Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting Better

I got an email from my Dad yesterday that read, in part, "it's obvious that you and Chris are so enjoying being a Mom and Dad, and that you just love your little girl to bits." What a lovely little pat on the back!

It's true, things are looking up around here (except for the sleep, which I'll talk more about in another post). Gwen is a much more relaxed and comfortable baby, which makes her by default happier and more fun to be around. I attribute this entirely to the chiropractic treatments. She is no longer in constant pain, so she doesn't have long spells of inconsolable crying. Funny how that works!

The other thing that's made a difference is me finally letting go of all the stress and guilt and anxiety about breastfeeding. This is huge. What surprises me is that once I made up my mind to let it go, it happened almost instantly. I thought it would be a more difficult process - what a nice surprise.

In fact, now that I'm more relaxed about the particular method in which Gwen gets fed, I wonder if we might end up weaning sooner than later. No firm decisions made on this yet, but I can see the end in sight, and I feel quite peaceful about that. But again, more on that in another post.

I don't think I mentioned here that last week, I took Gwen to see another pediatrician, one who is emphatically *not* an ass. He suspects that she may have some reflux, so we are giving her an antacid on a trial basis for a month to see if that makes a difference. On the whole, though, he thinks Gwen is fine and healthy and that her fussy/gassy spells will resolve in the next few months as her digestive tract matures.

Speaking of digestion - it's less than 4 weeks until Gwen is officially old enough for solid foods. We have started putting her in her Bumbo seat at dinnertime, with a little spoon and plate, so she can grow to associate those things with mealtime. She also gets a good view of us eating, so that will become a normal activity for her, and one that she will be ready to participate in soon. I am very excited about that!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How to be an Amazing Husband/Dad

I often mention that Chris is an incredibly supportive husband and involved dad, but I don't often talk about what that actually means. I was thinking that I should break it down for you, just in case there are any dads-to-be out there who are wondering how to do an awesome job, or any new moms who might want to leave this list lying around conspicuously for their partners to read.

How to be an Amazing Husband & Dad

1. Chris will often give Gwen a bottle (breast milk or formula). A couple of times a week, he will put her to bed (my most hated task) and take the night feeds so I can get a good night's sleep.
2. On nights when I'm 'on duty', he will often bring Gwen into the bed to nurse so I don't even have to get up. Now that's love.
3. When Gwen is nursing, Chris always asks me if there's anything I need (a drink, a book, the TV remote, etc.)
4. Then as the nursing continues, Chris will take care of the tasks I can't do because I'm busy nursing: the dishes, the laundry, making dinner, etc.
5. I've been leaving Gwen with her dad for at least an hour or so a week since she was 5 weeks old. I've gone to massages, yoga classes, hair appointments and of course the ubiquitous marathon training walks. He has never, ever complained or grumbled about this.
6. Chris has come along to every doctor's visit and immunization appointment that Gwen has had. He has missed work to do this every time.
7. He often confirms that my post-baby body is still attractive, but doesn't complain about the lack of sex.
8. When it comes to decisions regarding Gwen, Chris is actively involved and informed. While those decisions that heavily involve me (such as breastfeeding) are ultimately mine to make, we discuss them first and then Chris gives his full support to whatever I decide (even if it isn't what he would have chosen).
9. He's the one person I know is just as interested as I am in having lengthy conversations about how beautiful, brilliant, perfect, and incredible our daughter is.
10. Chris absolutely adores Gwen and genuinely enjoys spending time with her. He sings to her, plays games with her, makes her laugh, and helps her learn new skills. He tells her he's proud of her and shows off pictures of her to everyone he knows. He loves being her dad, and it really shows.

For those moms out there whose partners are similarly amazing/awesome/stellar ... what have I missed? What do your partners do that just blows your socks off?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sleep. Sweet, Delicious Sleep.

We're not getting much of that 'round 'ere these days. (Stupid teething!)

