Sunday, July 30, 2006

Four Months

And another clogged duct.

I think I am reaching the end, people.

I think I have had just about enough.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why you shouldn't let your six year old answer the phone

Because he will say answer it with,

"My mom can't come to the phone right now, she is pumping her boobs. PUMPING her BOOBS! PUUUMMMPPPINNNGG! No, not cooking, PUUMMMPPINNNGG!

Mommy, can you take the phone? I don't think this guy knows english."

Thank you, dear. Thank you so much. (sob)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

No one will know the underwear is dirty

Got an email from L. (I don't know if it's okay to post her name here or not, so to be on the safe side, I won't) asking some questions. And since answering them is SO MUCH more fun than doing those piles and piles of dirty icky laundry sitting on my washing machine, I guess I'll be answering them right now! Cause you know, in this heat, who needs to be wearing clothes anyway? (Way to rationalize my laziness, I know)

L.'s Q.s:
Do you ever leave the house? Do you have any time that you're not pumping or feeding? And do you ever pump and feed at the same time?

Yes, I do manage to leave the house. I have to, I've got two older kids with their own schedules and stuff going on, and I need to meet their needs, too. But I'm not away for very long, not long a'tall. Between having to pump every 2-3 hours, and feeding Darth D. every 3-4 hours now, and working around his nap schedule, it becomes very tricky. But Darth D. does take a walk with me everyday when it's not too hot, and he does come with me to the supermarket, or on a short shopping get the idea.
I am definitely stuck at home most of the day. Thank God I have the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom, so I have more flexibility with my (and everyone else's) schedule. Plus I get to pump in the privacy of my own home.

You know, when you have your first child, it's hideously difficult to go through the transition from being an independent, free thinking adult, to a mush-brained parent who suddenly can't go to the bathroom alone. That moment when it hits you that you are a virtual slave to the needs of this baby, that you can no longer assume that any of your needs will ever be met, that it will be years before you can bet on getting a good night's sleep ever again...that moment reduces a lot of new moms to lay sobbing on their bathroom floors in a fetal position. I've been through that already. Darth D. is actually my third child. So I came into this situation already prepared for the fact that my time would not be my own, and things would be hard for a good long while. Of course, I thought I would be a slave to the baby, not also to a pump...but to me, it all boils down to dealing with reality as it is. I'm the mom, that's my job, and right now my job is pretty damn hard. But I also have the luxury of knowing that it will get easier. And much more fun.

I don't pump and feed at the same time, because I usually pump both breasts at the same time, and that takes two hands. Even when I do one breast at a time, I still only have one hand free, and I need both hands to give Darth D. a bottle. But I can do other things that only require one hand, like drink a cup of coffee or wave a toy in front of Darth D. to keep him occupied while I pump. A lot of the moms commenting have suggested getting a hands-free pump bra, though.
I would love for a mom who has that bra to explain how you feed and pump at the same time. The horns themselves take up space in front of you, how do you hold the baby to you while you're wearing the bra and pump?

Looking at the bright side

Clearly, pumping is harder than exclusively breastfeeding or exclusively formula feeding. But there are some advantages to it, too.

For one thing, your baby is still getting breast milk, which we all know is SO MUCH BETTER than the POY-ZON formula. (Yes it is cynicism you are detecting here) (Hoi! Darth A.! How are you feeling after I fed you all that Poy-Zon as a baby? Oh, I'm sorry kiddo, go back to doing those upper grade math puzzles. For fun.) But, seriously, if you want your baby to have all the possible health benefits of breast milk, but you can't breastfeed, then pumping will ease a lot of guilt. (Which we will try not to feel, oh no)

For another thing, you are not tied down to the baby all the time. You are pretty much tied down to your pump, yah, but it's slightly different. You don't have to take your baby everywhere you go, just in case he gets hungry and needs the boob. You can pump right before you leave the house, and know that you've got a good few hours of time before you need to head back.

Plus, your husband or other adult can feed the baby for you. I guess this is also one of the advantages of formula feeding, but when it's pumped breast milk, it's more like "boob in a bottle." (I should trademark that.)

Pump horns don't have to latch, so there's never a question of getting it on right. They also can't turn their heads, get distracted, fall asleep, bite, scratch, or startle.

You can do other things while your pump, especially if you have one of those "hands-free pump bras" that so many commenters have told me about. You can drink hot tea and a crumbly piece of cake, and not worry about spilling anything on the baby.

Pumping into a bottle will never leave you wondering how your supply is doing. You know exactly how much you're making, and exactly how much your baby is eating.

Pumping can get you away from a screaming baby, if there is another adult home at the time.

