Teething Blues

Sweet Little Gordito,

Today you are teething and it must be very painful. You are normally such a happy baby, but today, nothing is working. You scream and arch your back, you nurse constantly, and won’t let me put you down. Your feelings are so big, but you are so small, and it must be really hard to process that.

My feelings are big, too. I’m touched out, my ears are ringing from the constant switch between screaming and white noise, and sometimes both combined. I’m trying to get my kitchen organized and there are piles of dirty dishes and pantry items strewn about. Every time I make progress in one cabinet or on one shelf you awake or begin to fuss, and I have to stop what I’m doing, leave a half done job, and pick you up and nurse. My breasts are sore from the constant popping off and latching on, back and forth to either side, and gnawing as you teethe.

I remember it was about 6.5 years ago when your oldest brother Captain was a baby. He had lots of big feelings, too. Especially at night. I remember these endless nights where we would be up constantly. And I was so tired. One night he was up 23 times and I thought he was broken and I was broken, and we took him to doctors and chiropractors, tried medicines and tinctures, tried routines and methods, and nothing worked, and we were exhausted. Everyone had an opinion, so we tried them all.

One time we decided to let him cry. He cried and cried and cried. The books said he would stop, but he didn’t stop. He cried so hard it hurt, and each night we tried it got worse, and we set timers and sat outside the door waiting for that break, but it never came. A few days of that and your daddy and I decided we would never do that to one of our babies again. We remembered how as Christian parents it was particularly important for us to remember that we were called to treat our children how God treats us. We remembered that we were ambassadors for Him, and that every time we were tired and weary God always listened to us and responded. We remembered that when we cry out to God, he is gracious and loving. We remembered that even when we are being irrational in our adult tantrums, the Lord is patient with us.

And when we remembered this, our mindset shifted. We learned to accept the long nights, to realize that our baby was just pushing us closer to Jesus, and that he wasn’t broken. I went to bed every night knowing I would be awake in 30 minutes, to nurse, and every 30 minutes for the whole night. And I changed. I literally changed. Yes, I still had nights where I felt like I was losing my mind and I was so exhausted I googled “can you die from sleep deprivation?” But overall, I was less angry, less anxious, less depressed, and less frustrated and daddy was, too.

Since Captain, each of your older siblings have slept better than the sibling before them. Most nights, I’m only up 4-6 times with you, which is a delightful change from Captain’s usual 10-12 a night. You meld so well into our routine and are so low maintenance that I’m not used to fussiness in a baby, so when you are, it comes as a shock. A reminder to switch off the part in my brain that grows weary and frustrated, angry and upset and fights, and turn on the part of my brain that remembers that you are only small once. That you aren’t trying to ruin my day or my night. That accepting these interruptions are for growing me and also slowing me so I can spend more time kissing your pudgy cheeks and soaking in your delicious scent.

My feelings are big, your feelings are big, but I am bigger than you. So it’s my job to hold yours and my own, to breathe and remember that soon— too soon— you’ll be reading books and riding bikes, and I’ll be missing your teething snuggles.

I love you, little fatling.

Love,

Mama

Advertisements

Nursing to Sleep is Not a Bad Habit (or What Do YOUR Instincts Say?)

Hey Y’all!

Today’s post is written by one of my favorite writers, the woman who taught me to write– my middle sister, Beky. Beky is my senior by 4 years, but became a mother 4 years after my first child was born. My two sisters are my dearest and closest friends, each of us parents a little differently, but I respect each of them immensely. Yesterday my sister Beky was sharing how glad she was that she relished the long periods of holding her first for naps as she nursed, and said she wished she could reassure other first time mothers that it’s okay to hold and nurse their babies for sleep. I told her I had the perfect place for her to share that reassurance, right here on She Rocks the Cradle! So without further ado, here is a guest post from my big sis, Beky.

–Rachel

———————————

As I nursed and rocked my little one (we’ll call him Small Fry) down for his morning nap, watching carefully for that magical moment when I was sure he was OUT, so that I could successfully transfer him to his crib, so that I could get back to momming my 3-year-old (we’ll call him Nugget), it hit me. This is why I did it.

