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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Yes, This Blog is being Taken Over by Breastfeeding.

I just wanted to be up front about that.  Because if you don’t want to hear about breastfeeding, both it’s trials and it’s triumphs, then you probably don’t want to read this entry.  I’m okay with that — don’t worry.  I won’t be hurt or offended, I promise.  Okay?  Okay.

So now that you’re here because you want to be, here goes.

I have 3 kids, and all 3 of them were – for a period of time – breastfed.  I have had issues and more issues with breastfeeding, and I want to share some of that with you now.  Not because I am having issues this time around (I’m not) <<knocks on wood>> but because some of the information I have gathered in the school of hard knocks may help someone else who’s struggling.

Connor was born tongue-tied.  Do you know what this means?  No, I didn’t either.  Here’s a picture that perfectly illustrates what Connor’s mouth looked like:

This is what a tongue tie looks like. In fact, this could be a picture of Connor; he cried a lot. Because he was hungry all the time.

The thing is, a tongue tie seriously affects a baby’s ability to breastfeed.  This is because the tongue needs to almost hug the nipple in order to get a good latch, which is imperative if the baby is to get a good feed, and then move freely in and out of the mouth to get the milk flowing, allowing baby to gain weight and be happy, making breastfeeding a success.

Connor was born at Women’s College Hospital.  The lactation consultant there mentioned the tie, suggesting it could be problematic, and that I should talk to my pediatrician about it.  I did, and her advice about releasing it was that it was up to me.

hmpff.

If you are a first-time parent, you know the haze and fog that surrounds the experience.  You feel completely inadequate in pretty much every respect, and you haven’t slept since you went into labour.  You have a hard time making a decision about what to eat – hell, even determining if you’re hungry! – nevermind serious things like whether or not to release your perfect infant’s tongue tie.

Here’s my advice: if you are a doctor who treats children, or a lactation consultant, PLEASE tell the parents to release the tie ASAP.  In the very least, tell them exactly what the impact of their decision is likely to be.  Or, if you are a parent to an infant with a tongue-tie, have your doctor release it ASAP.  There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. As outlined above, I could not make a rational, reasonable decision. I needed someone in a position of trust to tell me what to do and why.  They did not.
  2. This meant that I did not release his tie, and so Connor could not latch.  When he was 3.5 months old he was just 10lbs (he was born 7lbs 3 oz); I made the very difficult choice to move to formula.  This was against my pediatrician’s advice, even though it was clear that breastfeeding was not working for us and he was slowly starving.
  3. If you release the tie in the baby’s first 6-weeks, it’s a simple procedure in the doctors office, as the capillaries have not yet formed or connected or something like that in you baby’s mouth.  After that, it’s an operation with anesthetic and everything, because they could choke to death on their blood.  Niicceee…

I AM NOT AN EXPERT.  These are simply my opinions, based on my own personal (and very traumatic) experiences.  Connor was 15-months old when his tongue was released.  It was the longest, most agonizing 5 minutes of my life…  Yes, the surgery just took 5 minutes.  But I was a wreck.  And he was so upset afterwards… he was crying so hard that he slipped a stitch and bled like crazy all over. All over himself, the nurses, the bed, me…  it was awful.  So do it when they’re young so there’s no blood and really no pain either.  So just do it, okay?  Okay.

Next point: breasfeeding after a Caesarian section*.  All 3 of my kids were born via c-section.  Some will tell you that this can interfere with your milk coming in.  Whether it’s the lack of hormones that are released during labour and delivery, or side effects of the drugs c-sections require, is anyone’s guess.  There are others who will insist that c-sections cause no issue with milk production.  I know that with my 1st born he lost a lot of weight, and there was very little collostrum.  I rented a pump from the hospital to use at home, helping to get the colostrum to produce, and then to get the milk production happening.  We finger-tube fed what was extracted to him, once he had suckled at the breast for an infuriating (for him because there was nothing coming out) 5 minutes.  After he consumed what I had collected via pump, he was then put back on the breast to suckle some more.  (He enjoyed that round more than the first, because at least he has some food in his tummy.)

The reason for this sucking is that conventional wisdom suggests that the very act of a child suckling from your breast will stimulate milk production.  This, combined with the mechanical, hospital grade breast pump did see my milk come in.  Instead of the typical 2-3 days, mine happened on day 5.  So you see, I know what it’s like to work really, really hard to get your breastfeeding established.  It was an hour’s work to get him fed, and then another 20-30 minutes to get all the equipment washed and ready for the next feed.  Which was really only 30-60 minutes away.  That’s right: I was waking him every 3 hours through the night to eat.  For 8 weeks.  Which meant that I was sleeping in like, 30 minute increments…  it was beyond exhausting…

But I digress.

