Favorite Things for Breastfeeding

IMG_5008

As I mentioned before, I didn’t have the easiest start breastfeeding Prim. However, I’m now a fairly competent (and confident!) breastfeeder, so I thought it might be helpful to share the things that helped me when I was starting to breastfeed.

A lot of these items I still use (though there are a couple things which were really just for the first weeks when I was still getting the hang of breastfeeding). So if you’re planning on breastfeeding and are wondering what you might want to add to your baby registry, here’s what I recommend:

  1. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow: The name is horrendous and most of the patterns look like some middle schooler obsessed with Lisa Frank designed them, but the pillow itself is so, so helpful when breastfeeding a newborn. The fact that you can actually secure the pillow around you is key, because it means it won’t slip around while you’re feeding, resulting in the baby slipping between you and the pillow. I stopped using the pillow after about 2 weeks, when I finally got comfortable with feeding and Prim got a little less… floppy.  So if you don’t want to shell out the $45 for the pillow, see if you can borrow a friend’s for the first few weeks.
  2. Breast Pump: You should be able to get a pump for free through your insurance now (which is awesome because the good ones are not cheap). I got the Medela Pump In Style Advanced, which works great and I totally recommend. Also, know that you can request a breast pump to use while in the hospital — it’s great for getting your milk production up, or supplementing if you’re having latch issues. Plus, most hospitals use Medela pumps, so take home all the extra pieces when you leave the hospital if you have a Medela pump at home, because the hospital can’t re-use them (extra breast shields, collection containers, etc.)
  3. Medela Tender Care Lanolin: There are a lot of creams out there to aid in breastfeeding, but most doctors recommend 100% lanolin. I use the Medela cream religiously and it really helps to keep things comfortable. (And no, you don’t have to wipe it off before each feeding — it’s totally safe for the baby.)
  4. Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads: These are weirdly pricey, and may be unnecessary if you don’t experience sensitivity or latch issues, but if you have some trouble like I did in the beginning, these are a freaking God-send. Get your moneys worth by cutting each pad into fourths and reusing the quarters until they lose their stickiness.
  5. Nursing Pads: These are more personal preference, but I like that these are organic cotton and washable. (And if you are blessed with an oversupply of milk like I am, get multiple packs. You’re gonna need them.)
  6. Nursing Bras: This is personal preference, obviously, but this one is my favorite because it’s lightweight, stretchy and soft (and inexpensive!)
  7. Breast Milk Storage Bags: If you’re planning on pumping and/or returning to work while breastfeeding, make sure you pick up some milk storage bags. I have these Medela ones, which are fine. My sister has Ziplock brand ones, which are cheaper and seem to work just as well. Either way, these are great for labeling and freezing breast milk (because who’s got space to keep a bunch of tiny bottles in the freezer? I sure don’t.)
  8. Hands-free Pumping Bra: Again, if you’re planning on pumping and/or returning to work while breastfeeding, this is kind of a necessity. I didn’t have one for the first few weeks (not realizing that I’d be pumping then), and quickly realized what a pain pumping is without one — um, yeah, you can’t use your hands for 20 minutes. Awesome. I ordered one online which works fine, but I recommend just cutting holes in an old sports bra — cheaper and easier. 

  

If you’re a nursing mama with any additional recommendations, feel free to leave a comment!

Little Letters

IMG_5067

Dear Solly Wrap: You made last weekend’s wedding totally manageable — Prim was snug as a bug all night in the wrap.  So amazing!

Dear Penny: That new citronella collar we got you to control your barking is simultaneously so sad and sweet. (It’s completely painless, it just lets out a little spray whenever she barks which surprises her.)

Dear Bar Method: Slowly but surely my strength is starting to come back, and the return to abs this week wasn’t quite as terrible as I was expecting. I guess taking class all the way up to my due date really was a good idea.

Dear Mamas: Does the whole “touched out” thing end? Once I get Prim to sleep all I want to do is sit alone and not interact with anyone for awhile.

Dear Food: You are so, so delicious. I blame breastfeeding.

Dear 3am: I wonder how long you and I will be meeting up.

Dear KC: It’s kind of amazing how much I love you since you became a dad (but also how annoyed I can get while you sleep soundly through all the nighttime and early morning feedings. ;) )

Dear Freezer: You are stuffed to the gills. I can’t even deal with opening you right now.

Dear Internet: I barely see you these days. I have no idea what’s happening in the outside world.

