Our Nourishment Journey

by Angela Parish

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

I am a proud “lactivist” and breastfeeding Mama of almost 17 month old twins. There was a time when I thought I would never get here. Not because motherhood and nourishing my babies isn’t something I desperately wanted, but because I struggled (and still struggle) with infertility. Infertility isn’t really part of my breastfeeding (and bottle feeding) journey but it is part of a more complete picture of me as a mother and as a person. My husband and I struggled the dark years of infertility from November 2009 until the conception of our first successful (In Vitro) pregnancy in August of 2011. It was a long and painful year and ten months.

Our first son, Elijah was born in April 2012. It had been my dream to nurse Elijah, exclusively. I did so for about five and a half months before introducing solids. He was developmentally advanced…sitting up unassisted at 4 1⁄2 months. We practiced babyled weaning with him and because he showed all signs of readiness, we allowed Elijah to experiment and ingest a slowly increasing variety of whole foods.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Nursing Elijah, my first born.

I produced A LOT of milk and so I had bloodwork done so Elijah and I could donate milk through Mothers Milk Bank. We also made several donations to private individuals struggling with supply. It was a very fulfilling time in my life as I not only fed my baby but also helped feed others in need. As we neared Elijah’s first birthday, I began to stash my milk again. We knew we wanted to pursue more children and had decided that after Elijah’s first birthday we would have another fresh in vitro cycle. This would require weaning my baby. And so by Elijah’s first birthday, he was no longer breastfeeding but did continue to get Mama’s previously pumped milk every day until he was almost 16 months old. Although I think Elijah would have been an excellent candidate for full term (extended) nursing, the choice to wean was the right one for our family and it resulted in our beautiful fraternal twin boys born in February 2014.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

We had planned an HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) for our twin boys, Patrick and Rory. But God had other plans for our family. After about a week of prodromal labor, and what felt like an eternity of some very difficult and painful labor at home with no progress, we transferred to the hospital. I continued to make no progress for several hours until the Pitocin and epidural had been in place. When we arrived we had been turned away at Texas Children’s Hospital by the OB on call because we were a home birth transfer. However a Fellow on duty not only agreed to take me as a patient but allowed me a trial of a vaginal birth….and actually seemed excited about it. Still, I was heartbroken. I found out that I had to push in the operating room and my midwife, doula and birth photographer would not be allowed in. This was not the birth I had planned.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

I was put on an operating table, forced to lay on my back on a table that was broken and push. I got my first VBAC. Rory Mark was born and immediately taken away so that I could start working on Baby B. This was not the plan. At home, I was supposed to nurse Rory to keep contractions going, and get on hands and knees if necessary because Baby B often needs encouragement. I don’t think they even showed me Rory, let alone allowed me to nurse him. One thing that I was not expecting was not being able to feel my tummy tighten from contractions once one baby was out. My stomach was so tight and stretched from pregnancy that once I gave birth to the first baby, I could no longer feel when I was supposed to push. And the nurse that was supposed to be helping me with that was not telling me when to push.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

In the end, little Patrick was in distress and I ended up having an emergency cesarean. (So much that they started cutting me before the anesthesiologist was in the room and I felt EVERYTHING for the first few minutes.) Patrick was not breathing nor did he have a heartbeat when he was first born. His vitals started shortly after birth, but he was whisked away to the NICU before I could see him. He was placed on a cooling blanket treatment for four days and not allowed to nurse (or get anything other than an IV) or be picked up. I got to see the him next morning, but had to leave Rory in our hospital room because he was not allowed in the NICU. My twins, who had been together for 38 weeks 2 days, were separated for the first time.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Rory and I seeing Patrick from our hospital room. 

