Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nursing Sabbatical

I am not ready to quit nursing Jonah. Although physically, my body has been handling the weaning process quite well, emotionally I've been a wreck over this. I feel a huge contradiction inside of myself over what is right and what is selfish. For those who have just begun reading, or for those with short term memory problems, my son Jonah stopped eating (we're hypothesizing) around early Novemeber. He seemed to be nursing well throughout the day, but we found out that in actuality he was only taking two ounces per nursing session. He began to lose weight, at which point my husband and I allowed medical intervention and he was put on formula. We had the hopes of returning him to the breast for all of his feedings, and I resorted to any method of boosting milk production that I could find. Herbal supplements, changes in my diet, pumping literally around the clock. It all seemed to help at first, but after a week or so of hope, would always go downhill again.

At this point, Jonah is almost completely formula fed. He nurses once a day, either in the morning when he wakes up or at night before bed. He refuses to nurse at any other time. This is heartbreaking to me, as I know the extreme benefits of breastmilk that he is missing out on. Our original plan for breastfeeding was to allow him to self wean, and to nurse at least until he was two years old, with one year being the absolute minimum. And so the feelings of contradiction come into play. I feel guilty about giving him formula, but glad to see that he is thriving, and take reassurance in knowing exactly how much milk he is taking each day. I am happy when he nurses, because then I know he is getting something that is the absolute best for him, but I am scared to push him to nurse more often because I know that my body has stopped producing enough milk for him. I feel that it is selfish to give him formula, because that is the "easy way out." I don't have to spend days trying to get my body to produce milk if I just chose formula. However, I also feel selfish pursuing breastfeeding as vigorously as I have been. It me who had decided to nurse until two years of age, obviously not Jonah's choice as he has already self weaned. Perhaps, I sometimes feel, formula is the best thing for Jonah given our past circumstances, and this quest to be back on the boob is just costing Jonah valuable time with his mommy, when I should be putting my efforts into other aspects of parenting. I need finality in this decision once and for all.

And so, this past weekend I have decided to take the drastic measure that many nursing mommies have turned to. My good friend used this method to renew her supply when her son, then nine months old, was showing signs of self weaning at an early age. She went from feeding her son formula almost with every feeding, to being able to completely breastfeed him once again. She was a working, pumping mommy, and after just two days she was able to go on to nurse her son until he was sixteen months old.

I am speaking of the nursing sabbaticle. One to three days of nothing but nursing. Nursing, and quality bonding time with my child. Everything else gets put on hold, because everything else can wait for three days. Breastfeeding my son, won't wait.

I've decided to log the entire course of mine and Jonah's sabbatical, and to share that here in our journal. Here is what happened, beginning with the preparations. I had originally planned to carry the sabbatical through the prescribed three days, but I was only able to do it for one day. I am rescheduling the full three day sabbatical for later in the week, when my environment is a little less stressful.

On Friday, I prepared for the sabbatical. I cleaned the house, did the dishes and laundry etc. I washed all of Jonah's diapers to be sure that we had enough to last us through the sabbatical, and made sure that Daryl's laundry for the weekend was done. As far as preparing my body, I was very careful in what I ate, cutting out all caffeine and other forms of laxitives. I took double my vitamins, and made sure to have my herbal infusions and teas right on schedule. These herbs include fenugreek seed, fennel seed, blessed thistle leaf, nettle leaf, and red raspberry leaf. Some of these herbs are taken to stimulate milk production, and some of them are taken to sustain a healthy femenine system. I take all herbs under the close counsel of my doctors and lactation consultant.

I picked up some books for Jonah at the library, for us to read together and look at the pictures. I gathered the stack of magazines that I have been wanting to catch up on. I washed my water jug that I had gotten for the birth of Jonah and made sure that it was full of water in the fridge. Restocked the tissues, and placed a comfy t-shirt next to the bed. During the sabbatical, I wanted to be toppless, but as we share a house with Daryl's family, I needed to have a shirt handy for quick trips to the kitchen or bathroom. I was set. Here is the timed log for how the next day went:

7:00am Jonah has woken up and gotten a fresh diaper. He is now in bed with us, nursing quite happily and vigorously. I wish he would nurse in this manner all the time.

