I breastfed Sam for the last time just after he turned eight months old. It seems funny that I didn’t know it would be the last time. Now I replay that moment in my head — lying down next to my baby after a long trip to my parents well after his bed time, and nursing him until he fell asleep gently beside me. I knew he needed me then — not for nutrition but for comfort and warmth. He slept through the night until the next morning. He woke up happy.
Since then, he’s had exclusively Earth’s Best formula, which he seems to like. He hasn’t had any upset stomach, weight loss, or other adverse reactions — and it seems that he is thriving, growing, and meeting his milestones just as he should.
And yet. There isn’t a time that I feed him that I don’t think I’d rather be nursing him. He makes sweet little humming sounds when he eats — just like he did when he nursed. And it makes me feel deeply guilty and quite sad.
As I have said before, I wasn’t that enthused about breastfeeding from the get-go. And as natural-mama as I try to be (sometimes), I didn’t see myself breastfeeding too much beyond one year. (No hating for those who do … it just didn’t seem right for me.)
We have a healthy, thriving baby. I am a lady who knew she would make the switch sometime — to formula or cow’s milk. So why the feelings?
For one, I wasn’t ready. My body made the choice for me in a lot of ways. When I returned to work and started pumping, Sam was okay at first — and then, he started eating twice as much as I could pump in a day. I made up for that by pumping at night and on weekends. I took Lactation Support (which is primarily made of the herb Fenugreek), which worked but left me with some not-so-great side effects like intestinal cramping. When I was prescribed Wellbutrin, my supply shot down to the point where I had to start formula. (I don’t know why I responded to the medication that way — but apparently other women have had the same problem. And some don’t.) Once I started formula, Sam didn’t want to nurse as much, and when he did he was left hungry and fussing. He got so used to the bottle that he stopped nursing altogether — and now he doesn’t even remember that he ever did.
I look at my history with nursing — the complications and the inconvenience and the supply drop that made me quit. And I feel like that’s just what I did. I quit. I gave up on my baby when he still needed me, and still needed the perfect nutrition that is human milk. No formula compares. Handling formula makes me know that — it’s essentially sticky powdered cow’s milk mixed with corn syrup (or table sugar!) to make it sweet. Its fat content comes from added oils like palm and coconut. The fat in formula condenses in little yellow globules when it’s mixed with water. Just looking at breast milk, you can see the difference — the creamy milk fat rises to the top and separates (just like how cream separates from cow’s milk before it’s processed). Breast milk smells sweet, where formula smells strongly of iron and oil. Breast milk is living, full of nutrients and antibodies that no science lab could replicate into a powder.
I’ve gone through these punishing thoughts a fair number of times, letting them cycle over and over again in my brain. On better days, I respond to them by saying: “My husband and I were formula fed, and we’re fine, healthy and smart. Sam is thriving. I gave him eight months of my milk, and he will always have that. Formula is not unhealthy — it is designed for human babies, and it is researched and improved upon all the time. Plus,” I whisper, “It’s easier. You can drop Sam off with your parents and stay away for a night. You can let your husband feed him. You don’t have to worry that day care will run out of breast milk.” But still, I struggle, and I struggle to shut down the voice that says I didn’t do the right things, and I didn’t try hard enough.
I’ve talked a lot about judging in my two previous posts. If I’m to look back and take wisdom from my own words and thoughts, I would say that moms tend to judge themselves the most harshly. I know I do — I know I’ve always been my own worst critic, and when it comes to being a mother, I tend to make that critical voice ten times worse. There are certain things that I must let go. Even though I know that I could have bent over backwards to keep breastfeeding, with supplements and teas and endless pumping (and I applaud the ladies who do that — y’all are hardcore), for us, now was just as good a time as any to end. For other moms, maybe their journey is longer or shorter, or maybe it’s a formula feeding journey the whole way. What ends up being important is a healthy baby, who feels close to and trusting of his or her mother. Whatever way that is accomplished is, and will be, alright by me.
By writing this, I hope to release it and move on. My baby is beautiful, and every day, he shows me that he is strong and happy and loving.
Hey there! Long time no see. I have had one of my customary two week time periods of no posting. I do have excuses, which include Big Love, Modern Family and a recent obsession with British television (Skins and Being Human, to be specific) … I’ve also been working on a short story in the evenings, and I’ve been pumping around 10PM every night. These things help my sanity, my creative energy and my freezer supply, but alas, my blog has been neglected. And here I was thinking that February would finally be the month I hit twenty posts. ALAS, it is not so.