Dear Prim: You take all my time and energy these days, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Love, Chelsea

Diaper Bag Essentials

IMG_5087

In case you’re curious (or in case you’re a mama-to-be trying to plan for your registry), here’s what I keep in my diaper bag (with links!):

IMG_5086

  1. Skip Hop mobile changer (which acts as an on-the-go changing pad and houses wipes and a travel size diaper cream)
  2. Solly wrap
  3. Two wet bags — one houses clean diapers (either disposables or extra cloth + a spare cover) and a change of clothes for P (because you never know when the next blowout will be — and you better believe it will happen as soon as you’re out of the house without a change of clothes).  I like keeping two wet bags in the diaper bag so that I have one for dirty diapers and the other for clean diapers and clothes, or for soiled clothes in the event that there’s a major blowout (because you don’t want to be throwing a dirty outfit in with a dirty cloth diaper — it’s just more work when you get home!)
  4. A burp cloth — usually I just use a cloth diaper as a burp cloth, but I have a couple handmade ones which are a little more portable (and cuter!) so I stashed one of those in the bag
  5. Pacifiers in a case to keep them clean (the case came with these pacifiers — Prim hated the pacifiers, but the case has really come in handy!)
  6. Aden and Anais muslin blanket — I like keeping this one in the diaper bag because it came with it’s own carrying bag, and the Aden and Anais swaddles are perfect for draping over the stroller or carseat or wrapping up P when we’re out and about
  7. And last but not least my diaper bag — it’s not technically a diaper bag (and the fact that it doesn’t have dividers like a classic diaper bag can occasionally be a pain), but I love that it’s light and flexible and doesn’t look so much like, “Oh hey, that girl is a MOM.”

Postpartum Surprises

IMG_5077

Now that Prim is 6+ weeks, I feel like I’ve fully settled in to being a mama. The other day I was reflecting on my pregnancy and the first weeks with little P, and I thought it would make a good blog post to talk about some of the things that have happened that I wasn’t expecting (y’know, aside from accidentally losing like 1/3 of the blood in my body).

1. I get nostalgic about pregnancy. Pregnancy is long, and physically (and at times, mentally) exhausting.  Especially by the end, it really takes a toll and you reach this point of feeling ready to give birth. Oddly though, I miss being pregnant sometimes now, and get excited about the prospect of being pregnant again and having a second kiddo (don’t worry — I’m not going to be getting pregnant anytime soon.  I’m not that insane.)

2. Post-baby weight loss isn’t as easy as I hoped it would be. There are people who lose all the baby weight in 2 seconds with zero effort, but this is not the case for me (unfortunately).  I had heard stories about the weight just “falling off” while breastfeeding, which it certainly did the first two weeks, but since then it has stubbornly been stuck at the same number. For some reason my body feels the need to cling to 18 pounds, despite the fact that I exclusively breastfeed, eat healthy, take walks and do Bar Method. I’m trying to be positive and focus on “feeling” healthy and not worry too much about the weight (assuming that it will come off eventually), but sometimes it can be a little tough — especially because basically nothing fits at the end of pregnancy and I dreamed about being able to finally wear the rest of my clothes after giving birth. Um, not so much.

3. Breastfeeding is more complicated (and emotional) than I was expecting. I exclusively breastfeed Prim, and feel very lucky that I’m able to do so. I am lucky that I come from good breastfeeding genes (my mom, sister and I all have a pretty insane milk supply — I basically am one in a long line of dairymaids). So while I don’t have a supply issue (my biggest problem right now is that everything I own ends up covered in breastmilk — I basically leak all over everything all the time), getting the hang of breastfeeding was anything but easy. Prim had latch issues from the beginning — because she was early and has a small mouth and high palette, breastfeeding was very difficult and painful. I ended up scabbed due to Prim’s bad latch, and she ended up losing too much weight while we were in the hospital due to the breastfeeding issues. I was determined to continue breastfeeding (though I totally see why people give up on it — especially in the beginning), and so with a combination of pumping, a lot of lactation support and a fair amount of tears (mine, not Prim’s), I got Prim’s weight back up — but breastfeeding hurt almost every single time for the first two weeks. Luckily it turned a corner two weeks in, and it’s now (mostly) easy and painless.

4. There’s a lot I didn’t know about pumping. Did you know that pumping is not always a good indicator of your actual milk supply? It actually takes practice to get “good” at pumping. In fact, some people can breastfeed but can’t pump, because their body just doesn’t respond to the pump, or they can’t relax enough to get their their let-down reflex to kick in. And even if you’re practiced at pumping, you can totally have an “off” day. (I really wish I had known this when I came home from the hospital after my hemorrhage — I pumped and had a complete meltdown because I thought my milk supply was drying up. In reality, I think I was just so stressed and physically worn out from the whole ordeal that my body couldn’t relax enough to get a good output while pumping that night.)

