My Breastfeeding Journey

breastfeeding

Breastfeeding to me was always the only option. It’s kind of like deciding to go to college – there was no real decision ever made, it was just something I was going to do.

With Finn, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I’ve said it before, but Finn and I were never a great pair when it came to nursing. He had trouble latching from the start, and when he did latch and it became painful, I started to shy away from it. I purchased a nipple shield at the suggestion of the lactation consultant, and looking back, that became an even bigger problem.

A nipple shield is exactly what it sounds like. It’s essentially a piece of plastic, like the top of a bottle, that you suction over your breast to help the baby latch. For me, it just became another thing I needed to have when Finn was hungry. I had to clean it between each feeding, and it made the process a little longer, and a lot harder.

No doubt the shield did help Finn transition to a bottle. At about 5 weeks old, I chose to start bottle feeding exclusively. I just did not like nursing with him. He got breast milk for the first eight months of his life. I pumped every three hours for eight long months until my body stopped producing as much milk and I took it as a sign that I was done.

With Finn, I was not as confident with nursing. I lived my life in a three hour cycle, knowing that I had to be home to feed him or pump every three hours. It was predictable, yes, but it wasn’t sustainable. When I stopped pumping, I started to enjoy motherhood more. Looking back, I realize I put way too much pressure on myself and made feeding Finn my entire life rather than making it part of life.

Breastfeeding was the biggest thing I dreaded when I found out about Reese. Again, I didn’t think about not doing it, but I figured it would be the same story as last time. Lots of trial and error until I finally gave up and started pumping again.

But Reese latched right away, and she was a great eater from the start! It gave me so much hope that maybe I would be able to nurse her after all. The first few weeks became very painful. I was wincing every time she latched on, and the lactation consultant told me that it would be this way for about a month.

I kept pushing through the pain, and around the five week mark, it stopped hurting and became second nature.

It was so easy to nurse her, that I barely took my pump out at all. I have some milk stashed in the freezer since I was overproducing and had to pump, but I haven’t made pumping a priority this time around. I think I’m so reluctant to pump since I did it for so long with Finn. I hate pumping – being stuck to a contraption for however long, cleaning all the parts, keeping track of the breast milk and how old it is. It’s just a hassle, and nursing became easy.

Now I’m dealing with the complete opposite issue. Reese won’t take a bottle! I’ve tried several different kinds and flows. I’ve had different people try while I’ve left the room. I’ve tried it when she is super hungry and when she is content and happy. She doesn’t want it! I’m okay with that at this point because I’m home with her, and being able to nurse actually makes it so easy to feed her anywhere, anytime. I’ve breastfed in public many times, something I never thought I would do before.

However, there will be a time in the very near future when I want to go out without my kids and having Reese take a bottle will be imperative :).

I’ve seen both sides of the breastfeeding journey and at the end of the day, my takeaway is the same – breastfeeding is hard! It hurts, it’s time consuming. Growth spurts happen and cluster feedings make you feel like you can’t do anything else with your day. It’s my entire world at this point in my life!

That being said, I’m grateful for the ability to breastfeed my babies. It truly is amazing to know that my body gives them life!

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Reese’s “Schedule” At 10 Weeks Old

I’ve mentioned before that if Finn taught me one thing when he was an infant, it was that babies benefit when they are on a schedule. Once we started implementing one with him, he was so happy, started sleeping through the night, and it was so much easier to schedule our day around his!

When Reese was born, I knew a schedule would be necessary for everyone’s sanity. Fortunately, Reese was a great eater from the start. At her first doctor’s visit she had already surpassed her birth weight, so feeding on demand was no longer needed.

By her first week, I was getting her on a routine. Feed, wake, sleep. The idea behind this is that a well rested baby eats better and can stay happy and fall back to sleep easier.

Of course, babies are unpredictable, and as soon as we got into a good routine, Reese then hit a “leap” or developmental period that threw her off and caused her to want to nurse all day long.

