goodbye dream feed, hello food-food

22 weeks

I don’t want to brag or anything but you are amazing.

Last week, as you we struggled with some nighttime waking magically reversed by Baby Merlin’s Magic (they don’t call it that for nothing) Sleepsuit, we also were working to wean you from your “dream feed.”

Since you were born, we’ve been giving you a late-night feed to help get you through the night. Once we had you on something resembling a regular schedule, you were feeding at 11 (pretty miserable for all of us, especially since it was followed by feedings at 3 and 7 a.m.). When your pediatrician gave us the green light to stop waking you throughout the night to feed you and you showed us you were able to sleep more than four hours without waking, we moved that late feeding to 10 (better, not great). Eventually, we settled on a feeding at 9:30; this worked out pretty well, as it allowed us to eat dinner, clean up, shower, get ready for bed and tuck into the couch for some TV before we needed to wake you for that “dream feed.”

But eventually, we realized, you’d have to be weaned from that feeding and start going to sleep at a normal baby hour and not at 11 when we were going to bed. Interestingly, you started weaning yourself. You became more and more difficult to wake at 9:30 (after going down for your after-dinner nap between 7 and 8), and you’d take less and less food. Sometimes, you’d only make it through one breast’s worth of milk or sometimes you wouldn’t want to eat at all. But we were reluctant to give up the dream feed out of fear you wouldn’t make it through the night.

Last Friday, after prepping you all week by giving you half an ounce less of formula each night at your dream feed and by moving your “dinner” slowly back from 5:30 to 6:30, we put you down in your crib and in your MMSS at 7:45 and, holding our breath, we bid you an official goodnight. There’d be no seeing you at 9:30. Or rather, you wouldn’t see us. We checked on you before we tucked into bed, of course. You were still beautifully, blissfully sound asleep.

Much to our surprise–especially given your recent stint of night wakings–the next thing we knew, our 6 a.m. alarm was sounding. You hadn’t made a peep. I rolled out of bed and did a little jig. I woke you up and kissed you a million times. I’m so, so, so proud of you. Nothing, not since being cleared after your first month to stop waking you multiple times a night to get your weight up, has revolutionized our lives like bidding adieu to the dream feed. It’s like we’re normal adults again.

We’re going on a full week of dream feed-less evenings, and other than minor hiccups (a brief crying stint one night at 3:30 that was quickly fixed by popping in your paci), you’re sleeping straight through for 10-11 hours. And you’re going a full 11.5 hours between feedings. You. Are. Amazing.

Last weekend, we also attempted something else for the first time: We strapped you into your high chair (which I love; it sits on top of one of our dining room chairs and occupies hardly any room at all), and we let you try a carrot.

We’d done some research on introducing solid foods, and we really like the philosophy behind Baby-Led Weaning, which has made its way across the pond from the U.K. and, contrary to the American English interpretation, has nothing to do with weaning babies from, say, nursing. It’s about weaning them onto solid foods, and the beauty of it is that it involves no purees or single-grain cereals that have to be spoon fed to you. Instead, through Baby-Led Weaning, we’re letting you feed yourself with “normal” (non-mush) foods that you can pick up and put in your mouth yourself.

So that’s how we found ourselves staring at you as you reached for a boiled carrot and efficiently popped one end into your mouth. You seemed to like it at first–you kind of sucked on it–and then I think you couldn’t figure out how to get it out of your mouth. You made a stink face and started fussing. That was with a warm carrot.

We tried giving you a cold carrot–one that had been chilled in the fridge–and you seemed to like that more. I think it felt good on your gums, much like your chilled teething rings do.

We’ve tried giving you carrots several more times, and your reaction is always lukewarm. You tolerate sucking on it for a few minutes once you manage to get it into your mouth, you slam it down onto your high chair tray a few times and then you get tired of it. But the important part is that you’re learning how to feed yourself through hand-mouth coordination, and you’re starting to try out new flavors and textures. You’re getting zero calories from this food (which is fine–you’re still getting four-plus breast milk/formula feedings a day), but you’re having some fun with it. This weekend, sweet potatoes are on tap.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You’re starting to tuck your knees under you while you’re on your tummy in a kind-of early attempt to crawl (maybe).
  • You’re really starting to be entertained by your kitties (you study them intently), but nothing has made you squeal with joy like Roxy, your friend Anthony’s dog.
  • Mamma’s starting to wash your 9-month clothes because your 6-month stuff (footies especially) is getting pretty snug on you.

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chasing sleep

21 weeks

Here’s a life lesson for you: Don’t be smug. Or: Don’t count your chickens.

Daddy and I had gotten so blissfully used to your herculean sleep patterns. With very few exceptions, you’d slept through the night since you were four weeks old when we stopped waking you to feed you. You weren’t a half-bad napper, either, often giving us a break of a couple of hours, even a couple of times a day, to get things done while we were home with you.

