Baby, Tips

Best Budget Baby Gifts

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Looking back at my baby shower over two years ago, there are certain items that I am so grateful I got. These were items that I didn’t register for, but wish I had. That said, ALWAYS LOOK AT THE REGISTRY. The registry is king for baby showers. It represents the true desires of the mother-to-be’s heart. Please respect that and get something off of the list (with luck, they’ll have some of the items listed below on their list!). That said, if you don’t have access to the registry or the only items left are out of your price range, here are a few ideas:

  • Children’s Books. A good friend of mine got Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Numbers Colors Shapes for my baby shower and we still read them! They have been a great gift. I feel that you can hardly ever go wrong with children’s books.
  • Bow Ties. We got several bow ties at our son’s baby shower, and we have used them all (and still use them). If we ever have a girl, I’m planning on registering for lots and lots of bows to help off set all of the gender neutral baby clothes we’ve kept.
  • Burp Cloths. Babies spit up a lot, and I never felt like we had too many burp clothes. We received several beautiful handmade burp cloths, and used all of them.
  • Bibs. There was a several month stretch where my son wore bibs every waking hour. He drooled so much. We would go through all of our bibs within a few days. Having cute bibs (especially patterned ones that were less likely to show stains) was nice because half the time people couldn’t even see what my son was wearing underneath.
  • Baby Toiletries. One of my friends gave us a basket which included infant tylenol, diaper rash ointment, gas relief drops, baby shampoo, and baby body wash. It was incredible. We went months before we had to purchase any of those items for ourselves.

The best thing about these items is that many of them are gender neutral (instead of bow ties, you can do bows). These can be great gifts especially if the mother-to-be has chosen not to reveal the baby’s gender.

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Baby, Pregnancy

What They Don’t Tell You About Postpartum Recovery

what they don't tell you about postpartum recovery

One of the things that surprised me the most when I had a baby was how unprepared I was for the postpartum recovery period! Everyone has plenty to say about pregnancy and childbirth, but for some reason, the postpartum period gets kind of passed up. It isn’t the prettiest or most delicate of experiences, but I don’t think women should be embarrassed about it! I did have some awesome friends who gave me helpful information based on their recovery experiences, but my doctors, family members, etc. didn’t really tell me much. Maybe a lot of women don’t remember their postpartum recovery periods as well as the childbirth experience? I guess that would make sense, since childbirth is such an amazing and even traumatic (to put it frankly) experience for the body. I did get a little bit more preparatory information from the prenatal/childbirth prep class we took and from the website I got regular updates/advice from. However, Brian and I found ourselves surprised over and over again as I recovered from childbirth… Basically, the recovery was more intense than I thought it would be! Hopefully, this post can give some of you first time moms out there a little insight about what to expect during the postpartum recovery time. Now to be fair, everyone’s experience is different, just like every childbirth experience is different. But these tips are based on my personal experiences, and I know that other women can back me up on them!

What to Expect

1) Your uterus needs to contract itself back to normal size after giving birth. Your nurses and/or doctors will help speed up the contraction process by kneading on your tummy soon after you have your baby. I remember this being uncomfortable for sure and I didn’t enjoy it by any means, but it wasn’t excruciating pain. The nurses first did this within minutes after I was stitched up in the delivery room, and then they would periodically do it throughout my recovery stay in the hospital. It seemed to get less painful each time they did it, from what I remember.

Another thing that helps a uterus contract back to its normal size is breastfeeding. Each time I breastfed my son for the first week or two, especially for the first couple days in the hospital, I could literally feel my uterus contracting- kind of like a menstrual cramp. Again, it wasn’t a terrible kind of pain.

2) You will bleed for a little while after the birth. The bleeding shouldn’t be really intense (if you ever notice big clots, you need to call your doctor right away). It is kind of like being on your period for the first few weeks after giving birth. Your body has a lot of extra “stuff” to dispose of after you have a baby! In the hospital they give you large pads to use (they may feel like diapers, but they are necessary!), and I continued to use large ones for a week or two after I got home. After that point, the bleeding was still there sometimes (like spotting), so I just made sure to always have pads on hand. I would sometimes notice that I would bleed more after breastfeeding (remember the whole uterus contracting back thing?). Just like the cramping, the bleeding aspect of postpartum wasn’t too difficult for me.

