Once Upon A Mommy

The Ups, Downs and All Arounds of Raising a Family

Low Milk Supply – Breastmilk or Formula

low milk supplyI nursed my daughter until she was 3 ½ years old. I never imagined I’d have struggles with my milk supply during the second time around.

At about 4 months of age, I needed to pump milk for Jack so I could take Ella to the theater. I was immediately surprised when I was only able to pump 1 oz when 4 oz is the minimum requirement for a meal.

Upon some brief perusing of Google, I discovered a few things:

  1. It’s totally normal to not get enough milk for a full feed in one pumping session.
  2. Pumps are not as efficient as babies are for extracting milk. I could be reassured that my baby was getting what he needed.
  3. Pumps get old and the motors aren’t as strong. Considering my pump is well over 5 years old, this could be a factor.

So I was relieved to learn that what I was experiencing was normal. However, there still was a nagging feeling that things weren’t as they should be. I could tell that Jack was getting increasingly fussy and dissatisfied. This caused my fear to escalate and resulted in a call the nurses’ line.

The nurse assessed Jack over the phone and asked about his diapers output. While I haven’t paid a lot of attention to his output, this prompted me to start noticing. Over the next couple days, I was increasing in concern. Perhaps my milk supply is low and this milk pumping episode unveiled an underlying problem.

I, of course, dusted off my trusty book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” to see what it had to say. Since milk production is a reflection of supply and demand, I was going to devote myself to extra breastfeeding sessions. Formula or medication was not an option. The book comforted and reassured me that these things happen and there are solutions. I resolved to have a nursing vacation over the weekend.

Throughout the weekend, Jack became increasingly fussy. He just didn’t seem to feed for longer than 5 minutes. I considered the reassurances of people who say that babies are very efficient at getting the milk they need. However, that only seemed to reassure me for a short while. At one point, in extreme fear that I was starving my baby, I succumbed to giving him a bottle of milk I had pumped. It was so bizarre and betraying for me. A mix of feelings were stirred up as I hand delivered his breast milk that I was capable of giving him straight from the source.

I made it through the weekend and booked an appointment with the doctor. Sure enough, he was immediately concerned. Jack dropped from the 50th percentile to the 17th! While I normally don’t take these charts so seriously, it was obvious that there was a problem to be addressed. Because I’m unwilling to use formula as a replacement, I have reluctantly agreed to go on medication. I’m unsure why I have had a reduction in my milk supply.

My speculation is the soother. That damn soother that I never wanted to introduce in the beginning. Due to my husband’s advice, I hesitantly offered it and now I’m trapped. However, to be honest, it has been handy.

While I did introduce the soother after the recommended 6 weeks, I can see how Jack’s sucking needs were not solely satisfied by me. I believe that the lack of stimulation affected my hormones which then introduced my period. As a result, the onset of my period then took a hit to my supply. Now, here I am, on milk medication, with side effects I don’t care for. However, this journey has sure given me an appreciation and compassion for the struggles other women have experienced. In the end, life is happening FOR me, not to me. I believe this experience will serve me in some way even if it’s simply to connect with other women.

Note: when I am faced with the decision between sticking with breastfeeding or switching to formula, I am reminded of the difference between the two. I find the difference shocking!

breastmilk

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Image courtesy of Jomphong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fourth Trimester – Simulating the Womb Postpartum

fourth trimesterI was introduced to the concept of the fourth trimester when I was pregnant with Ella. It really rang true for me and was a practice I wanted to adopt in my parenting.

Here’s a beautiful article that talks about the fourth trimester, empathy with our newborns, and how to simulate the womb environment.

I’ve read that babies need to be born at 40 weeks because the size of their potential brain. If they were allowed to be born when their brains reach their full growth, we would have a gestation period of 18 to 21 months. Wow! As a result, babies are born at 40 weeks with an underdeveloped brain (less than 25-30% of an adult brain size) so they can fit through the narrow passageway. Then the rest of the growing occurs outside the womb with the brain doubling in size the first year. The idea here is that we need to treat 3 months postpartum as an extension of the womb.

