Foodie Friday: Suck-Swallow-Breathe

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Almost all preemies have difficulty with feeding, and my boys were certainly no exception. In order to eat, a baby has to be able to suck (at the breast or bottle), swallow, and breathe. But not at the same time, of course, and trying to coordinate that is very difficult.

Mr. D was born with the ability to do all three. He never required oxygen support, could generally swallow what was in his mouth (although he did need “reminding” from time to time), and could hold onto a pacifier, bottle, or my nipple like a pro. What he couldn’t do was figure out how to do all three in such a manner to ingest enough milk to live…especially when he’d rather be sleeping.

D’s challenges were fairly typical for preemies. Eating is hard work. So hard, in fact, that a twenty-minute rule is placed on both breast- and bottle-feeding in most (all?) NICUs: the baby gets 20 minutes to eat all he can, and then is weighed (if breastfeeding) or the amount remaining in the bottle is examined, and the rest of the required meal is poured down the feeding tube. I wanted to breastfeed, but was told we could only attempt it twice a day, as it’s even more work to extract milk from a breast than it is from a bottle.

The first time I breastfed Mr. D, he took me by surprise. He did really great! The lactation consultant warned me that many babies take one or two good feeds from the breast, and then begin to struggle. That was the case for him: he could extract a few drops of colostrum, especially when I pretty much hand-expressed it into his mouth, but once my milk came in, it was beyond him. He would latch on, and then fall asleep.

Suck-swallow-breatheHe didn’t fare much better with the bottle. I was taught how to hold him, how to stroke his cheek or under his chin to “remind” him to swallow, how to burp him, how to tickle his feet when he was nodding off…and he would still only swallow a few milliliters. He would sometimes become fearful of the liquid in his mouth, and hold his breath until I sat him up and helped him to dribble it all out. But mainly he would just look up at me, with an expression of what felt like disdain on his face, and then close his eyes. He held onto the nipple (mine or the bottle’s), but that was it. That was all he wanted to do.

The nurses told me it often happens like a switch—nothing, nothing, nothing, BOOM: eating! That wasn’t the case for Mr. D. Instead, he’d take a few more milliliters each day, most days. What was exceedingly frustrating to me was that, as his weight (from his oral plus tube-feedings) increased and his IV-nutrition was tapered off (to end abruptly when he yanked out his second scalp IV and they couldn’t find better access), his required intake went up, too. He was supposed to eat 23 mls, and would manage 19, and I’d go home to pump in triumph, only to return to discover they’d raised his goal to 26.

But he did improve. He kept getting so close. I felt like we were nearly there. Feeding was the only thing keeping him in the NICU, and I wanted him home.

He developed reflux. My pediatrician tells me “100% of babies have reflux”, and I don’t doubt her. Mr. D’s was worse than some, which again is common with preemies. That muscle at the top of their stomach (cardiac or esophageal sphincter) is as weak as their other muscles, and is forced into doing its job way too soon. One of his day nurses asked me if there was a history of milk intolerance in my family. Yes, there is: I was allergic to milk protein for my first few years of life. She suggested eliminating dairy from my diet, in case Mr. D had the same problem. I did. We also began fortifying his breast milk with soy formula rather than the special preemie formula. (Breast milk has about 20 calories, and it is very common to add formula to it to boost that to 22, 24, or even 27 calories for premature babies, as their tiny stomachs can’t hold enough volume to give them their necessary caloric intake.) I don’t know that it made much difference, but I was willing to try anything.

On his tenth day of life, he pulled out his NG-tube for his tenth (estimated) and final time. He wasn’t meeting his goals, but they decided not to replace it. He did well, getting closer and closer. On his thirteenth day, we were told we could take him home the following day: Valentine’s Day.

At 6 am on V-Day, I got a call from the neonatologist. She was just coming on shift having been gone a few days, and she didn’t think we should take Mr. D home. “He simply won’t grow on this,” she said, referring to his intake and reflux. I asked her if she was planning on re-inserting his feeding tube. No, she was not. Then why? What could they do for him that we couldn’t do at home? “He simply won’t grow,” she insisted. We reached an agreement: if Mr. D could eat all 55mls of each of his day feedings that day, and I agreed to take him to his pediatrician in two days instead of three, I could take him home. She strongly implied that she disagreed with this, but not enough to rule it out.

Challenge accepted, I thought. For each meal, I stripped an irate baby down to just his diaper. There was no way I was letting him get warm and comfy. I did not alert the nurses to his small spit-ups during burping. I twice emptied the remaining 2-3 mls of milk into the burp cloth at the end of his 20 minutes. And he got to come home with us that evening.


Mr. A could neither suck nor swallow nor breathe at the start. He did take early breaths on his own, but with much effort. The NICU staff quickly determined that he could not maintain his breathing, and gave him surfactant and intubated him. Once extubated, no one was surprised that he could not suck. He actually had the reflex, and would happily gnaw on a Soothie if it was held in his mouth. His cleft soft palate, however, left him with the inability to form negative pressure in his mouth. As such, he could not draw liquid from a nipple, nor could he hold his own pacifier in his mouth by sucking merrily to sleep. In order to assess his ability to swallow, the neonatologists had the nurses perform what I have since learned is a very outdated “test”—they poured sterile water into his mouth. They assured me that, if inhaled, it would not cause any problems, as it was sterile and a very small amount. The first time they “tested” him, the liquid slowly dribbled out of his mouth. He could not swallow. They repeated the “test” two days later, and he “passed”—the water went down somewhere, and they assumed it went down his esophagus. He was cleared to begin oral feeds.

I was introduced to a variety of bottles and nipples, all specially designed for babies with clefts. I was a bit dismayed to realize most of the nurses had no more familiarity with these “feeding systems” than I did. Essentially, they all worked the same way: a nipple was placed into A’s mouth and he chewed on it and the nipple released milk due to compression. Some of the bottles were squeeze bottles, so that I could force extra fluid into his mouth.

It was a disaster. I was too naïve to realize how large of a disaster it truly was. Only once did Mr. A take in over 10 mls (two teaspoons). Feeding him generally went like this: hold him in a specific way (hands angling his jaw upwards, entire body elevated to at least 45 degrees, while trying to support his head and body but not of course cradled in my arms), introduce nipple, watch him struggle, watch him desaturate (often followed by heart rate decelerations), fearfully yank the nipple out of his grey-blue lips, let him recover, repeat. At the end, measure remaining milk and discover only a handful of milliliters to be missing, and then pour the remainder down his feeding tube while snuggling him to sleep.

After a few days, I told the nurses I no longer wished to feed him by mouth. I was terrified. I could feel, somehow, that his desaturation and bradycardia events were different than Mr. D’s episodes of breath-holding. I hated feeding him, he hated eating, I feared I would kill him. The nurses told me I didn’t have to do anything I wasn’t comfortable doing, meaning they would continue to do his feedings for me. That wasn’t entirely what I meant, but I was too insecure to argue. And so he struggled along for a few more days, with me or my husband holding him while the nurses fed him. I came to accept his “behavior”—after all, he was gaining weight and showed no ill signs. So I resumed the feedings.

When he was transferred to the children’s hospital, he was evaluated by their feeding and development expert. I wasn’t there (we were not forewarned of it, or I would have been!), and came to his crib an hour later to be informed by the nurse that he was no longer to eat by mouth. Ever. He would need a surgically placed tube going directly into his stomach. I was irate. He had been, I thought, showing signs of improvement. And here some lady looked at him once, did not even give him a chance to truly try, and ruled out eating for the rest of his life? I made the staff aware of my displeasure, and they promised me she would speak to me. She didn’t, not for some time.

Mr. A was eventually given a swallow study: he sat in a car-seat-like chair, being fed radioactive barium mixed with breast milk to various consistencies: pudding, nectar, thin. X-ray-like machines videotaped the entire event. And there it was in black and white: Atticus was drowning. The milk went up his cleft palate and into his nasal cavity, and from there it entered his trachea and lungs. What remained into his mouth also largely ended up in his lungs. He was unable to cough to protect himself. My baby boy had silent aspiration.