5. Being a mom is so much better than I ever imagined. I’ve always known that I wanted kids, but even so, I had a lot of moments during pregnancy where I worried that I wouldn’t take to being a mom. I feared I wouldn’t be able to calm my baby if she was crying, or that I would be stressed and exhausted all the time, and even worried that I wouldn’t like being a mom and would miss my old life. Luckily these fears were totally unfounded. I was surprised by how calm and confident I felt with Prim right from the beginning. I feel like I know what she needs and can interpret her cries and signals, and the connection I feel with her is just indescribable. I love being her mama in a way I’ve never loved anything else, and now can’t imagine a life without children. (I keep telling KC that I’m going to have as many babies as he’ll let me. He likes to pretend I’m joking. ;) )

IMG_5020

Baby Post: Favorite Things for the First Weeks

As you can imagine, we’re quite consumed with the newest member of our household, so posting is likely going to remain sporadic for awhile. I am in the thick of the newborn cliche of getting to the end of a day and not knowing where the time went. Somehow taking care of this tiny human has become so all-consuming that I find myself reaching the end of the day having not really accomplished anything. Or I’ll start five different tasks (small ones, mind you) and not finish any of them. Right now finding time to just feed myself feels like a victory.

But, given that I’ve got lots of help right now (KC is still on paternity leave and our families have been more than willing to come over and help us), I managed to score a moment to myself to put this post together.

So, with that rambling start, let’s get down to it.  Here are the things I’ve been loving for these first few weeks home with the baby:

IMG_4776

1. The Solly Wrap: This wrap is a little pricier than some of the others like the Boba and Moby, but I think it’s totally worth the price.  The wrap is so soft and Prim just loves it. I carry her around everywhere in the Solly — it’s so much easier than lugging the carseat around. (For example, I constantly see people lugging their babies into the doctor’s office in the carseat, but I think it’s so much easier and nicer to bring Prim in in the wrap — she stays calm and warm, and it keeps all the nosy well-wishers and their germs at arm’s length.)

IMG_4830 IMG_4893

2. Aden and Anais swaddles: I received a couple packs of the Aden and Anais swaddles before Prim was born, and now that she’s here we use them like crazy. They’re soft and lightweight, perfect for wrapping up P. And the designs are so adorable — we have the Make Believe and Vintage Circus sets, and the Radiant Red classic swaddle.

IMG_4887

3. Wubbanub pacifiers: We recently introduced a pacifier to Prim, and while she hated the Chicco NaturalFit, she took to the Avent soothie right away. The Wubbanub pacifiers attach the soothie to a plush animal, which is both adorable and practical (it’s harder to lose than a regular pacifier and P loves to hang on to the attached stuffed animal).

IMG_4876

4. Bugaboo Cameleon stroller: This stroller was our big splurge on our registry (luckily we had a lot of gift cards!) and even though this costs an arm and a leg, so far it’s been totally worth the money for us. We use it everyday with the bassinet attachment as a place for Prim to rest downstairs so we can keep an eye on her, and we have started using it for walks around the neighborhood with the carseat attachment for our Chicco KeyFit 30. It’s nicely compact and easy to maneuver. And, I love that it’s light enough that I can fold it up and lift it myself, even with my crazy lifting restrictions due to my crappy back.

IMG_4662

5. Ubbi diaper pail: This is kind of a weird item to “love” — but it works great, contains the smell, and uses regular trash bags, which makes it’s $80 price tag totally worth it in my book even though it’s more expensive than most other diaper pails. (I’d rather pay $80 up front than half that and have to spend almost $8 for every refill bag. Barf.)

IMG_4835

6. Cloth diaper service: We have started using cloth diapers on Prim, and so far I absolutely love them. Newborns require a million diaper changes a day, so it’s nice to know that we’re not tossing tons and tons of diapers into the trash every week. Cloth diapering is surprisingly easy, and the diaper service is a nice luxury. I love that we don’t have to think about running out of diapers — they just get delivered right to our door every week. (We use Real Nappies diaper covers in the newborn size with the Tiny Tots cotton diapers with snappi fasteners.)

IMG_4813 IMG_4871 IMG_47747. BabyGap clothes: I’m probably a little bit biased, but so far BabyGap is my favorite spot for clothing for Prim. They have so many adorable options, and the clothing is good quality and fits well (it runs a little long and thin, which is good for this baby who is all limbs!)