Pumping can mean no more cracked nipples, or thrush, or uneven breast sizes.

Plus! If you get bored (like you'll have the goddamn time to get bored) you can decorate your pump bag. Like, iron on little flowers. Or dye it yellow. Or write "BOOBS ON THE GO" in permanent marker (I wouldn't recommend that one unless you don't take your pump bag with you to very many places). You get the idea.

Best of all, it's a conversation starter. ("Why aren't you breastfeeding?" "Because all the anti-psychotic drugs my parole officer told me I have to take pass through my breastmilk! By the way, I really have a problem with people who wear green.")

So really, you gotta look at the good points of pumping. Otherwise, it's too easy to see only the trouble of it all.

Monday, July 24, 2006

'Owning' it (and a lot of rambling)

A while back one of the commenters asked me if I had been able to breastfeed Darth D. at all, and if so, for how long. The answer to that question is, I was able to breastfeed him for ten days. Ten glorious, hellish, frustrating days. Filled with hope that I would finally be able to breastfeed one of my children, my last child, my last chance.

It ultimately ended in devastation when, on the tenth day, Darth D. refused to breastfeed. It was like an off switch; he suddenly would not latch on to my breast, no matter how hard I tried or what I did. I stubbornly kept trying for the whole day. But after ten hours and no breastfeeding, no eating, my husband took matters into his own hands and offered Darth D. a bottle of breast milk. He drank it all.

So that was it. I started pumping, and we started bottle-feeding.

Some women out there might try to tell me that I should have hung on a little longer, that eventually the baby would have 'given in' and resumed breastfeeding. Some women will probably think of this as a classic 'nursing strike,' that eventually would have resolved itself. But looking back, I know that my husband did the right thing. Things deteriorated so quickly, I think I started going a little crazy. Darth D. went from being a happy latcher to a terrorizing anti-breast fiend, writhing his little body and screaming every time I tried to hold him to my breast. After ten hours, I think my husband realized that, for whatever reason Darth D. no longer wanted my breast, it had somehow turned into a test of wills. I would not be the one to give in and admit defeat. But you see, with all my determination and resolve not to give Darth D. anything but the breast, I was overlooking the fact that the baby still needed to eat. If my husband had not given Darth D. a bottle, I really think that the situation would have kept going, until Darth D. would have ended up in the hospital from lack of nourishment and dehydration. Really, I think I went crazy from the whole breastfeeding 'thing.' It wouldn't have been the first time.

I wanted to breastfeed my children so badly. Before I had my first child, Darth A., I even took a breastfeeding class. You know what? All it managed to do was convince me that if I didn't breastfeed my child, for whatever reason, then I was a shitty mother, beyond bad. Not just a slightly incompetent mother, or an ignorant mother, but the kind of mother who gives her kid bruises and feeds him rat poison. The kind that social services comes to take the baby away. That bad. The lactation consultant that gave the class didn't offer me any advice that actually helped me to breastfeed. In fact, she did the exact opposite. I really believe that, by following the advice given in the breastfeeding class, I was doing things wrong, not right. I was setting myself up for failure.

For instance, with the latching-on technique: the LC instructed the class how to latch on a baby to a 'normal' breast, with protruding nipples. The teacher basically said 'this is how you latch your baby.' But I have flat nipples, and the method that the LC taught doesn't work with flat nipples. So I kept trying to latch on my baby, and doing it the way she said to do it, and it never worked. I kept thinking that I must be doing something wrong, because Darth A. almost never latched, and when he did, it hurt, and the LC had said it shouldn't hurt at all. It never entered my mind that maybe it wasn't working because the very method I had been taught in the breastfeeding class was completely wrong for me. There were so many other examples like that, of things that I did because the LCs told me to do them, only instead of helping to get the breastfeeding going, they pushed me closer defeat.

When I finally had a breakdown and gave in and started giving Darth A. formula, I felt so bad. Take guilt, and increase it by a factor of oh, a billion, and then multiply it by infinity and add it to eternity, and that's how bad I felt. Then multiply that feeling by three, and that's what I've felt for my three kids.

You know, a lot of women go around saying 'if you decide not to breastfeed, fine! Just own your decision.' By 'owning' I guess they mean that we should accept it, face up to it, not try to explain it away or sugarcoat it somehow. But I have two problems with this. First of all, not all of us 'decided' not to breastfeed. Some of us really really wanted to breastfeed, and couldn't. You can go around thinking that breastfeeding is so natural, that women who really want to breastfeed can, and that if a mother doesn't breastfeed, it's because she didn't really want to that much. As if wanting it hard enough is all it takes. But all that is a bunch of bullshit. That are lots of things in life we can't have, that we will never have, no matter how much we want it or how hard we strive. You can try your hardest and still end up with nothing to show for it.

