Tuesday, April 9, 2019

One year

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My baby is turning one this week and every single thing I can say right now is a total cliche. I marvel at her every day, I can't believe we get to do this, that she's ours. I love her little face so much that sometimes I scare myself. She is walking and has a few words (agua, mama, dada, baba - which could refer to Circe, her pacifier, or my boobs, we're having trouble figuring that one out). She is just the sweetest.

Also, I'm exhausted a lot of the time. Sleep training was a godsend for us, but we still have bumps here and there and let me tell you, it is SO much harder to recover from a couple nights of truly bad sleep when your average sleep is still not that great. I usually feed her once or twice a night which means my best case scenario these days is generally one 4 hour stretch plus a shorter stretch. And then she basically refused to sleep for a couple nights the week she took her first steps and things got dark quickly. I know I'm probably going to need to night-wean for my own sanity at some point, but it feels so hard to take that step!

We decided not to do a big birthday party for her this year (read: we waited so long to decide that we ran out of time) but we had close family over for coffee and donuts on Sunday, in honor of her favorite book Please, Mr. Panda. Also in honor of our lack of time, because this was pretty much the easiest party ever.

Did I want to run with the donut theme and make it adorable? Hell yes. Did I have time for that? Hell no. The week before I "designed" an invitation using Instagram stories and then texted it out - the whole process took up 15 minutes of her morning nap, leaving me nearly an hour to browse donut themed party items before realizing nothing was going to arrive in time anyways (okay, I did cave and order a bag of two dozen plush donuts, figuring they'd look cute and we'd get a lot of play out of them after).

We scheduled the "party" for right after her morning nap and ran out to pick up a ton of donuts (plus some bagels) first thing in the morning. I had kind of let myself believe that I might have time to make some pickled shallots and cucumbers to top the bagels but that definitely didn't happen and it was fine.

I did give in to my desires and made it pretty by putting the food on platters and using our real plates and cups instead of buying paper. It was a little more work to clean up at the end of the day, but it wasn't too bad and it made me happy. I managed to snap a couple photos right before people arrived but then failed to get any photos of the party. Luckily our guests were on it and sent us plenty of photos afterwards and I had so much fun looking through them after we put her to bed that night.

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The stars aligned and Adrian took her naps exactly on schedule that day, which meant she was wide awake and happy for the whole party - we scheduled it based on her usual naptimes, but that's never a guarantee, so this was a happy surprise. We had some simple activities set up for the kids (crayons and paper and books in the living room, a small borrowed ball pit in the nursery which was a big hit, a bubble machine and sidewalk chalk in the backyard). Adrian was in her element, crawling and toddling all over the house and yard, watching the big kids and checking everything out. She got super excited when she saw the panda with plush donuts and immediately started trying to feed him. We took the easy route and skipped the birthday cake, figuring that the donuts were good enough. Adrian was very curious about the candle but was not super into the actual donut, so she only took a couple little bites.
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My favorite part was her big birthday gift. They have a little Schoenhut piano at daycare that she's obsessed with and I really wanted to get her one but they were way above our budget. I stalked Craiglist for months, hoping to find one used but nothing was coming up. And then three days before her party one popped up in perfect condition for $40 and I nearly cried. D had to drive 30 minutes south on a Thursday night and pick it up in a Walgreens parking lot off the 405 and I was a little afraid he'd get murdered but he didn't so it was all worth it. We were so excited to give it to her but kept reminding ourselves that baby reactions are unpredictable and she probably wouldn't be nearly as enthusiastic as we were. But when we showed it to her she totally got it and her little face lit up and she immediately sat down to start playing with it. It was the best moment of the day, feeling like we had really understood what would make her happy and had been able to give it to her. Heart bursting. We love this girl so much, and I can't wait to see what the next year brings.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Sleep training at 9 months - Happy Sleeper method

I feel like I've thought more about baby sleep than anything else since this kid was born. It just becomes all consuming. Even when she was tiny and I was home and we had zero schedule my brain suddenly turned into this nap calculating machine - how long has she been awake? how long before she needs to go to sleep again? how long did she sleep? (Side note - learning about age appropriate awake times was hugely helpful to me early on and our days improved immensely once I started paying attention to them)

My sleep philosophy is to do whatever is (safely) getting everyone the most sleep. Every baby is different, every family is different, and baby sleep goes through all kinds of stages. I have zero loyalty to any particular method. So in her short life, we've used the SNOO, we've done bedsharing (on and off starting around 11 weeks), we did gentle self-soothing training to get her in her crib around 5 months, we went back to bedsharing during a sleep regression (in her room this time, so that we could at least take turns getting decent sleep), and then we realized it was time to sleep train for real.

Why did we decide to sleep train? This decision is so polarizing, because I know plenty of people (people I love!) who fall into fairly extreme camps on this, either feeling like the baby should never be allowed to cry themselves to sleep because they'll end up traumatized, or those who sleep trained their baby super early and never looked back and think the rest of us are crazy for not doing it.

At around 5 months, it became clear to us that bedsharing wasn't working for us anymore. Before that, Adrian would happily curl up against my chest and instantly fall asleep, and sleep well for long stretches at night. But once she started rolling over, it fell apart. I think she needed more space, and when she woke up at night she'd notice us and then instead of falling back asleep she'd get excited and want to play. So we did some gentle self-soothing training and it worked! She transitioned to her crib, and sleep was up and down but overall decent for a while. She even occasionally slept through the night without waking up to eat. I could set her down in her crib at night awake and she'd quietly roll over and get into a comfy position and then just pass out. It was amazing.

