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Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time


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Born Hungry: Part I

September/October 2015

There are days I just want someone to look at my boobs and tell me I’m not crazy.

This post has been nearly five years in the making. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say, and sat down to write it a couple of times and stopped because it gives me a headache, and a heart ache. And because I just have a lot to say, so its going to take me a while to get it all down.

And I need to get it down, to help me heal and move on, to reassure other women who have gone through the same thing that they are not alone, and to hopefully help pregnant mommas out there not go through what I went through. I hope the following is both good reading and a good resource.

But let me start at the beginning. If you’re sitting down to read this, grab yourself a cup of coffee or whatever and hang on.

Even before I met my partner in life and conceived a child, I had always intended to breastfeed my children. For me, it seemed like the most biologically logical and environmentally friendly thing to do. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t breastfeed. I had this idea that everyone should breastfeed, and that formula should be by prescription only. I really had no idea what I was talking about.

Once we became pregnant with our first child and started the provincial public health prenatal classes, we were provided with lots of information about breastfeeding. Very little information was provided about formula feeding, aside from one or two slides about supplementation methods. When someone asked about formula feeding, the nurse teaching the class basically said they weren’t allowed to talk about it, but we could e-mail her after class with specific questions. I was ok with that, because I was going to breastfeed for a year and had no intentions of using formula. We were sent home with brochure upon brochure with breastfeeding tips and support groups to attend, outlining why we should breastfeed and why our baby doesn’t need formula. We were also taught to look for physical gestures or cues our baby might give for hunger or other needs, and that if they cried we had missed the cue. They also taught to respond to cries immediately to avoid causing undue stress to our baby.

When my parents visited a few weeks before our first child was due, they asked whether I had any bottles ready or formula on hand. I was confused – why would I need that; I was going to breastfeed. I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t end up having much of a say in the matter.

I was due February 25th and finished work on February 4th. We were basically ready, but I was looking forward to having a few weeks off to rest up, make some freezer meals, and do some reading about parenting and newborns in general. We knew nothing about little babies, having not even so much as changed a diaper.  I was lucky in the sense that I’d had a very healthy pregnancy, though I felt horrible the whole time, between the nausea and fatigue. I was looking forward to not being physically pregnant, but was in no hurry to be a mom just yet.

But my cervix had other plans. February 12 at 6am my water broke. Earlier that week I’d been having the odd cramp and pain in my back, and had lost my mucous plug, so I figured things would happen soon. We got checked out at the hospital, and were sent home as I wasn’t having any contractions.

All day I tried to eat well, rest up, and wait. We waited, and waited. Nothing. Until about suppertime I started feeling a bit nauseated. Around 7pm I started having some mild cramps. By 9:30 pm I was on hands and knees in the worst pain I’d ever experienced, on the phone to the hospital wondering what to do. They were timing my contractions, and indicated that I could stay home a bit longer as the contractions were still to erratic to warrant coming in. My husband in his wisdom decided we should go in anyway. By 11pm we were at the hospital, and when I was checked I was fully dilated. An hour and a half of pushing later, and our little girl arrived in the world. It was love at first sight.

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The passage of time after this point is a bit of a blur, but sometime while in the recovery room I indicated that I wanted to try breastfeeding my daughter (MD). The nurse and Dr. were 100% on board. The nurse grabbed my breast and expressed some colostrum, waving it under our little girl’s nose. I held back a shriek. I wanted to tell the nurse to stop being so rough, she was squeezing too hard. Then the baby latched on. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt. I didn’t say anything, I thought, “my God I just got through labour with out drugs, what’s wrong with me?” The nurse watched me breastfeed my baby girl for a few moments, and proclaimed that we were naturals. With an unmedicated delivery, we shouldn’t have any problems breastfeeding. I was relieved, but I bit my lip and carried on.I was so proud to finally be breastfeeding. As much as it hurt, it was a dream come true.

Eventually we were brought to our room, where I was looking forward to MD having that long post-labor sleep all the books talk about, and getting some rest myself. I had now been awake nearly 27 hours. I wasn’t expecting to be woken every hour for the next three hours by nurses to check me and my parts. When my OBGYN came in to examine me the next day she asked whether the bleeding had slowed down any. I wasn’t really sure, but I certainly wasn’t filling a pad every hour like they had told us to watch for. Then she mentioned that I had lost a lot of blood. At the time I wasn’t aware of the significance of this statement. I carried on trying to get rest and learning about how to care for my new baby, who seemed to want to nurse constantly (so much for that long sleep). I would attempt to feed her (through the pain), which seemed to take about twenty minutes, put her down, and she’d wake up, or one of the nurses would come in and say “she’s hungry”. “But didn’t I just feed her?” I had no idea this was to be expected, to some extent.

We struggled with the latch and with breastfeeding positions. Nothing felt right or natural. Each nurse that came in had a different opinion as to how I should be positioning her. All I knew was that I was in pain, far more than I thought I should be. The nurses said, “oh yes, when they first latch it can be a bit painful, but no more than a toe curl”.  Whatever that meant. I seemed to have lots of colostrum, which I ended up manually expressing and feeding her drop by drop. When I did manage to get her to latch properly, she seemed to drink and swallow for a time, then the suck-swallow would slow down, as we had been taught. We recorded it on the chart we were provided with. I thought when she fell asleep she was done, as we had been taught. I had no idea that the suck-swallow I was observing was not coordinated or sustained enough to obtain much milk.

By her weigh-in that night, her weight had dropped from 6lbs 6 oz to 6 lbs. I wasn’t alarmed. We had been told, all babies lose weight at first.

The second day we got no rest either, as we were greeted by no less than 22 people, either family, audiologists, my OBGYN, public health, and someone giving out books. I was still high from the love of my new baby and relief of no longer being pregnant, so I was excited and eager to speak with everyone.