With my second baby, I asked for the pump on day one.  I started to pump while in the hospital, getting the colostrum producing right away.  The nurses were a little surprised and skeptical even, but they did what I asked and breastfeed with Sam was great.

Until it wasn’t.

My milk came in on time, he ate well and he gained like a trooper.  I was so happy and so relieved after the debacle that feeding with Connor was.  And then, when he was 7 weeks old, everything changed.  He fussed while at the breast, he was very gassy suddenly, and then he started getting blisters on his bum every time he pooped.  His fussiness at the breast turned into rage, and he would slap my breast with his little hands.  I thought there wasn’t enough milk.  So I gave him the other breast.  The behaviour continued, and he almost stopped eating over the course of a few days.  At a playdate, another mother saw what was happening and commented that this was the exact behaviour her son displayed before she learned that he was lactose intolerant.  Another couple of agonizing days passed, and Sam was put on lactose-free formula when he was 9 weeks old.  All of the issues disappeared overnight.

This time around, I did not ask for the pump while I was in the hospital.  I didn’t get to hold little Elise for more than an hour, because I was strapped to a table being sewn up and too because she needed to be with the respitory therapist until her breathing sounded more “normal”,  whatever that means.  As soon as I got her, I put her to my breast.  She latched for a moment sucked once or twice, and that was that.  For the duration of our hospital visit, every time she cried, or made sounds that might be the beginnings of crying, I gave her my breast.  My milk came in on day 3, and she’s been “gaining beautifully” to quote the pediatrician.

One last point to make: know your nipples.  “She’s lost her mind,” you may be thinking.  No, no I have not.  The thing is, there are different kinds of nipples (which I did not know before bearing children), and each can pose a challenge when your child tries to latch.  There are flat nipples, there are inverted nipples (which I have) and there are protruding nipples.  I assumed I had protruding nipples.  I didn’t know they were inverted until I had to squeeze my breast at the nipple area to force it into an infant’s mouth.

In a nutshell, if your nipples are flat or inverted it will be more challenging to get your child to latch.  Here’s why: if the nipple does not stick out into their mouth, it’s very difficult for the tongue and lips to form a seal, and suckle effectively.  If they are inverted, they look like they stick out until you squeeze them: then the nipples retract.  (This is what happens to me).  Here’s a link to a great pdf file showing the different types, and what to do to (a) determine what you have and (b) how to work with what you have.  For me, I have found pumping as well as “the latch assist” to be invaluable in successfully feeding my children.

So what is the point of all of these ramblings, other than to share my experience?  Well, sharing was the primary goal, I’ll admit.  As I got writing though, I discovered I wanted to say something about the process I went through each time.  We need to surround ourselves with people who know us intimately, support us through the tough times, and encourage us to pick up our load and move forward.  Choosing formula was gut-wrenching both of the times.  Even though I knew that Connor was starving.  Even though I knew my milk was making Sam sick.  Even though.  In the end though, we all need to “think like men,” as one of my dear, loving supports said as I faced the decision with Sam.  We aren’t talking about whether or not to go to war, we are talking about what to make for dinner essentially.  Is breast best?  Probably.  But you know, in the 60’s and 70’s research showed that formula was best, so who really knows?  You can read statistics in a myriad of ways, making them say any number of things.  At the end of the day, we are talking about what to serve for dinner, and that is not supposed to be a gut-wrenching ordeal at any time.  What’s really best in my opinion, is a fed, healthy, happy baby and a mother who’s satisfied knowing that she’s done her best.

*The first because he got stuck in the canal (who knew I had a small pelvis?) and I got stuck at 7 cm’s for something like 10 hours.  My second was supposed to be a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section), but he had other plans.  At 37 weeks the little joker turned breech.  My placenta was at the front, and lower-lying (not exactly previa, but close) and I had a LOT of amniotic fluid.  My OB said that if my water broke, the gush of fluid could dislodge the placenta and deliver it before the baby, since the head is not in position to block the path.  Given this information, MOMD & I decided that we would much rather have our baby alive, and so a c-section was booked.  Because of the other 2 sections, my 3rd was non-optional.