And then 8 months hit and we regressed, big time. She wasn't falling asleep on her own at night anymore, and we had to hold her for a long time to get her to sleep and then half the time she'd wake up as soon as we set her in her crib and we had to start over. The other half of the time she'd sleep for an hour or two and then wake up, and the only way we could get her to sleep was by lying down with her (and then staying there all night, because she'd wake up multiple times and look for us). This was slightly bearable on the nights when she actually slept decently with us, but on many, many nights she would be awake from 1am - 4am babbling non-stop and trying to play with us. A babbling, smiling baby is adorable, but not at 1am. NOTHING IS ADORABLE AT 1AM. And when we'd refuse to wake up and play with her, the babbling would eventually turn into disappointed (and exhausted) crying that could go on for an hour or more. I can't describe the level of frustration we were experiencing. When you are doing everything in your power to comfort a baby who just will not stop crying, when you are willing to feed her and hold her (all night!) and that still isn't enough somehow - on hard nights it would get so bad that we'd sometimes just have to tap out. I'd reach this breaking point and I'd have to set her down in her crib, still screaming, my teeth clenched so hard I thought my jaw might break, and D would come in and take over and we'd just trade off every few hours until morning. We both work full time, neither of us is getting any naps during the day. The only way we were functioning was by trading places each night, with one of us sleeping with her in the nursery guest bed and one of us getting a full night's rest in our bed (unless it was one of those really bad nights in which case neither of us slept much and we both wanted to die). Since D gets home around 7:30pm, there were lots of nights were we didn't even get to see each other, because I was already trapped in the nursery for the evening by 7pm. I was starting to get depressed and a feeling of hopelessness would ramp up each evening, as I wondered if I'd get enough time to wash my face or shower or eat something before I had to go to bed. I tried moving her bedtime up, then pushing it back, I obsessed about the length and timing of her daytime sleep, her milk intake, etc. - nothing made a difference.

This was when we knew we needed to sleep train. None of us, including her, were sleeping well.

We had to wait a couple weeks to start because she and I both got a cold that seemed to last forever, but once she'd recovered we dove in, using the Sleep Wave method from the Happy Sleeper. Basically, you come up with a bedtime routine and a reassuring script and then you lay them down awake. If they cry, you go in at 5 minute intervals and say the script, then leave again, no touching. There are a lot more details, you definitely want to read the book before attempting. (Also worth noting - this method doesn't require that you night wean, if you want to keep your night feedings which was important to me since she'd struggled with weight gain).

It was hard. I heard all these stories from people who said it was heartbreaking to hear their baby cry for 20 minutes but by the third night it was all worth it! Well, Adrian cried for over an hour, for a freaking week. She wouldn't even lie down, she'd just sit up and wail, and then eventually pass out while still sitting up and then finally fall forward and that would wake her up and it would start over. By the third night she understood that our bedtime song meant crib time, and she'd start getting agitated while we were singing to her, spitting out her pacifier and trying to climb out of our arms, crying before we'd even set her down. I can't really describe how heartbreaking this was. I felt like a monster, just writing about it makes me want to cry again. But I also felt trapped - I knew that if we stopped we'd just go back to not sleeping and I couldn't handle that either. We decided we'd stick it out for two weeks and then try a different method, but it was slowly killing me and I was worried that we were just breaking her spirit. The book even says that most babies adjust by five days. But then it started gradually getting better and by day 8 she would lie down and settle herself with barely a protest and she no longer seemed agitated or upset at bedtime.

For the first month I was a crazy person and actually made us track her exact timing (when she was put down, when she would cry, when she would wake up, how many times we would go in). I also refused to ever discuss how sleep training was going, because I was terrified I would jinx it.

But we're now at 11 months and bedtime has gotten easier and easier and I honestly think this was the best decision we could have made. Our bedtime routine is short and sweet and I can lie her down wide awake and she calmly plays with her pacifier and lovey for a few minutes before falling asleep. She almost never cries at bedtime unless she's overly tired and even then it's usually just a brief protest wail before she conks out. She will cry out a few times a night during light sleep cycles but she barely even wakes up, just feels around for her pacifier and puts it back in, often not even opening her eyes. She usually wakes up to eat once a night, which is pretty manageable for us since she goes back to sleep immediately after.

I don't expect that this means we have a perfect sleeper on our hands for all time, and we've had small regressions when she's teething or not feeling great, but honestly, just knowing that we can do this, and that D and I can eat dinner and talk about our day and then actually get some sleep, is worth it, even if everything changes in another couple of months.

Things that helped:

Have some words of affirmation ready for yourself, to get through the crying. The main things that helped me were knowing that a) she used to cry like this in her carseat and now she's usually content in there b) we had gotten to a point where there was a whole lot of crying each night even when we were actively trying to soothe her, so that wasn't working either. There was going to be crying and frustration either way. I'll be honest and say I'm not sure I would have made it through the process if we hadn't already gotten to this point, where I knew we were in for at least an hour of inconsolable crying around 1am if we didn't sleep train.

Have both people on board. D came home from work early for the first week, so that I wasn't doing it alone. We'd run through the routine, put her down, start a timer because she'd immediately cry, and then pour ourselves a drink and then take turns going in for the 5 minute checks. We wrote our script on a piece of paper and taped it up on the nursery door to be sure we were saying the exact same thing.

Have a video monitor. This helped us a lot because not knowing what she was doing in there was too hard. If she was quiet, we didn't know if she was lying down asleep or just sitting up and hanging out. If she was crying, we couldn't tell if she had her leg stuck through the bars or if she was just protesting. On the other hand it's heartbreaking to watch them at first when they're crying and reaching towards the door hoping you'll pick them up. But watching how cute she is when she comforts herself by picking up her lovey and rubbing her face with it and then using it as a pillow helps. Seeing her sleep process has really helped me realize that she's a much better sleeper without us, our presence actually makes it harder for her to sleep now, not easier. We got the Infant Optics monitor because right when we were trying to decide what to do there was that story about someone's Nest cam getting hacked and it turned me off all wifi options.

