Our Breastfeeding Journey

This story belongs to my whole little family – O, J and myself. We made it through together.

I knew from the very start of my pregnancy that I would breastfeed. My mom breastfed all four of us (that’s saying something – it was back in the 70′s!)

My mom is a midwife, and my sister is in school to be a midwife, so there are always lots of resources and information lying around at my parents house. I remember being about 4 months pregnant and my sister had just purchased a copy of Dr Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. I remarked “What do you need a whole book on breastfeeding for? How complicated can it be?” My mom laughed pretty hard at that.

My beautiful baby boy was born at home on June 4th, 2008. The birth was smooth and quick. The midwives helped him latch on within about an hour. I don’t actually remember how that went! I think he latched on, I don’t remember what it felt like. The next few days were really tough, though. O arrived with a hungry tummy, I guess all babies do. He was not satisfied with the colostrum he was getting and he kept getting angrier and angrier. I fussed around with different positions and it took both J and I working together every time O needed to eat. J would have to hold his little arms down away from his face so I could keep him latched on.

By day five, my milk was in, but O was so upset with nursing that he would start scream every time I got him into position. It didn’t help that I was stressed and tense and sleep deprived and hormonal! That day he went too many hours (6? 7?) without eating and my midwife suggested we use a tube to feed him. I was able to hand express about 50 ml of milk into a cup and I put the tube into his mouth and he sucked on the tube and my finger. Jeff held the cup in the air so the milk would come out more easily. It worked really well and he was able to get some milk into his hungry belly.Things started to turn around after this, he was calm enough to latch on again and started to eat more regularly again.

It was rough going for the next few weeks, just getting the hang of things. I started going to La Leche League meetings and the support I got there was great. I was nervous about nursing in public, but after the first time, it got so much easier. now I don’t even think about it.

O was a high-needs baby. He cried and fussed a lot, it feels like it was almost all the time!. We found out that he has food sensitivities and that helped him to not cry and fuss so much when he was nursing. Things got easier. I remember at around 3 months, I felt like I had a handle on breastfeeding. Them my supply started to drop, although I didn’t know this was the problem at the time. O started to cry after he nursed, like he was still hungry. His time at the breast got shorter and shorter and he nursed more and more frequently. I was so devastated that we were having probelems again. I was still really sleep deprived and it was a stressful time for both J and I.

I made an appointment for O and I at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic. We are so lucky to live close to this clinic. Dr. Jack Newman and his partner Edith Kernerman are world renowned in their ability to help and support women having issues with breastfeeding. They were able to see us within a few days. They diagnosed a low supply and suggested I try Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle to increase my supply. I also worked at making sure O had a good latch every time. The herbs did help. O started to nurse more easily, less fussing and pushing away, and he seemed less frustrated. When we went for our follow-up appointment a month later, they suggested I switch over to Domperidone, a drug that is very safe, and effective at increasing milk supply. It had the added bonus of not making me smell like curry – a side-effect of the herbs I was taking!

The Domepridone made a HUGE difference. Nursing became so much easier for O and I. It was such a relief to feel like this breastfeeding thing was finally under control I started to enjoy nursing O, rather than have it be a stressful experience for both of us.

About 2 months ago, our old problems started to reoccur. O was fussy and frustrated at the breast, and nursing ALL the time. We went back to the clinic and they upped my Domperidone prescription. I was now taking 120mg of Domperidone a day, up from 90 mg/day. This helped again, for about a month. We went back to the clinic. They upped my script again. As of today I am taking 160 mg of Domperidone a day, and my supply is great, *knock on wood*

The doctor and lactation consultant at the Newman Clinic are not sure why my supply keeps dropping. I’m doing everything ‘right’ – feeding on demand, co-sleeping and feeding through the night and O’s latch is good,. It could be my thyroid, which I’m getting checked next week, or it could be some other issue. It’s clear that I have more than a ‘run-of-the-mill’ supply issue. I’ll probably need to be on Domperidone until O weans, which could be for a few more years. Hopefully we’ll be able to decrease my dose as he starts eating more solids and nursing less. I very much want to breastfeed O until he weans on his own, so right now I am just happy that my supply is holding up, and I hope it stays that way!

Looking back on everyhting, I am SO proud that I was able to keep going with breastfeeding, and that I never had to turn to formula, or even bottles of pumped milk, to feed my son. That being said, he was always gaining weight. I don’t know how much harder it would have been if he were not gaining weight and acting like a healthy, thriving baby. I do remember understanding, one night, when O was screaming from hunger, how parents would be so tempted to turn to formula. At that point it feels like nothing else matters but getting some food into your baby. I also know that i am very, very privileged to have access to amazing support and good resources, a loving partner, the knowledge of where to turn for help. I often think – if it was this hard for me, it must be so much harder for other peopl, who don’t have the same access and support that I do! I firmly beleive that no mother is ever a failure at breastfeeding. When a mother turns to formula after trying to breastfeed (unless it is a legitimate, medical need, of course!), it is always and only a failure of society.