When my OB asked whether I was feeling any tingling in my breasts yet, I responded affirmatively. I had no idea the pain I felt was from my soon to be cracked and bleeding nipples.

The second night MD cried all night. We took turns holding her and trying to sooth her, alternating with me trying to feed her. I had now been awake nearly 72 hours (minus the odd catnap) and was becoming beside myself with fatigue and hormones.

When we asked one of the nurses for advice, she suggested using a soother. Great idea! we thought, and asked if they could provide one. We hadn’t brought any with us, as we were instructed not to use them in prental classes, as soothers can cause nipple confusion and “screw up” breastfeeding. The nurse replied that they didn’t have any either, we would have had to bring one with us. Our second experience with conflicting parenting advice, from health care professionals no less.  I was discouraged, and she must have sensed this because she followed up by saying that she would check with the NICU. Until then, one of the other nurses offered to hold MD in some warm blankets for a while so we could rest. We got maybe 45 minutes when the nurse returned her to us, as she was done her shift.

When the nurses did the second weigh-in, MD was now 5 lbs 12 oz. I was concerned, but not alarmed. Mostly because I was just excited to bring home our first child, where I was sure I would be able to get some rest, and because I didn’t feel like being in the hospital was doing any good.

The next morning, we waited with baited breath to find out whether we would be able to go home. In two spots in the room was a big sign that stated “Discharge is at 11am each day” as if it were some kind of hotel that had a check-out time. 10:30 came and my OB still hadn’t been in to check us. We felt in the dark. I asked the nurse if she knew if I would be going home. She said she would call the Dr. I said no, you don’t have to call her, I just wanted to know if we would be able to go home or when the Dr. would be in. She called her anyway.

Not too long afterwards the Dr. showed up.  “Someone in a hurry to go home” she said. I was embarrassed. No, I replied, we just wanted to know what was happening. One of the nurses had mentioned the night before that based on MD’s weight loss we might have to stay. The Dr. replied that as long as breastfeeding was going well it shouldn’t be a problem. The baby was healthy, I was healthy, and according to the chart we had been filling out MD was nursing well (or so we thought) so we were discharged. A nurse checked the car seat as we left. And that was it – we were off.

Once we got home I did get some rest, and tried to nurse every two to three hours or on demand as needed, forcing her to nurse a half hour on each side, as we had been taught. I had no idea this method was tiring MD out. That night we didn’t get a lot of rest, as she seemed to want to nurse all the time. My parents were staying with us, and took turns holding her.

The following day we had our first visit from a Public Health Nurse (PNH). MD’s weight had continued to drop, now 5 lbs 8 oz. She also hadn’t had a BM, though she was peeing. I was concerned, but was so excited to have her home I wasn’t alarmed. My understanding from what we had been taught was that it is normal for babies to lose weight in the first few days, and just to keep nursing.  My milk still hadn’t come in. The nurse watched me breastfeed, and indicated that she wasn’t “seeing a whole lot of milk transfer”. Whatever that meant.  She said to keep working on the latch and she would come visit again in a few days.

The nurse followed up with a phone call later, indicating that the weight loss was now past 10% and asked me what she thought I would do about breastfeeding in the next 24 hours. I mentioned something about pumping. I didn’t understand that this would be useless for my baby if there was nothing there to pump. She mentioned trying formula. I indicated that I didn’t want to use formula because I didn’t want to “screw up” breastfeeding, as we had been taught, and we had a family history of dairy allergies. She just said ok, and reminded us if we saw any signs of lethargy to have her seen by a Dr. Of course I replied. I hadn’t connected the weight loss to what she was saying. Why would they have told us in class to keep breastfeeding and not to give formula if the colostrum couldn’t sustain them until our milk came in?

I continued to practise breastfeeding. I put her down at one point to check her diaper, and noticed that she didn’t have the walking reflex on the change table that new babies all exhibit. Taking this as a sign of the lethargy we had been cautioned about, we took her straight to the ER.

The ER doctor, along with a team of nurses, residents and others in scrubs, looked her over, ran blood work, gave her some sugar water (which she devoured) and observed her for a couple of hours. Their conclusion – she needed a good meal and a nap.

The resident said we could take her home, but asked me what I would like to do next. Why are you asking me, I thought, aren’t you the Dr.? Aren’t you supposed to be giving me recommendations for what to do?

They sent me home with the bottle of sugar water. No instructions on how to store it (it should have been refrigerated), how to feed it, or how or where to get more.

The next morning, when she still seemed sleepy and still hadn’t had a BM we had her checked by my OBGYN (my GP was on vacation). She said our baby was perfectly healthy, just needed to fatten up. I told her my milk still wasn’t in and that I was still having trouble with the latch, and asked if she wanted to look at my breasts. She pulled back as if shocked, and said no, the she’d leave that to the nurses. She then gave me a prescription for domperidone to help my milk supply, and mentioned fenugreek. She agreed with me about not using formula just yet, and suggested that we keep using the sugar water for now. This would help provide calories MD needed to breastfeed. I asked where we could get more or how to make it, and she said to check with the pharmacist. Then she recommended we have her seen again in a few days.

When we returned home I tried to get some rest while a family member took in the prescription. What we didn’t know then was that the Dr. hadn’t written on the Rx that it was for breastfeeding, so I was given the wrong dose instructions by the pharmacist. The pharmacist wasn’t that knowledgeable of sugar water (they certainly didn’t have any in stock) but between him and a family member whose background was in health care they cobbled together a recipe, which my husband made when they got back. The pharmacy also didn’t carry fenugreek, nor did they know where I could get it.

