Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The other side

All last week as my body was gently reminding me that it COULD still breastfeed, if I wanted to.  I resisted mightily, and now am officially on the other side!  I feel sad and excited at the same time.  Sam is such a big boy lately, eating and talking.  Just last week, he began to say "I like it" and "No like it," taking a new level of control over his own diet.

So what will  become of babyfood, the blog?  Looking back, there seems to have been a trajectory of shock, desperate search for answers, tons of research read, realization of the higher level of barriers (not just physical) I was caught in, and then finally, a sense of calm.   Last week, I went back and tagged my posts by baby's age so those mothering infants can find posts relevant to them.  I will continue to post about toddler feeding, especially as we enter the potentially picky-eating phase, and also reflect on my year and a half of baby feeding. 

I'm also thinking of two close friends who embarked on their own babyfeeding journey nearly the same day that I ended mine, sending them good luck and best wishes.

On to the next phase!  Thank you for sticking with me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Letting go

I have just expressed the last breast milk for Samuel.  I feel the mix of pride and heartache that I now know is exclusive to mothers letting go of their children.  I felt it when he was born and his umbilical cord was cut, and I'm feeling it now for the second time, since once again he is no longer dependent on my body for survival.  I am sure I will feel it again and again throughout his life as he makes leaps toward independence, each one seeming to arrive too quickly and each one bigger than the last.  We're only just getting started.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time to Retire

Samuel will be 20 months this Sunday, May 15.  It’s time to retire from pumping milk.

When he was two weeks old, I gave up nursing despite never having wanted anything more in my life, thinking formula would be it for us.  Then, I had some luck: the pump worked.  The first few months were difficult, seven or more sessions a day, literally hours stuck in a chair hooked up to a machine.  But it worked, and Sam got breast milk.

Then I got lucky again, in that I was able to donate extra milk to one adopted baby and again to a milk bank for premature and sick babies.

Even better, pumping got easier and I cut back to four, then three times a day, two.

Then, just last month, Sam stared eating some serious solid food.  I kept it to one pump for the past few weeks, getting a tiny bit of milk.  Sam kept eating, and he sprouted his eye teeth.  And last night, he ate a huge plate of food--fish, vegetables, cous cous--just ate like a champ.  This is the message I’ve been waiting for. 

 So, on May 15, I’ll call it quits.  My baby is a little boy now, healthy and smart, and I can only take a deep breath and appreciate how lucky I am. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One ounce of milk; Happy Mothers' Day

A few weeks ago, I reduced to one milk pumping session a day and saw a big decrease in supply--down to less than two ounces total.  I was a little sad, since I'd hoped to continue at once a day for a little while, but it just didn't seem worth it for so little.  But then, of course, I found myself reading about the benefits of even a tiny bit of breast milk per day.

From  "Even 50 ml of breastmilk per day (or less - there is little research on this) will help to keep your baby healthier than if he received none at all."  So, an ounce a day it is, for a little while longer! 

A second topic: today is Mothers' day.  My guys made today very special for me, and I've been thinking about how each of the people who are "moms" in my life have given me something very special--and how lucky I am to have THREE of these.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Waiting for signs

I received this text from Max, exclusive provider of most of our toddler's meals:
1. carefully select most expensive organic foods  2. cut into tiny pieces  3. pick up tiny pieces off floor  4. throw away
Baby-led feeding naturally leaves me looking for signs of change in Sam's eating habits.  But, much like signs of spring this year, they're just not showing up.  Sam tries lots of foods but still throws most of it on the floor  and drinks milk by the gallon. 

Signs of increasing appreciation for solid food would encourage me that it's OK to reduce pumping milk.  Absent these, I reduce pumping milk anyway because I'm tired of doing it.  The result is that instead of feeling like we're moving forward, I feel like I'm giving up on the effort.  Reducing to two pumps a day has decreased my supply to less than 8 oz. a day.  We make up the majority with cow milk.