7:25 Jonah has stopped nursing and is settling in between me and Daryl. He is reaching for Daryl's arm and laughing as his daddy responds. I love watching them interact.

7:45 Jonah went back to sleep, curled up happily between me and Daryl. It is a Saturday, so Daryl doesn't have to go to work.

10:00 I've woken up to Jonah yanking my hair and squeeling with glee. I don't know what he loves so much about hair, but I hope he gets over this fascination soon.

10:15 I've been trying to nurse Jonah for about ten minutes with no luck. He latches, sucks a couple of times, then turns his head and grunts as if looking for something else. It hurts me to give in like this, but I am getting up to make him a small bottle.

12:00 I don't know if I'm doing this right. I'm trying to offer Jonah the breast, but he is not accepting it for very long. I've already used more formula than I wanted to, but then I guess I can't expect him to stop the bottles cold turkey. I have been offering the breast first, and when that is refused I offer a few ounces of formula. I am becoming discouraged, but it is time for lunch

1:00 I fed Jonah lunch and had something to eat myself. It is time for nap now. I am going to read Jonah a story and then we will have a nap together.

2:00 Jonah fell asleep while nursing. He hasn't done that since he was only weeks old. I let him stay latched onto the breast throughout the nap. I forgot how much I missed that bond. His soft baby skin against my body felt so sweet, and I marveled the whole hour that he slept at how beautiful and miraculous this tiny being is. I felt as if I were gazing at my newborn again.

4:00 I am beginning to feel stressed. I want to just stay in bed with my son as I had planned, but everyone is asking things of me. "Do this please" or "when will you get that done?" I don't want to deal with anything but Jonah right now. I am trying to get him to take his second nap, but this time he is refusing to sleep. I might have to take him across the hall to his own room. He is becoming too independent from me. He currently has no interest in nursing, but would rather roll around the bed playing with his toys.

5:00 Daryl has put Jonah to bed in his own room. I have decided to end the sabbatical, as I have felt too stressed this weekend to complete it. Later in the week will be less stressful as there will be less people in the house, and fewer demands on my person. I have learned a lot from this sabbatical, however short it was. I have learned how independent my son has become, as well as how dependent he can be. I definitely feel that our bond has become stronger, and it was a chance for me to hit the reset button and fine tune our communications and relationship. If I have had so many benefits from just one day, I am looking forward a great deal to what we will reap from three days.

7:00 my breasts are leaking, and Jonah is nursing vigorously. We have only used two six ounce bottles of formula today, whereas by this time he would normally have had three eight ounce bottles. I am confident, given his cues and temperment, that he has made up the difference by nursing.

Overall, I am very happy with the results of our sabbatical. It has been 24 hours since it has ended, and my breasts are still leaking. I am happy, of course, about the boost in milk supply, but I am even happier to have been able to strengthen the bond between Jonah and myself. I am excited that he is accepting the breast a little bit better at this time, and hope that our next sabbatical will improve that as well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Elimination Communication: a crossroads

I can't help but feel that we've done a great disservice to ourselves by taking too long of a break from EC. I wonder with every puddle I have to sop up, if this chapter in our journey may soon come to a close. As Jonah has become more independent during playtime, his cues are becoming subtle and harder to pick up. It is also difficult to contain the results of missed cues as he is becoming more mobile. Jonah is wanting to have more activity throughout the day, and as I have not been able to reliably predict each elimination, with more activities has come a heavy reliance on diapers. In several ways I feel that we have made great improvements on our communications the past couple of weeks, and in several ways I feel that we are beginning to communicate less.

Trying to see Jonah's cues for urination through all of his hand clapping, rolling across the room, and pulling apart pop-beads, has become increasingly difficult. Yet, as we have increased Jonah's solid food intake, spotting the cues for bowel movements has become extremely easy. Even while Jonah is wearing a diaper, I am able to spot his cues. He begins to fuss, but not in the same way he does when he is tired or hungry. I have noted that his fussiness before a bowel movement is very similar to the way he fusses when something is causing him physical discomfort. This makes sense to me when I think about how a bowel movement feels. It does cause a bit of discomfort physically. When he begins to fuss in this way, I remove his diaper and either carry him to the toilet (if we are close enough) or simply hold his bum up over his cloth diaper. In both situations, I press his knees to his chest and give him the signal "Poopoo!" I have noticed that now when he hears this signal, he bears down, as if he is understanding that I am telling him that he can go. I am very excited that he has made this connection, and hope that soon we will be able to have the same communication about urination.

