Monday, November 10, 2014

Nipple Shields, Mama Juice, and Baby Food

So, it's almost been two months since I blogged in what was supposed to be some kind of catch-up-on-Eli's-life-before-I-forget-everything series.  I constantly have this blog in the back of my mind, and keep thinking that when I'm not busy keeping my kid alive I'll try and crank out some posts.  But then I remember I need to work out.  Or clean my house.  Or go grocery shopping.  Or finish some real estate classes.  Or take a nap.  Or have grown up time with my man.  Or sit on my arse and watch Netflix.  And by the time I get even the slightest hint of motivation to write a post, Eli wakes up.  And, you know.  

So, before my child's emerging teeth make him wake up screaming like a possessed velociraptor, here's a little catch up on how my baby has eaten for the last 7 months.  Just when you thought it couldn't get any more exciting than sleeping and pooping.  Wee! 

Before I had Eli, I had my heart set on breastfeeding my babies.  Between the countless health benefits, the increased mother/child bonding time, and the fact that it was free baby food - I was convinced it's what I wanted to do.  (And before anyone gets all bent out of shape and worried that I'm about to go on some "Breast is Best" tirade - I totally understand that not every woman wants to or even can breastfeed, and that's okay.  There's no judgements coming from this humble slice of the internet.  Promise.)  Anyway, as eager as I was to nurse Eli - I still found myself a tiny bit apprehensive.  I wanted so much to believe breastfeeding would be this magical experience where rainbows and happiness shot out my life-sustaining milk makers, while unicorns and puppies pranced through fields of glitter in the distance.  Unfortunately nothing shoots that illusion to hell quite like horrifying stories of infected/engorged boobs and raw, chaffed, bleeding nipples.  I remember someone jokingly suggesting that I just needed to rub some sandpaper on my nipples to toughen 'em up beforehand.

After hearing so many stories about how difficult and painful breastfeeding could be, I was sure that I wouldn't be able to do it.  Not only because the sliver of pain tolerance I do have is microscopic - but because after having to pay someone 15 thousand dollars to get me pregnant, I still didn't totally trust that my body would even cooperate.  

So, Eli is born, and after him and I are both cleaned up, the nurses shoved his face onto my chest to see if this whole breastfeeding thing was going to happen.  And, I'm not going to lie, having a tiny human sucking on my boob was the most bizarre feeling ever.  It was bizarre in a wonderful way, of course - but still incredibly weird.  It was pretty clear that neither Eli or I really knew what the hell we were doing - but luckily it looked like we were going to be able to make it work.

That first night, a lactation consultant came in several times and showed me different ways to hold Eli as I fed him, and how I needed to more or less smash his face onto my boob until he opened his mouth.  Which seemed, well, forceful.  HERE.  THIS IS FOR YOU.  EAT.  *SMASH*  But hey, it worked.  Shawn and I were both pretty amazed at how quickly little dude caught on.  Once he really figured out how to get a good latch and suck, I finally experienced that pain people had warned me about.  It's definitely not pleasant.  It's amazing how something so cute and tiny can feel like it's sucking the everloving life-force out of you.  However, to my surprise, the pain didn't last as long as I expected.  It was maybe for several seconds when he'd initially latch and go to town, but then it'd fade away into the distance.  You know, with the unicorns and puppies.

I was and am pretty elated that breastfeeding wasn't nearly as traumatic as I had been sure it was going to be.  In fact, I really couldn't have asked for a better experience as a beginner.  Sometimes I feel pretty guilty admitting that, because I know so many women who did have a hard time.  Sure, my nipples were pretty tender - but I kept them smothered with lanolin in the beginning, and that seemed to help.  But my real Hail Mary was when we were at Primary Children's Hospital on day 4 for Eli's jaundice, and the lactation consultant gave me a nipple shield.  I had heard of nipple shields before, but never realized how simple they were.  It was just a small, magical piece of silicone that made nursing immensely more enjoyable.  Eli had latched fine before the shield, but after, it was effortless.  My nipples weren't getting chapped.  I wasn't bleeding.  And it was totally painless.  Nipple shields, FOR THE WIN. 