That afternoon family arrived, who each were thrilled to take turns holding the new arrival. I suggested a couple of times that I take the baby upstairs to feed her, which was met by “if she was hungry she’d let you know, just relax and enjoy her”.

By the time everyone left that afternoon, day four or five, both my husband and I were spent. We were excited to be new parents, but exhausted and overwhelmed. We just didn’t know it yet.

That night was the roughest. Again, MD was awake all night wanting to eat. I was in pain from severely cracked and bleeding nipples. Every time she latched on I screamed and sobbed. I knew I needed help, but where was I going to get help at 3 o’clock in the morning? Public Health was only open 8am-4pm.

I kept going back to the “Breastfeeding Basics” book Public Health given us, which stated  “don’t let anyone tell you to give your baby formula”.

Talk about brainwashing. In my exhaustion and hormonal state, I still hadn’t put the pieces together. It wasn’t sinking in that because my baby wasn’t getting enough breastmilk from me she needed something else to sustain her.

Every three days we were going back to the clinic to have her weighted and see a Dr. MD’s weight was basically the same. I had tried pumping too, but wasn’t getting very much.

Finally one Dr. said we better try formula. I explained my misgivings, especially concerning allergies. He suggested just putting a bit of formula on her lips; if there is any swelling, stop and have her seen. If not, proceed with offering a bottle. I wish someone had told us this sooner.

Later that day, we did the “test”. She had no reaction, so we offered a bottle after nursing. She’d only take about a quarter of an ounce before falling asleep.

The whole feeding process became exhausting (as if we weren’t already exhausted enough). Every couple of hours I would keep MD awake to nurse 30 minutes on each side, offer as much formula as she would take, and pump whenever I had time. And every three days we were going to the Dr’s office to have her weighted. I was basically getting no rest, and neither was she. There literally weren’t enough hours in the day.

Three weeks in I finally got  to see my own GP. MDs weight was still low. (I don’t remember how much, because they weighted in grams and I didn’t do the conversion to pounds). My GP immediately asked if we were supplementing. I explained we had only recently started and why. She seemed mad. “It takes six weeks not six days”. I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t learn until later that it takes six weeks to build your supply. And that “the first six weeks” campaign by Public Health was connected to this point, not that it took six weeks to decide if you liked breastfeeding or not. But I’ll get back to this later.

She asked about labour and delivery, I gave her the whole story. She suggested that it had been so fast my body just hadn’t caught up. And not to have her nurse 30 mins at a time – there wasn’t enough milk there yet and I was just tiring MD out.

My GP also corrected the domperidone dosage – two pills four times day. Feed MD 10 minutes on each side and follow up with 1 ounce of formula, every 2-3 hours or on demand. Stay home and rest. And best of all, have public health come in a couple of days. Finally some sensible advice! I thought.

And in a couple of days her weight was finally up, significantly.

Her weight gain continued and she started sleeping better, and so was I. This system worked for a couple of weeks. I was finally starting to enjoy motherhood when three things happened: MD started staying awake longer, she had a growth spurt, and the period of purple crying kicked in. All of these things are normal at 4-8 weeks, but for some reason I didn’t know about them.

It seemed like my beautiful, sweet, helpless little baby cried all the time. No one in my support circle knew about purple crying, and even though she was now steadily gaining weight she was still the smallest baby ever in our family, so everyone assumed she must be hungry.  I was trying to follow what the Dr. had told me, but it was beyond challenging. I felt like all I did was breastfeed. I couldn’t even get dressed or get proper meals because every time I put MD down she cried. She’d also started spitting up what seemed like excessive amounts. And she was still too small for the baby sling/carrier that I had. I wish I’d read My Baby Won’t Stop Crying People suggested getting out. First of all, it was March and rainy and cold. Second, how could I go to a parenting support group when I couldn’t even get dressed?!

At her one month check up I asked the Dr. about both the crying and the spit up, and the Dr. said MD probably just needed a burp or a distraction. Distract her how? I had no idea what toys or games would be appropriate for this age, and everything I tried didn’t work. But I didn’t tell my Dr. this. And if she’s just had a good meal then she probably just wants to suck so try a soother. But she wouldn’t take a soother. And if I didn’t know how much breastmilk she was getting from me, how did I know if she’d just had a good meal? And that the reflux means I’m feeding her too much. What I didn’t know was that there are treatments for reflux suitable for babies. And that excessive crying can cause reflux by swallowing air.

At six weeks I literally felt like I’d hit a wall. I stayed in bed most of the day, except when I had to go downstairs to make a bottle or to try pumping. MD still cried all the time, and wouldn’t take a soother. I didn’t know then that this is also a symptom of tongue tie – but I’ll get back to that later.

When I pumped, I’d only get about an ounce from both sides. I had no idea this was normal at this stage. I couldn’t pump after every feeding. Who was going to wash and sterilize the equipment while I was holding a baby who wouldn’t sleep any other way? I was spiralling into a depression. And I officially hated breastfeeding. At my six week check up I tried to maintain my composure as best I could and stick to health related questions about my baby. She’s doing fine the Dr. said. But I’m not I thought. I didn’t know how to articulate this to my Dr.

My Dr. asked what I wanted to do. I thought I had to make an either or decision. I didn’t know doing both was an “acceptable” option. I decided to stop breastfeeding. The Dr. replied with “well, you gave it the six weeks, I’ll let you know if she gets too fat”. These words will forever be embedded in my mind.

I asked how much formula to give her; the Dr. said 3 ½ ounces every four hours should be fine. I had no idea formula was based on body weight. I asked her what kind, she said “I don’t know, I never had to buy it”. Seriously?! if you go to a male gynecologist looking for an IUD, they don’t say “I don’t know I never had to use one”.

