Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mama-led weaning

I don't like to label stuff related to parenting, so when friends asked me if I'd be doing "baby-led weaning" with Natalie, I sort of gave a blank stare, shrugged, and said, "I don't think so? Probably not?"

In all honesty, I still don't really understand what baby-led weaning is or how it is different from just giving your baby food and letting it go to town. I do know that baby-led weaning as a movement seems to be against the rice-cereal-as-baby's-first-food tradition, and it's in favor of babies deciding what to eat, but that's about it. If you want to read more from people who have happily and successfully followed this philosophy and actually know what they're talking about, you can read what Kate has to say here and check out baby Finn's mama here.

Baby-led weaning or whathaveyou aside, I have been most surprised and confused by the fact that the term is really a misnomer. Starting a baby on solid foods, most likely no later than the 6-month mark, does not actually have to relate to weaning. In fact, babies who are breastfeeding are still going to be consuming a ton of milk and that milk is going to provide the vast majority of their calories and important nutrients. At 6 months and even, apparently, 10 and 11 months, the baby is still going to be drinking roughly the same amount of milk as it did at 5 months, even though it's eating three solid meals a day. As your child grows you're going to spend more of your day feeding your child, not less. Yes, hear that, mother of a two-week old. I was naive too.

I never gave myself a breastfeeding goal. Friends would ask, "Are you going to breastfeed for a year?" I'd say, "Maybe."

Here's my final answer: I breastfed for 46 weeks. That's 10 and a half months, if you're keeping track. I breastfed my daughter for the last time today.

How do I know we're done?

Well, for starters, she fed once for about one minute and decided she was done. Yesterday she cried after her morning nursing session. She bit me about a month ago. I've been feeling for a while like we were done. Today just sealed the deal.

Plus, today I parted with a friend and foe of the last 10 and a half months.

No, not my baby -- she is more endearing than ever. My breast pump, specifically the one I've been renting from the hospital, is what I kicked to the curb. I could have kept it until tomorrow. I could have extended the pump rental for about the fifth time. But it was more appropriate than I could have ever planned that the day Natalie and I decided we had had enough I drove us back to the place of her birth to hand over the pump.

Although I said earlier in this post that baby-led weaning is just another name for starting solid food -- and I should add that many women I know didn't see their breastmilk supply change when their baby started solids -- my supply definitely started to decrease once Natalie started eating food. Pretty soon after she started solid food we were down to four nursing sessions a day. Then I would have afternoon and evening commitments that caused me to miss a feeding and she'd get a bag of milk from the freezer. Try as I might, I didn't consistently pump to make up for every lost nursing session. So then I'd see my supply diminish. Then I would get stressed out about not pumping or missing a feeding or whatever because my supply was diminishing. So I'd try to pump more on certain days. One afternoon Matt got home from work to a scene that looked like this: the dogs were going crazy, the printer was jammed, I was running late and desperately needed the printer to unjam, Natalie wasn't taking naps, and I was attached to the breast pump in preparation for my departure. I just thought I couldn't do it anymore. Of course, that was about two months ago, so I clearly kept doing it, but I knew it was reaching a point where we'd be starting to shut down this operation.

A couple weeks ago I tried giving Natalie formula for the first time since she was in the NICU. The first time she took a few sips and then started screaming. The second time she had caught on and knew to reject the bottle. She even became skeptical of the next bottle that solely contained breastmilk. After Googling something along the lines of "how to get a breastfed baby to drink formula" I found two solutions: a few splashes of apple juice in the formula or a dash of Nesquik Strawberry. The apple juice solution worked like a charm and Natalie has been accepting and even enjoying formula. I started with one bottle of formula a day, and then went on to two, then three, and today we did four.

Although Natalie's true breastfeeding days are over, thanks to the many hours I spent attached to the breastpump we still have a stash of breastmilk in the freezer.