Second of all, it is kind of hard to 'own' my not breastfeeding when other people, and society in general, seem to expect an explanation as to why I'm not. It goes back to an inherent belief people have that if I'm not breastfeeding, it must be because I didn't want to, because I'm selfish, and I have to explain to people why that opinion is wrong, and what they assumed about me isn't true. When someone asks you, "Oh? You aren't breastfeeding?" The underlying tone is "you didn't want the BEST for your child and instead give your baby POISON because you are too lazy/career driven/self-centered/evil to do what comes naturally for women?" It hurts. It hurts a lot.

So yah, I 'own' the fact that I didn't breastfeed. I accept it for what it is. But it's not a statement of my character as a person, or as a mother. It means that unfortunately, things didn't go the way I wanted them to go. It happens a lot in life.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

My first Darth D. mommy drive-by (Updated)

I took David with me to the supermarket yesterday. While waiting in line, an old (bitch) lady next to me looked down at David, and said very loudly,

"Your mother must be starving you!"

My husband offered that maybe she was trying to be sarcastic, to sound funny, and it came out wrong. Because David is over the 95th percentile for his age in size and weight. There is a reason why we call him Little Piggy.

But still, WHAT THE HELL?

New website to tell you about: A "nursing room locator," for moms who want to know safe and private places to breastfeed their babies. Thanks for the link, Nursing Mom!

Please go give some support to Henry's mom. She has to start pumping again after a two month 'break' because her son needs a CAT scan.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Help from the masses *Updated to add: I am an idiot*

If you live anywhere near me, you are having a major heat wave going on right now. (From what I see on the news, it would be pretty hard to guess where I live, since practically the whole country is in the middle of a heat wave. Global warming, anyone?)

So last night, with my hair all sticky and my thighs slick with sweat (and oh the google searches I will probably get with this one), I came upstairs to pump, and suddenly had this horrifying thought:
What if we have a blackout? As in, no power?
Because...because that would mean, of course, that I would not be able to pump.

I have one pump. An electric. I do not own a manual.

So, in the interest of saving my breasts from certain pain if we should lose power for more than a few hours, not to mention the breast milk that will be trapped inside them, I am asking my readers for help.

What manual pump would you recommend, and why? What pump wouldn't you recommend, and why? I would like as much advice and endorsements as possible. I am planning on going to Target later today and buying a manual breast pump, just in case.

What say you, ladies?

My husband just looked at my pump, and very casually reminded me that it can run on batteries. Which I totally forgot. (What with the heat, and exhaustion, and sweaty thighs and all....)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Preaching to the choir, I know

You know, I am aware that breast milk is best for my baby. Really, I get it. That's why I pump, for God's sakes.

But a U.S. government public health campaign from the Department of Health and Human Services to pressure women to breastfeed? That makes me mad.

I'll tell you why: because the campaign intrinsically implies that if a woman doesn't breastfeed, it's because she's selfish. It does not take into account that maybe she's actually unable.

I would take a gamble and say that most women who don't breastfeed, can't. And that's for one of two reasons:
a. her baby won't take the breast, or
b. she has to go back to work.

After all, about 70% of women do leave the hospital breastfeeding, or at least trying to breastfeed.

But, according to this controversial article, more than 60% of mothers have to go back to work soon after their baby is born. Yet "federal law requires large companies to provide only 12 weeks' unpaid maternity leave, and lactation leave is unheard of. Only a third of large companies provide a private, secure area where women can express breast milk during the workday, and only 7 percent offer on-site or near site child care."

Don't even ask about getting help with breastfeeding with things go wrong. The government does nothing to provide lactation services to women, it is up to hospitals and other groups like the LLL to do that.

So here are the facts: our federal government is unable to pass laws requiring more maternity leave. It is unable to force employers to provide women time, and a private place, to pump. It is unable to come up with the cash to provide all women the ways and means to provide breastmilk to their babies. (Sorry, ladies, we are spending billions of dollars on the Iraq war, not to mention that breastfeeding ad campaign! We just can't come up with the funds to actually help you!)

But if we moms don't breastfeed, it's because we're selfish.

Yah. Uh-Huh.

Time to go pump again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Funny Lactation Consultant story (of which I have oh so many)

Background: I wasn't able to breastfeed my first child, Darth A., for a variety of reasons, one of which was that he wouldn't latch right (at least I thought he wasn't latching right). I have very flat nipples, you see. Nothing to latch onto very easily.

