Saturday, January 30, 2010

Milk Mania

Before going back to work, I entertained the notion of stockpiling future dinners in our freezer for ease and simplicity after long hard days rushing to and from office and daycare. However, it quickly became apparent that this was not an option - our freezer is stuffed to the gills with frozen breastmilk, leaving no room whatsoever for superfluous items such as - oh, I don't know - food.

I have been blessed with plentiful milk. This is wonderful, but also frustrating - wonderful because I don't need to worry about supply issues or supplementing with formula like so many of my mommy friends, and frustrating because my massive milk supply is accompanied by an overactive letdown. Carter will latch on, suck for a few seconds, and then let go, at which point several streams of milk will spray him in the face, up the nose, across the would really be quite entertaining if he were capable of eating it all. However, half the time our nursing sessions end with Carter choking, gagging and pulling off, leaving me engorged and having to pump to get it all out. This in turn leads to bottle after bottle of expressed milk in the fridge, more than he can ever eat over the course of his usual day. Pumping at the office also leaves me with excess, as each pumping session equals at least five or six ounces - sometimes eight - more than the measly four ounces in each of his four daily bottles. Thus, more freezing and stockpiling.

Last week I thought of a brilliant idea - I would become a milk donor for the National Milk Bank! Brilliant! I applied online and eagerly awaited my opportunity to mail it all off to benefit needy preemies and be able to once again buy my beloved frozen soy nuggets from Trader Joe's.

Yesterday I received a reply - DENIED! Thankyouverymuch, they said, but since you were taking fenugreek (an herbal supplement meant to increase milk production) we can't take it. Evidently critically ill babies might not be able to tolerate it, so they can't take chances. I responded, clarifying that, as noted on my application, I stopped taking fenugreek back in December so perhaps they can take the past month's worth of milk off my hands. We shall see.

Thus, I am once again left with a couple hundred bags of frozen milk in our freezer. I am halfway tempted to post an ad on Craig's List - Excess Breastmilk Up For Grabs! No Diseases, I Swear! - but seriously doubt I would have any takers.

What to do with my liquid gold?


Friday, January 29, 2010


On a brighter note, last weekend (on January 24th, to be exact) Carter discovered his feet. I put shoes on him for the first time, and he was fascinated - you could almost see the thought process: What are those bright things down there? Hmm...I think I can reach them. Oooh...they're squishy! And they move around! ...Wait a minute....are these things ATTACHED to me?! Sweet fancy Moses! There are toys attached to my body!

He has also started attempting to turn over from back to tummy. He'll lie there and crane his neck back until his head is at a 90-degree angle to the rest of his body, and kind of wiggle his hip in an attempt to get over. At night he has begun sleeping on his side, with his hands held up against his face, like a little angel praying. Sometimes he holds his lambiehead lovey in his arms. Strangely, he's become very mobile in his sleep since we unswaddled him and moved him to his crib - we'll go to check on him, only to find that he has somehow managed to maneuver from the middle of his crib in a horizontal position to the base of his crib, completely vertical with his head crammed against the bars. I won't attach his bumper since it's a safety hazard, so I'm not sure how to rectify the head-bar-bonking, and I have no idea how he's making his way down there without rolling. This is where a video monitor would come in handy.

So this week we take the good with the bad. Our boy is growing so quickly!

Curse you, daycare!

An epidemic is sweeping daycare. Carter and I have been home sick for the past three days, since my lunchtime visit on Tuesday, when I discovered that he had a slight fever (100.2). Coupled with the cough he'd had that morning, I whisked him out of daycare and straight to the doctor. Fortunately she reported that his lungs and ears were both fine, and that it is just a cold. I had also awoken that morning feeling slightly under the weather, which the pediatrician said was great - since I'm nursing, Carter will get the antibodies that I am producing to fight our shared cold. Home we went, sniffling and coughing.

And home we have remained for the past three days, as I quickly descended into a full-blown mess, complete with fever, aches, and congestion so hideous that I can scarcely breathe out of my nose. Fortunately, Carter seems to be faring better than I - he has a slight sniffle and yesterday still had a low fever (100.8), but is primarily plagued by an evil little cough. He is slightly more lethargic than normal, as I discovered when I placed him down for Tummy Time and he simply sighed and rested his little head on the blanket, showing none of his usual interest in exploring. Otherwise, he still seems to be in high spirits - when he is awake, he is his usual smiling, jovial self. This is simply more evidence that I have the most pleasant-tempered child on earth.