3) Going to the bathroom will be painful at first. For me, this was the worst part of postpartum recovery. I almost had to have a catheter inserted again when I was in recovery at the hospital because I had such a difficult time peeing! Thankfully, it eventually got easier during the hospital stay. I just had to make sure to get up and go often or else I would wet the bed (no muscle control right after pushing out an 8 pound baby!). The little squirt bottles they provide you with in the hospital are a life-saver- you use them as you urinate to help relieve the burning sensation.

Going #2 is a whole different experience… It was VERY painful the first time! But I think my situation was worse than it needed to be because I was constipated. I think doctors want you to have a bowel movement within 5 days after having a baby, and it took my body this long to figure it out. What I suggest is preparing yourself before you go into labor by getting lots of fiber!!! Toward the end of my second pregnancy, I starting drinking prune juice and I ate a lot of fiber bars. I’m pretty sure this helped a ton the second time around, because going potty was WAY easier after my second delivery!

4) Tearing takes a toll on your body. If you tear during pushing (which is very common, especially with your first baby), you will need stitches and these will need to heal. I had to have an episiotomy with my first because forceps had to be used to flip him from the posterior position. I can tell you that it took several months for me to feel normal again down there, and I think it was mainly from this episiotomy (plus the other natural tears I had). I know it was good and necessary so I could have my son safely, but it caused me pain for awhile. In the hospital I was given a small inflatable tube to sit on to relieve pressure from the tearing, and this definitely helped. And when I got home, as long as I was following my pain medication schedule for the first few days the pain wasn’t unbearable. But even after the initial pain went away, I could feel some scar tissue forming. You do eventually get back to normal (and I’m really hoping my second postpartum recovery won’t be as painful and long), but it takes some time. Let your body heal and don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you feel something is wrong or abnormal.

5) Intimacy will be an adjustment at first. As you have probably heard or can imagine, sex after having a baby is not the most comfortable experience… But never fear, things will get back to normal! Again, just let your body heal and listen to its needs. And remember that there are lots of ways to be intimate besides the obvious. 🙂

6) Start thinking about birth control before you have your baby. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will be able to prescribe you your preferred method of birth control when you see him/her for your postpartum checkup (usually between 4 and 6 weeks after the baby’s born). But make sure you’re thinking about what you’re going to do before this point, and make sure that you don’t consider breastfeeding your method of birth control, because it is not a method of birth control!….. 🙂

7) Your period. I can’t speak for other women here, but I didn’t officially have another period after having my baby until he was about 5 months old (this is when I stopped breastfeeding). But I think I’ve heard of some women’s ovulation starting back up again within a couple of months after having a baby.

What You’ll Need

I found that the hospital provided me with most of the materials I needed to get through my recovery. I got witch hazel pads (which help with hemorrhoids), numbing spray (which helps while going to the bathroom), a squirt bottle (as I mentioned above, to help with urinating), and some large pads to wear for those first few postpartum recovery days when lots of fluids are still leaking. Some other things I would suggest having are:

Nursing equipment. If you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’re going to want a comfortable place or places to do it, and you’re going to want equipment to help you feel comfortable as you’re getting used to feeding your baby. I needed a water JUG (the one they gave me in the hospital) at all times with me because I always felt like I was going to die of thirst! 🙂 I also loved my nursing pillow and my nursing cover (for when people visited). You’ll probably also want lots of snacks to munch on, books and/or your phone/laptop to entertain yourself with. I watched a lot of my favorite shows while I breastfed my son.

Lots of help at home. If you’re fortunate enough to have loved ones who can come to your home and help you after your baby is born, take advantage of that! My mom and sister came to help us after my son was born, and it was SOOO nice having them with us. My mom pretty much took care of all of our laundry, meals, and cleaning, and she even watched the baby for us in the morning if we had a long, sleepless night with him. I also really needed my mom and sister there emotionally, since having a baby and experiencing all that comes with it can feel overwhelming at times. It was very therapeutic to have people there with me during the day when Brian had to go back to work and school during the day.