The WHO's "minimum two years of breastfeeding" talks into one ear, while the voices of my many sensible friends and family who think it would be perfectly fine to wean talk into the other.  I'm pretty confused right now.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baby-unfriendly hospitals, baby-unfriendly country

We know that only 3% of hospitals meet the requirements set forth by Unicef's Baby-Friendly initiative.  Actually, this might be reflective of the portion of our country that's baby-friendly.  I just got back from taking an air trip with my 17-month old and have had my eyes opened to this ugly reality.
  • Why isn't breastfeeding in public accepted in most of the US?  Grownups are perfectly welcome to eat their species-appropriate food in public, but not babies.
  • Why aren't there family areas in airports and train stations?   The facilities in the airports I visited for things like pumping and baby/toddler play were nonexistent.
  • Why aren't there spaces for nursing moms in hotels?  I spent two days at a conference at one of the most famous and elegant hotels in the country, and couldn't find a suitable place to pump.  I ended up sitting on the floor of the handicap stall in a ladies' room.
The attitudes of people we met on our trip reflected this, too.  People looked at him and smiled or called him cute, but when it came to being helpful or even understanding to a mom traveling alone with a small child, they declined.  Sam ran off some energy around the gate area where we waited for several hours due to a delay; reactions ranged from blank-faced stares to outright scornful looks.  He cried and his nose ran, and people cringed.  When we look extra time getting through security, people behind shoved their plastic buckets onto the belt before I had time to get my kid out of his carrier and get his shoes and jacket off him.  One flight attendant took a look at me with a baby on my back, diaper bag over my shoulder, and toddler car seat in my hands as we were boarding the plane and went right on shoving Cokes into the plane's drink cart.

And I won't even get started on the recent debate about the no-brainer of making breast pumps tax-deductible devolved into a shocking political debate about whether nursing moms should work at all.

It's almost as if we Americans love the idea of adorable babies--we are quite comfortable using them to sell products, but back away from a real commitment to doing the best we can for them, from nutrition to childcare, maternal support, and education.  We can and have to do better on all.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Scenes from a Baby-Unfriendly Hospital

Before my baby was born, I thought that women who didn't breastfeed chose not to.  In fact, most women who don't breastfeed wanted to, but were unable for reasons already mentioned.  In my view, getting things right in the birthplace is the key to fixing this problem, with far-reaching benefits including better health for moms and babies.  Here is one excerpt from a forum post by a new mom:

"How long will I be in mourning over the loss of breastfeeding? I feel so cheated and disappointed in myself. I should have NEVER let the lactation consultant give her a bottle. I should have taken her home and looked up other methods of supplementing her. I should have taken responsibility, taken charge, NOT trusted them. This is why I had a midwife! I never trusted medical people, and this is why. They didn't even let me see her for 2 hours after she was born, and I was so exhausted and out of it I couldn't even bring myself to argue. It was all I could do to yell at my husband to make sure she knew he was there... I know I just have to get over it and "let it go," and be happy that I have a now-healthy baby, but sometimes it is overwhelming and I can't help but sob. Every time I see something about how much better breastfeeding is for your baby I re-live that guilt, anger, frustration, disappointment."

I see a shocking FIVE violations of Unicef's 10 Steps to Succesful Breastfeeding by this new mom's hospital:
4 - Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
5 - Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6 - Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
7 - Practice “rooming in”-- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
9 - Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.

As a result of the hospital's failure, this baby is at increased risk for common health problems such as obesity, asthma and respiratory infections, despite her mother's commitment to breastfeeding--not to mention the effects of guilt and anger on the mother and the family.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

674 Ounces Donated!

Is it good enough?

I used to worry that reading my experience would scare expecting moms.  But now I realize that while breastfeeding skill doesn't always come "naturally," if you are on the lookout for these "Breastfeeding Booby Traps,"  you have a better chance of overcoming problems. Here's my list of tactics for pre-emptively overcoming the "breastfeeding booby traps" at your birthplace (in my opinion, the place where we need the most help).

You call your hospital and ask about lacation consultants.
Their answer: "Yes, we have a lactation consultant."
Is it good enough?  No. You need to hear, "Yes, we have full-time international board certified lactation consultants available to you around the clock during your stay." 

You ask them about breastfeeding after Caesarian, and what their intervention rate is.
Their answer: "We don't have a protocol to support breastfeeding; the doctors treat the babies on a case by case basis.  Our intervention rate is average."
Is it good enough: No.  You need to hear: "Yes, our breastfeeding after ceasarian protocol is to give no baby any nutritional supplement, unless medically indicated and approved by you or your representative.  And the chance of your having a Caesarian to begin with is much lower than average."

You ask if they routinely give healthy babies formula or other supplements.
Their answer: If it's anything other than a resounding, "No," it's not good enough.