My favorite way to simulate the womb experience is with baby wearing, swaddling, and skin-to-skin contact.

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cry It Out vs No Cry Sleep – Finding the Middle Ground

Cry It Out

To cry or not to cry? Now that is the question.

I’ve been torn about the cry it out method and there are times when I barely dabble in it for 5 minutes – usually I’m frustrated at this point and don’t know what else to do. Thankfully, during the times when I’m in doubt, I get intersected by some information that reminds me what my true values are.

  1. Attachment Theory and the 6 Stages of Attachment. I primarily focus on the first stage of proximity during the first year.
  2. The concept of the fourth trimester and simulating the womb environment.
  3. The effects of stress and the biology of cortisol in the brain

I stumbled upon this article that ties together all 3 of these points. Here’s a blurb from an article I found called, “Cry It Out: The Method That Kills Baby Brain Cells.”

In her recent piece for Psychology Today, Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology at Notre Dame, writes that when babies are stressed, their bodies release cortisol into their systems — a toxic hormone that kills brain cells. Considering their brains are only 25 percent developed when they’re born full-term and grow rapidly in their first year, killing off baby brain cells is a huge no bueno. Narvaez notes that studies out of Harvard, Yale, Baylor and other prestigious institutions show that said killing off of baby brain cells can lead to the higher probability of ADHD, poor academic performance and anti-social tendencies, and that human babies are hardwired for hands-on comfort and care.

“Babies are built to expect the equivalent of an ‘external womb’ after birth… being held constantly, breastfed on demand, needs met quickly,” Narvaez writes. “These practices are known to facilitate good brain and body development. When babies display discomfort, it signals that a need is not getting met, a need of their rapidly growing systems.”

When I hear about cortisol, I’m connected with the depth of knowledge I’ve gained about brain science from Dr. Caroline Leaf. She talks extensively about how the brain is wired and the effects of cortisol in the brain. The brain is such a mysterious subject that scientists are still trying to figure out. I am trying to limit anything that is harmful to my child’s brain. So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that attachment theory develops the brain and crying it out does not.

From all the books I’ve read on sleep training (find them here), I have found the book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” is the closest to my values and supports the idea of an “external womb.” While I haven’t finished reading “The No-Cry Sleep Solution,” I would conclude that it aligns with the same values as well.

To be honest, I do start to second guess attachment theory when Marc Weissbluth (“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”) argues against its role with sleep training. From what I can tell, he thinks it has its place but not when it interferes with a parent honoring their child’s need to sleep – whether it means crying or not.

In conclusion, I primarily swing to the side of using no cry sleep strategies. While I try to find a balance, I do allow a wee wee bit of crying. However, I always bookend the crying with reassuring my baby that I’m still there for comfort. More often than not, I error on the side of comfort and linger a little bit longer than I should. Although, that “should” really is just a judgment from the books I’ve read. Sure it’s easier to create bad habits, which are harder to live with, than it is to create good habits, which are easier to live with. But I’m going to do what works best for me and my family, what aligns with my values and what brings me peace.

My sleep goals have been to honor sleep, keep the window of wakefulness shorter than 2 hours and try to find the optimal drowsy state where sleep is the easiest to achieve. I also have a goal to get rid of that damn soother.

 

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Sleep Deprived – How Do You Know?

Sleep Deprived

One of the trademarks of having a baby is sleep deprivation…it kinda comes with the territory. Here’s an article listing 11 signs of sleep deprivation, in case you’re curious or unsure.

It didn’t take much for me to conclude that I’m sleep deprived. These last couple months have been a crazy roller coaster ride that I can’t seem to get off. Along the way there have been 3 aspects of sleep deprivation that have been such a tease.

Tease #1 is when you finally go back to sleep after feeding/soothing and then a short time passes when your baby awakes again. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture in some countries, you know, and I can see why.

