maka

It looks like Bumby has weaned. Not to sound braggy, or jinx myself or anything, but our breastfeeding relationship was pretty much exactly what I wanted for us.  Although I think this was the right time for it to be over, I am still a bit sad.  This is how it went for us:

3 seconds in:  I haven’t really even processed yet that Bumby is born, and a boy, when he is flopped onto my bare chest.  He wiggles around.  Amazingly, he can lift up his own head. I think that he looks like a small turtle, lying there on his tummy with his head bobbing around. The first thing he does is nurse, before he even looks at me.

2 weeks in:  I literally hit my wife in the face for having the nerve to be SLEEPING, when some of us are trying to BREASTFEED, with tears streaming down my face from the pain. We weren’t doing it right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

4 weeks in:  I read the La Leche League book and find the forum.  I learn to let Bumby take the lead (i.e., I ignore the advice of the nurse in the hospital to force it) and it becomes more comfortable. I start to relax. It’s tolerable.  I think I will make it to 3 months, then quit.

6 weeks in:  I get thrush, which I have heard called  “athletes foot of the boob.” This is a pretty accurate description of what it feels like. There is no sleeping, and I have to go to some weird pharmacy on Long Island to get the specific ointment that my hippie OB has prescribed for us.  It works, and the thrush goes away, but not before I ignore, in an exhausted daze, the fact that a pipe has burst behind our house and we have a water bill over $1,000 because water has been pouring out inside of our back wall for days. Oops.

Five months in: I am still, magically, gloriously, on maternity leave. It is sunny and hot.  It is June.  We have gone to the farmer’s market, Bumby in the Ergo. We took the dog on a long nature trail walk, and go home.  I lie on the bed and nurse Bumby while simultaneously eating farmers market strawberries.  I think that having a baby is the greatest.  Being a mom is the greatest. This is just how it should be. We take a nap with the windows open and the warm breeze blowing.  He still won’t sleep unless he is on top of me, so I take full advantage of this and nap with him every single day.

A year in: He stops taking bottles.  I still pump religiously, but the amount he will drink drops and drops.  He has never wanted freezer milk, but would tolerate refrigerator milk until now. I finally taste it and realize it tastes AWFUL.  Probably I have high lipase or something, but Bumby is such a hungry guy that he just drank the bottles anyway while I was at work.  I continue to pump, even though I change jobs and have to go down to a weird little room because my office has glass walls. I dump the nasty tasting milk down the drain.  He stays nice and fat, nursing when I am home and eating food when I am not.

18 months in: We nurse only in the morning, at naptime if I am home, and at bedtime.  While I nurse him, I sing. His favorite is Baby Beluga.  He has learned to talk, and calls nursing, or breasts, or milk, or anything associated therewith “Maka.”  He says “Maka mama. That maka all done. Switch maka.  Maka maka moo moo moo.”  I tell him it’s not polite to insinuate that your mother is a cow.

Two years in:  We drop the bedtime nursing.  He doesn’t ask for a couple days, and I don’t offer. One night he says “Maka mama” at bedtime, and I say, “Sorry Bumbs. We don’t do maka at bedtime anymore. You can have maka in the morning.”  He says okay, and we sing and rock in the chair.  I am surprised that he doesn’t cry, but he doesn’t.

Two years, two months in: My grandfather is dying. I have never been away from Bumby overnight before, but I leave for Michigan without a thought. I learn that he is dying, and two hours later I am sitting on a flight.  Bumby only nurses in the morning now, but halfway through the 5 days I am in Michigan caring for my grandfather, I realize I am painfully engorged, although it has taken more than two full days to get here.  I take a hot shower and hand express. I am surprised how much milk there still is.  When I get home, I ask Bumby if Mommy took good care of him.  He frowns at me and says, “Mommy doesn’t know Baby Beluga.”  Otherwise, it seems things went just fine. I tell her she better listen to the Raffi album a bit more in case I need to travel again.

Two years, three months in: Bumby still nurses in the morning. Mommy gets him from his bed and he crawls in our bed with me, snuggles up, and says “Maka maka moo moo moo. PUH-LEEZE.”  He is working on being a “polite young man.”  If I happen to be up already when he wakes up, he is usually too distracted to nurse, but goes right back to it the next day.