Gwen is up every couple of hours through the night, nowadays. It's pretty horrid. We are getting very, very tired. The other day I reviewed my well-thumbed copy of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and discovered that we are doing a whole lot of things right already: we have a bedtime and a bedtime routine, we keep night feedings dark and quiet, we don't change her diaper at night, and so on. But there is one more gigantic step we need to take: we need to help Gwen learn to fall asleep on her own.

Right now, when she wakes in the night - every time she wakes in the night - she gets fed until she goes back to sleep. This is despite the fact that she can go much longer than an hour or two without food, and that we're confident it's the teething pain, not hunger pangs, waking her up. Ultimately, Gwen doesn't know any other way to get to sleep. She is fed, rocked, 'shhhed' and sung to until she is asleep, then we oh-so-carefully transfer her from lap to crib and tiptoe out of the room. This beautifully ensures that when she wakes again, she has no clue how to get herself back to sleep, and cries out for us to help her.

The solution to this given by the book's author Elizabeth Pantley sounds very astute. The plan has several phases; when you feel Phase One is well-established, you move on to Phase Two, etc., with each Phase limiting interaction further and further. So Phase One starts out with the full rocking, shhhing, and nursing bit, but would have me de-latch Gwen before she falls fully asleep. Eventually - and this would probably take weeks - I would be patting and shhhing her as she lay in her crib, without picking her up. And sometime after that, when Gwen awoke, she'd put herself back to sleep (unless she was genuinely hungry) because she would have learned to deal with less and less assistance in that arena.

This makes a lot more sense to me than the 'cry-it-out' methods that recommend me going in every x minutes to pat and soothe (but not pick up), because when Gwen wakes up in the night she is usually crying so hard that she doesn't even know I'm there until I pick her up.

The downside to this plan is, of course, that it's a lot of work. When it's 2am and I am barely holding my eyes open while I nurse Gwen in her room, I don't want to spend 30 minutes finding the balance between sleepy and asleep so that I can de-latch Gwen at the right moment. I just want to do what's easy, which is nurse her until she's completely out, then transfer her to the crib so I can go back to sleep myself. But the choice becomes clear when I ask myself whether I'd still like to be nursing her to sleep two (three, four, five ...) times a night when she's 18 months old.

I discussed this with Chris, and we both agreed that while we are ready to move to the next step with Gwen's sleep, we also need to be energetic enough to be able to stick to the plan in the middle of the night. That means getting some rest during the day. And that means I've got to give up one or more of the things that I currently do during the day, so that I have time to rest. So, in short, our sleep training is going to wait until after my half-marathon (in two weeks! YIKES!) because after that I won't be busy walking five days a week.

Straight from marathon training to sleep training. Gotta love life as a parent!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month Five

Dear Gwen,
Today you are five months old. I could probably fill this entire post with ramblings about how completely gobsmacked I am by that, but that would be terribly boring. Instead I will just indulge my sentimental sense of utter denial with two pictures.

(How did this happen, though? How did you go from being a tiny blob of baby to this amazing little person? And why can't I get over it?)

It blows my mind how smart you are. We just started putting you in the Exersaucer again after trying it out a month ago and deciding you were still too small. It took you about three and a half seconds to figure out how to spin around in it so you could take your pick of the toys at hand. And you immediately knew just how to use all those toys, and got down to business right away. When I watch you playing, I know there is a lot of truth to the saying that for babies and toddlers, play is work: you are developing all kinds of skills as you play. And you take that stuff seriously!

You are a busy little girl these days, constantly rolling from your back to your belly (which you've been doing since you were about 3.5 months old). I just learned today that apparently that is the more difficult roll to do, and that most babies don't do it until closer to 6 months, while rolling from belly to back is supposedly easier. You haven't rolled from belly to back in a while; in fact, you only do so when you're propped up on a blanket, which doesn't happen these days because if you're on your tummy chances are it's because you rolled there yourself. In any case, I'm pretty sure I know why you're a bit behind on that skill, as well as the sitting up milestone.