When day four arrived and Patrick was taken off his cooling treatment, the first thing I wanted to do was nurse him. He had a lot of catching up to do! And to my surprise, my tiny boy latched on right away! It was a weak latch but a latch nonetheless. It was my intention for this baby and his twin to be exclusively breastfed. But plans change. And in order for him to come home more quickly, he needed to be given bottles of Mama’s pumped (and some donated) milk. There would have been no way for me to exclusively breast feed both babies when they were not allowed to be in the same room. And even if I could have exclusively breast fed Patrick, the NICU doctors liked to keep track of intake and I knew the bottle would get my baby home faster. I went down at every feeding I could and administered his bottles myself, also offering the breast so he could practice. I called his nurse after every feeding I was unable to make it to in order to find out how many cc’s he had consumed. It was two steps forward, one step back for twelve days. During that time I consulted with the hospital lactation consultant who basically told me I was doing everything right and while that was flattering, it was not at all helpful. I knew that once I got him home, I would need to call BABES, a very reputable and supportive lactation consultant organization here in Houston.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Patrick came home on Valentine’s Day, 2014 which was my original due date. I always nursed him first. And then I would offer the bottle. He came home on a Friday. By Wednesday, my lactation consultant, Leah, came to our home and gave me some amazing advice on how to hold him so he had a better angle. By the following Friday, he was OFF THE BOTTLE! We were so blessed! I know it would not be that easy for everyone. I was and am so grateful that we had bottles when we needed them. And I am also grateful that we no longer did. Both parts of our journey are precious and special. Both provided needed nourishment to my baby. And even when I was bottle feeding him my pumped milk, I felt this incredible connection and bond as I nourished his little body.

Patrick has now been nursing for one year, four months and three weeks. Rory has been nursing for one year, four months, three weeks and four days. Neither shows any sign of stopping any time soon and while nursing toddlers (especially TWIN toddlers) presents its own challenges, I love this season of life. They both had Mama’s milk exclusively until their first birthday as planned, consisting of mainly nursing with occasional bottles so Mama could get out for a bit. Mamas needs breaks in order to be good mamas! It has been an amazing journey providing nourishment to all three of my children and I look forward to doing it again one day.

Angela Parish, guest post, Our Nourishment Journey

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Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post
 Angela, who is a photo-junkie, lives with her husband and three beautiful boys in Houston. 
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Carrot Fennel (Lactation) Slaw – Feed Your Whole Family

by Carrie Saum

What do you do when you have multiple food needs in your family?

For example: Dad wants protein.  Kids want carbs. Mom could use some milk boosting foods. And EVERYONE needs veggies. You can’t spend a fortune or the energy accommodating everyone all the time, right?  Because you are a mom and you have to feed yourself and your family and maybe the neighborhood, too.

We joined a co-op a few years ago to purchase high-quality animal protein that was raised properly, humanely, and that was affordable.  That might not be possible for you, and that’s okay.  But it felt very important to us and we made the switch, even though it meant eating slightly less meat.

As a new mom, I fell in love with my crockpot.  I love the idea of putting a few ingredients into a pot, walking away for the day, and then eating a fantastic home cooked meal that night.  It seemed to meet all of the criteria for feeding my family: inexpensive, tasty, satisfying, balanced, and full of nutrition.

My favorite crockpot recipe by far is this Pulled Pork.  It’s incredibly versatile and easy to serve, reheat, remake, and freeze.  I make this fennel slaw recipe for the family and use it in pulled pork tacos.  The sweetness of the slaw pairs perfectly with the saltiness of the pork. It has a fighting chance of pleasing the whole family, and boosting your milk production, too!

pulled pork

Ingredients:

  • 2 bulbs of fennel, thinly sliced (I recommend using a mandolin.)
  • 2-3 carrots, shaved (I use a veggie peeler.)
  • Cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • Sea Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine fennel, carrots and as much cilantro as you’d like in a bowl.  I like LOTS of cilantro.
  2. Add vinegar, honey, S&P and mix thoroughly.
  3. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving to set.

My favorite preparation is this on top of pulled pork tacos with a little goat cheese a an ice cold limeade  to wash it down with.

Enjoy your summer, enjoy your family!
Carrie

If you like this recipe, check out this recipe for brussel sprouts or Charlie Brown Bars over on Our Stable Table.

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*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

___________________________

IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge.
Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and author. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son and writes atOurStableTable.com.

 

 

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Strawberry Fennel Salad

by Carrie Saum

It’s springtime, which means everything is blooming, alive, and vital. My body starts craving fresh green veggies, berries, and other seasonal vegetables. One of my favorite salads for this late spring and summer?  Strawberry and fennel with baby kale and goat cheese.  Salads are fast, easy to prep and it doesn’t take much to make them a little fancy.

