Happy Halloween!

Know what’s scary? The noise you make as you move around the house with your hands-free breast pump.

weyooah weyooah WEYOOAH WEYOOAH weyooah weyooah

When I was still having to pump and bottle-feed J, Bo would typically take the middle of the night feedings while I pumped to replace what was in his bottle.

I bought a hands-free pumping bra early on because it seemed like such a waste of time to just sit there pumping one boob at a time. With the hands-free bra, I was able to pump both at the same time—AND clean out the dishwasher, fold laundry, cook dinner, sip a glass of wine, apply makeup, you name it.

So often times while Bo was quietly rocking our son while feeding him a bottle in his nursery, I would be trying to get as many household chores as possible completed before I was finished pumping. The more I finished at 2am, the less I had to worry about later in the day. So I would be racing up and down the hall between chores: weyooah weyooah WEYOOAH WEYOOAH weyooah weyooah

One early morning as I hurried down the hall I heard Bo whisper to J, “Shhhh here comes the Terminator.”

I halted to a stop and paused just outside the door to the nursery thinking, “What the hell kind of bedtime story is he telling my 2-month-old?”

And I heard him say again, “Uh-oh! The Terminator has arrived!”

Me. I was the Terminator. I looked down at myself, standing there in boxers and a pumping bra, feeling very much like a dairy farm–and apparently sounding very much like The Terminator: WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH

Bo later explained that when I was in the kitchen he could hear the pump only slightly: weyooah weyooah weyooah

But as I walked down the hall toward the nursery he could hear me gradually approaching weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH

And as I passed the nursery, heading to the laundry room: WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah

So his man brain dubbed me The Terminator.

Sexy.

Lesson 28: Baby’s first trip to the pediatrician

If you haven’t found a pediatrician for your newborn, check out my post on choosing a pediatrician.

We had to take J to the pediatrician frequently during his first couple of weeks of life so that they could monitor his bilirubin. By the 4th time they gave him a heel prick to take blood, I was a blubbering mess. I don’t know if it was the crazy postpartum hormones, or just my heart hurting because they were “hurting my baby.” But I did not like it!

The first couple of rounds of vaccines were the same way–I cried. But I guess you just get used to it, I don’t know. Now my eyes only water–I manage to keep the waterworks turned off. Point is, it really is harder on you than it is on them.

Your baby’s first routine well visit will be around at 2 weeks. The pediatrician will ask questions pertaining to your and your partner’s health history, the pregnancy and the birth. Make sure to provide any necessary information, such as that regarding any complications during pregnancy or birth. Also remember to bring Baby’s birth stats, as well as his stats at the time you checked out of the hospital.

Be prepared to answer lots of questions about how much your child is eating (in ounces if he’s on formula and how long if he nurses), how long he’s sleeping, how many wet diapers he has per day, how many poopy diapers he has…and what the poop looks like. My husband and I carefully recorded all of the above for the first few weeks until we realized that our son was, in fact, not a science project.

The point of this visit isn’t only to check the physical well-being of Baby, but also to help educate parents. Use this time to ask questions!

At all of your baby’s well visits, you can expect the pediatrician to check weight, length and head circumference and s/he will also give your baby a basic physical examination. The doctor will monitor your baby’s development and ask you basic questions about your parenting habits. In addition to these things, this is what you can expect to happen at each well visit:

  • 1 month – check to make sure the belly button is healing well; check to make sure circumcision is healing well (if applicable); hepatitis B vaccine. Issues typically addressed at this visit: eating, sleeping and pooping habits.
  • 2 months - hepatitis B, pneumococcal, DTaP, Hib, rotavirus and polio vaccines; check for flat spots on baby’s head. Issues typically addressed at this visit: breastfeeding and pumping if mom is returning to work.
  • 4 months – DTaP, Hib, polio, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Issues typically addressed at this visit: bedtime routines, rolling over, mini-pushups, vocal noises.
  • 6 months – hepatitis B, DTaP, polio, pneumococcal, rotavirus and Hib vaccines; J also received his first flu vaccine at this time because he was old enough and it was flu season (the first time your child gets a flu shot s/he will probably need to go back in 2 weeks for a booster–check with your doctor). Issues typically addressed at this visit: sleep training and child proofing.
  • 9 months – Unless she missed any, she doesn’t have to get any vaccines this time! Yay! Issues typically addressed at this visit: your baby’s temperament and behavior.
  • 12 months –  Hib, pneumococcal, polio, varicella, MMR and hepatitis A vaccines. Issues typically addressed at this visit: teeth, pulling up, crawling or walking, vocabulary, social skills and discipline.
  • 18 months – DTap and hepatitis A vaccines. Issues typically addressed at this visit: signs of toilet-training readiness and temper tantrums.
  • 24 months – No immunizations!  Issues typically addressed at this visit: sibling rivalry, preschool and socialization activities.

Here’s my Sweet Baby J at his first visit to the pediatrician.

J

Also, as an aside lesson, one size does not fit all.

Lesson 27: The hunger you experience in the days after birth will be like no hunger you’ve ever experienced.