Decide how you're handling night feeds. We're not ready to stop feeding her at night. Her weight gain is still slower than it should be, and while I try not to stress about it I worry anyways. The book has instructions for night weaning, but is also totally supportive of not dropping feeds and has a couple different methods. You can preemptively dream feed, based on their schedule, or you can feed on demand but only if enough time has passed. I chose to feed on demand because I want to follow her lead. It worked out for me, because during the sleep regression she'd been eating every three hours at night, like clockwork. But as soon as she started sleep training she cut it down to once per night naturally, which was amazing for me. I keep a three hour interval, because I know that if she wakes up before three hours she's unlikely to actually be hungry. So if she wakes up, and it's been at least three hours since she's eaten, I'll go in and feed her (no 5 minute interval checks, although I always wait a couple minutes before going to her, because she wakes up several times a night and resettles herself within a minute or two). I know her pattern now, so if I see that her milk intake was low at daycare, I know that she's probably going to need two nighttime feeds, but if she eats enough during the day she only wakes up once per night and she will occasionally sleep straight through. I think I'll let her self-wean, but we'll see how it goes. The main thing here is knowing your baby, I think. Adrian isn't huge on comfort nursing and she's usually really good at self-settling when she wakes up at night, so I feel fairly confident that she's actually hungry when she wakes up and sits up and doesn't lie back down. There's no real rhyme or reason to her timing - if she wakes up to eat it's usually any time between 11:30pm and 5:30am, whenever she gets hungry.

Figure out the right bedtime. We're still playing around with this a little, but we tried putting her down as early as 6pm and as late as 7:30, and what we noticed was that when we put her down earlier she'd usually fall asleep around 7pm, regardless of when exactly she was set down. So now we aim to set her down just before 7 and she is usually asleep within a few minutes. She tends to wake sometime between 6 and 7am, which works pretty well with our schedule (I mean, it would be absolutely perfect if she slept until 7:30am, but my natural wake time is right around 6am so I wouldn't be surprised if this is just her schedule).

Side note - NAPS - we still haven't tackled naps and I have no idea if/when we'll do that. Honestly, I just can't get up the energy to care. She naps at daycare just fine but at home she wants to be held. If we hold her, she'll sleep like clockwork for 1.5 hours twice a day, and she rarely fights a nap. I just sit down on the couch with her and she drifts off to sleep, no rocking or singing or cajoling. Since that's working for now I just use it as an excuse to sit down and read and get some snuggles in. If it starts feeling frustrating or difficult, we'll figure out how to change it but right now we get so little time together that it's actually pretty sweet.

Other side note - sleep aids - you'll notice in the pictures that we didn't cut out sleep aids, as most sleep training methods recommend. She uses a lovey and a Wubbanub (we have three of each - one for home, one for the diaper bag, one for daycare) to sleep and they really do help her. If she wakes up at night she immediately reaches for them and soothes herself back to sleep almost instantly. She has a strong sleep association with them because we usually don't let her have them during the day (unless she's sick or having a really hard day). Will I regret this? Who knows? We did have a mild panic last week when she discovered it was fun to throw them out of her crib in the middle of the night and then she'd cry hysterically when she realized they weren't coming back. We didn't want to go in and replace them right away, since we were afraid she'd decide it was a fun game. Instead, we'd let her cry for 5 minutes and then go in, pick her up, sneakily put them back in the crib and then change her diaper (which she does not love) so that when we set her down after her diaper change they were just there. This seems to have worked (fingers crossed) and we haven't had any throwing incidents for a few nights.

Do I wish we'd done this earlier? I'm honestly not sure. As I said above, I don't think I could have gotten through the crying if we hadn't already gotten to a place where she was crying a whole lot in the middle of the night. On the other hand, maybe if we'd done it a little sooner she would have fought it less? There's really no way to know, and I don't really care at this point.

I'm mostly just posting this to say that you are not a monster if you need to sleep train your baby (conversely - if you are getting decent sleep while bedsharing, this isn't an indictment of your method - I loved bedsharing, until it stopped working for us). I'll update this in 20 years if she turns out to be a serial killer because we traumatized her, but right now I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Standing!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

My breastfeeding experience

Whew. Breastfeeding is such a huge topic. I honestly hadn't given it much thought while pregnant. If people asked about it (and they did, surprisingly often!) I would just say that I planned to breastfeed but I wasn't going to go crazy doing it. I've seen the full gamut with my friends, from people who had it come really naturally to people who struggled desperately. But nothing really prepared me for the intense emotions that you get caught up in when you're in that zone.

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{5 days old}

So I'll say it upfront. I don't really love breastfeeding. I hadn't given any thought to whether or not I'd enjoy it, I'd only considered whether or not I could physically do it. I assumed that if you were able to breastfeed without massive struggles, that it would be a lovely, bonding experience. And for lots of people it is, which is wonderful. But it's also okay to just .... not love it, or to feel a little trapped by it. Once we got over the initial hump (which is a very mild way to describe an incredible blend of tears and pain and guilt and frustration) and settled into a routine it became bearable and even sweet at times, but it's still not my favorite thing.

I feel guilty saying this, because so many people desperately want to breastfeed and can't. But there it is. My experience is probably colored by the fact that my baby doesn't seem to love it either. She's almost always all business, eating fairly quickly every 3 - 4 hours and then wanting to get on with doing something else (other than in the first few months, when cluster feeding was real).

I did struggle in the beginning and somehow I wasn't fully prepared for that. My colostrum came in the night before I went into labor (I was a week overdue, not sure if that has something to do with it) and my milk had come in by the second day, but I still struggled to get her to latch in the hospital. It hurt, so much. The hospital lactation consultant came by regularly to check on us, but she just kept saying that if it hurt it meant she wasn't latching right and so she'd pop the baby off and we'd try relatching, but no matter what position we tried it always hurt and I'd finally just say that it felt fine because I was so damn tired of trying. I ended up hand expressing in a tiny cup a few times and we tried to feed her that way. I cried a lot. After 48 hours I was so stressed about it that we called to make an appointment with an outside lactation consultant for the day after I was released. This ended up being a great decision. Seeing someone in a private setting felt really different from the hospital and for the first month she would call regularly to check in so we felt like we had support. She did pre- and post-feeding weights, checked the baby's latch, showed D how to help get the baby in position, and told me that my postpartum bra situation was an actual travesty that needed to be remedied ASAP (shockingly, the $10 bralette I purchased from Target was not cutting it). It was a splurge (about $200) but well worth it and it was FSA eligible.

