Monday, April 30, 2012

Work and Pump dot STFU

Yes, another bo0b-related musing. I spend a pretty reasonable chunk of each day on breastmilk-related activities so its on my mind I guess. I've mentioned before that supply has been a major issue for me since going back to work. I'm just not an effective pump-er. When I first noticed the drop, I reached out to the lactation consultant for advice, and she pointed me to a couple of websites that I found less than helpful (to put it nicely). In fact, I found some of the advice (ASSvice?) misguided and harmful.

The most egregious issue I have is with the dogma of "send only what you pump" when leaving your child with a care provider. In fact, there are whole posts dedicated to the "dangers of the freezer stash", urging mothers to never break into it to make up for the demand>supply issue. I get the logic of supply and demand---if you pump 10 oz, and you send 15, your child will be satisfied and not demand the extra 5 oz later, and your breasts will never be stimulated to supply additional milk. It makes sense in theory. But lets play out the real-life scenario...

Your child wants 15 oz. You only pump 10, so you send 10 oz to daycare with him the next day. Your child is hungry. He cries & fusses. The care providers have their hands tied and do not have access to what he needs to soothe him. You hear at the end of the day "Mom, baby was hungry all day. He needs more milk. He cried all day long."

You cannot rationalize to your 3 month old infant that he needs to be patient until the evening so that you can ramp up your milk production! Hungry babies cry! And care providers that are not empowered to care for your child appropriately will be (rightfully) frustrated. You will feel (even more) terrible dropping your baby off at daycare or leaving him with a nanny when you know he's going to be hungry and miserable and the providers are giving you the stinkeye looking at those measly little inadequate bottles. It is a lose lose lose situation. Yes, it is supposed to be temporary but how long might it take? Several days potentially, to repeat anytime you experience a drop in supply or your baby undergoes a growth spurt and increased requirements. Recipe for miserable & anxious mother, stressing over every single drop of breastmilk you do or don't produce.

Then there is the other aspect of these logistics: you are at work all day. So the extra milk your baby is demanding? Will be demanded when you are home. At night. Not sleeping. This day-night reversal thing is heralded as "breastfeeding dynamics in action!" But you need to work all day, now on no sleep (which by the way, is bad for milk production).

Never fear, though, there is a post on "dealing with night feedings". The advice? Co-sleep. Yup. That is all.

Now I'm all about convenience-related co-sleeping. Any time L is going through a wake-y phase, he ends up in bed, because it simply is easier for me. But many parents I know are uncomfortable with co-sleeping for a myriad of perfectly good reasons, or they quite simply don't wanna.

I don't think "just co-sleep" is empowering or encouraging advice for a tired mother who is struggling with breastfeeding and working. It implies that if a mother wants to successfully breastfeed, she should co-sleep, which is simply not the case. I strongly believe that the association of breastfeeding as an "attachment parenting" behavior is working against the goal of increasing breastfeeding in this country. There needs to be more advice out there on successful breastfeeding for all kinds of sleeping arrangements, working situations, and parenting styles. I know it is possible, some of the women I know that breastfed for >1 year worked full-time outside the home, sleep-trained their babies at 6 months of age and NEVER co-slept. They traveled without their children. They judiciously employed the freezer stash for various reasons and used other ways to boost their supply. Or some combination thereof. I want to read about THOSE experiences, too.

I hope my breastfeeding posts don't come across as anti-breastfeeding. I think it is a wonderful experience and I am so glad I have been able to pull it off these past 6  months with L. I encourage every new mother to try to breastfeed. I just think that in the zealousness to promote "exclusive" breastfeeding, the sources we go to for help are losing sight of reality and practicality. They are giving advice that, frankly, may be discouraging women off from continuing down what is admittedly already a difficult path. Hungry, screamy baby miserable at daycare & up all night, while I pump 8 times a day and take 50 pills to boost my supply? No thanks, I'm working on emptying out my freezer stash. I need room for the processed chicken nuggets & dye-filled popsicles I'm feeding my 2 year old anyways ;)