Emergency formula. Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding, I suggest having a small stash of formula on hand just in case you’re going to need it. Plus, I’ve heard that emergency preparedness kits should always have infant formula if there are babies in your family. This totally makes sense, because if an emergency were to ever happen in your home or area (or to you), your baby still needs to eat their specialized milk.

 

I could go on and on about different things parents might need when they have a baby, but since this post was dedicated to the postpartum recovery period specifically, I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

It may seem overwhelming or scary to have a baby and to handle everything that goes along with having one, but don’t worry- everything will work out and you will end up having your own story to tell! I honestly did not think things were that scary or painful when I was experiencing all of this; I was so in love with my baby and so excited he was here that those happy emotions usually overpowered any of the confused or overwhelmed ones.

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Why I’m Pro-Cloth and Pro-Disposable Diapers

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Photos from Pixabay

I’ve done them both, and I’m here to tell you why I support moms who cloth diaper and those who chose to go with disposables. A little background: we cloth diapered for the first nine months of our son’s life, and used cloth wipes for an additional ten months after that. Since then we have exclusively used disposable diapers. Now that we’re in the middle of potty training, we have experimented with both cloth and disposable training pants.

Here’s why I liked cloth diapering:

You spend most of the money up front, and then you are done!

With cloth diapers, we spent the money up front and then didn’t really have to worry about budgeting monthly for diapers. This was especially nice because my husband and I were both in grad school and trying to stick to a tight budget. While you probably will have to buy a few things here and there (especially when your baby transitions to solids), the bulk of your diapers will be bought at the beginning.

You don’t have to worry about running out. 

Along the same reasoning as the last point, once you build up your stock, all you have to do is keep up on washing them. You don’t have to worry about doing a diaper run late at night when your supply gets low.

They are eco-friendly. 

This is probably the biggest reason why cloth diapers are better than disposables. They are just better for the environment!

They can be colorful and fun. 

Often cloth diapers come in vibrant colors and patterns. We even had two pairs that were a jean pattern. While I know disposable diapers have patterns, I felt they just don’t compare to the brightness and variety of cloth diapers.

Cloth wipes are usually one and done. 

We decided to continue to use cloth wipes because it was so much easier to clean off our baby’s bottom with just one wipe. Now it seems we have to use 3-4 for really stubborn poops. It also was nice saving money on wipes for over a year.

 

That said, we did eventually transition to disposable diapers. Here’s why:

They fit newborns better.

Newborn disposable diapers generally will have a little cut out spot to better keep the umbilical cord dry. Cloth diapers do not have this option, and they generally will be more likely to keep the cord wet because if your baby pees, the cloth will be soaked. For this reason, we waited until our baby’s cord came off before cloth diapering.

They are less work. 

Disposables you change and throw away. Cloth diapers you have to put in a special bin to soak, or in a cloth lines garbage can for a maximum of three days. Then you have to wash and dry them. And in our case with pocket diapers, we would spend up to a half hour a week just assembling them for easier use.

It’s easier for sitters.

Depending on the cloth diapering system you use, it can be difficult for a sitter or relative to figure out. If you do want to keep up with it, I’d recommend using All in One diapers, which are the closest to disposables as far as how they go on and off.

They aren’t as bulky.

Usually when cloth diapering with infants, you will have to size up for pants and onesies because the diapers are so bulky. If you want to stretch out your clothing supply, using disposables helps you stay in the smaller size longer. Additionally, disposables take up less space when traveling.

They are more absorbent.

While you can find really absorbent cloth diapers, I feel that they still don’t compare to disposables. Our son would constantly wet out of his diapers at night, and it was just easier to buy disposables than to experiment with different types of cloth in order to find one that was absorbent enough.

 

Ultimately, I am pro-cloth and pro-disposable diapers. I support moms who chose to cloth diaper and those who prefer disposables. As far as cost goes, we ended up breaking even with our cloth diaper supply. Honestly cloth diapers really save you the most money towards the second year of using them. And in the end, it’s mostly a lifestyle preference. If you are wondering which system would be best for you, I suggest trying both out. Buy a few cloth diapers and a pack of disposables and experiment. You may find out you like not having to restock on your cloth diapers. Or you may discover that doing laundry every 2-3 days is not on the top of your priority list. Either way, diapering will become a major recurring event for the next few years, so choose the system that works best for you.