I felt awful. Guilty, guilty, guilty. If I’d held my ground at the first hospital, if I’d truly listened to my instincts, we would have stopped feeding him by mouth weeks ago. He must hate me. He must fear me. My job was to keep him safe, and here I was, endangering him every three hours on the dot. And my pride, my pride at what I thought was improvement and my wrath at the feeding therapist, who had told me what I had been unable to believe, as if my wishing could make those drops of milk enter his stomach safely. “He was took 13 ccs!!” I had argued, over and over, his record amount so strong in my memory. Almost half an ounce, I was forced to admit, almost half an ounce of my milk flooding into his lungs.

It did not occur to me until almost a year later that who I should have been mad at, instead of myself, were the doctors and nurses at his birth hospital. I was in over my head, but so ignorant I had no idea. They should have known. They should have recognized what I felt in my heart and what led me to ask to stop: this was not normal preemie behavior. None of this was typical. And they didn’t. True, the most challenging preemies are probably passed off to the children’s hospital sooner than my Mr. A was, but watching for signs of aspiration is not a difficult art, and it’s one that should be taught to and remembered by everyone working with sick babies.

Mr. A got his G-tube placed when he was negative-one-week, adjusted. His feeding plan was changed to reflect that, while he was not to eat by mouth, certain exercises could be done to help stimulate his oral-motor skills. Feeding has continued to be one of his biggest challenges, but I am happy to end this by saying that we are now very close to replacing one of his 5 daily tube-feedings with an entire meal eaten by mouth. And as for Mr. D, he is an avid eater, and above the 90th percentile in both height and weight. The suck-swallow-breathe struggles are behind us all.

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Twinfant Tuesday: How Feeding Multiples Makes the First Year Even Harder

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Categories Breastfeeding, Formula, Household and Family Management, Parenting Twins, Twinfant TuesdayTags , 5 Comments

In my last Twinfant Tuesday post, I talked about the things that make the first year of parenthood challenging: not knowing your kids’ likes and dislikes, not being able to ask babies what they want, the expense, the sleep deprivation. These are things common to all parents, not just parents of multiples.

There are challenges that are unique to us, though, unique to those of us who proudly (or tentatively) wear the badge of the Mother of Multiples club, that exclusive, amazing, inspiring, terrifying club that we find ourselves in. Feeding alone is (warning: pun ahead) all-consuming. Whether you’re exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively bottle-feeding, doing both, or somewhere in between, feeding multiple infants is crazytown.

Touch Saturation

When I recently visited Liggy‘s perfect little ones, we found ourselves talking about how, after nursing for over 12 hours a day, we just don’t want to be touched any more. Even hugs or affection from our pets feel like invasions in those rare moments that our bodies belong to us.

It’s not that we resent the time that our babies are nursing or snuggling. That contact is still beautiful and (once you have the babies’ preferences figured out) peaceful. It’s that nursing contact is the only contact that our senses can handle. It’s as if our bodies are primed to breastfeed and all other physical contact, no matter how otherwise welcome, pushes our sensory capacity over the edge.

Tandem? Sequential? What if We Have More Than Two?

“It’s a good thing you have two breasts,” my daughter M mused the other day.
“True,” I responded. “You know that Aunt D had triplets.”
“I was just thinking that!” M exclaimed. “I guess she had to use three bottles…”
“No, she actually breastfed,” I informed her, proudly.
M was floored. “SHE HAS A SECRET BREAST?”

Sadia is exhausted and disheveled after a marathon nursing session with her pair.
I looked disheveled all the time while I was breastfeeding my pair. I once even managed to go to work with my pants on inside out. Who has time to stop by the mirror?

It’s not just 7-year-olds who assume that breastfeeding more than two babies is downright impossible. While it’s not impossible, it is indescribably difficult. Juggling the babies, consuming enough calories and fluids, getting everyone comfortable, making time for anything else…. People who haven’t experienced life with multiple infants just don’t understand.

Even those who have observed for a few hours can’t possibly imagine what it really means to breastfeed more than one child at a time. You have to get everyone to cooperate. Maybe you’re able to produce enough milk, but if just one of your babies refuses to nurse unless she’s lying across your lap without another baby in the way, there goes tandem nursing.

I like words. I love writing. I just do not have the words to explain how incredibly hard it is to breastfeed two. I know that I don’t have the capacity to comprehend how many harder it is to breastfeed more, and yet mothers do it. Every day. All day.

The Bottles, the Pump Parts, the Washing. Oh My!

Bottles, collars and nipples drying
Photo Credit: if winter ends

When my sister was a baby, we washed her bottles by hand. We also had servants. There was one of her. It was still a lot of work.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to have a dishwasher. We used that thing. A lot.

Word to the wise: if you’re in the dishwasher market and considering having kids ever, buy a model that runs quietly. It was so worth the extra money to have a dishwasher we could run while the babies were sleeping.

Breastpump parts
Photo Credit: aaron_anderer

Now add in all the breast pump parts that need to be washed. There are flanges and adapters and valves. Occasionally the tubing needs to be washed out. Depending on how you store you milk, there may be storage containers to wash.

Even if you use disposable bags for storing your milk, you have to restock those. You have to pull frozen milk out of the freezer to allow it to defrost.

There’s just so much stuff to remember and to do to keep our babies fed.

Shortcuts

There are shortcuts that can make your life easier, things I wished I’d thought of earlier.

If formula is part of your game plan, as it was for us, consider preparing it by the pitcher instead of by the bottle. Just make enough for the day (or the night) and refrigerate it. Alternately, pre-measure you formula into individual containers so you don’t have to think about proportions or deal with scoops all day. Warning: this is another thing to wash!

It took me a while to realize that I could store the nipples assembled in their collars with the lids on. That saved me the assembly. My husband also loved drop-in bag/liners for thawed breastmilk.

If you’re pumping and nursing, you may be able to breastfeed on one side while pumping on the other. I don’t know about you, but I could get about 4 times as much milk from a pump-and-nurse session than from pumping alone. I found that my Medela flanges tucked comfortably into open-front and pull-down nursing bras for a hands-free experience.

I didn’t (and still don’t) remember all that I do in the middle of the night. I had to write down which baby I’d changed and when, who had eaten and when, who’d been fussy and when. Not only did our notebooks serve as a communication solution between my middle of the night zombie self and the awake version, but between me and my husband too. It didn’t hurt to have these notebooks on hand when we went to the pediatrician, either!

We found that one bottle parts dishwasher basket was inadequate, but two was plenty if we washed what we used daily. We ran the dishwasher on the sanitary cycle. We did not skip a night.

Hard? Yes. Impossible? No.

Despite how hard this is, we find a way to feed our kids.

The vast majority of our kids grow into solid foods. They wean off the bottle or breast. Eventually, this becomes a vague memory. What stays with us are just impressions: the smell of the baby on our shoulder, burping while the other continues to suckle; the weight of our children in our arms; the weight of our eyelids; the sight of squishy cheeks; the leap of our hearts when we see our children holding hands; above all, the knowledge that we all survived.

We MoMs did the impossible, rendering it merely improbable.

What is/was hard about infant feeding in your family?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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End the Mommy Wars

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Categories Breastfeeding, Difference, Diversity, Mommy Issues3 Comments

The degree of support I’ve felt from the online mothering community over the years has been amazing. When I was a newbie mom and newbie blogger, people came out of the woodwork to offer support, encouragement and kind, thoughtful advice. I knew I was never alone in my mission to raise my children to reach their potential, even when my husband was deployed and the rest of our families were thousands of miles away. I have the great good fortune to now pay it forward here within the HDYDI community.

End the Mommy Wars from hdydi.com
Mommy Esq.’s three lovely children and my two loud ones enjoyed breakfasting together.

I’ve made lifelong friends online. A lot of people I know think it’s a little creepy to take my kids and meet up with “strangers” from the internet, but they’re not strangers. There’s an honesty to my relationships in blogosphere that I strive to achieve in my real-life relationships. Just yesterday, my daughters and I spent the day at the Texas State Fair with Mommy Esq. and her family. They welcomed us into their home and lives with open arms and hearts. Mommy Esq. was an online friend of years, but has been a “real-life friend” for only months. It’s quite something to see our children begin to develop similarly deep friendships with each other.