Saturday, April 28, 2012


With all the focus on "Baby's First ____", I think we overlook the equally poignant (but perhaps more heart-wrenching) parenting moments---the LAST time our kids do something. Some of these milestones are much anticipated (i.e. diaper-changing or anything else involving bodily fluids), some ambivalent (spoon-feeding, drinking from a bottle), some too heartbreaking to even imagine (reading bedtime stories, being carried in our arms). Only thinking back do I realize how many "lasts" we've already had with B, and are starting to experience with L. We aim to record & photograph the firsts, but the lasts are seldom celebrated and often slip by unnoticed. Maybe because beginnings are much more unequivocally joyful than endings. Or maybe because, as bittersweet as it feels, we know our kids are moving on to bigger & better things and we don't want to cling so hard to the past that we hold them back from the future. Good practice for the inevitable results of parenting, I suppose!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Off my game...

A lot goes on behind the scenes of our lives these days. Keeping this operation afloat requires both myself & G to be working at 100% capacity.  He tends to be the muscle, while I'm the brains (only because I enjoy & excel at planning, list-making & remembering minutiae). When I'm down for whatever reason, he can make up the slack as long as I am capable of reminding him of the details. For ages I packed for him so as not to repeat the forgot-glasses-on-beach-trip and long-weekend-with-one-shirt debacles, now I just help him make a list. I like lists. These days, I need lists, or my tired fuzzy mind gets overwhelmed.

Well, Friday I woke up sick. Fever/bronchitis/asthma/etc... It was pretty bad. I made it through work and entertained G's cousin & her boyfriend who were in town for the weekend & came by for dinner. Then I collapsed in bed, completely ignoring the fact that we were supposed to leave at 9AM to go visit my sister for my niece & nephew's birthday party. Woke up, even sicker, and decided to pack (she lives 3 hours away so we were staying the night) sans list. Threw things for myself & the boys into a suitcase. Its only one night! Easy peasy!

B got carsick. Twice. I only brought one outfit for him. Yup. I only brought diapers for him, no pull-ups, which he generally wears during the day. Also I forgot my PJs. And socks for B for the next day. Thankfully we were at my sister's so we could borrow everything once we got there, but B had to sit in dirty clothes for 2 hours in the car. Once we got back, I forgot to give the dog her special medicinal bath (she has a skin thing, the vet fleeced us out of $250 last week for 2 weeks of antibiotics & antifungal bath soap).  I told G I could stay home today for the roofers,  then realized I had a meeting and an experimental procedure I had to be at work for, so he had to come home after walking all the way over.

Physically, I'm feeling better, but mentally, still off my game. I hope it doesn't last much longer...

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Any new parent or parent-to-be eagerly anticipates their child's firsts: first smile, first tooth, first steps. These are the quintessential milestones & memories of a child's early years. There are spaces in baby books to record the dates, circumstances, and photographic evidence of these momentous occasions. I've noticed, unfortunately, that the idea of potentially missing these important events... specifically by a working mother using childcare...has also been used as ammunition in the "mommy wars" and feeds into a lot of working-mom guilt. I see a lot of "Oh, I couldn't go to work and leave my baby! What if I missed her first steps?!" I admit, those thoughts worried me during my first pregnancy. How horrible would it be to miss the very first step/word/jump/etc...?
Of course, what you realize soon enough, is that the "firsts" are not a one-time-only, line-in-the-sand transition. Your baby does not go from grimly not-smiling to suddenly smiling. Its fuzzy. It comes in fits & spurts, and it may take you a while to catch on to what your baby is doing. "Was that a smile" Or gas? Probably gas"...and then the next day "No, that must have been a smile? Nope he's pooping"...and finally 2 days later "OH, that IS a smile...maybe those other ones were, too?" Its the same with walking, and talking. Even in the midst of it, I wasn't sure what B's first word was. Was it the "goggy" he kept saying, that I thought was babbling, but later learned meant "doggy"? Or the loud and clear "BUS!" he yelled on the street one day? Did the "da da" count as "daddy?" or the "bobby" as "mommy"?  For the most part, childhood is a continuous progressive development and not markers on a time line or lines in a baby book. Unless you literally do not see your child for days at a time, there is no way you are going to miss the "saying the first words" transition or the "learning to walk" transition.
The other point is, of course, even if you stay at home full time, unless you are constantly with & have your eyes on your baby you may indeed miss parts of their life. L started rolling over recently. G saw him do it last weekend, while I was showering. That evening, I spent 30 minutes playing with L on his playmat, trying to coax him to roll over again. No dice. Then I went to go get B some milk, and when I came back, he was on his tummy! I haven't seen it yet, but when I do, it'll be just as exciting to me because its new TO ME.
And that's the bottom line. Maybe your child does take his first tottering steps at the daycare, or sing his first song during circle time. Until you really see it, its hard to believe that he's actually doing it. When he does it in front of you, it'll be amazing for you. And when you exclaim and grab the camera, and hug him'll be amazing for him, too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reality Check (The Cost/Benefit Analysis of Breastfeeding)

