Black Breastfeeding Week 2018

It’s black breastfeeding week, y’all!

And while it’s evident that I’m not actually breastfeeding at this moment pictured, I do every day because I believe it’s important for the growth and development of my baby and for our bonding. I prefer to give her what my body naturally creates for her. As I said before, there are endless benefits: baby-tailored nutrients, endless free food supply, bottle-free feeding, easy access for feeding on-the-go, mother-baby bonding, natural postpartum weight loss, just to name a few!

And no, this is not a shot at those who choose formula over breastmilk/breastfeeding. Do you, boo boos! Not everyone can lactate. And some moms that can just choose not to for various reasons. They are doing what they feel is best for them/their baby and that is fine, too.

This is just to encourage those melanated mommas who do choose to breastfeed their little ones.

This week is for us!

Somedays it’s easy. Somedays it’s hard. Somedays you just don’t want to. Somedays you never want the moment to end. It’s all a part of this beautiful rollercoaster that is motherhood. And it’s always worth it. So keep going for as long as you and your baby/toddler want to!

The World Health Organization and UNICEF encourage breastfeeding combined with solid foods until your little one is 2 or 3

“Breastmilk is an important source of energy and protein, and helps to protect against disease during the child’s second year of life.”

So don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing so if you so choose!

It may seem weird to many, but it’s time to normalize breastfeeding for as long as Mom and baby/child feel necessary.

If we can so easily normalize humans drinking cow’s milk, then we should certainly be able to normalize humans drinking human milk.

ITS WHAT ITS FOR!!!!

Love,

Meg

Breastmilk vs. Formula. What should I feed my baby?

Warning: there will be lots of talk about breasts in this post, so if you’re reading this and you’re uncomfortable with the words boob, breast, nipple, areola…you get the point, then I suggest you skip this one. 🙂

Okay,

So…

You’ve completed pregnancy.

You’ve conquered labor and delivery.

And now it’s time to feed your baby…

Do you feed breastmilk? Formula?

Only you can answer that question.

I’ve personally chosen to exclusively feed my baby breastmilk for her first year of life, and possibly a bit beyond that.

The choice to me was simple because of all the benefits of breastmilk.

To name a few:

-it is literal medicine for your baby- containing antibodies and other components to help your baby fight infection, causing fewer doctor/hospital visits

-it’s free

-only you can make the perfect breastmilk tailored for your baby

-it’s FREE

-you have it ready in a split second anywhere you go, at any time

-you don’t need any bottles

-did I mention it’s free?

Yes, my choice might have been easy, but breastfeeding itself wasn’t such an easy ride for me in the beginning.

My daughter had a short latch starting out. She literally chomped on my nipples during her entire feed. And honestly, even as a nurse I didn’t know that something was seriously wrong until a doula told me so. I knew that it could feel uncomfortable each time until the let down happened, so I just figured that this was that pain.

For those unfamiliar, “let down” is the process of your milk ducts releasing your breastmilk for your baby. (It goes deeper but I’ll leave it there for the sake of this post.)

Anyway, I was in excruciating pain every time I nursed; to the point where I dreaded having to breastfeed her each time because I knew I’d want to cry. Every time I saw her open her mouth, I would wince in anticipation of the pain.

I didn’t wanna seem like a wimp, so I held my tongue and said nothing to the hospital staff. And they figured since I was a NICU nurse, I was fine, I knew what I was doing.

I tried to hold my baby in different positions, but that didn’t help.

A few days after I’d been home from the hospital, a doula witnessed my painful experience and told me to try a nipple shield -a flexible silicone shield that covers the nipple and makes latching easier- and that helped some; but at that point my baby was nursing every 1-2 hours and there was so much nerve damage done to my nipples that I didn’t even want them to be touched.

So after about a week, I stopped putting her to my breasts. Instead, I pumped and fed her my milk from a bottle.

I felt defeated because I had always wanted to breastfeed. But, at the same time, I had to remind myself that I was lucky to still be able to feed my daughter my own milk, because not every mom is able to produce any milk for her baby at all.

When you pump, you should do it as frequently as your baby is eating, or even more frequently if you have a low supply, in order to produce more milk. I was fortunate to have a great supply, but I still had to pump every 3 hours to keep up with her needs. This meant pumping every 3 hours around the clock.

Yes, even at night.

