Monday, September 17, 2018

One Day in My Life

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Back in the day, I used to regularly read several blogs where the writers would do "day in the life" posts. I always enjoyed reading them but also found them kind of cheesy. My day to day life is so different than it used to be though, so I thought it'd be fun to write one up. I know one day I'll enjoy looking back on this sweet and tiring time. Before I had Willa, it seemed impossible to me that I could manage a baby on top of everything, and yet, it quickly becomes simply the norm. I'm not good at taking pictures all day, so you'll have to use your imagination. Here goes my first ever day in the life post.

3AM--Lola wakes me up by scratching the chair in our room. I don't even open my eyes since I know who is to blame. I get her to stop and go back to sleep.

5AM-Willa wakes up and is hungry. Brendan changes her diaper, and I nurse her in bed. She kicks while nursing, and Zoe plays a game pawing at her feet gently. It's really cute and makes up for my 3AM wake up. I put Willa back in her bassinet and fall asleep.

6AM-The alarm goes off. Brendan knows that even though I say I want to get up, I don't really. He gets up and lets me snooze.

6:45AM-Brendan brings me coffee. I get up and drink it and pour myself some granola.

7AM-the reality that snoozing was a bad idea hits me. I now have an hour and a half to do all the things. Luckily, Brendan agrees to make me a sandwich. I defrost milk and get Willa's bottles ready for daycare before getting in the shower.

7:30AM-Willa is up. I brush my teeth, put on lotion and foundation, and put in my contacts before getting her changed and dressed. My hair is wet, and I am only wearing underwear. I nurse her and Brendan leaves for work.

8AM-I put Willa in the Mamaroo so I can load up the car, feed the cats, and pump. I put on clothes and realize my hair still looks completely soaked. I blow dry for one minute and put on pearls hoping this will make me look put together. You know what? I think it's pretty effective!

8:33AM- We are in the car. No traffic today. I am parking at daycare by 8:40AM. I feel like I have this down!

8:45AM-I drop off Willa and her carseat and unload her bottles and realize I forgot the sandwich that Brendan lovingly made me at home in the fridge. I feel very sad as I realize I have to make it until 4PM with a cheese stick and a yogurt and a package of peanut butter crackers. Oh life.

9AM-I teach my American Lit II class. We talk about "The Open Boat." I love my lit classes. Those hours just fly by.

10AM-I'm in the Language Hub for tutoring. Co-worker feels sorry for me and gives me a package of Bevita. Alright!

11AM-I'm back in the classroom. This time, I'm teaching Comp I. I've assembled a master outline from group work my students completed on Friday, and we're going over it. The technology in the classroom is having issues, so I need to rush through my lesson in 40 minutes to give the IT people 10 minutes to help my students with their MS Office 365 log ins. We're behind because of the technology issues, so I'm a little stressed.

12PM-I call the daycare. Willa is awake. Score! I use a 30 minute break I left in my schedule to go nurse her.

12:30PM-2PM. I head back to the office and eat the Bevita on the way. Once I get there, I eat my yogurt and cheese stick while catching up on emails. I manage to finish grading journals for the literature class. I do a lot of random tasks. I am haunted the entire time by the nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something important.

2PM-Back to the writing center for another hour of tutoring. It's early in the semester, so it's not that busy, but I do help some students with technology issues. Fun fact: "Use Chrome instead of Explorer" solves like 90% of problems students have.

3PM-Head to the faculty senate meeting. Can't help but participate. Get assigned to a committee. Why do I do this to myself?

4PM-Arrive home. Brendan picked up Willa after his workout and is unloading the dishwasher. I love that man! I change Willa and nurse her. Then I put her in the mamaroo and pump for 15 minutes. Then we play on the floor some and read a book.

5PM-Willa is cranky. Brendan gets dinner in the oven and gets in the shower. I nurse her to sleep. She will nap at home, but only if one of us is holding her. I don't know how daycare gets her to nap in a crib (but they do). Brendan calls his grandma to wish her a happy birthday. I check stuff on my phone while Willa naps.

5:30PM-Willa is up! We call Brendan's sister to wish her a happy birthday (yes, they have the same birthday) and keep Willa entertained by playing on the floor.

6PM-We eat dinner and entertain Willa in her rock and play. Brendan baked a loaf of bread and made skillet ratatouille. I thought he was picking an "easy recipe" and cannot believe that baking a loaf of bread is what he considers easy. Easy to me is like a box of mac and cheese. The house smells wonderful.

