Saturday, September 27, 2014

Goodbye Fenu-farts, Hello Major Milk Makin' Cookies

You know you've entered a new phase of life when you begin singing "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall" along your daily walks with baby. Hey, don't knock it. It's a great time kill when you need to entertain for an extended period of time. And while there may not exactly be 99 bottles on the wall (or in my freezer), I'm still sweating like an Iron Chef to sling the liquid gold across the counter just as fast as I can make it.

Unfortunately, it turns out the supplements I've been taking to increase milk supply (Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle) may have actually been causing, or at least adding to, the toot-a-thon taking place in Preston's pants. How do I know this? Well, I am not 100% certain, but I'm pretty sure it was causing some of the tummy trouble.

This week, we had a couple really good days as far as mood and lack of fussiness goes. I thought maybe it was because I'd been able to give so much breastmilk those days, but then it continued into a day in which I'd given quite a bit of formula as well. Maybe he's just growing up into a completely well-balanced mature child already?! Ha! Doubtful at this stage in the game.

I realize it could all be due to chance, but it just so happens I'd run out of my milk making supplements and was awaiting a new shipment from amazon. I didn't think anything of that piece of the puzzle at the time. Then, the new supplements arrived, and I began taking them again as usual. To my chagrin, the tummy trouble seemed to begin again almost immediately. I could literally hear the air pinging in Preston's belly. One night at the wee hours as I was snuggling him,  our bellies growled really loud at the exact same moment...which is when a light bulb went off!

Could it be more than coincidence that the worse of this ceased when I stopped taking the supplements and re-emerged once beginning them again? Why were we both having rumbling in there? It wasn't bothering me much, because I'm a grown adult and growling isn't that big of deal. But to his tiny tummy, it could be a pretty painful feeling I'd imagine. I just had this intuition it might be a factor.

From then on I became a fart detective and was noticing every little reaction to eating and how his belly was doing. I starting googling more about tummy trouble related to both Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle and wouldn't you know it; it's a very common side effect to have increased gas and watery stools...both things we've commented on several times as a concern. I already cut lactose out of my diet weeks ago, so I knew it wasn't that. Apparently, these supplements are well-known to be hard on the stomach, in both adults and breastfeeding babies (even though Blessed Thistle is also touted as a "digestive tonic") and even though it's so highly touted for milk production.

Strangely, I learned a couple other things I hadn't initially the fact my pee smelled like maple syrup? Yes, very weird! Apparently, fenugreek can cause false readings of maple syrup disease in babies, and sure enough I realized I smelled like maple syrup every time I hit the loo. I am not being a hypochondriac either. It's like when you eat asparagus and can clearly smell it in your urine...except I actually smell like an IHOP! It's unmistakeable and so very strange.

Needless to say, I decided it's simply not worth taking these supplements if there's any chance it's causing any doo-doo disdain for Preston. They have definitely helped increase my supply, as I went from pumping only 0.5/1 oz. on both breasts per session, to now averaging 3 oz. However, many times a supply can be well established by 6 weeks, and we will be 6 weeks on Monday. Worth noting that I also rented a hospital grade pump for a month (Medela Symphony) to help bring in my stubborn to flow milk.

It's equally important, if not more important, to just keep creating the demand for milk by pumping, and that is something I'm continuing to do of course. I just returned the Symphony yesterday, because we don't need the $75/month rental fee. Instead, I will still be using my spiffy little Medela Pump In Style Advance that I got for FREE thanks to the Affordable Care Act. It's a $300 pump itself, so I will take what I can get even if it's not the very best available.

And because I'm one of those people who feels they need to be doing something more, I began searching for other natural ways of increasing milk production through nutrition alone. I made these Major Milk Makin' Cookies last night for the first time. Jackpot!!!

These cookies are seriously good, and I would feel pretty good about eating them even if I wasn't lactating. Outside of being full of galactogogues, they are pretty healthy for tons of other things...heart health for one. Maybe I shouldn't have told hubby they are for makin milk, because he needs these in his life too! I'm hoping he likes them, because unbeknownst to me, the recipe made almost 5 dozen. We've got some cookie eating to do!

This could be dangerous.

The magic milk making ingredients are oatmeal, brewer's yeast, and flaxseed meal...

You can read about all of the amazing properties of these foods here if you're interested. The blogger who posted this recipe @ gives some fantastic info on how it works to increase prolactin, the key hormone related to milk production.

