Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead


Crossroads
March 30, 2012, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Breastfeeding, Motherhood | Tags: , , ,

(Lucy getting a snack before Ellie’s wedding, Photo courtesy of Jade Pierce Photography)

Well, I feel like I’m at a motherhood crossroads with my sweet baby girl. I’ve been following the principles of ecological breastfeeding very thoroughly since her birth. I read Sheila Kippley’s The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood which promote mama and baby togetherness, on-demand nursing, co-sleeping, no pacifiers, no bottles, baby wearing, exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months, and daily naps with baby (what’s not to love?!). Ecological Breastfeeding naturally delays the return of fertility because of super frequent breastfeeding as a way to naturally space out babies.

The natural baby spacing aspect of this method of mothering is what attracted me to it in the first place since I’m terrible at charting. But then I really adored the close relationship with my baby that ecological breastfeeding supports. I guess it’s a good thing that I really enjoyed it because I was surprised and a little bit bummed that my fertility returned after only 5 months. I was seriously really careful to follow all the principles, although occasionally I didn’t take a nap, and was shocked that my fertility returned before I even started solids with Lucy. I had friends tell me that it would be so unlikely for my fertility to return before a year if I was co-sleeping still. Oh, well, not having to even consider NFP was nice while it lasted! And it did delay the return of my fertility a month longer than after I had Benjamin. And the past five months have maybe been the best of my whole life with my precious baby. What a light this sweet girl has brought to my heart!

Anyhow, now I need to decide if I want to continue doing ecological breastfeeding or make some changes. Should we get the crib out of it’s packaging and start moving her toward sleeping in her own space? Should I start pumping so that I can occasionally leave her at home with Daddy?

As for co-sleeping, I’ve slept much better having her in bed with me than during my desperate attempts to try to get Benjamin to sleep by himself during his first six months, but maybe we could move towards sleeping through the night if she had her own room. She’s such a good sleeper already! We got 5 hour stretches for the past three nights which was awesome. We tried cry-it-out when Benjamin was 6 months old because I was so sleep-deprived I thought I would lose my mind. But I don’t want to go that route with Lucy, I just can’t. Whatever we choose to do sleep-wise won’t involve tears.

And as for no bottles, I hate the idea of having to pump (I pumped so much when I was working during Benjamin’s infancy that the idea is just repellant to me) but on the other hand, having a girls night also sounds amazing. But who knows if she will even take a bottle? And washing out bottles….blerg. Hate it.

And what kind of NFP should I use? I was using the sympto-thermal method (kind of) but taking my temperature at the same time each morning after having uninterrupted sleep is just…NEVER going to happen. Uninterrupted sleep? What is this miracle you speak of? So, I want to look into NFP methods that look for other fertility symptoms, not temperature. Got any recommendations? Part of me doesn’t really want to bother…babies rule.

I’d love your thoughts on good methods of NFP and gentle sleep training!

 

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Why I Hated Breastfeeding (And How That Changed) Part II
March 25, 2012, 2:41 am
Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , ,

In Part I, I described my horrible experience breastfeeding my firstborn and how after four months I gave up. I was stressed out. My baby was stressed out. It wasn’t working.

I am so glad to say that round two has been totally different! Part of it must be due to Baby Number Two’s easy temperament, but I think other factors are lower stress, and a shift in my attitude and mothering methods.

By the time I became pregnant with my second baby, so many things were different. I had quit working full-time as an editor and started working part-time as a ballet teacher. We had moved back to our hometown where our amazing parents live. I had drastically improved my health by breaking my addiction to sugar and taking the supplements I needed. So, in general, everything that had made my first pregnancy and post-partum really difficult had changed and I had great hopes that breastfeeding would improve the second time around as well.

When Lucy was born, I was braced for several months of exhaustion and colic after the challenges of Benjamin’s first year. But, my worry was for naught. The moment Lucy arrived in the world, she was calm, happy, and loved to nurse. I’ll never know if it’s simply the way her little soul was formed or if she was relaxed because I was relaxed. Like my firstborn, she spits up constantly (at 5 months it’s improved some) but she isn’t bothered by it the way he was.

Now I know what everybody was talking about when they said I would love breastfeeding!