A frustrating - though not unexpected - side-effect of Carter's cold is the inevitable disintegration of sleep. Last weekend was huge for our family - we finally started sleep-training Carter, and our little boy went from sleeping swaddled in a bassinet next to our bed (after being nursed to sleep by mama) and waking four times a night to sleeping unswaddled in his crib in his room (and falling asleep on his own) and waking either once or not at all (with a dream feed courtesy of yours truly in the wee hours). For four magical nights, I slept. And then, all too soon, the evil daycare malady struck and it all went to hell. For the past three days, my husband and I have tried to be good, responsive parents to our sick baby without totally destroying any sleep progress we made. He is still falling asleep by himself, in his crib, unswaddled, but there are several wake-ups during the night, and I can't ignore the cries of my sick child. Thus, we'll have to see how the pieces fall when we are healthy again - hopefully it won't mean starting from square one.

Think healthy thoughts our way...

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Two weeks ago, sleep fell apart. Not necessarily MY sleep, but Carter's sleep, which (who are we kidding?) these days means my sleep too.

I had heard that this happens. At the Pump Station breastfeeding support groups I frequented during my maternity leave, the lactation consultants would go on and on about the dreaded four months, when "sleep falls apart." Evidently there is a big growth spurt at this age, and the baby wakes frequently to eat, effectively obliterating any sleep schedule you may have previously had. So true.

A couple of Fridays ago, my husband and I had a date night to congratulate ourselves on successfully surviving the chaos of our first week as two working parents with a daycare baby. That night, my sister-in-law came over to babysit Carter - or rather, to babysit our living room, as he slept from shortly before we left at 8pm until 2am. That's right - a blissful six-hour stretch, followed by another four-hour stretch, enabling me to get a full 7 hours of sleep, only having to wake up once. In the morning, we patted ourselves on the back. Clearly our child was blossoming into a wonderful sleeper! The many long nights of crying baby were coming to an end! He would surely begin sleeping through the night any day now! We savored this notion for a whopping 12 hours - until that night, when sleep fell apart.

Suddenly, our reliable five-hour stretch from 8pm - 1am was gone. We were sitting in the living room that evening at 10:00 when we suddenly heard a cry from the bedroom.

And so it began.

After that night, Carter did not sleep for more than three and a half hours in a row for two weeks. Worse, he began waking almost every hour, until I was so exhausted I was scarcely functional in the daylight hours. We tried "topping him off" with a bottle after I nursed him before bed, but that didn't help. We tried having my husband pick him up and bounce him back to sleep whenever it was clear that he was not actually hungry - this just caused him to begin screaming until he was put into my arms, at which point he would instantly quiet. Evidently, in the wee small hours there is no substitute for mommy, which is simultaneously flattering and torturous.

As if this wasn't enough, he suddenly had become strangely needy - not only could we not leave him alone on his playmat for five minutes without the cries beginning, we could hardly turn our backs on him for two seconds even in the same room before the fussing began. The daycare ladies told me that he was the same way at baby school - someone had to stand there and entertain him all day to keep him from fussing. What was going on? What had happened to our mellow baby?

Two days ago, I arrived at daycare for my daily lunchtime visit and was informed by the ladies that Carter had slept very well that morning - for a whole hour straight. Pondering this joyful tidbit, I realized something - that morning, he had fallen back asleep after his typical 5:30am wakeup and slept until 7am. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off over my head - of course! How had I not realized this? When I was on maternity leave, I would get up with Carter at his 5:30am wake-up, change him, play a bit, and then bounce him back to sleep until 8am or so. Now, as a working mother, when I roll over and gaze at the bright-eyed little face staring eagerly up at me from his bassinet at that excruciating hour, I simply pick him up and pop him in bed with us for the next hour and fifteen minutes before my alarm screeches at me to start my day. He lies there, squeaking his baby sounds and kicking his little legs, and does not fall asleep. In fact, he stays awake from 5:30am until 8:30am, when we drive to daycare. He inevitably falls asleep in the car for the 20 minute drive and wakes upon arrival. Realizing this, it was suddenly clear to me what was going on - Carter was sleeping just enough on the way to daycare to take the edge off, but not enough to feel fully refreshed, which effectively rendered him overtired as he started his day, leading to crankiness and neediness all day long. Worse yet, it was MY fault! I had neglected to get him down for that precious morning nap for weeks! Shame on mommy!