6:30PM-Brendan cleans the kitchen. I nurse Willa and respond to a couple of work emails. She is getting wiggly and easily distractible, so emailing is not ideal, but it has to get done. I change her, and we load her into the stroller.

7PM--We go on a walk around the neighborhood. The sunset is full of gorgeous pinks and oranges. The weather is a cool 81 degrees. I love fall here! Willa falls asleep. We check our mailbox on the way home. My $5 Pampers reward coupon arrives. Everything else is junk.

7:45PM--Brendan takes care of some yard work, and I give Willa a bath and get her ready for bed.

8:15-8:45PM--I nurse Willa and lie with her until she falls asleep. Then, I move her to the bassinet.

9PM--I eat ice cream, look at Facebook, send some emails, and type this post all while lounging on the couch. It's glorious! Lola and Zoe hang out with me and purr.

10:30PM--getting ready for bed; the cats erupt into a hissing fight. Lola licks the ice cream bowl. Sigh. Hoping I'll fall asleep before 11PM.

Goodnight world!

Monday, September 10, 2018

The BIG Transition (Back To Work)

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

Let me cut to the chase here. I'd LOVE to write a post for you about what we've figured out about making working full time "work" for our family, but that would be a relatively short post because the truth is we're three weeks in and everyday still feels chaotic and like we're making it up as we go. Still, I want to check in here even though I don't have much advice and talk about some things I've noticed during our big transition. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any suggestions or just want to say "I feel ya."

1.) Everything Takes Longer!
If getting out the door for work pre-kid used to be a "production," now it's a Hollywood action movie in which I star as the comic relief. Everyday I pack my school bag (planner, class folders, and all the stuff that would be in one's purse), my pump bag (with pump, pump parts, and bottles), a cooler (with Willa's milk and my lunch/snacks), my water bottle (I'm SO thirsty, send all the water), and the diaper bag (cause you never know, and that thing has back ups for everything I should remember but probably didn't). Add to that my American Lit II book which weighs so much, and you can see why I don't even know where anything is.

2.) What Was I Saying?
I used to consider myself highly capable at multitasking and remembering everything. Now...wait, what are we talking about? I just need to write things down.

3.) Pumping Ain't Easy
It takes forever. It isn't nearly as effective as nursing. It's a necessary but not fun part of my day. Sometimes, to fit it in, I have to do it in the car while someone stalks my parking spot. At least we have electric pumps.

4.) You Can't Schedule a Baby
I stop by to nurse Willa, but sometimes she's sleeping, and I have to move to plan B (see car pumping). At home, she pretty reliably nursed every 2 hours, but daycare is a different story. You know that saying "expectations are the root of unhappiness"? I'm trying very hard to let go a little and realize that I don't have that much control over the schedule. Not knowing if I'll be able to nurse makes packing bottles and knowing how much to bring tough (especially since I don't want milk to go to waste). While I'd love to say we have a system in place, there's a lot of guesswork, calling the daycare, and sometimes miscommunication involved. I definitely stress about the feeding schedule, especially since Willa seems to hold out until we're together, and full bottles are being sent back home. She has started waking up in the middle of the night again to nurse, and it's often hard for me to fall back asleep.

5.) General anxiety: I got it.
There's what you intellectually know (that your baby is okay) and what you instinctually feel (that it's tough to be apart). One of the biggest hurdles of the last couple of weeks is just getting used to feeling a little anxious. I hope that the "fake it until you make it" rule works. I notice that the busier I am, the better I do.

6.) I'm Probably My Own Toughest Critic
As one of my friends said give yourself some grace. I really should start focusing on everything I DO get done in a day and not be hard on myself over where I fell short. Also, when I'm tired, everything feels more stressful and confusing than it probably should.

7.) I Value Our Time Together SO MUCH
Before I had Willa, I assumed I'd be fine leaving my kid in daycare so I could run errands or workout or whatever. The truth is, I don't like to be apart from her for any time longer than necessary. Brendan feels the same way, and usually one of us can get her by 2PM.

8.) 9PM is the new 11PM.
I can barely keep my eyes open any later.

9.) Leftovers are KEY
After a day at work and an evening taking care of a baby, cooking falls low on the priority list. We've been using our weekends to cook big meals (stuffed peppers, lasagna, quesadillas, chili, pasta sauce) and freezing our leftovers. This helps us keep variation in what we eat each night without having to cook during the week.

