Category Archives: birth

Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children (Part 2)

The boys will soon have a new cousin (yay!), so I guess I have babies on the brain these days. As a result, this edition of Random Things is brought to you by all things nursing! Here are just a few things I wish I had known about before my first baby was born.

1. Lanolin

If you are breastfeeding, you must have lanolin in the house. I used Lansinoh brand but there are others, and it’s easily found in the baby section of drug and discount stores. It’s great stuff. And in a pinch, a teeny tiny bit can be used on other dry skin—baby’s or yours. I have even used it on lips (since it’s safe to ingest).

2. Dr. Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment

I didn’t use this when nursing my first, and afterwards heard another mom refer to it as gold. With my second, I feared nipple trauma in the early days might make me susceptible to thrush, so I asked my midwife to prescribe APNO. A.Maz.Ing. You may have to find someone willing to prescribe it, and you may have to find a pharmacy that can mix it, but it will be so worth it.

3. Nursing Tank Tops

Again, I only discovered these while nursing my second baby. I wore Bravado brand, but I’m sure there are others. The great thing about them is if you are nursing while out and about, a tank will leave your back and tummy areas covered (and warm!) They can also be worn alone in the heat of summer. Plus, they are comfy and available in a lot of colours. I may or may not still wear mine as layering tanks…

Related: While you’ll need a couple to get you through, I suggest waiting about six weeks before investing heavily in nursing bras. Some women will need a bigger size as long as they are breastfeeding, but some of us actually lose a lot of weight and end up needing a smaller size once nursing is established! Oh the irony.

4. LilyPadz

Another second-time-around discovery. These are great, reusable breast pads. With my first, I wore washable cotton pads around the house, but they were rather bunchy looking. So out and about I used disposable pads. I quite liked the Gerber and Lansinoh brands (Playtex stuck and left fuzz behind!) but, really, they are wasteful and expensive. LilyPadz aren’t cheap, but one pair lasts a long time. And they create a smooth line. They may not be the right choice in the very early days if you leak a lot, but for every day use once nursing is established, I highly recommend them.

5. Teeth are Not a Deal-Breaker

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that back in the day (i.e. when I was pregnant with my first), I swore I would wean my baby as soon as he got a tooth. And then after we had spent two months learning to nurse, BB#1 got his first teeth at four months old. He was much too young to wean, and I certainly wasn’t going to stop after all the work I’d put in. But I quickly learned teeth do not mean the end of nursing by a long shot—if baby is actively drinking, he cannot bite you. And if it is ever an issue (it never was for me), there are ways to deal with it.

6. Not All Professionals That Work with Moms and Infants Are Trained in Lactation

Yes, I’ve gone off on this before but it can’t be overstated. Beware doctors and nurses that are not certified lactation consultants, and seem reluctant to refer you to actual experts if you experience problems. The advice I got from the nurses in the hospital where BB#1 was born was inconsistent and unhelpful; the advice I overheard being given to other mothers in a different hospital with BB#2 was worse.

7. Be Prepared to Find Expert Help On Your Own

May you never need to seek out help. But if you do, and you experience #6, real help is out there. I think it’s best to be armed with contact information ahead of time rather than trying to find it in a moment of crisis. Here are some links to bookmark:

International Breastfeeding Centre (The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic)

www.nbci.ca/index.php

Kellymom (If you have a question, I guarantee you’ll find the answer here!)

www.kellymom.com

Best For Babes (Awesome info on beating “Booby Traps”!)

http://www.bestforbabes.org

Motherisk (What’s safe during pregnancy/breastfeeding. There is a hotline as well.)

http://www.motherisk.org

Infantrisk Center

http://www.infantrisk.com (Similar to above, but American. There is even an iPhone app! http://www.infantrisk.com/mobile)

8. Working Full-time and Breastfeeding Are Not Mutually Exclusive

While I can’t speak personally about going back to work before baby is a year old, I know from many other mamas that it can be done. But if like me, you live in Canada and are taking a year of maternity leave, continuing to breastfeed once you go back to work is incredibly easy. In fact, I found it easier than weaning (because my baby wasn’t ready and I had no idea how to go about it). I stressed about it at first—did I have to cut out daytime feedings in preparation? How would my daycare providers get him to sleep? But in the end, I did pretty much nothing to prepare. Older babies can be very adaptable, and they know they can’t nurse when mom is not there. So, in the day he ate solids and drank water or cow’s milk from a cup (while you could pump and leave your own milk, or introduce a bottle, I chose not to at this stage). He nursed when we were together. His caregivers had other ways to get him to sleep. That was it. It was really great to have that way to reconnect after being apart each day. And the best part: he got sick a LOT less than other kids at daycare. Which meant I missed a lot less work. Win-win.