This is why I held Nugget for almost every nap when he was a baby. This is why I allowed him to nurse sometimes for entire naps. This is why I stayed firmly planted on my rocking chair, hardly daring to move a muscle for fear of waking him. This is why I never bothered to “train” him to nap in his crib, independently of me. This is why, in my first-time-mom uncertainty, I posted on a local mom group on Facebook to ask if it was ok to nurse my baby to sleep, to let him nurse in his sleep, to hold him in my arms until he was ready to wake up.

Among the many responses, one stood out. “What do YOUR instincts say?”

I responded, “My instincts tell me that this is a unique experience, having only one baby right now, and I should relish the freedom to be as responsive to him as I can right now because I know it will be harder when the next one comes.”

“There’s your answer!” came the sweet and reassuring reply.

Nearly three years later, that post came to my mind as I gently laid Small Fry in his crib this morning. I took a few seconds to gaze at his pursed, pink lips, his curled up fingers, and the rise and fall of his chest. “Mamaaaa!” came blaring from the living room as Nugget pulled me back to the reality that my days of long, sleepy cuddles on the rocker are no more. Those days of an hour or more of side-lying-nursing in bed while lazily scrolling Facebook, watching a show on Netflix with my headphones on, or just simply closing my eyes and embracing the forced rest. Nope, those days are gone. Naps are business with Small Fry. Get him to sleep as quickly as possible, keeping an attentive ear pealed for Nugget in the other room, transfer him to the crib, and pray for a decent nap so I can catch up on laundry, dishes, and maybe a few moments of quality, one-on-one time with Nugget before Small Fry awakes.

I knew back then that I was right to embrace the once-in-a-lifetime flexibility that came with being a stay at home mom to my first baby. So I followed my gut without apology. But the epiphany I experienced this morning gave me such a surge of confidence in my choices as a new mama, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to all new mamas out there: “YES! It’s ok! It’s ok to rock and shush and nurse and hold your sweet baby until they drift off to sleep! It’s ok to continue that *while* they sleep if that’s what keeps them asleep! Don’t feel guilty for breathing in the fragrance of your precious baby’s fuzzy head, for staring at them the whole time they sleep (while you ‘should’ be sleeping according to many) because you still just can’t believe they’re yours, so perfectly and beautifully yours. It’s ok, mama. It’s ok.”

What practice or habit are you second-guessing yourself on today? What piece of advice have you received recently that has you wondering if you’re doing it all wrong? The answer is the question: What do YOUR instincts say?

[Fun fact: That response “What do YOUR instincts say?” came from none other than our favorite mom-blogger, SheRocksTheCradle. Thanks, SRTC!]

Can’t You Just Breastfeed Your Foster Baby?

Me formula feeding our foster baby while nursing our bio baby

On a Tuesday afternoon last October we got the call. “Would you take a 5 day old baby boy?” 3 hours later we were pulling into the driveway with a tiny stranger, screaming both from withdrawal and hunger.  

We jumped out of the van, unbuckled everyone, ran into the house and I yelled to Milkman, “Make him a bottle!” He looked at me completely confused. 

“How? Do we use hot water? Cold water? How much do we scoop in? How much does he need?”

I was frustrated– not because of *his* lack of knowledge on the subject, but of our collective ignorance. As I fumbled with the pacifier and white noise, Milkman was googling and so was I. “Okay! Warm water, sanitized bottle, 2 ounces, so that’s one scoop!”

How is it that 2 adults who had been parents for 4.5 years to 3 children not know how to make a bottle and feed a baby?

As a nursing advocate, lactation hobbyist, and exclusive breastfeeder, I was (and am!) steeped in all things human milk related. I can help you latch a newborn, hook you up to a pump, make you lactation cookies, and assure you at 4am that that screaming gassy 3 week old you have is totally normal, and it’ll pass. (No pun intended…) but formula feeding? Totally new. We were lost. 

So, we began to educate ourselves, learned proper handling, preparing, and best practices for formula feeding. I thought time and time again how much easier it would be if I could just give him breastmilk. I did some googling and found that while it was not common to get approval for human milk, it was in the realm of possibility.