When my milk finally came in, Eli would usually nurse for about 10 minutes on each side - which always seemed super fast to me.  Sometimes all I could get out of him was 5 minutes on each side, and I was so paranoid that he wasn't getting enough.  I'd scour the online forums and read about women who nursed their babies for like, an hour - but then there were some that did it really fast like Eli.  I quickly learned that there really was no "normal".  As long as he was gaining weight and peeing, we were good.  And I think we all know that he gained weight just fine.  

In fact, Eli was so good and efficient at eating, that he'd give himself some pretty gnarly gas from eating so quickly.  And by that, I mean it was really my boob's fault.  As worried as I had been that my body wouldn't cooperate enough to breastfeed - I couldn't have ever predicted that it'd be a little too productive.  I eventually self-diagnosed myself with an overactive letdown - which was one of the many reasons Google said babies could have issues with gas.  Eli would start gulping pretty quickly after latching - which meant my milk was coming in super fast and he was swallowing a lot of air with it.  That made for some fun nights of struggling trying to get that air out of the poor kid's body.

Another fun side effect of overly productive milk makers, along with constantly spraying my kid in the face, was engorgement.  Eli would decide to sleep an extra hour or two, and I'd suddenly transform into a porn star over night.  Then when he'd try to eat, he couldn't, because my knockers were so damn big.  I know there's several methods to relieve engorgement - but because I wasn't nearly patient enough to take a hot shower or just lay there with cabbage leaves on my boobs (weird), I'd usually end up just pumping if Eli couldn't even the ladies out.  I realize pumping is pretty much totally counter-productive, as it will stimulate more milk production.  But as far as quick relief was concerned, it worked like a gem.

Fortunately, I never had to worry much about pumping a huge supply to go back to work, because I work at home, and luckily I'm in a position where I can nurse Eli while I work and it works out just fine.  However, it was nice to have some pumped milk when we'd go out, so I didn't have to try and discreetly maneuver a baby onto my boob without flashing 50 people.  And I still wanted Shawn to be able to feed Eli every now and then, because it's totally good parent-child bonding time.  The only problem I had was not knowing how much to feed Eli when it was from a bottle.  The first several times we tried to give him a bottle, he'd eat just fine - until about 5 minutes afterward when he'd throw what seemed like all of it back up.

As the months passed, I started pumping less and less - because not only was it just easier to throw him on my boob and not have to deal with him throwing up a ton, but the upkeep to clean and sanitize all those freaking little pump parts was a colossal pain in the ass.  Unfortunately, because we weren't more consistent with a bottle - I'm pretty sure Eli forgot how to use one.  Either that, or he was just playing dumb, because he preferred the real thing.  We tried several different types of bottles, and he just hated them all.  Not only could he not figure out a bottle - but even to this day, he can't figure out how to keep a binky in his mouth.  As a result, I've become pretty much his own, personal human pacifier.  And I won't lie, it can be pretty exhausting.  Knowing that I can't ever be away from him for much longer than 2-3 hours has definitely changed the way we do things.  There have been several times where I've wished he could just suck on Shawn's manboob so I could take a break.  However, even as exhausting as it can be, it's about 8,000 times more rewarding.  I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to provide that kind of comfort and nourishment for my own little person.  I love knowing that when no one else can calm him down, I can.  Because I'm his mom.  And I have the magical mama juice.