Seriously. I had no idea. No idea. I don’t know what causes this hunger, but I can only assume it’s milk production. I remember shopping at Buy Buy Baby with my husband and J when he was about a week old (so, right as my body was kicking into high gear to make milk instead of colostrum). I was fine one minute, and the next I was gripped with a hunger unlike any I had ever known. And when I’m hungry, I am a bitch. More so than usual.

I growled at Bo, “Feed me, NOW!” and when he pointed out to me that we had a full shopping cart, so it would be a few minutes before he could get me to a fast food restaurant, I looked at him and said (and meant) these words: “I. Will. Eat. You.”

I grabbed the nearest pack of baby fruit snacks off the shelf and devoured them. I was still hungry, but at least my husband was able to get me out of there and to Wendy’s for a hamburger with all of his limbs intact.

Apparently, this isn’t uncommon. See here and here.

My advice to you: Keep lots of water and granola bars in your baby’s diaper bag. You know, so you don’t eat your husband.

Lesson 26: Learn how to use a carseat–correctly

Before you head home from the hospital, you’ll need to make sure you have a car seat properly installed. The seat should be the right size to fit your newborn and should be rear facing.

I admit, I sometimes watch the television show Teen Mom–and I can’t count the times I’ve yelled at the TV, “Rear facing! Why isn’t that baby rear facing?!” Isn’t this common knowledge?

Apparently not.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on it. My plan was to buy a car seat, have my husband install it, have the fire department check the installation, and be done with it. After that, all you have to do is buckle the kid in, right?

Wrong.

The first dilemma we had was choosing a car seat. Did we want an infant seat or a convertible seat? And for God’s sake, what’s the difference? Basically, an infant seat is easier to use during those first couple of months, but a convertible seat will last you a heck of a lot longer. Infant seats click into bases that are installed in the car, making them really transportable and easy to move from car to car or from car to stroller. A convertible seat is more permanently installed in the car; while you can certainly move it from car to car, it’s not always easy.

We were really lucky in that we were able to purchase a used travel system (which is a stroller with an infant seat that fits on top of it) from a friend for a really good price. (NOTE: I would never recommend purchasing a used seat unless you know, without a doubt, the history of that seat.) But we had a second car and wanted a second seat. We had the option of purchasing a second base for the infant seat we already had (for about $80) or a convertible carseat (for about $200). I had a hard time spending $80 on a base for a carseat that was used [so I knew I wouldn't have time to use it with a future baby before it expired (which brings me to did you freaking know car seats expire?!)] and that would only last us about a year–not when I could spend just a little over $100 more and buy one that would last for 4 years. Logically, it made more sense to buy the convertible car seat for the second car. That way, when he outgrew the infant seat, we’d only need to buy one convertible seat, rather than two.

Consumer Reports was an excellent resource to help decide which convertible seat we wanted. I spent more time researching this particular baby product than I did all the other products combined. We finally settled on the Britax Roundabout 55 because of its crash test ratings. It’s been a great seat and we’ve been happy with our selection. The only negative attribute is that it’s a pretty big seat. While installed in the rear-facing position, it pushes the passenger seat of our Forester up pretty close to the dashboard. But it’s a pretty easy install (which I think is a huge contributing factor in the safety of a seat), a comfortable seat for our son, and, like I mentioned, has excellent crash ratings.

The next question was, where do we install it? The middle is the safest location, but that wasn’t possible because the middle of our seat isn’t level because of cup holders. Also, Subaru only utilizes the LATCH system on the sides. Which, by the way? Subaru is supposed to be one of the safest cars on the market. They make family cars and safety is clearly one of their priorities and top marketing strategies. So, get with the program on the LATCH System, Subaru. Not cool.

We decided to install the car seat behind the passenger seat. That seemed like the next best place because it would allow the driver to reach the baby to stick in a pacifier, or hand him a bottle or whatever. But most importantly, I was informed by a first responder that most side-impact collisions occur on the driver side.

After Bo installed the car seats, I went into panic mode and was really worried that they weren’t installed correctly. After all, Bo was going to be a first-time Dad and hadn’t exactly installed a ton of car seats. I wanted to have them checked by a professional, to make sure they were installed correctly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a really great resource for finding a local car seat inspection location here. I’m pretty sure all the places they list are free. I think it’s really important to take a couple of extra hours out of your day before the baby is born to make sure you’ve installed the car seat correctly. You can have the safest seat on the market, but if it’s not installed correctly, it doesn’t matter.

As it turns out, choosing a car seat and making sure it is properly installed is only the beginning. I truly had no idea that there were so many things that could negatively impact the effectiveness of a car seat.

Did you know (because I sure as hell didn’t)??