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Baby, Health

The Moment I Realized I Have Postpartum Anxiety

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Postpartum depression and anxiety. This is a heavy topic, and so many people are afraid to talk about it or acknowledge it. Thankfully, there is so much more awareness of these conditions out there than ever before. I think it’s safe to say that every one of us knows someone who has dealt with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety in some way. I am thankful that several of my family members and friends who have dealt with these have been open with me about their experiences- it is because of their sharing their hearts with me that I was able to realize that I myself was suffering with postpartum depression/anxiety.

 

Differences Between PPD and Regular Depression

Postpartum depression has many similarities to regular depression, but one very obvious difference is that PPD is related to childbirth. “PPD is usually diagnosed within a year after giving birth but can extend beyond that” (Baby Center). Here are other common characteristics specific to postpartum depression:

  • sleep-deprivation
  • transitioning to motherhood and dealing with the psychological adjustment
  • hormonal unsteadiness
  • experiencing worrisome thoughts about the baby or about one’s ability to be a good mother
  • consumed with guilt and disappointment about what’s supposed to be the “best time of (your) life.”

(Baby Center)

Breastfeeding can also affect PPD. I have several friends who have told me that their depressive symptoms start to ease up immediately after weaning their baby.

When I Realized I Had Postpartum Depression or Anxiety

After I had my oldest son, I experienced elation (for the most part)! I loved everything about that little guy and I loved being a new mom. It helped that my oldest son was an “easy” baby: he slept well, he wasn’t fussy, he had a happy temperament, and he was independent (so I could leave him on the floor to play while I got things done). Even during a more stressful time, while we were figuring out my son’s eating (he didn’t have a good latch with breastfeeding, which eventually led to us needing to supplement with formula), I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Sure, I felt tired and frustrated at times, but my joy and excitement about everything always overshadowed any feelings of stress. This was a really happy time for me!

I totally expected my second time around to be exactly like my first! But it wasn’t. I STILL feel guilty as I write this, because I wish so badly that I could have experienced the same elation after my second son’s birth. But from the very beginning-from the time I got pregnant with my second- I felt anxious. Looking back, it really is strange. It’s like something about this son and his biology affected my biology in a completely unexpected way and caused my hormones to go all wacko! I remember having these worried thoughts that I wasn’t really pregnant, that the pregnancy tests were wrong…. That something bad would happen to the baby while I was pregnant…. And then, I discovered that being pregnant while taking care of a toddler was HARD! I was tired, and often cranky. The situation was exacerbated by these factors: my family moved states while I was pregnant; I was finishing college during this pregnancy (and had some of my hardest classes); and my husband started graduate school in the middle of this pregnancy. Oh, and it was hard on my psyche that I thought my second baby was a girl…. I was so confused when we found out we would be having a second boy! (Again, I’m feeling guilty for even writing these things, because I should have just been happy about having a healthy baby! The gender didn’t matter. But this factor was just another one of those weird things about my second pregnancy that made me feel like something was out of sorts inside me.)

Once my baby was born, I experienced the same elation and excitement as I experienced with my first-born! My second son’s birth was a wonderful experience for me. The delivery and recovery were much easier than the first time around, and for that I am grateful! My baby boy was amazing and so beautiful! I felt great for the first couple of months. And then, I started to feel those feelings I felt while I was pregnant. I started to have horrible, scary thoughts that made me think and feel that something was going to happen to my baby. I felt constantly worried about him. I had to check on him a bazillion times while he was sleeping. I had a hard time relaxing, because I thought there were always more things to do to help ensure my baby’s safety. My second baby was not super easy. He wasn’t colicky, but he did fight sleep a lot, and was hard to sleep train. He has a different temperament than his older brother, which means my husband and I already raise each boys a little bit differently. My second was and is a happy baby overall, but he is more sensitive, more clingy, and fussier. (We eventually figured out that he’s lactose intolerant, so cow’s milk was causing him tummy pain!) Anyway, I know that each baby is supposed to be different, but for some reason I started to feel overwhelmed.

