Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lactation Consultation

Gwen and I had an important visitor yesterday - a lactation consultant. She hung out with us for two hours, and we learned a LOT.

  • Gwen's latch is too shallow. This causes bruising and pain on my nipples. Did you know that it's not actually normal for nipples to turn purple after every feed? I didn't.
  • Gwen's gag reflex is very strong. Even when I manage to get a good latch, she pulls back a bit so that it's shallow again. This explains why she can't keep a soother in her mouth.
  • Gwen's muscles at the sides of her mouth are not toned, so she doesn't create a good seal. This is why she drools, why she has milk pouring down her face when she drinks a bottle, and probably why she swallows so much air during a feeding.

So. Bad habits there. Will be a lot of work to correct.

The lactation consultant (Karyn-Grace, but she prefers to be called KG) is very optimistic about getting Gwen off formula, in fact long before we hit the six-month mark, but it will take a lot of effort. We wrote out a plan, and here are the main points:

  • Feed Gwen 1 ounce from a bottle before daytime feedings, so she is not ravenous and is more likely to co-operate with latch correction
  • Nurse as long as Gwen will do so, switching as often as necessary to ensure breast is not empty
  • When both breasts are empty, let her be, unless she cries for more - then feed her another ounce (or however much she requests); this amount should go down over time, as the constant stimulation should push my body to make more milk
  • Certain feedings will be breast only

I was quite skeptical that I'd be able to get Gwen to go to sleep last night with only my breasts and 1 ounce from a bottle, but she did ... and she slept for nearly eight hours, so I can't complain there.

Here's the part that's hard, though.

No one else can feed the baby (except for that 1 ounce at the beginning of the feed, and what's the point?). No one else can put Gwen to bed. Every night feeding is back on me. And no more Gramma time.

I can't leave her for more than an hour, because in order to increase my milk supply, I have to take advantage of every single opportunity to nurse.

Tall order. But it's not permanent. In fact, the only way I can accept this right now is to adopt the mindset that we are trying this out for a few days. In a few days, KG and I (and hopefully Chris) will talk again, and we'll see what's working and what's not. Then we'll decide what to do for the next few days. And then the next. And so on. If I picture the next two months of my life as a time when I will NEVER be able to say, "I need some baby-free time" I will lose my mind. But if I just take it a couple days at a time, I think I can handle it. And hopefully I will see results before the wallpaper starts talking to me.

I made a promise to my daughter the night she was born. I swore I would do anything. I didn't plan these words, they just erupted out of me in the pure emotion of the moment when I saw her face. I don't know exactly what that statement means, yet, but part of it means that I'm willing to try this for a few days, just to see.

So do me a favour, friends and readers. I know some of you - one in particular, for sure - think this is asking too much of me, and is a recipe for post-partum depression. It may well be. But for the meantime, as we try this out, please be supportive. That may mean saying something nice, it may mean saying nothing at all. I feel very strongly about this and want to try it. I promised Gwen.

Friday, August 29, 2008


This bunny sleeper's been really busy.

Bunny sleeper coming home from the hospital.

Bunny sleeper at 6weeks, with first smiles.

Bunny sleeper in activity chair for four-month photo.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More about the Pediatrician's visit

Further to yesterday's entry about the dumb-ass pediatrician, which you should read here if you haven't already.

First off, I forgot to mention one of the other brilliant things Dr. Graybeard said about nursing vs. bottle-feeding. After watching Gwen nurse for a minute and declaring that I was a bad nurser, we moved on to discussing the gassiness and accompanying unhappiness. Dr. Graybeard said that he could hear her being a lazy eater, taking in lots of air, and this would cause her to get bubbles in her gut, which would then make her burp or fart, and possibly spit up if the bubble was under the food. "And I bet you'll find that when she drinks from a bottle, she's a quieter eater, way less fussy, and gets less gas and spits up less." Chris and I exchanged looks. "Actually, no." I said. "It's way worse with a bottle."

His response? "Oh, well she's just a fussy baby who gets a lot of gas."


Anyway, I have gotten a LOT of response to yesterday's post. I changed my Facebook status to say that I had written about Gwen's pediatrician visit at this blog, and coincidentally I had just added a bunch of the other moms from the Healthy Beginnings drop-in I go to, so a few of them read it and commented on it to me today, which then caused other moms to overhear, and I even ended up discussing it with the nurse there. In addition, I got a lot of comments here, and some private emails as well.

The reaction is unanimous - everyone is appalled.

The first response was from my best friend, Mike, who sent me the link to a site I really wish I'd known about before - Rate Brilliant. This site allows you to rate the doctor on a scale of one to five, for several different criteria - Punctuality, Helpfulness, Knowledge, and so on. The idiot we saw the other day? His highest rating on this site is 1.9. And that was for Punctuality.

Reepicheep asked why I was protecting his privacy. I just couldn't even bring myself to type his name, because putting his name next to the 'Dr.' title shows respect, and I have no respect for this man. But I'm not trying to protect him, so here's the link to his rating. We are not the only people he has treated this way. If you don't have time to read the comments from other patients, I'll hit the highlights for you:

"Dr. Hales called [my son] retarded, that in his day and age kids like that were mental retards. He was only to do a physical exam, all he checked was my son's ears and palms. "

"I would recomend seeing a vet before I would allow your child to see him."

"He was rude, belittling and said some comments to my teenage daughter that were unacceptable." (I can only imagine!)

"Worst we have ever met. "

"Our visit with this Dr. Hales was easily the most unpleasant doctor's visit we have ever had. "

"He was arrogant, patronizing, and at few points more than rude. He only checked our daughter's ears (the reason for the consultation) after we asked him to."

Everyone is also urging me to write a letter, submit a complaint, and so on. After talking to the nurse at today's drop-in, I'm convinced I should do so. We only saw Dr. Graybeard because the doctor we were technically referred to was on holiday, and he was filling in - so the 'real' doctor needs to know how this moron is treating her patients while she's away.