10.) I will be LUCKY if I can squeeze in 3 workouts a week.
I can probably get to the YMCA on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Other than that, stroller walks and lugging my ten bags around campus will serve as my exercise.

11.) Put a bouncy chair in your bathroom. This is the best idea ever. You can dance and keep your baby entertained while brushing your teeth. I don't know how you'd get ready otherwise.

12.) Keep a burp cloth in ALL YOUR BAGS. Save your work clothes.

One thing that does help me is reminding myself that each phase is fleeting. I will enjoy the good parts and remind myself that she won't be a baby forever when it all feels overwhelming. Being apart from Willa is tough, but when I teach, I'm in my element. Most days, the time goes by quickly, and I love getting her back in my arms.

When did you make the big transition back to work and how did you survive?

Send tips!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Greetings faithful blog readers,

A new school year starts tomorrow, and as I reflect back on these 20 weeks I've had with Willa and the time we had together as a family of three this summer, I feel incredibly grateful. Being away from her will be tough, but I will be able to stop in and nurse her at lunchtime each day, and we know that she is in great hands. I also looking forward to see her interact with other babies and to getting back into the classroom. I'll teach a new class (American Lit II) this semester, and I can't wait to get to know my students (which won't happen for another week. This week is just meetings).

As I reflect back on summer vacation, it would be easy to think to myself that I didn't do enough, but instead, I want to celebrate all that we did get to do!

A is for Austin
Brendan and I are used to romantic, adventurous trips each summer. This summer, our version of that was staying at my parents' house while they were on vacation. The change of scenery was much appreciated, and a bonus: it was the cheapest vacation we've ever taken!

B is for Breastfeeding
I troubleshooted breastfeeding this summer, and it finally became easier. Willa has grown 6.2 inches and gained 6 pounds, 5.5 ounces since birth. And I've been really hungry/thirsty! I've taken a break from pumping the last month of summer (and I've immensely enjoyed that break!), and we're starting daycare with 250 ounces in the frozen stash.

C is for Celebrate
My first Mother's Day, Brendan's first Father's day, many family birthdays including my own, fourth of July, and five years of marriage. Summer is like a never-ending party!

D is for Doctors Visits
This past week, Brendan and I both had our annual doctor appointments, Willa had her four month shots, and even Zoe took a trip to the vet (she had a UTI but thankfully is better now!)

E is for Embracing it All 
Being tired, having a baby that will only nap next to you, and getting very little done: it all comes with the territory of the infant stage. I'm glad that we embraced the changes.

F is for Family & Friends
We saw SO many friends and family this summer. A family reunion, my best friends from high school meeting Willa, and Willa meeting her great-grandparents and spending time with family in CT and Maine will forever be great memories.

Growing Up 
Willa is constantly rolling over, grabbing toys, and babbling. She can do so many more things now, and it's so fun to watch her grow.

H is for Hacks 
Life hacks that is. I'm on the hunt for every way imaginable to simplify chores and make life easier. I made a huge batch of chili this weekend, and we refrigerated half and froze half. I plan to do some freezer cooking every weekend. I'm also picking out outfits and packing lunches and the car the night before. Any other life hack tips?

I is for Ice Cream
Shout out to my favorite favor of the summer: Bluebell's Butter Crunch.

K is for Kimchi Fries 
Maybe my favorite discovery of all time. Thank you Chi'lantro!

L is for Lobster
Cause I ate a ton of it. 

M is for Maine
We made it up to Maine for the annual family vacation. It was a little more complicated with a baby in the mix, but Willa proved to be a great traveler. M is also for Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit because we actually got some sleep this summer!

O is for Organizing
Last week, I pulled everything out of my closet that doesn't fit or isn't nursing friendly and put it in a storage container under the bed. I also packed up things to send to Goodwill and to Dress for Success. I went through Willa's clothes to put away the stuff that's too small (she's wearing 3-6 month stuff now).

P is for Playdate 
Willa got to play with her friend Sadie a couple of times this summer, and we got to see Maggie Lyn and Atlas in Austin, Emma, Cecelia, and Theron in Connecticut, and Everett in Maine. We also saw Tucker in Midland! Baby mania!

R is for Reading
I did a lot of reading this summer, and luckily, not all of it was board books! I enjoyed reading Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew DesmondWe Have Always Lived in the Castle and Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, and Florida and Other Stories and Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (I'm currently working on Monsters of Templeton also by Groff).