Two years, four months in:  Bumby gets a double ear infection.  He naps longer during the day, fusses all night, and sleeps in, while we battle his 105 fever. We can’t let it spike, or we risk another seizure and another trip to the ER.  We set our alarm and alternate Tylenol, Motrin, Tylenol, Motrin, all day and all night.  Even though I feel like a zombie, I am always awake before him in the morning, and he doesn’t nurse those days. One day, before his nap, we sit down to sing in the rocking chair, and he says, “Maka mama. Naptime maka.”  I say okay, and it takes me longer to sing Baby Beluga than it takes him to nurse. A few days later, he is well again, and up before me.  He snuggles into bed and says, “Maka maka moo moo moo.  Please.”  He tries to nurse, then frowns at me and says, “That maka all gone. Let’s go downstairs and PLAY!”  He doesn’t ask again.

 

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a year

Bumby is almost a year. It is only nine days away. I can’t believe it. My timehop app keeps showing me pictures of me in all my enormous glory a year ago. Instead of seeming fluid, the last year seems to have passed in fits and starts, snapshots of moments that I spent with my little boy.

  • We are leaving the hospital. Although my wife has had three children before, we are both equally terrified. We have put Bumby into a three-month size set of pajamas, because we are afraid of breaking his arms by trying to fit them in the newborn size pajamas.  We have to roll up the sleeves in order for his tiny fingers to show.  He is jaundiced, and has red, raw cheeks that are shedding the top layer of skin.  He is nine pounds, and 20 inches. He is the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever seen. I stare at him the whole way home, and make my wife drive 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.  I want to cry all of the time because my heart is breaking with love.
  • It is late, and I am exhausted. I am nursing my two week old baby for the hundredth time that day, and it hurts so bad it brings tears to my eyes. We will never get this, I am sure. I wake up my wife, because WHAT IS SHE DOING SLEEPING WHEN SOME OF US ARE TRYING TO BREASTFEED OVER HERE?
  • He is four months old, and we went for a walk in the woods with the dog.  We came home and I ate a bowl of strawberries while I nursed him (painlessly, effortlessly). We both fall asleep and take a long afternoon nap together with the sun streaming in through the windows.
  • He wakes, again, covered in vomit and screaming. I hold him and rock him and nurse him. An hour later it happens again. I look down at my poor little baby, and think that I would gladly take this reflux from him so he could sleep without pain.  Instead I call a doctor, and then another one, and then another one.
  • I pull him onto my lap, with his blanket and his pacifier. Here are Paul and Judy. They can do lots of things. You can do lots of things, too. Judy can pat the bunny. Can you pat the bunny?  It turns out he can! He dutifully pats the bunny, and looks in the mirror, and smells the flowers, and sticks his finger through mama’s ring. We skip the page with daddy’s scratchy face. That page is weird anyway.
  • I have washed the sheets on the big bed in his room. I am trying to make it, and he keeps crawling all over the sheet.  I sit on the floor with him, and we hide under the sheet. He laughs and laughs, Mama and Bumby in a tent.
  • I wake up in the night, engorged. It has been eight hours, and my baby is still sleeping. I tiptoe into the kitchen and pump, just enough to take the edge off, while peering at him on the video monitor. He snuffles, then moves, then snuffles again, and sighs himself back to sleep.
  • He flies down the stairs, on his back, headfirst, tucked into a ball so his head doesn’t bang. I scoop him up when he gets to the bottom, terrified of what has happened. He does not cry. I do, enough for both of us.  He sticks his finger up my nose and laughs.  He is fine. One day later I pay obscene amounts of money to have sturdy gates professionally installed all over our house. I hate that it is impossible to protect him.
  • I throw him on the bed on his back, and his mouth opens wide in a laugh. I call my wife in.  I give him a good tickle, and he opens his mouth wide again, laughing. She and I stare in shock at the fifth and sixth tooth in his mouth, which he cut without a single complaint. We didn’t even know he was teething this time.
  • I pull him onto my lap, with his blanket and his pacifier. Here are Paul and Judy. He looks up at me, closes the book, lays his head near my breast, and takes out his pacifier. Too tired for a book tonight, Mama. Let’s just get to the good part.
  • I am unloading the dishwasher, and realize the house is quiet. Too quiet. I look around, and find Bumby under the dining room table, feeding the dog triscuits out of a box he has snagged from the snack cupboard.
  • I come home from work, and he looks up from playing when he hears my voice. He pulls up on the coffee table, and walks over to me as fast as he can, falling all over the place, saying “mama mama mama mama.” He flings himself at my legs, “Up up up.”  I pick him up.