I never did find a magical way to make it pain free right away or get the perfect latch, even with that help. There were a lot of tears in the beginning. And I didn't fully believe all the people who told me that it would get so much easier, if I could just hang in there. I told myself that my goal was to make it to six months, and then if I got that far I'd try for a year. I just kept trying and it did get easier and easier and around three months I noticed that it had become pretty effortless for us. She had gotten bigger and stronger and better at latching. The evening cluster feeding had started to ease off.

There have been lots of ups and downs since then, and things got really interesting around five months, when she started getting more easily distracted and we went through a long phase where I could only get her to eat by sitting in a silent, dark room. We struggled with weight gain, which took up a whoooole lot of my mental space for several months (discussed a bit here, the good news is that everything seems to have settled out - she was just taking longer to find her curve). But I also credit breastfeeding with really helping out her immunity during her first winter in daycare, which happened to also be a pretty vicious cold/flu season. And now that we're at 11 months it actually does feel fairly easy and sweet for us.

I'm not an expert but if you're in that place, where you're lucky enough that things are (mostly) working physically but the whole experience is feeling more challenging than you expected, here's what helped for me:

Get outside support. If you can afford an LC visit, that's amazing. A cheaper alternative can be a breastfeeding support group (I did this as well), or a good online community.

Do what you need to do to get through it (especially the evening cluster feeding sessions). In the early days, I would watch Netflix and simultaneously play Candy Crush the whole time. My sister's (male) doctor told her that you won't properly bond with your baby if you multitask while breastfeeding, to which I say - spoken like someone who has never had to sit alone and feed a baby for 45 minutes out of every hour, for weeks on end. Also, fuck off, sir. In my (limited) experience, there are so many ways to bond with your baby. For me, breastfeeding was stressful, but babywearing was amazing. I spent hours every day wearing her in the Solly wrap and it was the sweetest experience. We bonded just fine, thank you.

Eyes on the prize. If you can do it without losing your mind, there are real benefits to breastfeeding that might make the initial struggle feel worth it. I mean, sure, the health benefits to baby and mom are the main thing, but you know what was more motivating to me in my post-baby state? Dishes. And time. Boobs do not need to be sanitized or scrubbed, beyond a shower. They do not need to be pulled out of the fridge and heated up in the middle of the night. By the time I went back to work and was dealing with the reality of bottles I was so grateful to be able to breastfeed at night, just because it was so much less work. And the immune benefits have definitely helped during this first winter in daycare. She recovers so much faster than I do from each cold we share, and that is amazing.

So here we are, just one month shy of my one year goal. I'm not 100% sure how things will transition in the next few months. I sometimes feel a pang when I feed her right before bed and realize that these days are numbered, but for the most part I feel pretty relieved that we're close to being done and that pretty soon I won't have to think about the pumping/feeding logistics. At this point, I plan to stop pumping at 12 months, but I'm going to try to follow her lead as far as breastfeeding goes. In my dream world we would just have a night and morning session, and then taper those off, but I'm willing to see how things progress.

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{first Sunday at home}

Friday, February 22, 2019

Pumping and working

One of the biggest mysteries to me when I was planning to go back to work was how people handled pumping logistics. And of course it turns out people do whatever works for them, which varies widely depending on your work situation and your baby's needs, but I found reading about what everyone was doing helpful for me to get ideas so I'm sharing here (I took notes at each stage, otherwise there is no way in hell I would actually remember all this). This is a super long post, and will be incredibly boring if you aren't in the throes of pumping. Sorry!

I'm not going to really talk about breastfeeding here because that is it's own separate (long) post that I'll get up sometime soon.

Annotated

First of all, I'm super lucky because I got to work from home for a bit, so I didn't need to start really pumping on a schedule until 5 months. During this time I was able to build a decent freezer stash by using the Haakaa silicone pump during my early morning feeding, when my supply was highest. Adrian pretty consistently only nursed on one side in the morning, so I'd feed her and just use the Haakaa on the other side at the same time and I'd generally collect 4 - 5 ounces with minimal effort that way, which just went into the freezer in storage bags. The Haakaa is amazing, I highly recommend it. We're at almost 11 months and I still use it almost every day. It's so low effort, and so easy to clean.

When I was ready to go back to work I was also lucky, because I was able to plan it out so that my first week back was a bit of a soft start. Adrian was in daycare but I had a flexible week at work where I knew it would be okay if I had to work fewer hours. That let me practice pumping at work without feeling super pressured or stressed, and I figured out what I needed in order to make it feel easier.

Pumping at work set up - supplies

Spectra S1 - Hugely thankful for my Spectra S1, which holds a very decent charge (about three hours!), so I can pump while I'm getting ready in the morning and not be chained to an outlet. I've also (many times) had to use it in a bathroom stall when I'm working away from my office. Do you know how hard it is to find a private space with a plug when you're out in public? I got this pump for free from a friend (I just replaced the tubing, flanges, valves, etc), but it would 100% have been worth the purchase price for me and I've heard that you can use the 20% off coupons at Buy, Buy, Baby which would help. The S2 is a little less expensive and doesn't hold a charge. If you're debating between the two I think the extra $40 for the S1 is beyond worth it. (Also, if you are using a Spectra I found this post super helpful)

Hands free pumping bra - I bought an attachment (Bravado pumping bra panel) that works with most nursing bras, rather than getting a pumping specific bra. I have two so I can rotate while they're in the laundry. For bras, I use the Bravado body silk yoga bra, which is more supportive and feels a little like a sports bra, and the Lively mesh trim maternity bralettes, which provide basically zero support but make me feel less claustrophobic. Both of these work with the pumping panel.