  • Using both the LATCH system and the seatbelt to install your car seat sounds like it makes it double safe. It doesn’t. A car seat needs to be able to move some during a crash to help absorb some of the impact. Thankfully, Bo actually read the manuals to both the car seat and the car, so he knew this. Read your manuals–both of them.
  • When you first put Junior in the car seat, use the pinch test to make sure he’s strapped in tightly. If it’s cold outside and he’s wearing a heavy winter coat, take it off before you put him in the seat. You cannot get the straps tight enough if he’s wearing bulky clothing.
  • Check to make sure the straps are positioned correctly. When the child is rear-facing, the straps should be at or below shoulder level. Once she’s turned to forward-facing, the straps should be at or above shoulder level.
  • The chest clip actually goes on the chest. It should be at armpit level. If you’re doing it like this, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, it should be like this.
  • You should never use any after-market products with your car seat. I knew this to an extent, enough that I never used any of those toys that fit across the car seat (they’re actually intended to be used only when the seat is on the stroller, but it’s a little misleading). I did, however, use those cute little car seat strap covers. But the one that makes me really cringe is the Snuggin Go that I so loved when he was a newborn. I thought I was making him all warm and cuddly in his seat, and even protecting his delicate little neck, by using the Snuggin Go. What I didn’t realize was that the addition of these items could impair the effectiveness of his car seat had we been in a crash. I don’t know just how dangerous these items are (or even are not), and I guess that really depends on the accident. However, I do know that insurance companies will not replace your car seat if you’re in a crash if you’ve used anything on it that is after-market. So basically, if it didn’t come with your seat, don’t use it with your seat.
  • Weight limit isn’t the only thing you need to consider to know if your child has outgrown her car seat. Height matters too. When rear-facing, if your child’s head is 1″ from the top of her car seat, she’s too big for it (this is the rule with most car seats–read your manual!). If she’s not yet ready to forward-face, it’s time to buy a new car seat.
  • Do not put the infant seat on top of your grocery cart. It’s not meant to hold them and it is not safe. I must have done this a dozen times before I realized how unsafe it was. For more information, and for alternatives, read this.
  • This is a big one: do not turn your child to front-facing too early. I know that the law in many states says you can turn the seat when the child is at least one-year-old and/or 20 pounds. But as we all know, the government isn’t the most reliable and responsible thing in the world. They’re often a little slow to react (government shutdown, I’m looking at you). And the American Academy of Pediatrics only updated their guidelines 2.5 years ago, so we really can’t expect the government to have already caught up, am I right? There are simply too many studies that prove that your toddler is much safer rear-facing for as long as possible. As an example, The Journal of Injury Prevention found that children under age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Other studies have found rear-facing to be up to five times safer than forward-facing. Children should not be  turned forward-facing until they reach the maximum rear-facing weight of their seat or when the top  of their head is within one inch of the top of the seat shell, whichever comes first. As for our family, we’ve chosen to not turn J until he’s at least 2-years-old. However, because the neck and vertebrae are still underdeveloped at this point, we still won’t turn him unless he has outgrown his convertible seat at the rear-facing position. No, your kid isn’t too tall to ride rear-facing. He’s flexible and he can bend his legs. And yes, that can risk a leg injury. But I’d really prefer my kid had a broken leg than a broken neck. Just a personal preference.

For really great, up-to-date, car seat information, The Car Seat Lady is a fantastic resource. Also, I love this recommendation chart by Parents Central.

Lesson 25: Decide whether or not you want to use a pacifier

We originally chose to use a pacifier because we figured it would be easier to break our son from a pacifier than from sucking his thumb. After all, you can take a pacifier away, but folks frown on the removal of a thumb, ya know?

Also, there is evidence that the use of a pacifier can help prevent SIDS. Sign me up for that!

The one thing that caused me to hesitate was when I learned in a breastfeeding class that pacifiers might cause nipple confusion. We used a pacifier from day one and I don’t know if it caused nipple confusion or not. What I do know is that, after my son was circumcised on day 2, he stopped nursing and could no longer latch on correctly (even though he latched the whole first day like a boss).

We ended up using a nipple shield to nurse (which, by the way, was a huge mistake that I think contributed to our problems with latching), and then pumping and bottle-feeding when the frustration mounted. This lasted for about 3ish months and I almost quit many times. Exclusively pumping is a lot of work! A lot. And the nipple shield was messy, frustrating for both of us, and effectively stamped out the convenience of breastfeeding.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore and was close to throwing the effing pump in the effing garbage can, J randomly latched on one day and we never looked back.

My conclusion is, I don’t know if the pacifier, the early circumcision or the nipple shield was the cause of our problems. Hell, we may have had problems even without any of those things. But what I do know is, I’ll use a pacifier with the next baby. It has saved our butts on many occasions!

Feed your baby! (the part I never intended)

Soon after writing my last post, my brain was working too hard and I sent a few of my girlfriends this message:

Sooo here’s the discussion Bo and I are having tonight: My super idea on how to get rich! We have identical twins, exclusively breastfeed one and exclusively formula feed the other–tada! Our own Twin Study! Then I monetize my blog and write about it. And who wouldn’t want to read that? Am I right?!

Of course, we would want our Twin Study to be ethical–and it’s only ethical if we believe formula is just as good as breastmilk. So I asked Bo, “All things being equal, do you believe breastmilk is more beneficial than formula?” And he replied that yes, he did believe that. I agreed with him. Then I asked him, “Okay, so all things being equal, do you believe a baby who is exclusively breastfed will have a statistically significant advantage over a formula-fed baby?” To which he replied that no, he did not believe that. And again, I agreed with him. After all, neither one of us was breastfed and, um, we’re freaking awesome. This left both of us standing in the kitchen, scratching our heads. So when I messaged my girlfriends (who, by the way, fed their babies in all different kinds of ways), I asked them:

What do you think? If I believe exclusive breastfeeding is best, then do I honestly believe there’s nothing wrong with formula? I fought like hell for the first several months to continue breastfeeding, but why would I do that if I genuinely believe that in 5 years I won’t be able to tell a difference between my child (who had breastmilk and some formula), a child who only had breastmilk, and a child who only had formula? Can I really believe that breastmilk is the best choice and also believe that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing formula? And if I do, which I think do, is that noncommittal or contradictory?