My twins are my first and only children. The greatest mothering lesson they taught me, as soon as I was able to see them at around 36 hours old, was that there is no one right way to parent. M has different needs than J does. Their father meets those needs differently than I do. There’s no right and wrong, only my way and other ways, as long as there is love, goodwill, open-mindedness, and patience.

Certainly, there are parents who harm their children, from ignorance, incapacity, lack of will or, rarely, malevolence. Sadly, I have observed the effects of neglect and abuse, and children of those parents need us to step up and contact the authorities, serve as foster parents, and be ready to adopt them if need be. Those parents are rare, though, and they’re not going to take your advice anyway. Why waste energy on doing anything but sharing what worked for you and taking advice from others that might work for you?

Imagine my dismay to get online last night to discover that while I had been relishing a gorgeous friendship born online, one of the mothering communities in which I participate, The Official Group of National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. had blown up in judgment over breastfeeding, of all things. Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered to read back through all the ugliness, but from what I could glean, a male non-member had communicated his feeling that breastfeeding images were sexual, and moms had lined up to judge and attack each other. Breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed. Some moms can’t breastfeed, so no one should ever discuss breastfeeding. Breastfeed in public. Never breastfeed in public. Share breastfeeding images proudly. Never ever ever share a photo of your child at your breast. If you don’t tandem nurse, you’re a bad MoM.

Stop it, I say. End the Mommy Wars.

Mommy Esq and Sadia from hdydi.com
Mommy Esq. and I decided that at least one photo of the two of us was in order. The sangria was a nice treat at the car show.

Our children do not need us to feel judged and defensive. They don’t need us to judge and offend. They need their parents and other mentors and role models to talk to each other, to figure out what works for each parent-child pair. They need us to celebrate the differences between our families and our parenting styles, not condemn all who do it differently than we choose to or must.

I am deeply thankful that in all the years I have been part of the HDYDI community, first as a lurker, then as a commenter, then as a guest poster, next as a contributor and, most recently, as the coordinator, I haven’t seen anything but support for the MoMs and DoMs out there. Thank you all for making this a safe place to discuss and explore how we can best parent our individual, unique, extraordinary children within our individual, unique, extraordinary life circumstances.

And I beg the moms of the NOMOTC Facebook group to remember what brought us together in the first place. Bring the kindness back. Let the hurt and anger go. End the Mommy Wars. Don’t worry about who’s right, only about what’s right for you.

End the Mommy Wars.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Twinfant Tuesday: On the Clock

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Breastfeeding, Feeding, Feeling Overwhelmed, Fertility, Infertility, Pregnancy, Sleep, Twinfant TuesdayTags , 6 Comments

Hello all-

Our twins are 8 weeks old today, and in the past 8 weeks, there have been countless topics I wanted to write about.  Among them: how it’s possible to have a beautiful birth of your babies even after bed rest, preeclampsia and a magnesium drip, how no one REALLY explains how hard breastfeeding is to you before you have babies (much less, breastfeeding twins), and something about the sleep deprivation (if I had more sleep, I could have said that more articulately).

http://hdydi.com/2013/09/17/twinfant-tuesday-on-the-clock/But, what has been the most difficult adjustment, and perhaps the only thing that has truly surprised me about being a new mom, is the grueling feeding schedule.  Feeding two hungry mouths every three hours was much more challenging than I anticipated.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that it would really require two adults to do so, and that it would take nearly the whole three-hour window before the next feeding to complete the cycle.  All this made me start thinking about the timeframes I’ve been bound to in the last two years and how a biological clock isn’t just about trying to have kids before various risks increase.

Pregnancy

  • 40 – The number of weeks all multiple pregnancies strive to get to.
  • 38 – The number of weeks we all secretly could tolerate getting to.
  • 35.6 – The number of weeks I made it to in my pregnancy.
  • 32 – The number of weeks in my pregnancy before being put on bed rest.
  • 28 – The number of weeks in my pregnancy before I really had any complications. (First one was pubic symphysis dysfunction, followed by preterm dilation, then preeclampsia.)

Infertility treatment

  • 16 – The number of months we tried to get pregnant before our successful IVF treatment.
  • 9 – The number of months I was on hormone treatments before getting pregnant.
  • 10 – The number of weeks I took daily progesterone shots during pregnancy.
  • 2 – The number of weeks in a cycle I felt I lived my life on before this: the two week wait to ovulate, then the two week wait to find out if I was pregnant.

Parenthood

  • 3 – The number of hours between feedings.
  • 1.5 – The number of hours I usually have between feedings to shower, feed myself, clean bottles or pump parts, close my eyes for a bit.
  • 1 – The painfully slow number of hours it currently takes my daughter to finish a bottle.

I recall being anxious to get off of the “two week wait to ovulate/two week wait to find out if I was pregnant” schedule. Silly me. I didn’t realize how the scheduling would just take another form.

And I recognize that it will be this way always. It just will be a soccer practice, or school or day camp that is dictating my clock instead of ovulation or weeks of  gestation.

In the meantime, my daily goal is to focus on the moment instead of when the clock will alert me to the next deadline.  To try to appreciate my little ones in this very innocent, sweet time.  To take the time to feel the love and support that has been brought into our house by all the visitors and family support, knowing the visits and support will someday end.  To try to laugh at the things that sleep deprivation has caused us to do (ie, pumping without bottles attached for a good 3-4 minutes before feeling warm milk on my lap).  To open my heart and my life to these two little beings I’m getting to know more and more each day.

What was your favorite memory of being in the moment when you first brought your babies home?

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Twinfant Tuesday: Why the First Year is Hard

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Categories Attitude, Breastfeeding, Feeling Overwhelmed, Joy, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Sleep, Twinfant Tuesday, WorkingTags , , , , , , , , 9 Comments

Parenting is no cake walk, nor should it be. Raising a child to be a successful adult, regardless of how you define success, is hard work. I’m not one to shy away from labour (pun mostly accidental) but the first year after my daughters’ birth was difficult to a degree that belies words.

What hard about the first year with twinsI’ve been through a lot in the intervening years, including the dissolution of my marriage and the loss of a son I had hoped would be mine, but it is surviving that first year of twins that I wear as my badge of honour. It’s making it to J and M’s first birthday that proved to me that I could survive anything. It was knowing that I made it through that year that gave me the strength to pick myself up and brush myself off after I watched my husband abandon me, my beloved mother-in-law turn her back on me, and my sweet nephew removed from our family.

Some of what made Year One so hard was unique to our family, but many aspects of the challenge are common to new parents. Each of the reasons below could easily deserve its own post.

I Didn’t Know My Kids Yet

The biggest influence in my parenting is my children’s personalities. Knowing their strengths, weaknesses and triggers helps me parent them.

M doesn’t deal well with change or the unexpected. She tends to lash out when she’s overwhelmed. She gets grumpy when she’s hungry. She experiences the world through words and numbers, and is energized by social interaction. She thinks out loud and needs to feel heard. She knows she’s brilliant and sometimes needs help finding humility.

J’s understanding of others’ feelings is near genius. She needs to talk through her emotions and those of others, and doesn’t take it well when people try to baby her to protect her feelings. She gets lost in imaginary worlds, both on screen and in books and needs a moment to snap back into reality. She’s usually very confident, but will confess to insecurities far beyond her age. She’s a more private person than M or I are.

Why the first year of parenting is hardDuring that first year, I didn’t know these things about my children. I was getting to know them at the same time that I was learning incorporate parenting into the other responsibilities of my life. It took me days to learn that M would cry because she wanted to be held, while J would cry because she wanted to be put down. I didn’t realize that J wanted my eye contact while M wanted to hear my voice. It took a while to figure out that J preferred Daddy to burp her while M was a burpless wonder.

The shortcuts I have at my disposal now, just from knowing who my kids are, weren’t there the first year. The first year, however, was when I learned who M and J are at their core. That M was a chatterbox, I figured out by the age of 4 months. That J was aware of and mirrored my emotions, I knew by the time she was 6 months old.

Infants Can’t Speak

Babies are incredible sponges of knowledge, and they start learning the cadences of their native language(s) in utero. They don’t, however, come out talking. They can’t tell you what they want or where it hurts. They can’t tell you that they’re crying because you held them too long (J) or not long enough (M). They can’t tell you that they like to be swaddled with one arm free (J) or that their favourite song is Row, Row, Row Your Boat (M). The slow process of elimination to figure out what would make each of my children comfortable each moment of the day was exhausting, and I had it relatively easy, since my kids were remarkably unfussy.

