Category Archives: Nursing

Breastfeeding – a tale of two hospitals

Breastfeeding - it takes persistence

Breastfeeding - you can do it

When I originally wrote my post on the 10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding, several people told me I was lucky that breastfeeding worked for me and that it didn’t hurt. I felt compelled to explain that breastfeeding only worked for me because of my persistence and that it did hurt until I reached out for help.

I actually believe that most current medical establishments are unsupportive of breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding past the six-month mark should be considered a major personal achievement. For each of my two pregnancies, I used two different medical groups, where I had strikingly opposite experiences.

BABY #1

I received medical care through the Sharp medical group with my first son in San Diego County. My prenatal appointments went well and I received great medical care. Closer to my due date, I took a breastfeeding class where two hours to learn about “fish lips” and the various latches seemed adequate to learn about something as “natural” as breastfeeding. During my last OB visit, I was the lucky recipient of a tote bag containing containers of baby formula, formula coupons, and a booklet from a formula company explaining it was OK if I failed at breastfeeding and that formula was perfectly OK for my baby. Hmm, I’ll never need that stuff, I thought, so I’ll save it and donate it to another mom who can’t breastfeed… I shoved it all in a closet when I got home.

I gave birth at Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego. I attended a pre-birth hospital visit where the guide looked more like a PR executive in her corporate suit than medical personnel. There I learned the hospital handled over 6000 births a year. I felt in good hands, only to realize later that a hospital managing that many births may be more appropriately labeled as a “baby factory”, rushing you in and out to make room for the next birth. By the way, mom and dad can order a steak & lobster celebration dinner for $40 after the baby’s birth. Forget about that milkshake or burger you’re craving for after hours of labor, and upgrade to surf & turf!

On the day of my scheduled c-section, we soon found out that the buzzing excitement among the hospital staff was due to a rare event – a mom scheduled to give birth to quintuplets on that same day. Yes, five babies! All I can wish to any first-time mom is NOT to give birth on the same day as a large multiple birth. Nurses and doctors will clearly show that your baby’s birth is quite insignificant in comparison, rushing you out of the delivery area to “make room” for the event of the year…

My baby and I were assigned to a room and I tried to breastfeed him. That’s when I quickly realized I had NO CLUE what I was doing. I asked the nurse to check on us. She quickly glanced at my boob and expressed things looked OK. Overnight, I was in pain due to the surgery and wasn’t sure anything was coming out of my breasts to feed my baby. The night nurse told me it could take a few days for my milk to come but I should keep nursing to offer colustrum, without checking if I was producing any. By the next morning, my son’s bilirubin levels were high and the attending pediatrician explained we wouldn’t leave the hospital until his numbers went down. He explained I’d have to feed my baby well and often, so I kept putting him on my breast but noticed he was mostly sucking my nipple and falling asleep after a few minutes.

After two days in the hospital, my baby was losing weight and his bilirubin levels were still high, so I requested to see a lactation consultant. I was told I’d only see her on my release day (huh???) and that all nurses were trained to help. Sure they were, and each gave me different advice, apparently not making any difference in the results. Three days after birth, another pediatrician ordered that I feed my baby formula, accommodating my breastfeeding wishes by letting me use a small feeding tube alongside my nipple. By then I was exhausted, getting almost no sleep trying to feed a baby who sucked my raw nipples for a few minutes before falling asleep for hours. The formula order was a huge blow to my decision to breastfeed and made me feel inadequate as a new mom. On day 5, the baby looked better, clearly thanks to the formula and not me. The lactation consultant did stop by upon our release, noticed my raw nipples and suggested we see a lactation consultant after we left. Duh, where the heck were YOU for five days???

I left the hospital tired, angry, frustrated and with a hungry baby. Fortunately we quickly got an appointment with a lactation consultant, who in my opinion should be called “baby and mom lifesaver”. The kind lady patiently listened to my story, explained that c-sections usually delay milk coming in and that pumping several times a day and taking fenugreek should help stimulate production. She then showed me how to get my baby to latch properly and warned me that since my baby developed  bad sucking habits, I’d have to be diligent and mentor him, including stripping him down to his diaper if he fell asleep while sucking. Finally, she told me that I should have enough milk to feed my baby without need for formula. I spent the next week nursing, pumping, gulping fenugreek and visiting the lactation consultant. After two weeks, my baby was back to his birth weight and gaining more every day.

The next few months had their ups and downs. First thrush, then acid reflux, none of which couldn’t be solved with medication. By the time I reached the six-month mark, the painful experience of the first few weeks was almost forgotten. I ended up breastfeeding my son until he was 13 months old without another scoop of formula. I did donate the formula cans I received at the OB’s office, as well as the several cans I received afterwards in the mail. The formula manufacturers surely spend a lot of marketing dollars on new moms to support their multi-billion dollar a year business!

