Tag: breastfeeding

Resolving an eat/sleep association, and what it means for breastfeeding (or, our un-maternity leave policies)

After I posted about our struggles with Maggie’s sleep, someone suggested I join the Respectful Sleep Training/Learning Facebook group. I was hesitant to do this and put off posting after I was accepted into the group. I only received a response from one person, and after asking a few questions she definitively stated “She has an eat/sleep association.”

This wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I didn’t think this was her issue as she hadn’t really wanted to nurse at night the previous few nights. I also didn’t want to hear this because Lily had very clearly had this problem, and we weren’t able to push through it. If I hadn’t been going out to dinner a few days later and missing bedtime, we probably wouldn’t have considered trying to push her last feed until 30 minutes before bedtime like the poster suggested. But I was, and I asked Ryan to give her her bottle in the living room with the light on before bringing her up to her room for stories and then bed.

“How did it go?” I asked when I got home. “She drank 6oz,” he said. 6oz. There is no way I could ever produce 6oz. She then proceeded to sleep through the night. Of course I didn’t because I was sick after not sleeping for a week, but we’ll get there.

DMFeeling strong after a good night’s sleep.That was Friday. We’ve followed the same routine since then (so 3 more nights). She wakes once between 1am-3am for her pacifier, and then once around 5am to nurse. She’s had a 5+ oz bottle each night, which again is more than I can produce.

I’ve considered trying to nurse her downstairs but this is problematic because she gets so distracted. And I think getting more milk from a bottle is really helping her sleep through. This means I only get to nurse her once a day except on weekends, which makes me so sad. This also means I have to pump more often and we have to supplement with formula. What I think I’ll try is nursing her in her room with the light on, and then going back downstairs to finish up with a formula bottle while we hang out with Lily. After both girls are in bed, I can pump again. But my supply is already dwindling after just a few days. For someone who breastfed for 26 months the first go around and wants to soak in every snuggle with a baby I only see a few hours a day, this is heartbreaking.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t have anything against formula. I use it! But I use it because pumping isn’t working out. Pumping isn’t working out because at 13 weeks postpartum I went back to work. And I went back to work because the United States has maternity leave policies similar to those of developing nations. Everyone knows this, and everyone knows the benefits of paid maternity leave (and subsidized childcare to help ensure women re-enter the work force), so why isn’t anything being done? Oh, I know, 12 weeks paid leave by 2021 blah blah blah. It’s embarrassing that anyone is “proud” that policy makers are taking this step. So yes, I’m angry and frustrated that I have to give my baby formula, but not because I think formula is bad or unhealthy. I’m angry because I have no choice in this matter.

I recently read this article, which articulated my frustration about things like being forced to go back to work so soon and how we aren’t paid for pump breaks, and opened my eyes to some concerns I had never considered before, like the deliberate decision not to mention breastfeeding in NYC’s Latch-on campaign. I feel like there’s nothing we can do except complain, because the dial is only moving in 2-week increments and that’s in NY which op have the most progressive family leave policies in the country when they’re enacted. So here I am complaining and feeling frustrated, and I’ll continue complaining and feeling frustrated. But at least I’ll be getting some sleep.

Lactation Cookies

  1. Ladies, it has been an exhausting few weeks.

While I’ve been sticking to a 42.5 hour work week, Ryan has been putting in some really long hours. He’s been getting home after 8 three days a week and then working from home in the evening, and has also been working several hours every Saturday, and sometimes a few hours on Sunday. I’m an exempt employee, so working more hours doesn’t translate to more pay. Ryan, on the other hand, is self-employed and technically a business owner, so the more he works, the more he makes. When you have 2 kids, student loans (all mine), a mortgage, a garage door and hot water heater that need to be replaced, and five weddings coming up, that ends up translating to a lot more hours worked.

Maggie is still waking up to nurse three times a night. I fell asleep in the rocker while feeding her twice the other night. We’ve sort of tried to sleep train her, but she also keeps getting sick, and when she’s not sick she’s teething, so it’s been a nightmare. She also doesn’t respond well to us going in at increased time intervals–she doesn’t calm down at all in between, and we’re too exhausted to listen to her crying for an hour. Last night, I slept in the basement after 2:58am because I can’t sleep through her crying.