When others would ask us how you were sleeping, we’d puff up our chests and proclaim with great pride that you’d been sleeping through the night since you were a month old. We knew how fortunate we were, how rare it was to have such a cooperative newborn. We were so pleased with ourselves. Clearly were were doing something right.

Then, right around the December holidays, you got a cold and you had trouble sleeping because you couldn’t breathe. Totally understandable.

But your naps never recovered; we’re lucky now if we get 45 minutes out of you. This didn’t bother me much, though, because you were sleeping through the night. And I’d gladly trade marathon naps for a solid night’s sleep.

But then, about 10 days ago, the nights went out the window, too. You started waking consistently at 1 a.m. and then again toward morning: somewhere in the 3 o’clock hour, somewhere in the 5 o’clock hour, definitely before the alarm went off. And we, so used to having to wake you once we were up ourselves, started panicking.

I got through nearly a solid week of this before the lack of sleep–on Saturday night, you were up at 1, 4:30 (after which I never fell back to sleep), 5:30, 5:45 and finally 6:15–reduced me to a crying, sputtering mess. Mamma needs her sleep, perhaps more than your average bear; she’s always been an excellent sleeper (perhaps you got those genes?), and she loves sleeping. So it takes very little lost sleep to wreak havoc on her system.

In addition, you were very fussy this weekend. It’s probably related to your not sleeping, but since we can’t ask you what’s going on, it’s a bit of an enigma. You are an adorable (mostly) puzzle that we have to solve. We ran through some hypotheses:

  • teething (possible, although we haven’t seen anything erupt; still, you seemed to respond positively to the Hyland’s teething tablets we tried on Monday morning, and you went to town on the teething rings we introduced you to)
  • growth spurt (definite; I tried to put you into 6-month footies the other night, and they were a full 2 inches too short–and you’d just worn them last week!)
  • overtiredness (duh)

There’s also this pesky “4-month sleep regression” that we’ve heard so much about. Apparently, you’re undergoing a huge cognitive and developmental leap this month, and it’s throwing your whole world into disarray.

Your sleep cycles are maturing, meaning you’re spending more time in REM (as opposed to the lovely deep sleep you enjoyed as a newborn), and when you surface from a sleep cycle, you’re not quite sure how to self-soothe back into restfulness. That would explain the 1 a.m. wakeups; all it takes is us popping your paci into your mouth (if we have to get up at all; sometimes you cry for a minute and then put yourself back to sleep), and you drift off again. But the later wakeups are trickier; you might fall back to sleep, but you don’t stay down as long.

We’ve also been planning for some time to begin weaning you off of your “dream feed,” your last meal of the day, served promptly at 9:30 p.m. Until now we’ve been too scared to do it, as it’s always been our insurance in support of a full night’s sleep. But we have to wake you specifically to feed you (a travesty), and it’s getting to be time to transition you to an appropriate bedtime for a baby, sometime in the 7 o’clock hour. The thing about weaning from a dream feed, though, is you have to be confident in your baby sleeping through the night. Because if your baby isn’t doing so, you have no way of knowing what’s causing your baby to wake if, after eliminating the dream feed, you’re faced with middle-of-the-night wakings. And you definitely don’t want to start reintroducing night feedings. That’s a whole other nasty can of worms.

If you’re not sleeping through the night consistently–so consistently we’d be shocked if you weren’t–the dream feed needs to stick around. Sad for you and sad for us.

Luckily for all of us, Daddy and I got a little bit smart Tuesday night, despite our sleep-deprived states. You’ve been using a Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit (or the MMSS, as we call it) since you were three months old to help you nap, as it keeps you from doing that typical baby flailing that inevitably wakes you up once you’ve drifted off. We’d never put you in it for your overnight sleep, primarily because you’ve never really had trouble sleeping through and also because we’ve been wary of encouraging sleep crutches. But you know what they say about desperate times. So in you went, and through you slept–all the way to 5:50 a.m., just 10 minutes before the alarm went off, without so much as a peep. Night Two of our experiment confirmed the results; we had to wake you at 6 a.m. We are converts–and if this is what it takes, so be it; we’ll just have to wean you off the MMSS eventually. For now, three uninterrupted nights’ sleep in, we’re enjoying the rejuvenating rest.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You’re now blowing raspberries, which is the cutest thing ever. You smush your lips together, motorboat them and spit everywhere.
  • You’re supporting a lot of weight on your legs and can push up to stand if we’re holding your hands. Still no sitting by yourself yet, but your core is extraordinarily strong. My guess is that within two weeks, you’ll be sitting unsupported.
  • You’re even more obsessed with your feet than ever.
  • You talk. A lot. It’s a lot of hard G sounds right now, but I’m training you on those M’s. (Can you say Mamma?) Daddy is doing the same with D’s. You also squeal, squawk, grunt, roar and generally sound like a baby dinosaur.
  • You had your first ride in a real swing–not just your little baby swing at home–and on a carousel!