L is 6 months and 12 days old and we are still exclusively breastfeeding (we have tried solids...despite reaching & grabbing for our food for months, he is not keen on actually eating any of it and much barfing has ensued). So I suppose you would call our "breastfeeding relationship" a success.  We feed in the morning and evening every day; throughout the day on weekends/holidays. I pump about 1/2-2/3 of what L gets by bottle each weekday (he gets 18 oz at daycare, plus up to 4 oz bottle at night if still hungry after nursing). The rest comes out of the dwindling freezer stash. Sometimes the pumping, and the anxiety about supply, and...lots of things, really...get to me, and I am enraged by the whole: "Its free and convenient!" breast-is-best mantra. So indulge me while I unburden myself of 6 months of observations I've gathered about the realities of breastfeeding. Maybe it should go without saying, but I'll say it anyways: these observations are my own and apply only to my specific situation/personality...I am not trying to discourage/encourage anyone towards a specific way of feeding their baby.

Financial: Free! Ha! I actually calculated this with B, and given the upfront costs of breastfeeding, the savings of avoiding formula wouldn't kick in until 6 months. Given my early breastfeeding difficulties, my costs were substantially higher than others: Lactation visit at doctor $120, Home lactation visit 10 days later when I was about to give up: $150 (and that was with a discount because she felt sorry for me!), breastpump: $300 (with 20% off coupon!) + $50+ for extra flanges, parts, etc... Over $100 in freezer bags so far, Over $100 in nursing pads, soothie gel pads, nipple shields, lanolin. Already $100 in herbs for supply-boosting. 5 nursing bras at approximately $40/each=$200. I'm probably forgetting stuff, but you get the point. That would buy a LOT of formula. Plus we had to buy bottles anyways, for when I'm at work. Oh yeah, and all the extra food & snacks I'm eating? Probably a HUGE money suck, since I rarely plan well enough to bring what I need from home and end up buying overpriced snacks at work.