You see, this month I started taking you to the chiropractor, who identified a few issues that need work. For one thing, your sacrum doesn't move, which would make sitting really difficult as essentially you can't bend very well. And your right shoulder is ... well, I'd say "hooped" but let's go with the more elegant and optimistic "in need of adjustment" instead. This would definitely affect your ability to push up while on your tummy, which you would need to do in order to roll over. You have had three chiropractic treatments so far, and Dr. Dave thinks after one more you should be 'fixed' for the time being. We've definitely noticed some changes since beginning the treatments: you are crying less often, and when you do cry it's usually something we can fix with either food, a clean diaper, a cuddle, or a nap. Much nicer than the hours of inconsolable pain crying we endured before.

There is, however, one thing that still causes you pain. You have started teething. Although your Grannie was quick to point out that some babies have no problem with teething, clearly this is not the case for you (nor did I expect it to be). You are drooling a lot, constantly chewing on everything you can get your mouth on, and subject us to a fair bit of whining that we figure must be due to teething pain. I can feel one tooth on your bottom gum, but it will probably be a while before it appears. Based on what I've read, once the first tooth shows up you'll continue getting teeth at the rate of one every six weeks or so, and the teething symptoms will stick around for about two years. Oh, how delightful for all of us.

I have spent a lot of energy this month trying to create a more consistent routine for you, thinking that would help both of us get through our day. Thus far, it's not exactly a roaring success. I can usually predict how our day is going to go based on what time you wake up in the morning, but as that varies widely, so too does the day that follows. One might think that I could just alter your bedtime to affect your wakeup time and all the activities in between, but apparently you do not operate on that logic. So I'm coasting through life by the seat of my ill-fitting pants, unable to plan more than a day in advance. So far, though, I'm doing pretty well with that. I've learned that when it comes to making appointments, between 11:30 and 2:00 is workable, and outside of that could be compromising naptimes, so I do my best to stick to that.

This month has been the start of you and I really getting out and building a social life with some new activities, which is very exciting. You are an incredibly social baby, and whenever we are out in public people are drawn to you: not only because of your beauty, but because of the charisma and charm you exhibit. I get comments on it all the time, from everyone from your chiropractor (who apparently bragged about you flirting with him to his dinner party compatriots) to darling old grannies at the grocery store, and everyone in between. I'm really excited about us spending more social time together with other moms and babies, such as at our swimming lessons in November and our Mother Goose classes in January. Today I heard about an online group at that organizes playdates for moms and kids in Nanaimo, and I can't wait to get plugged into that. It will be great for both of us.

Today you and I did something new: I took you to the gym and dropped you off at their childcare for the first time. This was your first time being looked after by someone other than family, and in a place other than our home. I think it went pretty well. As soon as we walked into the childcare room, where there was another five-month-old baby as well as a couple "big kids" of three or four years old, your face lit up. You couldn't wait to get out of your carseat and start making friends. It was a little nerve-wracking for me, leaving you there, but I figured it was an important step for both of us, and you did really well. I am so proud of you!

Your dad wants me to mention that you giggle a lot more now. You and he are quite taken with each other, and he can make you laugh just by saying an interesting word ("Osteopath!") in a slightly silly voice. The two of you are going to have so much fun together as you get older.

As always, darling Gwen, you enthrall us, you amuse us, and you light up our lives. We love you madly and are so happy to be your parents.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And All The Sane People Said, "It's About Bloody Time"

Gwen will be five months old tomorrow. We've been weighing her about twice a week since she was two months old, based on the recommendation of healthcare professionals. We have quite a bit of data on her weight.

And whether you take a big-picture or closely detailed view of it all, one thing is becoming increasingly obvious: the only times that Gwen gains weight appropriately are when we aggressively supplement her with formula. On the flip side of that coin, we can see that every time we have cut back on her formula in hopes that my supply would increase, Gwen's weight has stalled or even dropped.