Because of the baby’s particular set of health concerns, I presented the idea to his pediatrician. She agreed that human milk would be optimum for him. The next step was to get approval from the social workers, who surprisingly were also in support of the idea. The last (and most important) approval I needed to receive was from the baby’s mother. I was so nervous, it was my first time meeting her, and while all the social workers had told me his case would go to permanence and he would likely end up apart of our forever family (he didn’t by the way, because foster care!), I knew this was still her baby. I told her of his particular struggles and that the pediatrician had recommended human milk. Before I could even finish my question, the response she gave was, “Ew. No.” Of course I was disheartened. It was a long road to get him on the right formula, to help with his various health issues, but thankfully we were able to sort his problems out with Gerber Gentle formula.  

I had been cautiously optimistic about being able to give human milk to our foster baby, but once I talked to other foster parents I began to realize how rare approval was. Since then I’ve been asked dozens of times in breastfeeding groups online, crunchy mom circles, and friends “since you have milk, can’t you just nurse your foster baby?”

So let’s break this down.

Biologically, can I nurse a foster baby while still nursing my bio child? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve spent almost half of my nursing journey tandem nursing– that is, nursing two babies (of different ages) at the same time. Milk production works based on demand. In general, the more you nurse, or the more children you nurse, the more milk you make. So biologically, it would be possible for me to nurse a foster child– or any other child for that matter.

Legally, could I nurse a foster baby? The short answer is no. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the general rule is, this isn’t my baby, so I don’t have the authorization to feed this baby whatever I please. In my county, I can’t even switch formula brands without pediatrician approval. The other issue we fall into is the matter of that of physical boundaries. We live in a culture that has re-assigned the human breast to one task: sexual arousal. Of course, we know biologically that the primary purpose of the female breast is to provide nourishment to children, but nonetheless, offering your breast to a child who is not yours, and may have experienced sexual abuse is going to be a logistical nightmare. 

So can you bottle feed pumped human milk to a foster baby? There will be times where a baby is struggling badly with withdrawal, is having serious digestive problems, or is premature, and a doctor will approve human milk, likely from a milk bank. If a biological mother were to refuse this recommendation and it was deemed to be medically necessary for the child to receive human milk, with proper documentation and approval, it could go to court for a judge to overrule the mother’s protest. Again, there could be a biological mother who says yes, and it’s approved that way. On the other hand, some mothers send their own milk with baby, which (if pumped safely and mom is sober and healthy) is a great option. However, the most common answer is going to be no. Of course, this is a hard pill to swallow for me as an advocate for human milk for human children, but it all comes back to this: these foster babies are not my children, so it is not my choice to do something I have been told not to. 

Imagine if you were an exclusive breastfeeder and you found out that your child’s day care provider was feeding them formula every day. You’d probably be pretty floored, right? Well the same goes in this situation. I’m caring for this child, I make decisions to keep this child safe, fed, and loved, but generally it’s not in my jurisdiction to change their food source if I’ve been denied that request. 

Do foster parents breastfeed or bottle feed human milk to their foster children? Yes. I’ve talked to many of them who have. Some in hushed tones, others with boldness. Many social workers will say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, some doctors will say the same, and some bio parents aren’t around to give approval or denial for the request. Most of these foster parents have the best interest of the child in mind, I’ve never met anyone doing it maliciously. Some counties care less than others and leave more decision making up to foster parent, so it’s not as big of a deal.

The important thing is that we feed babies using best practices. Clean hands, sanitized bottles, properly prepared, and portioned. So if you’re a crazy breastfeeder like me who ends up formula feeding, instead of being too crestfallen at your denial for human milk, do all you can to become educated on formula feeding so the baby has their best chance at a healthy start! And if you’re a formula feeder who has been told to feed human milk, do your research for best practices on handling human milk!

Nursing my toddler while she helped feed formula to our current foster baby
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on foster parenting, breastfeeding, or everyone’s experiences ever with feeding every foster child on the planet, these are merely my thoughts, experiences, and observations. If you’re unsure about human milk and your foster baby, contact your social worker!

Want to read more on fostering, infant feeding, and see some stupid memes? Come check out She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook!

The Day Mamitas Weaned 

The first time she nursed, she had just been born. The world was a scary, cold, and bright foreign land to her. She screamed with all the gusto her 8lb. 5oz body could muster– which was quite a lot. 

