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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nursing for Real

Nursing.  I think out of all the parenting decisions we make for our infant, this is one of the most important.  And of course that means there is a ton of online information to go through.  I myself knew I wanted to nurse because allergies run on my husband's side of the family, and I wanted to give my little man the best chance I could at being healthy.  So I researched.  And I researched.  And I researched.  And you know what I found?  Well, first that there are a ton of very opinionated (and often uneducated) blogs that pop up on Google that throw tons of statistics at you.  "Breastfeed 6 month and your baby has X% less a chance of having food allergies."  "Breastfeed 1 year and your baby has X% less a chance of having respiratory infections."  "Breastfeed 2 years and your baby has X% less a chance of having Type 1 Diabetes!"  But the statistics on different websites were all different.  Another fun fact: when formula first came out, it was all the rage, and nursing became taboo, something only poor people did.  Don't believe me?  Ask your mom.

I'm not going to throw any statistics at you, because the end conclusion is the same.  If you can breastfeed, do, because  it is the best existing source of nutrition for your baby, can help you to lose some of those extra baby pounds, and will save you some substantial cash on formula.  But if you want more health info, please don't read blogs.  Go to the American Association of Pediatrics and do your research from an accredited source!

I've heard many women say that they weren't cut out for breastfeeding, just didn't have what it takes, etc.  I never understood this because, well, what did women do before formula?  Maybe they gave them cow's milk, I'm not sure.  I'm not judging, and I don't have the answers.  What I can tell you that for the first 2-3 weeks, it's hard.  Very hard.  And even after it becomes routine, there's always cluster feeding to deal with, and then you will feel like you are chained to your baby because you're the only person who can feed him.  So what can you do?  I'll tell you what I did, I hope it helps you.

Since my baby was in NICU and I was in the hospital for a week after having little man, we had both unique difficulties and unique opportunities to take advantage of.  I had to have C-section because Little Man was what they called "Sunny Side-up", or facing forward.  And since he was in NICU, I couldn't nurse him for a few days.  So by the time they let me try, he was used to a bottle, and just did not want to nurse.  It was unbelievable frustrating.  I was sore from trying, and since we were still required to supplement him with formula, he didn't try very hard to latch because he got the bottle in the end anyway. 

The lactation department at the hospital tried to help with a Medela nipple shield.  It's like a bottle nipple that you put over your own to help the baby transition.  The combination of that and lanolin helped, but it was kind of hard to use.  You have to hold it on and it's constantly falling off... but it did help both with Little Man's latching and my soreness.  That seems to be one of the main reasons women stop nursing, and for about $5, I would definetely recommend you try it before you give up.

Holding the baby in a position he likes also helps.  One of the nurses helped me with this.  If your little one isn't happy in a cradle hold, try a football hold.  Once he learns to latch, you could hold him upside-down for all he cares and he could still find your nipple.  My husband laughs sometimes because if Little Man is really hungry and I'm holding him, he'll flail around until he finds a breast and try to nurse right through my shirt, often in public.  It's pretty comical.  He's even given me bruises on my arms from trying to suck on them if he can't get to a breast.  Impatient little guy!

An electric pump helps too.  If you just can't breastfeed, consider pumping and bottle feeding him your milk.  The number of hours Little Man sleeps at night seems to be directly proportional to how much he drinks before he goes to sleep.  So often I will feed him a bottle of pumped milk at night, and pump another bottle once he goes to sleep, so I can control how much he has before drifting off.  Since I'm completely draining myself at night, it seems to help increase my supply as well. 

But I found that going out in public was impossible, because while I could bring a bottle, I would still have to pump every few hours or I would be in quite a bit of pain.  And the electric pump is pretty cumbersome.  So I got an inexpensive, small manual pump.  It's great for travel too.  It comes with 2 small storage bottles, a stand (which I never use), a size small guard, and a nipple.  I don't like the nipple, Little Man collapses it.  So I just use the storage containers.  I keep it in the diaper bag so I have it wherever I go.

