July 31, 2013

The Breastfeeding Diaries: Erinn from Strawberry Swing and Other Things

Hello friends!  I'm Erinn from Strawberry Swing and other Things.   I'm an original Jersey Girl, now living in the Philly Suburbs with my husband and sweet 15 month old baby girl, Ashlynn.  We've had a roller coaster of a breastfeeding journey (you can read the extended story here) that became one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

I knew I wanted to try my hardest at breastfeeding, though I definitely wasn't in a "I HAVE TO" mind frame.  I've had a lot of friends face struggles with their supply, baby not latching, doctors pushing formula and it just not working out.  I didn't want to place the pressure on myself to feel like a failure if I wasn't able to to produce milk or help my baby healthily gain weight.

While my goal was to breastfeed for a year, I never wanted to place pressure on myself to make that the only option.   I just wanted a healthy baby who was thriving, on whatever form of nutrition it might have come from.

Baby's [unexpected] Arrival:

Ashlynn surprised us when she was born at 35 weeks gestation on April 18, 2012.  At this point, we had just finished our birth class the week prior and I hadn't even read up about breastfeeding.  I was planning to get to that in my final month so it'd be fresh in my mind.  Plus, I had heard fabulous things about the lactation consultants at our hospital, so I was hoping on getting more hands on learning as we went. 

When Ashlynn arrived and was placed on my chest (read the birth story here and here), she was given the chance to nurse.  She started rooting immediately and eventually found a latch.  Looking back, I'm not sure if she was truly latched or even getting anything at all, but after a small bit of time, the nurses gave her to her daddy to supplement with formula.  We were barely asked if this was okay, but since she was preterm and only 5 pounds, it was essential we do what we could to keep her weight and sugar levels up to keep her from visiting the NICU. 


So our routine began at the hospital, every 3 hours I would start the process of letting Ashlynn attempt to nurse for 20-30minutes, then let the husband feed her the colostrum I pumped from a syringe, then an ounce of formula, while I pumped again (both sides for 15 minutes).  After our two day stay, we took this routine home. 

My milk came in overnight our first night back, and it came in like tsunami from all that pumping!  This set me up for a very uncomfortable start.  We attempted to nurse, switch off, I'd pump and my husband feed. Finally I was pumping more than enough milk to completely fill bottles.  We started our freezer stash all while keeping her fed with the two ounces or so she was taking at the time.  She started gaining weight and things we going well, all aside from the actual nursing part.  


Painful and pretty sure she wasn't getting much nutrition from the source, she constantly was falling asleep at the breast.  We would tickle her feet, strip her down, you name it, she would just snooze.  I was getting defeated by the hospital grade pump (I hadn't yet purchased my own since I was waiting for my registry completion discount and she arrived before it did!).  I felt like a dairy cow.  We also found out after Ashlynn's first doctor appointment that she had jaundice - which is known for making breastfeeding even harder.  We had a bili-blanket delivered and trying to feed a glow worm baby, who was literally plugged into the wall, was awful.

About a week to 10 days in, I called a lactation consultant to work on our latch.  At the time of our appointment, we were having decent feedings on the right side, but the left side was just awkward and very painful.  She gave me a nipple shield and that really helped things along.  After a few weeks, we were able to drop it with out a problem and the left side feedings became as smooth as the right.

Over time our feeding schedule of 20 minutes one side, 20 minutes the other, bottle of pumped milk, and 15 minute pumping session and clean up (roughly 90 minutes) and then starting the process again 90 minutes was killing me.  I needed to stop pumping.  It seemed I was producing more than our tiny little baby would ever consume, yet no guide (kellymom.com or the Le Leche League books) or professional, really had an answer for our situation - preterm baby with a mom who's been pumping from the start, a no-no in their world.  If I stopped pumping would my supply drop below her eventually demand? No one had an answer.  I felt so confused where to start and how to go about transitioning out of our routine without causing harm to my supply or her needs.