S is for Shopping 
Since none of my pre-baby clothes are nursing friendly (and let's face it, most of them don't fit) I did an online shopping spree at Seraphine and Milk this past week to get ready for the school year ahead.

T is for Twosome
Brendan and I got some quality time together. From our secret date to see Paul Simon to our anniversary dinner at Barley Swine, we got to take some time for just the two of us, which was much needed. We also got to go on some couple's dates with Amanda & Matt and Cassie & John.

W is for Working Out
We joined the YMCA this summer because they have free childcare, which meant we could both workout at the same time. Brendan loves the cardio and weight rooms, and I have taken so many classes (Barre, Yoga, Pilates, BodyPump, Zumba, RPM, Mommy & Me). I even told Brendan I was going to swim a mile one Sunday and then had to stick to it (that's 32 there and back laps, yikes!) Bonus: I've started to meet some new friends. We also have stuck to our morning family walks which help us get outside before it gets too hot.

Y is for Yard Work 
This one is 100% Brendan: he weeded, he cut back, he watered, and our front and backyard are in their full glory (promise to take some pictures). We saw a wasp the size of a hummingbird. It was horrifying!

I didn't cover every letter, but you get the idea. We had a nice last weekend of summer: Farmer's market, yoga, walking, cooking, and labeling everything for daycare. Wish us luck tomorrow as we head into uncharted territory. I'll never forget the sweetest summer of our lives!

Have a great Sunday evening!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Family Fun & Tips For Flying With a 4 Month Old

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Thanks for your patience with my absence! We've been soaking up summer, family time, and baby cuddles. Now I'm backtracking to tell you about our recent adventures and our tips for flying with a four month old.

When I found out I was pregnant, I did some quick math and discovered our baby would be around four months old in late July/early August when we often visit Brendan's family in Connecticut, and I was so excited. Getting Willa to Connecticut to meet her great grandparents and much of the extended family plus see her grandparents and aunt was a big priority for us. We knew getting there and back wouldn't be easy, but we were excited for everyone to see her. It was amazing to see four generations together all at once.

Brendan's parents hosted a lovely cookout, so we got to see Brendan's friends since elementary school and their families, plus his aunt Carol and uncle John, and neighbors. Willa loved meeting everyone!

Brendan's cousin Jeremy had a baby girl, Cecelia, just a few days after Willa! The babies got to meet. Plus, we saw aunt Jeri (Jeremy's mom) and cousins Sawyer and Spencer and Jeremy's wife, Jennifer.

After a few days in CT, we made the 5 hour drive to Maine. Willa did great; we only had to stop once. Check out this post for my car trip tips. Once there, we enjoyed blueberry picking, fishing, games, cooking, and kayaking. And of course Lobster Lobster! 

Blueberry Picking

We also introduced Willa to the lake, which she wasn't very impressed by (yet!) 

Plus, Willa met her cousin Everett who is just one month older than her (she'll have so many playmates!) 

Baby Swap

After a week in Maine, we took three planes (an eleven hour travel day) on Saturday, and we arrived back in Austin. Now that I've done five plane rides with a four month old, here are my tips (granted, your "mileage" may vary, but here's what worked for us).

1.) FLY SWA--Southwest Airlines is the most family friendly. Their open seating policy means that if there are any open seats and you travel with your carseat, you get to bring it on board for free. PLUS, they have family boarding immediately following the A group, so you never have to worry about getting separated. They gate check or check strollers and car seats for free. Gate check is fast too. Once, we even found our stroller already set up for us at the gate. Plus, passengers on SWA are chill. Since Southwest is like the bus of planes, nobody is trying to have some luxury experience, and in the summer, there are tons of babies and kids traveling, so if your kid freaks out, no one will even know to blame you! We always traveled SWA before kids because of the friendly service (is it just me or is American Airlines full of mean cranksters?) and now we will continue with our allegiance. Plus, thanks to points, I didn't pay for a single flight this summer!

2.) Book an EARLY flight. Our first flight left at 5:35AM, and Willa spent the 3 hour trip mostly asleep. On the way home, we weren't as wise, and it was more stressful. If you book early, there is also a better chance you can get a new itinerary in the event of delays or cancelations. The last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere overnight with a baby.

3.) If you plan to travel with a car seat, buy a car seat bag. Willa was a bit small for her stroller without the car seat, so we decided to bring both and gate check them. Realize that this makes going through security a NIGHTMARE as you will have to break down the stroller and send it plus the car seat through. Still, it was worth it to be able to run from one terminal to another when we almost missed a flight. The car seat bag looks like this (you can also find them with backpack straps instead of wheels) and the reason you want it is to prevent your car seat from being cracked or getting wet. Thanks for this tip, Laura!