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when you were born

It started early Sunday, Aug. 24, when we’d made it to 38w5d. I was at least a week into being very tired of being pregnant.

A day earlier, when the weekend had just begun, Nonna suggested–in line with the old wives’ tale–that I attempt some heavy housework to get labor rolling. She recommended some good, old-fashioned, whole-house vacuuming. Since our furbabies produce enough tumbleweeds to fill the American southwest on a weekly basis, I thought this was a great idea. If it sent me into labor, all the better. So I vacuumed every nook and cranny, even sweeping the wand over the walls to dust cobwebs and collected fur off of them. I lifted and shifted and moved furniture. By the time I was done, I was drenched in sweat. But I was definitely not laboring.

That Saturday night, we went to a dinner party where everyone oohed and aahed over my very pregnant state. “Maybe you’ll go into labor here tonight,” the hostess said. Given the very expensive furnishings in our friends’ very nice house, I didn’t think that was such a great idea. But I wouldn’t have tried to stop it had it started. It didn’t, of course.

That night, stuffed to the gills on barbecue brisket, amazing sides and a healthy helping of lemon chess pie, I dreamed the same vivid dreams I’d had throughout my pregnancy. The one that woke me at 7ish featured me losing my mucus plug and my water breaking. I stumbled sleepily into the bathroom for my ritualistic early-morning pee, and when I turned around to flush, I noticed some bloody mucus in the toilet. My mucus plug, I thought. I also noticed that I was leaking fluid onto my panty liner; it was tinged slightly pink, and I’d nearly soaked the liner through. This was unusual, but it didn’t strike me as being the gush I anticipated from broken membranes. I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep.

At 10ish, I called the doctor on call and explained what I was experiencing. She said she couldn’t necessarily determine from what I was describing that my water had broken, but she invited us to come into the hospital for them to check. She said we didn’t have to rush in–that we should shower and get our things collected before heading over. So we took our time: We had a leisurely breakfast, changed the linens, did the laundry, showered and got our hospital bags (long packed) ready to go. As we were just leaving the house, the doctor called back. Apparently, we were taking too long getting there, and she wanted to know what had happened to us. I assured her we were on our way and would be there in precisely eight minutes (we’d timed the drive several times).

When we got to the L&D ward, they registered me and took us to an exam room, where I was asked to strip down and get into a hospital gown, and I was hooked up to a fetal monitor so they could keep an eye on you. My blood pressure and pulse were taken. They used a litmus strip to check for amniotic fluid, but it didn’t provide a readily apparent diagnosis, so they took a sample of the fluid I was leaking and checked it under a microscope. I was told that it didn’t behave the way they expected amniotic fluid to do so, and the fluid therefore was nothing more than “normal” pregnancy discharge. Odd. For me, it was in no way normal. The constant leakiness that made its way through liners and pads and undies was like nothing I’d experienced before. The hospitalist who saw me did a pelvic exam and said I was no more than a fingertip dilated. She sent us home.

We had planned to spend the afternoon at the pool, but with the ongoing leaking, that wasn’t an option. So instead we went down to Nonna’s, where we took a long walk around the neighborhood and then went out to dinner. All the while, the leaking continued and, if anything, increased in intensity. I changed my undies three times that day.

After dinner and back at Nonna’s for dessert, I started getting a bit panicky. What if my water really had broken, and they had just misdiagnosed it? If that was the case, more than 12 hours had passed, and I was cognizant of the risk of infection. If it wasn’t that my water had broken, what was it? And could I possibly live two more weeks of my life with this fluid, whatever it was, making me fairly miserable on an ongoing basis?

Daddy convinced me to call the doctor on call again, explain the situation and ask for a recommendation. The poor doctor who had dealt with me that morning was on still on duty, and she encouraged us to come back in. So we went straight to the hospital on the way back from Nonna’s house, not stopping at home to get any of our things. We went through the same routine we had that morning: hospital gown, monitoring you, blood pressure, heart rate and finally litmus strip. This time, there was no doubt: I was leaking amniotic fluid, and they admitted me immediately.

Settled into our delivery room, the nurse went through the entire admission process with us while you were constantly monitored. I’d remain that way the rest of the night, precluding me from any good sleep. Every time I shifted, I’d lose your heartbeat, and I’d worry something was wrong. Nonna drove the 35 minutes up to our place at midnight to pick up our things and drop them off with us, then spent the night at our place to take care of our furbabies and await news of my progress. Daddy settled in for a long night on an uncomfortable pull-out armchair.