-->Myth #1: Many LCs will tell you that if your baby's latch hurts, then the baby is latched wrong. This is a LIE. Many women find breastfeeding painful in the beginning. Pain is not a good way to tell if the baby is latched on the breast wrong, and it is also not a reason to peel the baby off the breast and try again. Hell, even pumping can hurt your nipples in the beginning, and last time I checked, a pump doesn't latch. <--

-->Myth #2: I was told, with Darth A., that the way to get a baby to latch is to wait until the baby's mouth gets very wide, and then quickly pull the baby to the nipple. THIS DOES NOT WORK WITH FLAT NIPPLES. All you are doing is pushing the baby's face into a mound of breast flesh. Not fun. One way to get a baby to latch with flat nipples is to hold your nipple in your fingers, and run it down your baby's skin from below is nose to his upper lip. He will most likely tilt his head up. Then, run the nipple from the upper lip into the mouth, so that the baby feels it on the top of the mouth first. Hopefully, the baby will close his mouth at that point, and start sucking. I don't know if I've made this clear or not. <--

I didn't even know about the option to pump. So I didn't. Darth A. got formula fed. (And oh, how I wish I could convey to you all the guilt, anguish, and grief that one small sentence brings with it.) (DON'T FEEL GUILTY DON'T FEEL GUILTY)

When I had Darth B., I did a lot more personal research on breastfeeding success stories, trying to find out from my fellow moms what they did that worked. I armed myself with a breastpump and lots of advice. Still, from the hour he was born, we had problems.
I was able to breastfeed for a while, using a nipple shield. But eventually I realized that breastfeeding was not going to work with this kid, either. So I pumped for as long as I could, then formula fed.

Fast forward many years. I'm living in a different city now, and pregnant with Darth D. I know that given my history, if I am to have any success in breastfeeding, I may need a nipple shield. So I decide that the easiest thing to do would be to run down to my hospital's lactation services, and buy a couple of shields there.

I go to the desk and ask for a nipple shield.

"Oh, I can't just sell those to you," the woman says. "You have to speak to a lactation consultant first. She has to authorize me to sell you them."
"Okay," I say. "Can I speak to a consultant now?"
"No," she replies. "You have to make an appointment."
"Look," I say as patiently as possible, "I drove down here to buy a shield. I wasn't able to breastfeed my first child at all, and I only managed for as long as I did with my second child because I used a shield. This is my third kid, and I know what I am talking about. So can you please sell me a shield?"
"No," she shakes her head. "Sorry, but you have to talk to the lactation consultant first."
(I am going to smack her seriously)
"Look, I am not coming back here twice to buy a shield."
(I Decide to get nasty)
"Well, I guess you don't want me to breastfeed. Okay, I get it. Goodbye." I start walking out.
"Wait!" She says. She looks around, making sure no one else is in earshot. "If you ask to speak to a lactation consultant after you deliver, she can authorize a nipple shield then."
"But, don't the consultants talk to the new moms anyway?" I ask.
"No," she answers. "They won't come up to talk to you unless you specifically ask."
(Jesus, how many mothers don't know to ask?)
I point to the sign on the wall that publicizes their hours of operation.
"Are you guys open on the weekends?"
"No, only weekdays."
"So, if I go into labor on a weekend, I can't get my nipple shield. That's what you're telling me?"
The woman looks around, leans over the desk, and whispers,
"If you ask your maternity nurse for a nipple shield, she will probably give you one."
(At this point, for some inexplicable reason, I suddenly got a vision of the Golum in my head, yelling "THE PRECIOUS! MUST PROTECT THE PRECIOUS!)
I roll my eyes, simply say, "um, thanks a lot," and leave.
The next day, I buy five nipple shields.
At Target.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Silly Post as Exhaustion sets in (pleaze 'scuse the swearing)

Why do all pumps have to look so generic? I was thinking about this at 4:30 ai-fucking-em in the morning. My ameda is just a cream color, very plain and bare. Not very interesting to look at. The pump bag is black, also very unadorned. And as far as I know, the Medela and other pumps are pretty boring looking, too.

Computers used to look all the same, until Apple came out with the iMac, in a gabillion different colors. Cause Apple got smart, and realized that women out there will buy a computer not because of the hardware and software inside--they will make their decision based on whether the computer matches the rest of their furniture. Hence, Apple stock went up.

Why can't the manufacturers of breast pumps learn from this? Wouldn't you love to have a choice in color and style when you have to use your fucking pump nine or ten times a day? Hell, they could even make snap-on covers for the horns, like they have faceplates for cell phones. Feel a little down? Pick the blue. Feel a little funky? Bring on the purple polka dots!