Is there anything breastfeeding-related you wish you had known about before your baby was born?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under birth, breastfeeding, career, midwives, parenting, random, the beautiful boys, work

I Don’t Expect a Medal

When I was expecting my first child, during a conversation with some other pregnant women, I commented that of course I was having an epidural, because I didn’t expect a medal. These women took me to task a little, because they were both in fact planning natural births—and not because they expected medals, but because they thought it was best for them and their babies. I apologized, but the fact was, I really meant no judgment. It was merely a comment on my own very low tolerance to pain—natural birth was fine for other women, but I knew I would need medication.

I did have my epidural—after a shot of Demerol and labouring in the whirlpool tub no longer cut it. I experienced back labour with my first, and had intense contractions minutes apart from the get-go. None of that “mildly uncomfortable for the first few hours” stuff for me. In what I now know to be a fairly typical scenario, the epidural slowed my labour, so I needed Pitocin. I can remember one nurse looking at the monitor and commenting she’d never seen such intense contractions that did nothing. I no longer felt them, which was, I suppose, the point.

Because I was tied to the bed, I couldn’t walk around and help things along. With people coming in and out every few minutes to check on things, I wasn’t getting the rest I’d been promised. Finally the OB on call told me he was sure I couldn’t push the baby out. He said I could try, and likely end up with a c-section. Or we could just go straight to the OR. After so many hours, I hesitated—all that just to end up with a c-section? Finally I decided to go with the surgery. After all, I reasoned at the time, if I ever had another baby, at least I wouldn’t have to go through labour again!

But it was too late—the doctor’s shift had ended, my baby had finally budged, and the OB now on call declared I could push him out. With help from an episiotomy and foreceps. So that’s what we did. But after twenty hours, my baby had passed meconium. Which meant he was taken from me to be cleaned up. They gave him back to me, finally, all swaddled. Which meant no skin-to-skin as I’d read about. While they fixed me up, no one suggested I should try to breastfeed, so I didn’t until I was moved to a room and got the “helpful” advice of “you put him here, you put him there, then you’re done” from the nurse on duty. Which resulted in at least a week of struggling to keep my baby awake and get him to latch, feeding him pumped milk through a tube, consulting with nurses, doctors and a lactation consultant–and lots and lots of tears. And even once he latched, it was a good two months of struggle and pain before we finally got into a groove. It was worth it, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do ever again.

Which is the reason I decided NOT to have an epidural the second time. Not because I wanted a medal or to prove anything (except perhaps to myself). No, I just decided a day of purposeful pain would be worth avoiding the snowball effect that almost led to a c-section (clearly unnecessary, since I didn’t have one in the end), months of healing from the episiotomy, and weeks of breastfeeding issues. To achieve this goal, I knew I had to make different choices, the first one being going with a midwife instead of an OB. I kept my options open—I still signed the epidural consent form, because frankly, back labour sucks. But knowing my care would be transferred to an OB if I had one was good incentive to try other things first.

I did reach my goal, with the help of a supportive husband, experienced midwives, a blessedly short labour (and a baby who was facing the right way!) and a bit of gas during transition. And while there were other complications, breastfeeding wasn’t really one of them.

Look, I’ll never judge another woman for choosing an epidural. How can I? I had one. And even knowing what I know now, I can’t honestly say I would have made a different choice the first time around. What I do judge is a medical establishment that defaults to drugs—often even before a labouring woman requests them–in order to manage birth, without first explaining the risks as well as the benefits. What also drive me crazy is that every conversation about birth with a first-time mom-to-be includes comments like “you MUST have an epidural”. Imagine if I went around saying “you MUST NOT have an epidural”? Yeah, I don’t think that would go over too well either. I know from personal experience that each birth is different. And I couldn’t possibly know what another woman is going through. Her choices may not be my choices. But without knowledge, it’s not true choice.