More than once, I remember saying to one child or the other, “I don’t know what you want!” after I’d checked her diaper, fed her, held her, walked with her, bounced her, sang to her, added more layers of clothes, removed layers of clothes and tried everything else I could think of. It took me months before I realized that wanting to be within reach of Sissy was a basic need both babies shared. I don’t believe that babies “just cry.” I firmly believe that crying is a means of communicating discomfort.

I was fortunate to be surrounded by parents whose approach to their babies was like mine. They didn’t assume their infants were drinking-and-pooping blank slates lacking in personality. Like me, they learned the meanings of their children’s different cries. (Tangent: my kids used the same cries for the same things, speaking the same language of cries. Their hunger cries were similarly urgent and shrill; they had the same whiny cry for, “I want to change positions;” they had the same hiccup-y cry to indicate that they were tired. Other babies used the same repertoire of cries to mean different things. My kids’ tired cry was another baby’s hungry.)

Baby Sign was our saving grace. It doesn’t work for everyone, but at the tender age of 7 months, my itty bitty babies could tell me if wanted milkfood, more or Mama. By 9 months, they could sign please and thank you.

It Was Wartime

The US was at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, when my babies were born. They were conceived and born between my (now ex) husband’s tours in Iraq. He needed to be in a constant state of readiness. We had a general idea of when he would be expected to go overseas, but he could be called on at any time.

As a practical matter, this meant that I needed to be on call for the babies all the time. If one of them was sent home from daycare with a fever, I could try calling Daddy to see if he could pick them up, but the answer could very well be, “No.” He might be scheduled to take them to a doctor’s appointment, only to have some sort of last-minute work obligation. Our choice would be between rescheduling the appointment or my taking time off work instead. We always chose the latter. If I was with one child in the ER in the middle of the night, I needed to be ready to take the other because Daddy might get called into base in the wee hours of the morning.

Here’s a concrete example: J and M were born at 33 weeks old. A few days after they were born, my husband’s unit left Texas for California for desert training. He got to stay behind with us. When the girls were 10 days old, his army paternity leave was over and the doctors told us that they were out of the woods. Thankfully, they were no longer at risk of dying when my husband was required to join his unit. He didn’t return home until several weeks after our girls came home from the NICU. I figured out how to care from them solo before he made it home. His dad had been staying with me but needed to go back to Washington State well before my ex returned.

Once Daddy left for Iraq, of course, there was no question about who would take care of the babies. Sleep when the babies sleep? I’m sure that advice works for moms who are home with their singletons, but it wasn’t for this working mama of twins when the twins’ sleep schedules got out of sync! I slept while I breastfed.

Kids are Enormously Expensive

Our daycare payments for two infants came out to be more than our mortgage. Thanks to the 10% discount on the second child, we “only” paid $1650 a month for childcare. That was 7 years ago. Inflation has taken its toll, so I can only imagine what the cost is now.

Daycare took up my salary, so we had to live on my husband’s. Trust me when I tell you that soldiers don’t earn a whole lot. We couldn’t afford to contribute to our retirement that first year, and that was okay.

I cut corners where I could. I made my own baby food to avoid baby food costs. I breastfed for as long as I could, which helped cut down on formula costs. I would have loved to cloth diaper, but our daycare required disposables. It was a while before I discovered Amazon Subscribe and Save, and I kicked myself for all the money I could have saved.

We bought things second-hand. Our girls’ high chairs were hand-me-downs from a twin mom at work. I returned the high chair we received as a baby shower gift and spent the money on formula. I watched my Freecycle list and pounced on clothes and toys others were getting rid of.

I didn’t eat out. If people at work wanted to lunch with me, they could buy something  and I would bring food from home. My splurge was an occasional $2.14 meal from Wendy’s.

Feeling like I couldn’t afford the occasional babysitter was scary. Budgeting without any wiggle room was awful. After a promotion at work, things became less tight. Daycare costs fell as the girls got older. Although summer camp pricing is comparable to infant care, it’s only for 3 months of the year.

I spent the extra pay that my ex got for being in combat on a lawncare service and a biweekly cleaning lady.

We were incredibly fortunate to have military health insurance. No premiums. No deductible. No co-pays, except (at the time) $3 for generic prescriptions and $10 for name brand. The girls’ birth, complete with ambulance ride, C-section and NICU time cost us $6. I had two prescriptions for painkillers.

If we’d have normal medical coverage, I honestly don’t know how we would have made ends meet. I feel like we had a decent middle class income. When you crunch the numbers, it’s a little insane.

I Had to Learn to Let Go

The perfectionist in me got slapped around, and hard, by that first year. I had to let go of all my highfalutin goals of motherhood and dig down deep to decide what really mattered. Did I want to read to perfectly clean babies with lullabies gently playing in the background in a neat and tidy home where all the laundry was folded and get a shower every day? Sure I did. Was that going to happen? No way. Not the first year.

I had the TV on. I dressed myself and the kids straight out of the clean laundry hamper. I ate pre-prepared meals. I slept on my lunch break at work, right on the floor of my office. My social calendar consisted of phone calls cut off mid-sentence and life in the blogosphere.

Being someone who processes through the written word, I devised a parenting credo to carry me through. I set achievable goals and didn’t look more than 2 weeks out. I learned humility and prioritization. I learned that being a super mom has nothing to do with being SuperMom.

Breastfeeding is Hard. Breastfeeding Two is Harder

I’ve told you my breastfeeding story recently, but both breastfeeding and formula-feeding are hard.

My Reproductive Years are My Career-Building Years

I came to conclusion that there wasn’t enough of me to meet my parenting ambitions and my career ambitions. That understanding didn’t come quickly, but it did come easily and organically. I spend my time at home managing children; I don’t have any desire to manage adults at work. Fortunately, since my girls were infants, my workplace has begun to allow for career paths that don’t lead to management. At the time, though, I made peace with motherhood and my military marriage costing me career progression. I liked my job and still do, but I would never again be a superstar.

I Need Sleep

We all need sleep, and there isn’t much to be found when you’re raising kids. My babies didn’t sleep through the night until they were well over a year old. I somehow managed to survive on 3-5 hours of interrupted sleep per night. I’m sure I could have been a much better parent if I weren’t constantly exhausted. It’s a miracle that I didn’t have an accident. I fell asleep while driving to work more than once.

Did I ever tell you about the time I showed up to work with my pants on inside out? Or the time I forgot to button my shirt after nursing and needed my daughters’ teacher to tell me to put my boob away before I got back on the road? Sleep deprivation does that.

It’s hard to have perspective when you’re sleep-deprived. It’s hard to have hope. I would say that the lack of the sleep is the biggest challenge of the first year with a new child or children.

“Wife” and “Mother” are Distinct Roles

This is a huge topic, but suffice it to say that being a wife can take as much energy, time and effort as being mother. The two are not the same thing. My co-parenting relationship with my husband had little overlap with our marital relationship. It’s easy to get so focused on meeting your new babies’ needs together to forget that there are other parts to your marriage.

A C-Section is Major Abdominal Surgery

For those of us who have had caesarean births, the recovery required seriously complicates the first days. Perhaps we can’t lift our kids and it’s painful to nurse them because they kick the incision. Perhaps you cannot physically walk to the NICU to see your baby. I may have pulled out my stitches a few times in my efforts to get to my babies. A C-section may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s not major.

If ever someone tries to tell you to suck up the pain, remind them that the doctor pulled your uterus (which she’d just sliced open to remove a human being) out of your body to examine it before putting it back and sewing you up.

I’ve never had a vaginal birth, so I honestly can’t speak to how that recovery process might impact the first few days with your baby.

Hormones

There’s a reason that post-partum depression and psychosis exist as medical conditions. The changes that your body is going through as it goes from your pregnant to your non-pregnant state can wreak havoc on your brain chemistry. This is no flippant, “it’s just hormones” issue. Post-partum psychosis can be fatal.