4.) If you plan to travel with a car seat/stroller, consider gate checking. Gate checking equals less opportunity for your stuff to get damaged, and you can use your travel system to navigate the airports.

5.) Bring your own water bottle/snacks. Many airports have hydration stations once you get past security, and you will likely not have as much time to buy food with all the extra stuff you are dealing with, so it's really nice to have your own sandwiches, granola bars, trail mix, etc. On the plane, you can order a drink + water. Drink it all!

6.) Buy disposable changing table liners. Mine came from the now defunct babies r us (thanks Casey!) but these will do the trick.  Basically, you can put them down on the changing table (or in the car or on your breastfeeding pillow), and if your baby has an accident, you don't have a mess (just throw it away). If it's fine, I refold it for later use. On the plane, we changed diapers on our laps with one of these underneath (we were just dealing with wet diapers). With a little baby, this works fine.

7.) My Brest Friend makes an inflatable breastfeeding pillow, and my friends, it is amazing!! It inflates in less than a minute and deflates in seconds. You can fold it in your diaper bag. I used it for two weeks (indoors, outdoors, on planes) and it feels just like your normal breastfeeding pillow.

8.) Speaking of diaper bags, Brendan got me this one for my birthday, and it is GREAT for travel. The mom pocket is nice and big. It holds lots of diapers, toys, blankets, burp clothes, and the bottle pockets can hold 4 of the 4 ounce Philip Avent bottles. You want to overpack diapers and wipes just in case. About ten for a day of travel is a wise idea!

9.) If you are breastfeeding, I'd travel with one small bottle (3 ounces) of pumped milk just in case. When you can't get baby to suck on a pacifier but have to have her in the car seat (like if you have turbulence), it's a good option. Willa probably just drank drops from hers, but it got her ears to pop at least! Remember to take it out during security check.

10.) A note on privacy-- If you do get to bring your car seat on the plane, it needs to go in the window seat. If breastfeeding, mom can go in the middle seat for some added privacy. If we didn't get an extra seat, I picked the window. Travel with a cover if you want, but make sure to test it first. Lula Roe's Mimi is actually Willa's preferred cover even though I bought it the year before I had her! I think it's "retired" now, but you could probably still find one on a website like ebay or poshmark or look for a similar poncho. Photo of cover from a previous summer:

Though I had anxiety about breastfeeding, I noticed I wasn't even the only one on the plane feeding a baby (I think you only notice breastfeeding once you yourself are aware of it; kind of like how once you buy a new car, everyone is driving the same make/model). Southwest Airlines even states on their website that they support breastfeeding, so try not to overthink it! I did get one kid that turned around in his seat to stare, but no one else seemed to even notice.

11.) Toys to consider: Rainmaker (thanks Lauren for the tip!), baby Einstein take along tunes (thanks Gigi and Buddy!), and baby bug books (thanks Pam!). Make sure you have SO MANY pacifiers.

12.) Your Pump is a medical device, which means it doesn't "count" as a carry on. Just make sure only your pump and pumping accessories go into the bag.

13.) I bought this cooler to transport freezer bags of milk. I didn't end up pumping on vacation, but I think it would keep about 4 bags (about 24 ounces) frozen if you needed to transport milk home. I'll be road tripping back from Austin with it and can update you then (just leave me a comment if you're curious about its performance!) The best part is that you just freeze the cooler and don't have to hassle with ice packs. It's also small (the size of a lunchbox), so you could probably put it into another bag once you were past TSA.

While flying with a four month old isn't simple, it's doable. I have a feeling we'll become better at it but also know it will be a different ball game as she gets older. Thank goodness there are two of us!

We hope everyone's week is off to a great start. We'll be soaking up the last two weeks of summer time with our love. I also got my hair done today. I feel so put together as a result! I wanted something a little darker so it'd grow out better. Here's my end of summer lowlights:

Happy Tuesday to all!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Troubleshooting Breastfeeding & Increasing Supply

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I'll start out today's post with a major disclaimer: I'm NOT a pediatrician or a certified lactation consultant. I have literally no training or background in either field! If you want to speak to a certified lactation consultant, you can find one here or ask your child's pediatrician for local resources. These are just a few helpful approaches that worked for me and may be of help to you too. File under: things I wish I had known!