So I have some work to do. A letter to Dr. Arruda's office, a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, and a rating on Rate

Not for my sake, but for the sake of the mom who isn't as well-read and well-supported as I am, and goes in there with a brand new baby and all the vulnerability of post-partum hormones, and gets treated the same way. Nothing changes if we don't place these complaints, so though I'd rather move on from the negativity I will get my bitch on and do what I can to get rid of this jerk-off.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gwen's visit with the Pediatrician

Yesterday, we took Gwen to the pediatrician. We went armed with a list of questions, all basically relating back to her weight gain or lack thereof. The other issues - spitting up, fussiness during feeds, painful gas - were only a concern as they related to the weight issue. As in, I wouldn't take Gwen to the doctor to complain that she cries and spits up a lot. But the fact that she cries and spits up a lot and has never gained weight adequately? That seemed like a problem. I wasn't concerned that there was something serious wrong, I just wanted to make sure we weren't missing anything.

Our appointment was for 11:30. Unfortunately, I had to interrupt Gwen's nap in order to arrive on time. Further unfortunately, we then spent 45 minutes in the doctor's waiting room. Thinking that we would be called in any minute, I didn't feed Gwen the entire time, whereas she is used to being fed as soon as she wakes from a nap. Bizarrely, she was fine; not fussing or crying, just being sweet and making eyes at her dad.

At long last we were brought in. Dr. Graybeard (not his real name) told us to have a seat, and started asking questions that I thought were very pertinent - confirming that I'd had a healthy pregnancy, that Gwen was born at term, that both Chris and I were in good health. "Is she being nursed?" he asked, and of course that is the Can of Worms. I explained about the norovirus, and the disinterest in nursing, and the subsequent dip in supply and the failure to come back from that despite the full dose of Domperidone. "We've been supplementing with formula pretty much her whole life," I said. "But even with that, she doesn't seem to gain weight properly. I think it's because she spits up a LOT."

"Put her up on the table and take her clothes off," he instructed, and I did so. As I took off her pants, Gwen started to cry. "Oh, the table's cold, isn't it?" I sympathized. Well, not much to be done about it. Dr. Graybeard took off her diaper, plopped her on the scale, took her head and length measurements, poked her here and tapped her there, then indicated he was finished with her. Throughout, Gwen screamed at the top of her lungs. I put a new diaper on, got her dressed again, and sat down to nurse and listen to what the doctor had to say.

"Well!" he began. "You've got yourself a grumpy baby. I hope you know, this is going to be her temperament for the rest of her life. Some babies are sweet and charming and easy, and everyone wants to hold them, and some babies just aren't. That's the kind of baby you got. She's just a grouchy, difficult baby. You just have to accept that, she's always going to be that way. Any little thing - change in temperature, being exposed, seeing a strange person, whatever - she's going to scream about it.

"Her weight is fine. She's right here on the 25th percentile, no problem there."

I piped up as this was something I really wanted clarification on. "She was born at the 90th percentile. Doesn't she need to stay on that line?"

"No, not at all. As you can see, she's stayed consistently on the 25th percentile since she was one month old, and that's absolutely fine. There's no problem with her weight."

"Alright," I said. "Now, I was told that I should keep an eye on her weight, which I've obviously done, and that I could start to wean her off the formula as long as she was continuing to gain properly."

He shook his head. "No, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't bother. I'm looking at you right now, and as she pulls off the breast, I should see that she is satisfied and full. I don't see that. I should see milk spraying on her, and I don't see that. I should see milk leaking from your other breast while she nurses, and I don't see that." I nodded, as I am not a leaky mom and never have been - I haven't worn breast pads since Gwen was about a week old. But I never knew that that was an indication of, well, anything.

"You just don't look like a good nurser, and you just have to accept that. You can't do it. You're a big woman, but I just don't think you have it in you."

"So you think I should just ... just keep supplementing her with formula."


"Alright." I sighed. "Well, I guess she's still getting some benefit from the breastmilk I am giving her, then."

"Well, at this point, it's arguable. Up to two months of age, you are giving her all the antibodies from everything you have ever been exposed to. After that? It's arguable. Breastmilk isn't really any better for her than formula, at her age."

Rattled, I turned to Chris and asked what other questions we had on the list. Chris started asking about Gwen's spitting up. "Well, she's just got a lot of gas, that's all. She's just a grumpy, gassy, difficult baby. Some babies are like that." We asked about a formula I'd recently heard of that billed itself as being more easily digested. He had nothing to say. Chris mentioned Ovol, and Dr. Graybeard went off on a rant about how Ovol is about as effective as waving a magic wand. "If you want to spend the money and believe the dream, go ahead," he smirked. "I've been in the pediatrics business for 35 years, you know, I've got a gray beard here. And during that time, I see things come and go. They don't really have any effect, they don't really have any place in the world of respectable medicine."

And that was pretty much it.

It took me nearly a day to process all of this, and here's what I think about Dr. Graybeard and his proclamations:

I think he is an ass. An abrasive, offensive, ignorant ass.

But the whole story just wouldn't end right without a little mocking, so let's dig a little deeper.

Dr. Graybeard says: "Your baby is grumpy."
Well, yes. We woke her early from her nap and then didn't feed her for over an hour, then took her into a cold, unfamliar place and took off her clothes. Wouldn't you be a bit grumpy? There's a vast difference between grumpy as a mood and grumpy as a personality trait, don't you think?

Dr. Graybeard says: "Her weight is fine."
I'm inclined to believe this one. He may have a bad habit of disgusing his opinions as medical fact, but it's hard to be subjective about numbers on a scale and on a growth chart. If he says it's fine, then I think it's fine, and if we're all wrong and she slips for a couple of weeks it's not going to be a matter of life and death the way it was when she was a wee little thing.

Dr. Graybeard says: "You're a bad nurser, and you can't get her off formula. Oh, and by the way you're fat."
A bad nurser? Thanks. I love the way you phrased that. If I'd been here two months ago, I would still be in tears 24 hours later. As it is I'm very unimpressed with your desire to summarize my entire nursing experience with just a few words, and after an observation period of about 90 seconds. I have a lactation consultant visiting on Friday who seems to think my goal of getting Gwen off formula when we introduce solids is a very viable one - and she's going to be spending 2-3 hours with me, to start, so that we can figure out how to reach it. On this topic, I am willing to go the extra mile (and pay the $75) to get a second opinion.

But okay, you're right about the fat part.