The nurse said they wanted to start me on Cervidil to “ripen” my cervix immediately, in anticipation of inducing me in the morning. This, of course, was contrary to everything Daddy and I wanted; our ultimate goal was an entirely natural birth to keep you healthy and safe. We asked the nurse if we could hold off on administering the Cervidil until the morning, allowing me at least the night to see if I’d start laboring naturally. As soon as the meds started, I knew, I’d have to be constantly monitored, meaning I’d be bedridden and probably unable to labor without an epidural, which ultimately would increase our chances of C section, which we wanted to avoid if at all possible. The nurse said she’d have to clear it with the doctor. Some time later, she returned to let us know the doctor had OK’d delaying the Cervidil until morning, as long as we understood the risk of infection. Of course we did. I had had only one pelvic exam so far, and there was no sign of infection.

Somewhere around 4 a.m. (I believe, although it’s all a blur), I shot up in bed and screamed an obscenity loud enough to wake Daddy. That was a contraction, I knew. It felt like the worst menstrual cramp I’d ever had coupled with a swift, hoofed kick to the lower back. It passed immediately, I relaxed and eventually drifted back into a fitful sleep. A couple of hours later, the contractions began again, less intensively, more regularly. I knew I was in early labor.

After a shift change, our new nurse arrived and again began talking about the Cervidil. I explained to her our strong desire for a natural delivery and told her I was fairly certain I’d begun laboring on my own earlier that morning. The printed strip from the monitor backed me up, but she said the doctor would have to perform another pelvic exam to inform a recommended course of action. I asked if in the meantime, I could come off the monitor so I could walk around a bit and have breakfast. My nurse agreed to an hour off the monitor; I’d have to be back in the room at 8:30 for breakfast and additional monitoring.

So Daddy and I literally walked in (not large) circles around the L&D wing, stopping every so often to “slow dance” (one of the comfort measures we’d learned) while I got through a contraction. They were still bearable, although I could feel them start, peak and subside every 10 minutes or so. While we were walking, we ran into the husband of a couple we’d met in our childbirth education class at the hospital about a month earlier. His wife had begun laboring at home early that morning and had progressed to six or seven centimeters, but then she’d stalled, he said. She was getting an epidural, so he’d been booted from the room. We wished each other good luck and moved on.

Sometime around 9 or so, the doctor on call–the one who would ultimately deliver you–came to see me for a pelvic exam. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable, but she rattled off stats to the nurse. I was still only a centimeter dilated, unfortunately, but I was 100 percent effaced, and you had dropped to a -1 station. She said it was too late for the Cervidil (which would impact effacement only), but she recommended starting me on the lowest dose possible of Pitocin to encourage dilation. I hemmed and hawed. I really, really didn’t want to be induced; I really, really wanted to do this med free. I bargained with her for another hour and a half or so to see if I wouldn’t dilate on my own. She reluctantly agreed.

When she left, I got ready to do the same sort of haggling with the nurse to get 20 minutes of freedom from the fetal monitor every hour. Much to Daddy’s and my extreme surprise, she one-upped us. She needed 10 minutes of monitoring an hour, she said; otherwise, I was free to move around as much as I wanted. I was elated! In the meantime, Daddy had contacted Nonna and your doula. Nonna was on her way; your doula, Tekla, was celebrating her daughter’s birthday that day and said she’d join us at 11. After all, first-time moms dilate an average of a centimeter an hour. At one centimeter, I still had a good nine hours to go.

Given the strength and frequency of my contractions, though, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. They were beginning to come hard and fast. I labored on the yoga ball (bouncing seemed to help a lot), on my yoga mat, pacing the room and leaning on Daddy, who was my hero and my champion throughout the process. He never stopped encouraging me, telling me what a great job I was doing, springing into action when necessary, fielding the ridiculous number of phone calls and texts we were both receiving, advocating for what we wanted and just being there for me to lean on. There is absolutely no way I would’ve gotten through it without him.

When the doctor returned around 10:30 for another pelvic exam, I was in active labor. Just lying on the bed was agonizing. I held my breath for her assessment of my progress, and her face gave away her surprise: You had moved into 0 station, and I was–-holy moley-–five centimeters dilated. “I’m going to get out of your way and let you labor,” the doctor said. The Pitocin was off the table. Daddy and Nonna both looked like they might cry; I thought I could kiss the doctor. My morale and energy boosted by the prognosis, I set my mind to getting through the delivery on will and desire alone.

Soon thereafter, Tekla arrived. She got to work immediately, pulling all sorts of tools out of her kit, including fresh-baked brownies for the nursing staff. She was indispensable throughout the rest of our journey, coaching Daddy and Nonna–also an incredible support (I wouldn’t have wanted to go through labor without her by my side)–and suggesting techniques to relieve the excruciating contractions that wracked my body, now every few minutes, and reminding me how and when to breathe. In between contractions, I’d zone out, closing my eyes and trying to go to a safe, quiet, calm spot in my head–something I know my weeks of yoga (with you) helped me with. For a while, I labored sitting up in bed, and for that while, it helped.