Regardless, we continue to follow the feed, wake, sleep cycle, which is loosely based off of the Baby Wise books.

By around 6 weeks old, Reese was waking up twice at night and going right back down. We started a bedtime routine that put her to sleep right around 7:30pm.

By 8 weeks, she was waking up once around 2 or 3am and waking for the day around 7am.

This is a very typical day, but we’ve had a lot of non-typical days as well. There was a week where she wouldn’t nap in her crib at all, and then wouldn’t nap in her crib unless I nursed her to sleep. The last few nights she’s been waking up around midnight to nurse, and then again around 4:30am. Regardless of how many times she wakes at night, she goes back down after eating at night, which I’m grateful for.

Finn was sleeping through the night at this point, but I’m trying not to compare the two. We are doing things differently with Reese, mainly I’ve been exclusively breast feeding because Little Miss doesn’t seem to want to take a bottle! I’m also trying to remind myself that she is only 10 weeks old! I’m truly enjoying the breastfeeding this time around, so I don’t mind the middle of the night snuggles.

Here’s a rough outline of our “typical” day:

7-7:30am – Wake for the day. Change diaper, eat, wake time.

8:30am – Down for nap number one.

10:00am – Eat, awake time.

11:00am – Down for nap number two.

12:30pm – Eat, awake time.

1:30pm – Down for nap number three.

3:00pm – Eat, awake time.

4-6:30pm – Sometimes we get a nap here, sometimes we don’t. Usually I end up wearing her while she “naps” on me.

7:00pm – Bedtime routine begins. She usually nurses for about 30 minutes and goes down.

2:00am – Middle of the night feeding.

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Our Favorite Baby Products

It’s funny being a second-time mom. I appreciate the perspective of the things I was told I need versus the things I know I actually need.

There have been some differences between Finn and Reese. For one, Reese has yet to take a bottle. I blame this partially on her being great at nursing, but mostly on my unwillingness to ever want to pump. I pumped for nearly 8 months exclusively with Finn, and it ruined me. This situation has made the “stuff” that goes along with bottle feeding – bottles, pump, sterilizing stuff, etc. – not necessary this time around.

I’ve also realized that luxury items like wipe warmers and diaper pails are just that – luxuries. At two months old, these seven items are truly the must-haves for infants.

White noise machine – I swear by these things. Not only do white noise machines drown out any noise that is happening outside the baby’s room, but it also reminds baby of being in the womb. Finn still sleeps with his. We bought this white noise machine off Amazon for Finn and it’s wonderful. It’s extremely affordable and works great for their bedrooms. Highly recommend.

Sleep sack – Would it be weird if I admitted I wish they made sleep sacks for adults? How cozy do they sound? Not only do they keep baby warm, but they keep baby cozy and snug, just like they were in the womb. I have a ton of these on hand, and Reese will sleep with them until she is one, or beyond.

Rock and Play – Finn slept in the Rock and Play until he was about seven months old. I love the portability of this thing and the ability to rock and vibrate. Reese slept in this for a few weeks, but she does better in her crib – I’m not complaining! However, the Rock and Play is the perfect place to put her down when I need a free hand. She naps in it sometimes, too.

Carseat cover – Finn was a May baby, so the need for blankets and carseat covers was unnecessary. I bout this carseat cover on a whim a few weeks before Reese was born, just because I was nervous about the cold weather. It is one of the best things I’ve ever bought. I never have to worry about her getting cold, or snowed/rained on. She is always cozied up.

Play mat – We love the idea of letting our babies “play” even before we think they can. This Infantino play mat is very colorful and soft, plus it’s easy to clean up spit up or anything else off of it. Reese spends a ton of time on her play mat, both for tummy time and on her back.

Portable white noise machine – Like the white noise machine above, this portable one goes everywhere with us. Babies are funny. They tend to sleep better in the loudest room than in a quiet one. We put the white noise machine in Reese’s carseat, in her swing, and anywhere she may be sleeping. It keeps her asleep.