Currently, most communication about urination is occurring during or after. I can tell just by looking at him when he is fully clothed that he is urinating or has just urinated in his diaper. This is good, because I know that he is not sitting in a soggy diaper. While I am pleased at this, I am also saddened to know that he will be crawling soon, and if we don't have our communication about urinating fine tuned by that time it will become even more difficult.

Because we have made so many triumphs in our EC endeavors, I cannot throw in the towel just yet. We are at a place where we must begin thinking about either practicing EC full time or committing ourselves to diapers full time. If we choose to use diapers, it will not be the conventional way that diapers are used. We will still be able to communicate effectively about exactly when Jonah needs a diaper changed, or when he is about to eliminate so that he will not sit in a soiled diaper for any amount of time. It would be a modified version of EC that includes the convenience of having the diaper for "backup" in case there is a misjudgment, or too little time between Jonah's cues and the actual elimination.

I feel confident that our family would be very successful with this modified EC with the use of diapers, but I would like to see if we could be successful without using diapers at all.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fresh Foods for Baby

Just about everyone loves biting into a nice fresh piece of juicy fruit, perfectly ripe and hand chosen from the produce section (or even better, right off the tree) just for them, or a nice medly of fresh veggies cooked to perfection. Personally, I love fruits and veggies, and I love to cook them. I decided a long time ago, before Jonah was ever a twinkle in my eye, that I would put that love into preparing my infant's first foods rather than dishing them out from a jar.

Although I had made that decision, I had no idea how many benefits making baby food in the home really has. This is one of the few times in my child's life that I will have complete control over what he eats. I can make sure that during this time, he is getting foods that are wholesome, chemical free, and cooked for the optimal retention of nutrients. When I go to the store to buy foods to prepare for him, I can hand select which peaches, green beans, or carrots he will consume. I don't have to take it from the word of an advertisement that only the best fruits and veggies went into that little jar.

Cost is another major benefit to preparing your own baby food. My grandmother lovingly purchased eight jars of stage one baby food for $0.35 a jar. That seems like a good price when you have just one jar of stage one food. However, enough stage one jars to feed Jonah for two weeks is equal to the cost of feeding him homemade baby food for a month. Produce seems expensive, because you are buying larger quantities of it. When you take into account that homemade baby food freezes extremely well, you can begin thinking of it as buying your child's food in wholesale.

While it may not be as easy as opening a jar, preparing baby food is much simpler than most people think. It is no more difficult or time consuming to prepare baby food than it is to prepare meals for the rest of the family. To help with time-saving, I do two things. Sometimes I will prepare Jonah's food along with the rest of the family's food. This encourages the rest of my family to eat a variety of veggies such as squash and asparagus, that they might not usually have, because I prepare the same fruits or veggies for them that I am preparing for the baby. The other method I use is quite characteristic of my cooking habits. I will take a day to prepare several varieties of baby food and then freeze it for later use. I do this often with crock pot meals and soups for the rest of my family, and is one of my favorite past times. Here is how I would prepare a veggie such as squash, broken down into ten simple steps:

Step 1: Select the kind of squash you would like to use. Jonah and I both prefer butternut squash and acorn squash, but you can make a variety if you wish. Particularly in the fall, there is a large variety of squash to try!

Step 2: Cut the squash into large sections

Step 3. Place with the cut side down (so the skin is facing up) in a pan with 1/2 and inch of water.

Step 4: Bake at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on how big your squash is, how dense it is etc. Check with a fork and cook until tender.

Step 5: Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Step 6: Scoop the flesh from the skins using a spoon, and mash the squash in a bowl until smooth. You may need to use a blender, food processor, or strainer to get your desired consistency. If the consistency is very thick, add the cooking water or FRESH breastmilk (never add frozen breastmilk to food that you are going to freeze, as you should never re-freeze breastmilk) I usually wait until after thawing my purees to add any liquid, as they usually thaw with a more watery consistency.