Dr. Graybeard says: "Breastmilk isn't any better than formula anyway."
Hmm. Then why do I spend most of my life as a new mom being beaten over the head with the Exclusive Breastfeeding for Six Months stick, then? Why not Exclusive Breastfeeding for Two Months? Did the World Health Organization not clear their latest recommendations with you before releasing them to the world? Or is the WHO one of those snake-oil organizations who just sells stuff we shouldn't believe anyway?

Dr. Graybeard says: "Ovol is a placebo."
Chris later asked me, "How the hell can a placebo have any effect when the person you're giving it to doesn't even know what you're doing?" Good point. One day last week I accidentally missed one of Gwen's Ovol doses, and we decided to just let it be for a while, to see if she still needed it. 36 hours later, in a storm of fussiness and flatulence the likes of which I hope you never witness, we were rushing for the Ovol. Yes, she needs it. Most effective placebo I've ever seen.

Needless to say, we won't be keeping this guy on our speed-dial.

Some pictures of our grumpy baby:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


8am. I wake up to Gwen's smiling face next to mine, as she's been in bed with me since 4:30am. Her attitude in the morning assures me that if she could talk, she'd be saying "You're here again? This is going to be AWESOME!"

"Good morning," I say. "Did you have a good sleep?" She grins even more madly at the sound of my voice. She is so giddy she can hardly bear the excitement, and turns away shyly as if to hide her glee.

"Blurgh!" she answers enthusiastically, and receives a dozen or so kisses on her chubby, edible cheeks. We snuggle for a bit while she tells me of her night: "ah ah ahhhh." I'm glad to hear it.

Then, abruptly, she turns away from me and begins blowing raspberries at the ceiling, with urgent purpose, as if to say "Nice to see you, Mom, but I've got to get to work now. These raspberries ain't gonna blow themselves, y'know, and I've got a quota to meet." Brow furrowed in concentration. Phhhllllbbt. Phhhllllbbt. Phhhhhhhllllllllbbbbbttttt.

I like mornings.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month Four

Dear Gwen,
What an incredible month we’ve had. You are changing before my eyes. Just a few short weeks ago, you didn’t even notice the existence of your many enticing toys. Then, all of a sudden, you would become completely entranced at the sight of one of them in my hands, your brow furrowed in concentration. Days later, if I waited for the right moment when your hands were open, I could sneak a toy into your grip; it would then be shaken exuberantly, although you had no sense of co-operating in this little game. I remember being so excited the first time you wrapped your hand around a toy, and rushing for the camera. Only a week later, you started taking the toys right out of my hand. And then your dad, eager to get in on the action, showed you how to use your hands together to grip even better. It won’t be long before you don’t even need our ‘help’ anymore to play with your toys: you’ll spot them nearby, reach out to grab them, and no doubt put them straight into your mouth.

One of your favourite toys is a cute green dragon that Grannie bought for you. It plays music if you touch its belly, and you have managed to do this several times, though I don’t think you realize yet it’s your actions causing the music to play. Lately, if the dragon starts playing its song (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star), you “sing” along, going “ah ah ah ah ah ah ah” at almost the right time. The first time your dad saw you do this, he fell completely in love with you (well, more so than he was already). I swear you had him utterly wrapped around your adorable and surprisingly advanced finger at that point.

You and your dad are bonding more and more. You are always happy to see him, and often crane your neck away from whatever we are doing to watch him as he leaves. It was for him that you first giggled, as you sat in your activity chair and he sang along with the radio, which was playing “Stepping Out” by Joe Jackson. I think you liked all those “doo-doo” noises. I don’t think your dad will ever forget that moment – it was an incredible sound, an amazing feeling.

On the other hand, a moment I hope I never forget happened last week when your dad was playing with you on the couch after work. “Would you like to fly, Gwen?” he asked lovingly. “Let’s fly, come on! One … two … three!” As you can imagine, he bounced you gently on the one and the two, then lifted you up above his head on the three. As if on cue, you spat up all over him. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to die. Now, don’t think me heartless – I did pass him a cloth to clean up as I laughed. But I couldn’t be more proud that you seem to have inherited my comic timing.

And don’t worry, I get mine on a daily basis, believe me. Yesterday after screaming for 35 minutes straight, you had a huge burp. Just as I asked, “Do you feel better?”, you spat up all over both yourself and me. Then you emitted this long, drawn-out “ahhhh,” sounding for all the world as if you were just expressing the depths of your relief and perfect comfort. Despite my status of being covered in half-digested milk, I laughed uproariously. You are the funniest baby ever.

Everyone always comments on how alert you are, how totally “there” you are. I have to admit I like this about you. You are active, not passive. The other day I saw a baby three months older than you being fed a bottle, and he just lay there, passive, not interacting in any way. Nothing wrong with that, definitely, but that is not your style – you are already trying to hold the bottle when we feed you, and are always craning your head around to see everything that is going on. While I’m sure this is the same trait that makes you a difficult, fussy baby, I’d rather have you than a baby who just sits there, expressionless, passive, and dull. You are many things, Gwen my darling, but you are not dull.

I couldn’t end this update without mentioning the very important fact that you are now Tolerating your Bath. I never thought it would happen, but it has, and I think soon we will be incorporating a nightly bath into your bedtime routine. Perhaps in months to come you will even grow to genuinely like bathtime – that’s something to look forward to. Your bedtime has become a little bit easier lately, and seems to be happening at a fairly consistent time. I give you a massage with lotion every night, then your dad swaddles you, and we take turns with the feeding-rocking-singing routine that usually puts you to sleep. Then you sleep in your crib to the sounds of ocean waves, until you wake up for your night feeding(s).

It’s definitely been a challenging month, Gwen, as you are still not gaining weight adequately, still spitting up a lot, and still randomly screaming for no apparent reason. But the truth is that it’s also been a really fun month, as your personality becomes even more apparent, and we are convinced that – aside from when you are in genuine physical discomfort – you have a pretty good personality. You are, in short, adorable, and we adore you accordingly.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clothes Make the Gwen

Gwen outgrew her first outfit this week. Some of her onesies were already put in the too-small category once we started putting her in cloth diapers, as they are way bulkier than disposables, but she has now outgrown some of her sleepers on her own merits, since she is such a long baby.

