Friday, October 10, 2014

Traveling Baby Part 2: Airplane

Next in my traveling baby posts is airplanes. After my major fail from Jack's first road trip, you can imagine I was very nervous about flying with him a only few weeks later. My parents wanted us to visit and I was invited to a sorority sister's wedding reception, so I figured it was worth a flight. When I told my mom the dates we were coming, she was sad it was only for the weekend. I was still on maternity leave, but Michael had to work and couldn't take that much time off. Then my mom pleaded that I come up with Jack first, then Michael joins us for the weekend. So now I had to brave flying ALONE with a baby!

I was hellbent on avoiding this again at all costs.
I came up with a good plan and was hellbent on executing it properly this time. Jack is the least fussy in the morning so we picked an early flight. Jack is young enough that he doesn't need his own seat either, so I didn't need to worry lugging a carseat along too (my parents bought one to keep there for when we visit). I wanted to get to the gate about an hour early so didn't have to rush but wasn't waiting around getting anxious. I wanted plenty of time to change him, nurse him, and maybe get in a short nap if needed. Plus you know get through security and such. And I knew I needed to wear him in the Boba Wrap through the airport to keep him calm and happy. I chose the Boba over my woven wrap because I can pop him in and out easily. I was advised by my La Leche League to nurse him during takeoff and landing to help with his ear pressure. And they also told me it's required he be out of the wrap during flight for safety, so make sure I bring a pillow or something for him to sleep on (and not kill my arms). I planned to take my time getting off and get him back in the wrap, to keep Jack calm and happy. Then walk off, hug mom and dad, then jump in the car back to their house. For the flight home, it was later in the afternoon---after Jack's nap time---so I figured a similar protocol would work. Get there with just enough time, wear him, nurse him on the plane, hope he sleeps, and not rush getting off the plane. Plus this time I would have Michael to help.

Wear your baby through the airport! 
Then the day came. We got up early that morning, but let Jack continue to sleep. Just when I finished getting ready, he woke up and we got him ready too. There was traffic getting the airport, but we planned for that so we had plenty of time. We parked, got Jack in the wrap, got our tickets, said good-bye, and went to security. By that time Jack was asleep. I calmly went through security to my gate.

First class his first flight!
As I was waiting at the gate, they kept offering upgrades to first class for only $50....so I texted Michael and he said I could treat myself. I was so excited! I know that families travelling with infants board first anyways, but it was nice to board with first class. The minute I stepped on the plane, one flight attendant was eyeing my baby.  She offered to hold him while I got situated. I know some people might be worried about letting a stranger hold their baby, but I wasn't too concerned. I figured she must be a mom herself and knew the troubles of travelling with a baby. And she wasn't going to hurt him because she probably wanted to keep her job. Plus, it's not like she could run off with him, we were stuck in a metal tube! I was nervous about how the person sitting next to me would react to a baby. It was a middle-aged man on a business trip. As he getting out his laptop, he noticed Jack. He said "Hi little guy!" So I faced Jack towards him and said "Hi, I'm Jack! I'm only 4-months-old and this is my first flight, I apologize if it doesn't go well." He smiled and said, "No problem Jack, I remember what 4-month-olds can be like." I was relieved.

He met this pilots and got his wings!
Then something awesome happened! The flight attendant told me bring Jack to the cockpit to meet the pilots before the doors sealed. So I quickly brought him up there and we snapped a photo. Then they gave him his wings and a certificate. I showed them to Jack and he just tried to suck on them, but I was so excited for him!

Tired from screaming and playing with his toy.
Shortly after I got back to my seat, we began to taxi. I put Jack on the nursing pillow and began to nurse him. He was all happy until we began to pick up speed. He began to scream once we lifted up. I kept trying to latch him on, but he wasn't having it. Five minutes later, I gave up and sat him up. He calmed down instantly and reached for his toy in the bag. Duh, he is a very alert baby. He likes action. He wasn't mad about taking off, he was mad I wasn't showing him the take off! He played with his toy for awhile, then made the milk face so I nursed him. Then he fell asleep and slept right through the landing. I waited there in my seat until half the plane left, then I gently woke him up. The flight attendant held him while I got my wrap on and bags together. Then we happily walked off the plane.

I was surprised to only see my mom. My dad had to run into work for a bit. My mom doesn't like driving to Portland so we had to take the MAX home. Jack fussed a little on the train, but I just nursed him to sleep.

The rest of the trip was great, got to see friends and sorority sisters I haven't seen in years. And Jack got lots of grandparent time. Michael joined us that Friday too.

He had a solid hour nap on the plane.
The flight home went just as well. We got to the airport with just enough time (I love that there is hardly any traffic in Oregon). I wore him through security and everything went smooth. No cheap offers on first class this time sadly. However, I decided to not take him out of the wrap this time. He was sound asleep and he needed a good nap. If the flight attendants asked me, I would of course comply. But we boarded, got comfy in our seats, and the plane took off. No one said anything. Every airline has a different policy on this so I looked up Alaska's beforehand and they indeed to do not allow babies to be in carriers during flight. They either need to held or in a carseat in separate seat. I am not advocating breaking any airlines policies or saying the crew didn't do their jobs. But it worked this one time, and I am glad I got away with it. Jack needed that nap. To be honest, I probably won't do that again now that he's older anyways.

He couldn't just wait until we landed...
He woke up halfway through the flight, so I took him out of the wrap. He was all happy and very interested in looking out the window. Then, he farted really loud and we knew he pooped his diaper. Really kid, you couldn't wait a little bit longer until we were back in San Jose? Some airplanes do not have changing tables, and I didn't want to risk hauling Jack and the diaper bag all the way to the bathroom for nothing. So I changed Jack on Michael's lap quickly. The guy next to Michael was asleep and Jack's poop didn't smell yet. Plus, I did it so quick I doubt anyone noticed.