Only time will tell if/how my supply is affected, both from the dropping of the fenu-fart and discontinuation of the hospital grade pump, as well as the addition of the cookies to hopefully balance it all out. I couldn't help but notice after making the cookies last night (and proceeding to eat a few more than I'd planned) that my next pumping session I got 5 oz! It could be coincidence, but I rarely ever get 5 oz, so I'm hopeful they're a decent enough replacement. Hopefully I won't turn into a total cow eating them like candy either. Cow's are good for milk making yes, but not good to fit in my shorts. ha!

We've been using this really convenient iPhone app to track Preston's feedings and my pumping sessions. There are a ton of apps out there, but if you need something to help organize I highly recommend iBaby Feed Timer.

This is what the log looks like...

This is what data for our last 24 hours, week, and month look like...

Bottle Feedings

The app allows you to input anything related to breastfeeding, pumping, feedings, dirty diapers, sleep, and make notes anywhere needed. You can share the account across more than one iPhone, so that means hubby or a caregiver/babysitter can track while you're not with baby. You can view all the data in real time as soon as the other person inputs something. Then, it also analyzes data so you can see trends over time. And, you can even email/print a spreadsheet of all the data at the click of a button...pretty handy if you need it to show your LC or pediatrician for any reason.

Fingers crossed I won't see a huge decline in supply due to the dropping of supplements and downgrading my pump, but if I do, I'll just drown my sorrows in cookies and almond milk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thank You letter to RE

There are many thank yous I've made along our journey to parenthood, but this one was long overdue. I ran into my RE at the beginning stages of pregnancy while visiting my MFM in the same building, and I proceeded to have an emotional breakdown. I could barely mutter a "thank you" at the time. I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude.  I truly feel that without IVF, we may not have ever had success starting a family, so I wanted to send him and his staff a proper "thank you." This is what a wrote...

Dear Dr. Vaughn,                                                                                                     8/23/14

I’m writing because there is no way I could ever convey my heartfelt thanks in person without sobbing buckets of tears…tears of joy of course. I sit here having just fed our absolutely perfect little boy, who just turned one month old. Preston Alexander joined our family on 8/18/14 at 21 ¾ inches long & 8 lbs. 8 oz.  He’s a very healthy and happy boy!

As you know, it wasn’t an easy journey for us to the place we’re at now. However, I don’t feel we would have arrived at this new and exciting chapter without your help. We came to you after being dissatisfied with another RE, and I knew from the moment I stepped into your office that you were the one to help us. There was a figurine on your desk which read “Babies are a gift from God” or something along those lines. This was only a very small clue into the humble, caring, patient, knowledgeable and just “meant-to-be” doctor that we invited into our journey…YOU!

It wasn’t an easy or clear-cut path. There were pregnancy losses, failed attempts, surgeries, and many tears. However, one thing remained constant; anytime you walked in the room, I immediately felt at peace. I knew that you were our strongest ally always. I felt I could trust you without a doubt and that you had our best interests at heart. A peace just fell over me anytime you were there, and when I felt like giving up, it’s like God whispered “Stay right where you’re at. You are exactly where you should be.”

I am just so glad we did! No question that you are truly in your line of work first and foremost to help people realize their dream of having a family. I have always believed that fertility medicine is not taking the place of God’s desires for us, but that He anoints gifts to certain people to help those who need it. You, Dr. Vaughn, are one of those people. I know he placed you in our lives for a reason. And even if it didn’t happen on our timeline at first, I can now say that I wouldn’t change it, because look at the amazing miracle we now have in our lives.

There are no words to convey our gratitude for everything you did to help us. You are making a HUGE mark on this world, one patient at a time. I know I am only one of thousands of people who feel this way about you and your life’s work. THANK YOU and your entire staff from the bottom of our hearts!

With Gratitude,

Matt, Emily & Preston

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1 Month Foxy Hiccupotamus

Our hungry little milk monster has morphed into an uncontrollable hiccuper this week, earning him a new nickname...all credit goes to the hubs for that one. Brilliant! Apparently, the intense hiccuping I'd felt in the womb for the last half of the pregnancy is sticking around for a bit longer. Preston is getting pretty tired of it, and I was wondering if it was normal. Well, come to find out it is a normal newborn thing. The pediatrician says it could last until 6 months of age, so we have a ways to go before we say sayonara to hiccups and hello to some other nickname making fun of Preston's bodily functions.

Hard to believe, but P will be 1 month old officially tomorrow! He wanted to look foxy for the occasion...

