a high needs baby means that, most days, no one but Mom will do and woe to everyone if Mom has to work. Having a high needs baby means that, most days, more will be asked of you than you think you can handle. It means that you can never satisfy baby's needs fast enough to suit her, and you will hear about it. Having a high needs baby means that you don't get lovely long naps in a crib, or even time to yourself to pee. Having a high needs baby means that you will live in perpetual fear of someone (or something) startling the baby awake. It means that you will learn to do everything one-handed, because you have to hold the baby in the other arm, and it will not be uncommon to have your child in your arms for 23 out of 24 hours. They will protest that other hour. Having a high needs baby means that, once they do something once, they expect to do it again and get frustrated easily. You will hear about this frustration.
Having a high needs baby can make you feel like you are no longer yourself.
Having a high needs baby means that you are everything to them, and you will cherish those cuddles, even when they seem never-ending. Having a high needs baby means that everyone comments on how bright-eyed and alert your baby is, as she drinks in the world around her. Having a high needs baby means that she will always demand what is due to her; she's nobody's pushover, this girl. Having a high needs baby means that she is intelligent, quick, and learns to do things earlier than other children. It means having a child who is so excited about life that she doesn't want to miss another minute of it by sleeping. Having a high needs baby means that her smiles, which come easily, are just as big as her cries, and twice as memorable. Having a high needs baby keeps you on your toes, and life will never be dull. Having a high needs baby makes you fully understand what you are capable of, what reserves of strength are available to you, and when you need to get some help. Having a high needs baby breaks you down and builds you up better.
Having a high needs baby isn't easy. Some days I just feel like I'm going batty. I've had weekends where, from the time I got home from work on Friday until I left for work Monday morning, she hasn't been out of my arms for more than about 5 hours total, including nights. Try getting anything done that way, I dare you. I suspect that I have stress fractures in both of my wrists from holding her. (I haven't confirmed with the doctor because it would be a very expensive appointment to hear what I know already: wear a brace and rest your wrists.) And my first statement was particularly true: there have been plenty of nights that end with both of us in tears as we wail at each other. (I seem to be the only one who feels guilty afterwards for my display of temper.) But, being Mom to a high needs baby is also really rewarding, and I wanted to remind myself of that since this has been a particularly rough week. I mentioned before that she fit 8 out of 12 things on the Dr. Sears list I linked to above, but now that she's 3 months old she's fitting ALL of those categories. That's my baby, classic overachiever. But, her desire to get the most out of life also led her to learn to roll over last weekend, a bit shy of 3 months. She really does smile a lot, and though she doesn't quite laugh yet, I know that when she does it will be with the abandon of true joy. Her smiles and almost-giggles make up for the hours of frustration.

Friday, February 14, 2014


This is actually a post I told myself I wasn't going to write. There are so. many. freaking. mommyblogs that talk about pumping, and breastfeeding in general. And it's great! I love that so much of this information is available now.
BUT, even with the prevalence of blogs talking about pumping, some of the information which helped me the most still took me a while to find. I've made no secret of the fact that Baby and I had a rough start to breastfeeding, and it made me very nervous to only be pumping during the weekdays, since that can decrease supply. But things are going really well so far, especially after I did some research, not only online but also asking people I know and love for their advice. One of my cousins pumped so much extra milk that she literally donated gallons of breastmilk to her local breastmilk bank (seriously, she posted pics to Facebook that made me envious), not just once but several times.
So, after all of my research and asking, here's what's helped me the most and a few facts which might be hard to find.