 
 

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So here’s the thing:

There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.  It’s been 4 weeks and 4 nights of blissful, adorable, loud, grating, suckling torture in my house.  I try not to complain, I really do, because I knew what I was getting into*.  And really, seeing this face when you are awake makes it hard to be too mad for too long:

The lovely Elise (or Ellie Belle as I’ve started calling her)
photo credit to Sebrina Wilson http://www.sebrinawilsonphotography.com

I know I’m supposed to “sleep when she sleeps,” and “take it easy.”  You also know that I have 2 other children who are both enjoying summer vacation.  What this means for me is that the world keeps turning.  When Elise has a really good feeding and falls asleep at the breast, it’s perfect because it means I can make lunch for the other 2 – hey, maybe even me! – without carrying her in her sling.  It means I can help them with the painting they’ve been wanting to do for an hour now.  It means I can get them setup with their water balloons or water guns and help them enjoy their time.  Very rarely am I able to “sleep when she sleeps.”

So what do I do to combat the insanity that chronic sleep deprivation brings on?

Well, many of you know that I love to cook (here’s my food blog, in case you didn’t know just how much: realfoodcooking.wordpress.com).  I also really love music.  Being in the kitchen, and playing tunes at a ear-drum-bursting-volume are the 2 best and fastest ways to restore myself.

Enter the next challenge.

Playing my music, without interruption, at mach 10, is not really an option when there are 3 little people around.  First off, I have to be careful of their ear drums.  Because while I am deaf** all ready, they have perfectly working ears.  And really – I’d like to keep it that way.  Besides, the teen years aren’t that far off now (Connor’s all ready 8 and 1/4 years old) and they’ll be blasting their own ear drums with their own headphones in less time than I care to think about.

This leaves me one alternative: cooking.  Which is how we end up with things like this when the longest stretch of sleep I got last night was 2.5 hours:

Yummy peach pie… hopefully the filling set this time!

A few days ago, I baked cookies.  Before that, a crisp.  And before that, a birthday cake which came on the heels of a chocolate chip cookie pie…  Not to mention the regular meals, which of course I’m making too.  Burgers, roast beef, barbecue pizza, and so on. There are 21 meals and 14 snacks eaten in a week at my house.  And I prep most of these.

My point?  Well…  there’s a lot of food around me.  And if you remember, I am an emotional eater.  The sleep deprivation and the dropping hormones and the raw, beautiful emotion of having a newborn in your midst, combined with my prolific endeavours in the kitchen create a perfect storm.

How does this emotional eating, closet eating, exhausted, tortured soul deal with what needs to happen to rebalance and restore herself?  No really – I’m asking you.  Because I don’t have any answers or solutions.  Logically, I know that I should not be worrying about my weight.  The thing is, I’m not logical right now.  I’m not rational.  I’m barely coherent for god’s sake!  And to be perfectly honest with you, I’m generally not worrying about my weight; I’m simply stuffing whatever I find into my mouth.

When the rational moments surface however, and I look back over my eating habits, I cringe.  I can see what I’m doing in hindsight.  I see the desperation of needing to get through the day/afternoon/hour/moment and knowing that 2 or 3 cookies will help me do just that.  Or maybe a caramel macchiato.  Perhaps a bowl of ice cream; no maybe a large bag of smart food… the options are endless, and the slope I am on is very slippery.

 

* Except that I didn’t really.  Because Sam – number 2 and my most recent newborn experience – slept for 8 hours right from the moment of his birth.  That’s right: he was born sleeping through the night.  So it’s been 8 years since I’ve lived with a non-sleeping tiny being.

** All right, not deaf, but hearing impaired.  I had 2 hearing aids until the dog turned them into $2,000 confetti…  and they were put away!  In their case!!  On the credenza in my office!!!  Wrapped in kleenex even, to give them extra protection!!!!  Bloody dog…  he’s lucky he’s so friggin’ cute.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Family, Food Issues, Raising Kids

 

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Gassy Baby: A Product Review

My 3-week old baby has been plagued with some awful gas over the past week.  It’s upset her daytime rest, and all of our nighttime rest.  Because: when a newborn is squalling at 2:30 in the morning, it’s highly unlikely anyone is sleeping through it.  It’s upset me, because I wonder what I have eaten that’s disagreed with her (the broccoli bacon salad may have started the whole downward spiral).  Over the last couple of days though, it’s gotten worse.  I can see her poor belly distended to such an extend that it’s got to be painful.  Yesterday, after day 3 of no more than 90-minute-stretches of sleep, I packed my kids up and took them to my Mom’s.

Mom cures everything.

The boys were enjoying themselves throughly in her local splash pad, while I sat with the babe in the shade.  Mom was with us most of the time, and as you do, we got to talking.  Specifically, about Elise’s gas.  The end result of that conversation saw me on the hunt last night for gripe water.