He's already wearing 3 month clothing and has outgrown much of his newborn and 0-3 month stuff. This is probably not the most accurate way of weighing a newborn, but hubby weighs himself holding Preston, and then weighs himself without Preston to get P's weight. According to our very scientific calculations, he's about 12 pounds by now. Is that even possible? Um, I'm thinking YES with the amount of food that he's eating. Our new favorite line is "He can't be hungry again!"

I'm pretty sure when I wrote my last post, he was going through a growth spurt and was consuming a ridiculous amount of milk. Since then, I've really tried to make sure he's giving solid hunger cues before handing him a bottle. We're getting better at distinguishing his different cries, and even one which resembles a dolphin noise. Not even kidding, he sounds like Flipper, which makes us laugh every time. I'm not sure if it's because we're being better about trying other comfort measures before the bottle, or because his growth spurt died down, but his eating has normalized slightly and he's not requiring quite as much to satiate him the past few days. I WISH I could say the same about the amount of diapers he's blowing through (literally).  

Yesterday was quite a record breaking day. 15 diaper all time high. Preston tells us immediately when his diaper is wet and does NOT like sitting in it! We are not keen on just letting him fuss in the middle of the night and hoping he'll settle back down either. I mean, I wouldn't want to sit in wet diapers, and I don't feel right letting my kid do it either. 99% of the time it's guaranteed to escalate way past a wimper anyways. I'm hoping there will come a time when a tiny little wetness in his diaper won't create a blood curdling scream as if he's about to die, but for now we're at his beckon call changing diapers faster than a NASCAR pit crew.

It was also a good day, because for the FIRST TIME EVER I pumped enough breast milk to meet his needs. He drank 26.8 oz. of breastmilk & I pumped 29.5 oz. Get I get a hallelujah?! I won't say it was easy. I pumped around the clock every few hours, and it took 8 pumping sessions followed by hand expressing to get there, but I finally did it. Realistically, there isn't a huge enough surplus that I am confident I can do that every day, and I don't expect to. 30 oz/day is good on a day he's being a mild eater, but on days when he's absolutely frenzied and eating his hands off every 2 hours, I just don't see how I'll ever keep up. Still, I will keep trying my best and enjoying the feeling when I can give little to no formula. Preston enjoys those days too. His tummy is more settled, and he's happier and less fussy overall.

And on that note. I've got to run. I'm past due to pump, and the hiccupotamus needs a diaper change!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 Week Flailings of a First Time Mom

Excuse my absence. It's been a tad busy around here. I've been reading others' blogs during pumping sessions, which is my only time to be online lately. Taking out my computer has been a challenge, but let's see if I can actually get a blog in.

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind! Talk about not knowing which way is up or down. Our "plan" seems to change daily around here, constantly adapting to what might work or not work. I think we've moved our nursing glider about 4 times now, as well as other furniture and baby entertaining devices. It's like musical chairs for clueless first time parents.

Whoever invented the Fisher Price Rock n' Play deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, by the way. Our little guy is totally addicted to it, and against everything I said we wouldn't do, he's actually been sleeping in it in our room at night. We tried having him sleep in the bassinet of his Pack n' Play, but he's just not having that. We also had him sleep one night in his crib (upstairs in his nursery with camera monitoring). He did fantastic for one whole night and then he wasn't having that either the next night.

Ultimately, we've decided it's still really early to have him away on a complete different floor from us. He's only 3 weeks old, and we want him near us at night. However, the RNP is the only thing that seems to make him happy, so RNP it is for now. I realize I may have a beast to tend with later when transitioning to crib (which obviously doesn't vibrate or cozy him like the RNP), but it's anything to stay sane and get a couple hours of sleep for us right now. Pediatrician says it's totally fine, so guess we get a free pass on that one.

Other than that, our life is ruled by feedings, diaper changes, random meltdowns, and celebrations of poopy diapers after long stretches of grunting and kicking in a very dramatic effort to poo. My life specifically has been ruled by pumping, which I try to do 7 times each day. In fact, I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed for now and switch to EP (Exclusive Pumping).

I mentioned earlier than I was using SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) feeding. This was because my milk was really late to come in (took 1 week for it to even show), and even then I wasn't producing 100% of Preston's needs. The SNS is a little contraption that you fill with formula, but then attach a tube to your breast with tape right near the nipple. It delivers formula via this tube, but the baby thinks it's just coming from your breast, so the risk of "nipple confusion" later on when you do decide to solely breastfeed is lessened, because he's always fed right at the breast. Here is a pic of what that looked like...