What should I talk about this evening?
SLEEP. We all want it, we all want more of it, and we all want our babies to do it (those of us who have babies, anyway).
It seems like years ago that I posted on my Facebook page a query that went something like this:
Co-sleeping moms — tell me, how did you move your baby to the crib? When did you do it?
It might have been more colorful than that, since I was at that time getting FAR LESS SLEEP than I do today, but yeah, I was way to lazy to find it right now and reprint it word for word. Lots of moms answered — there were different methods suggested (from parent’s bed, to car seat, to crib or from parent’s bed, to co-sleeper, to co-sleeper in the hallway). I asked lots of people when to do it — and those suggestions varied even more wildly. My supervisor said 8 or 9 months, a friend with three kids said 4-6 months, another suggested that any old time was fine. Like everything in parenting, there proved to be no one right answer.
There was one thing I was sure of, though — Sam had to move out of our bed, and yes, out of our room.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m a mom who goes against the grain in many ways. Yes, hell yes, I do believe that the crib industry is RIDICULOUS in this country. I LOATHE Babies R Rape Your Wallet. I think that the corporations are at least somewhat behind the stigma against co-sleeping in our society. And omigosh yes, I love cuddling with my baby. And no — lordy my gosh no — I do NOT believe co-sleeping is NEARLY as dangerous as folks make it out to be. (At least not for my twenty pound kicking, clawing monster baby.) And yes, I did enjoy co-sleeping at times.
But just like I don’t buy that co-sleeping is dangerous — I don’t buy that it helps all moms who do it get more sleep. I just don’t buy it. Because you know what? That is some BULL. I get way more sleep with Sam in his crib, and guess what? He does too.
I said I’d do it by six months, and here it is approaching Sam’s six month birthday (March 13, everyone!), and he’s 100% in his crib all night long. Every night. From 7PM to 7AM. And these days, he wakes up only once between 2 and 4AM.
I’m not bragging — I’m just telling you that you can do it. I know you’re out there, moms who find my blog. You are the mom who wanted to love co-sleeping, or heck, you are the mom who ended up doing it because it’s the only way your child would sleep. And now you don’t sleep because you have a snorfling four month old clawing at your arm and kicking you in the ribs at 3AM. He wakes himself up, the dog wakes up, you wake up, and then your bedmate wakes up. And everyone is awake. Good heavens.
It wasn’t super easy, but in retrospect, it could have been easier.
This is how I did it.
First, I set an earlier bed time. Sam had been going to bed with us. This seemed to make sense. He would be weird and fussy from about 7-10 and sometimes take a nap in that time, but meh, it was fine. Around the new year, I thought I’d give an earlier bed time a try. I started with 9PM. That worked! Without us in the room! I nursed him, put him in his co-sleeper, and he was out. Then I moved to 8PM, and then 7PM. There were nights it didn’t work at first. But I kept with it, and now Sam is lights out by 7PM (sometimes 6:30) or he’s a monster to deal with. He is zonked out, down and out, done at that time. It is such a blessing to have my night time time back!
Second, I de-co-sleepered his co-sleeper. I took off the risers, pulled up the bassinet rail, and moved that thing to the foot of the bed. I will say that this didn’t work super well. After he woke up at night, he didn’t want to go back to the co-sleeper. Instead, he was in bed with us. BUT still, at least part of the night, he was at the foot of the bed, not seeing us.
Third, I just went for it. I nursed him until he was totally zonked, and I put him in the crib. He slept there until 1AM the first night, and then I took him into the bed. I kept this routine up until I got up the energy to try out nursing in the nursery.
Fourth, I nursed in the glider in the nursery for the wake ups. This was the hardest part. Oh lordy, it is hard not to take the cuddly little baby back to bed and nurse him there. But it is so worth it. I would nurse him, and then I would put him back in the crib — whether he seemed tired or not! Inevitably, in five minutes, he is back asleep. A miracle!
At this time, he seems to be adjusted. He enjoys his crib. He doesn’t cry when he wakes up — he talks and wiggles and eats his feet.
And that, as they say, is that.
I know my first post about breastfeeding was a little doom and gloom … but my original message still stands firm: no one should be making you feel bad about your decisions as a mom. I am truly lucky that I haven’t had bigger problems than thrush, and I am so fortunate that I’ve been able to stay home and establish a solid breastfeeding relationship with my little one.
