Normal is just a dryer setting

That’s a saying I hadn’t heard until I had a baby. Most of the time I’ve heard it used it’s been referring to sleep.

I’ve been thinking about sleep a lot lately. Probably because we have an afternoon wedding next week and I have no idea how we’ll make it work. Also because with my babe’s crazy schedule, I have moments where I doubt myself. I’m sure all parents do all of the above at some point. For me, it’s because when I started writing this post, my 15-month-old was reading books to himself at 10 p.m.

I think most kids his age go to bed 7:30ish. I have no idea. It’s been months since he went to bed that early. I recall at that time, I’d message one of my mommy friends, asking if 7:53 was too early to go to bed. “It’s never too early,” she’d always reply. Amen, sista. Off to bed I’d go.

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A rare car sleep many months ago.

Sleep is a touchy subject among parents, another one of those things I had no idea about (the touchiness or controversy) until I had a baby. There are sleep trainers and books galore on how to get your baby to sleep and everyone has an opinion on your baby, even though they aren’t the ones with him or her every day. People like to ask if your baby sleeps through the night, much like they ask about the weather. And everyone has an opinion on how to make sleep happen and how and when your baby should sleep through the night.

When your baby goes to bed at 9:30 on the early end of the spectrum and I won’t even say how late on the other side, it’s hard not to a) feel alone b) wonder what the heck you did wrong and c) wonder if you should do anything differently.

As much as I don’t think you should wake a sleeping baby, after a particularly late bedtime, we woke him the next morning, fearing what might happen if left to his own devices: would he sleep til noon?! Then when would he go to bed??

All we got was a cranky baby who still went to bed 10ish. I vowed to just leave things be and to continue doing what we’d been doing, which is following his cues and my mommy instinct.

The things is, I feel there are a few positives to our schedule as well, such as we sleep in (I’m not a morning person, and I get up when he gets up or close to), because he’s up late he gets quality Daddy time every night, and evening outings with him are fairly easy and pain-free.

Of course the flip side is that because we sleep in, it’s almost impossible to plan morning play dates because most babies are mean and wake their parents around 6 apparently and thus nap around the time Cub rises. This kind of sucks and can lead to the alone feeling I mentioned, but I’ll take it if it means I don’t have to get up at 5:30.

For those other mamas whose baby might also have a supposedly whacked schedule, let me tell you that we’ve always done bedtime routines of bath, books, songs, playing quietly, nursing. It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re in front of the TV before bed or not. Some days he’ll nap late, until 6, and I’ll think, Shit, now he’ll never go to bed….and he’ll be asleep 4 hours later. Other days he’ll nap til 3:30 but won’t be snoring until 11. He nurses to sleep whether it’s nap or bed time. He usually falls asleep this way, although sometimes he gets patted to sleep. He used to rock or bounce to sleep when much younger.

This was one of the best articles I read about sleep. I still love it. All the lies you’ve been told about your baby and sleep. If you haven’t read it, you should. You’ll feel better. It links to another good, more scientific article about “normal” baby sleep, which is to say all of it is normal. As in, if your child sleeps through the night, embrace and enjoy it. If s/he doesn’t, embrace it and know nothing is wrong with you and your baby…and nothing lasts forever….and you’re not alone.

No matter how your baby sleeps, whether they wake once or 17 times at night, whether they go to bed at 6 or 10, whether they take one nap when everyone says they should take two and two when everyone says they should take one, another mom has been there. Just keep following your instincts. You know what’s best for you and your baby. As I’ve said before, embrace what works for you, because only you know what’s best for you: not a sleep trainer or expert or another mom.

Because remember, “normal” really is just a setting on your dryer.

How my son’s schooling me

I’ve been working on my patience. Yes, we all get frustrated, and I am no exception. I know it’s ok for children to see their parents frustrated, too, but it’s all about how you handle it.

I know it’s tooting my own horn a bit, but since this blog is for me to document my parenting journey, honk honk.

I woke up today and felt really good about myself. Was I well rested? Um, not really. Baby went to bed around 10:20, which lately is pretty good. We’re blaming teeth and learning to walk on this, but who really knows.

The 10:20 wasn’t bad. It was the being up from about 1:30 to 4:30 that I wasn’t thrilled about.

However, when it became clear he wasn’t falling back to sleep right away, I just let it go. No cursing to myself. Very little sighing. No angry pacing, bouncing, etc. I just told myself to forget doing much work or anything around the house because I’d sure as heck be napping when he was!