The next morning, I arose at 5:30 determined to preserve his nap. Sure enough, I got him back to sleep until 6:30 or so. When I arrived at lunch that day, the ladies incredulously informed me that he had slept for TWO straight hours that morning - in his pack n play, no less! This was huge, as Carter had begun screaming each and every time they attempted to place him in the pack n play since the day he started daycare. Not only that, he put himself to sleep - they let him cry for 15 minutes, at which point he conked out.

Pigs were flying! The devil was skiiing in hell! It was incredible.

Last night, I decided to take a risk - if he could do it at daycare, he could do it at home. And that, my friends, is how my child slept through the night.

To Be Continued....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sleep Nazi

From "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weissbluth:

"It is also possible that severe or chronic sleep deficits occurring early during the period of rapid brain growth might hard-wire circuits to produce permanent effects...If the brain has been permanently changed due to severe or chronic sleep loss, then, when the naps disappear and school requires more mental vigiliance and focused attention, preexisting problems may appear. It is not simply academics that might suffer. We do not know the contribution of healthy childhood sleep toward creativity, empathy, a sense of humor, or adult mental health."

So (insert ominous music here) in other words, if your child does not sleep well, HE/SHE WILL BE A CRAZY ADULT.

Well, shit. As if Carter didn't already have the odds stacked against him in the crazy department due simply to genetics, his well-meaning parents had to go bouncing, shushing, and Harvey Karping him into craptastic sleep and subsequent future wackadoodleness. Lovely.

Bleeeeeeeeeeh I say, Marc Weissbluth! Take your overzealous sleep fascism and shove it. We'll sleep train when we're damn good and ready. As I write this, my little boy is asleep in his swing (note: it is NOT turned on - progress!) having been bounced into peaceful slumber. Yes, we have been naughty parents, but time heals all.

Either that or we're in for some serious therapy bills in the future.

A Belated Pictoral Summary of Carter's Holidays

None too impressed by Santa:

Ho ho ho:

With mommy by the fire:

Our little family:

Eh...I dunno about these blocks, Santa...

But I think I could get into this rainbow thing...

And I really dig my ball!

Merry First Christmas!

Running on Empty

Every morning at about 5:30am, I hear Carter's tiny snuffles and sniffs, signaling that he is awake. Sure enough, I groggily lift my head and peer over the side of his bassinet next to our bed, and there he is, a bright-eyed little bundle, his wispy blonde tufts and chubby cheeks poking out of his swaddle. When he sees me, he begins to wiggle (as much as one can when encased in cotton and velcro), and gives me a look that can only translate to "!!!!!MOMMY!!!!! Let's! Start! Our! DAY!!!!!"

This is possibly the most adorable thing that has ever existed in the history of mankind. It is also torturous, because whenever I see this sweet early-morning face, I am inevitably suffering from a mind-numbing, bone-crushing exhaustion. Although Carter's speed-nursing ensures that his night wakings never keep me up for more than a few minutes at a time, they nonetheless disrupt my slumber just enough to make me a zombie the next morning, to make rising before dawn a painful, deathly experience. So when I hear his little morning noises, I reach down, lift him into my bed, and snuggle up to nurse him, hoping desperately that he will suck himself back to sleep and allow mommy to rest for another precious hour before her alarm clock goes off and she is forced out of her pillow/blanket coma and into her day.

Let me tell you - just as staying at home with Carter gave me a newfound respect for stay-at-home-moms, going back to work has given me a profound respect for working mothers. Every day is a frenetic blur of nonstop activity, from the moment the alarm goes off until I pass out in a state of sheer delirium at night.

It goes something like this: get up, nurse, make breakfast, eat breakfast, dress, apply makeup, dress baby, make my lunch, pack milk, pack bottles, pack pump parts, pack daycare bag, drive to daycare, drop baby off, work, pump, work, visit baby at lunch, nurse nurse nurse, work, pump, work, pick up baby, drive home, unload car/baby, change baby, play with baby, bathe baby, nurse baby, put baby to sleep, make dinner, eat dinner, wash bottles, wash pump parts, wash diapers if needed, spend more than two minutes of quality time with dear husband, and sleep nurse sleep nurse sleep nurse all night long.