Getting enough green leafy veggies can also be a challenge for breastfeeding or pumping mamas, and we need those powerful plants to bring nourishment to our babes. Iron is a key component to maternal and infant health, and pregnancy and breastfeeding can take a massive toll on our iron stores. It’s important to keep that in mind as we care for our tiny people and also care for ourselves.

One key component of iron absorption that is commonly overlooked is the necessity of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a powerful role in assimilation of iron in the body. Think about it this way: Your body produces milk, but the milk doesn’t do much without a way to move it. We use our babies mouths or breast pumps to deliver the milk to the right place so it can be utilized.   In the same way, iron needs vitamin C to deliver it to our bodies’ cells for maximum benefit.  (If you’re interested in learning more about the important role of iron and vitamin c, read this great info from the CDC.)

This salad uses plenty of fresh, iron-rich green veggies, and seasonal strawberries, which are loaded with vitamin C. The addition of fennel provides a gentle boost to your milk supply as well as slightly sweet, bright crunch with a hint of licorice flavor that makes all of the flavors pop.

FennelLactationSalad

If you’re steering clear of cheese, I suggest ripe avocado to add creaminess and healthy fat.  I also have a bottle of pomegranate balsamic vinegar that I use for things like this.  As far as berries are concerned, I tried this with blueberries because we went berry picking last summer and found ourselves with five pounds of blueberry goodness.  IT WAS AMAZING.  I regret not getting a photo of it. But strawberries are a great addition to this salad, and have enough vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron in the greens.

If you use baby kale, this salad stays fresh for 48 hours in the refrigerator, so it’s convenient to make one large salad and snack on it for a couple of days. If baby kale is too much for you or your little one, try baby spinach for a milder flavor and tender texture. It just won’t keep longer than a few hours once it’s dressed.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups baby kale (Baby kale is more like spring greens and less like…kale.)
  • 10 fresh strawberries, sliced and halved
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced thin (I recommend a mandolin)
  • 3-4 oz goat cheese crumbles, or one small avocado, diced
  • small handful of microgreens (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  • red wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • Herbs d’Provenance
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Combine all prepped produce in a bowl.
  2. Top with goat cheese and herbs and chia seeds if you’re using them.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegars. Finish with a few shakes of salt and pepper.
  4. Let everyone know you’re a salad magician.

We don’t need to make this harder than it absolutely has to be, mamas.  Keep it simple, easy, and tasty.  The fact that it’s packed full of nutrition just makes it that much better.

It’s Not Easy Being Green,
Carrie

If you like this recipe, check out this Kale Waldorf Salad or Roasted Cauliflower Soup over on Our Stable Table.

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.
IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.

 

 

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MiLK Conference Call for Speakers

breastfeeding and formula feeding conference

Call for speakers

MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference,

2015

 

Calling for submissions from clinicians, scholars, students, artists, mothers, fathers, researchers, and others familiar with infant feeding from clinical and social perspectives. Submissions of a wide variety are welcome, including research presentations, theoretical papers, academic papers, creative submissions including personal essays, social commentary, literature, and performance art.

We are looking for presentations on topics related to infant feeding and maternal health including but not limited to: continuity of care and infant nutrition, the diagnoses and care of physiological barriers to breastfeeding, sociological barriers involved in infant feeding, anthropological perspectives of infant nutrition, analysis of marketing in the maternal baby industry, conscientious marketing, exploration of infant feeding and child nutrition controversies, policies in the workplace for family support and breastfeeding, politics of infant feeding and policy making, postpartum depression and mental health research related to infant feeding, infant feeding practices in subsequent children, sociological family support and infant and child nutrition, infant feeding education, infant nutrition in public health, feeding multiples, managing maternal health issues through breastfeeding, nonviolent communication strategies for supporting infant feeding, developing infant feeding support products, immediate postpartum infant feeding support, the impact of birth interventions on maternal breastfeeding goals, maternal and pediatric allergies and infant nutrition, premature infants and nutrition, feminism and infant feeding, natural duration breastfeeding, weaning, infant nutrition and sleep, partner support and education, breastfeeding after breast reduction, socioeconomic and racial disparities in infant feeding support, breastmilk pumping, inducing lactation and relactation, the role of infant nutrition in relation to dental care, and the future of infant nutrition support.

Submissions accepted through February 28, 1015 and close March 1, 2015.

Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference, is a MommyCon conference envisioned by The Leaky Boob with the support of Ergobaby. Designed to bridge professional conferences for clinicians, health care providers, academics, and researchers, with consumer conferences for parents, Milk aims to educate, inspire, and support parents in feeding their children, as well as the people that support them including nutrition, lactation, maternal, and pediatric health care providers.

To submit to speak at Milk 2015, please use this form.

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Baby Explains- Normal Newborn Behavior

By Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC 

 

Dear Mommy,

Thank you so much for breastfeeding me!  You probably already know that your milk is designed especially for me, and is better than anything else you could feed me.

I know that right now, you feel like your friends who aren’t breastfeeding their babies seem to have an easier time of things.  Those other babies sleep soundly and longer between feedings, they drink so much, and they don’t fuss to eat all the time like I do!  I can tell you’re getting a little bit frustrated, and I hear all the advice you’re getting … my grandma says you weren’t breastfed and you turned out just fine, my daddy says he feels like he can’t do anything to soothe me, and that lady with the cold hands that you call “doctor” gave you a can of something that she says will help me grow faster.  You’re tired and frustrated because taking care of me just seems too hard, but please mommy, before you give up this yummy breastfeeding thing, let me explain some of my behavior to you.  It might help you feel better.

First, if you and I were separated after I was born, for any reason (maybe it was hospital protocol that I be left under a warmer, maybe you were recovering from surgery), I’ve got some catching up to do, because I probably lost more weight than my friends who got to stay close to their mommies.  It’s OK … I’m really good at letting you know when I need some more calories, but it’s important that you let me breastfeed lots and lots, even if my grandma says “he just ate!!”  In my first few days, the nurses at the hospital might tell you I’m hungry and your body can’t make enough milk for me … but mommy, that colostrum from your breasts is some awesome stuff!  It’s packed with protein, which binds to any bilirubin in my body (elevated bilirubin causes jaundice in more than half of newborns) so I can poop it on out.  It’s also a great laxative, which makes it easy for me to get all that black, tarry meconium out of me and we can move on to the seedy, yellow-brown poops that are much easier to clean off my sweet tushie.  Now, the colostrum is really thick and sticky, and I’m so small and still figuring out how to move my tongue, and we’re both still trying to get comfortable together, so it might take me 20 minutes or longer to suck out just ONE TEASPOON (5-7 mL) of that liquid gold.

But it’s OK, mommy!  You know, there is really nowhere I’d rather be than in your arms, hearing your sweet voice and smelling you  — even though you haven’t had a shower since before I was born, you’re just delicious to me.  And something else you should know about me … even though I have a really cute “Buddha belly” that looks all chubby, the capacity of my stomach on the day I’m born is just 5-7 milliliters – that’s the size of a small marble!  You’re the smartest woman in my whole world, so I know you see the connection here!  The amount of colostrum in your breast is exactly the capacity of my tummy!  My stomach walls on my first day of life are very rigid and won’t stretch; this is why, if anyone tries to feed me with a bottle, I’m going to spit most of it back up again, even though I eagerly suck at it.  See, mommy, I only have two ways to send and receive information from my brand-new world – I can cry, and I can suck.  I can’t see much, and all these sounds are so much louder than when I was inside you, and I can use my hands to help me orient myself on your breast, but crying and sucking are pretty much how I make sense of everything.

From the Heart Photography – Tiffany Hileman

I know it seems really confusing, mommy, that I would want to suck and suck and suck even though my tummy is full.  When I suck, lots of great things happen for both of us.  I keep my own digestion moving by triggering the involuntary digestive muscles in peristalsis – moving the contents of my stomach along because I’m still moving my mouth and tongue, which are the beginning of my digestive tract.  When you let me do all this suckling at your breast, I can very easily regulate how I suck, depending on why I’m sucking at any given moment.  You can probably feel when I’m suckling nutritively and swallowing lots of milk, and when I’m kind of relaxed about it, feeding sort of like I’m savoring a bowl of ice cream … you know how sometimes, you scrape just a tiny bit onto your spoon, because you want it to last a long time?  To me, you’re better than ice cream!  But on a bottle, it’s impossible for me to suck and not get whatever’s in there, and that’s confusing to me, so I might keep sucking because that’s what my instinct is telling me to do, or I might realize my tummy hurts (because even on day 10, my stomach capacity is only a ping pong ball) and I’ll cry and cry because all I really know is crying and sucking!