This went on for several months, with bouts of ease followed by bouts of anxiety again. I honestly did not even put it together that I was not acting or thinking or feeling normally. That is, until my baby was about 10 months old. When I realized that I was not enjoying my baby as much as I could because I was too worried about him, the light finally clicked on inside of me. I talked to my husband about my realization, and I made an appointment with my midwife. It wasn’t after much discussion with me in person that she came to the conclusion that I indeed was struggling with postpartum depression. She decided that it was more postpartum anxiety, so this is what I call my diagnosis. 🙂

Healing

My process is an ongoing one, but I’m happy to say that I feel SO much better now! I was prescribed medication, and it has helped my symptoms tremendously. I am still learning techniques on how to deal with my anxiety, because I hope to not be on medication forever. I feel more confident at banishing irrational thoughts and inviting rational, peaceful, grateful thoughts into my mind. I’m working on dealing with the guilt I still feel for struggling to enjoy my baby in the first place. Mommy guilt is so real, and can be so strong. But I am letting myself remember (and I hope this sinks in) that I am trying my best to be the best mom I can be for my children. I love them with all my heart, and I want them to always know that. I am grateful for my weaknesses and struggles, because they help me learn humility, and they help me grow. I love talking with others about my experiences because talking and sharing helps me feel validated. And I don’t want to feel alone; so many people have helped me know that I am not alone, and I want to show this to others as well.
I am a religious person, so I often turn to scriptures, prayer, and words from church leaders when I need guidance. I just read this quote from an apostle (Elder Richard G. Scott), and it’s one of my new favorites: “(Jesus Christ) loves you. He gave His life that you may be free of needless burdens. He will help you do it. I know that He has the power to heal you.” This quote can be used in many situations, but for me it helps me remember that I don’t have to feel needless anxiety. This is a scripture that has brought me a lot of peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:17).

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Baby, Food, toddlers

Understanding FPIES Food Allergies

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Before having kids, the phrase “food allergies” brought to mind images of peanuts, swelling, and Epi-Pens. But after discovering that our son had Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), food allergies meant something quite different. In our case, “food allergies” meant oats, vomiting, and potentially a hospital visit.

This article will explain our experience with FPIES and hopefully provide some tips and resources to parents with children who have FPIES. When I first googled FPIES, I was horrified with the stories I read. If you are looking for a less horrifying but still educational article about FPIES, I would read this Q&A, which I will be quoting throughout the rest of this article.

What is FPIES?

FPIES is an intestinal allergy to foods, where the stomach rejects proteins in the food it is allergic to and expels them. The tricky thing about FPIES is that the symptoms don’t set in until 1.5 to 2 hours after the food is digested. This means it is hard to figure out what food triggered the allergy since the reaction occurs hours later.

What foods are common triggers?

“The most common FPIES triggers are traditional first foods, such as dairy and soy. Other common triggers are rice, oat, barley, green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, squash, chicken and turkey.” This was true with our experience- we had our first clue to our son’s allergies when he was five months old. Our pediatrician recommended introducing infant cereal, and we chose to introduce oat cereal first. Our baby happened to be sick with a cold at the time, and so when he vomited several hours later, we assumed it was from the congestion. Two weeks later, when we tried the oats again, he had the same reaction. This time, we caught on to the pattern and didn’t introduce oats again.

What are the symptoms?

“Symptoms typically only involve the gastrointestinal system, and other body organs are not involved. FPIES reactions almost always begin with delayed onset vomiting (usually two hours after ingestion, sometimes as late as eight hours after). Symptoms can range from mild (an increase in reflux and several days of runny stools) to life threatening (shock).” This makes FPIES tricky because the vomiting could be confused with food poisoning or the flu. With our son, he would vomit until everything had been expelled from his stomach (sometimes lasting up to an hour) and then he would have diarrhea. The good news was that after a few hours, he was able to eat and drink again so he wouldn’t get too dehydrated.

How is FPIES diagnosed?