I think this would be a fucking great idea. At least I did at four thirty in the morning.

Friday, July 14, 2006

How often do I pump? *with plea*

I pump, on average, every two and a half hours during the day, and twice at night. But it varies a bit.

If it's been at least two hours from the last pumping session, and Darth D. is asleep or otherwise occupied and quiet, then I pump. If I know for a fact that he will still be happy doing something else in another half hour (usually this means Dad is home and can play with him), then I wait the half hour.

If it's already been three hours, I try to keep Darth D. happy while I pump. I'll bounce him in his bouncy chair, talk to him, sing to him, etc. But if he starts to cry, then I'll take a pause in my pumping to make him calm again.

If it's been three and a half hours, then my breasts are probably swollen and painful at that point. If Darth D. is still awake and grumpy, I turn up the pump all the way, and massage my breasts to try to get the milk out faster, but I keep going, even if he starts to cry, at least until most of the milk is out and my breasts feel better. Because his crying for ten minutes while I am right there talking to him and singing to him is better than not pumping and being angry and in pain.

Nights are hard. Usually I pump right before I go to sleep. Then I feed Darth D. when he wakes up around two o'clock, and afterwards pump again. If he's still sleeping at six o'clock, I can pump again without waking hubby; otherwise, dad's gotta take the baby while I pump. The reality is, if I was breastfeeding or formula feeding, I would be getting a lot more sleep. Sometimes Darth D. wakes at two o'clock, and doesn't go back to sleep until five. Then it feels like the whole night I've just been dealing with a fussy baby and pumping.

I try to take it day by day, night by night, and somehow, I just keep going. We'll see how much longer I can keep this up.

But, yeah, I'm tired.

PLEA: If you have a chance, please go give some support to Babyfruit. She is having a hard time getting her baby to latch on to the breast, as well as the pumping.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Things to consider

The following post is made up of my own personal opinions. I am no expert on these matters. But hey, this is where I get to give my two cents worth. If I say something offensive, I apologize. If you disagree with me, feel free to comment. But no trolls, please.

Pumping might work for you if:

1. You can't breastfeed because your baby doesn't latch.
I think most moms will understand this one. Getting a newborn on the breast is, for most moms, hard work. For some it just never happens, for a variety of reasons (baby was given bottles in the hospital, baby has jaw problems, mom's nipples are flat, etc. ). If the problem you're having is getting the milk from the breast to the baby, then pumping might be the way to go.

2. You can't exclusively breastfeed because you have to be away from your baby for hours a day.
If you're going to be gone long enough during the day (work, family obligations, etc.) that someone else will have to feed the baby during your separation, then naturally the baby will have to be given the bottle. From what I hear, some women choose to just keep going with the bottle, rather than trying to switch from bottle to breast and back again. Some babies just won't feed well on the breast once they've gotten used to the bottle.

3. You want to increase/maintain your milk supply through pumping.
Pumping will definitely help you there. In normal cases, the more milk you pump out, the more you will make.

4. You have the time to pump.
Pumping both breasts can take up to twenty minutes, and I'm talking about if you have a dual-breast pump, one that can pump both breasts at a time. If you are trying to increase/maintain your milk supply, you will probably need to pump every 2-3 hours during the day, and a couple times at night. This equates to hours a day pumping.

5. You have the energy to pump.
Having to deal with a newborn baby is not just hard. It's agonizing. It's unbelievably draining. There is just no way I could ever describe how much angst and mental anguish you can go through with a new baby. A lot of moms don't want to talk about it, I don't know why. Maybe they feel like it makes them look like bad parents, like they didn't love their babies. But there is a big difference between loving your baby and liking your role as a mom. Moms can love their babies absolutely, completely, insanely--and at the same time wish they could just hop on a plane to Bermuda and never come back. (After I had my first child, Darth A., I told my husband to divorce me and take custody of the baby. He thought I was kidding, and laughed. I wasn't.) If you can handle taking care of the baby, and also handle the extra burden of pumping, then you've got a chance of it working. But it is hard.

6. You have your family's support.
My husband was willing to do whatever it took to help me pump. In the beginning, when Darth D. had serious colic, sometimes he would take the baby all night, for every waking, because he knew that I would have to wake up also to pump. When I had my clogged ducts, he twice stayed home from work so that I could focus all my energy on pumping and getting the clogs out. He keeps my spirits up, and encourages me to keep going. I can't imagine doing this without him. It's really a dual effort.