Maggie of course isn’t the only one who’s been sick. Ryan has been since Christmas, and ended up with strep. He can’t seem to kick whatever he has. I used to stay late at work sometimes and put in a few hours on the weekend, but I’ve gotten to a point where 1) I want to spend that time with my kids and 2) I don’t have time because laundry/grocery shopping/cleaning/meal prep/etc.

Lily has been battling cold after cold and a nasty cough since before her birthday that also have her up at night, and I ended up in urgent care with her last Friday night. She officially has “reactive airways” (asthma, but they don’t call it that until age 4), so is now on treatments for that which make her super wound up and aggressive. I’ll do a post on RSV and her respiratory issues at another time, but let me just say she is a trooper. With her and Maggie waking up through the night though, and both of them only wanting me, I. am. EXHAUSTED.

I was craving cookies last week, and decided I needed to do some baking before I went broke buying one every other day, or Lily started wondering where all her animal crackers were going. Turned out I was getting my period, which meant not only cravings, but a plummet in my milk supply. I see a direct correlation between my sleep and my milk supply, and at this point I was only producing 7 or 8 oz. while I was at work.

I had tried making lactation cookies when Maggie was a month or two old, but they didn’t do anything for me. They were SO delicious though (read: my husband wouldn’t stop eating them until I told him how expensive the ingredients were), and I had all these lactogenic ingredients lying around, so I figured if I was going to make cookies I may as well make them with a purpose.

The boob-juice inducing ingredients.

And guess what? They worked! For the first time in weeks I was able to pump enough milk that I didn’t have to supplement with formula. We finished them in just a few days, so I’m going to make some more this week (and hide them so no one else can eat them).

I used the same recipe that didn’t originally work for me, which I had originally chosen for its trifecta of lactogenic ingredients (maybe quadfecta? oats, brewers yeast, fenugreek, and flax seed). I don’t know about you, but when I make cookies I always double the recipe because who has time for 18 cookies. This recipe is already doubled! Extra bonus: the dough smells and tastes pretty unappetizing, so no little hands trying to sneak a taste while you’re whipping them up.

The only dough you’ll never be tempted to eat.

These are pretty hearty and they freeze really well, so I just microwave them for 30 seconds when I want one. So tasty all warmed up. I hope they work as well for you as they did for me!

I’m not the only one who makes giant cookies so I don’t have to feel bad about eating three, right?

Print Recipe
Lactation Cookies
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix flaxseed meal and water; set aside.
  3. Stir together flour, brewers yeast, salt, baking soda, and fenugreek. Set aside. (this is the stinky stuff)
  4. In a standing mixer or bowl, beat butter, coconut oil, and sugars until well-combined. Blend in eggs. Add flaxseed mixture and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  5. Add dry mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop 2 Tbsp dough (eh, mine were 1/4 cup) onto baking sheet, an inch apart.
  7. Bake for 10-13 minutes (if they're big like mine), or until matte on top.
  8. After they're cooled, store in a freezer bag in the freezer. Microwave 30 seconds before enjoying!
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Nursing, the second time around.

By this point, we all know about the benefits of breastfeeding for both moms and babies. I’ve been a proponent of breastfeeding since long before I had children. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I realized what my stance really is when I saw the phrase circulating social media: “Fed is best.”

When I was pregnant with Lily, I planned to breastfeed. I also planned to do so only to the extent that it didn’t negatively impact my quality of life, her health and happiness, or my relationship with my husband, friends, and/or family. I read so many stories about women who were staunch breastfeeding supporters and wouldn’t feed their babies formula even though they were struggling to maintain weight. They went so far as to tape little tubes to their breasts, and pumped around the clock. It angered me how these women felt that they should be praised for these efforts, all the while they also expressed how exhausted they were and how going to these extents meant that spent less time with their babies, older children, spouses, family members, and friends.