Progress:

Around 6 weeks we hit our stride.  I would feed on one side, since she was getting a full meal there, and pump the other.  Slowly I cut the pump time down and got ourselves to just feeding one side every 2-3 hours (on her cues).  Sure I was a bit lopsided, but I was also back to being very small. I'm a B in denial, so it really wasn't noticeable at all until feeding time.  I honestly have no idea where the milk came from.  Finally, I had weaned out pumping by about 2 months.

It was also at this time I noticed Ashlynn's reflux (and severe projectile vomit episodes and diaper rash), might be related to dairy consumption.  I decided to cut out obvious dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream) and see what happened.  I noticed less vomiting, but we were still battling the rash.  I think after two weeks, I added it back, and back came the reflux (read: vomiting her entire meal).  This was around July 4th and I knew we had to cut dairy for good and I scheduled an appointment to see a GI specialist. 

I was recommended to eliminate all dairy and soy from my diet, since milk protein and soy protein allergies are commonly linked together.  It can take up to 4 weeks for the protein to leave your milk supply and see a difference with your baby, so only eliminating one could prolong the negative effects if the other is a culprit as well.   After about 3-4 weeks, Ashlynn's rash cleared and her reflux was back to being just your typical baby spit up.  She was sleeping better and nursing was easy as pie.  

Speaking of pie, my adjusted diet was anything but or including pie.  Luckily for us, our family already eats a pretty clean diet of whole foods and not a lot of processed or packaged meals.  However, once you really start looking at the ingredients list on everything you consume, its AMAZING how many items contain dairy or soy.  For example bread.  Something as simple and "whole" as whole wheat bread usually is made with soy flour.  I had to really research and connect with other MSPI moms to get some ideas of how to eat a healthy diet while keeping my baby healthy too.  You can read my MSPI journey here and here or get ideas from my MSPI pinboard.  After a few weeks, it became pretty simple.  The biggest difficulty was eating out - it pretty much was not an option, or getting grief from family members who didn't understand and wanted me to eat their holiday meals. 

Wait, what about the milk stash?

You may remember, we filled our freezer - fast.  Literally, we couldn't have bought ice cream if I wanted to eat dairy because there was no where to store it.  However, since all this milk was pumped while I was still eating dairy, it now became of zero use to us.  Afraid of a power outage and it all spoiling, or just expiring before we'd ever get to it - if we ever could, I signed up with The National Milk Bank and donated it... all 373 ounces.   That's 2.9 gallons of milk pumped in less than 2 months all while still feeding a newborn (and you wonder why I felt like a dairy cow!)

Bottle Battle
Since we no longer had stored milk, and I no longer was pumping because I was trying to keep my supply regulated to Ashlynn's demand, we stopped using bottles.  We had been using bottles from the moment she was born, and while I never expected to quit using them completely, I did want to limit them as much as possible when trying to get her to nurse during that week 3 to week 6 time frame.  I was afraid she might not nurse if she knew she'd be getting a bottle after and not have to work as hard. Once she finally was making strides nursing, it became so easy.  We could feed anytime, anywhere.  No clean up or prep or defrosting or sanitizing needed.

Also, once my supply was regulated to her demand, I could no longer pump a full bottle in 15 minutes time.  I would get an ounce, may two if I was lucky.  It would take me 4 nights of an added pumping session to get one bottle prepared for the weekend.  I did this when we had events like showers or doctors appointments and might need to have a bottle ready to go. However, after our GI follow up at 5 months, she never had a bottle again.  This also means, yes, I never left her side long enough to miss a feeding.

The Reward

Being the only one that could feed the baby, while a huge commitment, was so rewarding on so many levels.  This meant, no help in the middle of the night, get my hair or nails done,  leave for a girls night out, etc.  It also left my husband out of the feeding portion of her needs for few months, which did suck. However, he was still able to bathe, snuggle, rock, change, and nap with her like the best of them.  And he was so supportive.  He saw how hard I worked those first 6 weeks trying to get her to latch and nurse and break the bottle and pumping cycle that was breaking me down.   He was a great cheerleader (who I think secretly was enjoying the sleep) and supported my decisions and ultimately wanted what was best for us, and that was the ease of nursing. 