The first sleeper to be officially outgrown is this one - shown below when she was two weeks old.

This is one my mom bought for her at the fancy-pants Dream with Me store downtown. I won't tell you how much it cost, but I will tell you it is softer than an angel's pet bunny rabbit, and that I'm saving it in the Mementos box.

Speaking of Gwen's clothes, being on the tiny side finally came in handy this week at drop-in when one of the other moms had an adorable baby gap hoodie to give away, because her daughter had outgrown it really fast. The other moms were sorry, but their daughters were already over 14 pounds as well, and so probably wouldn't get any use out of it. So Gwen scored it! It's lovely, too, and best of all - IT'S NOT PINK. I didn't even realize how pinked out I was getting until she handed over this lovely, chocolate-brown hoodie. Yes, it has a big pink flower on it, so it's still girly, but oh my - what a nice change. I put it on Gwen the very next day, and it's still a bit too big, so we ought to get some good wear out of it.

Speaking of the drop-in (man, I am ON FIRE with these clever segues tonight), going and hanging out with other moms and babies totally influences how I dress Gwen. More than once I've heard another mom comment that "[baby] doesn't wear just *anything* to drop-in." Yes, for some of us it is the only chance to get out of the house, and naturally you want to dress up your little one and show them off and maybe have a conversation starter ("Hey, what a cute outfit!"). It was about five or six weeks ago that I looked around the room and realized Gwen was the only baby still dressed only in a onesie, so I started putting pants on her. They looked utterly ridiculous, as you can recall.

But the madness didn't end there. Other babies don't only wear full, co-ordinated outfits to drop-in - they wear FOOTWEAR. Now, I have a huge box of shoes of all sizes for Gwen, but ... well, I thought they were a little silly at this stage, to be honest. She's not walking anywhere, why does she need shoes? To protect her tiny toes from falling anvils? No luck there, they aren't steel-toed. But in any case, last weekend I tried out the look and Oh. My. GOD. she looks adorable.

Up till now, Gwen has been in her 0-3 month clothes, but the other day I went through the gigantic bin of 3-6 month stuff and pulled out a few things I think will fit her now. I got really excited about the variety of colours and styles - perhaps a bit too excited, actually. Today, I dressed Gwen in "new" overalls and a colourful onesie, then stepped back to survey the look.

Yeah. This is my daughter, dressed as a boy. I guess I can't get annoyed with friendly strangers who comment on how handsome my son is, because dammit, she IS handsome.

You know, I think if I'd had a boy I would take the chance of dressing him in slightly effeminate-looking clothes, just once when he was this age, to see if he would pass for a girl as easily as Gwen passes for a boy. Some babies really look like boys or like girls, but Gwen is pretty androgynous, at least at this point. I'm weirdly intrigued by that.

Please also note that she doesn't care in the least that she looks like a boy, and is as happy as ever.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just When You Thought Gwen Liking the Bath was as Shocking as This Blog Could Get

For the last three nights, Gwen has gone to sleep in her crib, then I bring her into bed with me when she wakes up, where she spends the rest of the night.

Well, to be honest, that is the usual arrangement, with one crucial difference: prior to this week, the wake-up and subsequent co-sleeping happened at 4am. Nowadays, it's happening sometime between 11pm and 2am.

The co-sleeping has been somewhat ... well .. awful. Chris has been moving to the couch around the time Gwen moves into our bed. Gwen has been doing way too little sleeping and way, WAY more nursing than usual. Which means less sleep for me, and incredibly sore nipples (which may or may not be aggravated by thrush, as well).

But there has been one upside. Apparently, sleeping all night with a baby who must have a nipple inside her mouth at all times, while bad for one's back, hips, and sleep deprivation, has a great effect on one's milk supply.

Yesterday I found myself genuinely engorged no fewer than three times. Usually that only happens first thing in the morning (following nights when Gwen sleeps for more than four hours at a time, that is). I actually got out of bed at 11pm to go pump, not wanting my breasts to receive any messages that the milk wasn't needed.

I'm still kind of stunned, but I want this to continue. I wonder if there's any way to keep the supply up but still get myself some decent sleep?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Last night, Gwen suddenly turned into a psycho. It was absolutely bizarre.

A typical night:
Between 7 and 7:30, we get Gwen ready for bed. I sing to her and nurse her in her room. She falls asleep around 8pm and I put her in her crib. Sometime around 3am, she wakes up. I bring her into bed, nurse her, and we both go back to sleep until 7am.

Last night:
Chris took a turn putting her to bed. At 7pm, He offered her a bottle of breastmilk, which made her scream inconsolably. At 7:30 I finally took over, soothed her and gave her the same bottle. She calmed down and went to sleep. Chris and I discussed how frustrating it was for both of us that sometimes she really prefers Mom.
At 8pm she was awake and crying. I nursed her for half an hour and she fell asleep. I put her in her crib.
At 11pm just as Chris and I were falling asleep, she woke up and cried again. Chris brought her into the bed where I nursed her.
For the next two hours she nursed on and off (mostly on) and refused to fall asleep. At 1:30am Chris went and prepared a bottle, took her into her room and rocked her. By 2:30am she went to sleep.
At 3am she was up again.
Chris brought her into our bed where she stayed for the remainder of the night. She nursed over and over and over again. When I came to full consciousness this morning, my nipples felt like a truck had been running over them all night. Whenever I gently pulled away into a more comfortable (non-nursing) position, she rooted and bonked me with her head until I gave in.

I don't know how on earth she got any sleep at all. I barely did, and Chris looked like hell this morning, poor guy.

She's got to be teething, right? I mean, what else would make her essentially CHEW on me all night long!? Man, I sure hope tonight is better.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Most Useful Products, Birth to 3 months *updated*

As a follow-up to my "Most Useful Pregnancy Purchases" post, here's what I've been glad to own in the 'last trimester'.

(Yeah, I know it's kind of sad that I am posting this nearly a month late. Sometimes that's how things go.)