What’s even more of a tease (tease #2) is when you finally have the opportunity to go back to sleep, and then you can’t sleep! That’s just not fair. Is life playing some kinda mean trick on me? I must either be too aroused or have one ear tuned in, dreadfully anticipating the next cry.

Upon these night awakenings, my first choice of action is to shove the soother back Jack’s mouth. But then I wonder if I’m contributing to the habit and exasperating the problem even further. Or out of sheer desperation for a guaranteed chunk of sleep, I’ll put him in the baby swing. The result is a feeling of guilt and wondering whether I’m creating a bad habit.

But fortunately, after a difficult night sleep, I’m grateful that my daughter has day camp the next day so I can at least take a nap. With Ella, I didn’t usually follow the classic advice to “sleep when your baby is sleeping.” I find many new mothers don’t either. I guess we think we’re “fine” and keep plowing through the day. But from what I’ve learned about sleep, you can acquire a sleep debt. It has taken having postpartum depression and a second child to start heeding the advice to “sleep when the baby is sleeping.”

Alright, so I’ve learned my lesson, I’m trying to sleep when the baby is sleeping. But then one of two things happen, which leads to tease #3. Either I can’t sleep even though I’m tired (see tease #2). Or I finally get to sleep and not long after, Jack wakes up! I can feel the short circuiting sparks ricocheting in my brain as I desperately think, “Go….back …to ..sleeeep…..please….oh puh…leeeeease!” This is not sustainable. No human can live off of broken night sleep and less than an hour nap all day. At some point, something has to give.

Out of delusion and urgency, I either plug the soother in his mouth or use the swing. The aftermath is the same feelings mentioned prior: guilt, doubt and fear of creating bad habits.

So I’m in a blur of confusion of what to do or not do. I’m immersed in different books all telling me different things. I’m uncertain about what my values are about crying it out or not. I seem to oscillate back and forth between the two. I’m fearful that I’m creating bad habits that will cause problems down the road. I guess after having one kid, you see all the things you don’t want to repeat and then hope to do it differently with the second. Some of these bad habits could be adding to my milk supply being low, which then creates another layer of challenges. Oh, what is one to do? I know I’m not alone and that there are other women out there, awake several times throughout the night, empathizing with my difficulties.

In the end, I need to come back to compassion. It’s no wonder I do the things I do when it’s 3 in the morning, it’s been 3 months of getting less than 3 hours of sleep at a time, and the only thing I can think to do out of sheer desperation is shove a soother back into my baby’s mouth or put him in a swing. Fortunately, children are adaptable and they will, of course, change again!

Therefore, I have come full circle with the same conclusion I had when I was trying to figure out sleep with Ella: the most important thing is for everyone to be sleeping; however that needs to be obtained, so be it. I choose to accept and not judge – it is what it is, neither good nor bad.

And I choose laugher yoga! “Hi my name is Kristina. Hahahahaha. And I’m sleep deprived! Hahahaha…ohh HAHAHAHAHA…(hilarious laughter and chuckles).” Aaahh that feels better already.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cry It Out vs No Cry Sleep – Book Resources

Navigating the world of baby sleep and sleep training can be confusing and conflicting. Here are some of the books that I’ve been hacking away at that you may find of value:

The Baby Sleep Solution” by Suzy Giordano, “The Baby Coach”

This one I have read the least amount. It seems like she supports the cry it out method. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it or just pick out bits and pieces that would be helpful to me.

Sleep TrainingThe No-Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley

She definitely doesn’t support crying it out, hence the title. She says, “The bottom line is there are a wide variety of effective approaches to helping a child sleep better. If you could avoid making your child cry endlessly to achieve better sleep, then why wouldn’t you?” Her book is a much slower approach with the creation of a sleep chart as the starting point (I honestly can’t be bothered).