I'm glad I breastfed Natalie as long as I did (and didn't choose formula a long time ago), and I will say that 98% of the reason I'm glad is because it's what the medical establishment tells me I'm "supposed" to do. From conversations I've had with lots of other moms it seems like medical/societal guilt is a main reason they do it, too. We want what's best for our children, so we breastfeed. Fortunately, the actual act of breastfeeding was never the problem for me. But the actual act of breastfeeding is only one tiny piece of the breastfeeding experience. So much of breastfeeding, unfortunately, also involves being connected to a pump; pumping into the night when all you want is to go to bed; sleeping uncomfortably at night because you were too lazy to pump before going to bed; sterilizing your pump parts; timing your day in three-hour increments; worrying about what you're eating and drinking; worrying about whether or not your baby is getting enough in terms of ounces and nutrients; literally crying over spilled milk (did this a couple times); running out of space in your freezer thanks to your bags of frozen milk; taking your pump on out-of-town trips; timing outings around feedings; feeling unsexy; wearing nursing pads and nursing tanks and nursing bras; leaking. I could keep going, but I know I'll be accused of treason.

I recommend feeding your baby in whatever safe method works for your family. Breastfeeding worked for us for a time. It was OK while it lasted. Statistically, we beat the odds in a variety of ways. My c-section and Natalie's week in the NICU are two factors that decrease the likelihood of successful breastfeeding. Still, formula is a remarkable invention. It will be our baby's main fuel for the next six weeks until she becomes a sage one-year old.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let there be peace and Cheerios

In her 10-and-a-half months on this planet, Natalie has developed some decent gross motor skills at a reasonably fast rate. Climbing up -- and now apparently down -- all the stairs in our house is her favorite pastime. But her fine motor skills? Not so much. That's why Natalie's latest milestone, figuring out how to feed herself Cheerios, has been especially impressive.

Impressive to me, that is. I am sure this is not impressive to anyone else. But watching her successfully get Cheerios from her placemat into her mouth has been one more milestone that has made our collective lives easier.

Now I can toss some Cheerios on her placemat while I prepare the rest of her meal, and she doesn't scream the way she used to while turning impatient.

Now I can eat my lunch while she contentedly feeds herself Cheerios.

These last couple weeks there's been this renewed peace in our household, all thanks to fine motor skills and Cheerios.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dog, how fitting

I've been waiting for about a week to make it official, but I think we have our first word here: "dog."

Natalie has been saying "dada" for a couple months, but she doesn't really say it to Matt. She never says "mama," but I can ask her, "Where's mama?" and about half the time she at least points at me.

But "dog"! This is where we're starting to see more consistency.

One of the dogs approaches her: "Dog."

Her sort-of creepy Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Puppy starts singing: "Dog."

She crawls over to the bookshelf and pulls out the one non-baby book I let her play with, the one filled with photos of dogs: "Dog."

At first I thought this was a total fluke, so I didn't want to get excited. But she only says "dog" when there's some type of dog -- real, fake, or in book form -- nearby.

It is clear who rules this house.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The short life of the Exersaucer

A number of newly pregnant friends have asked me for baby gear recommendations lately. The most helpful advice I can pass along regarding baby gear would be this: Get as many items used as possible. Bonus points for borrowing.

When I was pregnant I had this mixture of emotions regarding gear. I wanted my baby to have clean, new stuff. But I also hated the idea of acquiring a bunch of stuff in general. Thankfully we received a number of offers of gently used items for us to keep, and then we were able to fill in the gaps by adding other items to our registry.

Natalie is almost 10 months old, and the amount of baby gear we still use has declined significantly. I feel like we used a lot of gear in the beginning when we were trying to find ways to contain her or entertain her. Now that she crawls and climbs everywhere she rarely wants to be contained and instead happily explores. It's also becoming clear which baby gear items have greater staying power than others. Unfortunately, for Natalie the Exersaucer was probably used for the least amount of time out of any piece of gear, but I imagine many other babies get more use out of it if they're less mobile for a longer period.