Most Useful Products of Gwen's first three months

Gwen has been out of the womb for 116 nights. She has slept in this blanket for every single one of them. As recommended by our favourite baby book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block," swaddling REALLY WORKS for her. I know it doesn't work for every baby, but she is crazy about it. Her arms just smack her in the head otherwise, and who can sleep like that?

I know there are methods with which you can use any ordinary blanket to swaddle a baby, but I really appreciate having a blanket that was made exactly for that purpose. Having a pocket to slide her feet into, and a long flap that wraps around her three times, really keeps her bundled tightly, which is the key to a good sleep. She's always been a pretty good sleeper, once she gets to sleep, and I credit this blanket with much of that.

She's quickly growing out of this blanket - for example, we haven't been able to get her long legs into the pocket for about a month - but she's not outgrowing her need to be swaddled. Dr. Karp's book says some babies still require swaddling to sleep at one year of age; Chris and I joke that we'll be swaddling her in a queen-size flat sheet by then. But in the meantime, the Miracle Blanket has more than paid for itself.

The other reason Gwen sleeps pretty well at night is that we provide her with white noise (also recommended by Dr. Karp's book). It's said that the white noise reminds babies of the sounds of the womb. I bought this CD for less than $10 at Shopper's Drug Mart. Every night, I change Gwen into a disposable diaper, give her a bedtime massage, and hand her over to her dad, who swaddles her up while I ready her room for bedtime. I turn off the light, close the blinds, prepare myself for nursing, and put this hour-long CD on repeat. When Gwen comes back in, the room is dark and quiet with the soothing ocean waves helping to lull her to sleep. The CD stays on all night long and is WAY less irritating to Chris and I than the recording of actual womb noises we tried at first.

I have written often about how handy this sling is, and how often I use it. I have several different baby-wearing devices, but so far this is the only one Gwen is interested in. I won't preach the beauties of one sling over another, but I will definitely recommend that any new mom try a few slings as an alternative to the stroller/carseat mode of transport whenever possible. Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but it makes the baby feel as if she's back in the womb. Another bonus is that you don't have to worry as much about making sure baby is warm enough, as you're sharing body heat with her. My favourite part of babywearing, though, is having my hands free when I need them.

Diaper Bag
Just as important as having the right sling is having the right diaper bag. Again, I'm not going to tell you which one that is, because it's a pretty personal choice. What has worked for me is having two bags. Bag #1 is the All-Inclusive: with this bag, I could leave the house for 8 hours and have everything I need. If I have the sling on and this bag over my shoulder, I can meet any challenge: grocery shopping, meeting friends for lunch, a trip to the library, whatever. Bag #2 is the Short Trip bag: this is the one I take when I'm just heading out to the Healthy Beginnings drop-in, for example, or any time I know I'll be gone for less than two hours and will only be going to one or two destinations. This is also the one I use if I'm taking Gwen along for a walk in the stroller while I train for my half-marathon.

The all-inclusive is basically a large duffle bag with a lot of pockets, enough that it fits all the essentials of my long-gone purse, so I don't have to carry both. Three of the pockets are for my stuff (wallet, folded cloth bag for groceries, keys, sunglasses, etc) and the rest are for Gwen (diapers and related accoutrements, a change of clothes in case of blow-out, sunhat, toys, bottle and formula, receiving blanket, soother). It also has two large pockets I use to store the sling and the hooter hider Amber made me. I make sure the "adult" pocket, which has my wallet and bag in it, is at the front so I can reach in and pay for things with my free hand while Gwen happily snoozes in the sling, no fumbling required. Figuring out this system has made me feel utterly capable and unhousebound.

I thought this was overkill when my father-in-law bought it for us for Christmas, but I was so, so wrong. We have used this nearly constantly, even the very first night Gwen was home and she was sleeping A FOOT AWAY FROM OUR BED. Then, it allowed me to scrutinize the screen to check for evidence of breathing, which I did about every two-and-a-half minutes, without actually sitting up in bed to lean over the cradle. Now, it allows us to visually check on her and see how deeply she's sleeping, without walking in and risking disturbing her. As we take turns putting her to bed, walking downstairs and triumphantly brandishing the video monitor with its image of a happily sleeping baby has become our way of bragging about a job well done.

This is a very functional little monitor. You can control the volume separately from the video monitor, which allows you to just listen if that's all you want to do. But my favourite part is the lights, which light up according to how noisy the room is. Thus, if I sleep facing the monitor, the lights subtly wake me up as Gwen starts making noise, before she works herself up into a full-on cry.
Edit: Amberism asked why I didn't include the swing on this list, as it is indubitably an incredibly useful baby product. The reason is that I think of the baby swing as a must-have item, in the same category as diapers and a change table. Nobody needs a blog post to tell them they ought to have a change table (hopefully), and the same should be true of the swing - YOU NEED ONE. However, a Miracle Blanket and a Dreamsurf CD are a little more obscure.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Excuse me while I get Shmoopy

Well, it's happened three times in a row, so I am going to call it official: Gwen no longer hates the bath.

I suspect she has a ways to go before we can apply such words as "enjoyment" to the experience, but she no longer cries or screams while in the tub. The last two times, she has cried only upon being removed from the water, which I think is because she's cold when the air hits her wet body. I'm doing my best to get her warmed and bundled up asap, but in the meantime I am just thrilled that bathtime involves only 60 seconds of banshee practice, instead of four solid minutes.

In general, life with Gwen is improving greatly. I am head over heels in love with her, much more so than I was when she first entered our lives. I think the intense motherlove I've read about kind of missed me at that time, because I was so sick with the stupid norovirus, and then terrified about her failure to gain weight. Now that every day is no longer a struggle to stay alive, and especially since Gwen is becoming more of a person every day, I am just so filled with love and joy and gratitude for this amazing relationship. Her personality is really starting to shine through, and other than the times when she's genuinely in discomfort (which still happen more often than I'd like, but that's a subject for another day) she is a truly charming little girl. So alert, so interested in all the people and events around her, so easy to get along with. Sometimes my heart actually hurts with how much I love her.