At a certain point, Tekla suggested it was an appropriate time to get into the shower to relieve the pain as I worked through the transition phase. Daddy, having smartly packed his swim trunks, joined me and helped me through the peaks of the torment, now every two to three minutes. While in the shower, I felt an urge to push like I’ve never felt before. It consumed me. It was all I wanted in the entire universe. Tekla coached me to keep my breathing low and steady because I was on the verge of spinning wildly out of control. I told everyone there that I needed to push, so they rushed to get the doctor for one last pelvic exam. I have no idea how much time had passed between the exams, nor do I have any concept of how much time passed before the doctor arrived, but it felt like an eternity. At this last, most painful exam, the doctor’s face again revealed her surprise. She told me I was 10 centimeters dilated and that I was free to push, but she encouraged me to continue laboring as long as I could so as to encourage you along your journey without rushing it.

For a while, I labored on hands and knees on the hospital bed, keeping my breath in control. But then control went out the window. I needed to push, and so I was going to push. They summoned the doctor, I was turned onto my back and I had the go-ahead to push. I pushed like I’ve never pushed before, and I screamed like I’ve never screamed before. Daddy later said he was certain the entire ward could hear me; I was certain the entire world could hear me. At a certain point I screamed out that I couldn’t do it, that there was no way I was going to push you out of me without breaking myself into a million pieces. I was met with a chorus of, “Yes, you cans.” I pushed twice, through precisely two contractions, and you came sliding into the world at 2:13 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, after about seven hours of labor.

My first thought was “Let him cry.” And in response, you screamed air into your little lungs; before I knew it, you were on my chest, hot and slippery and crying. There was a flurry of activity–it’s all a bit of a blur–but after delaying for a minute or so (our wishes), Daddy cut the umbilical cord. You peed all over me. I cried, I think, out of sheer exhaustion and unadulterated bliss. Daddy cried too. And we gave you a name: Ethan, a wise man in the Old Testament, and the first name that Daddy and I both loved when we found it.

When they took you over to the corner to get you weighed (6 pounds, 12 ounces) and measured (19 inches) and to give you the eye drops and whatever else they do right there in the delivery room, the doctor’s hard work started. I was hemorrhaging, and she spent an hour–perhaps even longer and more painful than the previous one–removing tissue from my abdomen and getting me sewn up. They finally managed to give me some Pitocin (to help suppress the blood flow), but I was fine with it being administered once you were no longer sharing space with me. Daddy described the whole thing as a “crime scene.” I was elated when it was over; the downside to being unmedicated during labor and delivery is what happens when your second-degree tear needs to be treated afterward. A local doesn’t really cut it.

But I survived, and I finally got to hold you in my arms. Daddy and I have officially survived the first nearly five months of parenthood. Sometimes I still can’t believe that we have a son who makes my heart burst with excitement, pride and elation every time I wake up to see you. We are so incredibly blessed, so lucky and so appreciative to be sharing this wonderful, wild ride with you: the life of Guppy.

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putting the ‘p’ in exeriment

20 weeks

When Daddy and I first found out you were (er, are) a boy, I was–I’ll admit–taken a bit by surprise. A boy? What was I going to do with a boy? I’m a girl. I only know about girl things. I don’t have a brother, I grew up–for all intents and purposes–without a father and we only have girls in this Next Generation of our family, save one lone XY carrying the torch. So I had a lot of learning to do, and I’m still very much on the upward slope of that learning curve.

But one of the things I learned very, very quickly is that boys don’t pee in the same direction as their mamas. They pee straight up. In fact, Daddy and I sometimes (and only very affectionately, I promise) call you Old Faithful. In the bathtub, you’re often more whale-like than Guppy-like. I’ve learned to move with lightning speed when racing to cover an errant stream, and I’ll do so with anything I can think of–a diaper, a wipe, a magazine, my hand–lest you spray down much of the surface within a 12-inch radius.

In the last two weeks, you’ve begun rolling back to tummy, and since you’re now more than capable of rotating yourself, you put yourself on your tummy to sleep. In the mornings, I find you face down and tushy up, dreaming away with a cheek pressed hard against your crib mattress. I have no problems with this (after all, I’m an avid tummy sleeper), but you have become no match for your overnight diapers. Given your tummy sleeping and the direction in which you pee, you’ve been leaking significantly out the top of your diapers and soaking yourself through by the time morning comes around. I feel terrible about this; you sleep so soundly that it doesn’t seem to bother you at all, but no one should have to sleep in their own pee. And no parent should have to change that ridiculously tight fitted sheet every day.

So we’ve begun the Great Pee Experiment. (When I first came up with the title for this post, I chuckled because if you read it quickly, “exeriment” becomes “excrement.” But we all know excrement is by no means funny. Stop laughing.)