My little baby. My only baby.  I can’t believe how fast the year has gone, and I can’t believe that Bumby has not always been a part of our lives.

operation bumbysleep: the worst night, and the best

The worst night

Two nights ago, I nursed Bumby to sleep, like I always do. Well, I nursed him, then I rocked him, then I placed a sleeping baby into his crib. It was relatively painless.  He hadn’t nursed fully, so before I went to bed, I decided to pump.  I had a business trip the next day, so I would be away from home for over 16 hours, and I thought an extra bottle couldn’t hurt.  At midnight, he woke up.  I tried to nurse him, he did not want that.  I tried to rock him.  He did not want that.  I walked around holding him, patting his back.  He screamed, and screamed, and screamed.  I tried to rock him again.  He flung his head backward and bashed it on the arm of the rocking chair, and screamed.  I stood up and bounced him, and he kicked me hard enough in the bicep that I almost dropped him.  I persevered.  Time went by.

My wife came up as I was sobbing, he was screaming, and I was shouting “STOP HURTING ME!” at a baby who was kicking me in the arms and chest while simultaneously pulling my hair.  I handed off.

After 20 minutes or so of my wife doing all the same things that had not been working for me, we stopped.  We laid our wailing baby in the crib, and she patted his back.  He calmed down, we stepped away.  He cried again.  She patted again.  He calmed, we stepped away, we left the room.  This went on, and on, and on.  Sometimes, patting didn’t work, and we picked him up.  Once, I went in to pat and he stood up, wailed, and clung to my arm with the most pathetic face I have ever seen.  I picked him up, he calmed, and I set him down.  Repeat, repeat.  When he got particularly wail-ey, and wouldn’t be soothed by holding or patting, we set him down and decided to give him 30 seconds.  We stood outside his door talking about whether we were okay with how this was going.  We are both adamantly opposed to letting him cry it out. This wasn’t that, but it wasn’t always far off either, especially at that moment when we were standing outside his door as he cried. It was only a short while, a minute at most, but it was probably the first time in his life when we had not responded to his cry. Listening to us outside of his door, he quieted.  It was around 2 am.

At 2:15, we were lying in bed, and listening to Bumby make all kinds of little baby mouth sounds over the monitor.  He was not crying, just chirping to himself, chewing his fingers, occasionally amusing himself enough to giggle a bit.  And then….. he just wasn’t.  It took 2 1/2 hours, but he went back to sleep on his own, alone, in his room.  At 4, he woke, and I nursed him.  He fell asleep easily after nursing, and I put him back in his crib.  I got up an hour later and went on my business trip with a solid 2 1/2 hours of sleep under my belt. It was the worst night he has had since he was born.

The next day, I fretted.  I was away from my baby for his morning nursing for the first time ever.  He had fallen asleep alone in a dark room for the first time ever. Did he feel abandoned by me? Was he angry?  Was he doing okay?  I have read all the sleep research, and I agree with Dr. Sears on this point — If you do something to get your baby to sleep, and he’s not himself the next day, he’s telling you that what you tried wasn’t okay with him.  But I was away!  Was he okay with what we had tried?  I didn’t know.

I called home, and learned that he had been happy all day. He took a nice long nap in the morning, over 2 hours, to catch up on some of the sleep he missed overnight.  He ate well, he played, he laughed.  He was okay.  I was not, but that was for me to work on.  After all this, I am not sure I was ready for a baby who didn’t need me multiple times in the night, a baby who would only nurse once.  But the way things were going clearly weren’t good for him, so we had to try this.

The best night

That night, we committed ourselves to staying the course.  I would nurse and rock Bumby to sleep like usual, but if he woke in the night before 4 am, he had to go back to sleep on his own.  We would help him calm down, but going back to sleep was his job. We set the stage for him.  I gave him his reflux medicine, and he ate dinner.  I put him in his jammies and changed his diaper. I put a couple drops of a fennel/catnip natural gas drop that we just got onto his pacifier.  I turned on his nightlights and his heater so his room was dim and cozy.  I sat down to nurse him, and he was PISSED OFF.  Just like in the middle of the night the night before, he would not nurse, he would not be soothed by rocking.  I thought about it, and realized that I had just nursed him about 2 hours before, because the business trip had thrown off my nursing and pumping schedule.  So I got a small bottle, maybe 2oz of milk, and gave him that instead.  He sucked it down, snuggled into my belly, and drifted off to sleep, just like that. I picked him up and set him in his crib, no drama.  He stayed asleep.