And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

My mother called the other day, and said she hadn't spoken to me in a week. Sadly, I hadn't even realized it. But when is there time for phone calls?

Working mothers of the world, I salute you. Now somebody please tell me it gets easier.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What the hell have we done?!?

Oh no. We've really done it. We didn't know better. No one told us. It wasn't in the books we read. Somehow, somewhere along the line we missed the memo. We had no idea that we had to TEACH our baby to self-soothe.

Until two weeks ago, I was fairly confident that I was one of the few lucky mothers with a truly mellow child. Carter is generally even-tempered and seldom cries. He is friendly, full of smiles and laughs, with no problem with strangers. We've really got it easy, folks!

Or so I thought.

When my child started daycare, I came to the shocking realization that he is the ONLY child out of the twelve infants and toddlers at the facility who will NOT sleep in his pack'n'play. If they put him down in it, he screams. Upon pondering this, I realized that he has never learned to fall asleep on his own - we rock him, bounce him, shush him, jiggle him - we do it all, until he is sleeping soundly in our arms, and then gently place him in his swing or bassinet.


I was reading (the rather scary) Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child, in which Dr. Weissbluth makes many ominous references to foolish parents who coddle their babies, never bothering to kick-start their self-soothing abilities, which in turn leads to fussy, sleepless children, which then leads to short attention spans, ADHD-like symptoms, and various other nefarious, serial-killer-like tendencies. So people of Southern California 2030, I apologize. His mother made him do it.

In all seriousness, how did this happen? When did I become THAT parent - the neurotic can't-let-him-cry-even-for-a-minute mom? Here I thought I was just being warm and responsive, when in reality I have somehow hindered him. Perhaps I will blame my endless mommy groups at the Pump Station, with their fanatical passion for babywearing, co-sleeping, and Harvey Karp-ing. Damn hippies.

As I write this, I feel truly downtrodden. Have I done my child a grave disservice? Carter naps in his swing and occasionally in his bassinet, and even sleeps decently at daycare. He goes down promptly at 8pm every night and sleep til 5:30 or 6 the next morning - not straight through, mind you, that's crazy talk - he feeds several times during that stretch, but without waking. He simply fusses (with eyes still shut tight), I pick him up, nurse him for five minutes, and he's back down again without a struggle. Not perfect, but I've certainly heard worse at four and a half months. Yet now I realize that although he sleeps well when he's down, getting him down is entirely contingent on our battery of soothing techniques, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any ability to self-soothe, which is sorely lacking.

But there is light at the end of the fussy baby tunnel. I am sure that he will ultimately be able to develop this skill, now that we've realized our error and can make changes. And there are small victories: today, for instance, he slept in his crib for the first time, for three naps. Success! Yes, it took a small army of mommy-soothing to get him down in his crib, but it happened.

Slowly but surely, we'll get there. And when we do, there will be yet another bridge to cross: ditching his beloved swaddle. At this point, I am quite certain that we will still be tucking him into a sack and binding his arms with velcro when he goes off to college. He'll be a big hit with the ladies, no doubt.

Wish us godspeed in our journey, friends.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Carter started daycare last week, and I've now learned that my child is officially high maintenance. Not only has he spent a good portion of each Monday screaming due to some surprising separation anxiety, but evidently he forces the daycare owner to sit in front of him and look straight at him, or he’ll start to fuss. Sure enough, when I arrive daily at lunchtime to nurse him, there she is, sitting in front of him. He demands constant entertainment, and likes to spend most of his day squealing. "Hey, Little Armenian Lady! Smile at me!" Or perhaps he's flirting with his girlfriends, Gia and Finley - both older women at 8 months and 5 months, respectively. The three of them like to have raging tummy time parties together.

Add to that his cloth diapers, which today had leaked (which they never do) because one of the women had put them on wrong, so I had to be a pain in the ass and show her how to do it properly, which, no matter how nicely I say it, always sounds assholish.

THEN add to that the fact that he would not nurse today, or at least wouldn’t nurse for more than 20 seconds at a time. Thus, I had to come back to the office and immediately pump…again.

My little boy is proving to be a class clown and attention hog…much like both of his parents. I am simultaneously proud and horrified.