So for the first 3+ months of her life, I was getting no more than 3 hours of sleep at a time.

I LOVE sleep.

Sleep is my best friend.

We go way back.

I used to sleep 12 hours easily after working a nightshift, so this sleep deprivation was a HUGE shock to my body. I was exhausted ALL THE TIME.

(I’m still exhausted, but it has gotten a little better.)

After about 3.5 months of bottle feeding, I decided to give breastfeeding another try.

To my surprise, my daughter did much better! I didn’t even need a nipple shield anymore.

I now breastfeed around the clock when I’m at home, and she gets bottles of my breastmilk when I’m at work or when she’s at a babysitter. The kicker is, sometimes I still have to pump in addition to her nursing because she doesn’t empty my breasts all the way yet. (She will as she gets older and drinks more milk at a time.)

Luckily for me, she’s starting to sleep through the night now. So, I follow her lead and sleep when she sleeps, allowing me to get a good 6 or so hours at a time. Yay!

I say all that to say, breastfeeding/breastmilk feeding is a lot of work.

A LOT!

Which is why some women choose to just formula feed their baby instead.

While breastmilk has a ton of amazing benefits for a baby, formula feeding is an option and it is perfectly okay!

A mom has been through a great deal of physical and emotional stress from pregnancy to delivery, so if she wants to take it easy and use formula, she has every right to.

Should you choose formula over breastmilk, don’t let anyone force you to do otherwise! However, I do suggest that you listen to all of the pros and cons from a healthcare professional before making an informed decision. Don’t just go off of what your momma, neighbor, sister, auntie, etc told you.

Whatever you decide to do, you made the right choice for you. It is your body, your baby, your choice.

Always remember: “a fed baby is a happy baby!”