Convenience: A LOT to say here, so I'll break it into sub-categories.
  • BFing in Public: Yes, when I'm at home or in a seated/private location somewhere with the baby, there is nothing more convenient than just feeding him when he's hungry. But how often is that? Something I didn't think about was how difficult it is to breastfeed in winter clothes. Most of our outings when L was wee were taking big brother to the park. It was winter. Mild, but still requiring a coat & uncomfortable to strip off coat & layers...and would draw a LOT of attention, I'm sure. So I had to pump & take a bottle. Not everywhere has an appropriate place to feed, I've had to go out to the car or a nurse in a bathroom at times. At the beginning, L had a LOT of trouble latching and I needed both hands to help him, so it was difficult to cover up or be discreet. Now that's better, and I cover us with a blanket---but its getting too hot for a blanket so now what? 
  • Pumping: It is disruptive and time-consuming at work and is definitely affecting my ability to get things done, especially long experiments with specific time points that you can't just switch around. When doing clinical work, forget it. I pump when/if I can and hope I don't leak/dry up in the process.
  • Siblings: Since I've got the equipment, when we divide and conquer children, I get L. This definitely caused resentment from B early on and even now at times. It is also logistically difficult to tend to B's needs while L is glued to my chest, or worse, when I need to pump. I've wanted to spend a day with B just the two of us, but if L isn't with me, I'd have to pump---how would I work that out?
  • Timing/Getting Away: Because of wanting to keep my supply up & protect my precccciiiioouus freezer stash, I have declined any traveling (and chances to present my work and add to my CV) and very very rarely go to any evening events---even the monthly ones touted by our chief as "great networking opportunities". I have to time any outings carefully around feeds on the weekends, or bring L with me, because I don't want to pump during the day. I have skipped book club & other social opportunities so I didn't have to work out pumping/feeding logistics. I pump one side EVERY morning (including weekends), which adds another complexity to our crazy morning routine, and taking time to pump & feed before I can go on my run cuts way into my potential running time.Now that its hot out, I will have to hurry STRAIGHT home from work with the pumped milk (which I keep in the fridge at work), no summer happy hours or park trips.
  • Clothing: Yes, this is frivolous, but I like clothes & dressing a certain way. I can't wear a LOT of my clothes because they just aren't convenient for nursing or pumping. You cannot pump in a dress unless it had functional buttons on the top, which eliminates a lot of my favorite summer outfits. When I'm already feeling fat & unsexy, having to wear loose button downs or clingy (in the wrong places) knits with stretched out necklines is just the icing on the crap-cake.

Physical Health: 
  • Baby: I've realized in retrospect that L's poor weight gain & extreme fussiness was due, at least partly, to my decreasing supply. Once we started giving him more than what I'd pumped the day before, he perked up & plumped up. But breastfeeding makes the diagnosis/treatment trickier, since you have literally no idea how many calories are coming made the whole thing take longer & poor L suffered. Of course there are the potential health benefits of breastmilk. My anecdata (n=2) show no protection from illness/infection but no one will thankfully ever be able to see what L got & B didn't. 
  • Mom: I am really lucky in this regard, I don't have any chronic illness or condition that I have to leave untreated because of breastfeeding. I don't have to avoid any foods because L is allergic. I've known mothers that had really rough time it; my biggest issue was not being able to take decongestants when I had a sinus infection. I have had to limit exercise and limit any calorie restriction because I noticed a major drop in supply---so I guess my "healthiness" may be impacted a bit, who knows. There may be potential beneficial effects that offset that. 
Mental Health: It is really satisfying to be the sole source of nourishment for your child...but with that great power comes great responsibility. The anxiety I felt when L wasn't gaining weight, knowing it my failing boobs that were the culprit... I still stress over every drop. One might say I am a bit CRAZY about it...I will save 1/2 oz bottles...I found frozen milk more than 3 months old and decided, meh, can't hurt and used it anyways...I begrudge every spit-up and vomit and practically cry over spilled milk. As much as I logically know that supplementing with formula is fine and have no judgement against anyone that uses it (I've done it myself and  I KNOW IT IS FINE) I just can't turn off the internal pressure telling me that "formula=failure, breastmilk=success". Its really a craziness; I see it in lots of bf-ing mothers...I must name it and get it on the DSMIV. It must be the hormones.

      On the upside, I quite simply enjoy nursing L. Its actually a nice excuse to sit down (usually) and browse blogs or just be. The positioning isn't conducive to really interacting with L, but its nice to snuggle & the sleepy milk-drunk grins when he's done...priceless. I will miss this. This is what makes it worthwhile.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One of those mornings...