He loved looking out the window!
I tried to nurse him as we descended, but once again he wasn't having it. So I sat him up and showed him stuff out the window. Look Jack! There's the Bay! There's 280! Oh, there's the Santa Cruz Mountains! Oh, right there baby, is Loma Prieta were a big earthquake came from! There's Gilroy where all the garlic is! and etc. I'm sure I sounded like a crazy lady, but it made Jack happy. And we landed with no screaming or tears.

We got our bags and met my sister-in-law out front. It all went very well and I have no more worries about flying with a baby anymore. Hopefully he stays this good as a toddlers...

Here is my advice for flying with a baby under 6-months-old:

  • Plan for every possible scenario. Too hot, too cold, running late, running early, flight cancelled, sick baby, sick parents, tired baby, tired parents & etc. And expect that one of these WILL happen. That way you aren't stressed out when it does happen. I didn't panic when my mom said we had to take MAX instead because I kept that option in mind. I didn't panic when he pooped, because I knew that the pressure might upset his tummy. 
  • But don't over pack. Have back up things in your diaper bag or carry on, like extra diapers and clothes for sure. But don't bring unnecessary stuff. If your bag is too full, you won't be able to find stuff easily. And it will be a pain to lug around an airport while holding a baby. 
  • Don't rush, leave plenty of time in case something does happen---like Bay Area traffic. No one wants to be that person running to the gate with a screaming baby. Horrible way to start or end your vacation.
  • Wear your baby. If you only remember one thing from this post, make it this. Whether it be a wrap, ring sling, soft structured carrier, buckle carrier, mei tai, or any other type---get that baby on you so you can easily move about the busy airport handsfree. 
  • Take care of your babies needs right away. Keep them comfortable as possible to avoid a meltdown.  Feed, change, play and get them down for a nap as needed, don't delay. Would you be happy sitting in your own pee for a whole plane ride? Or told you can have food as soon as we land when you are starving? I'd sure throw a tantrum too! This is why we changed Jack's diaper right away. 
  • Try to plan with baby's schedule in mind.  That way there is even less chance of a meltdown. We flew around times that Jack naps so he could sleep most of the ride. It worked very well. 
  • Ask for help if you need it.  If that nice flight attendant offers to hold your baby while you sit down, let them. If the person next to you asks if you need help getting a bottle from your bag, accept it. Don't stress yourself out doing it alone. 
  • Help baby with ear pressure. Nursing, a bottle, pacifier, or anything else they can suck during takeoff and landing is a must. Jack was content with just sucking my finger---but he sucked hard, his ears must have really popped.
  • Keep in mind every baby is different. Jack didn't want to nurse, but was happy looking at the window. Maybe your baby will need to nurse the whole flight. Maybe your baby will scream the whole time no matter what you do.  All of this is okay, so don't panic if your baby doesn't cooperate. 
  • Upgrade to first class if you can afford it. And I mean only if you can afford it, don't go broke because I told you it's better. But it really was nicer. More room, free snacks and drinks, and just overall more relaxing with a baby. 










Thursday, October 2, 2014

Traveling Baby Part 1: Road trip


Our family is lucky enough to have people who love us all over world. Seriously, we have family and friend all over the United States, Australia, New Zealand, The Middle East, and South America. Michael and I love to travel, and are very excited to take Jack on many adventures. I tried to find blogs from other mom's about traveling with a baby, but most of them were for ones over 6-months-old. I wanted to know what it was like traveling with a baby that can't even sit up yet. So I hope this post helps someone who is up at midnight the night before a trip with their very little one and finds some relief.

This will be a three part post. Next will be air travel, then traveling without baby for the first time.

For the Fourth of July weekend, we went up to Michael's sister's house just outside Sacramento. To avoid the insane traffic from the people heading that way to Lake Tahoe, we decided to leave at 8 PM Wednesday night. Jack goes to bed around that time and usually can fall asleep in the car easily. So, I thought we would get him all ready for bed, put him in the car drowsy and he'd be asleep by the time we hit the freeway. Then he would sleep for the 2 or so hours there, wake for a feeding when we take him out, and then he'll go right back to bed for the night.  We did something similar when we went to Sonoma for the day. He slept most of the way their so I thought this would be just as easy.
He was good and sleepy, so we got in the car.
Wrong. I was so wrong. So very wrong. I blame my husband for his one entirely. I told him very clearly that we need to leave as soon as I am done nursing Jack, while he is still sleepy. I thought I made it clear we had a small window of drowsiness to get to the freeway to lull him to sleep. I told him to pack the entire car and have everything ready to go while I got Jack ready for bed. So I took him the bath and Michael started packing. I thought all he had to do was put the bags in, feed the cats, and get in the car. Well, once Jack was all ready for bed and nursed to drowsy Michael was still running around. I told him we needed to leave and got in the car. I waited 10 minutes in the car and was getting mad. Jack lost his drowsiness and was WIDE AWAKE. Once Michael finally got in the car, he tells me we need to go drop the garage door opener off at his other sister's house so she can feed the cats while we are gone. I was very mad. Why didn't you tell me to do this before!!!! So by the time we drove down the street to her house, Jack was overtired and screaming.  I pulled out a bottle to try to calm him and began to sing to him.
Daddy took too long and now I'm wide awake.
Once were on the freeway, we instantly hit a ton of traffic. Stupid Tahoe traffic.... It took an hour for Jack to fall asleep. I know he would have fallen despite the traffic if we had left when he was drowsy. So between the traffic and being mad at my husband, I was really stressed out and did not want to be stuck in a car for 3 hours. Michael apologized and explained he didn't understand why I was adamant we leave so quickly. But after seeing how Jack reacted, he got it.
This last about 35 minutes.
So I calmed down and decided to close my eyes for a bit .Then I saw little feet moving out the corner of my eye. He woke up! So I spent the next two hours trying to get him back to sleep. Nothing worked, he was wide awake and pissed off. He was crying and reaching out for me. I knew nothing was wrong, he just needed a calm place to go to sleep. But nothing was going to put him to sleep as long as we was in the seat. Of course as soon as we pulled up to the house, he was got quiet and calm. Michael quickly put the pack n' play together while I swaddled and nursed him. He slept like an angel that night, only waking once at 5 AM.