I had done some research online about what to expect to find on the ingredient list for this product, and armed thusly set off to my local Shoppers Drug Mart.  What I found on their shelves, however, was not a product that I wanted in my hands, never mind inside my infant.  Their gripe water – both with and without alcohol – contained 2 different parabens!  Parabens are commonly found in personal care products, used to extend shelf life.  But really: all gripe water should be is distilled water with some herbs like chamomile and lavender and ginger.  How much perserving do those ingredients need?  Of far greater concern to this informed consumer, parabens are linked to cancer.  In fact, they are found in 90% of cancer cells.

Why, oh why, would I put this in my child?

You may be surprised to know that I would not.  I grabbed a couple of tubs of Ben & Jerry’s so the trip wasn’t entirely wasted, and headed off in the direction of my local health food store.  Where I found this product:

This is the homeopathic remedy that saved my sleeping nights, and my waking days!

It’s a homeopathic remedy containing purified water, bitter cucumber, vegetable charcoal and copper (the names are the latin ones on the box, but I googled them so I’d know exactly what they are).  That’s it.  It comes in 30 individual vials, with about 1/4tsp of the infusion in each vial.  You snap the top off the vial and can easily drip small drops into your screaming infants mouth, which they can swallow.

Can you see the tiny whole in the open vial? Perfect sized drops for your newborn. Just ask me!

The best part though?  The best part is that it WORKS.

Oh me, oh my it worked!  It took about an hour I’d say to see noticeable change, so if you try this out yourself, be a little bit patient.  Within 2 hours Elise was breathing calmly, more deeply than she had (without my breast in her mouth, that is) in days.  Her body was relaxed, her face was peaceful, and she was sleeping.

And kept sleeping!  From 10:30 – 3:30, thank you very much! I feel like a new woman today, and armed with a remedy for my baby, I feel like I can take on the world.

Information shared here is totally biased, based solely on my personal experience.  I was not paid for this review, but if you want to pay me I accept cash and/or cheques.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Opinion

 

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It All Comes Back So Fast

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’m sorry.  It’s just that I was busy with this:

My baby, 12 days old

I suppose she’s not a “this”; she’s a her!  My daughter Elise was scheduled to be delivered via c-section on July 5, but on June 27 I went into labour, and so she was delivered that day.  It’s been a wonderful, exhausting, overwhelming (with love, of course), amazing 16 days.  My family feels complete now.  We’re all here and ready to face the world – Team Scrimgeour-Brown!

The title of this post might lead you to believe that I’m going to write about parenting a newborn.  I’m not.  What has “come back so fast” for me are all the bloody body issues…  I delivered a baby 16 days ago, and yet just yesterday I found myself fretting over how I look.  You know the routine: standing face-on in the mirror, checking the angles for ripples, rolls, bulges and then searching the side view for the same things.  Once the inventory is complete, you rip those shorts off your body and hurl them to the floor, stomping on them and then on yourself for how you look, how did you get there, get yourself under control… I’m sure you know the litany.

How quickly the pattern returns…

When I came home from the hospital 2 weeks ago today I was wearing pre-pregnancy yoga pants and a tee-shirt.  The yoga pants were giving me muffin-top before I was pregnant, but were not post-delivery.  The tee-shirt I was wearing, I was able to squeeze into last year but really: it was a squeeze.  Not the case on Friday, June 29.  I felt really good about myself.

My first day at home, with access to my entire wardrobe, I picked a long-time favourite sun dress from my closet.  It came from Marks’ Work Warehouse, and has a built in bra and everything.  I love this sundress so much that I have since bought another one.  They are both super-comfy, and they look really good too.  So I pulled the green dress out of the closet and put it on.  And damn!  I looked awesome.  So sleek and almost svelte!  Which is a big deal for someone who – before being pregnant – was about 75lbs overweight.  Again, I felt really good about myself.

A few days later, we had some company come to meet the babe: 2 of my cousins.  One of whom is pregnant, and the other is a mother of 3 herself.  They were both impressed by how good I looked.  Not just because of the weight I shed while growing a person, but also because I had had major surgery just 5 days earlier.  I was up and moving, hosting and entertaining, all without seeming to be in any pain at all.  Yet again, I was left feeling good about myself.

Those of you who have had children know what comes after delivery: the inevitable hormone crash.  Well it hit me with a vengeance, around the same time as darling little Miss Ellie decided that sleeping at night was for the weak.  The past 5 days have been tough.  And in their wake, the daemon inside of me has surfaced: to mock, to ridicule, to hurt.

I heard in my head the other day the voices of my 8th grade classmates calling out, “Sha-MUUU” down the hall to me (Shamu was the name of a whale at a theme park when I was younger).

I look in the mirror and instead of seeing skin that has been stretched to hell and back while creating the miracle of life, I see fat.  A flabby, lazy girl who cannot get herself under control.