A word about these instincts I feel … I really can’t help it, mommy, that I want to suckle so much.  It’s just how I came out, and there doesn’t seem to be much that I can do about it.  Please believe me, I’m not trying to trick you!  In a few weeks, this need lets up a tiny bit, but for now, suckling is my M.O.  But, do you want to know something really cool?  I’m not the only one who benefits!  When I suckle at your breast in these early days, your body actually activates prolactin receptors!  Isn’t that amazing?  In my first two weeks, the higher I make your prolactin levels go (my suckling triggers a prolactin surge in your body), the more of these receptors get activated in your breasts, and the higher your potential milk production will be for as long as you choose to breastfeed me.  That’s one reason your lactation consultant tells you to wait on introducing that bottle or that binky– this prolactin receptor thing only happens for the first 10-14 days.  After that, the prolatcin surges when I breastfeed are much smaller, so the more receptors there are to gobble up what prolactin is there, the more easily you’ll make all the milk I need.

Besides prolactin, there’s oxytocin, another hormone I activate when I am at your breast.  Oxytocin is part of what makes you so addicted to me!  It’s “the love hormone” and it helps you feel relaxed and content when we’re breastfeeding.  Go ahead, mommy, exhale and relax!  It’s OK!  Oxytocin release is triggered by nipple stimulation, not necessarily milk removal (though when things are going well, my stimulation of your nipples usually means I’m removing milk!).  Now, I know this might sound a little awkward coming from your baby, but I need you to know something about oxytocin.  There are only three events in your life that trigger oxytocin release: nipple stimulation (like when I’m breastfeeding), labor (the oxytocin released during childbirth stimulates uterine contractions, which is why nipple stimulation might be suggested when labor stalls, and also explains why sometimes, after you breastfeed me, you feel an increased expulsion of lochia and maybe some cramping), and … orgasm!!  Isn’t neat that the same hormone plays a part in making me, birthing me, and feeding me, and it’s a hormone that makes you feel GOOD to do all three?

Mommy, I know you are trying your very best for me and you’ve been worried about whether your body can satisfy my appetite.  I know you’re used to being able to measure everything, and your breasts don’t have markers on them to tell you how much milk I got.  Maybe you used a breast pump, and that confirmed your worries that there isn’t much milk there – but mommy, please understand that a good pump can mimic me, but your body wasn’t designed to have all these wonderful hormone surges for a cold piece of plastic with a noisy vacuum motor.  You know that feeling you get when you hold my warmth and weight, smell how delicious I am, and nom nom nom on my fat cheeks?  That feeling helps you make milk!  That feeling is part of the whole system that was designed to make you need to be close to me, just as much as I need to be close to you.  And mommy, I know you’re very busy, and important, and there’s so much you used to do before I came, and I know right now, it feels like you’ll never do those things again, and our house is getting messy, and maybe that scares you.  But please know, every moment you spend holding me, every time you gaze lovingly at me, and every hour you spend breastfeeding me in these early days is so important to me, because you’re all I know.  I love daddy and grandma and all of our friends, but I’m designed to be happiest and least stressed when I’m with you.  Can you wear me in a sling or soft carrier after I’m milk-drunk?  I really like listening to your heart beating while I sleep, and you are warm and soft and smell so good.  That space between your breasts is perfectly sized for my head, and there’s nothing I like better than the feel of your skin against mine.  Well, maybe there is something I like better … I love it when you sleep next to me after we’ve been breastfeeding.  Oh, mommy, when you nurse me while lying down, you relax and your milk flows so nicely, and I feel like you’re so happy to be with me, and I’m very special to you because you don’t have to run off and do something else as soon as I’ve let your breast go.

And mommy, I have a promise to make to you.  I can’t say for sure when it will happen, but there will come a day when I need you a little bit less intensely.  My feedings will get more organized, my weight gain will stabilize, and sometimes, I’ll even like when my daddy or grandma or other loving person holds me.  But today, I need you.  You’ll always be my number one, even after we’re done breastfeeding, but I will learn, like you did, to defer my needs and to trust others to meet them once you and I get a good thing going.  Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me so far. Until you start giving me an allowance, I hope my good health, sweet smiles, coos, and giggles will sustain you!