Jack had a very fun first Independence Day otherwise. We drove to Lake Tahoe on Saturday to see some friends. Jack did better on that ride. He slept longer because we left right at his nap time. And this time we pulled over when he got crabby. I also brought toys to amuse him when he woke up. On Sunday when we left, he did better as well. There was less traffic so he slept more and only fussed when we were 15 minutes away from home.

Going home was a lot happier. I covered him
up to block the sun so he would sleep longer.
We learned so much from that trip so Jack is doing a lot better in the car now. He has been back to Sacramento and a bunch of other places since then. We will be attempting another night drive in a few weeks for a cousin's wedding. It's going to be about an 8 hour drive, I'm hoping that we execute this one properly. I'll let you know how it goes.

My Advice for Road Trips:
  • Plan for everything to go wrong. That way it's not stressful if it happens. I was so sure everything was going to work out great that I was not prepared for it to fall apart.
  • Make a plan and STICK TO IT. Improvising will only add stress to you and the baby. If you plan on putting the baby down sleeping in the car like I wanted to, make sure you actually are on the road so they actually go to sleep. I should have made sure everything was packed and done before I ever put Jack in the bath. I should have not put Jack in the car until Michael was in the car first. I should told him his sister didn't need the garage door opener (she has a key to house she should could still get in) and made him just get on the freeway. I still believe it would have worked (or at least gone better) if we stuck to the plan. 
  • Check traffic conditions. I didn't check traffic until we hit a major backup. I thought for sure we would have missed all the commuters and people who left for Tahoe right after work. We would have taken a back road out the Bay Area and gotten on a different freeway if we had checked first. It probably would have cut 2 hours off our trip. Two hours less stress for Jack. 
  • Pull over if baby gets too mad. I don't know why I didn't yell for Michael to pull over so I could comfort nurse him back to drowsy. Then he would have been happy and quiet stuck in traffic at least.
  • Bring more milk than you think you need. I only brought one 2 ounce bottle with us. Jack downed that pretty quick and wanted more. And he was even madder when there wasn't more. I didn't plan on him being awake and demanding milk! I should have either brought a bag from my freezer stash or just brought my pump to pump as needed in the car. 
  • Keep the baby at a good temperature. I bundled Jack all up and once he started screaming, he was dripping in sweat. I ended up pulling off layers through the carseat to cool him down. Likewise, if you are blasting the AC to stay cool, make sure you are not freezing your baby. Try for one simple base layer then adding blankets as needed. 
  • Bring entertainment. I also did not pack Jack any toys for the car because I assumed he would be asleep. So when he woke up and had nothing to do, he became bored. An angry baby that is also bored is never a good thing. 
  • Bring something soothing. We gave Jack Michael's old cell phone (deactivated most of the settings) so we can play soothing music for him. This didn't help much driving that night since Jack was way overtired, but on most other road trips it helps lull him to sleep.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Beginning Of Baby-Led Weaning


  *Follow our BLW journey on Instagram @vegan_babymama

In my last post, I explained all my reasons for wanting to do baby-led weaning. I think it's a natural way to introduce solids to an infant without all the stress and drama of spoon-feeding purees. Plus I get to continue to breastfeed Jack on demand for as long as he and I want. Win for everybody!

The key to successful baby-led weaning is to only start it when they meet all the milestones, which I will recap:
  • Sit up unassisted. 
  • Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
  • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
  • Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
  • Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity
Most babies do all these at 6+ months. In the book, many moms said they didn't start until 7-8 months even. In most cases, feeding babies solids before 6 months can have major health consequences. Their tummies simply aren't ready to handle anything other than milk. The saying is "When their outsides are ready, their insides are ready." If they can do all these milestones, their tummy can handle solids.

So when I finished the Baby-Led Weaning book when Jack was 3.5 months, I had no plans on starting him anytime soon. At that time he could mouth objects and barely sit up assisted. Then a few weeks later he reached out for a toy and grabbed it. Just laying on his side, nonchalantly grabbed it and brought it to his mouth to suck on. Maybe a weeks after that, he sat up very well assisted. Another week later or so, I noticed his tongue thrust was gone. He has always loved suck on my finger, but this time he brought it to the back of his mouth with his tongue deliberately. No gagging or forcing it back to the front. Next came the curiosity. He would STARE at us while we ate. I mean like stop everything he is doing and focus on our food. Then he began to smack his lips together as he watched us. I started putting his swing next to the table when we ate. He'd munch on toy and stare the whole time. I knew was growing fast, but still thought the other milestones were months off.

At his 4-month check-up, she said we could start solids if we wanted to, but waiting 2 more months is ideal. I still wasn't even considering it. The that week, he sat up unassisted. I let go of him and he didn't fall in any direction. Granted he was leaning way over and cried 30 seconds later, but he did it. This really put me through a loop. He was only 4.5-months-old!

I still thought I could hold him off, then this started happening:

He tried to steal my food! At first it was just wanting to see what was on my plate. Then he wanted to be held or lay in front of me while I ate so he could watch more closely. This led to taking the plates and later sucking on them. Then he tried grabbing our food. If appropriate, we let him hold a piece, but he usually just dropped it.

Then the day came when I couldn't ignore it anymore. He was super fussy and wanted to be held, but I was hungry. So I put him in the wrap and made some lentil soup. I sat down with him still wrapped to eat. I got a text and started to read it when I noticed my hand was moving... He grabbed the spoon (top right on the collage) and put it in his mouth! It was mostly just the broth, but he moved it around his mouth and swallowed. It had curry powder and red pepper flakes in it! What are you doing kid? You shouldn't be ready for that! I told my husband and he said he's still too little, but knew I couldn't keep putting it off.

Then the next day I made a smoothie and he demanded it (center of the collage). I mean squealing and failing around on my lap to get it. So I gave him the straw and he quickly put it in his mouth. It took him a minute, but he did suck some down. He coughed, then smiled and took another little sip. I was stunned. After that he wanted to hold the cup while I drank and intently watched me. That was the last milestone. I couldn't ignore it. He was telling me was ready, 4 days shy of being 5 months old.