Some important anniversaries happen this month, which I mark simply with a quiet smile and a bit of reminiscence. The anniversary of Gwen's conception was August 7th, and the anniversary of me finding out I was pregnant is coming up on August 24th. Both of these days are so clear in my memory. I remember calling my sister to share the news, then my best friend, who helped me figure out a fun and creative way to spring the news on Chris (who was out of town that weekend). I remember picking blackberries and snuggling with Fritz, whom I was dogsitting that weekend and who seemed more attentive than usual - could it be he had a primal animal sense about my new state?

It's amazing that this new little person, this cheerful and beautiful little girl, has existed for a full year now. It's incredible that we made her, that we brought something new to the world that wasn't there before. I hope I never lose that sense of awe and wonder.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Finally got around to catching up on my blogroll today, and found out that August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month (at least in the States) and that August 1-7 was World Breastfeeding Week. That led me to Storknet's monthly newsletter, with an article titled "Going for the Gold: World Breastfeeding Week 2008".

Within the article are some statistics, such as the fact that "in the United States, the percentage of infants ever breastfed increased from 60% of those born in 1993-94 to 74% of those born in 2005." Good news, right? But the article continues, "despite this increase in the number of women who initiate breastfeeding, only about 12% of infants continue to be breastfed exclusively for a full six months."

Now, to me, this is really poorly worded. The message is phrased as if it's motivational: we've achieved major improvement in this area, but we still need to work on this other area. Come on, everyone! Let's pull up our socks and get 'er done! ("USBC Chair Joan Younger Meek ... urges us to rise to the challenge and meet the goal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding.")

But this isn't something we as individuals can control. "You've lost ten pounds and are nearly at your goal. Five more to go - rise to the challenge!" = appropriate. "You're nearly finished cleaning the house, and you've done a great job on the bathrooms and kitchen. Now you just need to vacuum the livingroom - rise to the challenge!" = appropriate. "You are feeding your baby as much breast milk as you produce. Now you just need to start producing more, so she doesn't starve to death! Rise to the challenge!" = not appropriate. It's a physical attribute that we have no control over, and is analogous to asking us to change our eye colour via will power. Rise to the challenge!

With all the hubbub about Breastfeeding Week/Month, I'm seeing the phrase "exclusive breastfeeding" a lot, and it's irking me the way this is put on a pedestal. When I am in my most calm and rational mind, I understand that breastfeeding is a spectrum, and that the fact I am giving my daughter 70% breastmilk is fantastic, so much better than 0%. Sure, it's not 100%, but it's pretty great, nothing to feel ashamed of. I just wish this message were given to new moms, myself included; the image of a spectrum, rather than a binary state: Exclusively Breastfed vs. Not Exclusively Breastfed. Success vs. Failure. Good Provider vs. Inadequate Mother. Devoted Parent vs. Not Trying Hard Enough.

There are a lot of circumstances that lead to Not Exclusively Breastfed, and they are not all the same. One woman may decide not to breastfeed because she doesn't want to be tied to the baby all the time, and would prefer to spend her time at the gym working to get her pre-baby body back while the nanny gives the baby formula.* Another woman may pick up a nasty infection at the hospital during birth that interferes with her baby's ability to nurse, causing permanent damage to her supply. Yet another may return to work at three months post-partum, whether by her own choice or her employer's, and be unable to pump enough milk to sustain her child through the day at daycare. And another may have given birth prematurely, a situation that will lead to baby being formula-fed until s/he is strong enough to nurse.

(*She may then write a book about it, which Mom #2 stares at in disbelief for two chapters before returning it to the library.)

Vastly different situations, and I'm sure you could think of dozens more. But all are lumped under the same FAIL category when we embrace the mindset that Exclusive Breastfeeding is the only goal worthy of praise.

Becoming a mother has hammered into me the truth of the statement, "The Personal is Political". I am suddenly no longer simply an individual, I am a Woman, a Mother, standing in for millions of my compatriots in whatever choices I make, whatever images I portray, whatever messages I accept. When I see an article like this one, and the incredible comments that follow, I don't just dismiss it as something distant and unrelated to me. I look at that mother's experience and realize it could be mine. I look at the vitriol contained in some of the comments and know that, by proxy, it is directed at me. I prepare myself for an "encounter" any time I nurse in public, and although I am more than prepared to quote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms if anyone asks me to sequester myself while nursing, it has not escaped me that in this, as in so many battles, there is no such thing as a win for the mothers. We are told to breastfeed, and subtly berated if we fall short of the exclusivity "gold standard". Yet there is little to no societal support for us doing so. And any mention or image of breastfeeding is so controversial, so uproarious, that we become entangled in protests, nurse-ins, flame wars, and litigation. Can't we all just get along?

What a quagmire. What a quandary. Is it any wonder that I sometimes look forward to the time when I will no longer be a nursing mother, and need no longer open myself up to such criticism and anger?

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Yesterday I was in New Westminster, with my baby, with nothing much to do. She was in need of a nap and I was in need of a walk, and also lunch, so I drove down to New Westminster Quay and put her in the sling. After getting a sandwich, I walked around for an hour or so, the better to allow Gwen a good nap.

I was quite the little attention magnet, or more properly my sling was. Maybe they're not used to baby-wearin' in New West.

My first commenter was a tall blond man, with some kind of European accent, asking "where d'you get those?" I told him the name, and advised him to Google "kangaroo corner". He told me it looked awfully convenient, and I agreed that it was.

The woman who served me at the lunch counter remarked on how comfortable it must be for the baby, who no doubt "just thinks he's* back where he came from". Then at least three people approached me while I was eating lunch, and two more as I walked around afterwards.

The final conversation touched me the most, perhaps because there was such a language barrier between myself and the other participant, an elderly Asian woman selling me sorbet. "You have baby in there?" she asked, and I agreed that I did, and pulled back the top of the sling so she could have a look. As her eyes and mouth softened in the typical "Awww", she noted Gwen's "long fingers, maybe work with hands." After I paid for the sorbet she looked longingly at the sling, wanting one more peek, which I was happy to give. "She happy there, like ... " she paused to think ... "she is in your womb." "Exactly," I agreed smilingly, and wished her a pleasant day as we moved on.

The sling is always a cause of knowing smiles and opened doors as I wear it around town, but it's never been such a source of conversation before. It was an interesting day.