Don’t get me wrong; I love what our breastfeeding relationship became and I’m glad we did, and continue to do, it. I believe in it. But while I was writing my recent blog post, I started thinking: why do I believe in it so much? I think it’s good to question one’s beliefs, to know why something means a lot to you (if it does). So it’s not that I was doubtful about my choice, or doubtful that I had done the best thing I could for my baby. I had just never given this particular aspect of it much thought. And I needed to give it some thought; I needed for it to make sense in my head. My girlfriends replied with a variety of answers that included information on the nutrition and antibodies contained in breastmilk, the easy digestion of breastmilk, the psychological benefits of breastfeeding, the health benefits to the nursing mom, and the simplicity of breastfeeding. But those who had breastfed one and not another, or who had not breastfed at all, also pointed out that they couldn’t tell the difference between their older children who had been formula-fed, versus those who had been breastfed. One of the moms who had exclusively formula-fed pointed out how healthy her son was (my breastfed baby has had more illnesses in his 18-months of life than her 10-year-old son who was exclusively formula-fed). One of my girlfriends (who mostly breastfed and occasionally had to supplement with formula) pointed out that “kids who are breastfed are often being raised in wealthier families, and wealth and class is more strongly correlated with outcomes related to obesity, intellectual ability, and overall successful outcomes.” The same friend also directed me to The Case Against Breastfeeding, in which Hanna Rosin likens the controversy between formula-feeding and breastfeeding moms to “the Crips and the Bloods.” A breastfeeding mom herself, Rosin took the time to research why she was breastfeeding. Why was it the better choice? What she found was that, while studies have shown modest benefits from breastfeeding, those benefits are nowhere near as astounding as what the Internet might lead one to believe. She pointed out that since, ethically, researchers cannot direct mothers to either breastfeed or formula-feed, the population isn’t randomly divided. While breastfeeding is on the rise in the U.S., “the numbers are much higher among women who are white, older, and educated; a woman who attended college, for instance, is roughly twice as likely to nurse for six months” (Rosin). Race, age, and level of education correlate with overall health and IQ. Given those facts, many breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding studies are flawed and inconclusive. Rosin says,

…the basic pattern became obvious: the medical literature looks nothing like the popular literature. It shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence that Sears describes. More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with much meandering and bumping into walls.

And that, I can agree with. It is maybe a little better. That is why I chose breastfeeding, that is why I continue to choose breastfeeding, and that is why I will choose breastfeeding in the future. I want better, even just a little better, for my children. It’s the best I can do. (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 1, 2 & 3 of Feed Your Baby!)

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Feed your baby! (part 3)

From my own experience (and what I’ve learned in the last 2 years), I’ve composed this handy list of the pros and cons of breastfeeding your baby. If you’re still deciding whether or not you want to breastfeed, this may be helpful to you. Remember, the main deciding factor should be: Do you WANT to breastfeed your baby? I know a lot of people, groups and organizations would disagree with me on that one. I don’t care. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A happy mom far outweighs the benefits of breast milk. Also? If you decide, “Hell yeah I want to breastfeed my baby!” and then for some reason, you cannot? Please try to let it go. Please try not to beat yourself up. And? If you do decide to breastfeed and your supply isn’t quite what it needs to be, for whatever reason? It’s okay to supplement with formula. If you’re anything like me, how many ounces you can pump per day may become a personal challenge. If that’s the case? Get over your damn self, cut yourself some slack, and supplement the kid with formula. It’s like a birth plan. Have one, but realize it’s okay if you don’t follow it. It’s okay. It really will be okay.

So, without further ado… (NOTE: This is a list of information I have gathered over the past couple of years–not a list of scholarly research articles. One can often find research to prove whatever one wants, so I’m not interested in a debate. And yes, it is biased. It’s biased because this is information I’ve gathered during my experience.)

Pro – Colostrum is intended to nourish your baby during the first 2 weeks postpartum (it gradually turns into regular breastmilk). It’s kinda amazing. Colostrum is made up of carbs, proteins and antibodies and it acts as a natural laxative [you want him to poop asap, as his poop contains excessive bilirubin, the presence of which can cause jaundice (by the way, I breastfed from day 1 and my baby was still jaundiced, so there's that)]. Colostrum also passes Immunoglobulin A (IgA) and leukocytes to your newborn. IgA will help protect your little guy from sickness now. Leukocytes will help protect him in the future.

Pro – Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which helps your uterus shrink back to its normal size more quickly.

Con - Breastfeeding sometimes hurts…

Pro - …but only in the beginning. Once you and your baby both have the hang of it and she’s able to latch correctly, it shouldn’t hurt. If it still hurts, she’s probably not latching correctly, so try working on that (call your OB, your child’s pediatrician, a lactation consultant at your hospital, a local breastfeeding group, or the La Leche League for help).