She had an angry (and quite frankly and ugly) scream. The nurse had to move her over under the heat lamp for something, I don’t quite remember what, but Milkman was snapping pictures of her as I heard her scream. I kept saying “okay, just give her to me now, okay, please give me the baby, I just want to nurse her!” You see, that was the one phrase Milkman used to help me get through her 23 hour labor: “Just think about the first latch with your new baby…” So after weeks of prodromal labor, months of painful walking and moving, and a day of no sleep, all I wanted was to nurse that baby. 

Finally, the nurse handed her over to me, and her ugly little scream filled the room ’til she latched on, I sighed with contentment and then– OW! She bit me as hard as she could almost immediately! That was the beginning of our 3 year nursing journey. 

It started with clogged ducts, mastitis, 6 months of undiagnosed ductal thrush, blebs, and lazy latches. Things didn’t get easier til she was almost 9 months old. I got pregnant not much longer after then wth Ezra, and weaned Captain right before I lost Ezra. I told Milkman that she would not nurse as long as her older brother, surely she would wean at 18 months. But she didn’t. Surely at 2! She’s such an awful nurser, and my milk had dried up from Peach’s pregnancy, but she didn’t. Certainly at 2.5, that’s when Captain weaned. But she didn’t. So when she was 2.5 I asked when she would wean and she said “I will wean when I am 3.” And so every night for 6 months we continued to nurse before bed. We have counted down, and talked about it. I have looked towards her 3rd birthday with eagerness to say goodbye to tandem nursing. And as it drew closer, I started to feel a sadness. The end of an era. 

We picked Golden Slumbers by the Beatles as our weaning song. We listen to it, sing it, nurse to it, and cuddle. Every night this week I have asked her if she’s really, truly going to be done nursing and she smiles and laughs and says she will be all done at 3. Tonight, the day I have looked forward to with relief and sadness is here. Time to wean. 

The last time she nursed she wore a pink pajama shirt and pigtails. She had just finished her cake and ice cream. I asked her if she was ready to nurse for the last time and she happily said yes and giggled nervously as I began crying. She asked for our song and we sang “… Sleep pretty darling, do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby…” And she wiped my tears off my face one by one while she nursed. Her big brown eyes held much more seriousness than her 3 years of age allowed. I didn’t time her or cut her off, and she nursed longer than she has in 6 months. I kept asking if she was done and she kept shaking her head no. And then, she popped off and said “Mama! I unlatched! What’s unlatched mean? Cos I did.” And gave a cheesy grin. And with that, she was done. 

For 3 years I have hated, loved, resented, and appreciated nursing her. And in that one moment, it was over. This chapter of our lives closes, and it isn’t one that gets revisited again. I am so sad. But I know, as I learned from weaning Captain, that our relationship isn’t over. It’s just a new chapter. 

I love you, big girl. Happy 3rd Birthday. 

Happy Birthday, Poochie!

To My First (and only!) Nephew on His First Birthday:

 

Sweet little man, with the big, brown, round eyes and little smirk, you are one today!

 

I was there when you were born!  Witnessing your birth was one of the most special things I will ever experience.  It was such a privilege to be there.

 

Your mama labored a long time, and when I got to the hospital, she was ready to push. I have often referred to your mama as my “little sister” though she is older than me.  I have always thought of her as fragile and in need of my protection. But as I cooled her head off with towels, and held her hand while she roared your little body earthside, I saw a mighty warrior.  Though I had delivered 3 babies before you were born, I was in awe of her strength to go through her labor unmedicated!

 

You were placed in your mama’s arms and you smelled like the earth.  You screamed and fussed your little head off while your mama and papa admired you, and while your little cousin in my tummy kicked away at the early hour of the morning.  You were too fussy to latch to nurse, but your mama kept you warm and safe against her skin,

 

You were so tiny.  I have never held a baby as small as you, and I remember thinking you had the cutest little rump, and you had your mama’s nose.  Your papa snapped away pictures proudly, and after a while I made my exit, and got into my car.  

 

It was very late and dark, there were few cars on the road, and I turned on Pandora to keep me awake on the drive home and blasted Kaskade with the windows down and wept.  You were so precious.  Your papa was so proud.  And your mama?  She was fierce.