So baby crawled/rolled around on the bed, looking adorable, while I scanned social media. Eventually he crawled over and rested his head on my chest, signalling he was ready to nurse to sleep. It was a sweet moment.

We slept in (yay!) and the funny thing is, I got laundry, dishes, a tiny bit of meal prep, and some work done, in between chasing my son up the stairs and other adventures.

Most importantly, I liked myself for just rolling with last night, instead of allowing myself to get worked up. It felt good to see progress in my efforts to chill.

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So cute when he's asleep. Precious!

It’s not just my baby that’s learning new things every day! He’s constantly teaching me how to be the best version of me possible. A work in progress.

And I’ll probably get more practice tonight, since he’s still asleep at 6 p.m…..practice makes perfect, apparently.

The highs, lows, & plateaus of our breastfeeding journey

Looking back to my pregnancy, I don’t remember giving a lot of thought to breastfeeding. I had a few friends who breastfed, some who didn’t but, I don’t remember having many conversations about either. However, I do remember this: I was determined to have a natural, unmedicated birth, and that was because I knew the evidence said that it was easier to initiate breastfeeding if such a birth took place. That doesn’t mean women who have an epidural or c-sections can’t have great breastfeeding relationships (obviously – I know many such women who have), but it just increases the likelihood.

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I did a lot of reading and preparing for birth and then once I had read all I could, I planned to read and learn about breastfeeding. However, I never got the chance, as my son was born nearly four weeks early. The knowledge I had was from one of our prenatal classes (hats off to my husband, APB, as he was the only male who attended the breastfeeding class – all the other men skipped that one!).

The early days and weeks

As this happened nearly 15 months ago, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. I remember a lactation consultant came and spoke to me and my husband and wanted us to do 20 minutes of breastfeeding, followed by my husband finger feeding our baby while I pumped for 20 minutes. I think this was because Cub’s blood sugars were low and because he was believed to be premature. He was born at 36 w 3 days, yet he was very alert, and he was 7 pounds. To this day, I’ve wondered if my dates were wrong, as he didn’t strike us as a premature baby. Had I had more time to learn about breastfeeding in the early days, specifically about babies and low blood sugars, I may not have agreed to this without any thought, but I didn’t have the knowledge I have now.

I’d add this is the only time I’ve ever pumped. I commend mamas who pump regularly, as I’m not sure I could have done it.

At the beginning of every feed, Cub’s foot would be poked to take blood to test. Then he would nurse. We told the nurse we were concerned about the association of something painful and then breastfeeding and how that might negatively affect the relationship, but it’s how the test is done.

My husband and I agreed that after the finger feeding, we would return Cub to the breast in hopes he would associate being full or satisfied with breastfeeding. Once my milk came in, he nursed like a champ. I recall nursing in the middle of the night while watching a wild thunderstorm.

On the third day, the staff determined Cub’s bilirubin levels were too high. Phototherapy as treatment was suggested or rather just done (nurse came in and strapped the photo blanket to him). A mask was placed over his eyes. We found both of these really interfered with breastfeeding, and since we knew at that point that breastfeeding was very effective at lowering bilirubin, APB and I made the decision to remove both while nursing and if it meant we had to stay in the hospital longer, so be it. We were confident in our decision as parents.

On the fourth day, we were released from the hospital. From what I remember, breastfeeding at home went well. We breastfed on demand/cue and I spent a lot of time topless. I know this from looking back at photos of me where I’m either draped in a receiving blanket or have on a shirt that isn’t breastfeeding-friendly, but it’s because someone came over and I threw something on!

I remember long nights of cluster feeding. I read a lot of books, watched a lot of re-runs of HGTV’s Urban Suburban, and spent nights on our big comfy sectional. In hindsight, we should have upgraded our cable package and I could have also set up better and just nursed in bed, as that’s what we eventually did and still do.

It sounds so easy now, but I remember one night collapsing in a crying mess on the couch, wishing baby would stop nursing. I was and still am lucky to have such a supportive husband who took Cub and snuggled so I could get some sleep. Who knew 3 hours could feel so blissful?

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11 months old.

Thrush

Things were going well (Cub was growing and nursing well and sleep likely a distant memory) until Cub was about six weeks old (or so). At this point, I developed thrush. I recall excruciating pain in my breasts, like being stabbed with hot fire, to the point that I would howl and bawl when he latched. I went to my doctor, who gave antibiotics to Cub and I started using a yeast infection cream.

