The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cry it out? Not on my watch.

I read a really great blog post today about the "cry it out" method of "sleep training."

First, "sleep training?" I think the concept of training someone to sleep seems really counter-intuitive. I think it's double-speak for getting your baby to sleep on a schedule that you decide works for you. Because you know what? Babies sleep all on their own right from the time they're born without any special training, go figure. It may not be when or how YOU want them to, but tough. Newborns have their own innate schedule.

On "sleep training" methods, we got a copy of the "Babywise" sleep training book from our neighbors, and on the back it says something about being an "exciting infant management plan!"

Roll that around in your brain for a minute. "Infant management." When did we stop being parents and become "infant managers?" Have we devolved to such a level that we can no longer care for our children; we're just in the process of constantly "managing" them? My baby is not my employee! (Sometimes I kid with her that she needs to get a job, but that's different!) She's my daughter. I can teach, care for, instruct, love, guide and provide for her. But I don't "manage" her. She's not an animal. I'm not her handler.

So that brings me to the blog post. It makes me literally cry to think of the babies who are put through nights alone in the dark so that they will have a bed time that's convenient for the parents.

This post means a lot to me because it comes on the heels of a few day stint here where my ordinarily good sleeper is trying every last bit of our patience at nap and bed time! At times I have to step out of the room and take a deep breath or get Craig to go in to help her, but there's no way I could just let her cry alone in the dark. I understand the insanity you feel when the baby is crying and you just don't know how to stop it and you're so tired and you just want her to sleep because you know she's tired too! I'm not talking about having to let the baby cry to take a few minutes to catch up with your logical brain and regroup. That's normal, and actually a really good idea. But if my baby is crying it's because she needs something, even if it's just a few more minutes of being held. So I'm going to tend to her until I figure it out and she stops crying.

She's so little, and the world is so big...

She doesn't know anything about anything but what we show her. I want her to be independent and secure, but at 6 months old she has no concept of how to do that on her own. It may mean a 2 am bed time for us on a week night because she's holding out, but I try to remember that this too shall pass. One day she'll be big and I'll miss these nights of holding her in my arms in the rocker and waiting until she's taking those big sleep breaths under my chin to lay her down. There's plenty of time in life for her to be on her own, but not so much for her to be my little babe in arms...

Blog post:
Woman, Uncensored: "Just let her cry"

And that's why I can't do "cry it out." And I feel sorry for those who feel like that's the only thing that will work for their family.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Extreme Weaning: final thoughts

This week has been full of real challenges, emotionally. I have been through a lot.

It started on Saturday with the overnight move to the crib.

Sunday, Claire turned six months old, and I pumped for the last time. We bought her a new convertible car seat because we knew she was about to outgrow the 22lb. limit on the infant seat.

Monday, Claire had her last bottle of breast milk, and we installed her new car seat.

Tuesday, she went to the doctor for her 6-month checkup (21lbs. 12oz., and 28 inches!) And vaccines: there were FIVE of them because they added the H1N1 and the seasonal flu because she's six months old. I always have to wait in the hall because I can't stand the sound of my baby shrieking in pain (Craig stays with her) and while they were giving her the oral one, she puked all over the nurse. Bad Mommy that I am, I forgot to bring her a spare outfit, so we had to take her home in the freezing cold in a blanket. (Luckily we live about a mile from the ped's office.)

And through all this -- Not only was there the milk weaning, and the move to the nursery, and the fact that I'm sleep deprived... Claire has decided she doesn't want to sleep in my lap any more.

Before she moved to the nursery, we would put her to bed or down for naps a few different ways. Most of the time, we could put her down in her bed drowsy with her blanket and a paci and she'd put herself to sleep. (I know some parents are cursing me right now!) But if she was having some trouble (or Mommy needed some baby time) I could hold her in my lap on the couch until she was out, or pretty close, and carry her off to bed. If she was having a really rough time, we'd sit in the rocking chair in our bedroom in the dark, and I'd rock her until she was asleep.