That evening before trying to put MD down for the night, I gave her a full bottle. She was content after the feeding and promptly fell asleep. She then slept for about five hours straight, and so did I.

When she woke a little after midnight, I was engorged. Ahhh, so this is what it’s supposed to feel like, I thought. I needed MD to nurse, and badly. I gave her an ounce of formula first, then let her nurse to her fill. She had a classic suck-swallow rhythm, and after a few minutes abruptly pulled herself of the breast and contentedly fell back asleep.

In hindsight I probably didn’t need to give her formula, my breastmilk would have likely been enough at that point. But again, I had no one to call for help at that hour. And I was torn – hadn’t I already decided to stop breastfeeding? I was always the type of person that once I made a decision I stuck to it, I didn’t flip-flop on issues. I thought that by changing my mind again I was showing weakness of character.

If only breastfeeding had felt like that from the beginning, I would have felt differently about it. Over the next couple of weeks, I attempted to wean MD, nursing when it was convenient and gave formula the rest of the time. A small part of me quietly longed to repeat that midnight feeding.

Despite MDs satisfaction at the end of feedings, she still seemed to cry all the time, and wanted to comfort nurse. I had no idea she was really trying to nurse herself to sleep. I didn’t know babies needed to suck to fall asleep.

The PHN came to see me again one day, and reassured me that even if I stopped breastfeeding I had given my baby everything, the best possible start. I asked about the “comfort nursing”, and the nurse replied that babies have no self-soothing skills yet. Whatever that meant.

She also asked me if I experienced any breast changes during pregnancy, or if we’d had any difficulty conceiving. I thought about it – I had certainly gotten bigger around, but my cup size hadn’t changed, and it had taken us about eight months to conceive. I didn’t understand the significance of this question until later.

She also said if that had been her child she’d have given them formula the second night home from the hospital. I was appalled. I just starred at her. I couldn’t even respond. I didn’t know how to respond. How could she say that?! Why didn’t she say it earlier?! But she did. But I had already been brainwashed and was exhausted to the point I couldn’t receive and process the new information.

I moved on, and tried to make my way through the fog of new parenthood. Slowly MDs temperament seemed to improve and I started to find my way. I wish I’d read 100 Days of Darkness , so that I’d known most of what I had experienced was within the normal range of motherhood experiences.

When MD was about three months old I ran into a friend at the mall one day. She was pregnant with her second child at the time, and was excited to see my baby and chat to me about new motherhood. We ventured into the topic of breastfeeding, and I mentioned that unfortunately I had to supplement. Her eyes darted from side to side and she replied under her breath “Don’t worry, everyone does it”, as if we were members of some club chaired by Lance Armstrong.

Over the next few months, I started going to mom and baby groups, speaking with many other moms, and reading online forums. I learned that my experience, my difficulties breastfeeding, was not unique. Not by a long shot.

There was a good friend, whose daughter would not open her mouth to breastfeed in the first 48 hours and was diagnosed with reflux. She was tube-fed formula once, and my friend pumped every three hours and tube fed breastmilk. Finally, at seven weeks her baby latched, and she was able to breastfeed for nearly eighteen months. (In fact, no one told her she could stop pumping, so she pumped every three hours for three months). Her daughter was given medication for reflux. Why wasn’t mine?

A coworker of my husband’s had been breastfeeding successfully until around three months. Her daughter had stopped gaining weight. She was advised to just “keep breastfeeding” and her body would catch up. Except it never did. One night, showing signs of lethargy, she ended up rushing her daughter to the ER. They were advised to put her on formula.

One of the moms at a parent’s group I went to told me her story. Her daughter was in the six pound range at birth, but due to a poor latch dropped below six pounds within a couple of days. She was sent home from the hospital with formula (why wasn’t I?), but the baby started projectile vomiting. A dairy allergy was diagnosed and she was advised to take the highest dose of domperidone and pump. She pumped exclusively for one year.

Another mom at that same group ended up putting her baby on 100% formula when her milk failed to come in.

Yet another had problems with latch, the baby failed to gain weight and the mom developed a bad case of mastitis. They only nursed a few weeks.

Another’s little guy had such a hard time latching that he tore part of her nipple off.

And yet another, a nurse herself, tried everything for six weeks and finally concluded that she had no milk and switched entirely to formula.

A colleague from work told me her sister’s story of breastfeeding her first child – like me she had struggled with early low milk supply, and had tried pumping, various pills, everything she could to no avail. Her second child she didn’t even try nursing and went straight to formula.

There were also multitudes of stories in the online community, one in particular “Fearless Formula Feeder” really hit home.

Sometime during this period, I also heard a CBC White Coat, Black Art episode, describing similar experiences across the country.

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While it was somewhat reassuring to know I wasn’t alone, I was furious at the health care system for not only allowing this to happen, but also for not telling new moms what could happen. I’ll get back to this point later.

La Leche League was surprisingly supportive when I reached out to them and told them my story. “You gotta do what you gotta do to keep your child alive” was their perspective. They also questioned why I hadn’t been advised to give MD formula first then breastfeed, suggesting that the extra calories upfront would have allowed her to breastfeed better. Great advice! But a few months too late.

I finally encountered a sympathetic Public Health Nurse who, after hearing my story, told me that there are about 1% of women who don’t make enough milk, and just maybe I’m in that 1%. Finally, someone from the health care community admitted that it might be my biology, and not my apparent lack of determination, that contributed to my breastfeeding difficulties.

I eventually found some information that reassured me that there were likely physiological problems surrounding pregnancy, labor and delivery that let to my low milk supply:

  • Blood loss. Remember when I said the Dr. said I lost a lot of blood? Well, for a Dr. to say this there must have been a lot. I didn’t need a transfusion, but I remembered later that they had given me an injection of oxytocin to help my uterus contract, because apparently my own body wasn’t doing its job. Blood loss during delivery is one of the main reasons for lack of or delayed milk production, as it affects pituitary hormones and prolactin production.