Baggu - I thought about getting a nice bag designed to hold a pump but ultimately couldn't handle the price tag on something I'd be using for less than a year. This is fine. If I had to travel more for work I would probably have decided to get the bag. I did try to DIY an insert with some dividers for it, using cut up insulated bags and some hot glue and it kind of worked? I mean, it's falling apart but at least there's a little cushioned spot for the pump to go.

Cloth produce bags (from Ecobags) - I already had these and I realized they are amazing for pumping. Instead of washing my pump parts between sessions I put them in the cloth bags and stick them in the fridge, then bring them home and wash them each night. Another option would be to use a plastic or glass tub and just wash it out each night but this takes up less space. I also use the bags for holding the clean, empty bottles I bring to work.

Bottles - It took us a while to find bottles the baby liked and we settled on the Nuk Simply Natural. I bring empty, clean bottles with me to work, fill them up after I pump, and then drop them off at daycare when I pick up the baby each day. They give me whatever she used that day and I wash them at home. Side note - if you're trying to get your baby to take a bottle we found that we had to try several different bottles but also had to test different temperatures. It turned out Adrian would only take a bottle if the milk was very warm (about 104 degrees, which is the max recommended temp) - she would reject the bottle over and over again if it was cool, but if we got it up to her preferred temp she'd happily down the entire thing very quickly. Babies are weird.

Storage bags - I prefer the Medela bags personally (less floppy than the Lasinoh bags) so I use those. I always keep a supply in my pump tote, because there are multiple days when I've forgotten to pack bottles. The Target ones are my runner up.

Masking tape - I label the bottles with a strip of masking tape with the date when I fill them. I also align the top edge of the tape with the liquid level of the bottle. This was a game changer for us, because we like to track how much she's drinking but it's really hard to remember to write down how many ounces are in a bottle before you give it to her, especially when she's hungry and you're just in a rush to get her fed.

Sharpie - For writing on the tape. I keep one in my drying rack at home and one in my tote.

Insulated lunch bag with freezer pack - For transporting bottles and pump parts back and forth. Maybe not strictly necessary if you're just going straight from work to daycare, but I like it for peace of mind. Also very handy for the days when I've had to work off site and need to keep stuff cold all day without a fridge. I don't have a specific one to recommend, I just grabbed something on sale from Target.

Bottle drying rack - We don't have a dishwasher, and I don't want her stuff jumbled up with our dishes. The Boon patch is cute and fits well on our small counter. I also have a couple of the accessories (started with the flower, ended up with the twig and cactus) to give me more drying space for small parts.

Bottle brush - I resisted this for months because it seemed unnecessary and I regret waiting so long. It works so much better than our little hipster wire scrub brush and makes bottle washing go way faster every night. I don't know that the brand matters, probably anything that is specifically designed for baby bottles works well. We have the Munchkin ones and I like them.

Pumping schedules: For reference, I go into work early so I usually pump at 6am at home because the baby doesn't consistently wake up (or eat quickly enough) for me to wait for her. I decided I'd rather pump than wake her up to eat at 5:30 and hope that she'd go back down. If I left later then I would just feed her instead of pumping first thing.

Schedule at 5 months (pumping 3x a day at work, feeding/pumping at least once per night). Note - for me this schedule would also have worked at 3 months, her eating habits didn't change all that much in that time period.

Pump at 6am, put the milk in a bottle, leave it on the counter for D to give the baby when she wakes up.

Pump at 9am, noon, and 3pm (ish for all these times, +/- 30 minutes). I set alarms on my phone to remind myself. At each session, I pumped for 10 - 15 minutes, transferred the milk to a bottle and labeled it, then put the pump parts (in a cloth bag) and the bottle in the fridge. At the end of the day I'd transfer all the bottles to my insulated bag. If I was working somewhere without a fridge for the day I'd just keep both the pump parts and the bottles in the insulated bag.

Feed the baby before putting her down (~6pm). In theory, I would have fed her at daycare pick up as well (~5) but she is way too distracted to even consider it. If she's there, she wants to play.

Feed on demand at night - at five months she would wake up once or twice a night to eat, depending on how much she would take in at daycare (usually about 9 ounces during the 8ish hours there, but as little as 5 oz and as much as 12 oz).

Dropping my middle of the night pumping: By one month in, it was clear that I was not cut out for this level of routine sleep deprivation. D wanted to help by giving her bottles at night but that didn't actually help because I would still have to wake up to pump if I didn't feed her. I had a breakdown at 6 months when I realized I hadn't slept for more than 4 hours at a time since her birth, and my average was more like 2 - 3 hours, once you factor in how long it takes me to fall asleep after being woken up (lifelong insomniac here). I decided I had to cut out the night pumping for my sanity, so that we could alternate night duties and I could actually sleep through. I wasn't sure how to do this so I just tried stretching out the night interval based on my comfort level. I'm very lucky and my boobs adjusted quickly. In the beginning I could go from 11pm to 5:30am, but within a few days I was able to stretch it out to 9:30pm to 6:00am (everyone is different! check with an LC if possible, and be careful because mastitis is definitely a risk when you're dropping feeds/pumps). Starting around 6.5 months, D and I alternated nights on duty*. This was a huge help because we were each guaranteed a full night of sleep every other night. I would pump right before I went to bed just in case she slept through the night. This almost never happened but the few times it did were pure bliss. Personally, I found that my supply wasn't really impacted by dropping the night feeds - if I'm on duty and feed her at night, I usually pump 4 - 5 ounces at 6am, whereas if I sleep through I pump 8 - 10 ounces at 6am - that's stayed pretty consistent even to this day (10.5 months). Storage capacity is hugely individual, though.

After that was well established I also decided to cut my work pumping down to twice a day. I felt comfortable doing this because I had a good freezer supply and Adrian had reduced her milk intake after starting solids at 6 months. By 7 months she would rarely eat more than 9 ounces per day at daycare, often less, and with three pumping sessions I was routinely pumping 12 ounces (plus pumping more in the morning and pre-bedtime sessions). I knew some days I'd fall short if I cut back but I was willing to take that risk for the payoff of fewer pumping sessions. Surprisingly, this didn't end up affecting my supply as much as I expected. I had a small dip in the beginning, but then my body adjusted and between the two pumping sessions I would produce 10 - 12 ounces, which is almost the same as what I was getting out of three pumping sessions.

