Momma, When You Feel “Touched Out”

This is a picture my 6yr old daughter snapped of me breastfeeding my 2yr old son, while heavily pregnant. I love what this picture captures, his smile at me and my joy in him. I also love that my daughter decided to take the photo. But breastfeeding through my 5th pregnancy has been challenging in many ways, especially when it comes to feeling “touched out”.IMG_E0307

 

Sometimes, all I want is for the little ones to not need me so much! 

Sometimes, I have to tell my son “not now” when he asks to nurse (and that is okay too).

Sometimes, I need half an hour to myself without the children on me, before I can relax with my husband.

All of this is true, but I want to remind you touched out mommas (and myself) of some very important things…

  • You are so very important to these little people in your life! Your babies, toddlers, and children need you. There will never be another time when simply being with YOU is so incredibly calming for them. Your touch, your kisses, your milk, your lap; you are giving them the love they need. The world may not recognize the work you are doing, but it is so important. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • The older children are watching you, and your love is a gift to them too. Those of you with children of multiple ages, you are giving them an incredible living example of what loving sacrifice looks like. Every time you rock a crying baby, sooth an upset 3yr old, and nurse a tired toddler. Every time you scoop them into your lap and read them a story. Every time you forget about that tea you had to heat up for the third time, because you were too busy giving. Every time momma, they see it. It matters.
  • It really does not last forever. They will grow taller, leaner, and more self reliant. They won’t wake you up at night to cuddle. They won’t beg you for one more story. They won’t cry for you to carry them on your tired hips. They won’t need your presence the same way they do now. But, these days will have built a solid foundation within them. They will still know and rely on your love, and your strength will become their own. They won’t always need you like this, but your sacrifices will always matter.

It may not seem like much more than a whirlwind of tasks some days. Running from mess to mess, child to child, meeting the needs all around you all the time. You finally fall into some sort of sleep, tired and TOUCHED OUT.

But momma, it IS sacred work. Raising these beautiful babies is a higher calling. It is something pure, wonderful, and holy. Often the most holy moments are caught in the most mundane and routine tasks of care-giving. It is humbling work. It changes you daily, in ways you may not realize just yet.

So, yes, put those feet up when you can. Give yourself time, and rest.

But remember what an important, and fleeting time this is.

Shalom.

 

 

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16 Weeks Pregnant and Breastfeeding

So, the weeks are flying by this pregnancy. I think having my first totally unassisted pregnancy is contributing to that feeling, because I don’t have my weeks punctuated with doctor’s visits and ultrasounds. Taking care of my four children, especially my toddler, is taking most of my mental space. Speaking of which, my little 21 month old tornado is breastfeeding! I made this choice for a few reasons, and it is very important to me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

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For starters, my milk is almost entirely gone. This means that nursing is for comfort mainly, and not comfortable for me at all. In my previous pregnancies, I weaned my toddlers because I had severe nursing aversion (imagine nails scratching a chalkboard, spiders crawling on you, and wanting to scream). Thankfully, my aversion has been mild, but nursing is still not fun without milk.

Nursing positions will get harder as the belly gets bigger. At this point I can still fit my son across my lap, but that will certainly not last too much longer. I will have to find a way to do it without bothering my belly, probably laying down on my side. This may limit how often I can nurse him.

Oh the sensitivity! Pregnancy hormones increase the sensitivity of your nipples. That may sounds like a good thing, until you consider a toddler is using them for comfort. OUCH.

Why do I want to do this? My son is not ready to wean yet. I feel that he deserves a gentle weaning process, on his own time schedule. He is having trouble gaining weight, so the longer I can nurse him, the better for his health. He is very attached to me, and I hope that continuing to nurse him after the new baby is born will help ease the transition to big brother (yea…I hope).

Also, nursing calms the savage toddler beast and gives me 5 seconds to sit rather than chase him around the house minimizing his destruction. Who knew a tornado could be so adorable?

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Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 2

Baby Liora was about 1.5 weeks old. I threw out the rest of those tiny bottles of formula. I didn’t want them tempting me and taunting me as I tried to nurse my baby. I began to feel as if I was never wearing a shirt. I was always topless and putting her to the breast. As difficult as that was, I started to feel as if we were making progress. My nipples never hurt or bled like they did with my oldest, her latch was perfect again!