Love,

Baby


 

Many thanks to the hundreds of readers that shared so many beautiful photos of their newborn babies.  There is just a small sampling here but you all have incredible photographs of your beautiful babies.  Thank you for being willing to share and to all the photographers of these precious images!

 

Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC and La Leche League Leader, has written articles for the La Leche League publications Leaven and Breastfeeding Today, and is the author of the La Leche League tear-off sheet Vitamin D, Your Baby, and You. She is a frequent presenter at breastfeeding education events. Excited about her work toward a Master of Public Health, Diana hopes to work in public service as an advisor to policymakers in maternal/child health and nutrition. Diana, mother to three breastfed children, has served as a clarinetist on active Army duty in the West Point Band since 1995. Diana enjoys running, writing, skiing, and cross-stitching when she finds herself with spare time.  She also writes at Normal, like breathing

 

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The Best Laid Plans

Today I’m so pleased to get to share this guest post from Maureen Alley, a regular on TLB Facebook page and forums. A real life story of making plans, seeing them change and learning to adapt. Struggle, hope, reality, and support all play important roles in her tale. We need to hear more stories like this, I hope you love it as much as I did! Maureen originally wrote this for a blog contest on Mommypotamus and I appreciate the opportunity to share it here and as always, if you have something you’d like to submit for a guest post just e-mail me at [email protected]

I had a plan. I had a couple different plans, actually. There was one for the year leading up to getting pregnant—switch to organic foods and all natural soaps and lotions—and there was a plan for during the pregnancy, which was all about glowing, gentle yoga, and cute maternity clothes. I had a birth plan too, of course, which involved no drugs, perhaps a water tub, and a general celebration of birth and my body’s abilities. I also had a plan for after the birth day, which was a bit vague. (I knew it involved breastfeeding, but I didn’t think much beyond that.)
Everything was going according to plan, right up until about the tenth week of pregnancy. I had a blood test that showed elevated levels of hormones, which hit my internal panic button. In an effort to allay my fears, my OB sent me in for an ultrasound. My husband and I were waiting anxiously to hear the confirmation that our baby was ok, and there was nothing to worry about.

“Do twins run in your family?”

I didn’t think much of the technician’s first question. I figured it was routine, something she asked everyone. So I answered, “No, why?”

“Because I see two babies in there!”

At first, I thought that exhilarating news meant the end of my best-laid plans. My OB began tossing around words like “elevated risk”, “c-section”, and “prematurity”. I realized that I had two choices: I could acquiesce to her plan for me, or I could find a way to create a better reality for myself and my babies. So, I signed up for a natural-childbirth class, fired my old OB and found a new one, one who had conversations with me instead of talking at me.

I attended my childbirth classes, Le Leche League meetings and kept practicing yoga. I befriended a midwife, and collected positive twin stories. I got acupuncture, prenatal massage, and super-fruit smoothies. I visualized the birth I wanted, I talked and sang to the babies who were stretching my womb and my imagination. I woke up every day of my second trimester smiling and rubbing my burgeoning belly. My original plan was altered but still basically intact.

Because my husband and I decided to stay within the medical establishment, I also saw a perinatologist. He was a specialist in caring for mothers of multiples, and he won my trust with honest answers to my copious questions. So when Dr. M dropped the “b word”, I listened. Bed rest?! Bed rest would ruin my hope for an active pregnancy, but I decided to plan for it accordingly. I squared away everything at work, found a substitute for my class, and checked up on my short-term disability policy. I honestly thought that if I worked so hard at preparing for bed rest it would never happen. However, right before I hit 24 weeks, I was put on modified bed rest due to a structurally unsound cervix.

I was devastated at first, but I decided to roll with the punches and enjoy the quiet weeks I had before my babies arrived. I had a lot of weeks to go, but I truly enjoyed my first Friday of bed rest. I rested, reflected, and fidgeted. I was feeling “off”, but attributed that to the fact my professional life had just ended for awhile and I was anticipating being bored. I spent that Saturday turning and readjusting myself on the couch. I was irritable and short with my husband. When, around seven pm, I started cramping in my low back and getting a feeling of heaviness in my uterus, I called my midwife friend. I explained how I was feeling and she told me to go the hospital. Really? Well, if the midwife-who-hates-hospitals tells you to go, you go.