If their answers aren't good enough, call around to see if there are other hospitals in your area that give better ones.  If there aren't, plan to to find supplemental help on your own from a traveling lactation consultant and be vigilant and unapologetic when asking everyone caring for you and your baby to abide by your requirements--verbally and in writing when possible, and plan to have your partner, doula, or support person be responsible for tracking what's happening with your baby at all times.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Gerber doesn't want you to know

We never bought a single jar of baby food for Sam.  And given the aggressive marketing by baby food manufacturers (just search for "baby food" and see what comes up), they don't want you to figure this out: you don't need it.

Since the World Heath Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding for six months, solids need not be introduced until six months at the earliest.  And until one year, breast milk or a substitute is still the biggest source of nutrition for baby.  That means eating solid food under the age of one is just for learning.

What, then, is the point of teaching them to eat mashed "baby food?"  The object of feeding solids initially should be to develop motor skills, teach chewing and swallowing, get a feel for different types of foods, and have fun.  This means we should serve babies soft foods mashable by baby's gums in non-chokable-sized pieces.  You don't even need a food processor or ricer--it's quite easy to do with a fork right at the dinner table off your own plate.  Caregivers can do this easily, or stick to milk during the time the baby is in their care.  An added benefit is that you are in complete control of all ingredients in your baby's solid food. 

Then, by the time baby is one, ideally, he will be well practiced with feeding himself and be accustomed to different flavors and textures, rather than expecting only certain flavors and textures to be delivered all the way to his mouth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

OT: A note on diapers

I couldn't say my blog on babyfood was complete until I covered all points of the infant digestive system, so I thought I'd post a note on diapers.  Or, maybe it will just be fun!

Having a baby is, generally, a pretty environmentally unfriendly thing to do.  Reusable cloth diapers have been a manageable way for us to reduce our load on the planet, since disposable diapers have a big "footprint." 

Sam in his handknit wool soakers, 5 months old.
We started out with simple "prefold" diapers (Gerber) underneath plastic pants (Prorap seconds) or wool "soakers" that were knit for us by Sam's crafty grandmother.  These were inexpensive and didn't leak, but we had some problems with diaper rash, and they took more time to put on than disposables.

Later we tried something called a pocket diaper (Fuzzibunz) that had a waterproof outer part sewn to a soft fleece inner part, and between them you stuff a prefold diaper or special absorbent insert.  These were wonderful for quite awhile--very soft on baby, comfy and no rashes, easy and quick to put on--but once he started moving, they were a little bulky.  Sadly, the fleece eventually got some kind of buildup presumably from our hard water and now they repel the pee, and I haven't figured out how to "strip" them to make them absorb again.

After the repelling problem we started using Gdiapers, which are a sort of fabric undies with a little waterproof sling inside that holds something absorbent, either a washable insert or a compostable absorbent pad.  (There are a small truckload of these in my compost bin right now; we will see how well they degrade.)  The Gdiapers have been great--no leaks, quick and easy, and slim and unbulky for my crawler/walker.  Downsides: probably a pricier option than some, they still use resources to make the compostable inserts, and I sometimes worry that the velcro or snaps on the "Gpants" are uncomfortable for him.

I also made my own baby wipes from cut squares of old cotton baby blankets and a solution of water, shampoo and olive oil.  The wipes work better than store bought and get washed up with the diapers.

As for washing, all the diapers go into a separate laundry bin and get washed in hot water, one or two extra loads per week, no soaking or dunking or spraying.  And we keep a pack of unbleached disposables (I like Seventh Generation) for moments when the clean diapers haven't made it to the drawers.  Cloth diapers have been easy, especially compared to other parts of being a new mom, and I would do it again in a minute.

A great resource on cloth diapering is Karen's Cloth Diapering site.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolution: Keep going

Most people's new year's resolutions have to do with making some kind of positive change in their lives.  My resolution is to keep things the same--to keep pumping breast milk for my 15 month old son.  But in other ways, it is like other resolutions, there are strong forces fighting against the thing you are trying to do--otherwise you wouldn't need a resolution to do it!  The main force I am dealing with is a constant evaluation of how much Sam needs his milk versus how inconvenient and uncomfortable I am.  I often think how wonderful it would be to slip into bed at night without having to sit up for 20 minutes, or to get that extra sleep in the morning, or to quit washing pump parts day after day.  Comfort and convenience are strong forces!  But I resolve to fight them for awhile longer and keep bottle-feeding breast milk, because Sam still loves and will benefit from breast milk.