I did some research. Other baby-led weaning moms said their babies were ready a month early and they ended up doing great. But I was still worried about his gut not being totally sealed up yet. I researched that too, recipes for bone broth came up. Apparently the natural gelatin in helps everything close up (even in adults with leaky guts). Plus the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables help replenish his stores (babies are born with a certain amount that they leached from mom that lasts them until they are to get them from food). It sounded like a good starting food. The only probably is it wasn't vegan! I know I said that Jack will be raised eating both foods , but I didn't exactly want his first food to be from an animal. But I knew it would be the best for him. And it wasn't the end of the world, he might still end up a vegan. I got over the worry and decided to make some bone broth.

My house smelled like turkey for days,
not appealing to a vegan.
That's right, I said make my own. The "broth" they sell in stores is not the same thing. It's made from meat scraps and has a lot of sodium added for flavor. Real broth is made from roasted and boiled bones. If I was going to start my son on food, I was gonna do it right. So I bought a roasted turkey breast from the store (I was not in the mood to roast my own and turkey was all that was left when I got off work). I picked the meat off and gave it to Michael. Then put the carcass in with celery, onion, carrots and garlic. I let it simmer overnight. I added a touch of salt, pepper, and a sprig of rosemary for flavor. I let it cool and drained it.

Little man was very happy afterwards.
The large photo is him licking his lips.
I got my lunch ready and then put Jack in the highchair. He was so happy to be at the table for once and not next to it. I need to explain why this is the only thing I will spoon-feed Jack. Everything he will feed himself. The reason I am doing this is because I actually do want him to ingest some to seal up his gut. But I let him have all the control. He got to pick which spoon or to drink from the cup. He chose the Asian spoon. I let him open his mouth and lean forward to take it. He instantly started slurping. A lot of it went down his front, but he got some. He started hitting the tray asking for more. I gave him more and he took the spoon to lick up all he could. So I turned to my food, had a few bites then gave him another spoonful. I only poured maybe 3 tablespoon into the cup. He maybe had 1? It doesn't matter with baby-led weaning. He had just nursed so he wasn't hungry. It was just a little top off. He told me he was done when he turned his head away. But he wanted to play with the spoon so I let him while I finished my food. It was calm and happy. I had lunch with my son for the first time. So beautiful, proud momma moment. My husband had dinner with him that night and he loved it too.
Definitely more on him than in him.
We did only bone broth for 2 more days. Then I introduce the first real solid food: egg yolks. Again not vegan, but high in iron. Iron is the first mineral babies deplete. I hard-scrambled just the yolk. I let it cool and place it on his tray. We sat down for our first Sunday morning breakfast as a family. I put one piece of egg in his mouth just so he had a taste, he brought his hands up to hold it. He didn't eat too much of the egg, mainly just played with it and licked his fingers. He got it everywhere, we even found some under his neck later on that afternoon. But it was still fun and I was proud he was learning.

My wrap ended up covered in lentils. But he was so happy.
That afternoon we went to Ikea to check-out this bed frame we are thinking about getting. We had lunch at the restaurant there and Jack wanted some too. I first offered him a piece of my tortilla wrap, he just held it. I offered him some lentil soup. He played with the spoon and ate a few (like seriously maybe 4 lentils in the end). He mostly made a mess. But it was still fun.
He kept making faces but going back for more.
The next day I gave him avocado slices for breakfast. I sliced them into strips. I left the skin on a few pieces and took it off on the others. The ones without were too slippery and he dropped them. He could pick up the ones with the skin, but couldn't get his mouth around them. Then he did something amazing, he pulled off the skin and took that to his mouth. He licked off the bit of remaining flesh very easily. That is when I convinced I was doing the right thing. He was ready and this was the best way to introduce food to him. Even if he was all covered in green like a mini Hulk afterwards! We did bone broth for lunch and dinner again that day.

He LOVED the cucumber. 
A few days later we stepped it up a notch. Cucumber stick, bell pepper stick, and some cold soba noodles. When I set the food, down he just stared. Then he realized I was eating the same thing and watched me for a minute. Then he slowly picked up the cucumber stick (I learned from the avocado and left the skin on and cut off most of the flesh) and he began to suck on it. He loved it! After a little while he reached for the bell pepper stick and sucked that too. He liked it, but not as much as the cucumber. He then threw both sticks on the floor, then he noticed the noodles. He grabbed the little pile with his hand took it to his mouth. Most fell in his lap, but a few made it in. His face lit up, this was his first experience with real flavor. He just sucked them and coughed a little. But overall was very happy.

Then came bananas. I cut off about an inch from the one I was going to put into my cereal. Then I cut it into quarters lengthwise and left the peel on for him to grab. He picked them up easily but instantly was not a fan. He kept making a major puss face. He did get one big bite in and spit it out very quickly. He played with them mostly, which is fine. We will try again another day. And if not, I won't make him eat them if he doesn't want to. He was much happier with the bone broth for lunch and dinner instead.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As he continues to grow, we will try more and more things. And he will learn how to eat better and start telling me what he wants. I look forward to this journey with him!









Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Baby-Lead Weaning: Ditching The Baby Spoon


First of all, I want to say I am not judging anyone who bottle-feds or spoon-feeds their child. All that matters is you love and care for your child. Everything else is just a difference of opinion.

The story of how I am introducing solid food to my son began when I was still in my first trimester. I pretty much spent every day for the first 4 months laying on the couch coping with morning sickness. To distract myself, I looked up pregnancy and baby stuff on Pinterest. I came across this blog post one day and I was intrigued. I thought "Maybe later when the baby is older.." so pinned it. But I kept coming back to that post and thinking about it, it just seemed too good to be true. Women on my Birth Club kept mentioning it too. I knew I wanted to nurse Jack for as long as possible. And I wanted to make my baby food. Baby-led weaning encompasses all that. But I kept telling myself  "Figure it out later."

The pin that haunted me....