I think sometimes babies are challenging due to health issues like reflux or simply temperament, but I do think there are things mamas can do that help make a good breastfeeding relationship possible. Here’s what I did different the second time around (I was greatly influenced by the mother-baby togetherness ideas in Sheila Kippley’s book The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding):

No more working full-time. Quitting work for baby number 1 wasn’t an option. My husband was two semester’s away from his degree and me working that year was the best choice for us at the time. However, being able to be home with my babies this time around has made the experience so different and wonderful. I haven’t had to pump one time because I’m always with my baby. Now, I know working mamas who have pumped for over a year so that their baby will be exclusively breastfed. It is possible and those mamas are amazing. I’m NOT saying you have to stay home in order to be a good mama, I’m just saying that the breastfeeding experience is much easier for me since I’ve stayed at home.

No pacifiers, no bottles. Just offer baby the breast. Benjamin was given a pacifier when he was one day old and a bottle at 3 weeks. I think that had serious negative consequences for our breastfeeding relationship. So far, Lucy doesn’t know what a bottle is.

Nurse baby to sleep and co-sleep so that nighttime feedings are a breeze. With my firstborn, we only co-slept for the first few weeks and after that I would have to get up out of bed so many times a night to pick him up out of his crib, nurse, rock him back to sleep, and (hopefully) place him back in his crib still sleeping. Most of the time, he woke up the second I set him back in his crib and I would cry because I was just so tired. Lucy is 5 months and we’re still co-sleeping. I nurse her when she starts to rustle around (she doesn’t even have to cry) and after 5-10 minutes we’re both asleep again.

Have support. Living in the same town as family has made a world of difference. An exhausted new mama doesn’t really need somebody to tell her that breastfeeding is great and she should keep doing it. An exhausted new mama needs somebody to cook dinner or watch the kids so she can nap and have the physical and emotional energy to nurse.

Get comfortable nursing in public. I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn someone asked me, “You’re not going to, like, BREASTFEED everywhere, are you? I saw a woman breastfeeding on a train once! I was so gross. I can’t believe she did that in front of everybody!” I’m not sure exactly what she expected the poor woman to do. Let her hungry child scream? Is that preferable to other passengers? Anyhow, that conversation and others made me ultra-sensitive to making other people uncomfortable by feeding my kid. Long story short: I’m over it. I’ve nursed baby girl in restaurants, concerts, Mass, adoration, work, the park, banquets, parties, the Nutcracker, weddings, you name it. I can take her anywhere.

Don’t wait for your baby to cry. Offer baby the breast often. If your baby is crying for food they will be frantic and nursing will be difficult. Let baby nurse at the first sign of hunger. I usually offer Lucy the breast every two hours or so, that’s what’s working for us.

Try to remove stress from your life. A stressed-out mama means a stressed-out baby. I’m sure this isn’t a universal rule, but it’s true in our household. I was SO STRESSED as a new mama, working full-time, a thousand miles away from family. I think Benjamin would have had challenges no matter how relaxed I was, but I’m sure my stress made all his issues worse.

Nursing a happy and content baby to sleep has to be one of the sweetest experiences of life. I watch her eyelids flutter and finally close, her arms relax, and her feet cease to wiggle as she falls into precious sleep. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’m so glad I got a second chance.

Photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography. She’s seriously amazing. Jade photographed my beloved friend Eleanor’s wedding a couple of weeks ago and took some shots of me and Lucy. I was in the wedding party and getting wedding photos taken with Jade was a blast and all the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous. So, if you’re in TX and in need of a lifestyle or wedding photographer, look her up!



Why I Hated Breastfeeding (And How That Changed) Part I
March 23, 2012, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Children, Motherhood | Tags: ,

I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. I nurse my baby girl everywhere and do my best to promote breastfeeding and support nursing mamas.But, I never judge another mama for choosing to bottle-feed. Some mamas can’t breastfeed even after trying everything to produce enough milk for their baby. Sometimes circumstances make it almost impossible. I know this first hand…

When I was a few days away from delivering my first born, my mom came to stay.  “You’re going to LOVE breastfeeding,” she said. “It’s so special to bond with your baby that way. You’ll just love it.” Whether I was going to breastfeed or not hadn’t even crossed my mind. I knew I would love it. But I was WRONG. 

After birthing a perfect and healthy baby boy, I nursed him right away. It worked but…it wasn’t exactly intuitive. For the first day he nursed on and off and seemed to be latching well. He was sleepy and happy. But on the second day everything changed. He started to cry. ALL THE TIME. I didn’t know it then but I had just birthed what seemed to be the most colicky baby in existence. I would snuggle him and he would cry. I would nurse him and he would cry. Nothing would console him and HE WOULD NOT SLEEP. I continued to nurse him but he would latch and unlatch a thousand times during each feeding and about 30 seconds into a meal he would arch his back and start to scream. It was unbearable.

