Sunday, August 31, 2014

// a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - c a s e y ' s s t o r y //

I am sharing Casey's story today!  I've met her a few times in Santa Cruz and she is just the sweetest lady.  I'm thankful that she is willing to share her story and I know it will be a help to others.  Thank you lovely!  (Casey blogs at Mrs Casey Ann .  <3

I am so thankful to share my breastfeeding story (thanks sweet Danielle!) because this whole process has been so completely life changing for me—and I'm only four months in, ha! I am so indebted to the many mothers who've shared their stories, especially in this space, because I read every last one voraciously during Luke's middle-of-the-night feedings looking for someone to relate to, for someone who made it through. And I found that here! Over and over again, no matter the journey or outcome, mamas who persevered for their babies and figured out their best way to cover and love them. It was such a hopeful place for me in the midst of it all. Let's keep sharing mamas! 

When I was pregnant, many people asked how I'd approach feeding Luke and I always said that I hope to breastfeed, because I did. But wow!—I had no (no!) idea what it would look like. There were close people in my life who'd breastfed, but I think some of it just glossed over me. I'd read so many books too, all about pregnancy and what was happening to my little boy inside my tummy, but I seemed to just skip the breastfeeding sections, or it was non-existent. I really had no idea what to expect and prepare for.

Then on that wonderful day when we got to meet our little boy Luke, I was completely changed. My time in the hospital was scary and surprising, and in a moment, both Luke and I were in enough distress to warrant an emergency c-section.. not part of my plan, but now a part of our story. The recovery was more grueling than I was ready for.. I had a big incision and didn't react well to the heavy drugs given for pain relief. My husband was my rock during this time, bringing Luke to me for every feeding, changing every diaper, helping me constantly. 

Being in the hospital was a blur. I had no idea how valuable that first feeding would be and I want to hug the nurses that were fighting behind the scenes to get Luke to me for that moment to feed after he was born (he was in the NICU for 45 minutes due to being in distress, I'd already gotten to cuddle him, but not feed him). So as soon as he was in my room, James (my husband) brought Luke to me and what an incredible moment it was! My baby boy felt so familiar there on my chest and as I stroked his skin, it almost felt like I should feel that stroking, like his skin was my own. He was beautiful! As he laid in the center of my chest, he began woodpecking towards my left side to latch (wood pecking is what we called his little head bobbles looking for milk :), and he latched like a champion. I realized how much I longed to do this! But that came along with a lingering sense of feeling so unprepared, unknowledgable and inadequate.

Over the next five days, I grilled almost every nurse and lactation consultant within any vicinity to my room. I felt a little bit at the mercy of whatever anybody told me, and however helpful each one was, it seemed everyone had a different opinion and varied information. I had yet to feel confident about what I was doing and changed my methods hour-to-hour, based on what advice was given. I also didn't have that full (engorged/milk in) feeling until probably the last day in the hospital (although Colostrum was there) and even though that small amount of milk was coming, I had the feeling it wasn't enough (although it really was!). And to top it off, when you are in the hospital for five days, they weigh your baby incessantly, and even though they said it was normal to lose some weight, nobody treated it like a normal thing (although it was!). I was stressed beyond belief but I wanted to keep at it.

Over the next weeks and months, I'd experience the engorgement, the rawness, the sensitivity (I truly never thought I'd shower again, yikes!). My husband is all too familiar with the breastfeeding aisle at Target—the creams, hydrogels, the hot packs! I needed it all and I couldn't understand how I could continue for the whole year much less another month..this was no cakewalk! But I wanted to push through and give Luke the best start I could muster. I wanted to fight for this. I read and read, from articles online (ps: the internet is littered with garbage info about breastfeeding, bah!) to books, but by far the most helpful were these personal stories. I needed to know that the pain was normal (it just hurts at first!) and that it will get better. Because it did—it did get better!