BABY #2

I had my second baby through Kaiser Permanente, again in San Diego. During my last pregnant month, I was given reminders about breastfeeding classes and hospital visits. The hospital visit was given by a real delivery nurse in scrubs who shared real birth stories. There was no mention of steak & lobster dinner. Bummer…

There was no large multiple birth on the day I delivered either. Knowing I’d have another c-section, I had gotten myself ready to nurse by taking fenugreek several days before and knew I may have to pump in the hospital. Somehow the fenugreek made me produce colustrum before the birth, so my hopes were high I’d have something to feed my boy. I gave birth in the morning and got a visit from the official lactation consultant in the afternoon. By then I was proud to tell her that things were going well and that baby #2 looked like a natural born sucker! On the second day, the same lady stopped by and congratulated me for being such a pro, pumping me up (no pun intended!) to continue with my nursing plans. I then heard her consult the first-time mom sharing my hospital room who had had problems nursing her baby and was ready to switch to formula. The LC stayed for 30 minutes until that baby latched properly and I heard that mom expressed relief and thanks. The hospital sent me home with a real nice diaper bag (not a tote bag), with NO formula samples or coupons inside, but instead a booklet on breastfeeding and a large cloth to use as a nursing cover. You can love or hate Kaiser Permanente, but I give them a lot of credit for promoting breastfeeding and saying no to the high pressure of baby formula lobbyists.

I continued breastfeeding my youngest until he was 14 months old with no bumps along the road. I wished my first had been as easy but I have no regrets having gone through such challenging times, as I believe it built up my resilience as a mother. I had no idea I’d need so much of it today, when my boys are four, and two and a half years old!

My advice to all moms who plan to breastfeed out there is to: hope for the best, get ready for the worst and reach out for all the support you need to help you succeed. You may be surprised how easy it is for some pediatricians to choose the easy road and entice you with formula feeding. An understanding lactation consultant will be your best ally to find a solution that is best for you and your baby, whether it implies breastfeeding, or formula feeding, or both. The ultimate goal is for your baby to be healthy and you to be happy.

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Love hurts – why do our children cause us pain every day?

If you like this post, I encourage you to share it with other parents, whether experienced, new or parents-to-be by forwarding them this link: https://perfectingmotherhood.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/love-hurts-why-do-our-children-cause-us-pain-every-day/

As I was browsing the web when writing my post on the 10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding, it seemed that the recurring theme was pain, i.e. crapped nipples, swollen breasts, sucking pain, etc. It sure takes practice to achieve a good latch, but now that I’ve breastfed my two kids and I’ve got a broader perspective, I have to say that breastfeeding was only the beginning of my daily dose of physical pain.

You’d think that after childbirth (whether natural or by c-section) and the learning curve of breastfeeding, the pain that your kids inflict on you would be gone. Boy, aren’t you up for a surprise! I feel compelled to warn all first-time parents that your baby’s size doesn’t correlate with the amount of pain that they can inflict on your body.

Now, you’re probably thinking I’m making this up. I hope many other parents out there will support me in commenting how they too are getting hurt every day, otherwise I probably need to call Social Services and have them take my kids away for domestic violence!

It seems that a baby possesses several weapons of choice when wanting to cause pain during his first year, usually unintentionally:

1) His nails
Sharper than a kitten’s claws, a baby’s nails are meant to test your motherly love when he scratches your boobs while nursing. Unfortunately the baby also has a tendency to scratch his own face, especially if he’s a thumb sucker. At least, a baby will let you clip his nails in his sleep, so you can keep that weapon under control!

2) His legs
A six-month-old baby with toned and firm legs can do a lot of damage to his dad’s groin, or his mom’s belly while nursing. I now think the baby jumperoo I bought to get my babies some exercising fun was a bad idea…

3) His teeth
When a baby grows brand new incisives, he likes to test their shredding purpose on everything. That includes teething toys, blankets, but also your nose, ears, fingers, nipples, skin, you name it. Of course, the more you react as you experience the sharp pain, the more he’ll feel encouraged to try it again! I actually stopped breastfeeding my youngest at nine months for that reason, and ended up pumping for another four months afterwards to continue supplying my “liquid gold”. I liked the bonding of nursing but didn’t want to take the chance of becoming nipple-less!

4) His hands
When a baby starts controlling the use of his hands, he’ll practice in many more ways than grabbing a toy or shaking a rattle. Hand activities include pinching skin, pulling hair, pulling the cat’s tail, even breaking eyeglasses (a favorite at our house). Keep an eye on those hands at all times when staying close to your baby, I’ve warned you!