Tip 1: Reduce Your Stress & Remember Breastfeeding Isn't "All or Nothing"
In the beginning, breastfeeding was very stressful, and I think the stress (combined with sleep deprivation) contributed to my supply issues. I was under the impression that if I used any formula or bottle, breastfeeding would be permanently sabotaged; meanwhile, my child was dropping in the weight percentile, and I even rushed her to the ER the day after we were discharged fearing that she was dehydrated (she was, mildly). We supplemented with my pumped milk and formula up until week 6 (about 20-30% of her diet was formula, the rest breastmilk), and it did not equal the end of breastfeeding. She has been exclusively breastfed since the start of week 6 and is now 15 weeks old. She never had nipple confusion or lost interest in breastfeeding. I always breastfed her first before offering supplement, and I made sure to keep pumping (more on that in a minute). I also have a friend that uses donor breastmilk, and Human Milk 4 Human Babies is a great resource to check out. I also know people that have been exclusive pumpers.

Tip 2: Come Up With a System For Tracking 
I was so sleep deprived at the beginning that I really did have confusion about how many diapers we were going through. Next time, I will use an app or simply use one small plastic bag per day to put them in to keep track. This is really helpful at allowing you to identify if there is a true supply problem. I also wish I'd invested in this scale to track how much she was eating. Next time!

Tip 3: You Shouldn't Be Suffering
Everyone told me to expect a little pain when adjusting to breastfeeding. I was honestly in a lot of pain and didn't want to admit it. We probably had some early latch issues. I asked the pediatrician for a nipple shield, and it made a huge difference in my comfort level. Also, Willa went from screaming in frustration and taking forever to latch to immediately latching. At about 6 weeks old, she simply weaned herself off of using them, and by then, my nipples were fully healed.

Tip 4: Pump, Pump, Pump (But Don't Make My Mistakes!) 
My friend Laura advised me that young babies sometimes "suck at sucking" (pun intended). I absolutely feel this was the root of my supply problems. She couldn't get enough, so I wasn't making enough, and she was hungry. The pump helped us break this cycle, but in the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing with pumping.

  • I would pump one breast at a time for five minutes. Double pumping is much more efficient, and a pumping session is generally 15-20 minutes.
  • I was using the incorrect flange size. I thought I needed larger flanges, and in reality, I needed smaller ones. It truly is the size of your nipple (not the size of your breast) that matters here. Here is a quick sizing guide. If you are hurting after pumping, something is wrong. 
  • I didn't know how often to pump. During week 5, my SIL Annie helped me get to a breastfeeding support group at the hospital, and they advised that I try triple feeding. I did this faithfully for 3 weeks pumping after each feeding for about 10-15 minutes (yes, it was exhausting and feeding/pumping was what I spent most of my time doing). When we started, Willa was eating about 50 ounces a week of pumped milk (everything else from the breast), but as time went on, she needed less supplementation (36 ounces one week, 26 ounces the next, and then she stopped needing supplementation). We knew that she was still gaining thanks to weight checks. Finally, after pumping more than 360 ounces, I could start a freezer supply, cut back on pumping sessions, and reclaim my life! I dropped pumping sessions gradually...waiting 5-7 days between dropping a session. I went from 6-7 pumps a day to 1 over the course of about 6 weeks. I am now only pumping 3-4 ounces a day in just 11-15 minutes and have about 200 ounces frozen. I'd like to stop pumping soon and just enjoy the rest of the summer. I'll resume pumping once I start back to work in the fall. 
  • Final pumping mistake: once Willa stopped getting supplemented pumped milk, I realized that pumping to "empty" was no longer helpful. She would take forever at the next feeding. Now, I cut off pumping at 11-17 minutes depending on the day. I don't pump until I feel totally empty, and her subsequent feeding is faster and leaves me feeling confident she got enough nutrition. 
Tip #5: Supplements For You CAN Help 
I was super skeptical about supplements, but I really had success with these things: 
Fenugreek-I take about 6 capsules a day OR drink Mother's Milk Tea 
Legendairy Milk Products: Cash Cow (usually use 6 capsules a day) and Lactivist (usually use 1-2 drops a day). 

Tip #6: Your Diet Can Make a Difference 
Oatmeal, brewer's yeast, and flaxseed are supposed to help. I would put those in smoothies and in lactation cookies and eat those. (Oatmeal is quite a regular breakfast around here). For me, I also found that adding a little meat to my diet helped. Also, drink a lot of water. I don't diet (in fact, I love a nightly bowl of ice cream) and have heard friends say dieting causes their supply to crash. I try to maintain a healthy diet (lots of fruits and veggies) and eat foods with calcium (yogurt and cottage cheese are two of my favorite sources). When you start working out again, make sure that you are getting enough to eat. 