So, we're done with trying to fight the inevitable. When my current bottle of Domperidone is empty, I'm not getting a refill. When my ucky herbal tincture runs out, I'm not ordering more. And when Gwen finishes nursing, she's damn well getting a bottle.

This is incredibly liberating. I feel really good about the decisions we've made, up to and including this one. Calling in a lactation consultant allowed me to feel that I really had done everything possible to maximize my nursing potential. And deciding not to follow her advice, but to go back to the one thing we know works for Gwen - a bottle after every feed - feels healthy and sane as well.

This doesn't feel like an end, but a new beginning. And it does kind of feel like it's about bloody time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Enough with the Bitterness!

Sorry to have left that last post of anger and frustration up for so long. The days between have not been so full of resentment, I promise.

It was a big weekend! We had all kinds of family and friends visiting, because Gwen got baptized yesterday. She was very well-behaved and looked like an absolute angel in her traditional long white christening gown. However, I don't have any pictures of this, because I was too busy being the mom and baby-wrangler to take any. (Yes, this is a broad hint for those who were there to send me photos!)

Gwen's cousin Scott (my sister's younger son) was baptized as well. It was great to do them both at once, as we all ended up sharing the costs and duties of the party-throwing and organizing. Dave, my brother-in-law who is a former chef, did all the food; Keith and Karen hosted the reception at their place because our house is too small; my mom paid for the commemorative cake, which I'm happy to say turned out fine despite my cakewrecks-inspired paranoia; and Chris and I, um, we bought the napkins and paper plates. The napkins even had crosses on them! Because we are that awesome!

It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many people who love and care about Gwen, and I even managed to find a few quiet moments to reflect on the fact that the day wasn't actually about cake, or napkins, or pictures, or even making sure Gwen didn't scream during the ceremony. My little girl is now part of the family of God, and though I know that doesn't mean much to some people, it means a lot to me and it felt good to formalize that. My church here is so warm and welcoming, and I so enjoy being there; it was great to share that experience with some of my friends and family, as well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another One of Those Days, and It's Not Even Noon

Chris is far, far away today in Alert Bay. I don't even know where this place is, but I understand he has to drive for several hours then take a ferry (which only goes four times a day) and then spend a couple of hours there and then come all the way back (being careful to arrive on time for the ferry of course). This means he is gone from 5am until 9pm. My first day as a single parent!

And oh, my Lord, it's 11:30am and I am ready to eat my offspring. Because heaven knows I'm not eating anything else. Other mommies, please tell me - do you eat when your babies are awake? Because part of the problem is that I don't eat until she naps, so when she decides to delay her morning nap I become increasingly STARVING and grouchy as a result. When my lactation consultant suggested the other day that I nap when Gwen naps, I laughed and told her that if I did that, I would never get to eat (let alone deal with the million and one other things that need to get done around here). Anyway, please do tell me if your babies allow you to eat when they are awake, because mine will not - she makes the horrendous crying noise when she is awake and I am not paying attention to her.

I finally told her, "Gwen, I am going to go eat breakfast, and if you are still screaming when I get back then I'll think of something else to do." She shrieked for six minutes solid, and then fell asleep. WTF?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sadly, I forgot about that technique today

Today was one of those days.

Gwen refused to take her afternoon nap. Re. Fused. Which would be absolutely fine if she chose to spend that time cooing at me, playing with her toys, practicing rolling over, whatever. But no, she spent that time screaming and shrieking as if all the demons of hell were after her, when in fact I knew perfectly well that what she was upset about was that she was tired.

Tired, yet not sleeping.

The stage was set: it was exactly naptime, I hadn't overstimulated her, her diaper was clean and she was in her swing with the magical sounds of Joe Jackson playing (don't ask me why, but that song makes her sleep. I should write him a thank-you card). All she had to do was ... fall asleep. But no. Instead, much screaming. Most of it hers.