Once at the hospital, getting hooked up to a contraction monitor was the first step in a nightmarish journey through pre-term labor. I learned all about—and experienced—terb, mag, and the chilling dread brought about by a visit from the neonatologist who told us what to expect if our boys should be born so devastatingly early. At this stage, all my energy and focus went inward, to convince my body to keep those precious baby boys on the inside. They were not done cooking, and I was determined to let them finish.

For the next ten weeks I stayed still, literally and figuratively. I prayed and bargained and hoped against hope that we would make it to 38 weeks. I kept up the visualization, but after every subsequent visit to the labor and delivery floor, every new plunge of the needle, every time I hooked myself up to the home contraction monitor, I grieved for what I was losing. I knew I would not have a peaceful drug free birth. I had lost the pregnancy I wanted, but I still had my babies, and for that I was grateful with every fiber of my being. I clung so hard to that fact that I didn’t allow myself to feel much else.

Just before I hit 34 weeks gestation, I had to go back to the hospital. Never in my wildest dreams did the drugs not work. All of my imagined scenarios told me that if I had to be readmitted, the magnesium sulfate would work and the contractions would stop. This time, they did not. I was delivered of my babies on February 9, 2010 at 2:07 and 2:08 pm via c-section. It was everything I did not want. The next three weeks were a blur of pain, hormone-driven despair, leaving my babies in the hospital NICU when I was discharged, endless visits to that very same NICU to see my babies, and pumping.

My mother—my angel, my guide, my support, how many names do we have for mother?—made me pump my breast milk for my babies every two hours, day and night. My supply soared, and I delivered the “liquid love” faithfully to the nurses to give my boys. I latched on to breastfeeding as eagerly as a baby to a breast. It was the one thing I had left, the last shred of my plans that I could accomplish. I was grieving the loss of the pregnancy and the birth I had so desperately hoped for. I realize that this may sound selfish or petty. My babies had been born successfully, and barring some serious reflux issues, were healthy. I had everything to be joyous about, but try telling a post-partum mom how to feel! It would have been easier to scale a mountain than regulate my feelings at that point.

Pride was one positive emotion that permeated the cloud. I was so proud of being able to pump 6 ounces per session! My husband and I learned how to feed premature babies from slow flow bottles, and we brought each of them home in due time. My babies were getting optimum nutrition, but I still felt something was missing. That something was undoubtedly sleep, but it was also a stronger bond with my babies that I was craving. Finally, one day my mom told me, in essence, to “Sit down and nurse your babies.” Their mouths were big enough at this point, and they were more than eager. By some miracle of chance, there was no nipple confusion at all. Both of my squally squirmy squeaky baby boys took to the breast like pros. Because they were! They wanted the comfort and fullness of mama’s breasts. And it gave me unspeakable joy to give it to them.

Maureen’s little guys at 7 weeks, already defending their b@@b and nursing like pros!

I nursed my babies when they were hungry, when they were sleepy, and when they were hurting from the reflux. Nursing became the only thing that soothed my fussier twin, so we had marathon nursing sessions, the longest of which was four hours straight. I was a zombie shell of a woman, but my children were thriving and growing. I was a mama.

Now, seven months into this crazy adventure, I am still nursing my boys, day and night, although we are all sleeping more. My confidence grows with each day, as do my boys. I have become very adept at juggling two wiggling bodies when it’s time to nurse, and I’ve managed to accomplish tandem feeding just about everywhere we’ve been, including in the (non-moving) car and on the beach. But my favorite nursing sessions are the quiet ones at home, with both boys snuggled around me like commas. Their sighs and hums are my favorite music, and my heart melts every time one of them stirs to check and make sure I’m still there before drifting off again. The miracle of hormones, those that I cursed just a few short months ago, is that nursing makes me feel so good. The love-chemicals get released each time one of my boys latches on and they go to work, easing the tension of the day and softening the ragged, visceral edges of my memories of the early days.

I didn’t get the pregnancy I wanted, and I certainly didn’t get the birth I wanted, but I got the children I dreamed of. I got two healthy, happy boys, and I get to nurse them every day. Breastfeeding has eased my heart while providing for my children. I am lucky, I know I am. It couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it…

Still going strong!
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