It’s Completely Worth It

I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat. If I had the financial capacity, I would love another child. I’d love another set of twins. You know what? Hand me a set of newborn triplets. I’m in my element with babies. I love how they sound and how they smell and how they act. I love the way a baby will grasp my finger, babble to himself or seek out her own feet. Crying doesn’t faze me, although it has been known to make me lactate. I love that I can love on a baby without any fear of over-coddling him. I love the feeling of complete trust that a baby has when he’s sleeping in my arms.

(Seriously, I’m a baby whisperer. Ask Wiley.)

That first year gave me everything I needed to be able to figure this parenting thing out.

Is/was the first year hard? What made it (or kept it from being) hard? What did you learn about yourself and you babies?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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From the Archives: Infant Feeding

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Categories Breastfeeding, Feeding, Formula, HDYDI Blog, InfantsTags , , , , , 3 Comments

Link Party Button #milkingitI wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the variety of posts here on How Do You Do It? on the subject of infant nutrition, whether breast milk, formula, or some combination. Obviously, there have been several posts over the past several days, but there’s a larger body of wisdom and experience that The HDYDI Moms have gathered here over the years.

Breastfeeding

WBW-Button-150

Expressed Breast Milk (EBM)

Breast Milk and Formula

Formula Feeding

Feeding Tube

We don’t actually have any posts on long-term NG-tube feeding on HDYDI yet, but we have a couple of post-NICU feeding tube mamas in our ranks. If you have questions, please let us know.

Weaning

Infant Feeding in General

Phew. Is anyone else emotionally worn out from the heartfelt intensity of the breastfeeding posts here and elsewhere over the last few days? I cried writing my own post and cried again reading the others. It was cathartic, but it hurt like crazy.

Feeding our infants strikes me as being representative of motherhood in general. We put every part of ourselves into being the best moms we can be, but we never feel that we’re doing quite enough. Or maybe that’s just me.

Do you have other online infant feeding resources to share? Please tell us about them in the comments.

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Quitting Breastfeeding

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Categories Breastfeeding, Emotion, Family, Feeding, Feeling Overwhelmed, Formula, Mommy Issues, World Breastfeeding Week Blog Carnival5 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding CenterWelcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

***

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The three of us, at 2 weeks, around 5 a.m. after tandem nursing for one of 12 times a day.

Before I was a Mom, my goal was to breastfeed my baby. When I found out there were two babies, I still wanted to breastfeed exclusively. Breastfeeding was tough, much harder physically and emotionally than I could have ever imagined. One of my sons had a terrible latch and it hurt every single time I fed him until the very last time. My twin boys were born at 38 weeks and were nearly 7 lbs each, but by the time my big babies were five days old we were told we had to supplement them with formula, they were not only not gaining weight, but had lost more than 20 percent of their birthweight. Despite sitting topless in my living room in the flotation raft of a twin nursing pillow around the clock for the first few months, they didn’t exceed their birthweight until nearly a month old and struggled to gain an ounce some weeks. We hoped we could get back on track and drop the formula. We never did. By the time I went back to work at 6 months I was nursing and pumping and not coming close to meeting the demands of two growing boys. My breastfeeding journey was long and difficult, but I fed them some breast milk every day until they were almost 9 months old. By that time, I was pumping less than 5 oz a day, which could not feed one bottle to one baby. They were eating foods and finally gaining weight and on the growth chart for the first time in their lives, but it wasn’t from me.

weights

I charted their weights for the first 6 months because it was so challenging.

Quitting was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I felt like a huge failure. I cried and cried. (It has been three years and re-reading this letter I wrote brought back the tears.) I didn’t want to give up but my body did. I talked to the lactation consultant I had been seeing since my boys were born and she suggested I pump to comfort in order to quit. I only had to pump one more time. I was done. I wrote this letter to my boys that day, three years ago. I wanted them to know I did everything I could for them.

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This photo was taken on the day I wrote this letter. It was a setup for a BBQ invitation, but fitting since they were moving on to different culinary pastures.

July 24, 2010

My dear little boys, I love you so much. I want you to know that I quit breastfeeding today. It has been a long time coming I am afraid, but I want you to know that I tried everything to make it work for us. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I have only wanted the very best for you.

When we found out there were two of you I knew it would be hard at times, and wonderful and amazing. I still wanted the best for you. It would have been easy to forgo breastfeeding entirely, but I know that it is the perfect food for a baby and I wanted you to have it.  I managed to carry you to full term, which gave you a great start. You were both big and healthy and perfect.

Even in the hospital, though, the three of us had difficulties feeding. We struggled with latch problems, some of which were never resolved. Those early weeks were rough. I was in pain, I got an infection, you both lost a lot of weight, I never seemed to produce enough and you were weak and shrinking and it was heartbreaking.

Dad was amazingly supportive and helped with all those feedings, every two hours. For the first two months, we fed you on every even hour – midnight, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, noon, etc. around the clock. I nursed and pumped and we gave in and gave you formula. Your weight would go up an ounce or two then down, then stay the same, for weeks on end.

You were healthy, though, and doing all the milestone things you were supposed to. I was told time and again that I wasn’t feeding you enough, and it killed me to hear that because I was doing everything I could to feed you as much as you needed.  When one of you developed a milk allergy Joshua, it wasn’t easy to completely eliminate dairy in all its forms. I have missed cheese and ice cream and butter. But knowing it would make you so sick, it was easy to stick to a dairy free existence. And I hope it means you will outgrow it and you’ll be able to enjoy those things too.

The three of us went to the hospital every Wednesday to weigh you and see how you were growing. And those early months the change was gradual. You stayed in your Newborn clothes until you were more than 3 months old. The 0-3 months stuff just started to fit at 3.5 months. Winter was nearly over by the time you got into those 3-6 months clothes at 5 months. I charted your weight gain each week, and the graph was moving up, but very slowly. We would go to your pediatrician appointments and were told you were both 1st percentile in weight, or sometimes not even on the chart. At one point Justin, you were a full pound and a half smaller, even though you were the bigger baby at birth. I was so afraid they were going to think I was a bad mom and take you away or put you in the hospital or something.

At six months you were both finally on the percentile chart. You had doubled your birth weight. You were in the 3rd percentile. And for the first time since birth, Justin was heavier again. For the next two months you took turns, sometimes Joshua was heavier, sometimes Justin. Several weeks you were exactly the same. But once you added solid foods like cereal and veggies you really started to grow and grow. 

Now you are almost 9 months old. You are amazing little boys. You are both so curious and sweet and loving. You are both becoming mobile and are crawling around on your tummies.

I hope I have given you a good start to a long life of health and love. I hope that you know I have done everything I could to make your first months the best I possibly could. I have taken herbal supplements, I have resorted to prescription medication, I have rented a pump, bought a pump, eaten nearly any food any wives tale suggested might increase milk supply. I have only ever managed to make about half of what you have needed.

Now that I have gone back to work, though, it’s just not working out anymore. I no longer produce enough to feed you each one bottle a day. I take extra breaks and drink a ton of water and do all the things that are supposed to help. I pump five times a day and often in a small closet where the door doesn’t shut all the way. I do this because I love you.

But happy, healthy babies need more than just breast milk. They need a Mommy who is happy and healthy too. I know it hasn’t been perfect, and it hasn’t gone how I had hoped, but I truly did the very best I could to give you every drop I could manage. I am sure this is not the only time I will fall short of my hopes for you, I guess being a parent means having the highest hopes and doing the best you can. You are truly wonderful little boys and I am glad to be your mommy. I hope you will always know I will always do what I can for you. This Mommy business is hard, but with two great kids and a wonderful husband, I am the luckiest Mommy ever.

Thank you.

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Jen W. is the mom of two very energetic, and on-the-percentile-chart 3-and-a-half-year-olds who leave me asking at the end of every day, “How DO I do it?” 

***

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)

  • An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
  • It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
  • Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
  • Mikko’s weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
  • My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Celebrating Each Mother’s Journey — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
  • Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband’s deployment to Iraq, and Baby J’s nursing strike.
  • So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
  • Milk Siblings: One Mama’s Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
  • Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
  • When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She’s still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she’d always hoped.
  • Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams‘s first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son’s survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk – then she started giving it away.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
  • Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
  • Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson’s Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam’s milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom’s life too!
  • Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
  • Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen’s collaboration of a few dear mama’s reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
  • Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
  • A Pumping Mom’s Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.
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When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned

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Categories Attitude, Breastfeeding, Formula, Frustration, Infants, NICU, Parenting Twins, Prematurity, World Breastfeeding Week Blog Carnival6 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

***

I had every intention of breastfeeding.  In all the baby gear I amassed while I was pregnant, I didn’t even have one bottle.  As a SAHM, I wouldn’t need bottles, right?