It's times like these I realize I am one missed nap away from totally snapping. Not that I would hurt her, though I did lovingly coo in her ear that this is exactly why babies get shaken. No, I wouldn't hurt her. But after listening to her cry and scream about exactly nothing for fifteen minutes straight ... for the third time that day ... yes, to quote a famous songwriter, my give-a-damn tank runs dry. I am just not as sympathetic as I might be.

For example, the other day when she pulled this trick I sat next to the swing and said firmly, over and over, "Go to sleep! Go to sleep! Go to sleep! Stop whining and go to sleep!" This actually worked on a number of levels. First, when I looked at her and talked, she would stop whining (because she, much like her mother, is an attention whore). Further, venting my frustrations was quite enjoyable. And thirdly - though I'm still stunned by this - eventually, she actually went to sleep.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gwen and Dr. Dave

Under the heading of "I'll try anything once..."

At our last meeting, which was cut short because Gwen was So Not In the Mood, KG noted that Gwen is a very rigid and tense baby. She wondered if she might be hypertonic, and suggested taking her to a chiropractor to be checked out. I found this interesting. Here Chris and I had always assumed that the frequent bouts of intense pain crying were due to a gastrointestinal issue, but we had never considered a musculo-skeletal cause. Anyway, I agreed to do so, and KG gave me the name of a local chiropractor - Dr. Dave - who specializes in children and infants. In fact, he spent several years in a clinic in Australia that did only pediatrics, so he's very experienced with the smaller set.

I took Gwen for her appointment today, and I think it was a positive experience. Not because Gwen didn't cry - she did, of course, because everything from the examination to the adjustments were weird and alien to her - but because she got over it really quickly. Usually after beginning to cry she will snivel on for a good long while to make sure everyone knows of her displeasure, but in this case as soon as I pulled her in for a soothing cuddle, she was over it and even flirted with the doc over my shoulder. If she forgave him that quickly, I suppose I can too.

The chiropractor did identify some issues, which is no surprise to me - at this point I basically assume that any specialist is going to have a particular reason related to his or her field that explains all of Gwen's fussy behaviours. Or to word it more cynically, what are the chances that the chiropractor would examine her and say, "Nothing wrong here, please take your baby and your money away and never come back!"? Be that as it may, I'm open to his interpretation and willing to pursue this for a few weeks at least, by which time we should be able to see some improvement.

According to Dr. Dave, Gwen's sacrum does not move. The reflexes in her feet are blocked because of this - when he tapped them with his mallet, they didn't respond at all. Further, her shoulders are quite locked up (the right worse than the left) and the top of her neck is out of whack as well (highly technical terms here, I know). He postulated that the problem with her neck might be causing the feeding problems, as the misalignment would cause her to want to put her head back, but she can't feed in that position; thus she would always be fighting a battle between her hunger and her desire not to be in pain. Which would cause her to feed-feed-feed-pull off, feed-feed-feed-pull off. Sounds bloody familiar, that does.

He did some adjustments and asked us to come back on Thursday for more. It will be a few sessions at least before we can see any results.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

News from the House of Gwen

Gwen did the coolest thing yesterday. She was on her blanket and had rolled over onto her tummy, as is her wont. I placed her tummy time mirror in front of her and sat back down on the coffee table behind her.

She caught sight of me in the mirror, made eye contact, and grinned. It was the coolest thing! That's the first time she has shown any sign of understanding or appreciating mirror reflections.

Also yesterday, we took her to a doctor. The good news is, I am completely in love with this doctor as he gave her the most thorough examination she's had since birth, and spent 45 minutes with us talking about what exactly is going on with her. The bad news is, this guy is not accepting patients. Anyway, his theory is that Gwen's continued unhappiness is due to being fed formula, which regrettably she still needs to have as my milk supply is not adequate (more on that in a minute). He says that in his experience breastfed babies don't get colic. In any case, he assured us that she will grow out of it, that we are doing all the right things, and that we should continue to monitor her weight and bring her in once a month for a checkup. What a breath of fresh air.