First, there's the amount you pump at a given time. So many of the blogs with posts about pumping show pictures with two VERY full bottles. Like, 5 ounces in each. Or more. This can make the rest of us feel a little inadequate in our pumping. However, most of these women are pumping full time. If you start off with only pumping (and there are a variety of reasons why women need to do this) then your body will begin to respond to the pump as if it's your child and you'll get a lot more from the pump at any given time. For the rest of us, our bodies don't like the pump as much because they know what it's like to have a baby suckling, and the pump is just second best. It is perfectly normal to only get a few ounces each time you pump. On a really good day, and if I've had to push off pumping for a little while so that my boobs feel like they're going to burst, I can get a bit over four ounces. (I would show a picture here, but my iPod died so I don't have a camera handy.) I think the most I ever pumped at one time was about 5 ounces, total. And this is fine! Don't expect to fill up both bottles each time. I aim for eight ounces each workday, and just cheer for myself if I happen to get more.
It is perfectly normal to get more milk from one boob than from the other. Again, you'll see all kinds of pictures online of perfectly even bottles completely full of breastmilk. Again, these tend to be from full-time pumping moms. For the rest of us, baby drank from one boob after the other, and and boob #2 might not have filled up as much in the intervening time. Or one side just plain doesn't respond to the pump as well. One of my boobs literally squirts milk for the pump, and the other tends to have more of a slow dripping leak for the pump. THIS IS NORMAL.
You might not leak at all. I saw so many things about how you NEED to get breastpads so that leaking doesn't seep through your shirt. This has never really come true for me. I've had noticeable leakage a grand total of four times, and each of those times I was at home, feeding my baby on the other side. Even for women who start off leaking, this sometimes stops after baby and body adjust to each other. Leaking doesn't necessarily mean you're a super breastmilk making machine, and not leaking doesn't necessarily mean that you're not making enough milk. Don't worry.
If you're breastfeeding the rest of the time, you might produce less at the end of the week than you did at the beginning. That's ok, if you breastfeed all weekend (even better if you can fit in a pumping session or two) then it'll be sky-high again on Monday. I tend to get 9 1/2 ounces on Monday, and by Friday I'm a bit under 8 ounces total. Sometimes even down around 6 ounces. It all works out, though, and if I can pump a bit over the weekend I can leave 8 fresh ounces in the fridge for Monday.
Big boobs do not necessarily mean big nipples, and small boobs don't necessarily mean small nipples, and the flanges that come with the pump usually fit a little less than half of all women. If you have an improperly fitted flange, you'll regret it. I ended up buying new flanges after Christmas because I'd end up sore after using the pump. Turns out, I'm in the small group of women who actually needed smaller flanges. Since my boobs are normally an overly-large D, and I don't even know what monstrous size they are now (I've been using sizeless bras), that was a bit of a surprise. But pumping is no longer in the least painful and I get a lot more than I was, so I've clearly found the right size for me.
Move the flanges around while you're pumping. My cousin mentioned that no one had told her this the first time around, but having the flanges always in the same places, putting pressure on the same spots, can set you up for mastitis. Ew.
While pumping, many people say to massage the breasts. In my mind, this implies lots of movement, which doesn't work for me. What I do is, after milk stops freely running out, run my thumbs down from the direction of my armpits and wait until I see milk coming out again. (It usually doesn't take long the first time.) I stop there and just hold pressure on that spot until the milk stops flowing. I keep doing this from various directions (working down the sides of my boobs, back up toward my armpits, a little bit on the insides and undersides of my boobs, then back up to my armpits again, etc.) and it's made a noticeable difference. Once I get all the milk I can this way, I move on to....
Hand expression. You'll probably need to do some hand-expression after pumping. I thought it was just me who still felt pretty full after pumping, but I'm not alone. Most women can get quite a bit more from hand expression. (I generally get at least half an ounce, and could get more if not for the time involved.) And if you're feeling like it's painfully slow to hand express milk, don't worry. You get much faster. (If you don't know how to hand express, there are lots of videos on Youtube.) I've found that the best way to do it is actually to switch off between breasts. I do two, er, squeezes on one side, then two on the other, etc. For some reason, having a bit of a rest in between makes everything so much easier.