But then our twin girls were born six weeks early.  By multiples standards, that’s not too bad, really…but there was NICU time, and concerns over weight gain.  Although I pumped just a couple or hours after they were born, they were given several bottles of formula by the time I saw them the following day.

This was not how I’d planned things.

I kept at a rigorous pumping schedule.  To my dismay, I wasn’t getting much milk.  I drank water by the liter.  I ate lots of calories.  I eventually took prescription and herbal supplements.  I never got more than a couple of ounces.

Still, I breastfed the girls with the help of the lactation consultants at the hospital.  Weight checks before and after breastfeeding, though, showed they weren’t transferring any / very much milk.  I was encouraged to pump / breastfeed the girls, but I was told I had to supplement with formula.

Still determined to give my girls the gift of breast milk, I breastfed a baby, then bottle-fed that baby (to make sure she got the calories she needed), and then I pumped (to try to increase my supply)…six to eight times a day.

It was exhausting, of course…but it also felt very demoralizing at times.  Why couldn’t my body respond to the needs of my tiny babies???

After lots and lots of frustrated tears, I finally set a goal of three months.  I would give my girls every ounce I could for three months.  That would carry them through cold and flu season.  By that time, they should be on the growth curve.

After that time, my girls were formula fed.

As I look back, four years later, this is still an incredibly emotional subject for me.

I am not writing this to ask what I could have done differently.  Could I have done something to be more successful in nursing?  To have upheld the “breast is best” ideology I believed to my core?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  I don’t know.

To be perfectly honest, I still look with some degree of awe and jealousy at the moms I see breastfeeding their babies poolside, or at the coffee shop…my best friend nursing her precious newborn on the couch in my living room.

Four years later, though, I’m getting through the guilt.  I am finally to the point of looking beyond the sustenance our girls got during their infanthood, and that’s a big step for me.

My amazing girls are healthy, vibrant, curious, sometimes mischievous.  I know things won’t always go exactly as I’d like them to, but above all, I want them always to see a mama who loves them heart and soul for exactly who they are.  There’s great value in that “sustenance”, too.

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls, A and B.  She blogs about their adventures at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

***

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)

  • An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
  • It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
  • Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
  • Mikko’s weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
  • My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Celebrating Each Mother’s Journey — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
  • Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband’s deployment to Iraq, and Baby J’s nursing strike.
  • So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
  • Milk Siblings: One Mama’s Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
  • Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
  • When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She’s still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she’d always hoped.
  • Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams‘s first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son’s survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk – then she started giving it away.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
  • Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
  • Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson’s Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam’s milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom’s life too!
  • Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
  • Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen’s collaboration of a few dear mama’s reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
  • Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
  • A Pumping Mom’s Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.
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Working Mom Nursing Twins

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Categories Breastfeeding, Co-parenting, Infants, Mommy Issues, NICU, Parenting Twins, Prematurity, Single Parenting, Theme Week, Working, World Breastfeeding Week Blog CarnivalTags , , , , , , , 10 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding CenterWelcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.


My twin daughters had my breastmilk as part of their diet until they were 7 months old. They were preemies, born at 33 weeks gestation, and both spent time (16 and 21 days) in the NICU before they were stable enough to be released to us. I work full time and returned to my job when the girls were 11 weeks old and not quite 5 lbs each. My (now ex) husband is a soldier and deployed to Iraq when J and M were 5 months old for a 15-month tour. He was also gone for the first 3 weeks after the babies were home, thanks to pre-deployment training out of state.

b_134016When I describe my nursing situation like that, it seems like a victory that I was able to keep it up for 7 months. Don’t be fooled, though. Even now, 6 years after my daughters stopped nursing, I feel the dull ache of failure when I think of our breastfeeding experience. Objectively, I know that my 7-year-old daughters are healthy and smart and funny and sweet. It didn’t harm them in any way that I can see that I only breastfed for 7 months. I know I did everything I could. I know that, on balance, I’m a good mother. Still, my daughters’ 7 months of breastmilk and high-calorie formula feels like a personal failure. My goal had been 12 months of exclusive breastfeeding.

While pregnant, I had been under the impression that nursing, because it was a natural instinct, would be easy. In retrospect, “natural” and “easy” rarely go together. I should have known better. After all, what’s more natural that raising your child? And what’s harder? There are plenty of new moms for whom breastfeeding is easy. I wasn’t one of them.

It also wasn’t so hard for me that it wasn’t worth pursuing, as it was for some of my friends: the friend whose baby’s lactose intolerance meant that he couldn’t gain weight on breastmilk; the friend whose baby never once latched properly; the friend whose baby was so premature that her body didn’t even interpret it as a live birth and never produced milk at all. We all have our own stories and our own set of challenges.

Two Babies

Ah, the twin thing. I had enough breasts to go around, so that was a plus. My aunt-in-law’s successful breastfeeding of her triplet daughters 12 years before my girls were born was a huge inspiration for me. It also gave my husband a surprising degree of insight into what might work for us.

Let me say this loud and clear. Moms of multiples, if you want to breastfeed, it’s worth a shot. You may be a natural (pun intended), like Wiley. It may not work out. Either way, it’s the rare MoM (that’s Mothers of Multiples to those of you not in the know!) who regrets trying to breastfeed her multiple infants.

I tried tandem nursing, simultaneously breastfeeding both babies, but it didn’t really work for me. When the girls first came home, they didn’t have the muscle tone to hold their heads up, so I needed one hand to support a body and another to support the associated head. When my husband was home, I could sit in his lap and use his arms to support the second baby, but it wasn’t practical on my own. Instead, I’d let one baby feed in my arms while the other nestled in my lap.

b_202337Prematurity

My daughters’ early birth and subsequent NICU stay were the biggest challenges to establishing breastfeeding. My water broke–or rather “J’s water broke”; M’s amniotic sac had to be ruptured by the doctor–nearly 2 months before the girls’ due date. I had to have an emergency C-section, delivering 3 lb 9 oz and 3 lb 6 oz babies. They hadn’t yet put on the baby fat that allows full-term newborns to regulate their own body temperature and provides them the calories to carry through until mom’s milk came in.b_074835Instead of the newborn suckling I had anticipated, my babies were fitted with feeding tubes. Instead of their first meal being colostrum, it was high calorie formula. Those calories in the formula come from corn syrup.

I began to run a fever shortly after delivery, so I didn’t get to see my daughters until about 36 hours after their birth. Both my husband and I had been loud and obnoxious about our desire to get breastmilk to our babies. The hospital staff provided me with a breastpump and associated accessories. I began pumping when the babies were a few hours old and pumped every 3 hours for the time they were in the hospital. 16 days of round the clock pumping was the only thing I could really do to mother my babies. I was no medical professional and they required medical care, but pumping made me feel a little less helpless. I was still grieving the drug-free vaginal childbirth and chubby newborns I’d imagined I’d have.

yhst-42522233509519_2274_614394049
Photo Credit: Just Multiples

About a day after the babies were born, the pumping bore fruit. A tiny golden drop of colostrum clung to side of one miniscule bottle into which I was pumping. A maternity ward nurse delivered it to the NICU for me, where the nurses poured liquid formula into the bottle, washing every speck of colostrum into the girls’ next meal. They split the enriched formula between my babies. From that point on, any milk I could produce got magicked into my teeny ones by feeding tube.

Only once in the 16 days both my daughters were in the hospital did I have the opportunity to breastfeed. The lactation consultant was available during M’s feeding time, and she worked with me on a successful latch. M had already been exposed to the doll-sized NICU bottles and had been sucking impressively. We had just got the hang of it when a NICU nurse gently pried M from my arms. We couldn’t afford to let her use her energy on suckling. She needed to focus on the growing that she didn’t get to finish in utero.