I’m so glad that I have stuck with breastfeeding through the dreaded yeast beast, and I can tell you that it gets so much easier. Sam and I have reached the ten week mark with nothing but breast milk, and boy is that sucker growing. He’s 15 pounds and at the 95th percentile for weight. I actually had a woman in the post office ask me, “How old is he? Like five months?” He sure looks it.
I did all that! I got him to 8.5 pounds growing inside my body, created largely by burritos and spaghetti. And I got him to gain 6.5 more pounds with my milk. Possibly produced by burritos and spaghetti. And occasionally something green and healthy. But it was all me. Pretty amazing how that works, right? Can’t beat nature.
I did start my third round of Diflucan yesterday … that thrush is ridiculously hard to get rid of. It’s gotten about 90% better but keeps cropping up as I finish a prescription. The yeast is difficult to kill in the ducts since there is so little blood flow to carry the medicine there. But … almost gone. I’m hoping the third round gets it done.
Despite the thrush, breastfeeding has gotten a lot easier, and dare I say it, enjoyable. I suppose I figured it would get easier — after the thrush cleared, after Sam and I both got used to it, after we established a pattern. It has gotten easier, almost second nature. I can easily tell when Sam is hungry, and I can better know when or if he is done. I have breastfed with my cover in several public places, and I even managed to feed him a couple of times in the Ergo carrier.
I never thought I would enjoy it though. I never thought I would look forward to feeding him or experience the bonding and closeness that many mothers report. But I do. Granted, breastfeeding takes a lot of time out of my day. Sam likes to eat slowly and deliberately for half an hour or more, and he complains greatly if I remove him before he is done. And yes, it’s still messy. Sam spits up no matter how much I burp him, and I swear he misses the towel or burp cloth every time and gets it on my clothes, on the couch or horribly, down my shirt.
But I get it now. I think that when Sam started smiling, I really started to understand that he was expressing his gratitude to me. When he looks up at my face and gives me a toothless smile with milk dripping down his chin, I am deeply moved. It is, and always will be, his first and simplest expression of love for me. It is his thanks for what I give him, his recognition of my face above him, his expression of joy and delight at being satisfied. I will have this memory until my memories fade, and I know with certainty that it will be one that I cherish more than most.
Our love for one another will never again be so uncomplicated. Though I will always strive to love Sam without conditions or restrictions, I cannot guarantee that we won’t have difficult exchanges. I look ahead and predict tantrums, trying conversations, bargaining, and bribery — this is simply parenthood. For now, though, I can give him this one simple, good thing that will sustain him, comfort him when he is upset, soothe him to sleep when he is overtired, and give him warmth in the upcoming cold days of winter. It is my unconditional love that I give him, and he is able to return it with a smile, a coo, a laugh. There are few things in life so beautiful.
As a pregnant lady, you may be interested in getting some good books. I mean, the internet just doesn’t cut it. And as I said, a lot of those sites end up with a bunch of scary comments about miscarriages and illness. I have known of pregnant ladies who stay away from reading any books or sites, but as you might have guessed, I’m not really that type of person. In fact, I highly recommend reading a good selection of books — but you don’t need to go overboard.
You’ll need …
A great reference book. I totally do NOT recommend What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s not written by doctors, and it just kinda tells moms to avoid every little thing possible. It’s information light, and condescension heavy. Instead, I highly recommend the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. This book is a true treasure — if you only buy ONE book for your pregnancy, this is really the one you need. It is divided into three sections — pregnancy, childbirth, and your newborn. It’s written by health care professionals, and has a non-conversational this-is-what-you-need-to-know kind of tone. It provides information on every option for pregnancy and labor, has charts for when you should call the doctor according to the week of pregnancy, and it tells you what to do with your newborn once you get it home. It’s well organized, well laid out, has lots of great information, and it will help you chill out when you perceive a potential problem.
For natural birth planners, you’ll need: Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Ricki Lake — she’s at her least ridiculous in this book — and Abby Epstein are the minds behind the eye-opening documentary, The Business of Being Born (available on Netflix instant). (I recommend this for natural birthers as well.) This is the companion book, which details why pregnancy and childbirth are treated differently in the U.S. than in other countries, and it tells American mothers about all of their options when it comes to their own births. Ricki and Abby both tell their own birth stories in Your Best Birth, all of which are vastly different experiences (hospital birth with an epidural, home birth with no medication, and an emergency c-section). The best part about this book to me was the lists of questions to ask your doctor, midwife, hospital, and doula. They also go over how to write a birth plan and the things you may want to include. A quick, easy, fun and thoroughly informative read!