*Since she couldn't actually see the baby and her stunning feminine beauty, I take no offense at her mistaken assumption of gender.**

**In fact, I don't get too miffed when people guess her gender wrong, or when they ask, "Is it a boy?" Seriously, at this point, who cares?! The only exception to this is when people make a big fuss about saying what an incredibly handsome boy she is, without confirming gender first. I guess this annoys me because masculine beauty and feminine beauty seem so opposed, and if she is beautiful as one it makes her less beautiful as the other in my cracked-up brain.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reporting Live from Vancouver

Yesterday while hanging out with Rachael and Ira, Gwen was having some floor time (lying on her back). Suddenly she rolled over onto her tummy. If Rachael hadn't seen it too, I would have thought I was imagining it.

Then, hours later as we lay in bed together (Gwen and I, not Rachael and I, though that sounds like a far more fascinating story, doesn't it?) - her swaddled, me reading, not nursing, light on - she just ... went to sleep. Just went to sleep! Holy crap that's awesome.

Also, Ira is a tiny armful of adorable, and Rachael is the most amazing new mom I've ever seen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Screamy, Non-Sleepy One

We have taken to calling Gwen by the above name, as she seems to be on a nap strike (total naps yesterday: 1.25 hours, compared to more typical 4-5 hours. Holy crap) and nighttime is getting to be a bit of a challenge too.

We continue to swaddle Gwen for nighttime sleep. Every once in a while we try the recommended test to see if she's ready to not be swaddled: we put her to bed with one arm unwrapped to see if she sleeps the same. She doesn't - that is, she wakes up an hour later - so we re-swaddle and continue as before.

Nowadays, she is strong enough to get out of her swaddle. But she can't sleep when she's not swaddled, so she wakes herself up. Inevitably, I am summoned loudly to her room hours earlier than her typical 4am feed, and I am sure this is due to a swaddle failure, rather than hunger.

She moves around a lot in her sleep - we often find her at one corner of the crib, and sometimes with a leg through the bars. The swaddle blanket, by this time, is wrapped around her neck.

I think I know why she moves around so much. When we co-sleep, I've noticed that I put her down in one spot, then when we finish nursing I roll over to my own side. Though I go to sleep with her a foot or so away from me, I always wake up with her little head not-so-gently butting against me, as she snuffles away, asking in her way to be fed again. I don't know how she moves all that way, but she does. So I'm pretty sure that when she's in her own crib, and starts moving around, it's because she's looking for me. A heartrending notion, to be sure, but it doesn't convince me that nightly co-sleeping is the answer for us.

So, how to teach her to sleep without the swaddling - or, alternatively, to stop tangling herself up so ridiculously that she wakes herself up?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Doctor's Appointment Report

I should have expected this, really, because my GP's usual MO is to refer me to a specialist. And that's exactly what she did for Gwen. She referred us to see a pediatrician - our appointment is set for August 26th. The appointment today was a big yawn: my doc didn't give any opinion whatsoever on anything.

The only other thing to report was that I actually argued with the nurse about how to read the baby scale. She said Gwen weighed 12 lb 15 oz, while I was quite sure that little decimal point meant she weighed 12 lb 1.5 oz. Given that the nurse's interpretation would have meant Gwen gained over a POUND in a week - which she has never, EVER done - I think I'm sticking to my reading.

Off to Vancouver tomorrow!

Doctor's Appointment

Tues July 22: 11 lb 3.3 oz
Thurs July 24: 11 lb 2.4 oz (down 0.9 oz)
Fri July 25: 11 lb 4.4 oz (up 2 oz)
Tuesday July 29: 11 lb 10.5 oz (up 6.1 oz)
Thursday July 31: 11 lb 7 oz (down 3.5 oz)
Tuesday August 5: 11 lb 12.3 oz (up 5.3 oz)

The advice I was given last time I saw a public health nurse at the breastfeeding clinic was to continue supplementing Gwen and to weigh her twice a week. For the past two weeks, the Thursday weigh-in has indicated a loss from the Tuesday weigh-in. Now, I understand that "some babies just gain weight slowly" but nothing I've ever heard or read has indicated that an actual loss was anything but abnormal. And for this to happen twice in a row is really weird.

Now, you might be wondering, so let me assure you:
- same scale used every time
- same person weighing her every time (me)
- same circumstances (naked, no diaper) every time

The only thing I've not paid attention to is whether I'm weighing her before or after a feed, or before or after a poop, etcetera.

After this happened for the second Thursday in a row, I made another appointment at the breastfeeding clinic. Seriously, what else can I do? I'm already supplementing, or as I call it, "stuffing as much food down her throat as I can". What more is there?

The nurse I saw was incredibly positive and helpful, and we talked about a lot of things. We talked about reflux. We did a pre- and post-feed weigh-in (she got less than an ounce during the feeding, which is appalling. Fortunately, I am not taking that as 100% accurate or typical). We talked about what a great job I'm doing breastfeeding (yes, she told me I am doing a great job, and told me to keep up the good work. Did I need to hear that? Oh hell yes).

The main message I got was that the breastfeeding clinic could not really do too much more for me, as my breastfeeding was fine. What I need to do, she told me, is take Gwen to a doctor to eliminate any medical cause for her weird weight patterns. So that's what we're doing today.

The nurse also gave me a growth chart and showed me how to plot Gwen's weight from birth. I did so, and learned that while she started out on the 90th percentile, she is now on the 25th. This is not at ALL normal, and while I am not terrified of something being seriously wrong, I do feel it would be foolish to blithely ignore these symptoms. Reflux and milk allergy are our main suspects at this point, as Gwen does spit up a LOT (often it seems she spits up everything we just fed her, which would explain the inability to gain weight steadily!).

I'm nervous about this appointment, mainly because I fear not being taken seriously by the doctor. Doctors, unlike midwives, are not going to take a full hour to examine the tiny patient, take a full history from her parents who are ultimately just making wild-ass guesses about what is going on, and come up with a treatment plan. I fear that the doctor will just brush us off as nervous parents, or declare instantly that "she has colic" (which is a meaningless term if I've ever heard one). The nurse I saw last week assured me that if I didn't like what the doctor had to say, though, I could ask for a referral to a pediatrician for a second opinion.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lake Trip!

Two trips down and one to go. (What was I thinking?)