I knew I was incredibly lucky when Lily latched on within a few minutes, and I had an oversupply of milk. After she nursed for the last time in January 2016, I threw out my extensive freezer stash. When Maggie was born, I immediately knew something was different. I produced just enough milk to keep her fed. She was an incredibly fussy eater, and in the evenings during her witching hour(s) often couldn’t latch. There were a number of times I gave her bottles of expressed milk, but I had such a small amount saved up that I considered supplementing with formula very early on. Evenings were incredibly stressful, with her screaming inconsolably from as early as 6pm to as late as 11:30pm. It was impacting my life, and taking away from time spent with Lily and Ryan. There were endless nights of bringing her into our room at 7pm, and eventually passing her off to Ryan a few hours later when I couldn’t take it anymore.  Every night I struggled with whether or not to give her a bottle and then pump, which I dreaded. Then suddenly at 7 weeks, things got better. She started latching more effectively and was much less fussy. But when I went back to work at 13 weeks postpartum, I was barely producing enough milk. I depleted my freezer stash, and could only pump enough for the next day. I often had to pump in the morning and evening as well. When we had a 3-night trip away from the girls looming when Maggie would be 5 months old, I knew we’d have to supplement.

sleeping-baby

Preparing that first bottle of formula was strangely liberating. With Lily, I think I may have cried if I was forced to give her formula. With Maggie, it was like this huge weight was lifted off of me. Here I was with an alternative for when she struggled to nurse because there just wasn’t much there for her, for those evenings when she bit me because nothing was coming out. She had formula for 1 1/5 days of our trip, and of course was completely fine. These days, she ends up getting one formula bottle about half the time when I’m at work. Probably 2 days a week, I end up giving her formula before bed because I just don’t have enough left in my boobs (this is usually toward the end of the week). And then of course she nurses 3 times a night at 8 months which is a nightmare, but part of me is okay with it because I do want her to get that little bit more of breastmilk.

While my supply is definitely lower this time around, being at work full time has absolutely made pumping more difficult. With Lily, I only worked full time for about a month before going to 2 days a week. Pumping 3 times a day, 2 days a week is nothing. Pumping 3 times a day, 5 days a week and not producing enough is exhausting. I get so anxious looking at the timer on my pump, and sometimes I’ll get to 14:45 and just rip the thing off (I try to pump for 15 minutes). I also have to work through pumping sessions, because otherwise I’d have to take 45 minutes worth of unpaid breaks during the day. This means my back is completely wrecked from sitting hunched over, typing one-handed while trying to push every last drop out. It’s complete crap that we’re expected to exclusively breast feed for 6 months, but we have to go back to work after only a few weeks and don’t get paid for pumping breaks.

I reached out to a lactation consultant when I was considering stopping pumping because of my low supply. I wanted her to say that it was okay to supplement with formula. Instead, she suggested I add a pumping session in the morning and/or the evening, and that I try relaxing while pumping at work. If she had said this to me in person, I may have bitten her head off. There is no way I would pump in the morning or evening and take away from time spent doing chores that enable me to be more present with my girls when they’re awake. And relaxing at work? I don’t think an extra ounce of milk is worth 45 less minutes with my family. She also suggested that I ask my childcare providers to offer her fewer bottles, and more solid food and water during the day. Why wouldn’t I just send her with an extra bottle of formula then? I’m all for lactation consultants, but that last suggestion really put me off.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. I think. I stopped pumping with Lily at 10 months, because she stopped taking bottles. But I was also home with her the other 5 days of the week, and she would nurse those days. With Maggie, I think I’ll stop when she’s 12 months old, but what if she wants bottles during the day? Do I just send formula? Or do I keep pumping? What did you do?

PS: I switched to the Spectra S2 pump after my Medela Symphony just wasn’t cutting it. This pump is such an improvement! It’s so quiet, and much more efficient. It came highly recommended by a lactation consultant, who said she didn’t know why people would choose the Medela over it. Plus, it’s kind of cute. Spectra S2 Plus