Sunday, October 11, 2015

Our Breastfeeding Journey

The closer we got to Blair’s first birthday, I thought that I’d be most sad about the fact that an entire YEAR has gone by in the blink of an eye. And it did, for sure. But what surprised me most when thinking about her first year, was that I’m dreading the end of our breastfeeding journey. There have been so many times I wanted to write about our experience, but for fear of jinxing it all (and I don’t even believe in that!) I wanted to wait until we’d made it a full year. Let’s start at the beginning.

Long before Blair was even born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed her. Our decision was reconfirmed when we had our childbirth class at the hospital and the OB nurse shared more about the benefits and gave more information about the how much support new mothers can get from the hospital’s team of lactation consultants. I read lots of books, websites, forums, etc. to learn as much as I possibly could.

Though I knew ‘plans’ were often hard to keep when it came to childbirth and post-delivery, I went into it with a birth plan and intended to keep it. The biggest thing on my list, other than a big NO to a C-section, was making sure we had skin-to-skin right after delivery, because that can really boost the potential for success with breastfeeding. 

What was that about plans not going as intended? I should’ve been prepared, I guess. :)

When my water broke at the hospital, my midwife noticed that there was meconium – which could mean very little or it could be very serious. There wasn’t really a way to tell how serious it was in Blair’s case, so my midwife warned me that they would be bringing in the pediatrician during delivery and that even possibly, Blair could be whisked away to the NICU at the children’s hospital – miles away from the hospital where I was delivering her. I was nervous, but hoped for the best, because that’s all you can do, right?

As soon as Blair was born, the pediatrician and nurses immediately took her over and suctioned out her mouth and tried to remove as much of the meconium as possible, while I sat there helpless, not really knowing what was going on. Finally, they brought her over to me – but unfortunately, I only got to hold her for about 2 minutes and then the pediatrician said she’d need to stay in the nursery until further notice for monitoring due to the fluid she had swallowed. The combination of emotions of just giving birth, seeing your new baby for 2 minutes, and then having her taken away got the best of me. My next thought was that our chance of success with breastfeeding was fading – maybe a little bit irrational, but I was crushed by not having the skin-to-skin time I had hoped for so much.

We were very fortunate that Blair’s condition after birth didn’t warrant going to the children’s hospital, but nevertheless, it was a rollercoaster of emotions. I did not get to breastfeed her the day she was born, and instead had to pump so that hopefully my supply would come in. I remember pumping a few drops of colostrum to feed her with a syringe and feeling defeated because I was certain I wasn’t going to have success with breastfeeding. I pumped every 3 hours around the clock the first 24 hours after birth and finally, on Day 2, I was able to go into the nursery and try breastfeeding. I feel so fortunate that she took to it right away, and I visited the nursery every few hours to feed her throughout the night. On Day 3, the day we were set to go home, Blair was finally able to stay in our room and it was our first time truly taking care of her. We hadn’t even changed a diaper up until this point! Needless to say, it was scary. :) All I remember from that day was that she wanted to nurse constantly – and she did for over an hour straight! It was rough, not going to lie – but one thing you should know about me is that I’m determined.

The first few weeks at home were a little rough, but I never felt like giving up on breastfeeding. I knew it was best for Blair, and slowly but surely, it started to get easier. After the first month, it even felt comfortable. One of the best things was we could pretty much go anywhere on a whim, because all I had to do was hop in the backseat of the car and feed her – and I’ve done my fair share of that over the past year! It became second nature, and to this day, it’s been a breeze (after the initial first month of getting used to it!).

