Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips and Products for Early Breastfeeding

Smiling with a belly full of mama's milk.
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which is very fitting since I've started my second breastfeeding journey in the month of August.  There are a lot of fancy gadgets out there that can easily confuse and overwhelm a new mom.  Breastfeeding can be very tough in the beginning, especially for first time moms, so I'm hoping these tips make things a little easier for you.

I'm a very frugal person and hate spending money on gadgets that will just clutter my home.  A lot of my recommendations are things that you find around your house that can be used to make nursing easier.  They do make gadgets that also do these things but why spend money on some fancy tool when something you have in your bathroom cabinet works just as well.

Perfect water cup to use while breastfeeding

  1. Cup:  When you are breastfeeding you need to drink a lot of liquids.  While you are nursing you'll get incredibly thirsty, and since you're using one arm to hold your baby it's a little difficult to drink.  You can use any cup for this of course, but I love this cup my sister-in-law gave me.  The handle makes it really easy to hold and the lid and straw prevent me from spilling while drinking.
  2. Hair Tie:  When I'm nursing I always forget what side I nursed on last.  This causes a problem when I accidentally nurse on the same side a few too many times and realize that the other side is engorged and my baby is full.  I can always pump but I hate pumping when I don't have to, and the side that is being neglected doesn't get stimulated as much as the side that's receiving more attention.  For this reason I use a hair tie. I put the hair tie on the wrist that's the side I've already nursed from.  It's really easy to slip on and off and helps me keep track.
  3. Alarm Clock:  They make fancy apps to help you remember what side you nursed on last and
    what time you nursed last. Instead of downloading another app I just use my alarm clock on my phone.  After I nurse I set the alarm for 2 hours later and when it goes off I know it's time to feed again.  Sometimes Alice cluster feeds and nurses every 1/2 hour to an hour but other times she gets really sleepy and needs to be woken up at the 2 hour mark to feed.  The alarm clock is nice because I don't have to keep checking it, it reminds me when it's time to feed again.
  4. Nursing Pads: When you first start nursing you will become engorged and have a lot of milk. When you nurse and have your milk let-down you will leak on the side you're not nursing.  A lot of moms say this only happens for the first few weeks.  I have a really strong milk let-down so this happens to me for a few months.  In order to not leak all over your bra and shirt you use nursing pads.  There are disposable and reusable nursing pads.  I have a sensitivity to plastics and latex so when I've used the disposable pads my skin has become really irritated.  For that reason I use the reusable pads (and it's less waste, always a plus).  I bought these organic cotton pads and although they're very soft and comfortable, they leak through very quickly, so I haven't been too happy with them.  I have also used the Avent nursing pads and although they don't leak they aren't very soft and they are really thick so if you wear a tight shirt you can see them through the shirt.  Bamboobies are AMAZING! They're super thin, really soft, incredibly absorbent, and DO NOT LEAK.  The drawbacks are that they're shaped like hearts which I've found kind of awkward and they are really expnsive.  I've realized that in the nursing pad game you get what you pay for, so it's your call.
  5. Nipple Butter: When you first start nursing your nipples may become cracked and mine often get scabs.  There are a lot of products out there that can soothe this painful transition your body goes through.  I use the Lansinoh brand but there is also one made by Earth Mama Angel Baby.  I love the Earth Mama products and will definitely try it with my next baby.  When I was pregnant with Ethan I went to a lactation class and the lactation consultant gave me
    the Lansinoh brand, since it worked really well. Because I already had it, it's what I've been using with Alice (be aware that Lansinoh has lanolin in it which makes the reusable nursing pads less absorbent).  There are a lot of options out there though so follow the link and see which brand you think would fit your needs.
  6. Nursing Bra: I've talked about my frustrations with the lack of small sizes in nursing bras, in my post Goldilocks and the Nursing Bras.  Unfortunately, I still haven't found a solution to this problem but I'll let you know what I found works.  I have found the most comfortable and supportive nursing bra to be the Elle Macpherson Nursing Bra.  Sadly, no one told Elle that not all nursing moms have large breasts, so the smallest their bras come in is a 32C.  I use the Elle bras in the beginning when I'm the biggest.  Make sure you buy 1 bra that is 1-2 sizes larger than the size you are at the end of your pregnancy, just so you have something to wear in the beginning.  Once Ethan hit the 5 month mark my breasts went down to a B and eventually even an A cup.  When this happened I found that Target was the only store that carried nursing bras that were small enough for me.
  7. Nursing Cami: With Ethan I didn't think I needed nursing camis, I just used my own spaghetti strap shirts and would pull them down.  I found that this stretches out my shirts and isn't very comfortable.  A friend gave me some hand-me-down nursing camis and it's been so much easier.  I recently purchased these from Target and I really like them but the first two buttons come undone.  I also purchased the Basics Felicity cami and I LOVE them.  
For all my nursing moms out there, were there any tips and products that you found helpful when first nursing?

I've had quite a few moms ask me about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. Since there are already so many good posts out there answering this question, I'm just going to include the link to All of the info you would need is in their article.