When I didn't want to strangle myself with the SNS

Awe, don't we look so serene? DO NOT BELIEVE THIS PICTURE!!! LOL  Seriously though, this was during our "honeymoon phase" with the SNS while in the hospital. What you don't see is what ensued in the 2 weeks that followed this photo...of me and Preston and dad (yes, it took 3 people to make this work many times) awake at 2 AM feedings, getting the formula ready, attaching it to mom exactly right, getting baby in position on the breast friend pillow without making me gasp in pain from my C section incision, getting him to latch on to this tiny floppy spaghetti noodle tube taped to my boob, making sure it was aligned with his chin so that it was actually flowing correctly, and then him proceeding to fall asleep at nearly every feeding, at which time I would try every trick in the book to wake him (blowing on him, undressing him, caressing him, you name it) to keep him eating, and then try to keep the device working properly the entire time as the noodle flopped out or was yanked out by someone's curiously strong little hands. It was a giant PITA!

I really tried to make the SNS work, but it was NOT a long term solution, and my body wasn't upping it's game on the production front quickly enough. I also hoped I'd be able to solely breastfeed, but it just didn't click like I'd hoped. I met with 3 different lactation consultants while in hospital and had a really great one come to our home for a 3.5 hr visit afterwards. She put me on a "triple feeding" routine in an attempt to increase milk supply fast, where every 2-3 hours I would

1) feed Preston with the SNS, while simultaneously using manual stimulation of my own breast to make sure he was also getting breast milk along with the formula
2) pump with hospital grade pump for 10-15 minutes afterwards
3) hand express for 5 minutes after that

You guys, I did this routine 7-10 times per day for 2 solid weeks, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I saw some slight increases in my pumping amounts, but due to the fact Preston was also drinking some from the breast, I really had no clue how much I was actually making or delivering on any given day. It felt like I was giving formula all the time through the SNS and it was not an easy process. I was MISERABLE. I was not enjoying feedings like I should have been, and I'm sure Preston wasn't either.  We decided that we needed something simpler.

For me, the goal of breastfeeding has always been more about the nutritional aspects for baby than it was about the bonding (I know, opposite of many moms). However, I really felt like I could bond with baby better if I was A) happier and more relaxed and B) I had the time to do it. I wasn't having any time to just hold baby much after feedings, and snuggle and just be together. And so after many tears and discussions, hubby and I agreed that I'd try EP instead. This meant no more floppy spaghetti noodle taped to my boob. No more failed attempts at satiating baby at the breast alone, followed by cries for more food. Instead, I would just do my best to pump as much breast milk as I could. We would deliver through bottles (which would allow hubby to take on some responsibility of feedings too) and then we'd just supplement with formula when we had to.

So far, pumping is working much better for us. I won't lie. EP comes with it's own set of challenges. There is still zero down time. I don't work, and while this might seem easier, I can't take a "break" in a quiet room to pump and am not protected by any law stating I am allowed to take a break. I'm by no means saying working moms have it any easier, just saying I can't ever get away to pump, unless hubby offers to watch baby and/or he's sleeping. Baby always needs something, and only with the help of my amazing hubby to take on baby duties, it's made possible.

I really want to give Preston the very best I can, so I'm trying my best to stick with it.
I can't make any promises how long this will all last though. As I type this, I am already an hour overdue to pump, have just fed Preston, and he's strapped to my chest via his Baby Bjorn, because it was the only thing that would make him happy at the moment. Unfortunately, there are no holes for pumping in this carrier, so time will tick by until I do get a free moment to pump next. I actually enjoy just holding him more than pumping anyways, so I'm happy for the excuse to miss a pump on occasion.

Additionally, I'm not even sure how long I'll choose to pump, because the other clock that is ticking is my biological clock. We won't be able to TTC until my period returns, which will most likely never happen while pumping this much. If/when we decide to TTC naturally or pursue fertility treatments again, the pumping will have to cease altogether.

Speaking of clocks, here is a snapshot of what our day looked like yesterday just to give you an idea of what goes down on a daily basis...