The trip up the lake was terrific, if not exactly restful. We took an afternoon ferry from Comox on Tuesday, meeting by pure chance our friend Sheila who came and sat with us and cooed over Gwen. We had a nice visit with her, marred only by the yokel who stormed off after Gwen had been crying for a solid 10 minutes, throwing a comment about duct tape at us as he left. We all mockingly agreed that yes, we loved hearing the baby cry and scream, and it just had not occured to us that others might feel differently. Dumbass.

After the ferry docked, I followed Sheila to Kat's car, which also contained the incredible Ira and the radiant Rachael! I even got to hold Ira for a moment, confirming to myself the amazing fact that yes, I have already forgotten how to hold a newborn. All the cliches are TRUE. In any case, Ira is a wonder, and his mother is a hero, and somewhere in there I got to give Kat a hug too, and then it was off to the lake in my Dad's van.

Gwen had no problem on her first boat ride, and we all chuckled at how adorable she looked in her lifejacket. It was great to finally arrive at the cabin and unload our gigantic backpacks, change into cooler clothes, give Gwen to her adoring grandparents, and dip our tired feet in the cool lake.

The next day, Sara and her boys arrived. Oh my, but those boys are busy. (Note for non-parent-types: when people say kids are "busy", it means they are "FULL OUT CRAZY WHIRLWINDS OF MADNESS AND HYSTERIA". But, you know, in a good way.) I had looked forward to having some good visiting time with my sister, but it was hard to do when one or the other or the other other of the three kids was always demanding our attention. Still, we did have a good time together.

Chris was an absolute hero. He took care of Gwen for a couple of hours each day so that I could have time to visit with the grownups or hang out with my nephews. I played "War" and went on a couple of boat rides with Andrew, and amused Scotty with my willingness to pour ice-cold lake water on my head. I also got to spend time with Karin, an old friend I hadn't seen in a while.

Gwen slept well during the night, especially since I was co-sleeping with her and thus the mid-night feedings required only a few snufflings on her part to get the message across. Naps were not so great, as we were without our usual naptime props (swing and stroller), and in an environment of great noise and chaos. I think the longest she napped in the entire four days was just over an hour (compared to her usual two).

The trip was sure different for me, as a parent. Typically, my lake time would be spent curled up in a lounge chair for hours on end, either reading or working on crafts. I can remember times when I would bring 3-4 books up the lake and it *still* wouldn't be enough to keep me entertained. This time around, I bought myself a bargain book specifically for the cabin trip, and managed to read about 60 pages of it in the entire four days. It will take some time to wrap my head around the fact that holidays are not about relaxing anymore!

We came down the lake yesterday afternoon, a very choppy trip due to the strong winds. Gwen paid no mind to the chop and actually fell asleep on the sort of trip that typically inspires stress and seasickness (lakesickness?). The ferry ride home was fairly uneventful, and then we were back in our own car and headed for home.

This morning, I woke up with Gwen in my bed and Chris not. He was already up, busily cleaning and laundering and organizing. "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?" I demanded, but no satisfying answer was forthcoming. I think he washed every washable item in the house today, including the cover for our futon, which he is selling this week (the entire futon, not just the cover). He also vacuumed and did the dishes. I got up and took Gwen to church, which didn't work out very well, and then took her for a walk, which worked out similarly poorly. She has not quite been herself today - Chris theorizes it's being back on dry land that is bothering her. Perhaps she's got the same vertigo I experience.

In any case, she is now in bed, which is where I will be soon. T minus 36 hours or so until we leave home again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Also noted yesterday, but missed from previous post

Gwen got through a bath entirely without screaming. In fact, she started to cry only when we took her out. Could this be the start of a new trend? Tune in next week to find out, as we will be camping for the next 5 days and won't have a chance to give her another bath until at least Sunday.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Noted today

Do NOT under any circumstances blow a raspberry on Gwen's tummy. Her dad did so earlier, and Gwen immediately burst into hysterical tears and wouldn't go near him the rest of the evening.

Live and learn.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One trip down, two more to go!

Yesterday's SCA event/sitting-in-a-field went pretty well. The weather turned out way hotter than forecasted, so Gwen started the day in a long-sleeved onesie, pants, socks, and sweater, and a few hours later was wearing only a short-sleeved onesie and a diaper. She took one (one-hour) nap in the sling, and another (one-hour) nap on a friend's lap. Then fell asleep again in her dad's arms just before we were going to leave; probably would have stayed asleep indefinitely if not for a 'lord' nearby who decided now was the perfect time to play his bagpipes. It really pissed me off too, as he played for just long enough to wake the baby, then stopped - what was that about? I'm still wondering.

Also learned an important lesson: if baby has been pooping only once every two to three days for a couple of weeks, the day you take her out to the middle of a field, 35 minutes from civilization, with a limited number of diapers and wipes, is the day she will decide to alter her pattern and poop TWICE. We ran out of wipes and Chris had to run to his car to get this ancient container of Kleenex-brand wet wipes, which weren't even wet anymore. It was kind of pathetic. Live and learn.

Gwen was pretty well-behaved, with only one screaming fit (I later realized I'd forgotten to give her the mid-day dose of Ovol, which could have been the problem). For the most part she was alert and happy and very interested in all the people and goings-on around her. She even let several other people hold and cuddle her which I thought was terrific. I EVEN got to sit and eat my dinner uninterrupted! People are amazing.

Oh, and guess what else? This lady came walking along and asked, "Whose baby is that?" When I confessed she was mine, she told me she had a whole bag of medieval clothes for babies/toddlers, as her kids had now grown out of them, and that she had brought the bag along in hopes that she would meet a baby in need of garb. As I can't sew to save my life, Gwen is definitely a baby in need. So now she has lovely garb for the next few years. People are so generous!

We got home shortly after 9pm last night, and got Gwen to bed fairly easily, where she slept for a solid 8 hours. Today has been busy as we rush to unpack from that trip and plan our next adventure. The big challenge for the PR lake trip is the fact that we are walking on the ferry, but must bring a LOT of stuff. So we've got to figure out the best way of transporting all that stuff with only the strength of our backs and four arms between us. Tricksy, but we shall manage somehow.


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