Nursing clothing is another real issue.  Nursing bras are expensive, and not all of them are practical.  There are side-sling and full-sling, one is just a strap and one is a hole in front, different websites seem to confuse them, I just know that the strap is best because it doesn't compress your milk ducts.  And absolutely NO underwire!  I don't even know why them make them with underwire, but they do, so beware!  They cause mastitis.  That being said, the Bravado body silk is the best one I've found.  It's pricey, but my hospital lactation department had them for a better price than I found online.  And I found a really smart idea for super-easy DIY nursing tanks.  Me, I'm out on maternity leave, and even after my milk came in, I'm still only a C-cup, so I opt to wear just a bra-top cami sans bra.  I bought a couple from my local maternity store, and not only were they expensive, but they fit weird.  I thought, if only I could just buy the little clips, I could hand-sew them on!  Well, here they are, and for only $0.95 each, what a deal!  Even I can manage this tiny amount of hand-sewing.

Now for the controversial issue: public nursing.  My opinion is that of course it's perfectly acceptable and most teenage girls show off more skin in public than a nursing woman, but in practice, well, I just never see anyone else doing it, and I'm so afraid of flashing someone, so it makes me uncomfortable.  I've got a Moby, but I'm not very good with it yet.  Once I am maybe it will be easier.  Until then, I go to my car or a public bathroom.  However, if anyone ever said something to another woman doing it in plain sight, I'd be the first to come to her defense!  I'm such a wuss.

I think the only issue I haven't covered it nursing after you go back to work.  I plan to nurse for 12 months.  I'm going to pump at work.  At least, that's the plan.  We'll see how it goes when the time comes.  Until then, I'll just enjoy my time with Little Man!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Baby Registry: What you REALLY need

After the birth of my little man, just like after my wedding, I discovered that the registry lists provided by most stores are completely overkill compared to what you actually need.  Or at least what I needed.  Keep in mind I'm a first time mom, and every situation is different.  There are also multiple stages to a baby's life for which they will need completely different things.  And knowing that you won't get more than probably 50-75% of your registry list, I would start with the things you will need first!  I would also register twice, once at a baby specialty store like Buy Buy Baby or Babies R Us, and then a discount store like Target or Wal-mart.  So keeping all this in mind, this is what I needed for the first 6 weeks:

1. 15-20 burp cloths.  You'll need at least one or two a day.
2. Diapers.  I'd register for 1 box (100 count) of size newborn, and 4 boxes of size 1's.  You can register for more if you want, any store will trade them for another size.  But know this: different stores carry different size boxes (96 instead of 106 etc.) that you can't return to another store.  So ask for gift receipts, and if you don't get them, look up the sku number before you try to take them back. Try Amazon Mom for diapers.  They send them to you on a subscription basis so you never have to run out to get them!  Such a life saver for the busy mom.
3. Wipes.  I've tried a few brands, and Huggies Natural Care  are the best.  Pampers are too thin, Regular Huggies aren't wet enough.
4. Diaper rash cream.  Desitin can be very irritating for infants, instead try an organic variety like this.
5. 0-3 month sleepers and AVOID buttons.  You want zippers.  Squirmy babies make it difficult to line up buttons.  I didn't like the ones with the elastic at the bottom either because you have to pull them over the baby's head.  Little man didn't like that!  You'll need 7-8, depending on how often you do laundry.
6. A bath gift set.  It'll have anything you need for a bath.  We tried Johnson & Johnson, but Little Man had sensitive skin and broke out in rashes when we used it, so we use Shea Moisture now.  You can buy it at Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Buy Buy Baby.
7. A DIGITAL bath thermometer.  The ones that change color aren't as accurate.

8. A baby swing.  I couldn't live without mine.  Make sure it plugs in and has shoulder straps.

9. A bottle gift set.  It has everything you need, including multiple nipple sizes.  Some even come with the bottle brush.  I like the Joovy Boob bottles.
 10. A manual breast pump if you plan to nurse.  You may need the electric one (you can rent one from the hospital for pretty cheap), but you'll need the manual for when you're out or if you're traveling and the electric one isn't an option to carry around.  Nowadays your insurance is required to provide an electric one.  You usually have to call them to find out what kinds they offer.
11. Carseat & stroller (you can get a set, just make sure you can lift/open the stroller by yourself.)