So I won’t tell another woman not to have an epidural. But I will tell her to research it first—before labour begins. I will tell her to ask questions (and if the instructor at your hospital class says there aren’t any risks, as mine did, don’t believe it.) I will suggest she consider a midwife, or to hire a doula if she has an OB, to support her in her goals, provide other options, and help her make informed choices. I will tell her why it’s a good idea to labour as long as she can without an epidural. I will tell her she CAN do it. And I will respect her choice in the end.

3 Comments

Filed under birth, breastfeeding, midwives, parenting, the beautiful boys, Uncategorized

The Best of the Worst Baby Advice

After attending a baby shower recently, I got to thinking about how much advice new parents receive. Sometimes it’s solicited, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. But even good, well-intentioned advice won’t always work for other mothers and their babies. Parenting is not one-size fits all, and there is no magic bullet, no matter what the bazillion books out there tell us (psst, there is always another book saying the complete opposite!) I still think it’s important for parents to share their experiences—I know I’ve learned a lot from other mothers, and clearly I have advice to offer.

But here are some tidbits I was given when I was expecting my first child that I will not be passing on:

You need to drink milk to make milk.

Erm, can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk in order to produce food for their own young? Can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk at all? Yes, nursing moms need to keep hydrated, but we are not cows, our babies are not calves, and human milk is not a dairy product. So if cow’s milk is not your beverage of choice, no, you don’t have to start drinking it in order to successfully breastfeed your human baby.

Crying is good for babies’ lungs.

Crying is how babies communicate, not how they exercise. Yes, there are going to be times you can’t do anything to stop it—when you’ve nursed her, changed her, picked her up, burped her, rocked her, nursed her again, passed her to your partner, put her down, picked her back up, and she still cries. But it is our job as parents to hear those cries, respond to them as best we can, and comfort our child through it even when nothing seems to help.

Don’t pick him up too much.

Here’s the thing. You can’t spoil a baby with love. Nurturing independence in your child is a process, something that takes approximately 18 years, not 18 months. And it happens despite us—those of you with strong-willed toddlers and teens will know what I mean. So let your baby be a baby while he’s a baby. Pick him up, hold him, comfort him. Need free hands? Try a carrier. Need help? Ask for it. Need to put him down because you are overwhelmed and need to collect yourself (or maybe you just need to use the bathroom, it happens)? Do it. Then take a deep breath, go back in, and pick him up.

If you let her in your bed, you’ll never get her out.

Some babies sleep fine in a crib in another room. Others don’t. Don’t be surprised if yours wants to be with you day—and night. Most adult humans like to sleep with another person close by—so why on earth wouldn’t our children? If you chose to share sleep in some fashion, there will come a time when your child won’t need you to put her to sleep, or back to sleep. In fact she’ll need you to wake her up. And it will happen before you know it. I promise.

Babies don’t feel/remember pain.

I once bit my baby’s finger (don’t ask). Another time I cut him with the baby nail clippers. Judging by the crying, yeah, he felt pain. No, he probably doesn’t remember. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt at that moment, or that I felt any less terrible about it. So I fail to see the logic in putting tiny babies through unnecessary pain now vs. later. If it would hurt him later, it’s going to hurt him now.

Babies should only eat every 4 hours.

Not any baby I’ve ever met. That said, every baby is different. Just because mine needed to nurse at least every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first year or more doesn’t mean that’s so for every mom and baby pair. Yours might need to nurse more often. Or less. But for most newborns, 4 hours is way too long to go between feedings. Even at night. Sure, some will sleep longer stretches early on, and that’s normal (lucky you!) But so is frequent waking. So is waking again after several months of sleeping through. Read your baby’s cues, and don’t listen to people who say “she can’t be hungry again!” Yes, actually she can be, or she could have another reason to nurse (comfort, teething pain, fighting off a cold, growth spurt…) And yes, just when you get used to one routine, it can change (comfort, teething pain, fighting a cold, growth spurt…). So don’t get too hung up on schedules or what a book says she “should” be doing, or what she did last week or last month, or what your friend’s baby is doing, or even what your other babies did.  Meet the needs of the baby you have now, who is the only one who can tell you what those needs are.