 

  • Lack of glandular tissue. Remember when I said that my boobs didn’t really change in size during pregnancy – apparently they should have increased in size significantly. This is a sign of lack of sufficient glandular tissue to generate the milk. I’ll talk about this more later. But every woman is different, and with everything else that went wrong (see below) it was hard to say for sure. So I didn’t read too much into this at first.

 

  • IV fluids – I was given IV fluids for several hours during and after delivery. I don’t know if this is standard practise or not, but it can lead to edema and reduced milk supply (see Low Milk Supply causes).

 

  • Thyroid problemsThyroid hormone levels can inhibit effective breastfeeding. My thyroid levels were never tested, so I have no idea if this was a problem or not. I certainly remember having some of the symptoms (dry, itchy skin; cold all the time; post-partum weight gain; excessive fatigue). But not all cases are symptomatic.

 

All the while I still longed to repeat that midnight feeding. I ended up trying “relactation” around 4 months – nursing every two to three hours plus taking domperidone and fenugreek to build my supply back up.

I still had misgivings about formula feeding. We had been taught that it would make our children overweight, due to the composition of the formula itself and because small babies have such a strong sucking reflex they don’t know enough to stop when they’re full, setting them up for a lifetime overeating. I wish I’d seen this doula’s website. Having struggled with my weight all my life I knew I didn’t want this for my child. The “rules” say so many ounces every four hours, but she always seemed hungry more frequently than that. I was obsessed with not over feeding her. I looked for help online, but the internet being the internet, there was lots of conflicting information.

The following websites provided some good tips and reassurances:

KidsHealth

Enfamil

Healthy Children

What to Expect

Fearless Formula Feeder

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In the end, I breastfed to some extent for about seven months. MD weaned herself not long after the introduction of solids. While I never fully repeated the “midnight feeding” experience and always had to supplement some, as MD got older and more efficient (and finally latched without causing me pain) I finally experienced the beauty of breastfeeding.

Nevertheless, for months, even years after, I felt frustration, bitterness, anger, sadness, guilt. I was frustrated, bitter and angry with the public health care system and my own biology for being denied the opportunity to breastfeed, and sadness and guilt for not being able to provide the best for MD.

To add insult to injury, when I told some health care practitioners my story after the fact, I wasn’t met with a “wow, it’s amazing you lasted that long”. Instead I heard a “oh, that’s too bad. Most babies don’t wean themselves until between 1 and 2”.  Furthermore, because I didn’t breastfeed very much, I had a very hard time losing weight.  Double-whammy.

What went wrong here?

I’ll admit there was a hell of a lot I didn’t know. On top of that, a hell of a lot went wrong: fast labour and delivery didn’t give my boobs a chance to catch up with my body (high cortisol, produced during stress, can delay milk production), blood loss during delivery, poor latch, well meaning family members sabotaging attempts to breastfeed (misinformation, lack of rest), and general new parent or “performance” anxiety. I had most of the so-called “booby traps”.

But there was a lot that went wrong that could have been prevented by a more functional health care system.

  • Lack of rest. As far as I’m concerned, my health care providers, including Public Health, did not emphasize or adequately define “rest”. I thought I was getting sufficient rest, but in hindsight I know it wasn’t nearly enough.

Prior to getting pregnant and having a baby, I had a very busy life. A typical Saturday might look like this: wake up, go for a run and/or clean something in the house; get cleaned up and have breakfast; go to the farmer’s market and/or get groceries; do some baking or other hobby; have lunch; have friends over, go to a public talk at the library, work on a home renovation project or do volunteer work; make dinner; go to a friend’s house or out to a movie or club. Yes, all of that in one day. So going from this to doing nothing but look after myself and my baby was a HUGE adjustment that we were in no way prepared for.

What they meant by “rest” was not laying on the couch surfing the internet or having visitors (although that would have previously been considered a “restful” activity to me. They meant being horizontal, in bed, trying to sleep.

 

  • My health care providers, including Public Health, did not provide adequate or timely information about formula feeding, including when it might be medically indicated. I firmly believe that if I’d been able to give MD formula in the first week it would have given my body a chance to catch up, and her body the calories she needed to breastfeed effectively.

 

  • Public health also brainwashed us about crying. We were made to feel that if our baby was crying, we had missed some all important cue and weren’t doing or jobs as mothers. This caused undo stress and anxiety, which likely inhibited the letdown reflex and let to a high strung baby, creating a vicious cycle. (Cortisol from the stress of the whole situation likely further inhibited milk production).

 

  • Discharge procedure from hospital. I should not have been let out of the hospital when I was. We needed at least another day. There was a total lack of communication regarding discharge, which left us feeling lost and in the dark about our own health.

 

  • Conflicting advice and miscommunication between health care professionals. Why didn’t anyone else mention the “allergy test”? Why weren’t my reflux concerns taken more seriously? Why wasn’t the pharmacist told that the prescription was for breast feeding? Why did  each nurse have their own “opinion” about positioning and the latch?  I’ll admit sometimes you need to try different things, but the fact that nothing was working should have been a clue that something was wrong.

 

But where do we draw the line as to when, what and how we should be educating ourselves, and what information the health care professionals should provide? I’ll get back to that later.

Would this experience with my first child forever taint my view of breastfeeding? The story continues.

 

Read more about The Fourth Trimester here.

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And finally . . . it’s a boy!

August 2015

After much anticipation, we welcomed a baby boy into the world on August 7. I realized I was in labor (for real this time!) at 6:30 am, got to the hospital at 7:15am, and our little man (LM) arrived at 7:55 am weighing 8 lbs 5 ounces with a full head of curly hair.  No epidural (there was no time!) and no caesarean required. Everyone is doing well.