Love,

Meg

Labor is Almost Never What You Expect

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had an entire labor experience mentally planned out.
I visualized myself and my husband walking to the Labor and Delivery unit at the hospital.
I saw my vitals being checked
My labor progression status being assessed
I saw us waking to the birthing suite that contained the hydrotherapy tub.
I envisioned myself birthing my baby girl in that tub almost effortlessly…
Here, you may wonder how I thought I’d ever walk anywhere while in intense labor.
Well, I studied hypnobirthing during my pregnancy, so I envisioned myself breathing through each phase calmly and confidently.
I had heard the term “hypnobirthing” briefly during nursing school, but hadn’t thought about it much since then.
So, I looked it up and read that basically…(and I’m seriously paraphrasing here)…
-Hypnobirthing is a natural method of labor and delivery that focuses on putting the mind, body, and baby in charge of everything instead of allowing the healthcare professionals to call all the shots.
-In essence, hypnobirthing allows you to tap into your natural instincts of how to birth your baby. Your body knows what to do. Your baby knows what to do. So everything should happen according to those two factors.
-There’s no need to experience pain, because pain is just a direct result of your fear of the entire experience, based on what you’ve heard from family/friends and seen on television growing up. (Crazy idea, I know. I thought so, too)
-Women have given birth naturally for centuries before the influence of western medicine. Hypnobirthing is a way to tap into that natural process by calming the body and mind, and using different breathing and visual techniques.
[Side note: I don’t think all western medicine techniques are unnecessary, as I ended up using many myself. I’m just summarizing what I read in the book “Hypnobirthing: the Mongan Method. A Natural Approach In a Safe, Easier, More Comfortable Birthing” by Marie F. Mongan.]
I read on and decided that this all sounded great to me!
I practice yoga and meditation (not as often as I should).
I try to eat healthy and mind what I put into my body.
So this natural method of childbirth seemed to be right up my alley.
In addition to the book, I also bought the audio tracks on my Amazon Music app and listened to them almost nightly from week 30, on.
I won’t lie and say that my labor was painless.
During pregnancy, I watched many YouTube videos of women claiming that hypnobirthing works tremendously and that they didn’t experience any pain at all during labor and the birthing of their baby, only slight discomfort.
Well, in the beginning, that was my experience also. I actually didn’t even know that I was in early labor. I only went to the hospital because I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and realized that I didn’t feel my baby moving, and that I hadn’t felt her move in a few hours.
When I got to the hospital and was assessed, the midwife told me that everything was fine, and in fact, I was in early labor; 5cm dilated, 90% effaced.
Wow!
There I was at home earlier that same day thinking I was still just having Braxton Hicks contractions.
I guess I should’ve figured it out when I was feeling them every 10 minutes all day long.
But, it didn’t click. I blame preggo brain.
My husband, Jay, and I even went outside for a long walk in the park that day. My goal was to get things going, but I didn’t know that I actually did.
At the hospital, I kept breathing through my labor contractions as Jay watched them on the monitor. He’d make a face every time he saw one coming in anticipation of my agony, but I didn’t show any.
So, to that extent, I would say that hypnobirthing was partially effective for me.
Until
I was still in labor come Sunday morning (2 days later). I tried everything to make my labor progress more quickly.
Jay and I walked the halls.
I sat on the birthing ball and did exercises, which I must say were much more painful during labor than they were at home a few days prior!
I did squats.
I tried nipple stimulation with a breast pump- which did work initially by making my contractions stronger and closer together, but then the contractions started to spread further apart again.
I drank Red Raspberry Leaf tea-some people swear by it…it did NOTHING for me.
My Lena Beans was just not ready to come out yet…
After about 28 hours of labor, the midwife asked if I wanted to try Pitocin to speed things along.
Pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin-the natural hormone released in a woman’s body during labor to create contractions and birth a baby.
She would give me Pitocin through my I.V. to speed things along.
I said no initially.
I waited it out for about an hour but then exhaustion set in hard.
I had been up for over 48 hours. The contractions were starting to get intense but still not close enough together to be in “active labor”. The breathing techniques I had learned over the past few weeks weren’t helping me manage the pain anymore. I was more than ready for this part to be over.
I kept thinking about the midwife’s suggestion.
So, I caved. I allowed Pitocin administration.
That kicked my contractions into high gear.
And I mean HIGH!
It was more than I could bear at that point.
I told my husband I wanted an epidural and he went to get the nurse right away.
His total support with me in this decision meant everything. Honestly, I was afraid that I ‘d look weak if I got an epidural.
For moms who openly plan to go natural, there’s such a stigma on getting an epidural. I had even told myself years ago that I would never ever get one after being traumatized in nursing school from seeing one administered firsthand.
But let me tell you, when you’ve been up for days, laboring for hours and hours, you may very well reach a point of pure exhaustion bordering insanity. I’m half joking but kinda serious because I was also dealing with PUPPP. Look it up. It’s AWFUL. That alone made me wanna get my baby out ASAP so I could have some relief.
Back to my point…I finally asked for an epidural, which I couldn’t receive for at least 40 minutes because I had to get the standard fluid bolus through my I.V. first. (So ladies, if you think you want an epidural during your labor, try your best to give the staff notice a good 45 minutes ahead of time.)
I experienced a super intense contraction during the epidural insertion, but I had to be very still to avoid paralysis.
Being extremely still while a huge needle is going into your back is hard enough.
Add an intense contraction on top of that? Whew.
We women are unstoppable goddesses.
Once the epidural was in and the medicine kicked in, I was extremely relaxed.
I didn’t feel A SINGLE THING.
At that point, the idea of natural birth went out the window and I decided that epidurals were the best invention on the planet. I had to remind myself that the main goal is to birth my baby by any means necessary.
[Another side note: I encourage any woman to go natural if that’s what you truly desire. It is possible! And I’m sure it’s very rewarding when achieved. This is just my story of what ended up happening to me, so don’t let it discourage you in any way. You have your own body and hopefully a baby that is much more eager to join this world than mine was.]
The midwife encouraged my husband and I to take a nap since we’d been up for so long.
And did we!
We knocked out for 2 hours until I was checked again.
The midwife said I was almost there, and to let her know when I felt like I had to have a bowel movement.
Another two hours later, I felt like Lena had moved down further, so I called the midwife in to assess me again.
I was right. It was go time!
At this point I was too in the zone to even show my excitement. I was in shock that it was really time to push…that I was really about to meet my little girl, but I could barely even keep my eyes open. Outside of exhaustion I believe I was in a hypnotic state at that point thanks to the hypnobirthing audio tracks I’d listened to endlessly for weeks.
I pushed with each subsequent contraction and 20 minutes later, my baby girl was born!
Then there were a few complications postpartum and I just laid there while the midwives worked to stabilize me.
Soooo yea
No hydrotherapy tub like I’d imagined
No smooth-sailing labor
That entire experience was more than I ever imagined it to be!
This may sound like a complete nightmare to you, but even as I retell my story, I have happiness in my heart about it all.
Everything I went through gave my husband and I the greatest gift we could ever imagine, and I wouldn’t trade her for all the money in the world.
Pain is only temporary and the joy you experience after you birth your miracle baby is priceless.
However your Labor and Delivery experience goes, you will look back on it fondly and smile at the thought of your precious one(s).
Be brave. Be strong. Be confident.
You got this!
Love,
Meg

My First Mother’s Day

How fitting that I launch my Mom blog on Mother’s Day?