Eli is 7 months now, and I'm still nursing him every 2-3 hours.  Instead of doing one side, changing his diaper, then doing the other side - we're down to just feeding him on side each time - and he's usually finished in about 4 or 5 minutes.  He's got it down pat, and I am not complaining.  Nursing him at 7 months is definitely different than nursing him when he was younger.  He's the most distracted eater ever.  He'll be going to town, and if Shawn comes in the room and starts talking, he'll yank off my boob to look at him.  And heaven forbid he sees the cat walking by.  He swats at everything while he eats - which makes trying to cover myself in public super fun.  I'm still not totally pro at stealthily nursing him without giving everyone around a show.  When he was about 4 months old, I nursed him in a restaurant for the first time and was sure I was going to flash the everyone there. If I did, no one said anything - and I think I'm okay with that.  I even breastfed in a movie theater once, to make sure Eli stayed quiet.  (That didn't last long.)  And I know there's people who say, "Who cares if people see you breastfeeding?  It's natural!"  Which is great and everything - and if that's how you roll, I don't judge you.  I'm less concerned what other people think, and really more concerned with not wanting everyone and their dog to be staring at my boob.

Then you have the mother's room at church.  Which, the concept is nice.  But in reality?  I hate nursing in there.  It might be more enjoyable if the changing table wasn't right there.  But even if no one is in there changing a diaper - the room constantly smells like a shitty diaper and it is so. nasty.  And not only that, but I can't even handle the awkwardness of nursing in there at the same time as someone else.  It's like being in an elevator.  I just prefer to do it alone.  I know that's not the case for everyone, but... no me gusta.


And I think the least fun part of nursing now is doing it now that Eli has mother fluffing teeth.  I have vivid memories of my mom sternly telling my siblings "Don't you bite me!" when she nursed them - and I remember being pretty horrified and equally confused as to why anyone would let a baby with teeth near their boob.  Weren't they just kind of asking to be bitten?  I had to laugh to myself when I found myself saying the same thing to Eli.  Before he had teeth, his favorite game was to clamp down as hard as he could on my nipples, then pull away to see just how far it would stretch before it snapped back.  That didn't feel good.  So now that he has sharp little demon teeth - when he's done actually eating and gets bored, he'll try to do the same thing and doesn't get very far before I scream OUCH and scare the poor kid half to death.

When Eli turned 6 months, we finally let him try some "solids".  He was had become extremely interested in all the food we were eating.  He'd just stare at us while we ate - so we figured it was time.  I was pretty happy to have been able to exclusively breastfeed him for those first 6 months, but was excited to start him on some other foods.  

We started off with sweet potatoes, which I hate.  So I was interested to see if he'd take after me, the picky eater - or Shawn, the dude who will eat pretty much anything.  Most of you probably saw the video I posted to Instagram of his first sweet potato experience - and I'm not sure he knew what exactly to think about it - but he kept opening his mouth, so I figure it couldn't have been too bad.  You can watch the longer version of the video here, because really, it's too hilarious not to.  

Since then, he'll eat pretty much anything we put in his mouth - just like his dad.  Dude loves his food - just like his mom.  We pretty much skipped the whole rice cereal/oatmeal thing, mostly because I couldn't be bothered to pump milk to mix it with.  And I know you can mix it with water - but, meh.  I Googled enough to figure that it wasn't a huge deal to skip it.  Now we'll feed him fruits in the morning and veggies at night - and he's definitely a fan.  He'll sit and smack the tray of his high chair until we give him another bite.

Occasionally we'll experiment with tiny bits of random food.  Foods that I'm sure that some parents might totally judge us for.  But, meh.  Last night I let him lick a Sour Patch Kid - and it didn't even phase him.  Then I gave him a tiny bit of ice cream - and he gave us the most sour face ever.  He does the same thing when we forget to nuke his baby food for a few seconds in the microwave - not quite used to the cold stuff yet.  On Halloween, grandma gave him a lick of her Tootsie Pop - and needless to say he was a fan.  

We're pretty lucky that Eli has been such a great eater.  There's nothing we've fed him that he doesn't like.  Heck, he even ate the "Turkey & Turkey broth" baby food that Shawn fed him.  (It smelled like cat food and made me want to throw up, in case you were wondering.)  The thought of him weaning is a tiny bit relieving, but mostly sad.  I really enjoy the snuggle time I get with him - and I know when I'm done nursing him, I'll totally miss it.  My goal has always been to make it to a year - so, we'll see how things go. 

In conclusion, here's some space to relieve all the excitement that was this post:

Until next time, yo.

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