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Joy in bathtime and other amazing minutiae

J usually gives O his bath. This week J is working evenings, so I’m on bath duty. I think I’d like to be on bath duty more often. It was delightful. O is big enough now that he can sit up in the tub on his own without me worrying that he’s going to nose-dive and swallow half the bath-water. So I can spend more energy on playing and washing and less energy on baby-wrestling.

O is really into splashing – he loves to slap his little hands on the water and watch the drops fly around. He doesn’t seem to mind getting water in his face, it’s part of the fun. Sometimes he gets a very serious look on his face and slowly moves his hand through the water. He’s working hard to figure out how it all works! Once we’ve had our fill, we wave ‘bye-bye’ to the bath water and I wrap him up in his froggie towel. This is also great fun. He laughs giant belly laughs as I wipe his face and dry under his arms.

I’m enjoying being a parent these days. Getting a decent amount of sleep helps SO MUCH. I did have fun with O before, but my patience was so short, and my energy was so low, that most often I was just going through motions, getting through each step and then the next. I had forgotten what it was like to feel normal. Throughout my months of sleep-deprivation, I had a vague feeling that if I could just get a better night’s sleep, everything would be easier to handle. I was right. Even though I’m still only getting three hours stretches, I get several a night, and then a few hours or two snatches in the morning. It’s making all the difference.

Now I am relishing my son. He really is the most amazing little creature. He is nearly nine months now, so he’s really figuring out the world. He listens carefully to J and I when we talk to him. He thinks so hard sometimes! His brow gets all furrowed and he concentrates on whatever it is that has caught his attention.I’d love to get inside his brain. I want to know what the world looks like through his eyes. I often get down on the floor and follow him around, to try and get his perspective on things. There are more Cheerios down there, for one thing, and much more carpet lint.

I’m reading a wonderful book called The Baby in the Mirror by Charles Fernyhough. It’s a great read if you get a chance. He chronicled nearly every detail of his daughters first few years in journals and videos and has then interwoven a recounting of her babyhood with information on cognitive science and brain devlopment. I learned that very young babies have synesthesia. They see sounds and hear colours. The world must be so mixed up and confusing for them! The sensory connections in their brains sort themselves out by around six weeks. I haven’t gotten far anough into the book to read yet about what Owen’s world is like, but I’m really looking forward to finding out.

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Grace in Small Things 2

  1. O’s little sigh on contentment as he falls asleep after nursing his heart out in the middle of the night.
  2. Turtle cheese cake from Future Bakery
  3. A new blog post from Annie @ PhD in Parenting
  4. Watching a snowstorm coming in from the west, from my living room window
  5. Season 4 of House on DVD.

I’m working on a new post about our recent sleep tribulations. I should have it up tomorrow night.

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The Gluten Wars

O has some food sensitivities, mainly to gluten, and less so to dairy and caffeine. We figured this out early, when he was two months old. The research says that most babies grow out of these sensitivities and don’t have any further problems. Since O is still almost exclusively breastfed, it means I have completely eliminated gluten from my diet. He even reacts to ‘hidden’ gluten (like MSG in packaged foods).

This week I decided to reintroduce gluten into my diet, to see if he was still reacting. The Verdict: an emphatic YES!

It’s mainly affecting his nighttime sleep, and his mood. We’ve had several horrendous nights in a row, so I’m back on what I like to call the rice-cakes-and-water diet. Works wonders for the waistline.

People sympathise when I tell them the situation and say ‘that must be so hard. And it is. And it isn’t. My pocketbook is the main area that’s hurting. Gluten-free foods are very expensive. Check it out next time you’re in the health food store. On the other hand, I’m amazed at how easy I find it to avoid the bad foods, just because I know it will hurt my little guy. I’m not known for my tremendous willpower, especially when it comes to food, so I would have expected this to be harder for me than it is. If it were ME with the issue, I think I’d find it more difficult to resist those delicious carbs. But just thinking about how it hurts his little tummy makes me turn away.

If you’re wondering if your little one has issues with certain foods, this is what we noticed, and then how we narrowed down the posibilities:

O was always a very fussy baby, not colicky, but certainly not one of those ‘easy’ babies. My mom-sense was that he was in pain a lot of the time and we pulled our hair out trying pin down cause. We tried gripe water, and Ovol, keeping him upright, probiotics, singing, dancing, shhhing, the whole gamut. Nothing seemed to help much.

I was reading through The Baby Book by Dr. Sears (great investment, btw, if you’re expecting!) and it said that food sensitivities can be distinguished by, among other things, a sandpaper-like rash on the face, elbows and knees. Well, I’ll be darned if O didn’t have exactly that. We hadn’t thought much of it. Infants can get a lot of weird skin things, for no reason.

I immediately went on an elimination diet, cutting out all dairy, gluten and soy, the three most common causes. I did that for two weeks. That really was the rice-cakes-and-water diet. I reintroduced soy with no problem. Then I tried gluten and it was really apparent that we had an issue. He was super fussy, the rash came back, he had diahrea, was waking up at night all rigid and crying. He has less of a reaction to dairy, but I still avoid it for the most part.