Here's our gear breakdown:

Gear we're done with:
  • Infant swing -- 0-4 months
  • Bouncer seat -- 0-6 months
  • Infant gym -- 1-5 months
  • Bumbo seat -- 3-6 months
  • Exersaucer -- 4-7 months

Gear in rotation, though not for much longer:
  • Snap N Go stroller frame -- we occasionally still use it for a quick trip when moving Natalie in and out of her car seat seems like too much of a hassle. It got daily use from 0-6 months, and I've only used it a handful of times since then.
  • Infant tub -- still using, but I imagine Natalie is just about grown out of it. She is not OK to take a bath in the regular tub yet, though, which is something her constant screaming made abundantly clear.
  • Boppy pillow -- still using, but I will definitely not be breastfeeding past the year mark.

What are the baby gear items I think we'll keep in rotation for a long time?
  • Infant car seat -- still using. We can use it until Natalie is over 32 inches long, which could be a while seeing as she was 27.5 inches at her 9-month appointment.
  • High chair -- we did not start using this until 6 months, but our Stokke chair grows with the child and eventually turns into a regular chair.
  • Umbrella stroller -- we started using this at 6 months as well. I love how our Maclaren stroller is so easy to maneuver and so easy to fold up.
  • Pack N Play -- although we've only used this a couple times since we folded it away when it was time to transition Natalie to her crib, this has the potential to get a lot more use on trips.
  • Ergo carrier -- Natalie is tiny (only 16.5 pounds at 9 months) so I think I'll be able to wear her in this for a while.

So, while I ultimately am a greater proponent of borrowing/buying used as many gear items as possible than I used to be, I will say that for me it makes the most sense to register for/splurge on those items with greater staying power, such as strollers and high chairs.

(And because this, like so many of my other posts of late, has been in progress for a long time, another blogger I like beat me to it with this similar post of her baby products with staying power. Enjoy!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New cloth diaper routine

When I first started cloth diapering I wasn't sure if the probable increase in our utilities bills (electric and water) would still make cloth diapering more financially frugal than using disposables.

I now have close to a year's worth of utilities bills to compare the befores and afters, and though I ultimately conclude that cloth diapering is more frugal, I can also say that our bills are up.

Water in particular has gone up significantly. Of course, water is the cheapest utility out there, at least in our neck of the woods. We pay our bill quarterly, so when I consider how much we pay for water each month (divide each bill by 3) it pales in comparison to the typical energy bills we get each month.

Here's the water bill breakdown:
January -- $111.99 (This bill is dated January 19, 2012, and it was sent while Natalie was still in the hospital, so it's a good baseline for our bills pre-baby.)
April -- $117.87 (We started using cloth diapers in early March, so here you can see the impact on our bill with about 6 weeks of cloth diapering.)
July -- $140.22
October -- $148.82

There's clearly a big increase in our water bill in the billing period covering the last six months, aka the time since we really started using cloth diapers.

So it seems that cloth diapers are causing our water bill to rise a good amount, right?

I assume so, but I also realize that there are other ways caring for Natalie has contributed to an increasingly large water bill. Specifically, we run the dishwasher more often now that her plates, bowls, utensils, bottles and cups are getting used multiple times per day. Also, we bathe her, and now that she's older we bathe her move often than we did when she was a newborn. And we have to wash her clothes, but I've managed to only run a load of her laundry about once every two weeks.

Other forms of baby water consumption aside, I have to believe that running a load of her diapers every other day is the greatest contributing factor to our increasing water bill. So, I've decided to change that routine ever so slightly and wash the diapers once every three days as opposed to every two days. I tried this method out a few times with our stash of 20 diapers and I found that the diapers were barely drying in enough time before I completely ran out of diapers. (In fairness, one diaper is always in our diaper bag, and one diaper is now a dedicated swimming diaper, so it's more accurate to say we were working with 18 diapers.) I ordered 4 more diapers in fun colors that weren't available when we were building our stash this time last year. Now I think we have the perfect amount of diapers for this new cleaning schedule.

Those of you using cloth diapers, have you modified your cloth diaper washing routines? Do you think you're ultimately saving money through cloth diapers over disposables? How many cloth diapers do you have? Anyone given up on cloth diapering?