Weaning
I planned to wean Ashlynn sometime after the one year mark.  I was hoping to transition to milk and replace our feedings with sippies of milk and letting it take it's course at her time.  I didn't want to be nursing at 18 months, but if it took two or three months to completely drop a final feeding, I'd be okay with that. 

But life is what happens, when your busy making other plans...  in our case, pregnancy!  When I called my OB to set up my first appointment I asked about weaning and what they recommended, they to wean as soon as I could since my body was using resources to both create and sustain this developing life as well as produce my milk.  I also asked her pediatrician since she was a few weeks shy of 12 months and I wanted to know if I could supplement our dropped feedings with milk instead of using formula for 2-3 weeks then transitioning.  They were all for it and didn't place pressure on me to rush, but did agree I was probably feeling exhausted due to doing both.

We took exactly a month to fully wean.  We found out we were expecting on April 5th and her last nursing session was before bed on Cinco de Mayo!  Fiesta!  We started with 4 feedings and basically dropped one each week.  She dropped so easily from 3 to 2, I waited one week and dropped to one.  I noticed she really didn't even notice so two days later I just stopped and never looked back.  She never seemed to care.


Breastfeeding was the hardest and most rewarding experience of my life.  I'm so proud of the effort I made at each one of our hurdles.  However, it's definitely a personal journey and everyone is different.  All you can do is try and do right by your baby and that is helping them grow, thrive, and be loved.

If you would like to share your breastfeeding journey please email me! And be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries at the top of my navigation bar.



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July 30, 2013

Mommies Don't Get Sick Days: Part 2

If you follow me on instagram (girlintheredshoes) you know I stayed home sick yesterday. Well....guess where I am today? Yep, still home. I sort of feel like I've been hit by a truck. Which, you know, isn't really how I'd like to spend my "vacation" days at work.

This whole having a young kid thing is tough.....it seems like either my husband or myself is sick most of the time. Usually we just power through it....but I'm choosing to rest today and hopefully be back at it tomorrow. My alarm clock (aka Hudson) doesn't seem to understand that mommy doesn't feel good. Thank God he's not sick. 

Oh and want to hear a funny sad story? Hudson always has a harder time at daycare on Mondays since he's home Friday-Sunday. It's just a big adjustment to go back on Monday. But hey, I think we can all say that! Anyway, his favorite daycare worker was out sick so he had a rough day. He loves him some Ms. D. He had such a rough day that he didn't nap. AND he didn't want to go to bed. So we did everything....sang to him, cuddled him, even went for a drive. NOTHING worked. At one point I had to take a break because I hadn't eaten all day and was feeling sick. I went downstairs to eat my dinner and.......Wrigley had gotten to it first. Our good little golden who would never ever do anything naughty chose THE WORST NIGHT EVER to swipe my dinner off the counter. #momfail

Hudson finally got to bed at 9:15. But was still up at 6:30. SOMEBODY EXPLAIN THIS TO ME!


In other, better news, I'm giving away a 200x200 ad spot on my blog! Sponsorship is such a great way to be introduced to new blogs! This month I'm sponsoring one of my favorites....Whitney from I Wore Yoga Pants to Work. Her blog is amazing. Check it out!


There's lots of fun stuff up for grabs. Go Enter HERE!

And if you want to sponsor my blog, check out the options I offer HERE.


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July 29, 2013

Vintage Metal Letter....and an Etsy Giveaway!

Over the weekend my mom and I braved the rainy weather and went to one of our favorite antique fairs. The rain must have scared a lot of people away....which worked in our favor! We scored some awesome deals.

Best find of the day? This large metal "R".....I've had my eye out for something like this for awhile now...and I lucked out and came across someone selling a ton of them. Usually it's hard to find the letter I'm looking for but the odds were in my favor this day! I'm so excited to put this up in our house!