So moms – if you have a really fussy little one, it’s worth trying an elimination diet of at least dairy, to see if it helps. It’s made such a difference for O.

We’ll be waiting a LONG time before we introduce anything with gluten into his diet, once he gets more onto solids. I’m hoping it’s not a life-long things, but I do have a family history of celiac disease and gluten intolerance on both sides of my family, and one of Jeff’s cousin’s has celiac disease as well.

Interestingly, a naturopath was explaining to me that it’s likely that I’m also not processing the gluten very well (most people don’t!) and I just wasn’t showing any symptoms. It can do bad stuff to your digestive tract and put you at higher risk of some cancers, if you have a sensitivity. I’ll probably stay away from it, for the most part, even after O is weaned.

It’s been 36 hours since I’ve had anything verboten. I’m really hoping we both get more sleep tonight.

Does anyone have any experience with food sensitivities, either for themselves, or for their kids? Do you have any advice for me as we move forward? I’m struggling with when to try again with gluten, and when to introduce it into O’s diet directly.

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Grace in Small Things 1

I am participating in a project called Grace in Small Things. The rules are pretty loose, basically I’m going to post a list of 5 small things that make me happy in my day-to-day life. Some people are posting every day, however, I’m choosing a more laid-back approach. I’ll post whenever the mood hits me.

I find having a baby has made me appreciate small things so much more. Sleep, for example, is something I will NEVER take for granted again! I love sitting alone with a cup of coffee, watching the world go by out a cafe window. I relish dinner out with J – something we used to do all the time, but now it’s a rarity.

So here’s my list for today:

  1. exact change
  2. making my subway and bus connections perfectly, when I’m pressed for time
  3. the weight of my babe against my chest, snuggled in a perfectly tied wrap
  4. cupcakes
  5. the view out my bedroom window (I can see High Park, the Lake, and the CN Tower!)

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The case of the pink pants

So I bought O a new pair of pants yesterday. They are striped, and some of the stripes are pink. Some of the stripes are also blue and yellow and red. I did get them in the girls’ section. The first thing J said when he saw them was “There is pink in those pants”. I really like these pants – they’re cute. Of course, O could care less. He would prefer to wear no pants at all.

I realized a little while ago that I am falling into something I said I wouldn’t do. O is surrounded in ‘boy’ things. Maybe it’s all the clothes and toys he got for Christmas, but it’s bugging me. I want him to be exposed to a whole range of things to wear and play with and do and be. I know little boys are different from little girls, and they often gravitate to the ‘boy’ things on their own, but I wonder how much of that is influenced by their environment, and how much of it is innate.

Hence – the pants. I want to raise a feminist. I know pink pants aren’t going to do it, but it’s a start. I don’t really mind if I get a few “oh – what a cute little girl” comments, or if people think it’s a bit weird. It might get them thinking about gender stereotypes, and that’s always a good thing.  We’ll see how I feel when he wants to wear a tutu to kindergarten*.

Any advice on how to raise a feminist boy? What are you doing with your own kids to try to counteract all the stereotypical crap that is bombarding them all the time?

*for the record – I’d let him, but then I would have to work on my own preconceptions and worrying about what others might think.

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He’s just not a stroller baby

Or maybe I’m just not a stroller mom.

I’ve been taking O out in his stroller a bit over the past week. We want him to get a bit more used to it, so that his grandparents can take him for walks. It’s gone alright, I guess. He hasn’t screamed – which is what he used to do.

It’s been months since we hauled it out – for a while he didn’t have a snowsuit, so it wasn’t even possible to take him out in it in this cold weather. Then he got a snowsuit for Xmas, so no more excuses.

I’m a stroller newbie. I don’t know how to dress him for it, I’m not very good at negotiating the snowy sidewalks – it’s just not comfortable. I tend to bump into people by accident, and I’m always afraid I’ll lose my grip on the handle going down a hill. I did find myself enjoying the ‘shopping cart ‘ thing, though. You can really stuff that basket full of stuff!

By the time we got home yesterday, I found myself longing for some babywearing cuddlies from my little guy. I popped him in the ringsling and did some tidying. It felt good. O is not a very cuddly baby – there’s too much to see and do to waste time snuggling with mama. So pretty much the only time I get my cuddles in are when he’s in the carrier.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those moms who think strollers are like rolling ‘neglect-o-mobiles’ or anything. Babywearing is what works for us, most of the time. I’m glad we have the stroller option, and I really like the stroller we chose (Baby Jogger brand – CityMini, if anyone’s interested!). I can see that we may use it more as O gets bigger, and the weather gets nicer. I’m a babywearer at heart, though, and I plan on strapping him in as long as he’ll let me!

What about you? Are you a stroller mom/dad? What kind of stroller/babycarrier to you have? A friend once said to me that she did more research on what stroller to get than she did on what car to buy. I can beleive it.

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