Con – But sometimes it hurts because you have a plugged milk duct or even mastitis. If you have a very tender spot in your breast, you may have a plugged milk duct. The best thing for this is for the baby to nurse, nurse, nurse–even though it hurts. If you have a tender spot on one of your breasts and a fever, call your OB immediately. Mastitis is nothing to play with.

Con – Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s hard work in the beginning and sometimes very frustrating. However, on a personal level…

Pro – I don’t know of a single mother who regretted or disliked breastfeeding once she and Baby both learned how to do it.

Pro – Breastmilk contains antibodies. While your baby is breastfeeding, he is better protected against common illnesses.

Pro – Breastfeeding strengthens the baby’s immune system, which can lead to long-lasting protection that can allow her to resist disease and also to improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines.

Con – You have no idea how much milk your baby is getting, and that’s sometimes hard to accept. If your baby is growing and developing, you can rest assured that he’s getting enough milk.

Pro - Lots of people say that breastfeeding helps you lose your baby weight. I call bullshit on that one.

Con – You have to be constantly aware of the food you eat, what you drink, and any medication you take.

Pro – It’s pretty darned handy when you’re out and about. I can’t tell you how much I loved not having to plan how many bottles I would need, not needing to pack said bottles, and then not having to clean said bottles. Baby’s hungry? Whip out a boob and feed her. But…

Con – …if you’re at all modest, the first thing you think of when you’re going someplace is, Where will I feed my baby? You have to scout places out as soon as you get there so you know where to go when the kid starts screaming.

Con – It’s exhausting. You’re the sole food source for your baby. Sure, you can pump in advance and let your partner feed the baby a bottle, but guess what? You still have to get up and pump again while he’s feeding the baby. For the first 16 months, while J was breastfeeding multiple times a day, our arrangement was this: I’m in charge of input, Bo’s in charge of output. During the first few months, before J was sleeping through the night, my husband would get up when he would cry, change his diaper, and bring him to me. I would nurse him and then put him back to bed. Or, if he refused to latch (like he so often did in the beginning), Bo would feed him a pre-pumped bottle and I would pump. That was just exhausting for both of us. But…

Pro – …once you master the side-lying nursing position, you can pretty much snooze while your baby is nursing.

Pro - It’s more economical–if you’re a stay-at-home-mom. But…

Con – …I’m not sure that’s the case if you’re a working mom. I had to buy a pump, pump supplies, bottles, freezer bags, supplements to maintain/increase my supply, etc. I don’t know if it’s more economical or not because I never sat down and compared it. But it sure as hell ain’t free.

Con – If you’re a working mom, it’s hard work. You have to make time throughout your work day to pump and find a relaxing, clean environment in which to pump. Some work environments are more conducive to this than others. Lucky for me, mine was fantastic and supportive–but I don’t think that’s always the case.

Pro – I know this statement is going to piss some folks off (I don’t care): It is the perfect food for your baby. No, formula isn’t toxic. In fact, it’s damn good stuff. Formula has a healthy mix of protein, fats, carbohydrates and calcium. But the fact is that the contents of breastmilk change over time as your baby gets older, throughout the day (it’s thinner in the morning and thicker at night), and with the weather (when it’s hot, breastmilk has a higher water content). Your breastmilk is specific to your baby’s changing needs. That’s some pretty cool stuff.

Pro – Breastmilk doesn’t stain. However…

Con – …if you over-produce, it might cause your baby to do a whole lot of spitting up. Which does stain. And this leads me to…

Con – Sometimes you under-produce or over-produce. Under-producing is a problem for obvious reasons. However, over-producing can cause just as many problems. When you have too much milk, it may come out too fast, making it difficult for the baby to eat. If you’re under-producing, try to encourage your baby to nurse more. If you’re over-producing, try block feeding.

Pro – According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding can help prevent SIDS.

Con – Breastfeeding can make you feel tied down. It’s hard to get time to yourself, have a girls’ night out, or spend time alone with your partner, when you’re always worried about the next time your baby will need to be fed. Even if you pump enough milk so that you can leave her, you still have to pump while you’re away. And since pumping isn’t nearly as efficient as the baby, you also have to worry about your milk supply decreasing while you’re away from her.

Pro – Breastfeeding has many benefits to the nursing mom. It can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancerendometrial cancer and ovarian cancer. Extended breastfeeding can sometimes have a positive impact on the reduction rates. In some cases, the reduction is only slight, but I’ll take what I can get. (Unless you’re a Mexican-American nursing mom, in which case, you’ll want to read this.)

Pro – Once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding your baby can be an awesome confidence booster. Dude–your body feeds your baby! How cool is that?

Con – If you struggle with producing enough milk, or if you cannot produce milk at all, it can be a major confidence killer–or even cause depression. But dude–your body grew your baby!! That’s pretty damn cool!

Pro - If you use cloth diapers and exclusively breastfeed, you can just toss those poopy diapers directly into the washer. No need to rinse them.

Con – Sometimes you feel “touched out” and just really want your body to be yours again.