Once Jack was born and we got the hang of nursing, I knew there was no way I wanted to wean him any earlier than 2-years-old. Jack decided that most days he only wants to nap on me, so I ended up with free time on my hands and back on Pinterest. And that post came up again. It was haunting me. So I downloaded the book to my phone and read it during his naps. A major light bulb went on. It all made sense. I found the way I wanted to feed my son and any future children.

I love e-books!

 I had three major concerns about feeding my child. First of all, I wanted him to mostly eat highly nutritious, whole, unprocessed food. No junk food, no food-like products, and no empty calories. I want to change the way the western-world thinks about food, and a great place to start is my teaching the new generation. Second, I didn't want to create a picky-eater. I've babysat kids who threw full-on tantrums the minute you even thought of feeding them something new. One little girl cried for an hour when I suggested dipping her quesadilla in salsa. I want my son to want real food, good food. Third, I will do anything to prevent Jack from developing food issues. I have struggled with them my whole life and it's not until a few years ago did I get it mostly under control. I want him to learn food is for nourishment---of the body and soul---and not a treat or weapon. Baby-led weaning seems to be the answer to all my concerns about introducing solids.

So, what is this crazy new idea called baby-lead weaning? In a nutshell, you only feed your child milk (breast preferably, but formula is okay too) until he is ready to feed himself. And once you introduce solid food, you allow him to learn to eat and do not worry about how much he actually consumes. Then overtime, as he eats more gradually on his own, he will want to nurse less and less until he weans himself.

It's not a new concept. This is how our ancestors fed their children. Cavewomen nursed their babies for as long as possible because that's all they had. And when they were older, the cave-babies sat on mommas' laps and pulled off pieces of roasted saber-toothed tiger meat (or whatever they ate) and gnaw on it. No spoon-feedings. No jar of nasty mushed up vegetables. No force-feeding a certain amount. Why did they feed their children this way and not like most mother do now? First of all , their babies were thriving on breast milk. It adapts as the baby grows to provide the correct calories/vitamins/antibodies to help a baby grow perfectly. And it's pretty much free and always readily available. Second, feeding a baby this wastes less. Why portion out a totally separate meal of scarce food that this tiny person probably will only eat a few bites of? And waste all that time and energy making it? That cave-baby can just take what they want, and while the family eats the rest. If cave-baby doesn't like saber-tooth tiger, that's fine because they already had some breast milk. Baby-led weaning is not new, but forgotten. Once convenient pre-packaged foods became the norm, the idea of feeding your baby from your plate died. Food companies convinced us that only poor, uneducated people would feed their baby table scraps. Good, loving parents will spend the money to feed their child the food they designed for babies. This way of feeding is actually the new concept.

I know you are probably thinking, "But my parents fed me like this and I am okay." And maybe you are. But I am telling you that I am not. And I don't believe many from my generation are as good as they could be either. Like I said I have major issues with food. And I believe that---Mom, please don't take offense to this, I love you and know you did everything you thought was right---that all my food issues go back to how I was fed as a baby. I was breastfed until I was 6 months old (I am very grateful for that!) then switched to formula. I was spoon-fed at 4 months old,  and given rice cereal at 5 months. My mom did make a lot of her own baby food (I am so very grateful for that!) with fresh vegetables and fruit later on. But it was still pureed and spoon-fed. So, what was so bad about this common feeding method? It didn't teach me anything but how to overeat non-nutrient dense foods. This led to me not learning how to control my food, which led to overeating.. This led to weigh issues, which led to body image issues. So, I am horribly sick and messed up beyond repair from all this? No. But like I said before, it was painful to handle. I know other people from my generation suffer from these issues too. Plus, there is a major rise in severe allergies, painful digestive issues, and horrible migraines that can be all traced back to food.  I don't think we are really as okay as we claim.

How does baby-led weaning solve this? Let me explain a little bit more how it works. This is once again a nutshell of the rules, I suggest reading the book for an in-depth explanation.
  • Continue to give them milk as their main source of food. Once the learn how to eat, they will begin to wean later. 
  • Introduce foods once your baby has met all the milestones, usually around 6 month.
    • Sit up unassisted. 
    • Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
    • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
    • Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
    • Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity
  • Feed your baby what you are eating, within reason. 
  • Chose a few, basic whole foods to start out and make them sure they are easy for them to hold. 
  • Let them them be in control. Don't try to help.
  • Let them make a big mess. Don't try to clean-up during the feed.
  • Don't offer too much as once or they may get overwhelmed, and get discouraged. Then they will think eating is stressful. 
  • Don't overly praise them when they do eat something. Then they begin to think that eating makes you happy, so I should eat more to keep you happy. This leads to overeating. 
  • Don't scold for not eating. This will also make eating stressful, too. 
  • Don't worry about how much they are eating, it doesn't matter. Milk will provide them with the correct nutrition and calories for awhile.
  • Don't force them to eat something they don't want. They may be full and more hurts their tummy. Or they simply might not like it and forcing them to eat it once again is creating stress. Or they may be allergic to it and rejecting it is their way of telling you it make them feel ill. 
  • Remember, it's not about the food, it's about learning a skill. 
Baby-led weaning has the potential to eliminate the issues I talked about earlier. Overeating is reduced because they learn overtime how much food they need to be satiated. Babies are born knowing to only remove enough milk from the breast to be full. Trust me, you can't force a baby to latch on if they don't want to. However, you can force a bottle-fed baby or spoon-fed baby to take more than they want. This starts them down the road of wanting more than is necessary. But if you never break their natural ability, they will continue to only eat what they need. The food issues are eliminated for two reasons: there is no drastic change and there is less stress. It's challenging for a baby to go from being spoon-fed bland tasting mush to suddenly being expected to eat normal adult food. They get used to only one texture and one taste, and then you demand they eat all this other crazy stuff? No wonder picky eats usually prefer simple things. But if you allow them to explore various tastes and textures from the start, it's not so challenging. Plus, breast milk varies in taste based on what mom ate, so it's not that big of a leap. With less stress, they have the time to learn at their own pace. Would you like to eat with someone standing over you demanding you eat this or else get punished? No, you wouldn't! So why do it to a baby? All that teaches you is you are bad and food is bad. This mentality hinders the child from learning the skill. Lastly forcing a child to eat something before they are physically ready can create health problems. Babies are born with holes in their stomach lining to allow the nutrients of milk to seep into other parts of their bodies easier. If you force a child to eat solids before they are ready, these holes do not seal properly and cause digestive and immune system issues.