I’d say my biggest challenge has been PUMPING. When I went back to work as she turned three months old, I knew that would become my reality for the next 9+ months. Two weeks into going back to work, I accepted a NEW job with a new company – so not only was I new to pumping, but I was going into a new company where I didn’t know anyone! Luckily, the company is very welcoming to new parents, so I didn’t have a problem acclimating. It was a challenge, though, to find time on my schedule to pump three times per day. I finally just made it clear on my calendar that I was unavailable at those times. I think that approach helped me succeed with pumping at work – placing a priority on it and making sure others know I have an obligation to attend to. Despite the fact that my company made it easy for me to pump at work, I still struggled many days to produce enough. I’d read many times before that the pump isn’t as effective as a baby is, so it wasn’t uncommon to produce less when pumping. Nevertheless, it was stressful to constantly worry about whether I was going to pump enough for the next day! At around 8 months, I had to add a regular pumping session as soon as I got home in the evening – so I was pumping four times a day now – in addition to breastfeeding in the morning and the evening. At about 10-11 months, I had to sometimes add ANOTHER session – so I was doing five sessions some days. You bet I was exhausted. ;) But, we were so close to a year at this point – so I never even considered giving up!

When Blair turned one last month, I realized that the thought of breastfeeding coming to an end actually made me really sad – not quite what I would’ve expected a few months ago! Also, she still enjoyed it and wasn’t eating enough solid foods to completely replace it. She also still nurses some nights if she wakes up at 3-4am – so I was knew that would be rough to quit cold turkey. So, now that we’re at almost 13 months old, I decided to focus on cutting back on my pumping sessions (so I’ll at least get some time back during the day!) and still nurse her in the morning and in the evening. So far, this is working well – and I’ve decided to let her make the decision as to when we stop (within reason…I promise I won’t be breastfeeding her when she’s 3, 4, 5. Ha!). While I know I’ll be sad when we finally do stop, I definitely have zero regrets because we made it to our goal of one year – despite the initial challenges we faced!

If I could offer any advice to expecting or new mamas, this is it:
  • Don’t allow others to sway your goals. If you want to breastfeed, but maybe you’re having challenges, don’t let someone tell you to just ‘try formula’ because it’s easier. It sometimes takes a few days for your milk to come in, so don’t fret if it’s not right away!
  • Likewise, don’t be afraid of supplementing if you need to. There were a few days right after Blair was born that I think we did the right thing by trying to supplement, but if I could go back, I would’ve stopped after my supply came in. I’ve learned that sometimes you should listen to your instincts rather than just take everything the pediatrician says to heart. Blair never even really liked formula, so it was usually a challenge to make her drink the 3-4 ounces of it per day.
  • If you are going back to work, it is definitely a good idea to try and pump while you’re on maternity leave. I didn’t do it enough, and I didn’t build a good freezer stash, but even the amount I did it helped.
  • Don’t feel pressured when you need to pump at work. I made the decision to view it as non-negotiable and the most important thing I could do for my daughter, so when I felt people giving me side-eye for walking out of the office three times a day, I let it roll of my back. That’s not to say I never had to tweak my schedule for work obligations, but I always made sure to fit in my pumping sessions.
  • You probably will go through stages where you are pumping less. Don’t stress too much – that can affect your supply, too.
  • Try Mother’s Milk tea and Fenugreek supplements (our pediatrician is a lactation consultant and she recommended both). I really liked the Honest Company Lactation Plus capsules! Also, drink a LOT of water!
  • Don’t be afraid to breastfeed whenever you need to. I used to feel pressured if Blair would need to eat when we had company at our house or if we were at someone’s home. Excuse yourself and then focus on the baby’s needs – don’t let yourself worry about everyone else. They understand – or if not, they will learn to!
  • Remember: it gets easier! The first few months were a LOT different than now. She used to eat for an hour at a time, and then we would start all over again two hours later. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on the sofa! Now, she eats for five minutes and has to get down and get a toy because she’s a busy girl! Just realize that when you don’t know how you’re going to make it to your goal (whether it’s 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, or more!)  - you can! And just remember that you’re doing something GREAT for your baby. Blair only got sick one time while breastfeeding – and it was last week…she got her first ear infection. But really, breastfeeding is that great – it can keep your baby from being sick all the time. That in itself is awesome! :) 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Blair {7 & 8 Months Old}

It's amazing how quickly time passes...and how quickly I forget I have a blog to update. ;) Similar to last time, I'm going to group Blair's monthly updates and highlight months 7 & 8! After all, she'll be NINE months next week. Seriously, stop growing so fast, sweet girl!