I am by no means an expert in breastfeeding but I hope that you find my suggestions helpful as you embark upon your nursing journey.  As always if you want to message me for support or if you have questions about anything I mentioned in my post please feel free to e-mail me or follow me on Facebook and send me a message (all links are in the upper right hand corner of my blog).  Good luck mama, happy nursing!

*I was not compensated for this post.  These are products that I love, have purchased, and wanted to share with my readers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Our Home Birth Story

Baby feet are the best!

This is my third attempt at writing this post.  I have so much to say and finding not only the words, but a coherent way to organize all of it, while sleep deprived and completely consumed with love for our new family unit has been difficult.  I will also say that this is the Moby Dick of blog posts.  So pour yourself a cup of coffe and get comfortable, you're in for a lengthy tale.

The Plan
I mentioned in My Home Birth Plan post that I was once again going to try having a home birth with Alice.  Going into it I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself, and my body.  I kept reminding myself that the labor was probably going to be long, that I may experience back labor once again, and if we had to transfer to the hospital that was OK.  The last time I labored at home I used the Bradley Method for pain control.  I didn't find that the techniques I learned in the class really helped me during birth.  I've talked to other moms that have loved that method, but it just didn't fit my style.  This time around I found an online Hypnobirthing class.  I'm not going to go into too much detail right now, but I promise I'm going to write an entire post about it, so more info to come!  

The Beginning
At 3:00 PM I started cramping every 10-15 minutes. The cramps were of the same intensity as the cramps I'd been feeling throughout my whole pregnancy, so I didn't want to get my hopes up.  I let Jeff, my mom, and my midwife know because I had lost my bloody show the day before, so I knew that it wouldn't be too long before labor started.  I also didn't want to disrupt anyone since it was so early still.  At 7:00 PM the contractions started getting stronger and I realized that I was indeed in labor, I was finally going to meet my little girl! I let my sister know (her and my mom were both invited to the birth), to get her things ready but not to leave her house yet, in case we were in for a long 26 hour labor, like we had been the first time.  

The Turning Point
At 9:00 PM Jeff and I went to bed so that we could get as much rest as possible before things got intense.  I soon realized that my contractions were very strong and no sleeping was going to occur, they were happening every 4-5 minutes, and the back labor was back! I would not wish back labor on my worst enemies.  For some reason my body insists on birthing my children while making me feel as if someone has poured lighter fluid across my back, lit it on fire, and is simultaneously cutting me open with a saw.  

During my labor with Ethan, I now realize that I had really psyched myself out.  All of the information I'd read in books, learned in my birthing class, and watched in videos was swimming around in my head.  I had restricted myself so much because the book said not to do this yet, or the video warned against this.  This time around I decided I was going to listen to one voice, and one voice only, MINE (a result of my hypnobirthing class).  I had also read a post about a mom that said that during her contractions her nurse had made sure she kept her eyes open and focused on an object.  I remember that with Ethan, during each contraction I would instinctively close my eyes shut and tense up my entire body, hence making it impossible for my body to open up and allow me to deliver my baby.  With these two things in mind I felt like I was ready to conquer that dang back labor.  

My Sanctuary
 I tried laboring on my side and soon realized that that did not feel good.  One thing that I did really enjoy while I was on my side was keeping my eyes open during contractions and looking at my crucifix.  I've struggled with anxiety during and after my pregnancies, lately a phrase that has helped me during my anxiety attacks is, "Jesus I Trust in You".  While I was having a contraction I'd look at my crucifix and repeat this to myself over and over again, I found so much comfort in my faith, and it put me in a wonderful meditative state.  

Suddenly, I got this gut instinct to go to the bathroom.  Connected to our room we have a tiny bathroom that's smaller than most people's closets, but for some reason I wanted to go in there.  I held onto the bathroom sink, did my deep breathing, and swayed my hips.  I've danced Hula and Belly Dancing, and I found that the hip movements I did while dancing really helped relieve the pain.  Then I told Jeff that I wanted to go into the shower.  Any instinct I had while laboring I immediately listened to.  I got into the shower and let the hot water hit my back, I once again did my deep breathing and swayed my hips, it was glorious.  At this point the contractions were every 2 minutes, but I still didn't want to get my hopes up, Ethan's had been every 2 minutes and I had only been 2 cm dilated at that point.  I was prepared to still labor for a long time.

At 11:30 PM my sister got there and so did the RN.  My midwife was finishing at another birth and would be on her way soon.  I had tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep) and the RN had to put an IV in so that I could be given antibiotics intravenously during the labor.  Then it was the big moment, the RN said she was going to check and see how dilated I was.  In my head I was hoping for 4 or 5 cm.  If I was at 4 or 5 I'd be happy with the progress.  I had to lay on my bed while she checked and the pain was excruciating. One of the reasons I love laboring at home is the ability to move around and choose the position I labor in.  The fact that I noticed a huge difference as soon as I changed positions is exactly why I love the freedom of a home birth.  I started to think that I couldn't do this, that I'd made a huge mistake, I'm not strong enough, what had I been thinking? Then the RN said, "Girl, you're 8-9 cm dilated."  I couldn't believe my ears, I had done it, I'd passed transition without even knowing it, and was almost ready to push. Wow, this was a fast labor.  