Thanks to some help from the Interwebs, where we learned this is far from an uncommon problem, we developed a tiered strategy for combating the leak:

Step 1: Turn the overnight diaper around so you’re wearing it backwards, since diapers (allegedly) are more absorbent in the back.
Observations: It’s difficult enough putting a diaper on you frontwards. You squiggle and squirm and pull your knees up to your belly and kick the bottom of your changing pad, and I’m lucky if I get a snug, appropriate fit on the first attempt. Usually, I have to adjust several times once I’ve got it somehow secured. Putting a diaper on backwards requires some sort of sorcery and a good half hour. Nevertheless, I managed to get it in place. It was a shot in the dark certainly, and …
Result: FAIL. You were wetter in the morning than ever before, clear up to your armpits.

Step 2: Go with a size up for the overnight diaper.
Observations: This is slightly more involved than Step 1, as it requires acquiring something you might not have on hand. We, quite luckily, have had a small package of Pampers Swaddlers Size 3 diapers tucked away since before you were born. (Thank you, genius shower gift.) I thought you might swim in this size, but honestly, they were none too small. Size 3’s are sneaky. Whereas the other sizes you’ve been in so far–Newborn through Size 2–indicate a relatively small weight range (Size 2’s, for example, run 14-18 pounds), Size 3’s are supposed to fit 16-24 pounds. You may still be in Size 3’s when you’re a year old. I noticed there was ample room for absorption, however, and I held my breath.
Result: SUCCESS. I picked up and squeezed a dry baby this morning, which is endlessly more pleasant than picking up and squeezing a damp, squishy one.

Here’s to hoping our success continues.

Had we not had success with Step 2, we had two additional steps planned:

Step 3: Insert diaper doublers or booster pads, essentially giant maxi pads that offer a double layer of absorption when added to the diaper. These, of course, add cost to the whole operation.

Step 4: Attempt to contain pee with a breathable plastic diaper cover like the disposable ones that Gerber sells or the nice, reusable, adorably decorated ones that Thirsties sells (note perfect, Guppy-appropriate theme!).

Luckily, at least as of now, we haven’t had to go these routes: A dry you makes a ha[pp]y me.

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our own private battle

Who knew we’d be waging a war from Day One, you and I?

When they first placed you, hot, slippery and still corded, on my chest, the only thing I could think was, “Please let him cry.” Gloriously, you screamed your little lungs out, and in a wave of relief, my thoughts quickly shifted to, “Please let him latch.” For me, there was never a question or a decision to be made. I was going to breastfeed you, just as your Nonna had breastfed me. It wasn’t simply about the health benefits (although lord knows they drill that message into you from the moment your pregnancy is confirmed) or even about the bonding; it was just something I felt deep down to my core that I was supposed to do for you.

So when you were born, I waited for nursing to happen.

Well, it quickly became evident that babies are not like kittens; they don’t intuitively find their way to the breast and take it from there while their mamas lounge in the sun grooming themselves. They need help to nurse. And I had no idea how to help you.

This is 100 percent my own fault. I’d kind of halfheartedly read a book about nursing but I hadn’t paid much attention to the process before you were born. I didn’t take a class. I didn’t seek out lactation assistance. I just figured that everyone else could do it and so could I. I’ve never been so wrong in my life–or so regretful, once I learned the truth about nursing.

It’s damn hard.

And we had the odds stacked against us. While the staff at St. Agnes Hospital, where you were born, were truly excellent in supporting us through labor and delivery, they dropped the ball where lactation was concerned. You were born at 2:13 p.m. By the time we were both cleaned up and given the all clear to be moved to our postpartum suite, it was closer to 5, and by then, it was too late for us to a see a lactation consultant. That first night, as we struggled to figure out what we were doing, Daddy and I gave you formula–at the recommendation of the nursery staff–to keep you hydrated. (If only we’d known then what we know now!) It took nearly 24 hours for the lactation consultants to see us. And when they finally arrived, it was in the midst of a hectic hubbub in our room: OB, pediatrician, nursery staff, family, etc. I was hot, sweaty and overwhelmed (not to mention steeling myself against a great deal of pain from delivery). And it just wasn’t working all that well.

But the LCs got me pumping, at least, that tiny bit of colustrum that new mothers can produce. And they showed me how to hold you so we could at least make an effort. Daddy and I continued to give you formula from a tiny syringe because we didn’t want you to lose too much weight. When they discharged us, you were down 6 ounces from your birth weight.

I don’t remember how we stumbled through those first few sleepless nights. I don’t remember how I nursed you, when I nursed you or where I nursed you. I only remember the panic that gripped me when at your first pediatrician appointment, four days after you joined us, you weighed in at merely 6 pounds. You’d dropped another 6 ounces, down 12 from your birth weight. All I could think was, “I’m starving my child,” and I burst into tears. The pediatrician told us that we had to get your weight up, and if it wasn’t working by breastfeeding, we’d need to tuck into the formula. My milk hadn’t even come in yet, so of course it wasn’t working by breastfeeding. She piled free cans of formula on us (yay for free formula, at least; that stuff is powdered gold) and sent us off with orders to fatten you up.

