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! 


Thursday, July 5, 2018

5 Years, My Dear

Greetings faithful blog readers,

On our wedding day five years ago, I had no way of knowing all the places (both actual and internal) that our marriage would take us. As the sun went down that night, we stood under a live oak tree and made promises and exchanged rings; our family and closest friends surrounded us. Afterward, there was delicious food and hours of dancing, and I was so happy that it made me nervous (as good luck always does).

These five years have gone by quickly, and I'm proud of the life we've built together: one that has given us both space to grow, one where we each honor and celebrate and accept the other. 

There was a time in my life when I didn't even believe it was possible to find that kind of relationship, but early in our marriage, we made one simple rule, and I think it's worth sharing here. The rule is: we can't lose our cool at the same time. Such an easy rule right? But there really is an art to it. This goes beyond being a courtesy because, at times, I really do think our physical and mental well being depends on adhering to it. 

It can simply mean taking on a small but essential responsibility as an unspoken agreement, like how Brendan will make sure we both get out of bed while I'll ensure we both get to work on time, but the most important use of the rule is during difficult times. Those times when the other person is struggling, and you have to be the one thinking clearly enough to help. There are times that one of us has made the other eat, taken care of everything at home, has put aside their own grief just to let the other heal. There are times each of us has tabled our own concerns and taken care of both of us to ensure the other has the time and space and clarity to write. When an international flight is missed, the rule ensures that at least one of us remains clear minded enough to find a hotel and rebook it. When one of us is a little too drunk, we can take for granted the other will be able get us home (and make sure ibuprofen and water is next to the bed). The rule accepts that anger, depression, self-depreciation, frustration, mistakes, and bad decisions are inevitable. The trick is to simply sometimes be the one to stay out of the muck, so you can pull the other person out. 

The other day, we were talking about how marriage is about so much more than love. It's about weathering the experiences that break you with someone's about knowing the other person will be there when you can't remember what to do. Our rule ensures that even when you are at your worst, there's one person who remembers how much they love you at your best. 

The day we got engaged, we promised one another that we would always treat each other so well. We've learned what that looks like for us--the honesty, support, and empathy we need to give. 

Love has much to teach us. It teaches us about each other and about ourselves. When you think you've learned everything about the other person, you find there is still more to know. There are new adventures and surprises. 

My wish for us is that we continue to discover together and to give each other grace. I hope we can embrace life with bravery because we know that we can always turn to each other for strength. I hope our daughter knows that strength is there, in abundance, for her. 

Here's to the best five years and all that's to come. Here's to at least one of us always keeping our cool!
<3 S 
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