Schedule at 7 months (pumping twice a day at work, sometimes skipping night feeds):
Pump at 6am, at home.
Pump at 10am and 2pm at work.
Feed at 6pm, at home.
Pump at 9:30pm and either sleep through the night, or take my turn getting up and feeding her.

We're at 9.5 months now and I'm still using this schedule. As we approach 10 months I think it's time to modify again. Adrian now eats less than 5 oz most days at daycare (although it varies! the day before yesterday she ate 2 oz and then yesterday she ate 12 oz, insert shrug emoji here), as her solid food intake has increased. I'm considering reducing down so that I'm only pumping once during the workday. The fear of losing supply is so real that I'm super nervous about doing it, even though realistically I know we have a good freezer stash and I'm routinely pumping over twice what she eats while I'm at work which is a clear indicator to me that we're out of sync. So I'm probably going to try the new schedule once we hit 10 months, I think I just talked myself into it. I'll report back.

UPDATE: I didn't get this posted when I planned to, and I did adjust my pumping schedule right before we hit 10 months. I'm three weeks in (four weeks in? who knows?) and this is what my schedule looks like.

Schedule at 10 months (pumping ONCE a day at work, sometimes skipping night feeds):
Pump at 6am, at home.
Pump at noon at work.
Feed at 6:30pm, at home.
Pump at 8:30pm and either sleep through the night, or take my turn getting up and feeding her. We've split up our nights differently now, since she usually only wakes up once and goes back down easily. If she wakes up before midnight then D handles feedings (since I just pumped) and if she wakes up after midnight I handle feedings. Most nights she wakes up once but there are nights where she sleeps through, which is lovely.

Reducing down to one pumping session has lowered my supply for sure - I usually get 5 - 6 ounces during that one session (whereas I was getting 10 - 12 over two). But actually I think this is a good thing for me! My supply and her demand are better synced up so we have fewer frustrating weekend days where my boobs are dying and she isn't interested in eating - I rarely pump on the weekends anymore, other than my pre-bedtime session. I've also found that with a lower supply I can stretch out my night time a little more, so I pump at 8:30pm and can make it until 6:30am if need be (goal is to get to the point where I can just go from her last feeding until morning without needing to pump and we're getting closer). It's tough figuring out how to adjust to match her needs when we aren't together most of the day, but we're fumbling towards it.

Right now my plan is to stop pumping at 12 months but continue to feed on demand until she's ready to wean (hopefully within a few more months but I'm happy to follow her lead on that). As I mentioned, I'll also post about our breastfeeding experience, which was not really what I expected (spoiler - I feel like an evil person admitting it but I just don't love breastfeeding).


* This post is already sooooo long, but I feel the need to insert this here because it drives me nuts. Inevitably, if I say that D and I alternate nights someone will tell me how lucky I am (and I understand that! I'm not mad at the people who say it, just at the weird cultural norm that dads get to sleep more or are somehow less responsible for baby care). And my stance on this is that I am NOT lucky that my partner, with whom I jointly made the decision to have a baby, takes responsibility for caring for that baby. I mean, D is amazing and he's a wonderful partner for so many reasons and I feel lucky that he's in my life, but honestly, I think taking care of OUR baby should be a default, not something extra special and nice that he does for me. It blows my mind that there is some expectation that one partner will do all the night wake ups when both people work full time jobs, have the same sleep needs, and the baby is okay taking a bottle. Okay, rant over.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joy and grief

Untitled

It's Adrian's first December and I'm struggling with the fact that I feel like this is supposed to be my most joyous Christmas ever!!! ™ and instead it's feeling like the hardest holiday season since the first one after my dad died. My dad's birthday was on Friday and I held it together all day and then listened to Gary Jules' Mad World in the car on repeat while I drove home from work and I cried. A lot. It was one of the last gifts we gave him - the album with that song. He heard it in our car and told Dustin he loved it and now I cry every time I hear it, thinking about him, thinking about death. This year is particularly emotional for me. I say my dad's name a million times a day now, since my daughter is named after him, and I feel like he has never been closer to us, or further away.

I had a resurgence of grief while I was pregnant - I didn't want to tell anyone about the baby, because every time I told someone it just reminded me that I couldn't tell my dad and stepmom. But I guess I didn't fully expect this December to be so hard. I thought that now that she's here I would be overwhelmed with joy and experience the holidays in a whole new way. (No pressure, right? Most joyous Christmas ever!!!)

And there is a lot of joy. Adrian will be eight months on Monday and I feel like I say this about every stage, but this is the best. She's crawling like a champ, and it's so much fun to be able to walk around the house with her following along. She loves being mobile and she's just delighted by everything and we're constantly discovering that she understands more than we think she does. It's amazing, she's amazing.

On the other hand, I'm coming off a particularly exhausting quarter at work, and combined with the sleep deprivation (I've just accepted the fact that she'll be continuously teething for the next two years) and the fact that my body is always fighting off daycare germs and my house is a mess because I never get past the bare minimum of tidying, every day feels like a crazy repeat of pumping and dishes and baby meals and I never seem to get ahead. I'm just worn down and it feels like my dad's birthday pushed me right over the edge because all weekend I've been crying, pretty much at the drop of a hat. For me, the holidays haven't been about gifts for a really long time. The feeling I strive for is peace. The quiet sense of calm when I would sit on the couch in front of the tree, with the whole house clean and a candle lit, the hours I would spend in the kitchen baking and then assembling boxes of cookies. I had a lot of time to myself, time to sit and think and remember the people we don't have anymore and feel grateful for the ones we do. I guess it was how I was coping, these December rituals, the hours I spent in my own head. And I'm realizing that it's going to be a while before the holidays look like that again. Don't get me wrong - I'm excited for this season of chaos, but I think I'm also having a hard time letting go of what it used to look like and I'm trying to figure out if there's some middle ground, where I'm embracing the insanity but also not living in a house littered with baby toys and abandoned cups of cold coffee (am I ever going to get to drink hot coffee again?). And beneath it all, constantly, is the grief, swelling up, brought so much closer to the surface because all my emotions are closer to the surface these days and it's scary but also kind of liberating and it's making me question the way I've handled emotions up to this point.