He woke at 10:30 or so, and I gave him back his pacifier.   He rolled onto his side, and went back to sleep.  Thanks, mama.

He woke at 12:30 wanting to nurse, but no dice. My wife went up, and patted him.  He screamed louder — you are not mama, and you do not have milk for me!  She stepped out for a second.  He calmed almost immediately as she stood outside his door.  She came down, and we went back to sleep and so did he.

He woke at 4:45.  I snuggled in the big bed with him and nursed him.  He drank a full meal, rolled onto his back, and went to sleep.  I roused him to burp, then put him back in his crib.  He snuggled in, grabbed his blankie, sighed, and went back to sleep.  I went back to bed myself.

He woke at 7:45 with a diaper full of poop and a smile on his face. He slept over 10 hours, and woke up three times. This is the best night we have had in months.

We are committed now.  We will make him as comfortable as possible so that sleep will come easier for him.  We will help him get to sleep at the start of the night, with a full belly and a comfortable room and even some rocking to help him transition from his busy day to his nighttime.  If he wakes at 4am or later, he can have a snack.  But if he wakes before that, or if he doesn’t fall asleep nursing, going back to sleep is his job.  We will always respond if he cries, and he will never be left to cry himself to sleep, but in the middle of the night he goes in his crib awake, because he needs to go back to sleep on his own.

I am sure we will have more setbacks, more nights like the worst night before we have more nights like the best night. But for the first time I have some hope. I think his reflux medicine is working, and I think his gas drops are working, and I think he’s finally comfortable.  He liked the bottle at bedtime, so if it seems like there is not enough milk to nurse, he can have another one if he wants so that he goes to bed with a  belly full of milk and can make it to 4am.  I love putting him to bed gently and having him fall asleep in my arms.  I love nursing him once in the night, so I am in no rush to night-wean completely, but a partial night-wean and some self-soothing in the middle of the night seem to be good for him.  And also good for me.

four months!

Bumby had his four month checkup on Friday.  He weighed in at 17lbs, 5oz.  This is a 5lb weight gain from his 2 month appointment, and puts him in the 90th percentile.  Although this seems huge, it was actually a relief for me, because last week, I did that weigh yourself holding the baby and weigh yourself without the baby trick, and came up with 22lbs.  So 17 5 is sounding pretty good to me (and my biceps).  For length, he was right around the 75th percentile. This makes him a relatively chubby baby, but this isn’t a surprise at 4 months with an exclusively breastfed baby.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with an immigration client of mine from Jamaica (let’s call him Vincent, for the sake of conversation).  He recommended that we put mashed potatoes on Bumby’s lips and see if he licked them off.  If he did, Vincent said that this meant he was ready for solids.  This is apparently what they do in Jamaica.  All weekend, we laughed about this idea.  Mashed potatoes at less than four months, as a first food.  Potatoes, butter, milk, and salt, all rolled into one.  Vincent opined that he could also have gravy.  Well, last week we were coincidentally having mashed potatoes for dinner. “Want to do Vincent’s trick?” my wife asked.  We decided to give it a try, and my wife smeared a fingerful of mashed potatoes and gravy on Bumby’s lips.  Not only did he enthusiastically lick it off, but he grabbed her hand looking for more.  She gave him a bit more, but stopped short of giving him her entire helping, which I actually think he would have gobbled up if given the opportunity.

I asked the doctor whether we could or should start our big boy on solids, and whether she thought this would help him sleep.  She recommended waiting a little longer, so that his digestive system would have more time to mature, which makes sense to me. I am a little reluctant to give up his exclusively breastfed status before we do a little bit of traveling this summer. He has never even had a bottle, and can’t sit up on his own in the high chair yet.

We also talked about the sleeping (or lack thereof), but she didn’t really have any ideas we hadn’t already tried.  She said solids would only help if he had reflux or silent reflux, since the weight would help keep his food down. In reality. he’s not really waking up hungry. He just nurses at night because it’s his favorite way to get back to sleep, so solids wouldn’t help with that.

All in all, our Bumby is a big, healthy baby boy.  He got his four-month vaccines, and off we went. He didn’t even cry for his first poke, and his little tears at the second poke were easily cured with a quick nursing.