I was finally feeling like we'd figured something out and at around two months, my happy, content and alert little Luke was filling his diapers like a champ but gaining pretty slowly. At his two-month checkup, my doctor let me know she wanted to see more bulk. Oof..all those feelings of inadequacy soared in (on top of already feeling insecure about the c-section at the time). I don't have enough for my son was ringing through my head constantly. She suggested supplementing with formula if I felt comfortable with that, and I assured her I had no problem and of course I'd do it, if it's best for my baby. I didn't want to be foolish or stubborn about it all (I now know that I wouldn't have been, even if I'd told the doctor no). So I went home with bottles of formula and after nursing him, fed him the extra bottle, which he gobbled up so quickly; I wept the whole time. He was hungry. Was I being selfish and starving this boy in order to nurse? I just wasn't ready for this to be our answer. I wasn't ready to budge on our nursing relationship. I wanted to do everything possible in my power to make things work.

So I did more research**, tried to get informed and proclaimed myself on a nursing vacation. My last ditch effort. Over a period of a few days, I canceled all my plans and rested with my whole heart (no busy work!), feeding Luke every two hours (or earlier) and removing all fake nipples (bottles or paci). Anytime he looked hungry, I fed. I fed and fed and fed. It was definitely painful at the time (rawness returned) and it was a stretch for me physically. I couldn't believe that he'd be happy to eat so often! I learned and watched carefully for his cues and prayed that we'd hit our stride together. And you know what?—We totally did! In those days, something special happened and I gained a confidence in my role with my baby boy. 

So many things are 20/20 in hindsight. Now I realize (and so does my doctor) that my little boy is on the littler side (just like my husband was!). I also know that he's an every two hour babe, even at four months, he's just a hungry little hippo (just like his parents were/are!). I also know that, despite what everything I've read says, he will not make eating his priority, and will not make himself loud enough to tell me he is hungry in the night (so I still wake him). Oh how I'd wish I'd known all of this ahead of time! 

There was a lot of trust involved in nursing for me.. Trusting that what I had was getting to his belly, trusting that what I had was enough and would adjust appropriately. I wanted so much to be able to be calculated about it all, but I couldn't. And there were just things I didn't know about Luke at the start! My mantra nowadays—don't overcomplicate breastfeeding!! I learned that babies and breastfeeding aren't a formula (no pun intended..), it's a somewhat messy, somewhat painful at first, beautiful expression of love and bonding and comfort (yes, I nurse him for his comfort!). I am so grateful that I've been able to breastfeed these four months and deeply desire to go far into his first year. Will it look like I plan? Ha, probably not. But it's another part of this incredible adventure that I'm so grateful to have a chance to take!

**I wanted to note that the main resource I used for breastfeeding info was Dr. Jack Newman's site ( There are so many videos and info sheets on what a drinking baby looks like. It was and still is an answer spot for me, an invaluable resource in my opinion! And read his article on the myths of breastfeeding, don't let people over complicate it for you (what to eat, what to drink, etc etc), breastfeeding is a gift :)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

// a s h e r ' s b i r t h d a y //

Asher turned two on Friday.  My little baby is two!  I feel as if the last three years have been such a blur, yet in the midst of the dizzying whirlwind of life decisions I see his sweet face.  I see his face as he was placed in my arms, as he latched for the first time.  I see his face when he had his first taste of "food" and as he began to walk.  I see his tiny mouth forming words and now, I see his hand as it grasps for mine.  "Mama, hand.  help.  Come."  Nothing is ever fully lost, and although Asher is growing up, there is still now.   The now that won't be here tomorrow and hadn't arrived yet yesterday.  I'm basking in it as if it were rays of sunshine.  <3

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// a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - a l l i ' s s t o r y //

I'm sharing Alli's story today.  I love hearing about how she overcame obstacles.  Her supportive and encouraging words are exactly why I love posting these stories.  I hope you all feel as encouraged and inspired as I do when reading these stories.  Thank you, Alli!  <3 <3

The minute I got pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I don't exactly know why I felt so strongly about it, as none of the women in my family had breastfed and I had never really been around anyone who did. But regardless I threw myself into researching every aspect. I took classes, read books, found forums and helpful mamas online. After 40 weeks and 1 day of pregnancy my little girl was finally earthside and we were ready to begin our journey together. Less than an hour after birth, Naomi nursed for the first time and over the next couple days I quickly realized this wasn't going to be as easy as i had thought. Latching problems, cracked nipples, mastitis, engorgement, lip-tie, we had our fair share of problems over the first month (you know, the things no one tells you about). Luckily I had developed a great support system and still felt very strongly about continuing to nurse my baby. So through every feeding things got a little easier, a little less painful, I wasn't curling my toes in pain anymore. 

