Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My breastfeeding journey - Part 2.

The first lactation consultant we saw was of the same mindset as most of the websites I mentioned in part 1. According to her, low supply was a hurdle, but one that could be surmounted with enough dedication and effort on my part. To fix my supply issues, she recommended that I either breastfeed or pump every 1.5-2 hours around the clock. She also encouraged me to make sure I was getting enough rest, eating enough good food (not take out or cereal, but good, balanced meals that I guess I was also supposed to be preparing), getting plenty of liquids and staying calm, as stress can further decrease a low supply. I also needed to be spending as much time with the Numa skin-to-skin as I possibly could. And she was serious. How in the hell was I supposed to do even one of those things with a newborn, much less all of them? To say that I found her unhelpful is way too kind. I spent the day after meeting with her crying more (sensing a theme here?) and called my doula again. She apologized for what was clearly a bad personality match* and recommended a second LC who we met with the next day. My husband and I were both home and my MIL was in town and the LC listened very patiently as I described what we had been doing, showed her our records of feedings and diapers and cried more. Then she asked me to show her how I had been breastfeeding and as soon as I took off my bra she got a knowing look on her face. As I started to breastfeed, she told me that she was 99% certain that I had hypoplastic breasts. I should explain that my breasts have always been different from those of other women. Both my breasts and my nipples are distinctly different sizes, they are wide set on my chest and they point out, rather than forward. I had always known my breasts were different, but it never really bothered me. I think I was fortunate in that my high school never had the shared locker room showers that you see in the movies (Sixteen Candles, anyone?) so other than occasional jokes about my small-ish chest in high school, no one ever really noticed or pointed out the issue. I certainly never suspected that their appearance was an indication of deeper problems.

I had done some internet research after the pediatrician visit where we learned that Numa wasn't gaining weight that made me a little suspicious about my breasts, but hearing her say it out loud suddenly made it real. I was both relieved and heartbroken. Women with hypoplastic breasts have less of the glandular tissue that produces milk and while some women with this condition are able to exclusively breastfeed, most cannot and some don't produce any milk at all. I was producing some but not enough for the Numa's needs which meant that supplementing was now with us to stay. The lovely LC helped me with Numa's latch and gave us some great tips, but most of all she reassured me that there was nothing wrong with feeding your baby with formula. She was very supportive about supplementing and she will make a reappearance in a later chapter of this story. I was still disappointed but the diagnosis helped me to make some peace with the situation and I was able to move forward with fewer tears and really enjoy breastfeeding. Plus, everyone kept telling me that it is usually better with the second baby so my hopes of supplementing even less the next time were high. Numa breast and bottle fed until he was 4 months old, when he finally determined that the effort it took to breastfeed for so little reward was just not worth it. I had many mixed emotions about weaning him so early (not that I really did of the few pluses of a low supply is that you can basically just stop breastfeeding and not really deal with engorgement issues at all). I was sad that he was done because I really enjoyed breastfeeding. It created such a cozy closeness for us and I always enjoyed how he looked completely different from my vantage point while he was at the breast. M got some great pictures so that I can always remember what that was like. At the same time, though, being done with breastfeeding meant that feeding Numa got a whole lot easier. For all of his first 4 months, he would breastfeed and then do a bottle, which meant that feeding him took forever. Going to just a bottle gave me more time to just enjoy him and to deal with the dreaded 4-month sleep regression that I now realize was likely part of the cause of his weaning. Also, I was pretty proud of him for wanting to be more efficient - a trait I like to think he got from me.

Ultimately, I was glad that I had been able to breastfeed the Nums, even if not exclusively and even though it was such a short time. I knew that we would eventually try for another baby and had hope that the breastfeeding aspect of being a mom would improve the second time around. I also knew it would be easier to deal with, since perspective is the greatest gift of being a second time parent. I told myself that it wouldn't be nearly as disappointing if it didn't work out and that if I could do just as well as I had with Numa that I would be satisfied. And then I had a second baby.