Getting enough sleep is also crucial. If you're tired, your body is going to prioritize taking care of you. So get enough sleep. With Baby Girl, now that I'm working she wakes me up a bit more often to eat because she doesn't eat as much during the day as she would if I was home. On weekends, when she has free access to me all day, I get woken up once. During the week, it's usually two times, but sometimes even four wake-up calls. So we start getting ready for bed by about 9:30 so that I can get enough sleep, and so that she's not a tired mess when I hand her off to Shane the next morning.
A lot has been written about what you should eat and avoid while breastfeeding and/or pumping. Oats are great, yes. I realize there's no scientific proof that it works, but it does seem to help me. I mean, I ate oatmeal the day my milk finally came in (a few hours later), and this isn't proof but...yeah, I'm a believer.
But the one thing that I didn't really see mentioned in all those lists of what to eat is just an incredibly simple rule: eat a high protein diet. Milk is made of three basic components: water, fat, and protein. Of course it's got all the other good minerals and vitamins and whatnot that your baby needs in it, but the bulk of it is composed of those three things. Everyone emphasizes drinking lots of water, and unless you're under-weight your body has plenty of fat to provide, but I was puzzled for a long time as to why I still wasn't producing much milk even while drinking what felt like gallons. We tend more toward a plant-based diet in our household, with not much meat. So I finally found the advice to eat a bit more protein and HOLY BREASTMILK, BATMAN! Since upping my protein (a little bit more meat and cheese, some cow's milk for me at least most days, and lots of nuts and beans) I haven't had a single day where my supply was inadequate for Baby Girl. Damn, that feels good. I just wish I'd been told about this earlier; it would have made life so much easier.
I said above that I aim for 8 ounces each day, but if I don't get it all I don't stress and here's why: Baby Girl prefers mom over bottle. I wouldn't say that she's "rejected" the bottle, as some people say is a possibility, but she's not a huge fan of it. I freaked out the first week I was gone because on Wednesday I got a call from my mom around noon saying, "She's eaten everything you left in the fridge. Now what?" That was TWELVE OUNCES! That week she ended up drinking everything I produced plus three of the packs from my precious freezer supply. Turns out, she was starting a growth spurt. (I don't have a giant baby, but by the next week she'd grown out of several outfits which had fit her perfectly just a few days before.) For about a week and a half most of my thoughts centered around how to increase my supply (which is where most of my research came from) and what I would do if I just couldn't produce enough for her. Well, my worry was a bit needless because after the growth spurt she's settled into a routine of drinking about 1 1/2 bottles (about 6 ounces) while I'm gone during the day. Since I feed her right before I leave and as soon as I get home, this is working well for us. By the end of the week there's a surplus of milk in the fridge and some of it gets frozen for future growth spurts. Baby Girl spends a good portion of the evening eating and eating and eating, so I know she's getting enough food, and now I don't have to worry about producing enough.
I hope this helps other moms like me, who might have a rough start and who can get discouraged about breastfeeding, especially after returning to work. You're not a failure and you can produce enough food for your baby. It just takes a bit of research to find what works best for you.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Diaper Free Before Three

I've heard a bit about the book "Diaper Free Before Three" but, of course, didn't really have a reason to read it until now. It was shocking how late people in this country keep their kids in diapers. Are there really normal, functioning children who need to wear diapers until they're ready for kindergarten?! I thought about it and realized that one of my neighbors has a son with autism and he's still in diapers, even though he's at least four. (And from what I've seen and heard, he's fairly high functioning.) It's staggering. Even worse, the cost to people and the environment. All those diapers.
So, I'm behind the general concept of the book. Yes, it's perfectly reasonable to expect most kids to have very few accidents by the time they're 2. And I liked that the author constantly recommended a gentle style of training. Don't scold your kid for accidents, they happen and that will only make them feel ashamed. And I will, indeed, implement a lot (if not all) of the suggestions, including starting Baby Girl on the potty when she's about six months old. I seem to have an amazing knowledge of when she's going to pee, since I regularly open up her diaper only to have her start peeing before I get the next one on her.