So, in the past couple weeks as I tried to get Gwen off the formula, she started to lose weight. In a week and a half she lost over three ounces. Which didn't exactly fill me with optimism. But at the same time, I started to feel way more confident about continuing to give her formula. I guess when I began this quest what I really wanted was to assure myself that I had done everything I could. I've now reached that point. When KG asked me to set up a daily schedule with 12 feedings per day, and I realized this would mean feeding Gwen every 45 minutes, I put my foot down. Maybe this makes me a selfish woman, but I don't think so. I think I will be a better mother to Gwen if I am not crazy. I might try again to get Gwen off formula once we are starting solids, but at this point I'm just working on improving breastfeeding (positions, latch, seal, etc).

I also just received my Motherlove herbal tincture which is supposed to help increase my supply. Man, this stuff is nasty. It tastes like Satan's old underwear. It's like someone took every stinky herb in existence and mixed them together. To make matters even more fun, I have to avoid other liquids for 20 minutes before and after, lest the herbs get too diluted and become ineffective. So I can't even wash it down. Actually, last night I washed it down with pudding. Today I discovered that two pieces of gum work just as well, which is a slightly more healthy option! Anyway it will be worth it if it works. I am curious to see how long it will take before we can judge that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gwen might be Teething

I could be imagining it.

But Gwen seems to be displaying certain behaviours lately.

I'm no expert, though...

... so I'm just not really sure.

Wait, yes I am.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


It took over a year, but I have finally become a true Facebook devotee. It's only since becoming a mom that I've figured out what exactly Facebook is good for. I have discovered the wonder of Facebook groups.

Someone in our Healthy Beginnings drop-in created a Facebook group called "Mommy and Me Walking Group". If you visit the main page, the profile of the group tells you that they meet at certain places around town to go for walks with our strollers or slings full o' baby. Through that group, I found many of the people I talk to at the drop-in, and added them as friends, which allows me not only to send them messages, make plans, and read their status messages, but also to ooh and aah over dozens of adorable baby pictures.

And if you're into adorable baby pictures - which I assume you are, to some extent, or you wouldn't be reading this blog - you can join one of the many Baby Photo Contest groups, where members post pictures on a certain theme and then vote for each others' pictures for a weekly winner. These groups are usually closed groups, meaning you have to be approved by an admin to join, thus eliminating the creepy factor.

The real goldmine, though, is the "Nanaimo Moms Swap and Shop", where people post pictures of goods they have for sale. All pictures are removed after a month to save space, though you can repost if the item is still for sale. It was through this group that I found a secondhand Bumbo chair for Gwen for only $20 (instead of the $60+tax they charge at Toys R Us). I've also posted a lot of the clothes that Gwen has outgrown, figuring I might make a bit more $$ that way instead of taking them to the consignment store.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Awkward Stage, Part Two

Gwen really wants to be upright these days. If she is in somebody's lap (and not busy eating), she wants to sit up or even stand up. She fusses when she's laid on her blanket or playmat, because she is sick of that view. She wants to be like the Big People, dammit!

She is more into her activity chair for this reason, though even that doesn't hold her attention forever (she wants us interacting with her most of the time, not sitting at the table eating dinner, how BORING).
The problem is, of course, that the more she sits in her activity chair (and her Bumbo, which I just bought today secondhand for $20, woot), the less opportunity she has to develop the muscles to sit up on her own. I'm *so* understanding the RIE-inspired philosophy that babies shouldn't use equipment that puts them in positions they can't maintain themselves!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hopes and Fears

It's been a trying week. We are now on Plan C with the lactation consultant. I made a mistake with Gwen's weight, thinking she had gained 4 ounces, when in fact she was losing, so that was scary. And I didn't write about that, so I kept having people come up to me and say "Wow, good for you, so glad to hear that things are going well with Gwen's nursing!" which made me feel even worse.