Pumping might not be the way to go if:

1. You simply don't have enough milk.
Feeding your baby is a lot like filling a kiddie pool (bear with me here, the analogy will work if you stretch your imagination). You have to fill the pool once a day. If you have a big bucket, you can fill it faster and easier. If you have a little bucket, you can still get the job done, it will just take more work. But if all you have is a thimble size cup, then there is no way you're going to be able to fill that pool once a day.

Let's just state something obvious here: Your baby needs to be fed. The nutrition needs to come from somewhere. There are lots of medical reasons why it might not be able to come from you. And ladies, this might just be my lowly opinion, coming from my meager experience, but I'm going to shout it out here: DON'T FEEL GUILTY IF YOU CANNOT MAKE ENOUGH MILK. IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD MOTHER.

2. You don't have the time and energy to pump.
Like I said, pumping takes work. Even if you feel very strongly about your baby getting breastmilk, you may find that having to deal with a screaming baby, along with everything else in your life, is already more than you can handle. But again, this is normal, and no reason to feel guilty. (Can you tell I'm big in the "don't feel guilty" mantra?)

3. You have negative feelings about milk coming out of your breasts, in any form.
Some women are just uneasy with the whole idea of lactating. Despite what most lactation consultants will tell you (at least the ones that I've met), some women don't find breastfeeding the "most natural thing in the world." The reason why I dislike the LCs calling breastfeeding the "most natural thing in the world" is that they are implying that if you don't enjoy breastfeeding, you are somehow unnatural, a horrible deviant from other normal mothers. I think this is wrong. I think making a new mom feel guilty for any reason involving breastfeeding is wrong. (INSERT MANTRA HERE.) Because of the reason below:

4. It will adversely effect your relationship with your baby.
Even if you just barely have enough energy to pump, even if you can carve out enough time to pump, even if you don't have a problem with the whole idea of using a pump, if pumping makes you feel any resentment or anger towards your baby, then don't do it.

When Darth D. spends hours crying, and I have to rock him, feed him, change him, do everything except dance the Hula to get him to sleep, all I want to do is take a break. The last thing I want to do is go upstairs and pump. There are also times when I know that I only have a maximum of twenty minutes before he'll be up again, and I have to make a decision: eat, or pump? Being faced with these circumstances can make any mother feel bitter and resentful. But you can't take it out on your baby. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO GIVE YOUR BABY IS NOT YOUR BREASTMILK. IT'S YOUR LOVE. Anything that will keep you from showing your love to your baby has got to go.

Coming up in a future post (maybe, if this kid will someday go to sleep (yes! Little Piggy! I am talking to you! Stop crying like if I don't somehow acknowledge your existance, you will die!) ): "I know there are understand LCs out there, but I've never met one" or "I've gotten the guilt, can I now have the help?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Storage containers (and a big thank you to Cecily!)

First of all, I owe a big heartfelt thank you to Cecily for linking to my blog. I'm so happy to get so many comments, suggestions, and support from fellow pumpers!!

It sucks, doesn't it?

I especially want to thank the ladies who suggested lukewarm water for thawing out the milk. I tried it yesterday, and it worked like magic. I put a few bags of breast milk in a bowl with lukewarm water, and fifteen minutes later, it was almost (but not quite) completely thawed out (but still very cold). Perfect for putting back into the fridge. By the time I needed it, it was thawed out completely, and I just warmed it up in the bottle warmer. It took less time, and I didn't have to wonder about the milk thawing out unevenly.

So now I need some collective advice when it comes to freezer containers/bags. I've been using the Lansinoh freezer bags to freeze my milk. But I'm really not satisfied with them at all.

1. They have these plastic flaps over the ziplock, which can suddenly fold over the openning as you're trying to pour in the milk, making the milk spill out.
2. They don't stand up by themselves.
3. The measuring ounces written on the sides of the bags are completely wrong.
4. The milk is difficult to pour out of the bag without spillage (also because of the flaps).
5. The bags are actually not that durable. Just yesterday, I had to throw away a six-ounce bag of breast milk, because as I was thawing it out, I realized that there was a hole on the bottom of the bag, and the milk was dribbling out. Which also meant that contaminants could have gotten into the breast milk.

Gerber makes a self-standing bag, but their bags also have the flaps over the ziplock. (In fact, now that I'm looking into it, it looks like all the ziplock bags have flaps over the tops.) The Mother's Own Milk storage bags look really difficult: they don't have a ziplock system at all, just have some kind of twist-tie. Spillage looks way too likely to me. (But if you've used the twist-tie bags, and you've had good experience with them, please comment!)

You can also buy storage containers for the freezer, as opposed to bags. Evenflo makes some really cool looking containers, for instance. So does Avent. But the containers seem to be way more expensive than the bags, and some of them can't be used more than a few times.