And then, the growth spurt!

Now listen, when you say you want to breastfeed your baby the hospital will hand you a packet of information about it. I remember reading and being told that the baby will nurse approximately 10 minutes on each breast every 2-3 hours. My baby wanted to nurse much longer than that, and it was rare she would go 2 hours between feedings! I felt as if she was nursing 24/7.

The packet told me 10 minutes on each breast! And every 2-3 hours! Surely something must be wrong, because all of a sudden at around the same time every evening she latched on and refused to latch off. I sat on the couch, after three hours of nursing, and cried heartily. What’s wrong with me? I can’t do this! I can’t live like this! This is awful!

That is when I stumbled upon a website called kellymom.com, and it quite possibly saved my breastfeeding relationship. Apparently, you should take that handy packet they give you and throw it in your recycle bin or create a bon fire with it. It is useless, and inaccurate.

First of all, newborns love to nurse. They need to nurse! This is how your supply increases. This is also how they are comforted. Remember in my first post I discussed ditching the pacifier, well our breasts are natures real pacifiers! We pacify our babies at the breast, and we keep our supply regular as well.

Second of all, there was no mention of growth spurts! I was caught off guard completely when Li went hours on end nursing. I thought my supply must be gone. I must be starving my baby! Nope. She was just growing. She was just doing what babies do. It can be frustrating, but I promise it does not last forever. It is usually only a few days of extra nursing, and then your back on track.

I was thankful to know that she wasn’t suddenly starving, and also that this would not last forever; because let’s face it, 3 hours of nursing non-stop wasn’t very fun.

One major benefit was nighttime! Now I know often you hear that formula helps a baby sleep, but I really disagree with that. I formula fed my oldest and this is basically how it went….

  • Feed her a bottle before nighttime, rock her sleep and place her next to me in her co-sleeper.
  • Wake up two hours later with her screaming blood murder.
  • Slowly drag myself out of bed, and hold her in one arm as I shhhh shhhh her and make a bottle.
  • Warm the bottle. While she screams.
  • Take screaming newborn to my rocking chair and give her the bottle.
  • Burp her. Get formula puke on my shoulder.
  • Stand up and walk her around the room, patting her back, get her back to sleep.
  • Lay down in bed.
  • Wake up an hour or two later with her screaming bloody murder.
  • Repeat. ALL NIGHT LONG.

Yeah, not very relaxing or conducive for good sleep!

With my Liora, my first breastfed baby, I had her sleep in my bed with me (yes, it absolutely IS safe when done correctly) and this is how our nights went….

  • Nurse baby in my rocking chair before bed.
  • Baby falls asleep at my breast. Awe, so cute!
  • Read a little bit.
  • Go to bed with baby.
  • Baby starts to stir and make little noises.
  • Latch baby to breast while not moving from sleep position, or fully waking up.
  • Go back to sleep while baby feeds herself at my breast.

Guess which situation gave me better sleep?

So here we were, moving right along in our nursing journey.

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Nursing newborn Liora with big sis Noemi next to me

Things were starting to improve a lot. By the time she was 1 month old the days of struggling to latch her were long gone. Now, I had my toddler in the front seat of my grocery cart, and the baby under one arm nursing, while I pushed the cart with the other arm and finished my food shopping! NO joke, I really did this.

I was feeling a pro, finally. But there was still one problem left unresolved. I would keep saying “I am trying to breastfeed”, I still didn’t trust my body. Until one day, I was sitting at the edge of my bed nursing Liora when it dawned on me, “Wait…I AM NURSING!”

It sounds like a simple thing, but in that moment I realized that I had won. My body had not failed me. My baby did not need formula or bottles or pacifiers. All she needed, for the next five months of her life was ME. That’s it. Just me. I was enough. I was feeding her!

Those chubby thighs? My milk did that. Those adorable chubby checks? Yep, my milk again. I looked at my baby contentedly nursing and almost said out-loud to myself “I AM A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER!”

And the journey continued…

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 1

*Warning: I do post a single picture of my baby at my chest and my breast is visible*

When I think about my second born child, another little baby girl, something that comes to mind immediately is our closeness. I am close to all my children, but I think of our closeness as something solid and physical. I can feel her body and mine together in a way that is very tangible and real. She was my first breastfed baby.