4) Most dangerous weapon of all: his head
Oh, that big, rock-solid head… I understand its purpose is to protect my little bundle of joy from impact and trauma, but gee, why does it have to cause so much pain on the parents (and siblings)? In the first few months of life, we play our part by supporting our baby’s bobble head. As the neck muscles become stronger, we decide to let go and that’s when all hell comes loose! It seems highly entertaining for a baby to consistently bonk his head against your body (preferably your face) when sitting on your lap, being held in your arms, or in any position for high impact. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been hit hard enough in the nose to hear a crack and expect a nose bleed and a trip to the ER. So far, so good, but my nose just hurts thinking about it…

With that said, you’d think that a growing child will learn that his body can inflict pain and will stop doing so. From the many “incident” reports that occur at my son’s preschool, I don’t believe that’s the case.

To this day, my kids’ favorite activities seem to be:
– Stepping on my feet: they sure scream when I step on theirs, so why do they get so exasperated when I request them to get off mine! A variance is to drop heavy objects on my feet. My youngest punctured a hole in my toe nail with the only sharp angle of his “My First Story Reader” book. My toe hurt for over a month, and I ended up throwing the toy in the trash, worried that I may get injured again.

– Jumping on my body from higher ground: where did they get the idea that my belly is a trampoline they can jump on every time I lay on the floor or on the bed?

– Biting: OK, I think we’ve finally got that one under control, but for a while, it was a daily habit at our house.

– Groin punching, squeezing: looking at their dad’s face, it appears pretty painful every time…

– Hitting my face with their head, and then having the audacity to complain that THEIR head hurts! Yep, that most dangerous weapon doesn’t seem to go away…

Physical injuries can be painful on your wallet too. A few months ago, my two boys were jumping around on our bed when my youngest hit his front tooth on top of his brother’s head. It bled at the time and we knew there was nothing else we could do. The tooth eventually turned grey and formed a gum abscess as it was dying. After root canal with general anesthesia, a new crown and $800 in dental bills, that tooth looks great!

So yes, love hurts in many ways, as the journey of parenthood causes plenty of physical pain, as well as medical and/or dental bills. But if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t miss it for a thing, because at the end of the day, nothing is sweeter to my ears than to hear my son say “I love you, I want a hug”. And yes, I like my ribs squeezed hard.

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10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding

 If you like this post on breastfeeding tips and would like to share it with other new moms and moms-to-be, please provide this link to them: https://perfectingmotherhood.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/10-things-people-dont-tell-you-about-breastfeeding/

Breastfeeding for all babies

1) It’s not that simple, but it’s also not that complicated
Alright, we’re mammals, so you’d think breastfeeding is in our genes, but when the time comes, it doesn’t appear that obvious. Can it hurt? Yes, if you don’t do it right, and mostly, if your baby doesn’t do it right. You didn’t get the lactation instruction manual and your baby didn’t either! So see it as the first learning experience you’ll share together. Make your bundle of joy your partner and don’t sweat the small stuff. And there’s always help out there if you need it:  through your health insurance, La Leche League, some state programs, etc. My biggest advice is to inquire about your options BEFORE you give birth. You’ll be way too busy and tired after the birth to browse the internet for a lactation consultant.

2) Everybody will give you their personal opinion about breastfeeding
You’ll hear more than your share about breastfeeding versus bottle feeding as you approach the delivery date. Sometimes you almost feel like there’s a war brewing out there… And whether you decide to breastfeed or not, you’ll hear both sides of the discussion. I personnally never “made the decision” to breastfeed. For me, it was something I was going to do and made sure I was successful at it, both physically and mentally. I can’t believe how many people kept telling me after I had been breastfeeding for over six months that it was long enough and I could stop now, as if I had nothing else to prove! In a way, it motivated me to continue breastfeeding, as if to show them how little I cared about their advice, but to any mom who is wondering how long she should breastfeed, those comments are very unsupportive. Just do what you want to do, breastfeed or not, for two months or 18 months, and enjoy every minute of it!

3) Your breast size is no indication of how much milk you’ll produce
I was barely a size B pre-pregnancy and became a size D by the time I started lactating, so all small-breasted women, rejoice! I found out that the key to good production is to stay hydrated yourself. The less you drink, the less milk will come out. And eating throughout the day will keep you from feeling famished and exhausted.