Now, when she finishes her last bottle of the night and gets drowsy, she starts to fight in my lap. I can't get her to want to drift off. She'll show all the signs of wanting to sleep and then suddenly start yelling and arching her back and trying to sit up. So at that point I bring her up to the crib and lay her down, and she goes to sleep almost immediately, so I know the problem isn't that she isn't ready to sleep. If we do try to put her down and she isn't ready, we get her back up and let her tire herself out for about another half an hour and try again, and that usually does the trick.

As silly as it sounds, this not wanting to sleep in my lap feels like another rejection, another separation. I miss our closeness and feel like we're so far apart from where we once were. Then there was the co-sleeper incident last night... I feel very "apart" from my baby this week, very separate. She's happy and smiling still, so I know it's not having an effect on her (God love her!) but it has been a long, heartbreaking week for me.

In other news, she is absolutely gorgeous! (New pics are up in the gallery, link to the right.) She is sitting up by herself now. And we are training her to be a nerd just like her parents, as evidenced by her Star Wars onesie.

I know this is all part of being a mom, and it will be equally heartbreaking at other milestones in her life -- when she goes to school, etc. But maybe with other milestones I won't have to tackle them all in one week.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Small Victories and Addenda

The crib transition has been going well. I get up a couple of times a night to "reset" Claire. Somehow I will lay her down longways in the crib at the foot, and she ends up perpendicular at the top! So I pull her back down, put the paci back in, fix the blankets and she goes right back out. (I myself have been relying on Benadryl to get back to sleep again.)

I did have a breakdown moment last night. Craig was trying to help out so he disassembled the co-sleeper. It felt like a Band Aid being ripped off. I just wasn't ready! He had said previously we would take it down this weekend, so that's what I had in my head. I figured maybe we would take it down together, and it would help me with the reality of it all, so when he just went and did it... Ouch. I cried hard enough that he put it back up before we went to bed! (LOL)

I returned the hospital breast pump on Wednesday, and it took a 20 minute drive to the hospital for the lady to be like, "Thanks. Here's your form that says you returned it! Bye." I don't know what I expected, but it felt really anticlimactic. The dry-up hasn't been a big deal because I was down to pumping just a couple times a day anyway. I'm a little lumpy, but no big deal.

As for the "milk guilt" post, I had an additional thought. From the get-go I had asked Craig for his input on what he felt about breastfeeding and providing milk for the baby. His stance has always been, "I will support whatever you want to do." He figures he's not the milk-maker, so he's not going to tell me what to do with my body. While that's a very noble stance, it has only made the choices harder because they've had to be my own.

But because he's my husband and I know him well, I've been able to discern a subtle opinion. In the beginning I know he was very pro-breastfeeding. But he saw what a hard time I was having. I know he was frustrated every time I had to feed the baby because he wanted to help relieve some of that burden for me and he couldn't. It made him happy when he could help with bottles, so he embraced the role of "manager of the milk stores." As time went on though, and the struggle got worse, I sensed his opinion turning, and he secretly couldn't wait for us to be finished! He knows the challenges we've had with feeding our large baby and me trying to hold down a full-time job and a household while pumping out milk and what the hormones (or lack thereof) do to me. I think he's ready to have his wife back again!

So while I'm happy that he's been so supportive every way he can, and it was nice that he tried to have no stance so I could not feel pressured, it made it harder to decide what to do along the way. Especially because I had a feeling I knew what he was really thinking but wasn't saying...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Guilt of Milk

Claire is 6 months old today!

And thus marks the bittersweet day when I stop trying to provide breast milk for her.

Now, before you applaud me (or chastize me, which is what I expect from some) for making this decision, I want to back up a bit...