Backpack – This time around, I decided to go hands free and bought a backpack for our diaper bag. This particular backpack isn’t meant to be a diaper bag, but that’s fine with me. I like being “stylish” and functional.

Baby wrap – Like any baby, Reese’s witching hour is typically around dinner time – right when David and Finn are coming home and stuff needs to get done. I love wearing Reese with this wrap so I can have my hands free and nine times out of ten, she falls asleep in it. Definitely worth purchasing!

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How I Transitioned To A Mom Of Two

David and I always wanted to have more than one child, and we were lucky enough to have that become a reality. When I was pregnant with Reese, I didn’t give much thought to the inevitability of having two children until the last few weeks.

I started to get emotional about the thought of ‘replacing’ Finn, or having to split my time with my children. I worried I wouldn’t feel the same way about Reese that I did with Finn. I worried I wouldn’t be a good mother to a little girl, because all I knew was being a boy mom. I worried that Finn would be jealous, or confused, or left out.

When Reese was born, a sense of calm swept over me. I remember telling David how at peace I felt. It was completely different than when I had Finn. I knew what I was doing this time, and I knew what to expect.

The reality is, going from zero to one baby is FAR harder than going from one to two.

The First Few Weeks

I decided to keep Finn home with me in the month after Reese’s birth. There were several reasons for this. 1.) Between the holidays and having family visit, I’d be keeping Finn home from daycare more than having him go, so it didn’t make sense financially. 2.) The reality was, I hadn’t spent more than a week at a time with Finn since my maternity leave with him, and that didn’t sit well with me. And 3.) I just like spending time with him. He’s a cool kid.

I had a week at home with Reese before Finn joined us, which was perfect. However, my hormones started to kick in and I wept for my time with Finn. Weepiness is a symptom of just having a baby and it hit me hard! It was perfect that he was going to stay with me, because I don’t think my tear ducts could’ve handled anymore separation.

Reese was a pretty chill newborn, and because of this, I was able to dote on her and Finn in those first few weeks.

How Finn Has Adjusted

I had nothing to worry about with Finn. He is the absolute best big brother. He helps me change Reese’s diaper, gives her his toys when she cries, kisses her on the head repeatedly, and calls her “My Reese”.

Finn doesn’t like to be too far away either. When I nurse Reese, we read books or do puzzles, or just cuddle and watch TV.

I also made sure to do one thing each day just for him. Sometimes we would get out of the house and go to the library or the park. Other days I set up an obstacle course in the basement so he could run wild. Having Reese made me want to be more intentional with my time with Finn, and it has been super special.

Other Tips For Older Siblings

My main goal with Finn is to help him feel included and like he is doing a good job helping with Reese. I try not to scold him if he gets a little rough with his love, but instead remind him to be gentle. We remind him to give her kisses on the top of her head or on her feet (especially now that he is back in daycare with all those germs).

Reese has been a pretty chill baby, but in those moments when she needs me and Finn needs me, I try to help Finn first, just because I know he will remember it. Not to say I neglect Reese in those moments, but I will grab Finn a glass of water or milk before I sit down to feed Reese just so he doesn’t feel left out.

Lastly, whenever Finn wants to ‘hold’ Reese, I let him. I want to foster the relationship the two of them have, and Finn feels so important when he holds her, so why would I say no?!

All in all, the last two months have been so much easier than I thought they would be. I truly can’t believe how different I feel this time around.

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All The Things They Don’t Tell You About Childbirth

I can’t even begin to tell you how different labor was with Finn than with Reese. I think the main difference was that I knew what to expect with Reese. Sure, I took childbirth classes and did lots of reading the first time around, but living and experiencing childbirth firsthand is something that is impossible to put into words. The pain, the anxiety, the emotions, the exhaustion – all of it is indescribable.

And here I am trying to help other expecting mamas what to expect. There is a lot that happens, and a lot that people just don’t talk about. As I look back on both my deliveries, there was so much I found to be surprising or confusing. So based on my experience, here are all the things they don’t tell you about childbirth.