Tip #7: You Need Support 
I can't say this one enough! You need support at home! Brendan has done so much to help us make breastfeeding work. He cleans pump parts, he makes me lunch so I can eat while feeding her, he brings me all the things I can't get up and get myself since I'm feeding her (water, my phone, my book). Other great support systems are our families (who, like us, are always excited about weight gains) and the hospital breastfeeding support group. The first time I felt like breastfeeding was not a test I was failing was when I walked into that room at 5 weeks. Thank goodness my SIL could help me get there the first time. Seeing the amount Willa eats increase each visit really increased my confidence that everything is okay; plus, the support group was free. Another great system of support is your friends who have recently been through it. Note the word recently in italics. I think many women forget how hard the beginning was once they have some distance. Find your friends that recently struggled, vent, and let them walk you through it. You CAN do it!

Tip #8: You May Feel Like Quitting
Most people I've talked to, and this applies to me as well, felt like quitting in the beginning. It's just hard. You are really tired. You don't know what you're doing, and it's super stressful if your milk is slow to come in and you have to supplement. The first time a lactation consultant told me "it gets easier," I thought she was just telling me what I wanted to hear, but it really is true. It does get easier. The baby eats less frequently, eats faster, and stops waking up in the middle of the night. They get better at latching and it stops hurting. You become confident and that stress that they aren't getting enough goes away. It actually does become convenient once you no longer need to supplement. I feel really glad that I stuck with it because it truly is a special part of our relationship, but I remember how hard it was in the beginning. 

Additionally, we live in a country that, despite recent efforts, still isn't very conducive to supporting breastfeeding. Women have absurdly short maternity leaves and that probably accounts for why even though 79.2% of women start out breastfeeding, only 18.8% of babies are being exclusively breastfed at 6 months (Texas has an even lower rate than the national average). Many women feel guilty when they struggle, but they are doing absolutely everything they can and the support just isn't there.  

Tip #9: Repeat After Me 
You are a good mom--No matter what ends up happening with breastfeeding. Toss your guilt to the curb and know that your baby will love you no matter what. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Erin Condren 2019 LifePlanner Review and Coupon

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

If you know me, you know that I look forward to the arrival of my new Erin Condren lifeplanner every year. 

Before we get into the review, I'd like to state for the record that I purchase my own Erin Condren products and am not compensated in any way by the company. I just really like the products. Should you decide to give their LifePlanner (or anything else EC) a try after reading my review, I'd really appreciate it if you'd use my personal referral link (you will save $10 as a new customer, and I will get a $10 credit, so it's a win/win! After you sign up for an account, the coupon is emailed to you). 

First, a few details: There are not a LOT of options for the LifePlanner. You can get a hardcover book or a spiral bound now (which uses interchangeable covers); I love the look of the hardcover, but there's only one design option, and the calendar and weeks are undated, so I'm sticking with my spiral until EC ups their hardcover game. With the spiral, you can personalize your cover (many of the designs, you can choose any color combination you want), and you can choose the color of your spiral (I picked black). You can also choose if you want remaining months of 2018 + 2019 or just 2019. I always buy my LifePlanner in the summers, but I only get it for the upcoming Jan-Dec year. I personally like a less heavy book, but I want to be able to start planning for coming years. 

This year, I used the collage design, which I also used for my first EC planner. I've used all the photo design options now and wish EC would create some more, but this one is cute. 

This year's freebies include a large coil clip, a couple of gift tags (we use them for wine bottles, compliment cards (which I don't personally use, but they're cute), and a 20% off coupon to give to a friend (leave a comment if you're interested). I don't clip in my pouch because I like my book to stay flat. I love how the backs of the covers are dry erase. I always write my student's accommodations in sharpie for each semester. Then I erase them for the new semester. It helps remind me to make sure everyone is getting their accommodations on a daily basis. 

The paper quality, like last year's, is really elevated with these books compared to years prior to 2018. I actually think the paper is better this year than in 2018. 

This 12 box spread is supposed to be for monthly goal setting, but you could use it for anything. Like other years, the start of the book also contains an at a glance calendar for July 2018-December 2019. 