This holiday has made me reflect on the journey of becoming a Mother, and the past 3 months with my daughter.

Motherhood started the moment that I found out I was pregnant, and it will never end. It’s a beautiful lifelong journey, bound to have many ups and downs, twists and turns, because life isn’t perfect 100% of the time.

Pregnancy brought on a 10-month-long series of physical and emotional changes. Because, c’mon, 40 weeks is equivalent to 10 months, not 9. I don’t care what anyone says, you feel those changes in the first 4 weeks. THEY MATTER!
(More to come on that.)

Labor and delivery was the most empowering experience I’ve ever had in my life! If I could bypass pregnancy and go straight to birthing, I’d probably have a tribe lol.
(More to come on that, also.)

The newborn phase is without a doubt the most exhausting phase thus far. It takes a toll on your body, mind, and general state of being. I feel like a highly-functioning zombie most of the time. I do strange things like put the almond milk away in the pantry. (Luckily, I usually recognize mistakes like that before they get too out of hand.)

I know each stage of life from here on will have its own challenges, and I may complain throughout them. But, I wouldn’t trade my beautiful baby for the world. She is perfect and I’m blessed to have her for the rest of my life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommas out there, rookies and veterans alike!

You are strong. You are honored. You are loved.

Intro to Motherhood

The first month of motherhood taught me:

•Patience

-with my body: the first two weeks I was still very sore, tired (wait, that hasn’t changed), and my body was slowly recovering…losing excess fluid, organs shifting back into place, etc.
I was happy to have my body back to myself, but I had to learn to take things slowly since it was nowhere near back to pre-pregnancy status.
-with my baby: she’s new here this time. She’s learning me, and I’m learning her. Figuring out what she needs with each different cry is a constant guessing game, but I’m getting better at it.
-with my emotions: because the rollercoaster starts when I least expect it. Postpartum hormones are strong and unpredictable. I cried on the way home from the hospital because Lena was crying in the car seat and I couldn’t take her out to console her. That’s so unlike me. I’m a NICU nurse, I’m used to babies crying. In fact, truthfully I’m kinda numb to it…but something about hearing your own baby cry breaks your heart (especially 2 days postpartum). So I lost it for a minute…or 10, but laughed about it later that day. I still have my moments when I cry with her because she’s screaming from gas pains.
Then there’s the emotional cry “OMG I just love her so much!”
On the other hand, there’s the laugh attacks; sometimes at random things, but most of the time, at her. She makes the most entertaining faces I’ve ever seen, and I lose it lol.
She’s been giggling in her sleep since day 3, and it warms my heart every time. She’s extremely smiley, too. She lives up to her middle name meaning “Happy One”
•Love

– for my daughter: obviously, but such an understatement. The amount of love I feel for Lena is unmatched. She is perfect to me. She’s the cutest, sweetest little person I have ever encountered.
-for my husband: watching him take care of her, play with her, and love her, makes me love him even more.
-for my mother: because motherhood, although abundantly beautiful, is the toughest hood there is; and I finally have a glimpse of how much she loves me, how much energy this takes, and how much she cares to do it all so selflessly. She’s been extremely helpful and is always there for us.
-for my father: I admire his love for his granddaughter and how hyper excited he is that she’s here.
-for my sister: her love for her niece was immediate and so full.
She helps me out and deals with my sometimes bossy requests, without saying a word-and I know she often wants to; ditto my husband.
•Gratitude

– that I was able to carry her for 39weeks

-that she is 100% healthy

-that I am 100% healthy and able to care for her

-that I am able to provide breastmilk for her
-for all the family and friends who love her already
I’m overall grateful for my life, and the people in it!

 

 

(written 3/11/18)