Pro - Breastmilk is friggin’ magical. That shit heals cuts right up and even cures pink eye. No lie. (The rest of the items on this list really fall into the “the verdict is out” category, since research isn’t conclusive. But I’m listing them as pros because they are pros if they’re true.)

Pro (or at least not a con) – Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of ear infections (although I’m convinced that it’s the shape of the ear that determines the occurrence of multiple ear infections).

Pro (or at least not a con) – Breastfeeding may significantly reduce the respiratory and gastrointestinal morbidity rate in infants.

Pro (or at least not a con) – Breastfeeding may protect your child against allergies, asthma, obesity, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and cancer.

Pro (or at least not a con) – Studies have shown that children who were breastfed tend to have a slightly higher IQ and fewer psychological, behavioral and learning disabilities (although there are so many correlating factors, I’m not convinced). (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 1, 2 & 4 of Feed Your Baby!)

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Loaded Potato and Chicken Casserole (Taking a breaking from feeding baby to feed YOU)

Here’s another great recipe that’s super easy to make ahead and freeze!

Wash and cube 5 potatoes and 1 vidalia onion.

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Put the potatoes and onions in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together 1/3 c olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp garlic powder and 2 tbsp hot sauce (I use Tobasco, but you can use any hot sauce).

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Pour the mixture over the potatoes and onions and stir to coat.

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Place the potatoes in a prepared casserole pan (use a disposable pan if you want to freeze it) and bake them on 500 for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until they’re crispy.

While the potatoes are cooking, cube 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put the cubes in the same big bowl your potatoes were in.

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In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 c olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp lemon juice.

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Pour the mixture over the chicken and stir to coat.

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups of fiesta cheese, 6 slices of cooked, crumbled bacon, and 3 diced green onions.

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(And since it sucks to buy a whole package of green onions when you only need 3, go ahead and dice the rest of them, store them in a freezer bag and freeze for later use!)

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Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and top with the marinated chicken. Top that with the cheese mixture.

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If you plan to freeze it, wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and tinfoil–label and freeze. It should stay good for about 2 months, or 3 months in a deep freezer. When you’re ready to serve it, just let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve, bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

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This was a big hit with the hubby—and even J devoured the chicken (the potatoes were a little too spicy for him)!

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Feed your baby! (part 2)

When I first started writing this 3-piece blog post, I intended to break it down like this:

  • Part 1 – An introduction that got the following point across: Be educated and knowledgeable about what and how you feed your baby, no matter what or how you feed your baby. That original point expanded as the thoughts started flowing, so I ended up writing a piece that basically became breastmilk vs. formula, in which I highlighted things I had noticed about breastfeeding and emphasized that we shouldn’t judge one another for our choices.
  • Part 2 – My own experience with formula feeding.
  • Part 3 – The pros and cons of breastfeeding (which will, I imagine, expand into the pros and cons of formula-feeding, since the two subjects overlap).

As the title implies, this is in fact Part 2 of my little baby-feeding trilogy. But due to the responses posted on The Fearless Formula Feeder’s Facebook link of my first post, the content has shifted just a bit. The morning after posting Feed your baby! (part 1), I woke to a comment from Suzanne over at Fearless Formula Feeder. She enjoyed my post and shared it on her Facebook page. I was thrilled–and anxious and vulnerable. Her remarks were very flattering–and coming from somebody who is published, knows her stuff, and hits the topic of a very controversial issue head-on in a nonjudgmental way, I took it as a huge compliment.

But I was anxious and vulnerable because I knew that many of her Facebook followers were formula feeders. I knew that, if my message was not received in the way I had intended, it would be controversial. In addition, I’m relatively new to the whole blogging world and I’ve never had a blog post shared in an area that would provide a substantial amount of readers. I was about to be critiqued, publicly, and I knew it.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the comments were positive. My message, for the most part, was received as I had intended. Of course there were a few dissenters, but that’s to be expected when such a (sadly) controversial issue is broached. But what got my attention was the fact that some of these moms took offense to the term “Defensive Formula Mom.” As I read the comments I quickly realized that “defensive” is a term frequently used by The Alpha Parent. In fact, “DFF” is an actual term The Alpha Parent uses to say some really nasty things about formula feeders. After a bit of Googling and reading, I can most certainly understand, given its history, why these moms took offense to the term “Defensive Formula Feeder.” With that new knowledge, I removed it because this kind of nastiness between moms is just not okay. It is not okay–it is mean and harsh and judgmental and all the things I do not want to be, or to be associated with.

So I removed it from that post, but I want to explain now why I chose the term “defensive.” There were times when I felt defensive about how I was feeding my baby. When I was breastfeeding, I felt defensive. And when I formula-fed, I felt defensive. Nobody is immune to it. I live in a place where breastfeeding is not the norm. One of the commenters on the FFF Facebook post mentioned that she was the first of her friends to formula feed. Well, I was the first of my friends to breastfeed and, thankfully, none of them ever judged me. Not once. In fact, they were supportive and encouraging and sometimes even in awe. But I still felt a bit like the odd man out. I couldn’t turn to my friends for breastfeeding advice–I was learning as I went and I made up a lot of stuff! So in that regard, I have been in Formula Mom’s shoes, just on the other side of the coin.