  
And to everyone relying on herd immunity to keep themselves or their kids safe, for whatever reason, Bumby and his chubby thighs say “You’re welcome.”

pump it up 

I love breastfeeding Bumby. I have written a lot about breastfeeding, although I haven’t published any of it, but it can be summed up as: breastfeeding totally sucks for a while — it hurts, and no one knows what they are doing, and I wanted to quit — but then it just got better and better and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Blah blah bonding and not having to carry bottles around. 

What I have really, really struggled with is pumping. Bumby is a big boy. Even when we were struggling with breastfeeding, he was having lots of dirty diapers and gaining well. So, obviously, milk was being consumed. When he was a couple weeks old, I started trying to pump. I would get an ounce, maybe an ounce and a half on a good day. The most I ever got was two. And this was pumping first thing in the morning, fully engorged, from both breasts, before feeding Bumby. I tried everything to get more milk. I tried with him in the room and out of the room. I tried different size flanges and breast compressions. I tried pumping one side while nursing him on the other side. It was always just a slow drip. Drip. Drip. Until nothing more came out. One day I collected more by catching what leaked out of my other breast while I was nursing than I could collect pumping. 

All this was tied up in leaving Bumny alone to go back to work. I have been obsessing over returning to work since I found out I was pregnant. I want to work. And I want to be home with Bumby. I hate that they are mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, a deadline loomed. If I return to work, I need to learn to pump and get Bumby to take a bottle before I go. He’s already more than 3 months, so introducing the bottle might not be so easy. Also, I love nursing. I’m not eager to drop a breastfeeding session in favor of a pump and bottle. 

I was diligent with the pumping for a month or so. An ounce a day, for 30 days. In a month, I had pumped enough to feed Bumby for a day and a half. Toward the end of the month, pumping and feeding started to get a little uncomfortable. Then really, really uncomfortable.  A post on the la leche league board and a visit to my OB confirmed I had thrush (a yeast infection in my nipples). It was definitely as unpleasant as it sounds. Itching and burning – the athletes foot of the boob. The worst part was that freezing the milk doesn’t kill yeast, so I had to throw out about 2 weeks worth of milk, and I would have to dump all milk I pumped until the thrush was gone. Otherwise, if Bumby drank the yeasty milk and then nursed, he could reinfect me with the thrush. 

That was too much. I stopped pumping when Bumby was about 7 weeks old. I tried a couple of times since then, but never got even an ounce of milk. 

All this time, the work pressure has been mounting. Am I going back or not?!?! Am I returning to the same job, or finding a new one? What will we do for childcare? In the back of my mind, I thought that if I went back, we were going to have to start Bumby on formula supplements and I would have to wean him from nursing during the workday, which totally broke my heart. We struggled so much at the beginning, and it’s just become really enjoyable. Also, I nurse him for all kinds of non-food reasons. I nurse him to sleep, I nurse him when he’s fussy in the restaurant, I nurse him when his tummy aches because he hasn’t popped in 3 days. I nurse him when he needs some snuggles, and I’m nursing him through his first cold. I don’t want to give it up. If going back to work means weaning, I don’t want to do it. 

Yesterday, my wife and I finally came up with a work-plan. If it will fly with my boss and my law firm, it will give me the best of both worlds — keeping me working in the law without having to hire a nanny for 70 hours a week. I’m going to go in to the office to discuss it in about a month, and if they don’t agree, my wife and I have talked about a few backup plans that we could live with. 

Going in to my office means an hour commute in, an hour or two at work, and an hour home – at least 3-4 hours away from Bumby. The longest he goes during the day without nursing is about 2 1/2 hours, so my wife will need to give him a bottle. Regardless of whether I actually go back to work, he needs to be bottle-ready in a month. That means we need to figure this out in the next couple of weeks. 

For the first time since I started my leave, I feel like I’ll be pitching a work situation that I’ll be happy with, and I really, really want it to work. And even if they ultimately say no, he needs to be able to have a bottle in order for me to even give them my pitch. (Plus, a bottle means the potential return of date night, a not-unwelcome thought.) So I sat down to pump. I was prepared for nothing, or a half ounce. 

I got this. 

 

Almost 3 ounces! Easily. I probably could have gotten a little more, but Bumby was fussing to eat, so I stopped after only 10 minutes. 

So, maybe it was taking a break from pumping. Maybe it was giving up and not caring how much I got. Maybe it was actually wanting to get milk so I could go back to work, rather than secretly holding it in the back of my mind as an excuse to stay home. I don’t know why it worked today and never before. I do think it was mental, though. The only change between today and the last time I pumped was that I really  wanted to be able to give Bumby a bottle of breastmilk.