All this is why I am foregoing the spoon and jar, and letting my son eat from my plate. In my next post, I will explain how the journey is going so far.


Resources:
Infant---Food and Feeding, American Pediatric Association.
Baby-Led Weaning Website
Breastfeeding, World Who Organization











Friday, September 5, 2014

The End of Sleep Regression

A month ago I posted about how we were dealing with the evil four-month sleep regression. At the time we were right at the peak of it. The night after I posted that was Jack's worst by far. It took over an hour to get him to close his eyes. He just kept screaming and making himself more overtired. Then once I finally thought he was asleep and set him down, he woke right back up. Another 45 minutes of frantic nursing and crying, he finally passed out and stayed asleep when I set him down. Then he woke-up every hour for the rest of the night. At 4 AM I went out the living room and cried out of exhaustion. And of course, once I got myself together and went back to the bedroom,  Jack woke right back up! At that point I put him in bed with us, but it didn't help. He still woke up every hour until 8 AM when he decided to be up for good. I wanted to die. And naps weren't any better that day. He screamed and nursed frantically. And when he did finally go to sleep, I couldn't set him down and he only slept for 15 minutes in my arms. And he did this every 2 hours. I called out sick from work that day because I couldn't function properly.
"It's 10 PM? You want to go to sleep? That's nice. I'm WIDE awake!"
After that night, it slowly got better. And I mean slowly. Like another month slowly. That's right, it took a whole 56 days for Jack to sleep through the night again. What's weird is everything went back to normal in reverse order, like he magically hit the rewind button. First, he started to go down easily for naps. Then his naps went back to the normal 30-90 minutes. Next, he started waking only every 2 hours at night. Then 3 hours. Suddenly he went to sleep easily at night. Lastly, he went back to his normal 5-6 hour stretch, followed by two more 3 hours stretches. It's just like all the books said, he did go back to normal once he learned how to handle the adult sleep cycles. Last night I officially declared the regression over. I got 8 hours of sleep total and it felt amazing!

So what is my advice to any parent struggling through this hell? Do nothing. Seriously. Just keep your baby's normal routine (being flexible as needed) and understand that neither you nor your baby can control this. If it worked before, it will work again once your child brain develops enough. I know you were probably wanting to hear that I did some magic sleep training program to get him back on track quickly. But I don't believe in sleep training, I honestly think it's mean. Why would you force your baby into something that they are not designed to do yet?  I think the time and energy you waste on forcing strict training on your child should be used to comfort and encourage them during such big mental leaps instead.

That being said, there are a few things you can do to help your child master the skill of sleeping better (note I said better, not prefect).

  • Have a bedtime routine. That way they begin to recognize a pattern of events that lead up to sleep. We do bath, lotion massage, pajamas while calmly talking/singing, nurse on the couch with all the lights out until he's asleep. He's learned this pattern now too, he starts giving me the milk face while I put his pajamas on.
  • Put them to sleep in a dark, calm room. Turn off the lights (we leave a night light on so I can see him when he fusses). Make sure there is no loud noises that could startle them (loud neighbors outside,  noisy dishwasher, & etc.). Keep the room at a decent cool temperature. Use a white noise machine if you like too (we use a box fan). Pretty much remove all outside stimulation that could keep your baby awake if they do happen to open there eyes for second. 
  • Lay them down drowsy. This encourages them to put themselves to back to sleep when they wake-up at night. I know I said I nurse him to sleep, but the walk to the bedroom usually wakes him a little. He wiggles and opens his eyes a bit as I set him down. I usually step out out of his view and watch to make sure he goes to sleep. Ninety-nine percent of the time he does instantly. 
  • Learn the difference between real and fake cries. When Jack was in the middle of his sleep regression, I notice sometimes when I picked him up when he cried, he would forcefully open his eyes and start screaming. Then he would throw a tantrum and it would take an hour to put him back to sleep. After a week of this, I research it and realized he was not actually awake when he cried. Babies---especially when in a sleep regression--cry in their sleep if they are dreaming or in between sleep cycles. I picked him up too soon. I would scream too if someone woke me up from a sound sleep! So one night when he cried I sat-up and watch him for a second. He kept his eyes closed and his hands stayed soft. He cried for maybe 2 minutes tops, but it wasn't loud, more like a fuss. Then he went right back to sleep and slept 3 more hours. Later he cried again, but this time his eyes were open and he reached out for me. Then I picked him up, nursed him, and he went back to sleep in 5 minutes. If they are really crying, always comfort them. I do not believe in letting them cry-it-out. A baby under 6 months does not have the mental capacity to manipulate you, they only cry when they need something. And yes, attention and reassurance at this age are basic needs. 
  • Don't change your comforting methods. If you start something new during this time, they will get used to it and want you to keep doing it after the regression is over. For example, if you never sat on yoga ball and bounced them back to sleep before, don't start doing it "just for now" to get them to sleep quicker. It will become a new crutch that you will always have to do at 3 AM.. Do you really want to bounce on a yoga ball at that ungodly hour for the next year? Didn't think so. I kept on picking Jack up and nursing him back to sleep. If he was really fussy, I patted him bottom and shushed. If he really wasn't having it, Michael would turn on his calming music and I would gently rock him. But these were the things I had done since birth. The only difference was I had to do them for longer. Now that he is back to normal, I went back to doing them normally too. No crazy sleep crutches at 3 AM. 
  • Walk away if you reach the breaking point. It's okay if you get too stressed out from lack of sleep, you don't have to be prefect. One night I went to bed right when Jack did because I was exhausted, and of course he woke up as soon as my head hit the pillow. I tried for an hour to put him back to sleep but he was WIDE awake. I carried him to the living room crying and told Michael he had to take him. I went to sleep for three hours while Michael tried in vain to get him back down. I woke up at midnight and nursed him back to sleep. He still woke up every hour after that, but with a little sleep I gained some composure and prescriptive. Remember they are not torturing you, they are just learning a new skill and need your help mastering it. 