Stay tuned for more adventures in greening with two little monkeys 🙂


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Fried

July 28, 2015

The kitchen is clean, the dining room is clean, the bathrooms are clean, we’ve rearranged, purged, decorated. And it’s hot. My cheeks are hot, my ankles are hot, I could go on. Well, not actually that hot, but at the risk of sounding cliché, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”. I have some flowers planted (yes I actually managed to contort myself into a position that allowed planting of things, though they’re probably molding in the dirt with all the rain we’ve received), and I’ve read and read and read. So I thought I’d do one more blog post because I just don’t know what else to do with myself.

Lately I’ve been reading about natural methods of inducing labour. I’ve been trying long walks, Thai food, pineapple, other things that my husband can help with . . . nothing yet. (Baby Centre has some great suggestions). We had a false alarm last week – the couple of days before I’d been feeling nauseous and generally how I feel before I start my period. Thursday morning I started having contractions every ten minutes for about two hours, and they seemed to be getting stronger and weren’t going away when I changed position. So we got everyone up and dressed, got breakfast (because I was suddenly starving!), and the contractions suddenly stopped. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Nothing for the rest of the day (until suppertime I had one – that’s all). And nothing since.

I am getting frustrated because I’m just tired of being pregnant. I know that sounds selfish – this little being needs the time it needs to grow and be healthy. I was all psyched up to give birth and now  I just feel like it’s never going to end. My daughter was two weeks early (38 weeks 2 days) and based on the size and position of my belly, everyone around me has been saying all along “there’s no way you’re making it to August”. My actual due date is August 8th. My own prediction (the little feeling I got about midway through) was July 28th – today. I was two days off with my daughter (predicted February 15th – she was born February 13th). All of our friends and family are anxiously awaiting any news, and my husband is anxious to have it over with. But you know what they say, “a watched pot never boils”.

Speaking of cooking, as we purge various items in the house we decided our frying pans were toast, so they’ve gone into the yard sale pile. (Admittedly it might have been my cooking spray (Week 33) and “spaghetti scrubber” experiments that did them in, but we won’t go there right now 😉 ).

fryingpan

My brilliant husband managed to find a frying pan at Superstore made from recycled metal (pictured above). Which made me happy 🙂

For more ideas for things to do while waiting for baby, check out this post by fellow WordPress blogger: https://householdwords.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/things-to-do-while-waiting-for-a-baby-to-be-born/  and Growing Slower: http://www.growingslower.com/2013/05/getting-ready-for-baby-2-checklist.html


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The Home Stretch

June/July 2015

This is likely my last blog post for some time: expecting the arrival of Number 2 in the next few weeks. Then again, who knows, maybe we will be blessed with a mellower child and I’ll be able to post a few lines here and there. At my last Dr.’s appointment she says to me “that belly is filing out nicely isn’t it”. I felt like responding with “really, I hadn’t noticed”. If I don’t have this kid soon I’ll need to go shopping again – my clothes are starting to reach their maximum stretch point! Almost muumuu time! ( I wonder if I could find one of those at Value Village . . . ).

June has been a frustrating month. I have a giant to do list, but I am feeling frustrated at the level of helplessness pregnancy imposes on me. Physically I either just can’t move my body the way I need to do what needs doing around the house, or I just don’t have the energy level. My amazing husband is doing all that he can, but we’re going to have to find some help elsewhere. I’m tempted to research some green house cleaners in the city, but as with many of my projects it ends up ballooning into something I don’t have the time or energy to handle. Hoping the neighbours kids come through and can help with the yard work at least.

Physical limitations aside, June was also been a very busy month for us:

  • 100 in 1 day went off without a hitch (except for the rain). We exceeded our goal of 100 interventions, and collected over 60kg of food. There were lots of great environmentally-oriented projects too, such as The Wave of Waste.
  • Went to physiotherapy to treat my hip/foot problems and it was successful. Tried to do some gardening but ended up twisting my knee (which heeled after a week or two, but I don’t want to tempt fate a second time). Trying to do battle with the Japanese Knotweed which returns with a vengeance every year (see Week 20 and here for more information on this awful, awful invasive plant).
  • My Dad had to have surgery, which while he knew he would have to have some day and was not life-threatening, the health care system made it seem like it was nothing more than a tooth extraction, when in reality the recovery period has been a lot more uncomfortable and long than expected.
  • I taught a three day course at work, which I love doing and am thankful I was able to get through without having to boil water.
  • And completed my French oral exam – which at the time I thought I hadn’t done well at all (I had studied, but I hadn’t been in a French class since February, and with everything else going on I just couldn’t get into the right head space). I am thankful that I achieved the mark I need to keep my competitive edge in the workplace.
  • And with all of this going on, our daughter is experiencing a bit of regression toilet-training-wise, wetting herself at nap time. So at her request back to pull ups for a little while 😦

Needless to say, while blogging has been on my mind and very much something I’ve been looking forward to wrapping up before Number 2’s arrival, it hasn’t exactly made the To Do list each weekend.

Now that June is past, I’ve pretty much got things wrapped up at work (only three days left!), and the baby’s room is ready to go, I’ve been trying to maximize mommy-daughter time. Last week we spent the morning at the farmer’s market (which we also hadn’t done in several months) and yesterday we went to the beach.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to not get upset with myself for all of the driving and take-out packaging that seems to have re-entered my lifestyle – I keep telling myself it’s only temporary.