Like I mentioned in Part 1, geography matters. Being the odd guy out can sometimes make a person feel defensive, right or wrong. Breastfeeding was a huge struggle for me in the beginning, but I kept fighting for it. J wouldn’t latch for the first several months, so I pumped and bottle-fed him. When well-meaning friends would see me bottle-feeding him and say, “I thought you were breastfeeding,” I explained that we were having a hard time with latching and it was breastmilk in the bottle. I felt like I was doing something wrong because I couldn’t get my baby to latch. I felt defensive.

Once he finally latched, we fought with his reflux. Whenever his reflux medication needed to be adjusted, he would fight me and refuse to nurse. I wondered if maybe formula might help his reflux since it seemed a bit heavier than my milk. It didn’t help, but that didn’t stop me from wondering if something was wrong with my milk that had caused the reflux in the first place. I felt defensive.

There were times when I breastfed in public that I felt extremely defensive. I’ve breastfed in restaurants, at Target, at the park, on an airplane, you name it. And every time I was hyper-aware of people judging me for daring to feed my baby in public. Once, while nursing J in the food court at Costco, I noticed a group of older women looking at me and speaking quietly among themselves. They weren’t seated too far from me, but I couldn’t hear their conversation. Still, I felt judged and I immediately became defensive. I made eye-contact with one of the ladies and refused to look away from her. Finally, maybe sensing that she had made me uncomfortable, she pointed to my nursing cover and said, “That sure is handy. We were just saying that it would have been a lot easier when we had babies if we would have had those.” I immediately relaxed, laughed, and told her it was called a “hooter hider.” She proceeded to ask me how old my baby was, and to reminisce about her own babies. I never needed to feel defensive, but I did.

I returned to work when J was 5 months old. I pumped and pumped and already had a pretty good supply of frozen milk stashed away. When he was about 10 months old, my stash was gone and my supply wasn’t keeping up since I had to pump 90% of the time. I had to supplement my baby with formula. He didn’t like it, and he threw up whenever he drank it. Finally, he started refusing the formula completely. I increased my pumping and took every supplement and tried every trick I could think of to increase my milk supply (I even ate a donut every day because it helped one of my friends increase her supply–let me tell you, that was a real hardship). I wondered if I was failing my baby by not being a stay-at-home-mom and providing him with enough breastmilk. I. Felt. Defensive.

A few weeks into the formula-refusal, I started wondering if he had a sensitivity to cow’s milk. I switched him to soy-based formula and he still threw up when he drank it. Then he started refusing that too. I was still breastfeeding when we were at home, and pumping when I was at work, but I knew he wasn’t getting enough to eat. I finally took him to his pediatrician and, sure enough, J had lost weight. Dr. R. recommended Similac Sensitive Ready to Feed formula. And lo and behold, my baby drank formula. And liked it. And he didn’t throw it up. And I felt…relieved.

I continued to pump and send a mixture of milk and formula to daycare with him. And we continued nursing in the mornings, evenings, and on weekends. But my supply was no longer a stressor in my life. I knew I had done my best to supply enough breastmilk and to find a formula that worked for J–I finally knew that I had nothing to feel defensive about.

One of the moms on The Fearless Formula Feeder’s Facebook link of my first post made the comment that breastfeeding moms stared at her formula as if she was giving her baby heroin. She said they never said anything, but that she could almost hear what their thoughts must be. She went on to say that she knows those must be their thoughts because she was once a breastfeeding mom who thought the same things about others before she switched to formula. That’s just incredibly sad to me. I’m so glad that I was able to reach a place where I no longer felt the need to be defensive over my choice to breastfeed. And I no longer felt the need to explain why I was supplementing with formula.

It is natural to feel defensive in a world where people are constantly throwing judgments at one another–in a world where “mommy wars” exist. It’s true that my feelings of defensiveness were internal. That’s on me–my bad. But the fact is, those feelings would have never surfaced if moms weren’t reprimanded for breastfeeding in public, shamed for breastfeeding their toddler, or accused of being “selfish and lazy” because they’re formula-feeders. I’m so glad I no longer feel burdened with defensiveness on how I feed my baby–because it’s a terrible thing and it breeds divisiveness. (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 1, 3 & 4 of Feed Your Baby!)

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Lesson 24: Feed your baby! (part 1)

I am most definitely pro-breastfeeding and I hope every new mom at least tries it. I believe that it’s the perfect food for babies and I always knew that I would breastfeed (although there was a time when I was pregnant when I started second-guessing my decision, thinking formula would be easier and less intimidating, so I can understand why some moms might choose formula).

But I am also very pro-support-a-mom’s-right-to-choose-how-to-feed-her-own-darn-baby and I do not believe there’s anything wrong with formula. In fact, thank God for formula–it’s necessary and useful at times. But my point is, it is a choice–and how another mom chooses to feed her baby is not your choice. In fact, it has nothing to do with you. So while I am a breastfeeding advocate, I’m not one who will look down my nose at your bottle of formula. Moms, you don’t know why another mom doesn’t breastfeed. Maybe she wanted to so badly, and could not for one reason or another. Or maybe she simply had no desire to breastfeed. Either way, it just isn’t your business. So if you’re being all Judgy Breastfeeding Mom, could you please stop? Because you make it hard for all of us.