Woke-up with his cute face after 9 hours of sleep.
It does get better, just be patience. 
Just be patience. Seriously, this will not last forever. One day your baby will be leaving for college and all you will have are the memories of rocking them back to sleep at 3 AM.  Don't over stress and make those long nights more painful than they need to be. Keep loving your baby and help them through this phase.



Monday, August 18, 2014

The Thing I Said I Would Never Do: Co-sleeping

I've mentioned before on here how I was trying to avoid co-sleeping---sharing a bed with the baby. I know that humans have done it for centuries and that many cultures around the world still do. My parents and my in-laws did it too. I even read about how to do it safely. But it really did not sound like it was for me. I am very particular about my sleep because I struggled with insomnia in the past. Plus, it just seemed so weird. I wanted to share my bed with my husband, not our child. I brought it up to Michael and he said he will do whatever makes me happy. So agreed Jack would sleep in his own bed every night.

Clockwise: On the monitor in his crib, on the monitor in
the bassinet, in his pack n play, and in his swing.
We bought Jack a lovely crib and fixed up the bassinet Michael used as baby. We also bought a Pack n Play for when we visit family and friends. And we got a swing second-hand from a friend. Jack had plenty of places to sleep, no need to even give co-sleeping a second thought. When Jack was born, he was pretty willing to sleep anywhere.

At the hospital, he was so tired it was like talking to a zombie.
We started putting him in his crib at first, but getting up 10 times a night got old fast. What we didn't consider is that babies wake-up every 2-3 hours to nurse at night. And sometimes, even every 45 minutes. And we didn't realize how exhausted we would be from the whole birth experience. Do you know how much it sucks to get up every hour when you are still sore from pushing a baby out? Do you know your husband will be a zombie from not being able to sleep much at the hospital? That went on for about a week before we decided to try something else.

Then we tired putting him in the crib for the first part of the night when he slept the longest, then after I nursed him sitting up in put bed and I put him in the bassinet next to me. So when he woke up again, all I had to do was reach over and pick him. It was so much easier, but we still weren't getting enough good sleep some nights.

One day three weeks postpartum, I woke up very very sore. It hurt to sit up to nurse him. My mom mentioned to me that she loved nursing laying down because she could rest. So I laid him next to me on the couch and nursed him. He fell right asleep and stayed asleep next to me while I watched TV for 3 hours. It was great!
"I look like I'm sound asleep, but put me down and I will SCREAM!"
The next Monday Michael had to go back to work, meaning it was Jack and I alone for the first time. I was still tired and sore, so of course Jack decided he only wanted to sleep in my arms. I thought maybe I could just lay down with him in the twin bed in the nursery for a bit? So we tried and both went asleep easily. Two hours later we woke up very happy.


Right before he woke up from our first long nap together, so cute.
I talked to my mom about it and said explained again that it really was the only way she got any sleep in the beginning. But I was so worried about SIDS or him suffocating. She said that yes, tragic accidents do happen but she did it with me---and I am still alive. The next day I decided to try again with his afternoon nap, but this time in our queen-sized bed.The next thing I knew Michael was walking in the door and we had been asleep for 4 hours! Jack had even latch himself on my breast in his sleep. I remember pulling him in closer instinctively, then going back to sleep.

So I thought about it some more and realized maybe I had demonized co-sleeping for no reason. The concerns I had before mostly vanished. Once I got over the initial worry,  I actually slept great. And I didn't need to get up every hour because Jack was right there. He would either fuss and I pulled him to my breast, or he would just latch himself on. Then he went right back to sleep. And he could stay latched as long as he needed and I could go back to sleep. And I naturally adjusted to having him in the bed and didn't mind sleeping on my side.

I talked to Michael about it and he said he was willing to try whatever we needed to get some more sleep. But he was concerned about somethings. So we did more research and we came to an agreement. We would not co-sleep the first part of the night because we did want Jack to learn how to sleep on his own. And we agreed we would not co-sleep every night. And we would follow the rules every time he did sleep with us.

We didn't  try sleeping together as a family until a week later. Jack got his 2 months shots and just conked out after. Michael and I were tired too, so we decided to try a family nap. We took all the heavy blankets off the bed. Michael and I only had a light sheet tucked-in around our waists. I laid down with Jack, then Michael got in. Soon we were all fast asleep. Three hour later we all woke up very happy.

They were so cute, I just had to take a picture.
Co-sleeping on occasion is a great choice for our family. Now we only put Jack in bed with us if he's fussy and it's still too early to get up for the day, like around 5 or 6 AM. And he and I take naps together a few times a week too. Not only is it so much easier, but it's so beautiful. When I open my eyes to see my boys laying in the same position with the same happy looks on their faces, my heart melts. And Michael loves coming home to see us snuggled up together. Looking back at my own childhood, I think about those Sunday morning where my brother and I jumped into bed with my parents for snuggles and I can't believe I ever denied co-sleeping.

All that being said, before you dive into co-sleeping, please do some research and make sure it is right for your family. Sharing your bed with your baby isn't for everyone, so please discuss it thoroughly with your partner and take all factors into consideration first. The information I got from my local La Leche League was the most helpful. Please scour the internet, there is tons of info.

Resources on co-sleeping:
Sleep-Sharing: The Family Bed, Baby Center
Pros & Cons of Co-Sleeping, What To Expect
Sharing Sleep With Babies: The Benefits of Nighttime Slumbers, La Leche League
SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths, American Academy of Pediatrics
Co-Sleeping and Bed-Sharing, Kellymom
Safe Co-Sleeping Habits, Ask Dr. Sears


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oversupply and Undersupply

I was one of those lucky women whose milk came in quickly ( 3 days after birth). And I made the correct amount right from the start. The first two weeks I was just engorged enough to meet Jack's demands during those first few growth spurts but not be leaking all the time. Then I somehow got it in my head I needed to accumulate a massive freezer stash as soon as possible. So I started to pump whenever I could. I also took fenugreek everyday for 2 weeks to boost my supply. By the time Jack was a month old I had over 100 ounces frozen. I was so proud, my baby could eat for several days!