Aside from the sheer physical work of managing Gwen's latch and doing whatever I can to make sure as much breast milk goes into her as possible, this is bringing up all kinds of emotional issues for me.

When I first met with KG and learned about Gwen's latch issues, gag reflex and seal failure, I was elated. It explained so much. Her failure to seal means she is swallowing air constantly, which explains why she is such a gassy baby. Her latch issues explain why she can't take in enough milk to pile the weight on, and why my supply is poor, since she's not stimulating the nipple enough to signal my body to make more milk. Her gag reflex explains why she latches so shallowly, causing her to fall off constantly and feedings to take for-freaking-ever.

And yes, I knew it would be a hell of a lot of work to fix these things. But I dared to hope. I dared to dream.

I allowed myself just one evening of imagining that all the work was behind us, that Gwen became an efficient, contented eater. I imagined the gassiness gone. I imagined what it would be like to be able to nurse the baby and carry on a conversation at the same time. I imagined what it would be like to be able to tell, concretely, when a feeding was "done". I even imagined, for just the briefest moment, that I would get the breastfeeder's high, that incredible rush of blissful bonding that people talk about.

But before I can get there, there is work to do. I know that. I understand that, and I respect it. Slogging through a difficult time to reach a cherishable goal is something I'm familiar with and even good at. But there's another person on this journey with me, and she didn't have a choice in the matter.

Before I started on this mad scheme, a feeding might go like this: Feed Gwen on one side for awhile, till she starts to fuss. Try burping her. Repeat until she fusses as soon as she is put to the breast. If she is still unhappy and crying, get her a bottle.

Post-mad scheme, it was more like this: Feed Gwen on one side for awhile, till she starts to fuss. Try burping her. Feed her on the other side for awhile, until she starts to fuss. Try burping her. Repeat on first side, then second side, and so on back and forth until she fusses as soon as she is put to the breast. If she is still unhappy and crying, get her a bottle.

If you read between the lines, you might notice that the second scheme requires Gwen to cry nearly hysterically before she gets a bottle. It also ensures my nipples are getting as much stimulation as possible, the better to produce milk, but at what cost to Gwen's peace of mind? I told myself that feeding from a bottle is less work for her, so maybe she is not starving so much as simply lazy. Still, listening to her scream like that at every feeding really made me question my motivations. In a year, or five, or ten, will she care that she was fed formula instead of breastmilk some of the time?

It's times like these that I question whether I am doing this for the right reasons. Is it really that important to me to eliminate formula from Gwen's diet, and put her through all the crying and frustration to do so? Is it because I want what's best for her, or because I want some shred of bragging rights that I managed to overcome one more obstacle and finally get her off the formula?

The nurse who facilitates our Healthy Beginnings group said something a few weeks ago that just really resonates with me. She was speaking to another mom who was feeling pressure from her husband to pump milk so that he could feed the baby. The nurse advised her that if she wanted to pump and have a break, that was great, but if she wanted to turn down her husband's request, that was fine too. "Whatever you decide to do, just don't feel pressured, because no matter what, you will never get back that first year with your baby."

It's so true. Gwen is growing and changing right before my eyes. What will I regret in years to come? Will I wonder if I could have gotten her off formula if I just tried harder? Will I wish I'd spent less time stressing about it and just enjoyed her babyhood, no matter what she was eating? Or perhaps both?

I don't have all the answers yet. I know I want to keep breastfeeding, though I don't enjoy it for its own sake. I have ordered some fancy herbals online that will hopefully increase my supply. And continuing to work on Gwen's sucking skills and latch issues will certainly benefit her. But I don't think I'm going to sign on for any schemes that will cause her to scream through our feedings, either.