Sleep Training

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau

The Baby Whisperer is half way between crying it out and not letting them cry at all. I picked up this book when Ella was a baby and had to put it down. I started my parenting by going with the flow and letting what feels natural transpire. Then I picked up this book and things got confusing. I was told that the things I was using to put Ella to sleep were props and should be avoided. For example, letting a baby nurse to sleep would be considered a prop. But when you look at the natural science of breast milk, it’s no wonder babies fall asleep. I believe it’s designed that way when we consider the hormones within milk and the effects it has on the body. Besides, it’s the only weapon I got.

However, I do like the concept of starting with where you plan to finish (if you don’t want to rock a 50 lb child to sleep, then don’t start when they are a baby). But this concept isn’t always feasible when you’re desperate. There are so many times I’ve put her in the baby swing because I had was in dire need for her to sleep.

In the end, Ella wasn’t sleeping and it seemed I was achieving the opposite of what my intended goal was – to sleep. Therefore, I put the book down and found two others to be helpful (“The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”). Now that I have Jack, I have pulled “The Baby Whisperer” book out again. I’m still curious about it and feel strangely drawn to it. Without reading it and just going from memory, I have remembered the EASY strategy and have benefited from that routine. Who knows if I’ll read the rest of it? Perhaps it’s that nagging feeling of never letting a book go unfinished that is at play here.

Sleep Training

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by La Leche League International

This book primarily gave me the heart and vision behind breastfeeding. I proudly nursed my daughter until 3 ½ years old. We’ll see how long I last with Jack considering I’m on milk supply medication right now. My goal is to do as long as possible with him too. The thing I like about this book is how chill and “go with the flow” it is. When I was wound up and stressed out about all the other information that seems to be conflicting and confusing, I came back to this book and sighed a breath of relief. The heart of the book supports my style of taking things as they come and one day at a time. It definitely aligns with attachment theory and the concept of the fourth trimester. For me, it reminds me to go back to my parent instincts and marvel at the beauty of having a baby rather than trying to figure it all out. I put down “The Baby Whisperer” book after reading this one.

Sleep Training
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Marc Weissbluth, MD

I like the science behind this book. The 2 things that I’ve gleaned from this book are:

  1. No more than 2 hour wakefulness since they last awake time
  2. A clock schedule that helped me figure out my routine

I’ve come back to this book with Jack and it’s the primary book I am focusing on right now. I don’t support his ideas of crying it out but he does offer other solutions too. There is a wealth of knowledge in this book and it covers a lot of the science behind sleep. It’s easier for me to get on board when I understand the research behind why sleep is so important to over physical and brain health.

Sleep Training

Sleep Deprivation – Sleep Baby Sleep! Please!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They say never wake a sleeping baby. But how about, never wake a sleeping mommy?

Just when you figure your baby out, they change. Of course, Jack, who slept around the clock for the first 3 months, has changed his tune. At 4 ½ months I’m now waking every 1, 2 or 3 hours. It’s been like this for the last few weeks. Perhaps it’s the 4 month sleep regression that I heard so much about and was in denial over. Or perhaps it’s because my milk supply has been low and he’s trying to get as much milk as he can. Or perhaps it’s because he uses a soother (perhaps why my milk supply has struggled and my period came back early – and perhaps it’s my period coming early that caused the low milk supply) and he awakens when it’s no longer in his mouth. There are a lot of perhaps and a bit of a circular action occurring. I don’t know how to tell the end from the beginning. Can you tell I’m confused?

So it’s fair to say that I have sleep deprivation, which is such an aggravating and powerless position to be in. I feel like I have no control over my basic human need to sleep. Sure there are alternatives like formula feeding, pumping, etc. But I’m not in that head space yet or I’m stubborn. I envy my husband who has the freedom to sleep uninterrupted. And on the other hand, I marvel at the women who have more than 2 children or have them close together in age (I don’t know how they do it).