His first milk coma. I should have know if
he was happy, I was making enough milk.
Around this time I got my first clogged duct---and man did it hurt. A few days later I got another. Then another. I also noticed Jack's diapers where green and frothy. He also started to cough/choke and pull off my breast when my letdown started. I asked my lactation consultant, she said I likely had a strong letdown caused by an oversupply. I told her I was pumping a lot and she said that was really unnecessary. Unless I planned on being away from him often, I didn't need more than a few bottles worth stashed.

My freezer stash again. I am considering
donating some of it now.
I looked up on La Leche's website how to correct an oversupply. I stopped taking the fenugreek and right away I stopped getting insanely engorged. Then I didn't need to pump during the day at all. I only pumped for relief if Jack slept through the night. And when he woke up to nurse at night, I pumped the other side after to keep it from leaking and waking me up. It was painful at first and I got two more clogged duct during the process. Jack's also stopped choking and his diapers went back to normal. I felt silly for thinking I needed to make so much extra milk everyday. It only caused Jack and I problems.

Then my milk stabilized around 12 weeks postpartum. Many moms mistake this for their milk drying up. Your body figured out how much milk to make for your baby, so you no longer get engorged and will leak a lot less. I knew this was coming and welcomed the relief. I only woke up 1 or 2 times a week to pump at night.
I had just nursed him and he was still giving me the milk face.
About this time I also went back on birth control. I know that exclusively breast feeding can be a very effect form of birth control when done correctly, but I didn't want to take that chance. Jack is the best surprise of my life, but I am so not ready for any more. I selected Mirena, which the doctor told me repeatedly has little to no chance of interfering with my milk supply. At first there were no issues, so I didn't think twice about it. Then Jack hit the 4 month sleep regression. He woke every hour to two hours at night, demanding milk. I had plenty so it was not an issue at the start. He was nurse for 5 minutes then would easily go back to sleep. About a week into the sleep regression is when my Mirena took full affect and I noticed right away Jack was nursing for 20 minutes or more. And he getting frustrated. Sometime he even demanded the other side as well. This also started to happen during the day. One day I pumped to make a bottle so I could go out for a bit and hardly anything came out. I mean I spent 30 minutes barely getting 1 ounces from both sides. No wonder Jack was getting frustrated! I know pumping is not a good indication of total output because your baby is better at removing milk, but I always responded well to pumping. Something was wrong. 

I realized that it had to be the Mirena, since nothing else changed. I talked to my lactation consultant again. She brought up the whole "most mom mistake stabilization for a loss of supply" thing, despite me telling her I knew the difference. So she weighed him before and after a feeding session right there at the office to show me he was getting enough. Jack nursed for 20 minutes and barely got 1.5 ounces. She said that he will need to nurse more often if that is all he getting. And eventually I might need to supplement with formula if it interferes with his weight gain. She really did not want that to happen though, she urged me to just keep at it. 

I asked my local La Leche League for help. A couple moms also experienced a dip in supply when returning to birth control. One mom said that it's because it signals your body to start having menstrual cycle hormones again. Those interfere with the hormones for milk production. She suggested I take the Mirena out if it becomes a major issue. I didn't want to take it out, but I also did not want my milk to dry up. I want to nurse Jack until at least two-years-old, and no stupid little medical device was going to prevent me from reaching my goal.


I was going back to work in 2 weeks and did not want to use up my freezer stash. I knew that if I turned to the stash I would be demanding less of my breasts, causing them to make even less. This would only make the problem worse. So I pulled out all the stops. The lactation consultant told me to go back on fenugreek. I could up to 4 pills 3 times a day if I needed. I ordered a two-pack of the big bottles off of Amazon Mom. I also made lactation cookies (check out my food blog for the recipe) and devoured of them all. I also ate oatmeal with a big scoop of brewer's yeast (also got off of Amazon Mom) for breakfast every morning. I drank Mother's Milk Tea and a ton of water daily too. I also let Jack nurse all he wanted. I even let him stay latch for 5-10 minutes once he fell asleep for a nap to increase the demand on my body. I also pumped every chance I got.

It took 12 days of being vigilant, but it worked! One night I got up to pump at 3 AM and got my normal 3-4 ounces. Jack stopped fussing at my breast during the day and fell asleep easily again at night (though he still woke up often because of the sleep regression). I cut back on the marathon nursing sessions and only make lactation cookies when I want a treat. I am still taking the fenugreek to keep my supply from dipping again. I scaled back though, only 2 pills 2 times a day.

It came just in time too, the next day I started back at work. The milk I pumped that night became his bottles for my first evening back. It's been 4 weeks now and my supply is back to normal. I stabilized again and don't get engorged often at all. I never had to touch my freezer stash (I am actually considering donating my stash now) and I didn't need to supplement with formula either. Stubbornness paid off big time!

How cute is the romper I got in Napa?
I shared this story because I couldn't find another one like it. I am not judging anyone who chooses to give formula or needs to supplement at all. Always do what's best for you and your baby. But I hear from friends and other moms who didn't get the support and information they needed to push through breastfeeding hurdles. Breastfeeding is not always easy and does not always come naturally. It's work and takes a commitment. It is possible to succeed, don't discouraged! If your baby is gaining weight and making enough dirt/wet diapers, don't worry about needing to supplement. Your body is amazing and can fix the issue if you let it. I have fixed an oversupply and undersupply in the span of 4 months now. Get help and seek out support like I did. 

Here are resources I used:
How Does Milk Production Work, KellyMom
Fenugreek Seeds For Increasing Milk Supply, KellyMom
Oversupply, La Leche League
Engorgement, La Leche League
Brestfeeding and Fertility, KellyMom
Increasing Low Milk Supply, KellyMom
Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?, Kellymom