11:00 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (57 mL)
10:45 PM- Wet diaper
10:25 PM- Wet diaper
9:50 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (60 mL)
9:45 PM- Pumping (100 mL)
9:30 PM- Wet diaper
9:00 PM- Wet & dirty diaper
8:35 PM- Bottle of breasmilk (120 mL)
8:30 PM- Wet diaper
7:00 PM- Pumping (110 mL)
6:30 PM- Wet diaper
5:55 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (120 mL)

3:40 PM- Wet & dirty diaper
3:35 PM- Wet & dirty diaper
3:20 PM- Bottle of breatsmilk (128 mL)
3:15 PM- Pumping  (110 mL)

12:15 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (90 mL)
11:35 AM- Pumping (90 mL)

11:20 AM- Wet diaper
10:45 AM- Wet diaper
10:00 AM- Bottle of breastmilk (120 mL)
10:00 AM- Wet diaper
8:00 AM- Pumping (120 mL)

7:30 AM- Wet diaper
7:05 AM- Bottle of breastmilk (120 mL)
5:40 AM- Wet diaper
5:20 AM-Bottle of breastmilk (80 mL)

5:20 AM- Wet diaper
3:45 AM- Pumping (100 mL)

3:20 AM- Bottle of breastmilk (60 mL)
3:15 AM- Wet diaper
12:45 AM- Pumping (125 mL)
12:45 AM- Bottle of formula (128 mL)

Phew! Anyone tired just reading this?!?! It's just me and hubby flying solo here, so no rest for the weary! This day I'm happy to say we were able to give mostly breastmilk, because we did more formula the day before, and I had extra breastmilk stockpiling in the fridge. I would love to give this much breastmilk every day, but I'm always racing to pump more. Outside of carving out time, my body has just needed a lot of extra help to do this it seems.

Apparently, some women with fertility issues also have trouble with milk production, and I'm thinking it's plausible I might be one of them. Sure, I'm producing more now, but it's taken a village and whole lotta work, and it hasn't just happened naturally like it's supposed to. I haven't had my prolactin tested to find out if it's hormonal....I need another "to do" like I need a hole in the head if you can't tell. Honestly, I'm really not interested in traveling down a path of having a bunch of blood tests done to figure out what the real culprit is in this. 

What I'm able to get now is exponentially greater than it was at first though. I'm taking supplements religiously to try to help increase my supply, like fenugreek, blessed thistle, and nursing tea...

I'm now making about 2/3 of what Preston needs at this point, and we're giving less formula than we were before.  I'm still striving to make enough for 100% of his needs, which is no small feat as this milk monster's appetite grows leaps and bounds. I'm pretty sure he's having a growth spurt this week, but I'm not giving up as of yet. Now yesterday, when I woke up to blisters on my nipples...I was ready to just throw in the towel and quit altogether! It's easy to feel defeated when you are in pain or things aren't playing out the way you'd envisioned them. But then, I tweaked a few things (bought larger flanges, did some first aid on the nips, started using nipple butter again at each pumping, etc) and I was right back to pumping.

As for formula, that's been a challenge in and of itself.
Preston's tummy doesn't agree as well with it, and we are now on formula attempt #5. We've tried several to see what works at the advice of our pediatrician and many other moms out there. None of them settle as well as breastmilk, but Similac Alimentum seems to be the best for us so far. Of course, we may need to take out a second mortgage to afford this stuff. Cha-Ching! Gotta be the most expensive formula you can possibly buy. Figures! We've also added Culturelle probiotic to one bottle daily and are using infant gas drops with formula feedings. Still nothing works 100%, but we'll keep trying to ease his discomfort the best we can. When you see your baby in pain from gassiness or trying to poo, it's all you can do to try to fix it.

I never thought I'd be so affected by someone else's bowel movements, but it's like a 4th of July celebration around here when Preston has a good poop! He's happier, we're happier. I swear, even the cats are happier, because he's not fussing and crying. I really look forward to his digestive system normalizing more, which I understand usually happens by about 3 months. I'm assuming that the farting will not stop there though, and that I have many years of boy farts to look forward to.

As crazy as it's been, I've got to say I'm proud of us as a couple. We really have no clue what we're doing, but we're making it work. We've somehow managed to keep a clean home, feed ourselves, and make sure our animals are still alive as well. CPS has not come and arrested us yet, and our baby is eating and pooping and gaining weight (Preston was 9 lbs. 2 oz. at his 2 week apt, up from 8 lbs. 8 oz. at birth)...he's got to be over 10 lbs by now. I keep reminding myself that if the millions of idiots out there can raise a kid, then so can we!

Plus, all of the hectic moments just melt away when we look at the sweet face of this little boy who depends on us for every little thing. He has such a sweet personality already, and makes us laugh at the smallest of things, like his soft high pitched wimpers when he's tired or the way he attacks a bottle like a caveman when he's hungry. Here are a couple snaps over the last couple of weeks...

First bath at home

Snoozing right now as I blog
Snuggle attire...check!
First walk around the neighborhood. Fresh air!