I rest in the assurance that this too will pass; I call upon the help of those who are able to help; and I give myself a lot of compassion when I use vices I may not prefer to use. I remind myself that when my children are teenagers, they will be overdosing on sleep. We’ll soon have the opposite problem – the challenge of waking them in order to get to school on time. For now, I’m going to choose to be content with the season that I’m in and get as much sleep as I can get. I have concluded that although I can’t control fragmented sleep throughout the night, early wake times or short naps, I can control the time I go to bed. Therefore, I’m going to make whatever efforts I can to tuck myself in early in order to make the night that much more bearable.

Find out the signs of sleep deprivation and the rest of my sleep deprivation story here

 

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Laughter Yoga – Gets Me Every Time

Several times throughout my self-help reading, the benefits of laughter have come across my path. I keep meaning to incorporate laughter throughout my day, but I never seem to remember. Isn’t that strange? Children never have to remember. As for me, I’ve gotten out of the habit of laughing.

I was reminded of a wellness project I did with my students in Family Studies class several years ago. The project was set up like a wellness fair with different stations. At each station, the group had to engage the rest of the class in a wellness activity. One group in particular was assigned the topic of laughter. This was my first encounter of laughter yoga…a memory that has stuck with me over the years.

The memory of laughter yoga has come to my recent attention. Therefore, I’ve decided to pursue laughter yoga further. Since I don’t have the time to attend a group, and there aren’t many in my area, I resorted to good ole’ YouTube. In my search, I stumbled across one short video that gives me a chuckle whenever I bring it to mind. It actually has been quite therapeutic for me.

It seems odd and insensitive to be laughing at other peoples’ problems. And these aren’t just any old problems…some of them are serious illnesses. However, I have come to see the twisted perspective in this activity. When we laugh at the things life throws at us, it takes the edge off – takes the sting away. It’s as if we are saying, “You tried to knock me down, but I’m going to get back up.” It reminds me of one of my favorite people, Kris Carr. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she spelled it as “canser” just for spite.

Since watching this video, it has come to my attention several times. Sometimes I will think to myself: “I’m Kristina…hahahaha. And I just got rear ended….hahahaha.” Or “I don’t want to clean my house…hahahahaha” or whatever else is bugging me at that moment. Immediately, a smile comes to my face and my mood changes. I have found this to be a very powerful tool in changing my state, helping me not take things so seriously and putting things into proper perspective. It reminds me that life “is what it is – neither good or bad” and it softens me to accept and deal with what I’m otherwise resisting.

 

Resources: learn more about Laughter Yoga from the official site

Emotional Flooding – Gratitude and Appreciation – Tony Robbins

I’m in the process of creating a morning ritual that will be meaningful and empowering. I know the many benefits of gratitude and have been looking for ways to incorporate it into my day.

When I attended Tony Robbin’s conference, Unleash the Power Within, I remember completing an exercise called Emotional Flooding. I am excited that I can replicate the experience though a similar version found on YouTube.

This exercise is incredibly powerful. It elicits extraordinary sensations of gratitude and appreciation. It has helped foster deep feelings of love towards myself as I meditate on the faithfulness and strength of my heart. I am thankful to my Creator for giving me this gift without me ever asking. As I experience the range of emotion stirred up from this meditation, I am reminded of what life is about. I see the beauty and preciousness of life and make conscious choices to savior it more frequently.

This is one of the many activities I would like to add to my morning ritual. It is a sure fire way to change my state when I’m feeling dark and gloomy. It puts my mind in the right perspective and focusing on the things that truly matter.

 

Peace Is Power. Are You Giving Yours Away?

Google Images

Google Images

The word “Peace” has been mulling over in my head for a while. I’ve been triggered by the words of Joyce Meyer, “Peace is Power.” As I’ve been on my journey of self-discovery, I have come to realize how quickly I get caught in a trap whenever I allow myself to be influenced by my surroundings. I give over my power to anger, irritants, annoyances, circumstances and other peoples’ behavior more often than I would like.