Be well,


*It would be unfair if I didn't address the personality match aspect of my issues with the first LC. Having a productive and helpful relationship with a doula or an LC (to a somewhat lesser extent) is, in my opinion, highly dependent on finding someone whose personality is compatible with your own. When M and I were interviewing doulas, we met with 4 before finding the one we ultimately chose and  though we talked about our decision before making it, I knew right away when we had found the right one. Meeting with her was like meeting with an old friend and we saw eye-to-eye on all of the issues we discussed. I immediately felt confident that she would be able to support me in the way I needed during Numa's birth and I was not wrong - she is a huge part of the reason I was able to have a completely unmedicated birth experience with first the Numa and then the little one. She was one of the first people we called after finding out I was pregnant with baby number 2. It is the same for LCs. The first one we met with was clearly not a good match for me personality wise and she didn't seem to understand my overall goals and how to help me achieve them. This is not to say that she is a bad LC in general, but for me, it was a terrible match. If you are looking for a doula or LC to help you, asking questions up front about their methods, beliefs and background can be hugely helpful in the search process and potentially save you from having a bad experience.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My breastfeeding journey - Part 1.

Nothing in life has ever made me feel like more of a failure than breastfeeding. When I was pregnant with the Numa, one of the few things I actually researched was how to begin a good breastfeeding relationship with your new baby. I read tons of forums and talked to my doula and was prepared for it to be difficult at first, but ultimately assumed that I would power through with the help of reading and if necessary, lactation consultants, and that Numa and I would exclusively breastfeed for as long as I was home with him and possibly longer. It was one of my main goals as a new mother and I was really looking forward to having this experience with my baby. I had noticed that, unlike other pregnant women I knew, my breasts hadn't changed much during my pregnancy. They were marginally larger, but nothing like the full cup size or sizes bigger that others were experiencing. I didn't think too much about it at the time and only vaguely noted that I also didn't really become engorged after his birth. For the first few days at home with him, I breastfed on demand and other than some latch issues, assumed that all was well because he was producing the number of wet and dirty diapers we were told to expect and was sleeping fairly well. My world crashed a little when, after more than 10 days, he was still below his birth weight and it became apparent that he was sleeping not because he was sated, but because he was working so hard for so little food that he was exhausted. The guilt and despair at learning that despite my best efforts my baby was hungry were overwhelming. To this day I haven't fully forgiven myself for allowing him to be hungry, even once, as a newborn when he was reliant on me for everything. I am sure this is unfair, but I can't seem to change the way I feel about it and I still have nightmares that he is starving somewhere and I can't help him.

To say that women, and people in general, have opinions about how to feed babies is a ridiculous understatement. Feeding your infant formula is an immediate indication to most that you are lazy, uninformed, selfish or some combination of the three and people are not shy about pointing this out. (I don't have the time or energy to get into it here, but isn't it odd that the same society that castigates mothers for using formula also frowns on breastfeeding in public? Also note that feeding babies is solely the responsibility of so many other parenting choices, the fault for not succeeding at breastfeeding falls solely on the shoulders of the mother. But I digress...) There are so many reasons that breastfeeding doesn't work for women in this country - a lack of support, a lack of time, a lack of the money and resources to allow women to be with their infants long enough to develop a good breastfeeding relationship - but the one that almost anyone will tell you is just a cover for some other, unacceptable reason is low supply. Read any breastfeeding support website and the writers will point out at least once, if not multiple times, that very few women actually have a low supply. Instead, anyone who thinks they have a low supply is in reality just mismanaging their breastfeeding relationship with their child and could fix the problem if they were willing to take supplements, pump around the clock as well as breastfeed, never ever use a bottle to supplement the baby for any reason whatsoever, etc. The point is that saying you have a low supply is almost universally seen as an excuse to lazy out of really trying to breastfeed.

Which brings me back to me and the Numa. Once we figured out that he wasn't getting enough food we starting supplementing him with formula based on the advice of our pediatrician and my complete inability to handle the thought of him being hungry for even one more minute. I cried my way through his appointment that day as I thought about my failure to nourish my child. Unlike so many people in this world who struggle to feed their families, I was and am fortunate enough to be able to afford a solution to the most basic part of the problem - feeding my child - by buying formula, but the knowledge that I was failing at what I saw as an integral part of my maternal tasks was devastating. I cried my way through another doctor's visit when I saw my OB later that week and though it didn't help at the time, she said something to me that later gave me some perspective. She very kindly reminded me that formula isn't rat poison and that as long as I was feeding my baby, all would be well. Finally, I contacted my doula to get a recommendation for a lactation consultant, because I was now determined to figure out what was wrong and fix it so that I could become the mother I desperately wanted to be.