 

A year later, I’m watching you grow.  Loving the rare but flirty smiles you flash my way from time to time.  Watching you and your baby cousin Peach play together.  Wearing you close to me when your mama is getting things done.  Seeing so much of my own first, sweet, shy boy in your personality.  You are such a joy to your parents and such a wonderful addition to our growing family.

 

I love you so much Poochie.  Happy birthday.

 

Love,

Taunty Paych

 

FullSizeRender

Giveaway! Era Organics Baby Care Line

As a mom, I am always looking for healthy, safe, natural products to use on my little ones.  With 3 very young children, I try to research the heck out of anything I put on their skin and in their bodies.   I’m sure you’ve seen the news stories that have popped up within the last year about Johnson & Johnson having cancer causing chemicals in their products, and also Jessica Alba’s company Honest Baby and their mini-scandal of using a chemical in their products that they tell consumers to avoid!

 

EraBlog5

 

With those being two top contenders in the baby care world, you may be wondering what other options are out there.  I am really excited to share about my new favorite baby care line from Era Organics!  I’ve always used natural skincare products on my children, but haven’t ever been blown away by the products I’ve used, so I thought I would take a break from our usual Babyganics and try something new for Peach’s sensitive skin.  Queue a middle of the night nursing and Amazon perusal and Honeybuns baby wash showed up 2 days later on my doorstep. (Thank you Amazon Prime!)  That night we gave it a test run for bath time and I was an immediate fan.  The texture of the baby wash was concentrated, and a little went a really long way.  The scent was calming and pleasant.  I really dislike heavily scented skincare products (so I’ve never been able to stomach the scent of products like Burt’s Bees for babies). The scent of the Honeybuns wash is very mild, but appealing and calming.  

 

ERABlog1

 

I started talking with the folks at Era Organics because after trying out a lot of other brands like California Baby, Mustela, Babyganics, and Aveeno (which is owned by Johnson & Johnson!), I was so glad to be using a product that was natural AND effective, a combo really lacking in the natural product world. They informed me that they had just released an entire Honeybuns baby care line, and I knew I had to try the rest!

 

Erablog4

 

One of the great things about the Honeybuns line is that it cares not only for baby but for MAMA!  YAY!  It’s really telling when a company chooses to care for moms, too!  Their baby and mama line includes Honeybuns Baby Body Wash, Healing Balm (incredible for dry skin and also works on cradle cap!), diaper balm, and Baby Powder (talc-free! Uses organic cornstarch and arrowroot as its base).  The mommy components of the line are Mommy Balm for sore nursing breasts (I’m past the ouchie newborn latch stage, but I love this for when I am tender nursing during my period), and Belly Oil for stretch marks and dry irritated skin on your tummy and thighs– this stuff smells like HEAVEN, it’s like a mini-spa treatment every time i put it on!  Each of the products are organic, cruelty-free, and non-GMO.  There are NO PARABENS!  This is a big deal to me, and the reason why I switched to all natural products as a new mother 4 years ago.  

 

BLOGERA

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, I feel like there’s a great divide between products that are natural and safe, and products that pack a powerful punch but are full of stuff I don’t want on my baby’s skin.  You can tell that the formulas that Era Organics uses are thoughtful and science based, not just thrown together willy nilly.  These products have made a difference on my skin and on Peach’s skin (and its been great on my toddler and preschooler’s skin, too!)

 

EraBlog2

 

I truly believe in these products and I am SUPER excited to share with you that Era Organics has offered a set of their ENTIRE  Honeybuns skin care line for one lucky winner on our Facebook page, so head over to She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook to enter through April 24th!  Era Organics has also offered a 25% off discount for She Rocks the Cradle readers using the code CRADLE25 through the end of May in their Amazon storefront!  I am so thankful for their generosity, and I can’t wait for you to try out their products.  You’ll have to let me know how you like it once you try their products out– you wont be disappointed.

 

——————–

 

Here are the quick links to the Honeybuns products on Amazon! Don’t forget to use our CRADLE25 coupon code for 25% off, and be sure to share your purchase through the social share buttons on Amazon when you add these items to your cart!