That night, stressed nearly to the breaking point by my inability to feed you, we had an in-home appointment with a lactation consultant referred to us by your doula. It was an overwhelming, exhausting two hours. But there were some major takeaways from our time with her:

  1. She determined, by weighing you pre- and post-feeding, that you were transferring very little milk, maybe a third of an ounce.
  2. This was due in part to what she diagnosed as a tongue tie. We’d never heard of this before, but it’s the affectionate term for a shortened frenulum, the membrane that keeps the tongue from floating around in the mouth.
  3. She told me that to establish and increase my milk supply, I’d have to pump constantly–at least every time I fed you, if not more, and around the clock–and I should be doing so with a rented hospital-grade pump.
  4. She got us started nursing with nipple shields to help you latch.

By the time she left, I felt defeated. Your Daddy and Nonna did everything they could to scrape my morale and my will to continue up off the floor and push us forward in our battle to breastfeed. The next few weeks are a blur, but we did our best. You were eating every two hours during the day; each time we fed you, you’d nurse, then bottle feed and then I’d pump. Your feeding sessions lasted well more than an hour–and then, just minutes later, it seemed, we’d start the whole process again.

When I pumped, it was a matter of a few milliliters. I’d collect the 3 or 4 or 5 CCs I pumped in a tiny syringe, and we’d feed it to you along with your formula at your next feeding. Overnight, I’d wake you at 11 p.m., 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., and I’d breastfeed you for 45 minutes–that was our cutoff–before handing you off to Daddy while I pumped for 20 minutes through the deepest depths of exhaustion.

With Nonna’s help, I took you to the drop-in breastfeeding clinics at the local hospitals. Diligently, we’d weigh you before you ate. You’d breastfeed for 40 minutes. We’d weigh you again. Time and time again, your post-feeding weight indicated that for all your effort, you’d gotten two-tenths or three-tenths or four-tenths of an ounce. I cried ten times that in tears, easily. I felt guilty and helpless and like I was a terrible, unfit mother. You just kept happily trying to nurse, not knowing that it should be infinitely easier. You loved your boob and you loved your bottle.

The good news is you put on weight, and fast, thanks to the formula. But my dream was to get you off of formula and exclusively onto breast milk. I did everything they told me do to increase my supply: In addition to the pumping, I took Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle, two giant pills each three times a day (yes, that’s 12 pills daily); I ate oatmeal every morning topped with brewer’s yeast and flax seeds; I drank mother’s milk tea; I baked up lactation cookies; and I pumped myself to dairy cow-dom and back.

When you were three weeks old, after seeing multiple lactation consultants who all said you were maybe dealing with a tongue tie and getting multiple opinions from some of Nonna’s former colleagues, we went to see Dr. Andrew Goldstone, an ENT at GBMC who was recommended to us for his expertise in more complicated tongue ties. He took one look in your mouth and confirmed what all the LCs had said. You had a tongue tie, alright, but it was posterior–a more difficult diagnosis. You also had a lip tie, a shortened membrane attaching your upper lip to your gum. He could correct both in three seconds through a procedure using a cauterizing blade, he said. Would it solve all of our problems? He couldn’t guarantee anything, but as there were no risks involved–no real pain or even bleeding–and a huge possibility that it could solve our problems (not to mention eventual orthodontic issues, the only lasting effects of a lip tie), we decided to go through with it. I steeled myself for putting my sweet, three-week-old boy through surgery, however minor. I cried more than you did.

Three seconds later, even though we didn’t  yet know it, the course of our private war had changed. Within 24 hours, we’d abandoned the nipple shields. Within a week, you’d learn to latch like a pro. And all of a sudden, breastfeeding became–if not easy, much less stressful. I could relax, and so could you. I stopped timing our sessions, and I started focusing on how quiet and peaceful our nursing time was for both of us.

But I’ve never produced enough breast milk, sadly, to completely ditch the formula. This will always, always be the pea under my giant pile of motherhood mattresses. I have nothing against formula; I’m not a militant lactivist. I don’t understand this judgey mom debate about breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. Sure, breastfeeding provides benefits that formula cannot. But I’ve never met a formula-fed baby who’s worse off for it. And while formula is absurdly expensive, breastfeeding is far from free. I just had a personal desire to breastfeed you, and I would’ve loved to be able to do it without supplementing with formula. I tried, once, to get you off of formula; it was probably the worst day of your young life. By mid-afternoon, you’d nursed me dry and screamed and screamed for more food. I decided it wasn’t worth starving you, so we went back to what seemed to work: about an even split of breast milk and formula from both breast and bottle.