“FPIES is difficult to diagnose, unless the reaction has happened more than once, as it is diagnosed by symptom presentation.” This means that the skin prick test that they do for other allergies doesn’t work for FPIES, as the allergy is digestive based. In our case, the doctor still performed a skin test to see if our son had any other types of food allergies. What helped the doctor diagnose our son was the fact that after his reactions to infant cereal, we later introduced Cheerios (which contain oats) and it produced the same affect.

How is FPIES treated?

Since FPIES is an intestinal allergy, that means that Epi-Pens won’t help. Generally treatment is to avoid the triggering food at all costs. In the event that your child does react, the worst case scenario is that you have to take your child to Urgent Care or the ER for IV fluids. In our case, once we knew the trigger food, we were able to successfully keep him from eating oats until he outgrew his allergy.

How do I know if my child has outgrown FPIES?

“Together with your child’s doctor, you should determine if/when it is likely that your child may have outgrown any triggers.” After diagnosing our son at 11 months, our doctor advised that we come back when he had turned 3 and they would do an office food test. This meant that we would come back and feed him oats at the doctor’s office and wait to see if he had a reaction. We never had a chance to do this option as someone accidentally fed our son oats without our knowledge when he was 19 months old and he did not have a reaction. While I wouldn’t recommend doing a home test for outgrowing allergies, it produced the same result.

How do I help my child avoid trigger foods?

1. Check all food labels! Especially with grains, milk, and soy, you would be amazed with how many foods contain these ingredients. We discovered that about 75% of cereals contained oats. Not to mention breads, crackers, and cookies.

2. Tell all caregivers. We created a short letter that we gave to all babysitters, relatives, and caregivers so they would be aware of our son’s allergy. If you would like to print it off, you can download it here. Along with the letter we provided safe snacks for our son to eat while we were gone.

3. Segregate foods. We continued to eat foods with oats even though our son could not. While we tried to keep cereals with oats out of reach, I wish we had been more vigilant about segregating foods. My recommendation is to create specific spot in a cupboard or pantry shelf for all foods that can trigger your child’s allergies. Label it “Not for [Child’s Name]” so there is no confusion. Even friends and family that knew about our child’s allergy would forget to check labels or just plain forget about the allergy all together. While this was frustrating, I had to remind myself that these caregivers had never seen my son’s allergic symptoms. I’m sure if anyone had seen him vomit repeatedly until he was dry heaving, they would remember from then on about his allergy.

4. Be vigilant. I have now become one of those parents who will not give food to other children without checking with their parents first. After living with a child with allergies, I can’t tell you how stressful it is for a parent to find out someone gave their child food without their knowing. A common toddler snack like Cheerios led to devastating consequences for my son, even when parents assumed that it would “be fine.”

While food allergies are stressful, they can be accommodated and even outgrown! Our son now loves eating foods with oats, and we love not having to worry about his allergy.

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Baby, Tips

What to Expect When Breastfeeding

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Two years ago, I sat in a breastfeeding class, learning all that I needed to know before my baby came.

Just Kidding.

Two years ago, I sat in a breastfeeding class, learning about the benefits of breastfeeding, which would hopefully be enough to motivate me to stick with it for at least a year (which was my goal).

Because breastfeeding is hard.

I believe that each mom has the right to make the best decision for her and her baby- whether that is breastfeeding or formula feeding. However, this post is for those moms who want to continue breastfeeding. This is not supposed to be a doomsday post about how horrible breastfeeding is, but rather a warning in advance so breastfeeding mamas don’t end up dreadfully disappointed because they didn’t expect any of these issues to arise. Trust me, it’s better to be prepared ahead of time than to be googling issues in the middle of the night when your emotions are high. Whatever your target length is for breastfeeding, know that you can do it and work through these issues. Breastfeeding can be a worthwhile experience for both you and your baby.

Expect a Learning Curve. As I watched other moms breastfeed I thought it would be easy. But instead it turned out to be incredibly awkward–I was trying to use my breasts in a way that I had never done before. I spent the first month wearing just a nursing bra on top because it was too hard for me to coordinate nursing with a shirt on. It took several more months after that to be confident enough to nurse outside of my home.  In addition, my baby initially couldn’t latch because of my inverted/flat nipples. I ended up having to use a nipple shield to trigger his sucking reflex and also to soften my overactive letdown reflex.