Little Letters

IMG_4749

Dear Primrose: You are the best thing that’s happened to me (besides finding and marrying your daddy).  I’m pretty sure I was made to be your mama.

Dear Breastfeeding:  It’s like I’ll never be full again.  I will eat all the things.

Dear Friends and Neighbors:  All of you have been so nice, bringing over food and offering support.  We are so lucky to have you in our lives.

Dear KC:  Just when I thought I couldn’t love you any more, you became a dad and my whole heart exploded.

Dear Blood Pressure:  Umm, ok, it’s been almost 2 weeks now.  Feel free to get back to normal anytime you want (ideally sooner rather than later).

Dear Cuyana:  Ordered my new bag!  I can’t wait.  (And it’s not totally frivolous — I’m using it as an everyday diaper bag.)

Dear Solly Wrap:  You are absolutely one of the best baby items for the first weeks so far.  (Seriously, how do people lug around the carseat everywhere?  It’s so dang heavy!  I’d much rather just throw P into the wrap and carry her around that way.)

Dear Friends:  Thanks for all your kind words about P’s birth and the little complication that followed.  I’m glad that everything worked out ok (though I do suspect I’m going to have to do some convincing to get KC on board for the next baby…)

Dear Beer:  I had a dream I drank one of you and was so wasted.  Probably pretty accurate at this point.

Dear Sleep:  Well, I’d certainly like to be meeting up with you more, but I know this part isn’t forever.  I’ll sleep when she’s older. ;)

Love, Chelsea

Perspective

One of the oddest things about the experience I had following birth was how unconcerned I was for my own well-being.  This is probably partly due to how woozy and out of it I was after losing so much blood; but looking back on things now, I realize that the concerns I had mainly centered around Prim, not myself. (It was only after returning from the hospital and learning that postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death that I think I really realized how serious of a situation it was.)

When I was home and bleeding on the couch waiting for the ambulance to arrive, KC and Yvonne were rushing around putting things together to bring to the hospital.  I was barely conscious, bleeding like crazy, but was mainly focused on making sure that they knew that there was breastmilk in the fridge from when I’d pumped earlier.

Then in the ambulance on the way to the hospital I had a little more opportunity to think about what was happening.  Yvonne came in the ambulance with me while KC drove with Prim in our car behind.  I finally asked the question that had been in the back of my mind since I’d heard Yvonne make the panicked call to 911.  “Are they going to have to remove my uterus?” Yvonne looked at me and said, “No,” which felt like the biggest relief in the world. (Literally one of the first things I said to KC after giving birth was, “Let’s have 100 more of these.”) Once the OB came in to check me at the ER, Yvonne repeated that I was worried that he would need to remove my uterus.  He confirmed, “No no no — you’d have to have waited a lot longer to come in for me to do that.”  My response was, “People wait longer than this?”

“People are stupid,” he said.

Once I’d had the procedure to remove the clot and was receiving my first bag of blood, I was able to focus a bit more.  I kept asking my nurse for a breast pump because it had been almost four hours since I’d last nursed, and I knew that Prim was in the waiting room just through the double doors.  My nurse was absolutely terrible (which was frustrating because all the nurses I’d had prior were great) and kept saying, “Oh… let me go check…” and then returning without news or a breast pump.  Finally Yvonne stepped in and asked another nurse for a pump (thank God) and it was brought in.

And though I’d been through this whole terrible ordeal (and unimaginably painful procedure), the most frustrating part of the whole visit was the fact that I’d had to have two IVs put in — one in the crook of each arm.  This meant that I couldn’t really hold, much less successfully breastfeed Prim, and even pumping involved some Cirque du Soleil-type skills, as the stupid IV monitors would beep incessantly anytime I bent my arm even a little.

IMG_4802

But really, with a little face like this, you can kind of see why not being able to hold her is worse than any of the other crap I had to deal with at the ER. :)

A Serious Complication (or, There Will Be Blood)

*Please note that this post involves some disturbing medical details and blood (a lot of blood).  Be warned.

Despite the euphoria of little Prim’s arrival on May 9th, the whole ordeal has not been without complication.  First, we ended up having to be in the hospital for four days post-delivery due to my high blood pressure not cooperating (it still hasn’t gone down — angry face) and little P getting jaundice:

IMG_4741(sweet little peanut had to be under the blue lights to bring her bilirubin count down.  it was both adorable and heart-breaking.)

However, after going a little stir-crazy in our little hospital room, we were finally discharged on Wednesday and allowed to go home.  We thought we were through the worst of things and tried to settle in to some semblance of a normal routine (y’know, as much as you can with a newborn).