I knew before Claire was born that I wanted to do my best to breastfeed her. All the information in the world supports the "Breast is Best!" campaign, and God forbid you choose otherwise. You'll be dooming your child to a life of diseases, horrible health conditions and obesity! Breastfed children are smarter, taller, prettier -- you name it, someone will say that breast milk will do it. Clogged tear duct? Put breast milk in it! (Yes, I've actually heard that one.) Infection, diaper rash? Try breast milk! Lost a limb? Put breast milk on it! It will grow back! (Okay, that was an exaggeration, but it sure seems that way sometimes.)Amazing stuff, breast milk, no doubt.

I digress. I knew from the outset that I wanted to breastfeed. I had a c-section, and because I needed a few minutes in recovery from that, I didn't immediately put her on the breast the moment she was born. No problem. After my blood pressure stabilized, and the family was done ooh-ing and aah-ing and stepped out for the evening, and I stopped having the massive shakes from the anesthesia, the nurse told us we could start the breastfeeding. I said I had no experience with it, so she helped get Claire into position. Then she man-handled my boob to get it into Claire's mouth! As uncomfortable as that moment was (for more than one reason) Claire latched on like a pro. I was breastfeeding!

Then they tested her blood sugar. It was way too low. The nurse strongly suggested that because her birth weight was so high and her blood sugar was so low that we immediately supplement her with formula so she wouldn't end up in the NICU. She had seen it go wrong too many times! We agreed to it, and we started giving her a bit of formula. Within 24 hours Claire's blood sugar was stable. So from the first moments of her life, I was already playing catch-up. I put any disappointment aside because I knew I was doing the right thing for my daughter keeping her out of the NICU. My 11 lb. 11 oz. baby needed at least an ounce and a half of milk from her first few days of life. The colostrum I was putting out just couldn't cut it right away.

But eventually I caught up. We continued to supplement until my milk really came in and it seemed like I could provide for her. We were exclusively breastfeeding for a couple of months. (I continued to pump too after every feeding session.)

Then something happened around her second month. It was like Claire suddenly "woke up" and no longer wanted to breastfeed! I would just lean her back to get her into position and the screaming would start! I couldn't figure out what was wrong, or what had suddenly changed. After some consultation, we determined it was a combination of two things: First, there was too much distraction that she was now aware of, and she just wanted to look around! Secondly, she was diagnosed with silent reflux. No problem, if she didn't want to breastfeed, I could just pump and feed her. But in the meantime, I kept trying to breastfeed once a day anyway. I chose first thing in the morning while she was still waking up and calm. I could get her latched on and she would nurse for at least a few minutes until she wanted to flail and get away. I took what I could get because I figured it was better than nothing, and I wanted to have an "emergency backup" method, just in case. I also enjoyed the closeness of our quiet little moments together, and the feeling it gave me to be providing for my baby.

Then Claire got used to being bottle fed by others when I went back to work. The last week of October, I got her to have one more nursing session that was just like "the old days." She and I stayed in bed a little later that morning, and she nursed for a long time. I knew that occasion would probably be the last. I was right, as I was never able to get her to latch on again after that. And after I came back from a business trip the first week of November, I stopped trying. I decided it wasn't doing either of us any good to keep pushing the issue to the point where we were both upset.

In the mean time, I couldn't get by on just pumping. No matter how much I pumped, or how much fenugreek I took, or what I added or subtracted to my diet, it seemed I had a set limit of about 20 oz. a day. I pumped at all times of the day, early, late, added blessed thistle supplements, fennel, goat's rue... I took handfuls of supplements and tried it all to no avail. Meanwhile, Claire's food needs kept increasing! She quickly outpaced me to where she is now -- at about 36 oz a day.

So ultimately, I was able to exclusively breastfeed my baby for about two months. (I'm counting pumping-feeding as EBF.) After that, if it weren't for formula, I couldn't have fed my baby. Despite the fact that I KNOW formula isn't poison, it's baby food, I have never been able to shake the guilt attached to not being able to make enough milk to support my daughter.