We are complicated beings, and I'm learning to sit in the middle of joy and grief and accept that I'll be feeling both, probably forever, but maybe not quite as intensely as I am in this moment. I'm probably going to cry a lot this month, and that's okay. The sweetness of watching my daughter gnaw on Christmas tree ornaments doesn't offset the sadness I feel, but it does bring a new dimension to my life, and I'm grateful for this experience, for this love, for this fleeting period when everything is new and fresh and my emotions are spilling out everywhere.

But I'm also going to try to use the rest of her nap to clean the house because let's be honest, there's only so much chaos I can embrace.



{photo of me and my girl, in front of a painting by my dad that hangs in her nursery - thanks to jamie for capturing this for us}

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Life at 6 months

Six months

You guys, six months is so much fun. I thought that all the newborn snuggles were amazing, but watching her rapidly gain all these new skills (and sometimes getting to sleep through the night) is the best.

Our lives at six months are crazy and it feels like we're in the weeds most weeks, but (most days) I actually love it and feel really full and content. I mean, don't talk to me after a night of teething related sleeplessness, when I hate the entire world with a fiery passion. I will admit to crying while driving to work just because I'm so exhausted and there's nothing to do about it. But there are other nights where she sleeps for 11 hours and then wakes up babbling and I feel amazing, like we're conquering the world. It's a lot of highs and lows but the highs seem to wipe out the memory of the lows pretty quickly.

I worked full time from home all summer while taking care of her, which was maybe the craziest decision I've ever made. I was so tired and done at the end of those three months. I felt like I was on call 24/7 and I was never sleeping and I felt guilty a lot of the time. Around 5 months she started to outgrow her willingness to take loooong naps in the wrap (the only thing that made this crazy scheme possible), which put my workday into a tailspin. She started daycare at just the right time (5 months + 1 week) and it was the best thing for both of us. I feel so much better being able to focus exclusively on work during the day and then shift to her at home, and she loves being surrounded by other kids and gets the biggest grin on her face when we hand her over to her caretakers each morning.

We're still figuring out how to juggle our lives as two working parents, but we're settling into a routine.

I wake up just before 6 am, pump while getting ready (I have the Spectra S1 which holds a charge, so I can walk around the house while pumping and I don't know how I'd survive without it), leave a bottle of milk on the counter and then get out the door by 6:30. Adrian wakes up between 6 and 6:30 so some mornings I'm lucky and get to see her and others I don't (but then that means she's sleeping in, so lucky in a different way). D takes point in the morning Monday through Thursday (we switch on Friday due to my meeting schedule) so he gets her up, feeds her the bottle, gets her dressed and drops her at daycare by 8:30.

I'm at work by 7 am and I just plow through as much as I can. I rarely take a lunch break. I pump three times at work (9:30, 12:30, 2:30) for about 15 minutes each time. I'm incredibly lucky and have an office so I can just shut my door and keep working while I pump. In theory, I try to leave the office by 3 so that I have a little bit of time to go to the gym or run errands, but I think that's happened once so far. This is a really busy time of year for me, but things will settle down at some point and I'm hoping to reclaim that hour. The absolute latest I can leave is 4:30, otherwise I'm risking being late to daycare pick up because traffic is a total crap shoot. It can take me 30 minutes or an hour, who knows?

I pick up Adrian by 5:30 at the latest, but usually closer to 5. We head home and she plays on the kitchen floor while I get her dinner ready, pack her lunch for the next day, and set up the bathtub and nursery for bedtime routine. Since I'm solo in the evenings I like to have everything staged before we start dinner. I set up the bathroom and put her towel on a baby bouncer so I have somewhere to put her when she's done with her bath. The first time I did bathtime alone I didn't do this and then I had a squirming wet baby and nowhere to set her down. I also start the kettle so I can quickly get a bottle ready in case she wants one before bed.

Depending on when she woke up from her last nap I'm aiming to put her in bed between 6:30 - 7:00, so I'll usually give her dinner around 5:45 pm, let her play with her food for 15 - 30 minutes (she usually has a bottle around 4:30 pm, but if she didn't then I'll breastfeed her as soon as we get home so she isn't too hungry at dinner). During dinner I don't multitask at all, I sit with her and talk to her and have a snack while she eats. We're doing baby led weaning, so she eats real food and I basically watch her like a hawk for any signs of choking (so far just plenty of gagging, which is healthy and normal). It's a really sweet time of day, because she's so excited about her food and also seems to think it's fun to watch me eat.

After dinner I carry her straight to the bathroom and she takes a quick bath, then I put her in pajamas and nurse her. If she's especially hungry I'll give her a bottle of pumped milk afterwards. She sometimes likes to tank up right before bed if she was having too much fun to eat much at daycare. We dim the lights, read a story, turn on the white noise and then I sing her bedtime song and lie her down. Most days she squawks to herself for 10 minutes then cries for 5 minutes, then I go in and soothe her a little and she falls asleep shortly after. Other days I have to go in multiple times. Once in a while we hit the timing just right and she falls asleep right away and I don't go in at all. We're supposed to put her down awake but if I've gone in multiple times I'll usually cheat and just nurse her to sleep because by that point in the day I'm really tired. I clean up from dinner (Circe helps with the floor) and wash all the bottles and pump parts and then pick up the house while I'm listening for her cries. She's usually asleep between 6:30 - 7:00 and I check my work email and handle anything that came in after I left.