Expect Engorgement. Expect to be extremely engorged when your milk “comes in” during the first week. You also might experience engorgement as your baby adjusts to eating solids, sleeps more at night, or goes on a nursing strike (my baby went on nursing strikes when teething- I found this article extremely helpful). What has helped me most with engorgement is being able to pump either by using my manual hand pump or by renting a hospital grade one. One thing I wish I had done was actually purchased an electric pump. For those of you who are lucky enough to have insurance cover part or all of a pump cost, DO IT!

Expect to Get Wet. This will happen not only when your milk first comes in and you are leaking all over the place, but also whenever you have a letdown reflex (which could be triggered by a baby’s cry) or when your nursing baby pulls off unexpectedly. These cloth nursing pads have worked the best for me, although I have tried disposable nursing pads as well. With disposables, I found that they were too small and would move around too much even if they had an adhesive to help them stick my nursing bra.

Expect Sore Nipples. I’m very grateful that my doctor prescribed a medicated nipple cream for me to use. Of course my nipples were very sore at the beginning because they weren’t accustomed to being used that often! My baby also happened to suck extremely hard, which I had to adjust to. Throughout the first year I used the cream sporadically due to soreness from growth spurts and latching/unlatching issues. Using a nipple shield also helped when my nipples were especially sore.

Expect Plugged Ducts. These are THE WORST. I seriously panicked every time I had a plugged duct. Luckily for me, with frequent feedings and pumpings, I was able to unplug them before developing  mastitis. My top recommendations for unplugging ducts are 1) warm compresses, 2) massaging the affected area, and 3) pumping at different angles (even if this means bending over or laying down to pump). Plugged ducts usually occurred for me when my baby was on a nursing strike and I wasn’t draining my breasts as often as usual.

Expect to Worry About Your Milk Supply.  At three months, my baby was not gaining weight appropriately and the doctor recommended supplementing with formula. We were confused by this because it seemed like my baby was nursing all the time—an average of three to four hours a day! After meeting with a lactation consultant, we realized that my baby was a lazy nurser. He was so used to nursing all the time that he didn’t bother to drink effectively. After two weeks of training, my baby learned to nurse in half the time and was gaining more weight. All of this goes to show that sometimes the issue may not be your milk supply, but rather how your baby is nursing. Additionally, by meeting with a lactation consultant you can learn the ways in which to boost your milk supply. Lastly, for those women who feel like they aren’t producing enough milk because their baby nurses frequently, I would recommend reading this article.

Expect to Bottle Feed. There will probably come a time where someone will have to bottle feed breastmilk to your baby. It may be because you go back to work, attend school, or you have a medical emergency.  The latter two examples were true in my case. I was in my last semester of graduate school when my baby was born, and I had to have an emergency surgery a month after he was born. I was lucky enough to have pumped enough breastmilk to sustain my baby during these times (even if that meant pumping at the hospital). Part of what helped me do this were these breast milk storage bags.

Expect to Compare. There will be times when you will observe or talk with other mothers who breastfeed and wonder to yourself whether you were the only one who’s having a hard time. You aren’t! Hopefully this article lets you know that not only should you expect issues to arise, but that these issues are normal, and you can handle them. Breastfeeding doesn’t always have to be hard–as you and your baby adjust, there will be times when it will be easy and enjoyable. Issues may arise along the way (as they have for me over the course of a year) but they will be separated by stretches of good nursing experiences.

Expect to Sacrifice. You will have to worry about what you eat, drink, and what medicine you take, as all of this could negatively affect your baby. Breastmilk digests more quickly so you will have to feed your baby more often than a formula fed baby. This means you may lose more sleep at night, since you will be the one to get up and feed your baby. You may have to arrange your schedule to pump or nurse your baby regularly. You will have to travel either with your baby or a pump to keep up your milk supply.