For the natural birth planner, you’ll also want to read … Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I’ve already written a full review of this fabulous classic, and yeah, I still think it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Ina May Gaskin is a total badass — a rogue, self-trained midwife who started her own birthing center at a commune in Tennessee. This book is her guide, her philosophy, and her experience. The best thing? The first third of the book is written by her patients, giving glimpses of their positive, natural birth experiences. Then, Ina May details all of the different ways and methods to cope with labor — particularly the more difficult labors. She is unflappably calm and amazingly creative, and gives you a lot of ideas to hold in your personal labor arsenal. For example, if you open your mouth during pushing, you’re less likely to tear. If you’re muscles are tight, and someone rocks you back and forth, you’re more likely to relax and have it easier. And you get to read Ina May’s amazing statistics for her commune birthing center at the end. Also, it’s well written and has a good sense of humor!
For coping with labor pain in a natural way, check out: Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. Both of these books are designed around a “method” to deal with labor, so you may want to choose one ore the other. However, I think checking out a little of both is important because it gives you a chance to gather more tools for your labor arsenal. Birthing from Within does have some wacky stuff about creating birth art to express your fear, which I’m not really into, but some people might find cool. What I really liked about Birthing from Within is the varied methods of coping with pain and the suggestions for how to cope with post-partum stress. Hypnobirthing has a lot about the history of childbirth, and it explains the self-hypnosis methods for dealing with labor. It has a great deal of wonderful information about pregnancy, and it explains meditation you can practice and use during childbirth. Also very well written and engaging. Highly recommended!
Breastfeeders will need … A good breastfeeding book. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding By La Leche League International comes highly recommended. It’s the one I have, and there’s a ton of great information in it … but … it gets a bit preachy. If you are someone who knows you’ll get cranky at super preachy breastfeeding dogma (i.e. “There’s no such thing as not producing enough milk. If you’re not producing enough milk, there’s something wrong with you.”), then don’t get this one. I haven’t checked any other ones, but The Nursing Mother’s Companion comes highly recommended as well, and I would definitely give Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding a good try since Ina May pretty much rules.
Everyone needs … Baby Bargains! As you know, I totally support Baby Bargains. The authors claim they’ll save you lots of dough when buying your baby gear, but I’m not sure if that’s the main benefit of this tome. The main benefit? I found out about everything available on the market, got familiar with brands, and got good ideas for what I needed and didn’t need. From this book, I got the crib recommendation that led me to choose Westwood, the idea to purchase the Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper, and the suggestions as to what brands to include on my registry. That said, the authors, Denise and Alan Fields, are parents and not consumer reports experts. It’s also good to get opinions from other sources — I choose friends and family, and Amazon reviews!
And if you’re interested in a book for your partner … Get The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. This is the to-go reference for the person in your life who will be supporting you through labor — significant other, friend, mom and dad … etc. This has all the information that that person can tell you throughout your pregnancy — exercises, health, nutrition, and all the stuff they can tell you about labor while you’re in it — medical interventions, options, and positions, and what you can expect after the birth — how to identify postpartum depression, how you can be supported in breastfeeding, and how to clean your baby. It’s good for that person in your life to have all the info. As much as you can cram in your brain, you won’t remember all of it, and it’s good to have someone there to remind you and make sure you’ve got what you need.
I’ll have another addition after Sam is born — the best books for having a baby!
I definitely intend on getting a Boppy Pillow for nursing (it supports the baby while he hangs out and nurses). It gets great reviews — both anecdotal from friends and family members, and just through sheer numbers on Amazon. However, I have heard a common complaint — there is a surprising dearth of waterproof covers! One reviewer on Amazon even said she had to cover the whole thing in Saran Wrap.
Non-moms may ask: why does the cover need to be waterproof?
Future mom answers: From what I understand, breast-feeding is a somewhat … juicy process. There are lots of fluids flying about — colostrum, milk, baby spit, baby spit-up, burbles and gurgles. And what does milk do? Even human milk? It spoils and goes sour and smells narsty.
Having recently considered this problem, I started a search for the waterproof Boppy Cover that must surely exist.
Etsy to the rescue! Ladies (and gents), check out this seller:
I think I may have purchased the last waterproof cover she has available in her shop, but I imagine if you email her, she can update you on when she’ll have more available.
You can also find one here. Actually isismaternity.com looks pretty cool — might want to check out the other stuff on there too!
For a Boppy alternative, check out My Brest Friend. Some people like one; some like the other. Make sure you find some waterproof covers!
Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space
I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.