Wake up before the sun rises to baby monitors a-buzzing...a symphony in stereo of cooing and singing from L & B respectively. What the...what? B shouldn't be up for another hour, at least. But up he is, and the singing is turning to insistent conversations with himself about wanting to play. And L's cooing is starting to sound downright angry. G has already left for his run, so I hop out of bed to get the boys. I go to B first, pick him up out of his crib (but not before our daily game of pretending-to-sleep and scooting-away-so-mommy-can't-get-you). Diaper change, clothes on, teeth brushed (this is new...I had to implement morning brushing because good gravy my baby has killer morning breath now!)
Go get L and get ready to go downstairs. Where is B? OK, change of plans. B has run back to his room, dumped out all his blocks & is fully engaged in the activity. My offers of breakfast are met with firm refusal and lots of whining. So I plop into the glider and start nursing L. Of course, as soon as I sit down, B wants to sit there with us, and read books. Awkwardly, he squeezes in beside me, and more awkwardly I try to hold the heavy book he chose with one hand, while the other hold a squirmy L. He has become quite the distracted nurser lately and I have to keep getting him back on task, but god help me if I miss a beat on the book-reading. SAY IT MOMMY! SAY THE BOOK!
Just as soon as L finishes up I am assaulted by the unmistakable sound & smell of a diaper needing changing NOW. I hurry back to L's room, B whining behind me, and begin the process of XTREME diaper changing---the kind where you remove the soupy full diaper just in time for more ummm....squirting... Grab a new diaper to catch that, grab some wipes----aaagh, who left them open, they are dried up!!! Suddenly B wants to have MILK! and PANCAKES! Is that really the time? Where the X&*(() is G? Did he forget today was my early clinic day? Try to pay attention to what I'm doing, because as unprofessional as it may be to show up late, it would be a 1000X worse showing up late with excrement in my hair. OK, poop disaster averted, now putting on new outfit. Why the &*!% are there so many buttons on infant clothes? Are they purposefully f-ing with tired parents of wriggly babies? "Yes, sweetie, we will get you some milk in a minute"
I'm trying to carefully do get each tiny little snap but finding it hard to see with the tears swimming in my eyes. Because...because how in the hell did I ever get so freaking lucky and why does it have to go by so fast?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Living the dream?

Based on the congratulatory comments I got on my last post I have decided that I must be misrepresenting myself. I do not for a minute believe that I have achieved "career success", nor do I feel confident that such success is within my grasp. What I do know, is that I have come to a point in my life that I am no longer willing to sacrifice my health, my relationships, or my sanity for my work. Been there, done that, and declined to purchase the commemorative T-shirt. Ready for something else.

I have seen colleagues put their families first and still manage to get ahead career-wise. I've seen others put all their eggs into the work basket and have it backfire. The sacrifice:reward ratio is NOT a constant, it seems to be completely arbitrary, in fact.

For some reason I imagine that these years in my mid (/late) 30s, more so than others, are important & defining ones.  This is partly due to the magical & fleeting ages of my children and partly to the fact that I seem to have arrived at that indeterminate "later" I've been awaiting all these years. Yes, this is a critical point in my career, but there were many critical points before and there will be many more ahead. It doesn't really ever end, does it? I was  content to put non-essential projects off for "later" because I believed that "later" would actually arrive. Now that "later" has come and gone, I realize the whole thing was an illusion. Life never slows down, you never feel secure, there is never a good time. If I want to align my life to my priorities and focus on the things that are truly important, I better do it now, because my "later" is here.

I know my career productivity has suffered lately; I just cannot put in the same hours and be the mother & wife I want to be. I am trying to be optimistic that I can still do it, by making more efficient use of the hours I do have, delegating more, and settling for "good" when I would have aimed (and spent countless hours working toward) "perfect". I very well may be fooling myself, but if I am, then I know that this career isn't the right one for me. I NEED my morning runs, my weekends soaking up my family, and a few hours a week to focus on myself. I can give them up for a week or two before a deadline, but that is the maximum I am willing to sacrifice. Watch me over the next few years...I'll either crash and burn and find myself on the job market, or I'll muddle through.  Either way, no regrets.