Of course, the most convenient way to go would probably have to be buying freezer containers that match your pump, so that you can just pump right into the freezer containers. For instance, since I have the Ameda Hollister pump, I could buy the Ameda bag of containers; Medela also makes containers specially designed for their pumps. But this way can get extremely expensive if you are planning on freezing a lot of milk.

Any advice, ladies?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A funny conversation (and the reason for the sage)

Me, with Darth D., in the ped's office:

Ped: Are you still breastfeeding?

Me: No...but I'm pumping and feeding him the breastmilk.

Ped (surprised): That must be difficult. You're doing double-duty!

Me: Yah, it's hard. I don't know how much longer I can keep it up. Do you have any advice to make it easier?

Ped: Well, the best thing would be to get him back on the breast--


A few minutes later, after Darth D. has been weighed and has been found to be over the 95th percentile, the little piggy:

Ped: Well, clearly your supply is not a problem, he's eating a lot.

Me: Actually, I'm pumping more than he's eating. I'm freezing a lot, too.

Ped (looks at me incredulously): You're pumping for twins, you know.

Me: Go me.

So, the fact was, I was pumping a lot. More than enough for the average baby, more than enough for the little piggy. I realized that I was caught in a vicious cycle: I didn't want to get another clogged duct. To avoid another clogged duct, I was emptying my breasts at each pumping session. But by doing that, I was "telling" my brain to make more milk. So I had to pump more often to get all the milk out...and then my breasts would make even I would pump more...but then make get the picture.

So I thought I needed to find a way to reduce my supply a little, without actually having to let my breasts get engorged, which probably would have triggered a clogged duct.

Hence, the sage.
It naturally reduced my supply, so that I was able to go longer without pumping, without my breasts getting painfully swollen. It worked great. I'm still making enough to feed Darth D., and that's really all I need.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Oh Jesus they aren't kidding

Sage* really can lower your milk supply.
Like, really.
I went a whole six hours without pumping, and I didn't leak at all.
A little scary.

I bought the Spice Island Sage, and mixed a teaspoon into my pasta sauce last night.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The catagory overlooked

It's gets very frustrating having to explain yourself all the time when people ask you, "are you breastfeeding?"

I used to be quite honest about it, and say, "no, but I use a breast pump, so he gets breast milk." But this only led to more questions, some of them very personal, some of them very touchy for me. I understood that people were curious, but sometimes, the questions and comments were more than I could bear.
So after a while, when strangers asked me, I would lie and say yes, I'm breastfeeding. Because I figured, what they really wanted to know was whether I was giving him breast milk. Only my friends knew what was really going on. Most of them thought I was nuts, by the way.

When a woman is researching ways to feed her baby, she is presented with two options: breastfeeding and formula feeding. That's it. The books on breastfeeding might have a small section on pumping and storing breastmilk, but it seems like all the information is geared toward women who are pumping only to increase their milk supply for breastfeeding, or only have to pump for a short period of time, or only pump at work. The rest of the time she's breastfeeding. There's no advice for women who are pumping exclusively.

Likewise, most information on bottle feeding assumes that you are feeding your baby formula. Because, of course, if you were feeding your baby breast milk, it would be coming from the breast, wouldn't it?

When I am out in public, and giving Darth D. a bottle of breast milk, people assume it's formula. This has led to some very uncomfortable comments from well-intentioned but extremely nosy people.

Comments like:
"Do you know that you should keep the bottle in a ice bag?"
Actually, freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for at least four hours. Now stop looking in my bag.
"He's so young. You didn't want to breastfeed?"
Yes I did, bitch. I tried. You have no idea. You think this is easier?
"It's good your bottle feeding. Then your husband can help."
Oh? Can he pump for me?

I wish there was more, I don't know, awareness out there about moms like me. But I guess mostly I wish there was a nicer way of saying to people I am doing the most I can to do the best I can for my baby. Now go away and leave me alone.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What the f*#%k does "thawed" mean, anyway?

According to every source I've read, you can thaw frozen breast milk in a few ways:
1. you can let it thaw in the refrigerator
2. you can put it in a pan of warm water (like a bottle warmer)
3. you can put it under running warm water

Here are some ways you should NOT thaw breast milk:
1. in the microwave (you kill off all the cells still alive)
2. on the stove in scalding water (again, you kill off the antibacterial qualities)
3. at room temperature (I guess, by the time it's thawed, it's already gone bad)

Once thawed, all the sources agree that you should use the milk within 24 hours.