Next step, nursing in public. I live in a small midwest city, you know, the "nurse in the bathroom", "cover yourself up!" "nursing in public is like urinating in public" kind of place. So naturally, I was scared. Slowly but surely I worked up the courage to do it, and man am I glad I did. No more staying home all day, or planning outings around when she needed to eat! I felt free! I also learned that by nursing in public and talking about breastfeeding openly, I was giving other moms the encouragement and support they needed to decide to nurse their babies! Over the next 27 months Naomi and I developed a bond that will connect us forever, and although I am sad that she weaned i am so proud of our accomplishment. Proud that I stuck with it, proud that I helped to normalize breastfeeding to those around me, proud that i was able to be the support for new moms that were starting their own journeys, proud that my body was able to nourish and grow a smart, loving, funny, & beautiful toddler. A toddler that will grow up knowing and realizing breastfeeding is an amazing, natural, part of life & wont be ashamed or embarrassed of her body and the incredible things it does. I now hope to continue to be a support system for other mamas when they need it most. When everyone else around them is saying "Give up" I want to be the one who says "Keep going. You are strong. You can do this." Because for me, that was exactly what I needed.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

// a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - k r y s t a l ' s s t o r y /

 So thankful to Krystal for sharing her story!  I'm thankful for the vulnerability, because I know that these beautiful stories will only help to encourage and support other women.  Krystal is such a lovely mama.  Thank you, lady!  She blogs at Tie a Little Ribbon. <3

To give you a nutshell of my BFing journey this far, I'll attach something I posted on Instagram awhile back. I had stopped breastfeeding at 2 weeks old, my supply was huge and forceful letdown, it was so so hard. So I threw in the towel.
A few weeks later, I was still a mess from that decision, I felt awful, guilty and less bonded with my son, who never felt quite settled. I called a local lactation consultant, and she was at my door within the hour, and we begun the process of re lactating. I lived on my pump, trying to latch him, had his tongue tie clipped. Amongst this, I was heavily criticized by family and friends for trying to be a Martyr. While I knew there was nothing wrong with formula (my daughter was formula fed), I really wanted to have the BFing experience and to provide this nutrition from my own body. My soul yearned for it, and if I'm being honest, something told me that my sons did as well.

I went through weeks of supplements, pumping, thrush, cracked/bleeding nipples, daily check in with my LC and her clinic. I cried more than I thought possible. We finger fed my son, to try and teach him a good latch and drinking technique.

Within 3-4 weeks, I was breastfeeding him all on my own. No topping him up with formula or pumped milk. No more screaming at my breast. I'd done it. WE'D done it.

It wasn't easy, even once we had established breastfeeding. I had no idea how a BFd baby worked, and was shocked at how often he would eat, even with my abundant supply. I struggled with how to discretely breastfeed while out in public. Heaven forbid someone see me feed my child! Then I found babywearing and my life changed that much more.

It was a very long long road, I struggled a lot mentally and physically. But it was all worth it, 100%. I wouldn't change it for the world. Corbin is now 15 months old, and we are going strong. I bring my son nutrition, comfort, peace, from my own body. There are few feelings more powerful than that. In a weird way, it's boasted my confidence through the roof.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

// a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - a m a n d a ' s s t o r y //

 Yay for another adventures in breastfeeding story.  I love how Amanda not only shares her story, but offers her support and encouragement as well.  This is why I share these stories- so that we are able to stay connected.  Thank you to the lovely Amanda for sharing her breastfeeding journey!  <3