I did try to nurse Noemi, my oldest daughter, only 18 months before Liora was born. I was a new mother, and like many new mothers I experienced significant road blocks to success. Sadly, I was not able to navigate them, and I nursed her for only 2 weeks exclusively.

But Liora, I did things differently with her. First I went with midwives rather than sticking it out with an abusive OB (Noemi’s birth story, I will share soon). They supported me in a natural birth, which helps begin breastfeeding more easily. They believed in my body’s ability to produce milk to feed my baby. This made a huge difference in how we started our journey together.

During pregnancy, I was not convinced of my body’s ability to sustain my baby solely on my milk alone. I kept saying “I am going to try to breastfeed” or “I really hope I can breastfeed”, as if it were a matter of luck or chance. There are a very small percentage of women who have physical problems (IGT, hormonal problems, etc.) but it is quite rare and

I had no reason to suspect any of these. Yet, the memories of my first born screaming constantly, the bloody and painful nipples, and nights crying my eyes out on the front porch had left me feeling rather inadequate and suspicious of my breasts actually working.

The day of her birth came, and as soon as she entered the world she was placed on my chest. She was wide awake, unlike Noemi who was born drugged. She looked right at me, and gently I brought her near my nipple. She latched on right away, perfectly and peacefully. I almost wept with joy! Maybe, just maybe, this could really work.

I was being pressured heavily by the nurses on the ward to give Liora a pacifier. The main reason why my breastfeeding relationship with my oldest was destroyed was due to “nipple confusion”; she nursed as if she was using an artificial nipple, and this caused painful bleeding nipples and low milk supply. The nurses all assured me that it was a “myth” (I hear this often, it angers me so!) and they even gave her pacifiers without my consent on multiple occasions.

Pacifiers do what the name implies, they pacify the crying baby. I took her home using a pacifier, I hated to hear her cry, and it was such an easy solution. I told myself that perhaps I was wrong, perhaps it wouldn’t cause any problems.

Well, it did. Her latch began to become noticeably uncomfortable and she was struggling to get it right. I knew the culprit was the pacifier, but I was being told by everyone around me not to take it away completely. I ignored them, and finally did what I knew I needed to do—get rid of the thing!

I threw out every single pacifier in our home, and within 24 hours her latch was once again perfect. There was only one problem….

Jaundice!

Liora was only a about 5 days old at this point, but I had been taking her to the pediatrician for blood samples due to her looking rather yellow. Almost as soon as I arrived home after our last appointment, they called me back and essentially told me to rush her to the hospital because her levels were dangerously high.

I was still a tired, hormonal mess and our nursing relationship was just getting started. I was so scared for her! I was also worried that once again my milk was not enough. My mother drove us to the hospital while my husband stayed home with our oldest, who I missed badly after days on the maternity ward. I had never been separated from our first child before the birth of her sibling, who was now sick, and I just wanted to crawl into a ball and cry forever.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the nurses put Liora under the lamps to reduce her bilirubin levels. They seemed quite concerned about her but they helped me understand what everything was for, and how to take her out to nurse her.

I sat there staring at my little baby, with these silly goggles on and I could only touch her through a door in the plastic box she was in. I cried. I cried a lot. I stroked her little arms, and I thought about how hard this was and how badly I wanted to bring her home so we could all be a family.

This may sound a bit dramatic, but remember I had just given birth!

I pumped like crazy while she was sleeping, desperate to keep my milk supply going. I did not trust my body, and I felt as if I would surely dry up like a hot desert valley if I didn’t keep on pumping! But man, I hated that contraption! Also, my body just didn’t respond very well to it. I kept taking her out whenever possible and nursing her, but the nurses really discouraged me from doing so because she needed to be under the lights.

I was pressured into giving her a little formula. They kept telling me dire warnings of what could happen if she didn’t eat enough. I was reminded that excreting the bilirubin was the best way to get rid of it. I relented and gave her tiny bottles of formula after putting her to my breast.

I felt almost defeated. I was so happy that we addressed her latch problem, but now here I was giving her formula. My heart was heavy as I considered the possibility that this just wouldn’t work. I would fail again.

But then, the next day, they released her! I was overjoyed to be going back home with my little baby, to join her big sister and daddy. I wanted to stay home with them forever, and just enjoy being together.

The nurse gave me a bag of formula before I left….