The start of each month has a ruled page...last year's design was funky, and I like this plain but practical approach better. 

Monthly spread has stayed the same. I track my weight on this spread and also track my bills on the column to the right. I never forget to make a payment. Putting a mini version of the next month's calendar at the bottom of that right hand column is a new addition, and I love it.

The big change I made this year was switching from vertical view to hourly view (you can also choose horizontal). The hours each day run from 6AM to 7PM with two blank lines at the bottom of each day). My schedule is sure to be a little more chaotic next year, so I appreciate having more space to write down commitments. I like that they added check-off circles to the column on the left and kept the thankful thought box (they don't label it thankful thought anymore, but I still use it for that).

The notes section this year still includes lined paper. There is also dotted grid paper and coloring pages. I love these llamas; though I have yet to make use of my 2018 coloring pages (I think the idea is supposed to be de-stressing, but I don't personally want to use my downtime that way). 

This contacts page is a great addition to the planner. They even made a contacts tab, so you can easily find it. 

2020 at a this page for jotting down dates of upcoming conferences, weddings, and special events. 

EC improved on the stickers this year and added some really cute designs. I've been terrible about decorating my planner this year, but I love doing it when I have the time. 

I get a lot of use out of the back folder, but I don't use my perpetual calendar. Maybe I should start using this "important passwords" page though because I constantly forget my passwords to websites, and it's really annoying. 

It will be interesting to see if having a child necessitates moving to a Google calendar. I've had a lot of success with paper planning thus far and hope it continues to be a good system for us.

Happy planning!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Another Austin Recap

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It has been nearly a month since my last check in style post, and so much has happened since then. After a few weeks at home where our focus was mostly on relaxation and family time (and some writing for Brendan), we headed back to Austin again. We celebrated my birthday a day late with family (photos by Amanda).

Amanda made this gorgeous and delicious FBI cake. She's winning cousin of the year! I need to bake her a cake since she's made two for me this year.  

The next day, Brendan gave my parents a ride to the airport. They headed to Las Vegas, and we looked forward to getting a change of scenery in Austin with the house to ourselves.

Our morning walks instantly became cuter as baby fawns are populating my parents' neighborhood.

When it's just the two of us in Austin, we always make it a point to try new restaurants. I loved Chi'Lantro. Two words: Kimchi Fries. 

Willa enjoyed her first Star Wars experience as we found Star Wars, The Last Jedi on Netflix. 

Amanda and Matt had us over for the most delicious dinner ever! They made lamb and popovers. Plus, they had ice cream. They are both winning cousin of the year! 

We were out the door early on the 4th of July for the neighborhood parade. Once a small gathering, the parade now has sponsors, includes the mayor, and every street in the neighborhood fills with people parking. Luckily, we could just walk. Willa slept through most of her first parade. 

That night, we drove to Elda's house for dinner and fireworks. Elda made us dinner, and we loved visiting with her and her friend Carolyn and enjoying fireworks from the balcony. It was a cloudy night, but we could still see lots!

The next day was our five year anniversary. Brendan picked my parents up from the airport that afternoon, and my mom was back home in time to babysit while we enjoyed dinner at Barley Swine. We took a family picture before we left. 

This was our first visit to Barley Swine, which Amanda and Matt recommended to us. We opted to do the chef's 10 course tasting menu, and it was a really enjoyable meal. The ambiance at Barley Swine is really pretty and intimate, the service was outstanding, and they really went out of their way to add special touches for our anniversary. If you are celebrating a special occasion, it is worth the splurge. We'll be remembering that meal for a long time! 

The next day, we visited with my parents. Then my mom babysat again, so we could meet Cassie and John for dinner and see The Antipodes at Hyde Park Theatre. The show is by Annie Baker, and this is the second US production; amazing show: funny, weird, and a must see for any writer especially. Love HPT and how much their shows make us think. Few things in Austin have stayed as wonderful as I remember, but HPT is still a true gem.

July 7th is Corley's birthday, and we got to spend the day together! She met Willa, and then we got to do brunch just the two of us at Chez Zee. She lives in Sacramento now, so it was such a joy to see her for the first time since our trip to San Francisco in March 2017.

Later, the celebrating continued at Pinthouse Pizza! We saw Cassie and John again plus some people we went to HS with that I really enjoyed catching up with. I had my first true breastfeeding in public experience too. 

We headed home on Sunday, and Lola & Zoe were ver happy to see us. We have plenty to keep us busy before our next trip! Hope everyone is loving summer! 

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