With Mackenzie, my first, breastfeeding felt more like a chore and a bit of a hassle. I didn't get much information or encouragement of it. I nursed my daughter only for five months. My breasts were engorged and painful. My nipples were sore. And I was embarrassed by the leaking & nursing in public. And also, because she was so tiny & I could not see exactly how much I was feeding her, I was so scared she was not getting enough milk. I ended my BF journey with her when she was only 5 months. And switched her to formula. It wasn't up until I had my son four and a half years later where I felt sad and a bit ashamed of it. I thought about how could I be so selfish to let myself stop nourishing my daughter with the best food there is for her.. I finally came with the conclusion that I was young. A first time mom. I fed my daughter the best way I could at the time. She was and still is happy and healthy little girl. And because I gave her formula, doesn't not make me a bad mom. Formula is just as good as breastfeeding. I did my best and that's all that really matters!

Almost 10 months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! The baby boy who changed my whole outlook to breastfeeding. With the help of all the normalization I see on Social Media. Because of all the recent normalizing breastfeeding I have seen and the encouragement of friends and family, I knew when I found out that I was pregnant that I was going to EBF! I had 9 months to do all the research & ask questions from new BF mothers I've made. And since my son first latched on, it's been pretty easy ever since. Except for just the one thing that no one ever really talks about, how time consuming it is!

Around my fourth month of EBF, the time has come where my son was attached to me. I could not put him down for a nap, I could not unlatch him from me at anytime he was asleep. I have now become.. A human pacifier! I pumped but he refused to take a bottle. During this time, I was exhausted. I felt as if I'm doing something wrong. Am I nursing too much? Will this be bad in the future? I suddenly broke down. I was confused and afraid of where this attachment to breast feeding would lead to.  It was then where I searched it all online, finding IG mamas who were in my same position. After reading and chatting with moms about my (what I had thought was) problem, come to find out, it's no problem. All babies are different. Just because they are attached to you, does not make you a bad mother for letting them nurse on demand. It just means that you are giving your baby the best possible thing that they need. You're helping them feel comfortable. You're soothing their pain, their worry, their happiness. You're being a mother!

And to be honest, after the first 5 months, it does get easier! If you are at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey or even near the end and you feel like you want to stop, I would hold you tight, and tell you that you that you are not alone, to not give up! This journey you're going through will get easier! There is that light at the end of the tunnel and this bond you have with your baby will only get stronger!

This community of breastfeeding mamas are incredible! If it weren't for all of you, I would not have the most amazing bond with my sweet baby boy! I've decided to breastfeed him as long as he wants and as long as he needs to. I don't have the heart to completely take it away from him at 1 year. Instead let him self wean himself. Even though I am nursing, does not mean I don't feel the same for formula fed mothers! We are all different people which mean we have different choices. And just because we may feed our babies a bit differently DOES NOT mean I don't support you any less! If you are a mother who takes care of your children the best way you can. I support you!

As for me, this breastfeeding journey has been far more than amazing. I'm loving the fact that he needs me. Still at ten months. He falls down, he'll come to me to nurse for comfort.  He's sleepy, he'll come to me to nurse him to asleep. He's grumpy, he'll come to me to nurse him till he's happy. I only hope when he's grown and this breastfeeding journey is long gone, he'll still come to me. To make him dinner when his belly is hungry, to help him with his problems, to give him the best motherly advice as I possibly can. I hope this for my daughter as well. Even though I didn't breastfeed her for very long, we will always have that special bond because of it. Breastfeeding is a start of an everlasting mother/child bond that  I will always share with both my babies. 

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Friday, August 15, 2014

// a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - c a s e y ' s s t o r y //

Casey is sharing her story today.  Casey is a family friend, of sorts.  I haven't met her (YET!)  but she is daughter of my mother in law's good friend.  I was so excited to hear that she wanted to share her story.  I think her experience is so important to share because although breastfeeding is magical it can also be HARD!  It really is a lot of work, sometimes.  Usually it is, but there are those who experience no difficulties.  Thank you for sharing, Casey!  I look forward to meeting you and your lovely family some day soon! <3