12. 4-6 pacifiers of DIFFERENT varieties.  You may have to try a few different kinds to see which ones your baby likes.  My first child liked the Nubies from the hospital.  My second will only take a Mam, and then only begrudgingly.
13. 10+ socks.  I use mine as no-scratch mittens too because they fit his hands better.
14. A baby bathtub.  I went through a couple, check out my reviews here.
15. An infant recliner or lounger, they are a little expensive but it's basically a portable bed.  I've used mine endlessly.***
16. A backpack style diaper bag - hands free!  Mine has an insulated bottle compartment and a portable changing pad and was under $30 at Babies R Us.
17. Wipe warmer, some people say that these spoil your baby and when you use cold wipes when you are out they will scream...I did not have that experience.  My babies were fine in public.
18. Soft strap covers for your car-seat and stroller.  I use these little teddy-bear velcro cushions strapped to the shoulder straps, they work much better than the ones that came with it.
19. A carseat mirror so you can see the baby in the back seat.
20. Baby detergent and dryer sheets, and some stain spray for diaper leaks.
21. Foam hand sanitizer to put on the changing table.
22. A changing table cushion and a couple washable covers.
23. A few baby blankets
24. A swaddler blanket - I'd say a few but my little man loved his for 2 weeks then hated it.  So if you want, register for more and then take them back if you don't need them.
25.  10-12 onesies, and one collared jumper.  You really won't need much else for a while.  And most people are going to get you clothes not on your registry list.  Here's some more advice - don't remove tags or wash any clothes that are the next size up yet.  You may get too many in one size or get 0-3 sweaters when your baby is born in July etc etc etc, and if you need to trade up you need them to have the tags on!
26. A baby monitor with a portable viewer.  It's so nice to be able to see and hear your baby, I don't know what our parents did without them!
27. Nursing pillow
28. A sleep sheep or other soothing noise maker
29. Gas drops.  I only use these when I'm out, when I'm in I have a natural trick.  My mother-in-law taught it to me.  Make some bay-leaf tea.  Steep 2 leaves per 8-ounces of water, and keep a bottle at the ready in the fridge!  It works like a charm.  (If you worry that the leaves are poisonous, read this.
30. Gripe water
31. Ear or temporal thermometer.  Because I wouldn't want my temperature taken rectally, and I'm sure my baby wouldn't appreciate it either.
32. A soft baby brush, aspirator, and nail clippers, you can get a little grooming kit if you want, I only use those three items out of mine, but the little bag is very convenient for carrying around all the items I do use!
33. A kneel cushion for baths
34. If you don't already have them, a good camera and a small video camera, I have a Canon Rebel and a Flip.
35. Baby books.  When your friends send out shower invites, request that people buy you a baby book instead of a card.  You'll just throw the cards away, and at $3-4 a pop, you can get a cute book instead!
36. A nursing wrap
37. A bottle warmer, even if you're nursing, for the milk you store
38. A crib and mattress and bedding set, changing table, and glider.  Walmart has great prices on gliders. 
39. I don't have a dresser because the nursery is small, so I use closet hanging organizers.
40. A 'mommy hook' for the stroller to carry bags/purse.
41. A good diaper pail and refills. 
42. Baby hangers
43. A hamper and trash can, we just use some we already had.

And really, that's all I've used.  My baby was born in the summer so I didn't need any warm weather clothes yet.  I'm nursing so I didn't need formula.  I didn't register for nursing bras and tanks because you need to wait to get measured after your milk comes in.  (By the way, Medela side sling are the best, the kind with the holes in front can cause mastitis, OUCH!)  You'll notice I didn't have towels or washcloths on it.  Because really, yours work better anyway.  I know I'll need other things later like a bath seat, toys, a high chair, etc., and I do have some of those things, but I don't need them yet.  I'll keep posting as I go along.

***NOTE!!!  The Nap Nanny has been recalled, the company, Baby Matters, is no longer in business.  Read about it here.  Most recalls come from parents not following the manufacturer's instructions, this and the Bumbo chair being the most glaring.  Please read and follow all manufacturer's warnings on all of your baby products.