The thrush seemed to improve in a couple of days, only to get even worse after that. I called the breastfeeding consultants at West Winds in tears. The woman I spoke to asked if she could advocate on my behalf with my doctor, and I was more than happy to let her because I was a mess. We agreed I needed the all purpose nipple ointment, so she asked my doctor if she would get me a prescription. My doctor refused, saying she felt I had a painful latch.

While I may have been a new mom, I knew this was not just a painful latch. Since my doctor wouldn’t help me, I went to the health bus and spoke to a nurse practitioner, who not only wrote me the prescription, but gave me her cell number in case the pharmacy had questions about the compound ointment.

I speak about this matter of factly now, but I was devastated. I was in pain and my doctor wouldn’t listen to me, which made me feel so defeated. Luckily, it was the LC who, after I asked her what I could do, suggested the health bus as a means to get what I needed. It shouldn’t have come to that, but at least I got the help I needed. I switched doctors after this but that’s a post for another time.

I remember I texted my two doulas often while battling thrush. They kept encouraging me, promising me it would get better. One would text lactation educators for additional ideas to get rid of the thrush (that led to washing bedding every. Damn. Day.). The other suggested I be honest and tell people I was struggling. I did: I posted exactly that on my Facebook page. I was touched and overwhelmed by all the support and responses I got from close friends but also friends I hadn’t seen in ages. It helped a lot. Don’t underestimate the power of women helping women.

During all this, Cub was thriving. He became the chubbiest baby in the neighbourhood, if not city/province/country (?), rocking out at the 100% percentile for weight from about 3 and a half months onward.

Mastitis

Instead of partying New Year’s Eve, we had friends over New Year’s Day. I felt crummy, like I was coming down with a cold or something. Tired and achy. I noticed while nursing that my one boob was hot, sore, and had a rock – hard spot. I tried to massage it to the point that I bruised it. I tried hot compresses. I tried hot baths and showers and dangling my boobs in the tub.

By the time I went to the doctor on January 2nd, I felt like I had the flu. Zero energy. She told me I had a mild case of mastitis and I shuddered to think of women who get a severe case. She gave me antibiotics since it was a weekend, saying I could take them or keep doing what I was doing and it would go away in a couple of days. I took them and was cleared up just as she said.

Now for the good stuff

When I started my blog, it was because I wanted to document and remember my parenting journey. I figured if anything I wrote helped someone, that was a bonus.

I share my breastfeeding journey for both these reasons. If I can help one mom who feels lost or overwhelmed, I will feel I’ve done some good.

Sure, I’ve had sleepless nights. All parents do at some point, whether you breastfeed or not. I’ve had shit to deal with while breastfeeding, as you’ve read. But I wouldn’t change any of it.

I love breastfeeding my son. Somewhere along the way, I began to mother through breastfeeding without even realizing it: it didn’t just provide my baby food, but comfort and love, too, whether he was tired, scared, lonely, sad, whatever. I only realized that was how I felt after reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and it talked about that philosophy. I read that book when Cub was 11-months-old. I wished I’d read it sooner, but then again if I had, maybe it wouldn’t have resonated with me the way it did.

So you’ll have tough days, bad days, days where you think you have nothing left to give, physically and emotionally. You might wish for more sleep, but frankly, there’s no guarantee you’d get more anyway, so if you want to breastfeed, breastfeed. These tough moments will pale to the days where you remember the sweet cuddles of your baby falling asleep at your breast or gazing up at you as you nurse them. And when I’m feeling exhausted, I remind myself of the saying I’ve seen floating around social media: you’ll never feel this loved again. It’s likely true. One day he won’t want me to hold him. He won’t want to nurse. And when it comes, we’ll both be ready, but that day isn’t here yet, so I accept and embrace everything that comes with it.

APB says there can be a romanticized version of breastfeeding and says I sometimes fall into that. Maybe, but I think I recognize it can be tough, and that it’s hard work. I think the cliché “nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight” is true here.

I went from not giving much thought to breastfeeding to being an advocate. Or at least I hope I’m one. And I went from apparently telling my doula that I’d breastfeed for a year to knowing we will do full-term breastfeeding and Cub will wean when he’s ready. It would break his heart, and therefore mine, if we did otherwise.

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Cub nursing at the mall. What you can't see are the two high school girls sitting beside us who didn't blink an eye. Awesome to see.

I was told it would get better. It has. It’s not perfect – nothing is – but it’s great. And it’s not over yet…Our breastfeeding journey is to be continued…

 

 

 

 

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