I never got to even try to nurse J in the hospital. She had a hard time remembering to suck on her bottle, and had to have her feeding tube reinserted after it had been removed to make way for exclusive oral feeding. That’s why she ended up being hospitalized 5 days longer than her sister. She needed to be able to take 1 oz (31 mLs) of formula by mouth, 8 meals in a row, to be released from the NICU.b_152911Another challenge my preemies presented was their size. They were simply too small to reach from my breast to any pillow. I tried stacking three pillows, but they were wobbly. I used pillows to rest my arms, but I wasn’t going to trust them with my babies.b_235012J and M’s prematurity-related weakness was another challenge. Their sucks were incredibly weak. Once we got home, I discovered that it took them each about 45 minutes to get a full meal. By some miracle, the babies switched to the breast easily. Finally, a round peg for a round hole!

At the pediatrician’s recommendation, my daughters supplemented their diet with two meals daily of high calorie formula and infant vitamin supplements. I still pumped for the feedings while holding the babies’ bottles. I froze the milk.

Work

We settled into a routine. Nurse M for 45 minutes. Nurse J for 45 minutes. Do as much as I could in 90 minutes: change diapers, play with the babies, eat, do minimum necessary tasks around the house, go grocery shopping, shower, bathe the girls, sleep. Then nurse for another 90 minutes. I got a lot of reading done, let me tell you!

My 11 weeks of maternity leave came to an end, much to soon. I was grateful to get back to the world of adult challenges and conversation, but leaving the babies in the care of strangers was terrifying. Those strangers are now members of our family. My daughters attend the same school as their infant room teacher’s daughter. I bought my house to ensure that they’d be at the same school.

At work, I took three 15-minute breaks, morning, noon and afternoon, to pump. I didn’t produce anywhere near the quantity of milk that I did when I pumped on one side while nursing on the other. The girls’ formula intake went up.

I’d leave my expressed breast milk in the refrigerator at daycare, and the teacher would exhaust the breast milk before resorting to formula.

I was extraordinarily fortunate to have an understanding boss and supportive work environment. The guys at work rearranged our office assignments so I could share an office with a female coworker who was unbothered by breastfeeding. I could pump at my desk without having to pause my work.

It also helped that my boss was the mother of two. Her youngest was only 4 months older than my babies, so we were pumping simultaneously and both constantly eating ravenously. We both stored our milk in the office refrigerator. My boss turned out to be a font of parenting knowledge and gave me many a breastfeeding pointer.

I started taking fenugreek supplements. I looked at photos of my girls while I pumped. I watched videos of them. I brought the onesies they’d worn the day before to work with me in the hope that the smell would trigger my body to produce more milk. Nothing seemed to help a whole lot. I couldn’t get more than 4 oz in 15 minutes when I pumped exclusively. When I had a baby to one breast and the pump to the other, it was a different story. The milk  came gushing. I tried several floor model pumps at the local breastfeeding store. It wasn’t the machine. It was me.

War

My husband left for Iraq for the second time when our babies were 5 months old. My extra pair of arms for tandem feeding was gone. The extra person who could latch the babies on for midnight feedings without waking me was gone. We could no longer change diapers at the same time. He couldn’t fix me a sandwich while I bathed the babies. Plus, he was getting shot at. He would miss our daughters’ first words, first steps and first hugs. When he finally got to come home, our girls didn’t recognize him, unable to equate the strange big man in their house with the photo we said goodnight to.

b_153107At 5 months of age, J (actually in my lap in the photo above) was a Daddy’s girl. Daddy knew how to swaddle her. Daddy knew how to burp her. Daddy knew how to make her laugh.

Within a few weeks of Daddy’s departure, J went on nursing strike. I’d bring my breast to her lips and, instead of opening her mouth and latching, she’d angrily turn away. I am completely convinced that she was protesting Daddy’s absence.

One day, after I’d broken down in tears in her office, my boss suggested that I take a few days off to try to reestablish breastfeeding with J. “Spend a few days skin-to-skin with her,” she said, “and see what happens.” I’d exhausted my vacation time during maternity leave, but my boss assured me that I could make it up. I could just do my work in the middle of the night while I was nursing instead of going on leave without pay.

I took three days off, I think. I took M into daycare and kept J with me, separating the girls for the first time since the NICU. I spent my time alone with J shirtless, holding her every second that I didn’t have her on the changing table for a clean diaper.

I tried a nipple shield. I tried latching J on in her sleep. I tried starting her on a bottle and then quickly switching to the breast. I tried the football hold and the cradle and the cross-cradle and side-lying. I tried singing and silence and white noise. I tried rocking and reclining and lying down and standing and walking. I’d already been taking fenugreek for months and constantly smelled like brunch.

One thing worked. If I sat in the bathtub with J, the water slightly warm, she would breastfeed. As soon as her little bottom touched the water, her head turned toward me, her mouth open, and the magical latch would just happen. If I lifted her out of the water, even for a second to get myself to a more comfortable position, she would break the latch and turn away again.

I kept up my attempts to break J’s nursing strike for another month. I dutifully sat in the tub with her, her sister in a bouncer beside the tub, morning and night. I didn’t quite have the reach to hold J in the water and comfort M at the same time, so we never managed the whole 45 minutes in the water. Besides, the water cooled and the sound of the water refilling the tub made both babies unhappy.

After a long frustrating month, I quit trying. I’d already gotten into the habit of nursing M on one side and pumping for J on the other.

A month later, M started fussing when I offered her the breast. I’d already been through the wringer trying to fight J’s wish to move on from nursing. I didn’t have any fight left in me.

So, at 7 months old (5 months corrected), M, J and I ended our breastmilk journey.

b_163457

Life After Breastfeeding

Today, J and M are 7 years old. They’re smart and curious bookworms. They’re outgoing and popular. They’re healthy and happy. They’re loving and kind. They’re more than okay. They are the kind of people I want to get to know and be friends with when they’re adults and they absolutely adore each other.

wpid-Photo-Jul-20-2013-1137-AM.jpgI have no reason to believe that an additional 5 months of breastmilk would have improved their lives. There’s an irrational part of me, though, that just can’t let it go.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She co-parents at a distance with her soldier ex-husband and his teacher wife. She decided to retire her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy, and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.


Adventures of a Novice Mum
Featured on the Breastfeeding and I project linkup.
World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

  • An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
  • It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
  • Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
  • Mikko’s weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
  • My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Celebrating Each Mother’s Journey — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
  • Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband’s deployment to Iraq, and Baby J’s nursing strike.
  • So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
  • Milk Siblings: One Mama’s Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
  • Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
  • When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She’s still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she’d always hoped.
  • Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams‘s first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son’s survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk – then she started giving it away.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
  • Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
  • Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson’s Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam’s milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom’s life too!
  • Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
  • Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen’s collaboration of a few dear mama’s reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
  • Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
  • A Pumping Mom’s Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.
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Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids

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Categories Breastfeeding, Education, How Do The Moms Do It, Older Children, Other people, World Breastfeeding Week Blog CarnivalTags 7 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

***

American culture has relationship with the female body that I struggle to comprehend. The female image is constantly sexualized in the media and in day-to-day life. You don’t have to look far to run into the virgin-whore dichotomy. There’s a whole lot to me, though, that has nothing to do with sexuality.

Being a mother involves a very physical, but completely non-sexual, relationship with our children. We grow our children inside our bodies and feed them from our breasts. We deal with pee and poop. We snuggle and we patch up cuts. My hope for my daughters is that they can enjoy their bodies in all ways, not only sexually, throughout their lives.

I spent my childhood in the United Kingdom and Bangladesh, and I think those cultures impacted my own body image and my perspective on the human body in general. In Bangladesh, a Muslim country, the female body is generally far more covered than in the West. However, the body is functional. Breastfeeding is done in public, without apology, without shame, and without judgment. Mothers who blush at the thought of a man catching sight of their hair think nothing of covering their breast with only the head of their baby.

Woman breastfeeding
Photo credit: The Financial Express

The UK is comfortable with the female body in a different way. I remember being surprised by the number of American women who were uncomfortable changing in front of other women when I first came to this country. Nudity is more of a taboo in this country colonized by Puritans than it is in the Old World.