Ever since I found I got pregnant, I didn't even question formula or breast. I knew I would be a badass breast-feeder, hands down. So fast forward to the day I deliver and it's time to have my main squeeze latch on to me. Well, that was an epic fail to say the least. I had about 10 different hands on my nipples and breasts.. all of them trying desperately to shove my nipple into his mouth to get that sweet tasting colostrum into him! I got about 5,000 different opinions as to why he wasn't latching.. "he has a shallow suck", "he's lazy", "boys take longer to learn than girls", "your nipples aren't long enough", "you aren't holding him right"... I became frustrated needless to say. After a day and 1/2 in the hospital, they sent my husband and me on our merry way with barely any information on nursing (which I find absurd..), and literally said "GOOD LUCK". 
The next week was absolutely brutal. I was trying EVERYTHING to have my guy latch, and I even saw a lactation consultant who happens to be Declan's nurse practitioner affiliated with my midwives. He was eating, but not efficiently. The following week, Declan was diagnosed with thrush.. and at this point I almost said, "screw this I'm doing formula". I couldn't take it anymore. What happened to nursing being such a beautiful thing? All of these women posting beautiful pictures of their babies nursing so lovely on social media sites... why wasn't that us? How could I snap a good shot if my son is popping on and off my breast and SCREAMING his head off while milk is squirting him all over his face?? I didn't understand. 
The following weeks didn't get easier either. His thrush cleared and came back and he passed it to me.. (or so we thought) and I was put on an antifungal immediately, along with Declan staying on his medicine as well. But something didn't seem right to me.. this was not normal. So I started asking around different breastfeeding groups on facebook and almost immediately found some answers.. (those women are LEGIT) Lip-tie. They recommended me to oral surgeon and off I went to get a consultation. The next week we were scheduled for surgery. I googled my little heart out about lip ties and the recovery and found that almost everyone wrote that instantly their child's latches were fixed from this procedure. I was SO excited for him to get it done! 
Well, again, that wasn't us. His latch did get a little better, but it still felt like my nipples were on fire... Okay, maybe not fire, maybe like a 2nd degree burn now. Recovery for my son was INSANE.. crazy swelling, screaming for hours, still popping on and off my breast, spitting milk everywhere, both of us crying. WHAT THE HELL.

So here we are today, 3 days post surgery and it's getting better.. we're pushing through, just like we did from day 1 together. I realize that my story isn't beautiful like some women's are where their child latches and white doves fly into the room and harps start playing lovely music.. but my story is still special. I pushed through for my son. I didn't give up EVER because he didn't either. Eventually we'll figure this whole thing out. Eventually it will become easy.. I have to remember this. The fact that I can still provide my son with enough breast milk to become the porker that he is, is satisfying enough for me. I love nursing my boy, even if it's not picture perfect. 

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

// a n e w h o m e //

I have tears as I think of having our own place.  No, we have not bought a house or even rented a huge apartment.  We live in a house that has three different apartments.  We rent a tiny two bedroom, but I cannot express the gratitude I feel right now.  You see, I really try to keep all my public posts as positive as possible.  But, I will say this:  These past few years have been both heaven and hell for our family.  Heaven, because it was full of beautiful moments.  Beautiful moments in the midst of a terrible, terrible storm.  We lived in a broken down shack for two years: we all slept in a mattress on the ground in a room so tiny it only fit our bed.  Our living space was a tiny room and besides the bedroom it was the only room where our kids were allowed.  We had to block off the kitchen and bathroom because they were unsafe.  I know we lived in the most beautiful place on earth (basically) and that accounted for all the beautiful, beautiful moments.  However, practically, we were going a little insane  Now?  We are renting a normal apartment with a HUGE backyard!  Wildlife surrounds us (even bears.  but that's a different story. yikes!) This morning, as I watched our boys giggle and play around our backyard, I began to cry.  I literally had huge tears streaming down my face because seeing my boys play outside, without being right next to a busy road, made my heart soar with gratitude.  As hard as it's been, I am so thankful to my husband for not giving up and getting us here. We have a long ways to go, but as we move forward we get to witness all of this: 

(all photos taken outside were taken in our backyard!  except the butterflies.  those were from my parent's garden.)  

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