What “green things” have I been doing (when I have the mental, emotional and physical energy to even think about it):

  • Buy local – it is growing season – finally! – and speaking of Farmer’s Markets, I found a lovely little fruit and veggie stall in our neighbourhood. All they need is a fish truck, an artist and a few musicians and they’d be a full fledged market! Which connects nicely with one of my 100 in 1 day projects related to community building (read about it here);
  • Reuse baby gear – we’d kept just about everything, so it all came out of the closet and got cleaned up;
  • Purchase used baby gear instead of new – for things that we needed to replace or add to the collection. It is yard sale season after all so I was able to find a couple of things, like an infant seat (for the house, not a car seat). When I was pregnant with my daughter I didn’t think we needed all of the “extra” stuff that went with a baby (like swings, infant seats, breast-feeding pillows, exersaucers etc) and that it was materialistic – but learned very quickly that it wasn’t a capitalist ploy at all but a matter of survival, as I’m sure anyone reading this who’s a parent can appreciate. We did purchase a new stroller, because they take such a beating (and we got a good deal)!
  • Speaking of reused baby gear – my husband and I finally reached a compromise on the diaper front. We spoke with some apartment-dwelling friends who also used cloth diapers both children and learned of some tricks that will hopefully make cloth diapering less work than before. So the cloth diapers we used for our daughter are freshened up and ready to go. I’ve also agreed to use disposable – if we can use “environmentally-friendly” brands.

There are basically three brands available at our local grocery store:

PC Green – materials are 50% recycled and/or sourced from sustainable sources; fragrance, latex and petroleum free (including no bleaching). Stage 1 (8-14 lbs) $15.99 per pkg of 66 (~24 cents ea.). The President’s Choice company offers a number of other “green” products, and has a number of other sustainable programs on the go, such as Sustainable Seafood. Nevertheless, “greenwashing” is always in the back of my mind (see Week xx).

Seventh Generation– Another company offering a variety of green products. Diapers are fragrance free and unbleached. However I have read and heard from reputable sources that they dye their diapers the light-brownish colour to make them appear more natural. This marketing technique, if true, kind of defeats the purpose if you ask me. Stage 1 $14.99 per pkg of 40 (~37 cents ea.)

Naty– Made by a Swedish company that offers a number of other eco-friendly products. Made from biodegradable materials, unbleached, and latex and fragrance free. Stage 2 (6-13 lbs) $ 12.99 per pkg of 34 (~38 cents ea.). Not sure if they’re made in Sweden and shipped over.

So it looks like the PC Green might be the best option, and it is also the option that Nurtured once recommended to me.

Depending on what you have access to, here are some other options that might work. Cloth are still thought to be the best option, especially when reused for a second child – all of the water and electricity usage that goes into making and cleaning them is apparently still less than what goes into repeatedly making disposables. For some other options, read here and here.

Once the baby powder settles we’ll experiment and see what works best for us in our “new normal”.

  • I’ve also been collecting links related various environmental issues that I have blogged about. I’ll share a few on the blog and via Twitter. One is “plastic free July”. A good challenge for some day, but not for me today.

Until next time, have a great summer! (And yes, I will post baby news!).


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Waist-not

May 2015

So I’ve been worried that I might have gestational diabetes. As with my previous pregnancy, being pregnant has completely changed my relationship with food. Cravings, aversions, seemingly needing to eat higher calorie foods to avoid the nausea that is always lurking just under the surface of my pyloric sphincter. It didn’t help that we had the winter of our discontent and I couldn’t be as active as I was before, or the foot injury early on (an injury that came back to haunt me from Week 31), or the weekly lemon Sanpelligrino with 33 grams of sugar each! This time I’ve put on a lot more weight at a faster rate than before, and my doctor is monitoring it. I recently had the glucose tolerance test done, and it all came back normal, as is my blood pressure. A lot of the extra weight is likely fluid retention in my legs and feet, which seems to improve as I increase my activity level and keep them elevated when I’m not on them.IMG_0249

I was pleased I was able to be active for our recent adventure to Montreal. Yes, we took a “baby-moon” (1 ½ hour flight with carbon emissions and all), leaving our daughter with her grandparents for a week while we took a pre-baby # 2 escape. While the weather was dampish for the most part, it is a beautiful city with lots of history, friendly people, and man do they know their food! I don’t think we had a bad meal the entire time we were there.

I felt incredibly guilty after one particularly good meal that I just couldn’t finish, leaving behind what for some in developing nations would equate to a week’s worth of food. As I mentioned above, my relationship with food as totally changed during pregnancy, and I find I end up wasting a lot more than I normally do. Often this is because I’ll have a craving for something and want to eat it every day for several days, so I’ll buy a batch of whatever it is in bulk, then suddenly I can’t look at it any more without feeling nauseous. And often it is something that no one else in the house wants to eat either. So we end up throwing it out 😦 I hate food waste knowing that so many people go without. My goal for the remainder of the pregnancy is to try to keep food portions in perspective and not waste as much food.

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I’ve been continuing to drop off yoghurt containers at Feeding Others of Dartmouth, so they can send leftovers home with their clients, thereby reducing their food waste (see Week 13). This is also why my intervention for 100 in 1 day – Feed 100 Families – is so important to me. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into it this year, which is why I’ve had less time for blogging. The blog is also going to take a back seat to other more important matters very soon.

Speaking of waste, we bought metro day passes one of our days in Montreal. Instead of throwing mine away at the end of the day, I passed it on to a homeless person who was hanging out in a bus shelter near our hotel. Hopefully he was able to make some use of it.

  • Read more about food waste in North America here.
  • And one woman’s story of how she strives to live a waste-free life here.