When I left off last time, Blair was super close to sitting up....and I think she actually started sitting up unassisted a week after that update! In the past two months, she's learned so much and she's fully on the move now. She started crawling a day after turning 8 months old and hasn't looked back! As if crawling wasn't enough, she's also pulling up to standing without zero effort and she's started letting go of things and standing on her own for a few seconds. I think we'll have a walker before my next update! ;)

We started swim lessons and she loves the water! There are only two more sessions to go, and then we'll keep practicing at our neighborhood pool all summer. I'm so glad she loves the water - because we usually spend a lot of time at the beach and the pool! 

Blair loves eating solid foods and we've tried a variety of different purees. The only thing she still refuses to eat are peas...she hates them! Some of her favorites are sweet potatoes, mango, apricot, avocado, strawberries, pears and greek yogurt. We also started giving her organic yogurt melts and she loves them! We've done a few meat purees, and she eats them...but neither one of us really love the idea of them! Pureed turkey looks and smells unpleasant ;) She's still only eating solids a few times a day, and prefers breastmilk...pretty much anytime. :)

She's done a great job of putting herself to sleep in her crib - and she's still in the Magic Sleepsuit for now because it definitely helps her sleep! She goes through phases of sleeping through the night and waking up at 3am other times. There's no rhyme or reason but we're used to it by now ;)

Blair's 8-month stats:

15.5 pounds
Wearing mostly 9-month clothing; she can still wear some 6-month outfits, with the exception of footed pajamas (way too short!)

Her favorites:
  • Standing
  • Sophie the Giraffe
  • Her Wubbanub
  • Swimming
  • Crawling
  • Rolling over when we try to change her diaper...
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Greek yogurt
  • Paige...poor dog!
  • Starbucks cups...she doesn't have a chance :)
  • Feeding herself yogurt melts
  • Throwing her toys on the ground...and waiting for us to pick them up 
  • 'Talking'
  • Being tickled...her giggling is everything.
  • Diaper changes
  • Being still
  • Waiting for us to prep her food
  • When I leave the room (she has serious stranger danger these days!)
  • Not getting her's already starting :)
  • Teething...and she still hasn't actually cut a tooth yet!

It constantly amazes me how much she changes in such a short amount of time, but it's so fun to reach new milestones! She's such a sweetheart, but I know we'll have our hands full over the next few months as she starts walking! As always, I can't wait to watch her learn new things :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Getting Fit Post-Baby {'s not impossible!}

I completely expected my body to change drastically when I was pregnant, so I was pleasantly surprised when I barely gained 22 pounds throughout my pregnancy and lost the weight within 2-3 weeks postpartum. I'm pretty sure that's because Blair was on the large side for a newborn at 8 pounds, 13 ounces - plus all of the extra weight that comes along with growing a baby (more fluid, etc.) - so when I had her, most of the weight disappeared. 

Last picture of the belly before I had Blair!
Now, just because I lost all of the weight so quickly doesn't mean that I was in shape! I definitely lost a lot of muscle tone. I ran throughout pregnancy, but I stopped lifting weights and doing toning exercises about halfway through. We pretty much just stopped going to the gym, and ran at home most nights, so I just stopped cross-training altogether. I tried Tracy Anderson's pregnancy workouts, but just didn't stick with it. I would definitely recommend sticking with those toning exercises throughout pregnancy, if you can - but ultimately, I'm just happy I was able to run up until my due date!