If D makes it home by 7:30 then we'll catch up and eat something quick together (we're doing a lot of eggs these days because we just have zero energy for cooking), maaaaybe watch 30 minutes of TV and then I start getting ready for bed, take a quick shower (I'm so bitter on nights I have to wash my hair because it eats up extra time) and make sure I'm all packed up for the morning. I pump one last time around 9 pm, put my pump parts in the fridge for the next morning, and try to be in bed by 9:30 pm. I used to make sure I pumped or fed her every four hours at night, but that wasn't sustainable for me so around 5.5 months I started stretching it out and now I can go from 9 pm - 6 am (there are a lot of nights where she wakes up to eat once during that stretch, but if she sleeps through I'm fine too). It was uncomfortable for a couple days but my body adjusted pretty quickly.

Adrian is still inconsistent at night, so sometimes she'll sleep straight through, which is heavenly, but fairly often she'll wake up once in the middle of the night because she's hungry, I'll feed her and then put her back in her crib and she falls asleep right away. If she's teething or sick she'll sometimes have so much trouble sleeping that one of us will just go in there and hold her all night. It is not awesome but if it happens we alternate nights so that we at least take turns being zombies. This week she's cutting her top two teeth, so I had a really rough night with her on Monday, and D took over for Tuesday. If the pattern is the same as her first two teeth she'll only have a couple hard nights and then it will get better. We've tried Tylenol but it doesn't seem to make a difference, she just wants to be snuggled.

On good days this level of busy-ness feels pretty fulfilling and on tough days it feels like a grind and every once in a while it feels like I'm actually drowning, but I'm so aware of how short this stage is. Everything changes every few months, so nothing lasts for very long, good or bad. There's also a chance that she'll be our only kid, which makes everything seem very bittersweet because I know this might be the only time we get to do this and be in this moment, so I try to just sink into it and pay attention to the good parts and move past the hard parts as best I can. Easier said than done, but I feel so lucky to be here right now (can you tell I'm writing this post after getting a full night of sleep?). There are multiple times a week where I'm watching her and I'm just in awe that we get to do this. Even putting all the crazy mushy emotions aside, it is a huge privilege to get a front row seat and watch a human being develop. Does that make sense? Seeing her learn everything from scratch is just amazing.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Soothing ladder"

We are attempting pre-sleep training. I'm not sure what you're supposed to call it. Cosleeping had been going great then last week a switch flipped and after a couple nights of broken sleep we realized that Adrian was having trouble sleeping because she needed more space to roll around and our presence had stopped being soothing and started being exciting. I immediately ordered two sleep training books recommended by friends and we decided to start with the "soothing ladder" method from The Happy Sleeper. We kind of dove into it and amazingly we were able to transition her into her crib in the nursery for the first time ever, which I honestly wasn't sure was possible. That's not to say it hasn't been bumpy. The theory is that at this age you only let them cry for a minute, so if she cries you go in and soothe her in the least intrusive way possible (i.e. stand there, if that doesn't work give her a paci, if that doesn't work, talk to her, then rub her back, pick her up if all else fails). Sometimes by some magic stroke of timing she's in exactly the right place for a nap and she just takes her lovey and rolls over and goes to sleep on her own with zero fuss. More often, we go through the soothing ladder a few times (or for an hour). Sometimes I have to go in there so many times that I'm about to decide I misread her cues and she isn't sleepy and she is never going to go to sleep again probably. That's often when she finally falls asleep.

In order for it to work I have to adopt this sort of zen mindset, where I just accept the fact that I will be walking in and out of her room every few minutes, possibly forever. I have to ignore the pressure I feel from the work that piles up while I do this during daytime naps and focus on radiating calm. I'm usually the opposite of a "woo" person, but I put so much focus into projecting calm and the sense that I have all the time in the world for this and I swear it helps. I spend a lot of time standing in the hallway, staring at the timer on my phone and trying to decide whether the noise she is making counts as "crying" (which you are supposed to intervene with) vs. "fussing" (which you are supposed to allow them to do). But it feels worth it because when she does go down she sleeps well, and she's learning to string together her sleep cycles on her own, which is pretty sweet to see.

This week I'm camping out in the nursery at night because the idea of her being in her own room that long is too much for me, so I get to see when she starts to wake up at night and then (like magic!) quietly fusses about for a few seconds before drifting back off. I just can't believe she's capable of this. Watching a baby develop new skills is just amazing, I can't get over it.

You guys, baby sleep is such a crazy thing. I knew that this was going to be one of the big challenges, but it's still mind blowing to me how much time and thought and energy you put into it. I'm trying to change my mindset, because I'm so type A and I like consistency and planning, so I'd been feeling really guilty about "failing" at baby sleep. Like, I purchased this super expensive bassinet and only used it for two months. We ended up cosleeping when that wasn't our plan. But I'm trying to flip that and tell myself  that we're doing a great job reading and responding to her cues. The SNOO was a huge blessing during the first few months, when she was so tiny and we needed to feel that she was safe above all else. And she was sleeping 6 - 7 hour stretches in it! And then when she started to resist the bassinet but she would fall asleep instantly with me, we transitioned to cosleeping and it was best for all of us. And when she started to struggle with sleeping in our bed, we noticed and now we're showing her that she can self soothe and sleep alone. There will probably be a hundred other transitions with her sleeping, and I need to get over the fact that things aren't going according to "plan" because there is no plan with a baby.

Also, I've lost the ability/time to actually edit posts, so all this baby stuff just gets written out in a 15 minute burst and then slapped up here as is. It kind of kills me, I just do not have the mental capacity for any fine tuning right now. The hardest part is keeping posts to a reasonable length, instead of spilling out a million tiny details and sidebars that are currently occupying my brain. Also, not using emojis, because I definitely would add the sideways laugh/cry face here, which is slightly different from the straight on laugh/cry face because it would subtly indicate that my current mindset is not just funny/sad but also that it's slightly crazy. Okay, that's enough, I'm out.