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For the Birds

April 2015

The variety of wildlife of our suburban neighbourhood has started to make its springtime return, to a bit of a shock – the mounds of snow are still on the ground, and making it very difficult for birds to find food and nesting materials. So my daughter and I have been putting out dryer lint, bird seed, peanut butter, and produce in hopes of helping out our feathered neighbours and giving her another opportunity to learn about the wild world around her (Week 18). We`ve continued to buy 50% off produce (Week 11) as much as possible, and some of these items have proven useful for our homemade bird feeders. So far we`ve had chickadees, robins, sparrows, and warblers. Hoping the proximity to the ground (due to the high snowbanks) didn`t encourage the neighbourhood cats to get an easy feast.

Meanwhile we`ve been “nesting“ at home – rearranging furniture and toys, painting rooms (using Benjamin Moore low VOC paint of course). Ultrasound and blood work didn`t show anything unusual. Feeling like pregnancy is for the birds; trying to keep my eye on the prize and know I’m not alone – see fellow bloggers Pregnant Chicken and Scary Mommy. Three and a half months to go . . .


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In Transit

March/April 2015

I am defying mother nature and have clothes on the clothesline. Yes I had to track through several inches of fresh snow to do it but the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I don’t care any more. It is April after all and despite the several feet of snow remaining in the ground (yes, you read correctly, feet, or meters if you’d rather) I am determined to use the power of the sun and air to dry and freshen at least a few items of clothing. I tried yesterday with some success, but mid afternoon had to remove said items whilst an impromptu snow squall blew in. Take two today. The remainder of the clothes are in the dryer with a microfiber cloth, which I am quite liking as a substitute to dryer sheets (Week 48).

I also took part of this morning to review Halifax Transit’s proposed new transit plan. I’ve been involved in some of the public consultation (Week 34) and am rather opinionated on the issue (Week 3 and 16). As the late April deadline looms I figured it was high-time I had a look.

I was initially excited at the prospects of some major changes. The transit system hasn’t had a major overhaul in years (routes were just patched on, on an as needed basis) and was in desperate need of a systematic review.

My first look at the website was disheartening. I was greeted by the usual rainbow of colour that characterizes the current transit map. Initially I could see the routes were going to be no less complicated. I’m all for colour-coding, but it looses its meaning if too many are used. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Sleeves of my Frenchy’s sweater rolled up, I got down to business.

I decided the easiest way to review the changes and provide constructive feedback would be to look at the various commutes I’ve taken in the last eight or so years. I rated each commute as either “better”, “no change” or “worse” depending on the ease with which I could determine the route changes, the frequency of service, number of transfers, and estimated commute time.

First up, downtown to MSVU: my previous commute took the # 80 directly from Spring Garden to MSVU, in about 30 minutes and ran on 20 minute frequency, on average. With the change, it looks like I would have to take the # 28 as far as somewhere and then switch to the # 8. With only 15-30 min service on each route, and no indication of the length of the commute or where I would actually make the transfer, I ranked this change as “worse”.

Next, Fairview to downtown: currently I could make the commute in about 20 minutes using a variety of buses that run every 15-30 minutes. With the new system, i still have some variety, and one route running quite near our house which would run every 15 minutes. I ranked this change as “better”, but really, this was not the routing that needed the most work in my mind.

Fairview to Bedford (Sunnyside): Currently can take # 80 every half hour with a 20 to 30 minute commute time depending on time of day. New system, # 8 every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday. The increased service is definitely an improvement, but it was not clear where I would be able to pick up the # 8 (as it doesn’t stop at Bayer’s Road) and whether I would have to transfer. There was also no indication of how long it would take to reach the destination. So I rated this change as “no change” but potentially “worse” if I have to go from a direct route to a transfer.

Fairview to Burnside: Currently take the #52 every 15-30 minutes, takes about 1 ½ hours. New system would take the # 3 running every 10 minutes during rush hour, which is a definite improvement (and 20 minute service the rest of the day isn’t bad either). However it still does not go to the part of Burnside that I needed access to so I would still need to transfer somewhere or walk, and there was no indication of how long the commute would take (but still looks like a milkrun). Another option is the # 237 on Main Avenue, running only every 30 minutes and only during rush hour, and again does not service the part of Burnside I worked in.

Finally, Fairview to Dartmouth: currently # 52 every 20-30 minutes with a 20-30 minute commute time. New system – # 3 every 10 minutes and with a stop on Joe Howe, but no indication of how long the commute would be – I rated this as “better” to “no change”.

While I don’t expect direct routes from point A to point B just for me, I do expect ease of use to be a major factor in the design. It took me over an hour to review each of these routes, and not without some frustration. The map tool looked easy enough, but was actually cumbersome for looking at individual routes. Also, it wasn’t clear where the transfer points would be (e.g. terminals were listed pictographically but did not list the name of the terminals or what buses stopped there).

I’ll admit I’m rather spatially challenged, and upon discussing the new system with my husband, he was actually quite pleased with it and saw some advantages that I hadn’t seen –but not for lack of looking. Which is basically my point – part of the reason folks don’t use transit now, besides lack of frequency, is that it’s too hard to figure out. Stop times are random (e.g. 8:37 departure) and there are just too many routes. But that’s just my two cents. I expect I will continue to use transit regardless of the routes, because I just believe in it that much. Or at least as long as my pregnant body will cooperate.

I’m glad I had the brainpower today to do this activity, thanks to a great night’s sleep (the first in many months – thank you daughter of mine!), though I was woken at 6am with a mouth full of blood (thank you pregnancy tumor – so glad you decided to make an appearance this pregnancy as well). Otherwise feeling pretty good these days (though I was a bit worried I was prematurely loosing my mucous plug this weekend after, well, I won’t go into the romantic details but suffice to say I think everything is ok now), and further comforted by the in utero kickboxing classes and homemade Easter chocolate (a tradition we started last year to avoid packaging – Week  15). Dr’s appointment this Friday. Ultrasound results. No news is good news?