It’s easy to teach kids values that our entire society shares. They learn that saying “Please” and “Thank you” is expected and respected everywhere. Sharing is an important skill in all environments. Honesty is valuable, but so is being careful of others’ feelings. It’s a little more challenging to teach children values that are more controversial. I honestly have some trouble wrapping my head around breastfeeding being controversial, but it is. In our culture’s sexualized model of the female form, people see breasts as sexual organs instead of unglamorous food factories.

When my 7-year-old daughters ask to hear stories about their infancy, I include mention of the fact that they were nursed to 7 months of age. They must have been about 2 years old the first time they asked me why I had breasts and Daddy didn’t. I told them it was because I’d needed my breasts to feed them. It was like my belly being able to stretch to grow them. When we went to a museum recently that displayed machinery used in commercial dairy production, I told my daughters that these contraptions were upsized versions of the pump I used to collect milk for them when they were babies.

My girls were about 3 when our neighbour across the road had her second child. My J sat next to her on the couch a few days after the beautiful baby was born and watched her nurse, craning to see how everything fit together. I was grateful that my friend indulged her curiosity. A couple of times, my daughters have run up to coo at a stranger’s baby in the middle of a meal, and I ask them to wait: “Baby’s drinking milk from Mommy’s breast, so let’s not distract them right now.”

I breastfed my daughters when we were out and about, unashamed. I was discreet. I didn’t try to tandem nurse in public, for instance, and I’d turn away from onlookers to latch a baby on. I kept a printout of Texas and federal (my ex-husband is a soldier, so we were frequently on federal land) breastfeeding laws in the diaper bag, just in case I ever needed to defend my right to nurse my babies, but it never came up. I pumped at work and stored my milk in an unassuming bag in the fridge. I happily answered questions from new moms and moms-to-be on how I made breastfeeding work with twins and a job.

I have continued to talk to my daughters about breastfeeding in the hopes that they will someday become mothers and choose to breastfeed. Even if they choose not to, I want them to be supportive of women who make the choice to breastfeed, just as I want them to be supportive of women who choose to formula-feed, to be childless, or to adopt an older child.

My biggest reason to teach my girls that breastfeeding is normal is this: I want them to feel comfortable in their bodies as they venture out into the world. I want puberty to feel a little less scary, and I hope that they will always carry themselves with the confidence that they have today.

As often happens when we try to buck societal expectations, I may have gone a little too far. The other day, my daughter M had a serious question for me. She’s at summer camp with kids from kindergarten to 5th grade, and she had noticed something.

M: Mommy, can 5th graders have breasts?
Me: Yes, some girls’ breasts start growing around 5th grade.
M: 4th grade?
Me: Yes.
M: 3rd grade?
Me: I suppose so, but that seems really unlikely.
M: But they’re not married yet.
Me: Oh, honey! Breasts don’t wait to grow until you’re having a baby. They start to develop when you’re a big kid.
M: Oh! So they grow a little bit and a little bit and a little bit?
Me: Exactly.
M: What if they’re never going to be a mommy?
Me: A woman’s body grows, just in case.
M: Mommy, when do I get my bajymie?
Me: I don’t understand.
M: I mean, is it right when the baby gets in my belly? Because, you know, some babies come from their mommy’s bajymie. Only you had us from your belly because the doctor did that. (This is the 7-year-old interpretation of an emergency C-section.)
Me: Oh, I understand what you’re asking. No, you already have a vagina.
M: I do?! Where?
Me: It’s a hole between where you pee and where you poop. You’ve had it since you were born. In fact, even when you were inside my belly.
M: Whoa!

Well, I did say I was trying to get my kids to be comfortable with their bodies. M obviously understands the reproductive functions!

Are your children aware of breastfeeding? Do you feel awkward discussing it with them?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She co-parents at a distance with her soldier ex-husband and his teacher wife. She decided to retire her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy, and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

***

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 3 with all the carnival links.)

  • Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer — Rachel Rainbolt of Sage Parenting, featured today at NursingFreedom.org, uses her informative and candid voice to share with you everything you need to know to breastfeed successfully in public, from the practical how-to’s to handling the social stigma.
  • Lactivist Ryan Gosling — Breastfeeding mamas, the time is long overdue for a Lactivist Ryan Gosling. Fortunately, Dionna of Code Name: Mama has created some for your viewing pleasure.
  • In Defense of Formula — Amy of Mom2Mom KMC, guest blogging for Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, asserts that formula is a medical tool rather than a food. She examines how this perspective supports breastfeeding as normal and eliminates the negative tensions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks — Throughout her breastfeeding journey (since March 2009), Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has shared countless tips and tricks on the topic of breastfeeding.
  • Nursing in the Wild — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am posts about how seeing other moms nurse can make all of us more comfortable with nursing in public.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding — Sara Stepford of The Stepford Sisters confronts the social stigma vs. the reality of breastfeeding and opens up about the steps she takes to make herself and others more comfortable with the process.
  • Breastfeeding Alrik at two years old — This is where Lauren at Hobo Mama and her second-born are at in their nursing relationship, two years in.
  • Perfectly Normal — Stephanie from Urban Hippie writes about the way she and her family have done their part to try and normalize breastfeeding in a society that doesn’t get to see breastfeeding as often as they should.
  • Diagnosis: Excess Lipase — Learn about excess lipase and how to test if your expressed milk has it. That Mama Gretchen shares her own experience.
  • Redefining Normal — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy reflects on how we can normalize breastfeeding in our society.
  • Nursing Openly and Honestly — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work feels that the most socially responsible thing she can do as a mother is to nurse and nurture her children openly, honestly, and with pride.
  • Wet-nursing, Cross-nursing and Milk-sharing: Outdated? — Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter shares a response to the Wendy Williams quote about milk sharing being akin to slavery, by giving a brief history of the wet nurse.
  • Tackling Mastitis with an Older Nursling — Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. Juliet of Twisting Vines, posting at Natural Parents Network shares tips for dealing with mastitis while breastfeeding a toddler.
  • Milk in the eye — Gena from Nutrition Basics discusses how breastmilk cured her 3 year old’s case of pink eye.
  • Boobie Biter — Rachel Rainbolt at Sage Parenting offers guidance on how to survive and thrive a boobie biter with your breastfeeding relationship intact.
  • My take on breastfeeding advice — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her insights on nursing for both new moms and new dads.
  • My Top Five Breastfeeding Tips for Delivery Day: Think “A-B-C-D-E”Mothernova shares how her continued success at breastfeeding with her second child rests on a foundation of five key things she did to prepare for baby’s arrival, along with things she did when she and baby first met. Easily enough, these tips can be categorized as “A-B-C-D-E”: Access to lactation consultant, Baby-friendly hospital, Communicate your plan to breastfeed exclusively, Demand, and Expect to room in.
  • Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU — Twintrospectives at How Do You Do It? shares her 5 tips for learning to breastfeed multiples while in the NICU.
  • Breastfeeding on a Dairy-Free Diet: Our Journey and Our Tips — Finding herself nursing a baby with food allergies, Jenny at Spinning Jenny embarked upon a dairy-free journey with her son for eight months. Here she relates her reasons for making the decision to give up dairy in her diet, why it was worth it, and tips for moms on the same path.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding in my Home — Shannah at The Touch of Life shares how she plans to help keep breastfeeding normal for her own children, even when her breastfeeding years are over.
  • A Year With My Nursling — The more you see and hear, the more normal it becomes, so That Mama Gretchen is sharing her heart on the last year of breastfeeding – the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of her priceless relationship with her son.
  • From Covered to Confident — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares her personal NIP evolution: she started by covering up from neck to ankle while nursing in public. Eight years later, she has gained confidence and the ability to nurse without stressing about flashing a little skin. She shares her views on normalizing breastfeeding – what influenced her and how she hopes to help others.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids — Sadia at How Do You Do It? hopes that openly discussing breastfeeding with her (now weaned) daughters will help her children feel comfortable with breastfeeding and their bodies in general as they grow.
  • Nursing in Public — Listen up, mammas. Those other people around . . . they don’t matter. It’s not about them. It’s about you and that beautiful baby. Nurse on, says The Swaddled Sprout!
  • How to Nurse a Teenager — Sarah at The Touch of Life declares: the purpose is to help normalize breastfeeding a toddler.
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