At his first pediatric appointment, I explained to the Dr., “He cries…like all the time. Even when everything should be ok! And he’s spitting up so much.” I was told, “Babies cry. Babies spit up. He’s fine.” “Well, sure,” I said, “but he cries so much that it just doesn’t seem right.” “Well, you’re a first time mom, so you’re just not used to it,” he retorted.

I kept nursing him, but it was horrible. We would both cry. It was clear: my baby hated to nurse. And I hated it, too.  After 5 weeks, I had to go back to work. So, I pumped dutifully and my son took the bottle pretty well. So well, in fact, that he didn’t want to feed at the breast ever again. So I pumped. I pumped and pumped and pumped some more. I was pumping about 3 hours a day which was more than I was sleeping because the child WOULD NOT SLEEP. At his next appointment, his weight gain was still good, but after describing his behavior again, the Dr. diagnosed him with reflux and prescribed Zantac (which did nothing).

By four months, I was a mess. Working full-time away from my baby was killing me. I would cry on my way to work knowing that I wouldn’t see him for 9 hours. And the sleep deprivation. Oh, the sleep deprivation! I was so exhausted that it hurt, physically hurt, to be awake. My whole body ached. I couldn’t think. My baby would sleep for an hour at a time, no more, and I was unraveling.

I hated nursing. My baby hated nursing. I was pumping more than I was sleeping. I just couldn’t do it anymore…

I wish the end of this story was that I perservered. I wish that I knew other breastfeeding mamas who had similar struggles to encourage me to keep going. I wish that I had been able to quit working and focus on my baby. I wish I had figured out sooner that the reflux and eczema my baby struggled with pointed to a milk allergy. Sadly, that’s not what happened. I switched to formula. The good news is that I had a second chance…

Part II coming soon! While you wait for it, check out Why I Breastfeed in Public: The Blessed Virgin Mary Does it!

Photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography (Jade does Lifestyle and Wedding Photography and she’s amazing.)



Why I Breastfeed in Public: The Blessed Virgin Mary Does It!

There was an uproar recently when a women was kicked out of a church for nursing her child in the service and the pastor compared her public breastfeeding to a stripper performing.  What?! I know. Insanity. A blog I read posted the news article on FB and a commenter expressed her view that nursing in church was very inappropriate and that the mother was wrong to do so. She went on to say that she would never want her children “subjected” (yes, she really used that word!) to such a sight and that she was sure that Mary NEVER would have breastfed Jesus in public. I was honestly shocked.

Now, I imagine the commenter’s sentiment is due to the misunderstanding that breastfeeding is sexual because breasts are involved. Honestly, I’m sure her children are more “subjected” to the sight of breasts in the check out aisle of the grocery store than they would be if they saw a mother feeding her child. I for one, love that my 3-year-old son sees me nursing my baby. He is seeing the incredible nourishing aspect of the female body. Breastfeeding is completely normal to him—it’s how his sister eats! He is learning already that the female body isn’t merely a sex object and I couldn’t be happier about that.

But, my shock at her comment was due not only to the fact that she found public nursing so offensive (aren’t we passed that?), not only that she wouldn’t want her children to see a woman nursing, but more importantly due to her certainty that Our Lady wouldn’t have fed Our Lord unless she was out of sight. Why would anyone believe that?! Before formula became an option, mothers would have needed to take their babies everywhere and guess what? Babies need to eat! Would the Blessed Virgin have stayed home for months and months to be sure that no one would see her (gasp!) NURSING? Surely not! I highly doubt that nursing was considered even remotely taboo in her community. And we have an amazing typographical tradition in Christian art of Our Lady breastfeeding the Infant Christ. In fact, the very earliest image we have of The Blessed Virgin and Jesus is one in which…drumroll…she’s breastfeeding him! It’s found in the catacomb of Priscilla from ca. 160 AD.

This beautiful subject is carried through out the centuries. I simply love this one:

Look how serene she is! And how squirmy he is! Beautiful. There’s also a shrine to Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, FL that I am dying to visit! (Read about the trip Stephanie of Mama and Baby Love took there.)

Imagine a splendid portrayal of Our Lady nursing Our Lord displayed in a church (as has been the case). How can it make any sense that a woman should be maligned and humiliated for following Mary’s example?