There will be a point where you decide it would be best for your sanity and/or your baby’s health to wean. My son ended up self-weaning (It’s a real thing! My lactation consultant confirmed it!) at 15 months, and that was the right time for us. Whether your child weans a couple months or a couple years into breastfeeding, know that your efforts were worthwhile. And ultimately a fed baby is a happy baby, whether it’s breastmilk, formula, whole milk, or soy milk.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Baby, Tips

Why I’m Pro-Breastfeeding AND Pro-Formula

 

Pinterest Ready Breastfeeding Formula
Photo from Pixabay.com

It seems like breastfeeding is all the rage these days when it comes to parenting. In fact, we’re told that “breast is best”. I do love breastfeeding. I also love bottles and formula.

I have breastfed AND bottle-fed both of my boys, and it has worked out stupendously for our family.

Here’s why I love breastfeeding:

It’s a special, snuggly experience.

I love the warm snuggles that come with nursing my babies.

It’s cheap and convenient! *

Breastfeeding is free! *It’s convenient because a mom can nurse her baby anytime, anywhere. But I don’t find it convenient in every way (like when I want to go somewhere for a few hours and have to worry about the baby getting fed in my absence).

When you can do it successfully, it can feel good.

If you’re a new mom, you might not believe me when I say this one, because it can definitely hurt (a lot sometimes!) at first. But if you and your baby get it down, it does feel good; breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, among others. (Oxytocin is a hormone that serves many different purposes! 🙂 )

I like not having to worry about calories.

There’s a lot of pressure to lose the baby weight after having a baby. I’ve enjoyed a hearty appetite during the initial postpartum period with both of my boys, because breastfeeding burns a lot of calories! While I’m breastfeeding, I feel like I don’t have to think very much about losing my baby weight.

 

As I mentioned, I’m also pro-formula/bottle feeding. Both of my babies have needed supplementation, so I am grateful for formula. Here are the reasons I love it, and the concept of bottle feeding:

It allows the daddy (and others) to help feed the baby.

Each time my babies have started taking bottles, I feel like my whole world opens up! With bottles, I’m not the only one who is capable of feeding the baby!

In my experience, my babies sleep better overall when they have bottles.

Both of my boys started sleeping better at night when we started supplementing with formula. I don’t know much about the science behind this, but I’ve heard several times that breast milk is digested more quickly than formula, which could explain why some babies (like mine) sleep longer with formula in their tummies- whether that formula is given along with breast milk or given on its own.

It frees me up to exercise more.

When my babies start breastfeeding less, I have more energy and time to exercise. I know not all women feel this way, but while I’m nursing, my body feels a little awkward doing intense exercise. (Let’s just say “the girls” aren’t up for a lot of running and jumping around… ;). ) I’m not sure why I feel like I have more energy to exercise when I’m breastfeeding less… Maybe it’s associated with getting more sleep? Granted, I am able to work out a little bit while nursing- just not the same way as when I’m not nursing. Again, some women don’t experience these while breastfeeding- this is just my experience with exercise/breastfeeding.

I’m able to see how much my babies are eating, and I have more confidence that they’re getting full.

One difficult thing about nursing is that you can’t tell how much your baby is eating unless you pump. (Even then, pumping isn’t always a totally accurate way determine how much milk you’re producing.) With bottles and/or formula, I can keep track of the number of ounces my baby is taking in.

 

The bottom line is that I am pro-breastfeeding and pro-formula. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do both, and that they have both worked for my babies and for our family.

 

I know that feeding a baby can cause a lot of anxiety for parents. If I could give some piece of advice to any new mom (or dad), this is what it would be: Trust your instincts, and remember that the most important thing is for your baby to be well-fed. Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in what other people think, in our goals that we have for our babies, etc. that we forget to relax and let our instincts take over. Some women find breastfeeding fairly easy. I don’t. I’m glad that I’ve been able to do it, but it hasn’t been easy for me. Parenting is very personal, and I believe parents have a special gift to understand what is best for their individual, unique children. Ultimately, you should strive to give your baby the most loving affection and attention you can give him or her. Your baby loves you unconditionally; don’t be too hard on yourself. Finally, treasure the precious time you have with your baby, because they grow up REALLY fast! (I’m feeling right now that I need to slow down more and enjoy my sweet boys in the special stages they’re in… they truly do grow so quickly! I wish I could soak every little moment in and never forget them!)

You’re doing great, mamas and daddies! Keep up the good work!

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