The first night we were home was uneventful.  I actually got into a good rhythm overnight with feedings and KC caught up on sleep.  We went into Thursday feeling fairly rested and confident.  KC’s mom Yvonne came over to help out for the day since she was off work.  We even managed to get outside and take a (very short) walk to the corner of the street.

IMG_4759

Later that evening Yvonne headed home and KC and I sat down to watch some TV after I nursed (this was around 10:30pm).  All of a sudden I realized that I was bleeding heavily and jumped up from the couch.  I had bled all over the couch cushion (which KC promptly started stain-treating) and I ran upstairs to deal with the mess.  I called Yvonne to tell her that my bleeding had suddenly become very heavy and I wasn’t sure what to do.  She told me to call my doctor and lay down.  I called the doctor who told me to monitor the bleeding for the next three hours and to call if it continued.

Yvonne ended up coming back over (thank goodness) and checked me out.  The bleeding seemed to have stopped so I laid down for a bit.  I had to get up shortly for the next feeding, which Yvonne stayed for.  I was nursing Prim and I realized I was bleeding heavily again.  I stood up in a panic, handed Prim over and headed upstairs to try and clean up.  I needed to finish feeding Prim, so I came back downstairs and sat in a kitchen chair and finished nursing her, planning on calling my doctor when I was finished.  While I was burping Prim, I suddenly felt very light headed and dizzy.  I looked up at Yvonne and said, “You need to take her.”

Yvonne jumped up and grabbed the baby, then shoved my head down onto the table, telling me to breathe.  I heard her yell to KC to come downstairs.  She sounded panicky.  I knew that if Yvonne was nervous, it probably wasn’t a good sign (given that she’s a postpartum nurse).  She pressed cold washcloths to my neck and face and kept me talking while telling KC to gather up some things for the baby.  KC and Yvonne managed to get me over onto the couch and Yvonne called 911.  An ambulance and fire truck arrived shortly after and EMTs and firemen filled the living room.  They asked me questions and asked if I could walk to the ambulance. I couldn’t, so they loaded me onto a chair and got me into the back of the ambulance and rushed to the ER.

Once we arrived at the ER I was brought into an exam room and transferred to a bed.  I was conscious but out of it, and was aware that I was lying in a pool of my own blood that went from hips to knees, and still continuing to bleed.  People were rushing in and out of my room, and each person who came to check me would say something along the lines of, “Woah, that’s a lot of blood.”

Finally, the on-call OB doctor was brought in to examine me, and he informed me that I was having a delayed postpartum hemorrhage most likely due to a large blood clot or retained placenta.  He did an ultrasound and determined that a clot was the cause and informed me of the treatment options.  He explained that they could book an operating room and put me under anesthesia to clear out the clot, or he could do the procedure there without anesthesia.  He explained that they would give me a shot of medicine to make me feel a little loopy and then clear out my uterus by hand.  “I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty painful,” he told me.  I asked him to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to transition in labor.  He said he couldn’t quantify it, but that he did know it was painful — but it was quick, only about 20 seconds.  Having had complications with anesthesia in the past, I quickly determined that I would just get the procedure over and done with there.  No need to book an OR.

The doctor looked at KC and said, “Are you sure you want to stay for this?  I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty disturbing.”  KC said he was fine and stationed himself up by my head.  I got the shot of medicine, and the doctor started the procedure.  Somehow I had failed to compute that having someone reach their entire arm up your birth canal 5 days after giving birth to sweep the inside of your uterus would hurt like nothing has ever hurt in your life.  Having been through labor, let me tell you this — this hurt worse than labor.  I was literally screaming throughout the procedure (and please note I am not a yeller — I didn’t raise my voice once during labor, even a little).  I was attempting to climb the bed to get away from the pain as I screamed over and over “Please be done soon!” (Apparently I’m fairly polite while in unimaginable pain.) After he removed his hand (arm), I felt a rush of blood cover the bed.

The doctor informed me that I’d have to have a blood transfusion, as they estimated I’d probably lost about three pints of blood (and, uh, you’ve only got about ten pints total in your whole body).  I signed the consent form and they started me on the first of two bags of blood.  Over the next several hours I was admitted into postpartum and given the second transfusion and an ultrasound which showed that my uterus was clear, so I was eventually discharged.

Not really an ideal way to start off life with a new baby.  But the good news is Prim and I are both home and healthy now (thought I suspect KC is a bit scarred by the whole experience.)  And lesson learned — next time when they give you the option of anesthesia, take it.