4) Your breast pump bag looks really cool
One day after I returned to work, a male colleague of mine pointed out to my black breast pump bag and remarked how stylish it looked, with its several conveniently placed pockets. I replied, “thanks, that’s my breast pump bag”. He looked puzzled and inquired, “your what?” “My breast pump bag. You know, breast pumping”, as I used sucking hand gestures in front of my boobs. “Aaaaah”, he said as he suddenly blushed and walked away. I think that was the last time he’ll ever compliment a lady on her bag…

5) There’s nothing else in the world like night feedings
In the still of the night, when everything is quiet in the house and everybody else in the whole world is sleeping, you get to share some very special one-on-one time with your baby. Both of you feel half asleep, half awake, skin-to-skin, laying in bed. As you listen to the rhythmic sucking-gulping process, you start breathing in a delicious baby smell. Other moms had told you about by that smell, but all they saw what your puzzled look as you thought they were just gone gaga about their babies. It’s all true, your own baby’s smell is the most wonderful scent in the world, and the good part is that it doesn’t go away as they grow up. Alright, it will probably stop in the teenage years!

6) Say goodbye to baby weight!
Breastfeeding is the EASIEST way to lose your extra pregnancy weight without having to run on a treadmill like a wild rabbit being chased by a fierce coyote. Believe it or not, you’ll still be able to eat a good amount of food, as breastfeeding literally sucks calories out of you. For every ounce of milk you make, you lose about 20 calories. I produced a lot of milk, about 30oz a day, which equals 600 calories per day. Way better than the 300 extra calories a day needed during pregnancy that we use to justify eating for two.

7) You’re doing in for yourself, not just for your baby
Breastfeeding causes small uterine contractions that help bring your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size faster. It also reduces your risk of breast cancer by as much as 25%. And it increases your levels of oxytocin (sounds like some good drug name if you ask me!), which is a hormone that helps you relax. Something all new moms could use.

8)  You will lose calcium while lactating
The good news is the bone loss is temporary and according to some studies, women who breastfeed lower their risk of osteoporis in the long run. Take some calcium supplements while lactating, and you’ll be just fine.

9) If you can take on the breastfeeding challenge, you can do anything
I never saw breastfeeding as a chore, or as something I had to do as a mom. I saw it as a challenge and dealt with it every day, until it became a habit. The challenge was to have the baby latch properly, make sure the baby fed enough and that my nipples didn’t become raw meat in the process, and then to repeat every day until I felt it was time to stop. I stop nursing my boys around 9 months, but I continued to pump until they were 13 months old, three times a day, every day. If you can handle that, you can handle most of the inconveniences that life throws at you. And there are a lot of them once you become a parent.

10) You’ll miss it when you stop doing it
Now, you’re probably screaming, are you crazy? Nope, I’m not. Deciding when to stop was actually very difficult. After sharing a part of me (my milk) for so long with my babies and acting as their lifeline, it was hard to close that chapter. Becoming a mom is a wondering experience. First you grow a whole human being inside your womb, and your job continues when you feed that being from your own body. Sorry guys, but you’re really missing out! Breastfeeding provided me with me-time, especially when I went back to work and I pumped, alone in a locked room for 20 minutes at a time. With only the rhythm of the pump to hear and a good book to read, those were my most precious minutes of the day. It was hard to go back to the lunch room and not have that moment of peace that I so needed to get revitalized for the rest of the day.

To all moms out there, try breastfeeding and seize the day! Kids grow up fast, and the nursing months will end up being a tiny section of their lives. And if you think that breastfeeding is painful, read my post on Love hurts – why do our children cause us pain every day? I believe you’ll clearly see there’s much more pain awaiting for you!

For more breastfeeding posts, read Why is breastfeeding not considered a medical necessity? and Breastfeeding – a tale of two hospitals.

For more inspiring stories on breastfeeding moms, visit the Simple Gift blog.

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Welcome to the journey of an imperfect mom

I’m a full-time working mom of two young boys, who keep me quite busy. We live in sunny San Diego, which is in my opinion a great place to raise kids, with its good weather, proximity to the beach, mountains and deserts, and an abundance of kid-friendly activities (San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Seaworld, Legoland, etc.)

I’ve enjoyed a career in marketing communications for almost 15 years, mostly working for high-tech companies. I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of the corporate world, and there never is a dull moment.

The same can be said about life at home, where my kids can always sense when I’ve been having a good day or a bad one, because they always manage to make it better or worse, even when I think it’s not possible…

After living and breathing motherhood for the past four years, I love to continue chasing the illusion that I can perfect my mama state. It delivers a reality check almost every day!

I hope you enjoy this blog and can share some of your experiences as a parent. We’re a family of bookworms, so I’ll be sharing a lot of treasured readings for the little ones, as well as the grown-ups.

Happy reading!