Why?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  How is it that I can so easily and readily see the truth for others, point it out to them, and encourage them to be gentle with themselves and yet be unable to do the same for me?  Why am I habitually so hard on myself?  And more importantly: how do I change the internal dialogue?

So many self-help gurus talk about changing your self-talk.  They all agree that the first step in doing this is to  monitor what is going on inside, and then to replace those negative comments with positive ones.  I agree with the concept, and readily encourage those around me to engage in the process.  I am a firm believer in positive framing and re-framing, applying it to areas of my life on a regular basis.

I thought that I had this weight-daemon licked; I thought we were through.  And yet: here it sits, at my side, providing a running commentary.

Truly: it all comes back so fast.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Food, Food Issues, Sickness/Wellness

 

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Travelling with Wee Ones

I was talking to my sister-in-law today about travelling with wee peeps.  You see, MOMD (and all of his family, for that matter) are Newfoundlanders.  And if you know anyone who was born in Newfoundland that no longer lives there, you know there’s nothing they like to do more than go home for a visit!  My sister-in-law lives on the exact opposite side of the country though – just outside of Vancouver BC – and so it’s a helluva trip for her and her family to go home.

Despite this, they are talking about somehow making the trip this summer, with their 2.5-year-old and their 5-month-old (at the time of the potential trip).

As it happens, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in flying with little people.  Because I married a Newfoundlander, and we have made our fair share of trips to see the family too.  The first time Connor flew, he was 5 months old.  IMO, this is the BEST time to fly!!  The babies are settled enough that they’re usually not too fussy, you’ve got your feeding issues ironed out (mostly), and if you need it, baby Tylenol still knocks them out.  I’m kidding!  Of course I don’t advocate for needlessly drugging your kids; but it really does knock them out at this age.

Next time we flew, it was just before Connor turned 2.  And this, this was THE WORST time to fly.  Because he was under 2 years old, he was still free to fly, so we didn’t have a seat for him: First mistake.  The second mistake was thinking that if we flew over naptime, he’d sleep.  BWHAHAHAHA… oh, what were we thinking???  Needless to say, he did not and the flight was awful because he was exhausted and wanted his own seat, like a big boy.  He flew again at 3 years, 4 years, and then just this Christmas when he was 7.  And of course, we flew with Sam too for the first time this Christmas and he was 3.5 years old.

Anyway!  All of this is to say that over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to make flying with little kids easier.  Not every child is content to watch TV or movies for 3 hours or more, and all of us need some stimulation of one sort or another.  And so it is that I give you my tips for flying with your kids:

  • Pack a bag for each child you’re travelling with, filled with new toys that they have never seen before.  Great things are play-doh or clay which can buy you lots of time, especially if you have some cookie cutters. You can make all kinds of imagination games with these shapes!  I also like the water colour/washable paint sets.  You know, the ones where the paints are dry, and you wet your brush with water, and then put the wet brush on the paint, and then on the paper?  These are great for travel because the mess is minimal, and easily cleaned up if an accident should happen.  Magna doodles are great too; and they don’t make a mess!  When we flew with the 3year olds, we made sure to have decks of cards that were age appropriate.  We got this deck of cards for playing “go fish” that had turtles, sharks, fish, mermaids and so on as the faces, so it was really easy to ask for what you wanted.  The 3 year olds loved this!  Include a new colouring book, a fresh pack of crayons or markers as well as some new little toys (like cars or blocks or dinosaurs).  Some new books are great too.
  • Pack lots of snacks.  Treats, things they don’t usually get to eat, and things that take a fair bit of chewing to get through.  These are especially important during take-off and landing, to avoid the ear pressure issues.
  • Pack an extra set of clothes.  No matter how old they are, you never know when a drink may be spilled.  There’s always the chance too that they will refuse to use the loud toilet on the plane and have an accident of a different sort.  And a wet, messy kid is absolutely no fun.  For anyone.
  • Expect to work really hard during your flight.  I remember when flying meant cruising through 2-3 trashy gossip-like magazines, reading a few chapters of my book, listening to some music, and maybe even watching the in-flight movie if I was interested.  Flying was almost a treat; a vacation before the vacation even.  Sometimes MOMD & I would even play our travel Scrabble game.  Not so when you’re travelling with youngsters.  You are going to parent longer and harder than you normally do in a 3-hour window, because you’re cognizant of all the other passengers around you and you do not want to be “those people with the kid(s)”.

At the end of your flight, you will be exhausted.  Just expect this, so that you are prepared.  And if it turns out your child is the perfect little traveller and had zero issues as you flew from one side of the country to the other, make sure you give thanks.

Happy travels!

 

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