I posted my great find on Instagram and so many of you said that you've been looking for a large metal letter too! Mine was a steal at $40....but if you don't have any luck with antique fairs you can totally check out Etsy! I found so many fun options.... 
E / Letters / S / Q

Want to win a $25 Etsy gift card? 

Keep reading for a chance to win one from my sponsor, Rachel from Brachel Boulevard.

Hi all! I am thrilled to be posting on Julie’s darling blog today! My name is Rachel from Brachel Boulevard. The term “Brachel” started when my husband, Brandon, started joking about “celebrity” couple names. Brandon+Rachel=Brachel. Over the years, the joke continued and now “Brachel” has come to represent all of the wonderful things we have done as a couple. Over the last 4 years we have had two children, visited 12 countries, lived abroad once and are about to do it again! Our family of 4 is about to move to Spain in just a week and a half! We are pretty much nervous wrecks but are incredibly excited at the same time! I’ve been asked over & over again why we are moving abroad, away from family, friends and all things familiar. Just recently, I think I figured out a truthful answer.
1. We had such an amazing experience when we lived in Belgium before having kids. We were forced to rely on each other for every.single.thing. It was hard but it brought my husband & I so much closer; I can barely describe it in words. This point alone would motivate us to do it again.
2. We have always wanted to give our children the opportunity to learn a second language. My husband is fluent in Spanish & we have seen the many benefits of knowing a second language. We would love for our children (and hopefully myself!) learn Spanish also. What better way than to be immersed in it fully?!
3. We are adventurers! Seriously, it’s in our blood. I think this one point is what really brought Brandon & I together. We want to see the world; we want to breath the air of foreign lands. In celebration of our big move, I am giving away a $25 etsy giftcard! I love etsy—LOVE. It’s pretty much an international site for all things cute! Oh, I spend way too many hours browsing the different shops. It’s a semi-unhealthy addiction.



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July 26, 2013

5 on Friday

Yay for Friday! It's time to link up with my favorite ladies for 5 on Friday!
{one} The Gap has some seriously cute stuff for little boys this fall. Whoever said dressing boys wasn't fun sure hasn't seen this collection. I. Am. Obsessed.

{two} I recently rearranged my bracelets and watches using some of my milk glass collection and love how it turned out! Everything is much easier to find now.

{three} Next to Target, Costco is my happy place. There is just something about buying in bulk that speaks to me. However, spending over $100 on each visit does not speak to me.

{four} I learned an important lesson at Hudson's swim lessons this week. Do not place a wet-just-out-of-the-pool baby on your lap. Even if he's wrapped in a towel. You will look like you peed your pants. My husband made me go shoe shopping with him looking like this. Classy.
{five} This bag is calling my name. I only wish it was calling me from a lower price point.

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July 25, 2013

Enjoying this Season

I'm trying to enjoy this season that I'm in. The season of early mornings, dirty diapers, sticky fingers, and toys everywhere. I know it won't last forever.

 photo DSC_1953.jpgSomeday I'll look back at my clean living room and miss those toys that used to be scattered across the floor.

 photo DSC_1955.jpgI'll miss finding little treasures in surprise places.

I'll miss that snuggly boy. I'll miss those sticky fingers and sloppy kisses.

I was watching Ellen and she asked her guest, Gwyneth Paltrow, if more children were in her future. Gwyneth started talking about how much she loves her kids but how difficult and overwhelming those first few years can be. And then she said something that really stuck with me. She said you can't base your decision whether or not to have more children on that infancy period. Because it is so finite. It goes by quickly. It has an end. Rather, base your decision on how many people you want to see around your Thanksgiving table. Wow. That is so true. Being a mother is the hardest job I have ever had. But it goes by so fast.

Darci from the good life blog put this print up on her blog the other day and I fell in love. I'm going to miss all that laundry some day.

So for now, I'm focusing on enjoying the little things. And praying that my sweet boy doesn't grow up too fast.

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