I honestly don't know how many parts there will be to this story, but I will continue to write them as I can. I hope that it will help me to ultimately be able to move past the disappointment and if it happens to help someone else who is struggling, then that will be a huge bonus.

Be well,


Saturday, August 25, 2012


One of our go-to take out spots for dinner is Neillio's in Lexington. They have a good selection of hot foods that are ready when you get there and when our day gets a little busier than usual, we can grab dinner quickly and be home. A plus of going there is that Neillio's is right next to one of the Lexington fire stations...the Numa is obsessed with fire engines and other emergency response vehicles and loves to point them out as we drive. He calls the stations "tunnels" and always tells us that the fire engines are sleeping in their tunnels. So cute.

Anyway, the Numa and I were charged with picking up turkey to go with Wednesday's dinner and he was delighted to see that all of the doors to the fire station were open and there were lots of fire engines inside. He wanted to go check it out and I was thisclose to telling him that we didn't have time. I do this so often because we really are busy with a toddler and an infant but his fascination with these things won't last forever and I decided to make time. We walked over, hand in hand because it is close to the road, and looked at the fire engines while standing just outside the doors. He wanted to go in, but I didn't want to be in the way so we just looked and talked. As we were walking away, one of the fire fighters walked out and asked if we wanted to come in! He introduced himself as Jimmy, and as it turns out he is the fire captain. We got to check out the whole station with one of the other fire fighters (Rob) and even got to sit in one of the trucks as it entered the station, which delighted the Numa. Jimmy offered to let the Nums try on his jacket, but someone suddenly became shy and didn't want to. Regardless, he was so excited to see the trucks up close and get to ride in the truck. It was a great time and I wish I had pictures!

I think the main reason I am posting this is to remember these moments with my little guy. Just as importantly though, I want to express my thanks to all the hard working public servants who took 15 minutes out of their day to entertain my son. It was incredibly nice of them to invite us in and show us around and I really appreciate their hospitality when I am sure they wanted to be on their way home.

Be well,


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sleepover kit.

It has been a really long time since this was finished, but I am finally getting around to posting final pics of the sleepover kit. To refresh your memory, my starting materials were a pair of PJs I found at Carter's and fabric chosen to coordinate with them.

PJs for Madeline
Monkey PJs.

Sleepover Kit raw materials.

The picture shows all of the fabric used in the kit. Sorry for the yellow-ness - I need to learn to use the white balance on my camera. The photo of the PJs at the top shows the truest colors. Clockwise from left:

- Monkey fleece PJs from Carter's,
- Hot pink/white flannel houndstooth print,
- Hot pink flannel-backed satin,
- A medium weight blue denim,
- Bubblegum pink fleece, which matches the bows and hearts on the PJs,
- and Brown minky fabric.

(All of the fabric was from Jo-Ann's.)

The first part of the kit I made was a small blanket, with the brown minky on one side and the pink flannel-backed satin on the other. For the main part of the blanket, I just cut the largest rectangle I could from the brown minky fabric I had on hand and a matching piece from the pink satin. I basted the two fabrics, wrong sides facing, to hold it together while I attached the binding. For the binding, I made bias tape with the pink/white houndstooth using this tutorial. Let me just say that I would think long and hard before using flannel to make binding again. The fabric shifted constantly and making enough binding for even a small blanket took FOREVER. It was also difficult to work with once it was finally finished, again because the flannel shifts in strange ways while you manipulate it. It did, however, make for an adorable blanket.

Laying out the blanket.

Finished blanket. Isn't the binding cute?

To go with the blanket, I made a simple pillowcase using the pink/white houndstooth flannel. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of it, so feel free to imagine what a rectangle of the houndstooth would look like.