It’s harder on you than it is on the baby.

Sorry, I don’t buy it. A baby crying himself to sleep, for example, doesn’t have the logic to know mom and dad are in the other room and this is “for his own good”. He just knows he is upset and alone and the people he depends on to keep him alive aren’t responding. And if the adults have to comfort each other through it, or phone someone for support, or go online looking for virtual hugs to “stay strong”, imagine how the baby feels. If you were upset, would your partner tell you to “self-soothe”? And if he did, wouldn’t you want to smack him?

Babies over [insert weeks, months or pounds] don’t need to eat in the night.

I once read babies over 12 pounds don’t need to eat in the night. Mine would have been 12 pounds at, oh, around 3 weeks old. So no, I wasn’t going to deny my newborns food and comfort because they were bigger than average. In fact I’d argue they needed to eat more often because they were bigger than average. But regardless of size or age, babies aren’t waking in the night to eat just to mess with their parents. When she no longer needs to eat in the night, she’ll stop (but just FYI, that doesn’t always mean she’ll stop waking in the night…)

Have your babies close together so they can be friends.

I’m not telling you not to have them close together. I feel family planning is up to, well, the family. I was not ready to have another any sooner than I did, but that’s me. I just hate this statement because closeness in age is no guarantee they’ll get along—and a big gap doesn’t mean they are doomed not to. That has more to do with personality in my opinion. Which is something you can’t pre-plan. But the main reason I hate comments about family size, parental age, age gap, sex etc. is—you never know what is going on in other people’s homes and hearts. It’s rude to tell parents of an only child they “should” have more no matter what—but what if those parents did want another child? What if they’ve been trying for years? What if they’ve experienced a loss? Now imagine how hurtful those comments are.

Parenting is a tough job. The last thing we need to hear is that we’ve already messed up by having children too young or too old, by having too many or too few, having them too close together or too far apart, or that we should “try again” for a child of a different sex—especially when some of these things aren’t even within our control, no matter how we try to plan them. So, let’s all just make our own family planning choices, and go with “no comment” on the family planning choices of others, agreed?

What was the best of the worst baby advice you received?

4 Comments

Filed under babies, birth, breastfeeding, parenting, Uncategorized

I Support Ontario Midwives

Each year at this time, in honour of BB#2’s birthday, I usually post my own personal public service announcement in support of midwifery somewhere online. After BB#1 was born, in what was probably (sadly) a pretty typical labour and delivery attended by an OB (or three), I wasn’t sure I would ever have another child. The idea of doing that all over again was too scary. And yet, three years later, with the support of midwives, I gave birth to my second son. As I like to put it: 6 hours, 9.6 pounds, no epidural.

Our family is done, but if I were having any more babies, I would definitely go with a midwife again. And I take every opportunity I can to encourage other parents-to-be to at least meet with a midwife, find out about her practice, and consider this model for low-risk pregnancies. As I recently told one mom-to-be, the difference between my two experiences can be summed up by comparing an OB saying to me, before I even tried, “I don’t think you are going to be able to push this baby out”, to my midwife saying “you ARE doing it” when I whined that I didn’t think I could. They were both right–though I didn’t end up having the c-section that OB recommended before his shift ended and he went home, “just” foreceps and an episiotomy administered by a man who yelled at me for crying.

But my birth experiences aren’t really what I want to talk about today. This year, I want to take this opportunity to mention that Ontario midwives have been working without a contract for the past two years. TWO YEARS! Tomorrow, October 19th, they have planned a day of social media action to appeal to the government to resume contract negotiations (or at least they were, before the recent government “vacation”….) Frankly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask! For more information, visit the Ontario Midwives website (and check out the adorable gallery of babies born without a contract!).

My own baby was caught by a midwife this day 5 years ago, under a contract. It was the best choice I could have made, and an option I wish I had considered during my first pregnancy.  So, happy birthday to my little man, and happy birth-day to me!

Leave a comment

Filed under birth, midwives, the beautiful boys