One of my greatest challenges has been overcoming a victim mindset. I can so easily spiral into a pity party and feel like the world is against me. So often, I feel like a boat being tossed amongst the waves rather than anchored and grounded. I allow my circumstances to dictate my mood and steal my power. I have yet to fully receive the revelation that I am in control of my reactions. My resistance to accepting life how it is, curveballs and all, causes extra unnecessary suffering for myself. As a result, I become short-tempered and blame those around me for my miserable state.

Ever since I’ve realized that peace = power, I’ve been trying to be more mindful of situations that rob me of my peace. I’m working hard to not allow minor annoyances steal away my joy. Therefore, I find myself frequently muttering, “Peace is power. Keep your peace,” whenever I’m flustered or stuck in a “Why is this happening to me?” mindset.

It’s amazing to me how my emotions are so intricately woven with other peoples’ behaviors. Someone can say the wrong thing or look the wrong way and I can take immediate offence. I can fall fast down a tunnel of shame and think that something is wrong with me. But somehow, in some way, most likely through my extensive prayer, things have been slowly starting to click. I’m not wanting to give my life over to circumstances. I have been able to draw upon my skills learned from the book, “The Surprising Purpose of Anger,” to help make sense of the world around me. I can begin to separate myself from others and take responsibility for my needs and emotions instead of also taking on theirs.

As I am gaining clearer understanding and conviction, I’ve been working hard to not allow other people to define me and dictate my emotions. I’ve been guarding my peace and treating it like a special treasure within me. I try to put things into perspective and imagine myself at the end of my life – will I regret holding onto this? When my daughter is acting as a 5 year old should, I’m trying to remember to keep my peace and not let her childlike behaviors throw me off course. When my husband is dealing with his own stresses or personal challenges, I’m trying to remind myself that it’s him and not me. When people in passing say hurtful things without paying attention, I’m trying to extend grace and forgiveness because I too say hurtful things without thinking.

Life happens and I can’t control it, as much as I’d like to try. I’m allowing myself to suffer unnecessarily rather than just experiencing ordinary pain when I refuse to accept the realities of life. Even though I can’t control life, I can control my attitude towards it. Even though I often feel powerless to change my circumstances, I do have the power to change myself. I can easily fall prey to thinking that I can’t change anything and woe is me…but slowly I am coming to realize that I can. It doesn’t serve me well or help those around me to continue to believe that I am powerless to change. It damages my soul and creates bitterness and resentment within me when I allow others’ behaviors to steal my peace. It’s all on me. I am responsible for my happiness and peace. It’s time for me to start taking back what belongs to me and stop giving it away so freely.
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Where has the time gone?

Google It’s been way too long since I’ve last posted and a lot has changed since last summer.  The biggest change is the newest addition to my family….a baby boy named Jack!

I’ve been procrastinating and avoiding my writing for several reasons.  One being the challenge of balancing 2 children.  Two being the challenge of balancing my mental health.  I haven’t always “felt” like writing because of low moods or stress or  inopportune times.  I also find my perfectionism gets in the way – trying to get the post just right or fear that it isn’t “good enough.” Lastly, I fear what others will think since it’s quite vulnerable putting myself out there.

Yet, I have so much to share and I need an outlet. It’s been nagging at me to start writing again. With all I’ve been learning about habits,  I know that my future is determined by what I choose to do today. Therefore,  I just need to start and stop caring about how it looks. I’m choosing to let go of each post being perfect so that I can just simply write. I’m choosing to be raw, real and vulnerable.

As a result, I start today as I’m sitting in a chair at the community center. My 5 year old is playing in the playroom and my baby is asleep in the stroller next to me. I’m using my mobile phone instead of my computer because I’ll never start if I wait to be in front of my laptop. I’m enduring the obnoxiousness of auto correct and spelling errors as I push through and just write. I’m choosing to start now despite my excuses. In the end, I’m curious to see where this will lead me….only time will tell.

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