Step 7: Spoon into an ice cube trays and cover with tin foil. Freeze. The cubes will allow you to thaw the proper amount of food. One cube is one ounce of food on most standard ice cube trays.

Step 8: When the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the tray and put them in air tight freezer bags, being sure to clearly label what kind of food it is as well as the date that it was prepared.

Step 9: At the beginning of each day, remove the food cubes that you plan on using from the freezer and place in the fridge. By mealtime, the food will be thawed! You can also use the microwave to thaw the food, but be sure that the food is only warm, and not hot, when serving it to your baby. ALWAYS CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF THE FOOD before giving it to baby.

Step 10: Feed the baby and see his face light up as he experiences the wonderful tastes of fresh, homemade baby food.

Other veggies and fruits can be "oven steamed" in this same manner.

Elimination Communication revisited

Getting back into elimination communication, after having taken a month long break from it, has been extremely difficult. Jonah's eating pattern has changed drastically, as we not only have started giving him formula to ensure that he is getting the proper ounces of milk, but he has also started taking solid foods on a regular basis.

Now that Jonah is taking the correct amount of food, I am beginning to see a definite pattern between his eating and elimination schedule. Previously, I had only noticed a relationship between his sleep patterns and elimination. Now I am seeing that about fifteen minutes after he takes a bottle or nurses, he urinates, and he has a bowel movement about an hour after he has eaten food.

I have also noticed a change in his signals. They are more definite, and easier to read now that I am aware of what they are. I am assuming that this is because the urge is greater at this point, and he is able to better tell when he has the need to eliminate. While it is easy for him to catch me off-guard, when I see the signals there is no doubting them. It is, however, more difficult to see them every single time that he eliminates, because he is of course eliminating more often and at times that he would not have eliminated during his old schedule. We have been cleaning up several puddles during the last couple of days. It has certainly taken me a little bit of time to become in-tuned to this new pattern and his new signals, but I'm sure that in time we will be back in sync with each other once again.

Bowel movements on the other hand, have been extremely easy to read since we began Jonah on a schedule for solid foods. He makes a very distinct face, and a grunting or yelling noise that lets me know to take him to the potty. I have so far caught two bowel movements in the potty, and three others in a diaper. We will be bringing the potty into our EC practices more as I get attuned to his new schedule and cues.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Artist at Play

This afternoon, Jonah and I explored cause and effect, textures, and colors. At the same time, we encouraged motor skills such as reaching with intent! Our activity today was fingerpainting, and although it was messy, it was fun!
First we got dressed into our art clothes. For Jonah, this was just a disposable diaper and a pair of leggings, and Mommy wore an old t-shirt and jeans. This activity can get extremely messy depending on your child's attitude towards it, so be prepared with some moist rags. Also, make sure the paint you choose is non-toxic, as most children try to taste it as they are exploring.I chose three colors. As Jonah gets older, this activity will include allowing him to choose his own colors. Jonah sat in his high chair with a piece of paper on his tray. If you want to prevent your child from crumpling and ripping the paper, you can stick it to the tray with masking tape on the back of the paper. I believe, however, that picking the paper up and handling it is as important as exploring the paints during the first few times with this activity.

One by one, I placed globs of color onto the paper and encouraged Jonah to smoosh it, smear it, and squish it between his fingers. He did try to taste it once or twice, but that is a normal step in exploring at his age. At first he was perplexed by the cold, squishy texture, but soon he really got into smearing it around on his tray. Unfortunately the paper was only half the size of the tray, but I don't mind if he smears the paint outside of the edges of the paper. I left a space of time, about ten minutes, between adding a new color to the paper. Each time that I added a new color, Jonah suddenly became very interested in painting again.

Art activities such as fingerpainting encourage infants to explore cause and effect. They learn that reaching out and smearing the paint causes the color to move around on the paper. This will later translate to means-ends problem solving, when the older infant will observe a problem (I want that toy but can't reach it) and proctor a solution (I can pull this blanket to make the toy come close to me.) It also gives the infant a fun sensory experience, as he feels the texture of the paint, and sees the differences in the colors.