The slippers may have been my favorite part of this whole project. I used the bubblegum pink fleece to make elf slippers using the maya*made tutorial found here. Sewing tiny shoes is always challenging due to the simple fact that they are tiny and hard to work with. However, they were totally worth it.

Elf slippers
Elf slippers.

I decided at the last minute that since MK lives in a house with hardwood floors it would be nice if the slippers were non-slip. To do this, I made the soles of the slippers out of the houndstooth and used silver and pink glitter fabric paint to "color in" several of the checks on each slipper. I think this made them extra jazzy, don't you?

Bottom of elf slippers
Jazzy soles.

The sleep mask, made using this Whipup tutorial, was fast and easy to make. I used the pink flannel-backed satin and pink/white houndstooth.

Elf slippers and sleep mask
Sleep mask.

Sadly, I did not get time to make the stuffed animal I was planning to include. But I did make the bag! I used the denim and the pink satin to make a reversible, drawstring bag and used the leftover houndstooth bias tape for the drawstring. I still need to document the process of making these super easy bags.


I think that MK liked her bag and I really enjoyed making it. I like giving homemade gifts and would love to come up with some new kit ideas for kids. FYI, the original post that got me started was the build your own fort kit from armommy (found here). I made one for my nephew and immediately starting imagining what other kinds of kits you could fit into a bag. What a great idea to give gifts that inspire kids to make things and get creative! The fact that they allow me to sew cool kid stuff is just a bonus.

Be well,


Monday, August 13, 2012


We have been in the house for a little over 4 months now and what was new now seems like it has always been. It is hard to even imagine still being in our apartment, especially since we have added a new family member. The new tiny person (whose nickname has still not emerged) arrived on July 8th after many months of pregnancy misery mixed with as much happy anticipation as can exist in a home in transition. She is a good baby so far and she and I are getting to know one another in all types of situations, including the wee hours of every single morning. I actually think I saw the first indication of a real smile this morning and plan to spend my afternoon making a total idiot of myself trying to get her to repeat it. I had forgotten how much I love tiny babies, from their noises and smells (not all of them are bad!) to their tiny toes and big eyes. Mostly I just love watching them become little people and I am really enjoying most of my time with her, though I would by lying if I didn't also acknowledge that newborn fussiness is the pits and that I miss my sleep. I keep reminding myself to appreciate all of it, because it goes by so very, very fast. Pretty soon, she will be helping her brother to push buttons on the new automatic cat feeder and requesting songs in the car, which M and I are sometimes allowed to sing. The Numa's taste in music runs to the eclectic (Two Door Cinema Club and the Bird and the Bee are two of his favorites...we are so proud) and his new go-to song is Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode. I love this kid.

So four months after moving and five weeks after welcoming the little one, we are starting to find a new normal. For instance, I am typing this while bouncing a sleeping baby in an Ergo. I also have to take frequent breaks, because she can sense productivity and objects to it on every level. I type a bit and then we walk a bit and it will still take me all day to finish this, but she is worth it. The house is livable but there is so much left to do. We have designated the nursery, the office and the basement as storage areas and make small amounts of progress each day. Still, it is going to be a while before we really feel settled. Right now, our focus is on the kids - getting to know the new baby and helping Numa with the transition to being a big brother, which includes the ongoing move into his big boy bed. He is doing great with the baby, constantly wanting to kiss her and hold her, though his desire for the latter tends to flag quickly. We are trying to keep him as involved as possible and to say yes to his requests to interact with her as much as we can so that he will feel included.

I have many, many goals for my time on maternity leave. I will be home (we think) until just after the new year so I have several months to get stuff done. Of course, all of that hinges on this baby eventually letting me put her down for longer than 10 minutes at a time. I manage to scrape just enough time on most days to do a load of laundry and figure out dinner, but that is usually it. One of my goals, though, is to post here at least 3 times a week. Anything else will be a bonus. We will see how it goes, but to help me accomplish this goal, I am not going to impose a structure on this blog. I am going to keep writing about house progress, my kids, being a mom, sewing and/or crafting and anything else that is relevant to me at the time. Maybe a theme will emerge, maybe not, but either way it will be an outlet for me during what can be an isolating time.

Be well,