And yet my goal was still to go on pumping as long as I could. I was hoping for a year, but it's such hard work. I finally compromised pushing my supply to where she would get one breast milk bottle a day, and the rest formula. That seemed to be the way for me to get the pumping in I needed to do while maintaining a full-time job, a husband and a baby and a house, and still give Claire the benefits. But eventually even that started to feel like too much. Having a constant parade of houseguests since September wasn't making it any easier. I didn't quit on my worst day; I kept going. But after much long, hard soul-searching and heartache, I decided I would draw the line at 6 months, and here we are.

But why should this decision have been so difficult for me?! I knew I tried so hard, much harder than many other women would have. Pumping multiple times a day for months on end is taxing. I know in the beginning I said that breastfeeding is hard, and I still think it is, but it's definitely the easiest method. Whip out a boob any time and feed the baby! No muss, no fuss. But I went from breastfeeding, to breastfeeding and pumping, which was harder, to exclusively pumping, which is the most challenging method of them all. People say that it's like trying to feed twins -- first you "feed" the pump, then you still have to feed the milk to the baby. Not to mention all the pump part cleaning and bottle washing all day. Whew!

And unlike other women, I was never able to "feed" the freezer either. I caught up a little at the end, when we were down to the one bottle a day, and I froze a few bags. Those have gotten us through Christmas and New Year's now with a little extra pumping to finish out the days. But somehow that empty freezer case has always made me feel like a failure.

The internet is no help. I'm not just talking about all the women who brag about making 40 oz. every day, or the ones who have "normal size" babies who hardly eat a thing so they can pump and store. "Breastfeeding support" is just sad. So many exclusive breastfeeders are SO militant and SO self-righteous, that even if you say you tried as hard as you could, there are always those that just keep pushing suggestions about how you could try harder. Rather than be supportive of your need to take care of yourself AND your baby, there are those who would call you selfish or even LAZY. It's hard to block out these voices. No matter how much I want to listen to my inner voice, the one that tells me I know I'm doing the right thing for all of us, I can't shake the nagging inner, and sometimes outer voices that make me feel like I could have done more. That now my child will be somehow deficient because I didn't keep her solely on breast milk for a year (or two, or three, or whatever the current wisdom is.)

And the guilt is everywhere. I recently watched a video about how "Nursing is Normal", part of a campaign to promote nursing in public (which I have no problem with.) And while I support the cause, there's so much pro-breastfeeding propaganda in it, that all it did was made me feel guilty and sad that I couldn't count myself in those numbers. Rather than make me feel united to their cause, I felt excluded, singled-out, marginalized. While I'm sure that was not the intent, I can't put the blame solely on either one of us for it.

But my daughter is beautiful, and healthy and strong. I am so lucky. She is 6 months old today, and growing tall and wide (and proportionally) like a weed! I know it is due in part to how much work I put into giving her all the breast milk I could. But it's also the product of much love and care. Of long hours of cuddling her to sleep, and walking the floors with her until she was calm. It's the days spent watching over her while she plays, or taking long walks with her in the sunshine. It's having a solid marriage with loving and supportive parents to give her the foundation she needs to grow up with a healthy view of the world. And for those things I am proud. I am proud of the choices I have made for her. I am proud of my beautiful baby girl.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Night

Claire slept in her crib all night for the first time last night. Up until now, she has slept in the co-sleeper next to our bed every night since she came home from the hospital.

I'm positive it was much harder on me than it was on her.

She slept like a champ! Me, not so much... She slept for 8 hours, made a few noises in the morning, so I went in and put her pacifier back. She went back to sleep for another two. I cried a lot and tossed and turned all night and got up like 3 times.

It seems the bath works wonders for getting her to realize it's bedtime, so we're going to go to daily quick baths. (I'll lotion her up extra before bed, because it's winter!) We have a little work to do in the way of temperature and light control in the nursery, but it doesn't seem like it will be too difficult. Thank God for our awesomely sleeping baby!

Now, wish me luck for night two. Maybe I need a bath first?