Daddy, our family and our friends never stopped encouraging me to breastfeed, though, even when I was tempted to give up. And every time we weighed you, we were reassured that we were doing everything right. At one point, you were gaining more than an ounce and a half a day–and turning quite pleasantly plump.

When you started sleeping through the night at about four weeks, I continued to get up in the middle of the night to pump as recommended to maintain my supply. At first, we’d give you the extra pumped milk in the morning to boost the amount you were getting, but then I started freezing it in an effort to develop a stash of breast milk to make sure you continued to get as much as possible when I went back to work.

And here we are, four and a half months into our lives together, and you’re still nursing happily. My 3 a.m. pumping–which I quit just a week ago, after 19 weeks of never sleeping through the night, when I returned to work full time after the holidays–contributed to a supply of approximately 150 ounces, which we’re using to supplement what I’m pumping at work. My goal of nursing you for two months turned into a goal of four months, and now I’ve got my eyes on six months. Maybe we’ll make it to nine months or maybe even a year. At this point, whenever together we call it quits, I’ll be at peace with it. I feel like we’ve achieved the impossible. We’ve battled fiercely, and we’ve won the war.

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daddy’s turn

19 weeks

I suppose I should consider myself among the fortunate few (in this country) who have been able to avoid returning to work full time until you’re 19 weeks old. You’re solidly into your fourth month, and you’re strong (and sometimes strong-willed), healthy and generally jubilantly happy. You eat hardily from both bottle and breast. You laugh and smile easily, making us melt into giant parent-shaped puddles every time you do. You sleep soundly (and, praise the lord and everything else holy, through the night since you were just a month old). So far, I think, I’ve done a decent job at mom-ing you. Sure, there are things I’d do differently and, I’m sure, better were I to do it all again, but I’ve kept you alive and thriving.

So turning over the reins this week to your Daddy, who is now taking paternity leave to be home with you part time (your Nonna and Mimi are providing care the remaining days), should be a cause for celebration. But I can’t help but feel that something’s being taken away from me, that I’ll inevitably miss out on key moments in your life that I should be there for. It’s something I’ll have to adjust to–and I’ve already begun brainstorming options that will allow me to spend more time with you once you start daycare in April. More on that once I run them by my bosses; I’m hopeful they’ll be as flexible as they have been with me up to this point. (And they really have been amazing; they both adore you, by the way.)

On Tuesday, your first full day home with Daddy, we woke up under a crisp, very cold blanket of snow. I got out to Southwestern Boulevard, skidding and fishtailing at every stop, before deciding to turn around and work from home. So Daddy wasn’t alone with you on Day One of paternity leave. It’s a good thing, too, as you were unusually fussy all day–so fussy that I called the pediatrician to ensure it might not be an ear infection. It was not, of course; it was digestive, which is usually the cause of your fussiness. As I have long suffered from digestive delicateness, I can completely commiserate with you, and I feel terrible because there’s not much we can do about it. We plied you with gripe water and gas drops, and Daddy worked so hard at distracting you. He was exhausted by the end of the day.

You very graciously stopped fussing long enough for us to bundle you, A Christmas Story-like, in your luxuriously warm snowsuit from Nonna (the one that matches Daddy’s and my new coats, also from Nonna) and stick you in the snow for some pictures. (It was your first major snowstorm, so it had to be documented.) Daddy even propped you up in the laundry basket like Mimi did with him when he was a baby. You tolerated it beautifully, especially given your tummy issues.

On Wednesday, when I went back to work, you and Daddy had a fantastic day. You were back to your usual cheerful self, but because it was so cold (winter has come!), you had to stay inside to play. When I got home in the evening and you spotted me coming in the door, your smiles could have lit up the darkest hours of the night. You seemed overjoyed and you actually reached for me (a first!), and all of a sudden, all of my concerns about not being with you vanished. You won’t forget who I am. You won’t not want to be with me or give up on me. And while I may miss an absolute first, I’ll get to witness those early milestones as soon as I’m home. (And like I said, I’ve been scheming about ensuring we have more time together.)

And I’m hopeful that our time together will be happy (and less fussy) now that we’ve figured out that we must keep you on soy formula. At your four-month pediatrician appointment last week, your doctor encouraged us to try weaning you back onto milk-based formula, so we started mixing in one part Gentlease to three parts Prosobee. On the fourth day (Daddy’s first day at home with you), it all fell apart. You were gassy and constipated and in so much pain. We actually thought you might be suffering from Grunting Baby Syndrome. So we cut out the Gentlease immediately, and you seem to be doing so much better. We suspect you may have a very sensitive GI tract and perhaps some reflux. But what we know is that you tolerate Prosobee well, and other formulas cause you problems. So Prosobee it is, at least for the foreseeable future. Soon (although not too soon), we’ll be introducing solids (although we haven’t quite settled yet on a method), and maybe that will be the turning point for you. Here’s to hoping!

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