The BOB is a lifesaver for being able to run with a baby! Not at two weeks old (like the above picture), obviously. ;)
After having Blair, I was beyond ready to start running again. I started walking the day after we got home from the hospital, and made a point to take a stroller walk every day. At about 4 weeks postpartum, I felt the urge to try to run, so I did briefly and realized it felt pretty good - with the exception of being really slow! I am a terrible patient and I never listen to doctors (true story), so without consulting my doctor, I started running slowly a few days a week. Luckily I didn't have any issues - and at my 6-week postpartum doctor appointment, I was cleared to exercise again. I didn't tell her I'd already been working out...oops. Definitely consult your doctor before starting to work out again...don't do what I did ;)

Around December, I decided I should sign up for a half-marathon in order to have a fitness goal and to get back in running shape. So, I recruited my husband to join me (pretty sure he still regrets saying yes) and we started training for a half marathon that takes place on April 19th. As in, next weekend - yikes(!). While I haven't trained as hard as I did for past races, we did make sure to get in our long run every weekend - despite a few walking breaks here and there ;) Overall, I feel confident in my ability to make it through the race, but I zero PR goals. Okay, that's not true. I always have a goal, but I always keep it a secret, too. :)

I feel like even the minimum amount of training we did, plus a few other workouts thrown in there (I tried Insanity and P90X for the first time - and loved them!) have really helped me get back in decent shape. I'm looking forward to running the race next weekend, though, so that I can cut back on running and add in more variety in terms of workouts. I subscribed to Beachbody on Demand and have plans to try out more of those workouts, and I really want to get back to hot vinyasa class more regularly! Also, I'm still wanting to try Pure Barre...and then there's Tone It Up workouts. There's just so. many. options! 

I will say that for the most part, I have the drive and desire to workout like I used to (7 days a week, sometimes more than once a day...a little on the extreme end, no?) but I just feel guilty taking away time I spend with Blair. I really need this time, though - I feel like a new person when I finish a workout! My goal is to get better about taking a little time for myself each day, even if that means balancing a short, 30-minute workout one day with a 90-minute yoga session another day. 

Ultimately, getting fit post-baby is NOT as bad as people said it would be. My biggest issue was losing a lot of muscle tone, but that's my fault for only focusing on cardio for most of my pregnancy! I was pretty slow when I first started running again, but I felt like I picked up a decent pace pretty quickly. If you're expecting or just had a little one, don't fret! You'll hear over and over that your body 'will never be the same' - but that's absolutely not true. If you're willing to put in the work, and take that much-needed time for yourself, you can easily get your pre-baby body back. Oh yeah - and your arms will become toned just by carrying your baby(ies) around...especially the heavier they get! ;)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Blair's First Easter!

One of the most exciting things about having a baby is all of the 'firsts'. There's nothing quite like reliving your childhood through your baby's first experiences - especially when it comes to holidays! Blair was a little bit too young to really understand what to do with gifts at Christmas, but we were pleasantly surprised on Easter when we put her Easter basket in front of her and she knew exactly what to do! 

It was so fun to watch her reach in the basket and grab her new toys and swimsuit (we signed her up for swim lessons in May!). She's at a really fun age where she's really starting to understand things - and it seems like crawling is on the horizon...she can get her legs underneath her but she hasn't quite figured out how to move forward yet!

We spent Easter morning at home, opening our baskets and putting the finishing touches on the mini cheesecakes I made for Easter dessert. Then we spent the afternoon with family, and despite a rough few days of teething, Blair was super happy most of the day. 

The weather was gorgeous, so we were able to spend some time outside! I'm looking forward to the warmer days we're going to have, because Blair has a ton of adorable warm weather outfits that I can't wait for her to wear. I especially loved her Easter dress - which I'm so glad still fit her! I bought it last summer at Carter's without knowing how the clothes would fit her or how fast she would grow. So far, we've only had one or two pieces of clothing that she wasn't able to wear before she grew out of them!

Now I'm just wishing the weekend was still here - why are the weekends so darn short and the work weeks so long?!