I told Jeff to get the birthing tub ready, I really wanted to have a water birth.  In the meantime I wanted to go into the bathtub while I waited for the tub to fill.  I went into our hall bathroom and stood in the bathtub while the hot water hit my back.  I once again felt like I had things under control, I was breathing and swaying, breathing and swaying.  All of a sudden my body told me to go on my knees.  The pain was stronger than anything I'd felt before, and I had the urge to push, but my midwife wasn't there yet.  She was on the road and due any minute.  Then Jeff told me I'd have to get out of the shower so that they could fill the tub.  Husbands take note, if your wife is almost 10 cm dilated never tell her she has to move so he can fill a birthing tub (that I had actually asked him to fill 2 hours earlier, but was not listened to).  I remember grabbing the tub and saying, "I don't care how you fill that tub, but I am not getting out of here! You didn't listen to me when I told you to fill it so you have to figure it out now!" I kept seeing him and my sister running past the bathroom with a hose trying to figure out where they'd plug it in.  I finally said, "Forget it, it's too late, I don't care about the stupid tub!" I must add that we bought this tub when I was pregnant with Ethan.  It was very expensive and after 2 births has never been used. Anyone in the market for a birthing tub?

 With every contraction the urge to push was overwhelming, I began to make deep guttural sounds.  It was as if I had become an animal.  Looking back I have a few thoughts about this period.  First of all, I'm really surprised the neighbors didn't call the police. I felt as if my animalistic noises were permeating the walls and reaching all corners of my neighborhood.  Second of all, how the heck did Ethan not wake up during all of this? Finally, as painful as this all was, I have never felt so in tune with my body.  During the deep guttural howling I was transformed.  I could have been in a forest, kneeling on a bed of leaves and I would have felt as if I knew exactly how to deliver my baby.  It was a very primal transformation and afterwards incredibly empowering.

As my midwife arrived and watched me labor in the tub, she noticed I wasn't gaining enough strength to push in the position I was in, so she suggested I move to the bed.  Once I was situated on the bed I was ready to push, but my water still hadn't broken.  She wanted me to either break my water on my own, or deliver the baby with my water intact.  I pushed and really tried but the pressure on my back was so intense I hit an emotional wall.  I had come this far and now I felt as if I couldn't go another step.  I asked her to break my water for me.

Once my water was broken Alice began to descend very quickly.  This was the part of labor that I had been fearing the last nine months.  With Ethan I had felt contractions and back labor, but I had never experienced the pain that came with pushing and delivering your baby.  Once I started to push, doubt once again crept into my mind.  I felt as if I had no idea what I was doing, as if everything I was doing was wrong, and I was terrified of tearing.  I had had a 3rd degree tear with Ethan because of the Episiotomy, and I had no idea what to expect with this birth.  My midwife made me push very slowly.  She calmly instructed me to push a little, then to stop.  She'd make me stop for a few seconds then push a little more.  It was the complete opposite of what you picture in the movies, someone screaming "PUSH!" While the mom yells at her husband, and tells him, "You did this to me!"  It was one of the calmest experiences of my life.  The whole room was quiet, I was concentrating so deeply in following my midwifes instructions that everyone and everything disappeared.  Once Alice's head could be seen I felt the "Ring of Fire", an intense burning sensation, and my midwife once again told me to hold it for a few seconds, then had me push just a little.  This took all of the self-control I had but I was able to do it.  After 15 minutes of pushing Alice was delivered and I had absolutely no tearing.  I reached down and pulled my baby girl up.  I looked at her and she was all that mattered.  I still had to deliver the placenta but after everything else, that was a walk in the park.

They gave Alice a quick examination then everyone left the room and Jeff and I just gazed at our little girl.  We were left alone for a really long time and I loved how quiet and comfy it was in my room.

Since having Alice at home I've had quite a few people ask me, "Why would you want to do that?" or tell me, "You're crazy! Thank goodness everything turned out OK."  It's annoying, but I just smile and don't let it bother me.  To those reading this wondering the same thing, this is my answer.  Throughout this experience I have never felt more safe or well taken care of.  I loved being in the comfort of my own home, being able to move around as I pleased, and not being hooked up to machines.  Once she was born the comfort of being at home was amazing.  Ethan woke up about 2 hours after she was born and joined us in bed.  He held his sister, asked questions, and was elated to see the newest member of our family.  Then Jeff put him back to bed and we called it a night.  My sister slept over and the next morning my mom came and cooked breakfast for us.  From the beginning of my labor to the arrival of our baby girl everything felt natural.  I thank God for this amazing experience and know that I am forever changed because of it.

The last thing I would like to say is that even though I chose this birthing method I in no way feel that moms who do not have their children at home are any less empowered than I was at my birth.  I did not have this amazing experience because it was a home birth, I had this life altering experience because I was able to birth the way I wanted to.  My hope for every mom that reads this post is that you are able to have the birth that makes you feel empowered.  This was the path that was right for me, I hope every mother out there is able to find the one that is right for her.     

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