That's great. I'm glad that on this, at least, they all agree. But my question is: what is considered "thawed" breast milk?
Last time I tried to thaw a batch of milk, it took 24 hours just to get half liquid. The other half was still crystalized ice milk (hey, Darth D., you want a milk pop?). So did the half that was liquid already start it's 24 countdown? Does the whole bag need to be liquid before that magic 24 hour window starts, or just any part of the bag?

And what if I had used a bottle warmer, or a pan of warm water? Then some of the milk will get very warm, while other parts of it will still be frozen. Does that affect the 24 hour timeline?

Nobody seems to have an answer for this. Everybody just says "use within 24 hours after thawing." Maybe I'm a dimwit, I don't know; maybe I'm just being paranoid. But I don't want to feed funky milk to my baby, breast milk or not.

I wish someone would clarify this whole "thawing" thing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

To freeze or not to freeze

There is a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to the best way to store breast milk.

When I was sent home from the hospital with Darth D., I was given a manual (of sorts) from the American Academy of Pediatrics, on how to breastfeed. I believe that the actual name of the thing was "A Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding." In it, the AAP stated that breast milk that won't be used within 24 hours should be frozen. It also said that any breast milk in the fridge should be thrown away after 72 hours. Link here.

The La Leche League, however, has a completely different set of guidelines. They state that breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for at least five days. Link here.

Now, this makes a huge difference for the mom who is pumping. Let's say you already have a two day supply of milk in the fridge; do you keep refridgerating, or do you freeze? Freezing the breast milk does decrease it's ability to inhibit bacterial growth, but I haven't found an article that clearly states how much. Like this article: it states that "antioxidant activity at both refrigeration and freezing temperatures was significantly decreased. Freezing resulted in a greater decrease than refrigeration, and storage for seven days resulted in lower antioxidant activity than storage for 48 hours." Therefore, "to preserve the antioxidant activity of human milk, storage time should be limited to 48 hours. Refrigeration is better than freezing and thawing. " But is this still true after the 48 hour mark? What about 72 hours?

And what if the milk has been in the fridge for three days? On the fourth day, can you still give it to the baby? Can you freeze it? Or do you have to throw it away?

It is so frustrating when reputable sources conflict with each other, especially when it comes to something like how to feed your baby.

Here's what I do: I keep a two-day supply of pumped milk in the fridge. Anything beyond that, I freeze. But I only freeze milk that has been pumped within the last six hours. (This article states that you can freeze milk that has been refridgerated for 48 hours, while this one says freeze within four. Uch.) Once frozen, I use within two months. (I haven't had to use a lot of frozen, though, since Darth D. is only three months old.)

I wish the AAP and the LLL could come to some kind of consensus on this. I'm sure a lot of moms out there are throwing away three day old breast milk, instead of feeding it to their baby. And frankly, I'm not sure they're doing the wrong thing. The AAP would certainly agree with them. But LLLLeaders would probably say they're wrong.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Harder than I thought

I'm not posting nearly as often as I should, or as much.

But God, it's hard.

My clogged duct resolved itself, no thanks to the medical industry. My OB gave me the number of a clinic that does "ultrasound" on clogged ducts. She described it as "physical therapy for your breast." I kid you not. Apparently, the ultrasound is not the kind that takes pictures of your insides, but actually sends waves through the milk ducts to break up clogs, as the therapist massages it.

It all sounded very last-resort'ish to me, but I was willing to give it a try. Unfortunately, the clinic didn't have any opennings for three weeks. Three weeks. When I told the woman at the clinic that I couldn't wait three weeks for this duct to unclog, and that I was seriously considering stopping breastfeeding (I didn't bother explaining that I was exclusively pumping; how many people get that?) unless this got resolved, she told me she would try to fit me in at another clinic, and call me back.

Can you tell the end to this story yet? Of course, she never called me back.

Thank goodness, the clog has stopped being a nuisance. It's still there, I can feel it under the skin; but it's shrunk quite a lot, and doesn't hurt anymore at all, and hasn't effected my milk supply. So I think of it like asbestos: as long as it's not messing with me, I won't mess with it.

One of the advantages of pumping is that you can always tell when your breast is completely empty. You don't have to wonder if the baby is totally emptying the breast, or if there's still some milk in there that might clog. So you would think that since I'm only pumping, I would get less clogs. But no such luck. I don't know why. Maybe it's because my breasts are so big, I simply have more ducts, and therefore a higher probability of them clogging.

So, moral of the story: there are rumors of clinics who can do "ultrasounds" on clogged ducts, but so far, those rumors are not verified. Back massagers, however, really do work. And they keep working long after you don't need them anymore for your breast. Like on your back, for instance.