I thought that this book was really well researched, involving the history of how we got to this point of potty training so late, the problems caused by diapering so long (especially the emotional ones for both parent and child, and the physical ones), and the emphasis on health throughout. (The author is a pediatrician.)
However, there were plenty of things about this book I didn't like and I'll talk about those more in-depth than the positives because they get less attention. The pluses you can get from any review on Amazon.
First, there's the author's insistence that cloth diapers are such a hassle. "My friend tried to do cloth diapers but gave it up after about a week because it was such a pain to deal with." I've heard this from so many people who basically expect you to fail at using cloth diapers because they're somehow inconvenient. SO ARE DISPOSABLES! Especially considering how much they cost. (Shane has estimated that we're saving, at a minimum, $1.25 per diaper, including the cost to wash the cloth ones. And that's not calculating the savings from using the cloth wipes I made, either.) How many times have people bemoaned the midnight trip to the store because they ran out of disposable diapers? And yet, somehow, they never think that perhaps that makes them inconvenient. But washing diapers? Ooh boy, that's a lot of work! ?? I don't get it. Even when I don't have family staying with us and helping, the cloth diapers have never been a pain to wash.
The author also gets into the environmental factor of diapers for a second. Rightly, she points out that the only truly good option is to get kids out of diapers as fast as possible, since either cloth or disposable use a lot of resources. However, she cites a very old report about the environmental cost of diapers which uses absolutely the WORST kind of cloth diaper use and says that it could go either way, in terms of which is better for the environment. Yes, cloth diapers take a lot to manufacture. So do disposables. However, cloth can be used for multiple children, especially if you wait until an older sibling is out of diapers to have another, or if you have graduated sizes so no two children need to be in the same diapers at the same time. Our diapers have all been used for AT LEAST one other child besides ours, and will go through at least one more before I sell them or pass them along to someone else. In fact, we'll most likely have friends having babies before we're ready for a second, so I'll let them borrow the newborn size until they can collect more diapers or find a style they really like. That makes at least four children for those diapers, cutting down the environmental toll considerably. And, none of us is using a diaper service, the emissions from which (driving to and from picking up diapers, etc.) were counted in the cited report.
Cloth diapers for the environmental win, yo.
My other complaint about the book is about one of the asides. There was a special section talking about girl-specific issues that can come up, and one about boys. This might seem like such a small thing to get upset about, but it's part of a much larger issue. The section for girls mentioned that, at this age, many little girls like to touch their private areas and said that "modesty" should be emphasized for them. There was no such corresponding platitude about modesty among boys who, to be frank, touch their genitals just as much as that age, if not more. It's a thing kids do. A lot. They're exploring themselves. I can understand not wanting them to do that in public, but telling little girls to be "modest" without the same message to boys just makes me see red. All of this message was delivered within a section talking about the fact that little girls are more prone to urinary tract infections. A little girl with dirty hands, touching herself, could easily create the circumstances for a UTI to occur. However, modesty has nothing to do with it! Emphasizing bodily cleanliness is fine, but "modesty" has moral and sexual implications that really, really don't need to be there.
For the record, what I intend to tell Baby Girl (and any future children we might have) is that private parts are for private time. I think this sets the right tone, letting a child know that it's ok to explore their body but that it's not ok to do so in public. I don't want Baby Girl to ever, ever feel ashamed of her own body. I know she will at times, because there's no way I can insulate her against the messages of the rest of the world, but if I can get her off to a good start with regard to body image then I can at least mitigate some of the negativity she will inevitably hear.
I'm done rambling. In conclusion, I would recommend this book, but with a heavy grain of salt. The reasons for starting diapering earlier than most people in the US even think of doing so are excellent and well-researched. The timeline seems reasonable and while starting a kid on the potty before they can walk and talk will mean a bit more work on my (and Shane's) part, I think it will be worth it. At the very least, I won't have a toddler with a profound sense of "bait and switch" as far as expectations regarding peeing and pooping to contend with, and hopefully potty training will be a much more pleasant, uplifting experience overall.