The delivery room is very calm.

Unlike the movies, my experience in the delivery room was extremely calm. In fact, my labor with Finn took so long to progress that David and I fell asleep. The nurses do come in to check on you every so often, but there was nothing frantic about any of it – and Reese was born in under 3 hours! Both of my labor and delivery nurses were so calm and understanding. The lights were dim and we even watched TV (with Finn. There was no time with Reese!).

There are a lot of people involved.

While I labored, my nurse was the only person I really saw. The doctor poked his/her head in a few times, but really for the initial few hours, it was just my nurse. As soon as I began pushing, it seemed like the entire staff needed to be involved! Not really, but quite a few folks did show up. My nurse was there, and the doctor obviously, but then a pediatric nurse came in for the baby, and eventually a pediatrician as well. There was also a support nurse for me, and a lactation consultant came in as well. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that many people, but I was caught off guard at how many necessary people were in the room – and how little I cared!

You may need antibiotics.

Around my 36 week checkup, my OB checked me to see if I tested positive for Strep B. If a mom does test positive, and I did for both of mine, then you will need to be hooked up to antibiotics in the delivery room. Apparently Strep B is threat to baby’s health and if he/she comes into contact with it, it could be very dangerous. So I was hooked up to antibiotics that were ultimately passed onto the baby to avoid any harm. It was given through an IV, and although pretty annoying, it was obviously worth having.

Contractions are not like “intense menstrual cramps”.

I did a lot of googling trying to find out what contractions felt like. I kept reading other mom’s say they felt like “very intense menstrual cramps”. I disagree completely. The best way I can explain a contraction is a really painful poop. Remember the Friends episode when Rachel goes into labor and says it feels like pushing St. Bernard out of your ass? Yep, that’s pretty much it! You are using the same muscles to push baby out as you do to go number two, so it makes sense. There is some pinching and squeezing that happens as well. All in all, it’s not pleasant and the only relief I felt was when David would rub my lower back and I would moan like a cow. Childbirth sure is beautiful!

You’re going to poop.

That being said, you’re going to poop. You are using the same muscles after all, so you shouldn’t expect anything different! Unless your husband is like mine and leans over mid-push to tell you that you just pooped, you aren’t going to know that you did! My doctor was very discreet and never said a word. I didn’t care, regardless. At that point I would’ve done just about anything to get the baby out!

Contractions continue after the baby is born.

Once baby is born and laid on your chest, you aren’t out of the woods. You then have to push the placenta out, which is nothing compared to birthing a baby. In fact, I didn’t even pay attention to it since I was preoccupied with a fresh baby on my chest. However, each time baby latches onto your breast, contractions continue. This is nature’s way of getting your uterus back to it’s normal size – quite amazing actually! But also, very painful.  And the rumor about it getting worse with each baby is true. These nursing contractions were 10x worse with Reese than with Finn. Fortunately they didn’t last longer than a few days.

Depends are a really good idea.

It may be obvious, but with Finn I was very unprepared for the amount of bleeding that happened in the week’s postpartum. This felt like Mother Nature’s sick joke to me – not only was I sore and sleepless, but I was on an endless period for weeks and weeks?! For Reese, I was more prepared for this and wasn’t as offended by it. I bought Depends – the best idea ever – and got through it without complaint.

Breastfeeding hurts.

Whoever tells you breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt is a liar. Sure, now that we are six weeks out, breastfeeding is a breeze. But those first few weeks were painful. I spoke with a lactation consultant about this and she was wonderful, explaining that it takes lots of practice! Of course it does. Baby’s mouth is small, and your nipples are extremely sensitive parts on your body. My advice? Keep breastfeeding! There were days in the first and second week where I literally screamed out in pain whenever she latched on, however I’m so happy I kept pushing through. We are a good pair! Stock up with lanolin and nursing pads. Pro tip – soak your nursing pads in coconut oil. It’s anti-fungal and incredibly soothing! Plus it won’t hurt the baby.

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