 

Honeybuns Baby Wash

Honeybuns Healing Balm

Honeybuns Diaper Balm

Honeybuns Baby Powder

Belly Oil for Mama

Mommy Balm

 

——————–

 

Find me on Facebook!

4 Years 

Four years ago, within an hour of giving birth, I latched a tiny baby boy onto my breast and he began to nurse. At that moment I had planned on nursing 6 months, if I could make it that long. 

And he nursed. And then the next day he did. And the day after. And at 2.5 months we had a nursing strike that lasted 17 days, but we made it through. And some times we nursed every 30 minutes all day. And some times we nursed 20 times a night. We nursed at parks and in church. 

And then when he was 8 months old, I got a positive pregnancy test, and I wondered if we would be able to nurse through the pregnancy. And I had aversions and I didn’t want to nurse my little boy. But he needed me. So we nursed. And we nursed through toe curling, awful feelings of being touched out. We nursed through my milk drying up completely. We nursed as my colostrum came in.

And then his baby sister was born. And within an hour of giving birth to her I latched her tiny angry mouth onto my breast, and she calmed down and opened her big eyes and nursed. And it was hard. We nursed through a lip tie, and we nursed with mastitis. We nursed through ductal thrush that lasted months. We nursed through a bleb that became a rock, and after I removed it with a sterile needle and it bled, we nursed. I nursed them two at a time. I nursed them one after the other. I nursed at Disneyland and at the grocery store and in the ergo. Some days I felt like there was always someone latched. So hungry. So thirsty. So drained of everything. But we nursed.
And then when my baby girl was 10 months old I got another positive pregnancy test. And I was pregnant and I nursed two children. And I nursed through morning sickness, and extreme fatigue. I nursed as my milk dried up and my body was working hard to grow a baby. 

And then I lost that baby. And I delivered his sleeping body and I put one drop of breastmilk in his tiny little 17 week old mouth.
When I came home from the hospital I nursed my big girl and held her and breathed in her sweet sweaty head, wet with my tears as I mourned her baby brother’s death. She eagerly nursed as my milk came in, a couple days later, a gift from my still baby. 

And then it was time to wean my oldest. And we weaned slowly and it took a long time. We weaned gently and through many tears every time his little sister got to latch and he didn’t. We weaned with rocking in our rocking chair and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” together. We weaned by kissing booboos instead of nursing through them. We weaned while I nursed his little sister and we counted and learned our ABCs.
And then I got another positive pregnancy test. And I nursed my second born. I nursed her on days when I hadn’t eaten, and on days where I was throwing up constantly. I nursed her in between appointments with specialists and physical therapists. I nursed her as my milk dried up and my belly grew. I nursed her through prenatal appointments and in the backyard.

And then her baby sister was born. My third living child. And within an hour of her birth she latched on to my breast and looked at me with one eye, like Popeye. Her tired sleepy face suckling to comfort as she adjusted to her new surroundings. And when we got home from the hospital I nursed her and her big sister on the rocking chair. And they nursed through engorgement and cracks. I nursed my screaming new baby seconds after her tongue tie was released by the ENT. And we nursed in hotels and on the couch while we read books to big siblings. We nursed in the shower and on our big family bed. We nursed through 23 clogged ducts in 4 months. And still we nurse. And right now I’m nursing. Always nursing.

It’s been 4 years straight of nursing. My longest break from nursing was 48 hours. I have tandem nursed for 18 months. I have loved it. I have hated it. It has been exciting. It has been mundane.

But most of all– it’s been wonderful. Here’s to many more years of cuddling, nurturing, being close… And nursing.
———–
This post is dedicated to all 4 of my babies, and also to their papa. Without whom I would never have had the support it takes to nurse. 
I also want to thank the women who have inspired me to nurse to full term, tandem, and through tough times. Ashley who answered my late night nursing questions with Captain when he was a newborn. My mother in law Christina, who always has a glass of water waiting for me when I nurse around her and introduced me to the concept of nursing past infancy. My own mother, who wanted to nurse longer than she did, so she encouraged me to continue. Serena Tremblay, whose story kept me nursing through hospitalization, and inspires me still today. And to the many women in nursing support groups online, but especially to those in VCNM who introduced me to the concept of tandem nursing. 
   
    
    
   

Find me on Facebook