We have another meeting with KG next week. For the past few days, I have been taking an approach somewhat between the two above, and tracking Gwen's formula intake, which seems steady at about 4 ounces per day. If she continues to need a supplemental 4 ounces, good grief, that's hardly anything, and she probably won't even notice it disappearing once solids are established. If my supply responds to the herbals and we can get her off altogether, that's great too.

And okay. Maybe I'll never get the breastfeeder's high, and maybe I'll never have an easy, contented eater. But I can sure as heck keep her from being a starving hysterical one.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hickeys and Hair Loss, I am TEH SEXAY

First of all, I am not losing my hair. No. On the contrary, I know exactly where my hair is, and the answer is freakin' everywhere. On the floors, on the counters, on the couch, in the bed, on my clothes, in between Gwen's adorable pudges, and maddeningly tickling my chin, shoulders, neck, and back at every opportunity. I would prefer if my hair was lost, actually. I would prefer if I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and was half-bald. Then at least it would be over with. My house looks absolutely disgusting with my hair all over every surface. I'm pretty sure there's enough hair to build another Laura, but as I doubt the usefulness of a hair clone, I don't think I'll bother. Unless there's some way to make the hair clone lactate?

I think the real reason moms cut their hair after having a baby is so they'll be finding much shorter, more manageable clumps of hair around the house. That's my theory.

Also, Gwen had a crappy sleep last night, and so I did too. She usually moves into our bed at 4am. Last night she came in at 2am. Sometime during the next six hours she latched on wrong and I have a bizarre-looking hickey to prove it. I can't remember the last time I had a hickey, but I'm quite certain that when I did, it was a sign of love and affection (or at least physical desire), not a misguided attempt to procure food. Of course, once she latched on and didn't get any food, she would have only sucked harder. I vaguely recall the sharp pain of this happening in the middle of the night, but I guess I didn't react soon enough. Bah.

In any case, our week is going rather better than I expected, and I did get out this morning for a long walk while Gwen stayed with her Grandma. I spoke with KG yesterday and reported good progress: Gwen had only 2 ounces of formula yesterday, and her weigh-in showed a good gain (nearly 4 oz in a week, with healthy range being 3-5 oz). So I'm optimistic. There have definitely been some really hard times along the way, and there will probably be a few more, but I am seeing progress and that's very encouraging.

Red Letter Day

Yesterday, September 2nd 2008, is a red-letter day.

I was alone in the house with Gwen. And I made dinner. That has never happened before!

Gwen played happily on her playmat while I artfully arranged nachos on a plate, sprinkled with pre-shredded cheese, and cooked some ground beef to go on top. She even entertained herself for the ninety seconds the plate was in the microwave, but most importantly of all, she continued to do so during the 10 minutes it took me to eat dinner. Yes. I got to prepare, cook, and eat dinner while Gwen amused herself! This has never happened before.

Sure, it's only nachos, but one has to start somewhere.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Posts To Cry By

A couple of posts that have made me sniffly lately. Mind you, I think there may be some hormone issues at play in my case.

In all seriousness, posts like this are part of the reason I keep this blog. These women are incredible writers, and these posts are great examples of what I strive to achieve: a way of capturing a moment in time, before it slips through our grasping fingers.

Dylan, six months and counting

When I see you smile


Monday, September 1, 2008

Awkward Stage

Gwen has hit an awkward stage.

She can roll over from back to front very reliably now - I put her down on her blanket to play, and by the time I've straightened up she's flipped onto her tummy. Impressive, for sure. But she hasn't totally mastered the moves to get from her tummy onto her back, and she sure as heck can't crawl yet, so sometime between 10 seconds and five minutes later she'll get all frustrated and upset and I have to come rescue her by putting her onto her back again.

At which point she flips over again. Whee!

She's so into this rolling over thing that she's doing it at night. I remind you, she is swaddled to sleep: and yet, she flips over in her crib. If you think turning your frustrated child over is annoying during the day, just wait till you try it at three in the morning!


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