That’s my take on it and it’s always been my take on it–but I have noticed a few things during the last 18 months since I’ve been breastfeeding. I chose breastfeeding, so my perspective is admittedly a bit biased to that side. Also, I think geographical location has a lot to do with a mom’s experiences in breastfeeding vs. formula issues. I’m in Alabama and while breastfeeding is on the rise, the rates are still among the lowest in the nation. So yeah, my experiences are probably a bit skewed. Regardless, here’s what I’ve noticed:

1. Breastfeeding can consume many aspects of your life. You’re hyper-aware of everything you put in your mouth, whether it be food, drink or medication, because you know that it will also eventually end up in your baby’s mouth. Sometimes it seems like every decision you make is impacted by your boobs. Do I have time before her next feeding to leave the baby at home with her dad while I run to the grocery store? Will I be stuck in a place that really isn’t breastfeeding friendly during the next time he’ll want to eat? What will I do if the UPS man rings my doorbell while I’m in the middle of nursing my child? Do I have time to have a glass of wine before my baby’s next feeding? Do I have enough milk pumped and stored to leave her at her grandmother’s house overnight? Will that 9:30am appointment at work run too long and interfere with my pumping schedule? If I leave him for the weekend, will my already-strained supply dwindle? If I take cold medicine at night, will it still be in my system in the morning when he wants to nurse? For a while there it seems like it’s all boob, all the time. Take it from me: Nursing mamas aren’t talking about nursing all the time to rub it in your face or to make you squirm. They’re talking about it all the time because it’s on their minds all. the. time.

2. I already mentioned Judgy Breastfeeding Mom, but it has to be said that I’ve encountered plenty of Judgy Formula Moms (or maybe it’s Defensive Formula Moms?) out there too. I’ve encountered many who automatically assume that I think my way is superior. Well, you know what? I do think my way is superior–for my child. It isn’t necessarily superior for yours. If you’re not going to be happy breastfeeding, or if you’ve tried hard and cannot produce enough milk, it’s not the best choice for your child. A happy mom far outweighs the benefits of breast milk. But understand this: my choice to breastfeed is not a judgment on you. You do not need to explain to me why you aren’t breastfeeding. I don’t care (unless you’re sad about it, in which case I care very much). EDIT: Upon learning that the term “defensive formula mom” is commonly used in a negative way by some groups with whom I do not wish to be associated, I chose to remove that term from this post. Those particular groups are quite divisive (and downright mean), and those are not my intentions.

3. People equate breastfeeding with sex. “It’s inappropriate to feed your baby in public; nobody wants to see that.” “It’s fine if you breastfeed a baby, but once they’re over 6 months, that’s just gross.” Look, I’m not the one who sexualized breasts. You can thank Hollywood for that one. Just because some people can’t see past the image of breasts being intended as sexual objects, doesn’t make it so. Breasts are intended, first and foremost, to nourish babies. Do both men and women enjoy them in a sexual nature too? Sure. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But while my breasts are being used to feed my baby, there’s nothing sexual about them. If that offends you or makes you uncomfortable, that’s your problem, not mine–and certainly not my baby’s.

4. “It’s fine if you breastfeed in public, but use a cover.” First, thanks for the permission. I’m glad it’s okay with you if I feed my baby when he’s hungry (eyeroll). Second, have you ever tried to breastfeed a squirmy baby without flashing nip? It’s not easy. I do opt to use a cover in public, but not because I worry about anybody’s delicate sensibilities. I’m just a bit modest and it makes me more relaxed. But, you guys, it’s hard! Using a cover is really hard! It’s manageable during the first few months, but once that little bugger gets a little bigger and stronger, there’s no keeping the cover on him if he doesn’t want it. You cover, he yanks it off, you re-cover, he yanks it off. During the cover, re-cover process, I’m pretty sure you’ve flashed more nip than you would have if you would have just discreetly let your baby latch on and do his thing. Also? Alabama state law, one of the most conservative states there is, doesn’t say anything about a breastfeeding mom having to cover up. So there’s that.

5. “If a baby can ask for it, she’s too old to breastfeed.” Eh, my baby has been asking to breastfeed since he was just a few minutes old–it’s called crying. As babies get older, they learn to communicate differently. So yeah, there will probably come a point, if you breastfeed long enough, when your baby may ask for “nursies” or “milkies” or “boobs” or whatever it is that you call it. But if you base your decision on how long you will breastfeed on when your child can ask for it, I think you’re sorely mistaken. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for 6 months, followed by a combination of breastfeeding and age-appropriate foods for up to 12 months or beyond. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your baby exclusively for 6 months, followed by a combination of breastfeeding and age-appropriate foods for up to 2 years or beyond. While their guidelines are just a bit different, it’s interesting to note that neither recommends discontinuing breastfeeding your baby once she can ask for it. And they certainly don’t recommend the discontinuation of breastfeeding once it makes somebody else feel uncomfortable. So breastfeed your baby as long as you’re both happy and comfortable doing so. Or don’t breastfeed at all. I don’t care. Just feed your baby! (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 2, 3 and 4 of Feed Your Baby!)

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