Monday, November 22, 2010

Like a Frog in Cold Water

If a stranger had walked into Highland Hospital on October 3, 2009, and flashed me a picture of myself nursing a 13+ month old, 31" long, nearly 20 pound baby wearing snowman pajamas and clambering over me, I think I would have said, "Nice jammies, but I doubt I'll still be breastfeeding come next Thanksgiving."

Ha, ha.  Let's pause and have a laugh, okay?

Before I had done any reading at all, I said I would breastfeed for six months.  After all, it's not like I was raised in an exclusive, long-term breastfeeding world.  Six weeks was more like the norm, if that.  Then I did some research and found that 12 months was the minimum recommendation.  So I said, I'll do 12 months.  We'll start phasing it out around nine months when she really starts eating solids.  That seems reasonable.

Then I met - really met, mind you, and got to know - my daughter.  She was a needy baby.  She is a needy toddler.  In addition to wanting to be held and walked around (just being held while seated did not, does not, cut it), she wanted to eat at least every hour, while taking about 45 minutes to do so.  This lasted for about four months.  Then it was about every two hours, maybe three.

So at some point, I said to myself, we won't try to phase anything out at nine months.  We'll do it at 12 months.  For one thing, she wasn't that nuts about large quantities of food.  She would try and eat anything, but not a lot of it.  This is normal, by the way.  Breastmilk is supposed to supply all of a baby's calories for the first six months, and the bulk of calories for the second six months.  It doesn't matter how big or how small the baby is!  (I love the two old wives' arguments, although I was never subjected to them:  your baby is too small, she needs solids OR your baby is too big for just breastmilk.  Really?)

There is also the fact that she would fall asleep with boob.  Those were sweet days - swaddle, insert boob, and sleep!  And of course it still works, for the most part, during the night to get her back to sleep.  (No more swaddling, though).

The 12 month marker has come and gone.  I have since found that two years, and as long as is mutually desirable, is actually the WHO recommendation for breastfeeding, by the way.  The reality of it - something I didn't really understand - is that breastfeeding a toddler is absolutely nothing like breastfeeding an infant.  We do it before naps and bed, maybe once late afternoon if she's a little cranky and needs some cuddle time and/or a snack.  Overnight a few times as well, but as I rarely wake up enough to really count, I will have to estimate that at two or three very short instances.  It is no longer the all-consuming task that it once was.  Oversupply?  Undersupply?  Is she filling enough diapers?  These questions disappear.  Some days she hardly touches her food, and I'm glad we have this wonderful back-up full of vitamins and protein and good fat.  It was great when she had a cold a few weeks ago and didn't want to eat.

I am still toying with the notion of closing the diner overnight.  But, frankly, I think the new policy on the subject is that we'll be done when we're done, and we'll do it on her schedule, not mine.  Also:  I like to avoid screaming babies who are pulling sad faces.

The point is, you don't just wake up one day to find yourself with a giant toddler latched on.  It ends up feeling perfectly normal.  Now I look at pictures of us when she was just a peanut, and I think, how did I ever manage to feed someone so tiny?!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Babywearing from the Beginning

Here is one big post that I hope will prove helpful.  It is my experience with babywearing.

Before the Bee came along, I read the Sears Baby Book.  I knew I wanted to wear my daughter from reading about all of the benefits - less crying, free hands, etc.  I'd still like to slap the man around a little for implying that babywearing is practically a panacea for whatever ails your child, but all in all it has been pretty wonderful.  I have used four different carriers - a Moby, a Bjorn, a ring sling, and a Beco (soft structured carrier).  Here is the low-down on each of them!

The Moby

The Moby is about 10 or 15 feet of stretchy, somewhat heavy fabric.  They come in many colors and even some patterns.  You wrap it around yourself like some kind of Star Trek-esque vest, and from just a few basic configurations you get tons of possible carrying positions.  Our favorite was the newborn hold, which keeps the little punkin nestled up against your chest, with the fabric all over her (including behind the head), and in a fully upright position.  Great for reflux-y babies; also no danger of positional asphyxiation.

I got a lot done wearing the Moby.  Dishes, laundry, vacuuming, shopping, errands... she used to sleep through it all in the Moby.  It is very secure and the weight is distributed really well, so I never got sore from it.  The flexible fabric is great for hugging your body and your baby's body, so it's a very customized fit.

The cons of the Moby are its learning curve and its unsuitability for re-wrapping once you are outside (it will drag on the ground, which is not so good in a salty-icy-slushy parking lot).  I also found it to be warm, which is good in the winter if your house is a reasonable temperature (the Rochester apartment was always too warm!) but bad in the summer.

Next time, I am just going to buy a length of semi-light weight stretchy fabric and use it like I used the Moby.  That plus a bootlegged instruction manual would make a nice baby gift!

The Ring Sling

I bought a linen ring sling from a now-defunct website.  It is what it sounds like - a length of fabric (sized based on your measurements, just so there isn't too much tail left) that is put through two rings.  The rings sit where a corsage would in most positions.  I do not recommend it for use until your baby has neck control - it's just not safe or easy.

Once you get that head control, though, this is a great sling up to about 15 pounds (probably more for a shorter baby).  It folds up into a small bundle.  Nursing in a ring sling is a breeze (though you may want to practice at home before taking the show on the road), and you can use the extra fabric (the "tail") to cover up whatever you want to  - belly or boobs.  I'm always more concerned about the belly, oddly enough.  Once the Bee hit about 6 months, we used the hip carry.  It was so easy!  Sling on, baby on hip, tighten, and GO!  It is, however, not a truly hands-free carry, but the ring sling can be used in many different positions that are hands-free.  It just never felt as secure as any of the other carriers.

The Bjorn

Ah, that most iconic of baby carriers.  As it turns out, I am not really a fan.  The husband liked it, but I suspect this is mostly due to its more manly appearance and relative immediate ease of use.  Those two things are really the Bjorn's only pros.

It is good up to only 25 pounds (less with a tall baby, because you end up getting head up in your face or getting foot in your groin, which I am told is no fun).  The weight distribution is awful, but this only becomes noticeable after about 12-15 pounds.  The "sporty" model looks more like a vest in back, so it's probably better, but still, you have a baby essentially dangling off the front of your body, sort of on another plane.  It really screws up your posture and your center of gravity.  And, in spite of not being good for very long, the Bjorn is quite expensive.

The Beco Butterfly II 

I have saved the best for last.  If you only buy one carrier, buy this one!  You can use it from newborn (7 pounds) to 45 pounds.  It can be used as a front or back carrier.  It comes with the required newborn insert to keep your tiny bundle fully upright and so very, very secure.  It also comes with a nap shade (just a little bit of fabric that goes over the head) and a wonderfully helpful DVD.  You can, indeed, nurse in the Beco.  It comes in plain options and very pretty fabrics (I went with the cherry blossom/purple one called "Natalie").  They are all made from a very soft organic cotton.  It is totally hands-free and suitable for looooong trips, be they urban or rustic (hiking).

There is a new Beco model, the Gemini, which allows for an outward-facing front carry and a hip carry (things the Butterfly will not do).  It has a foldable headrest (a la Bjorn!).  Other than that, is has all of the great features of the Butterfly at a slightly lower price ($129).  I will be definitely be getting one of these for the husband to use the next time around.

There are no cons to the Beco.  It is easy to put on, easy to adjust, and I have used it nearly every day since I bought it.  It is flexible and doesn't take up a lot of room in a bag.  It has kept me from being "that woman" who is trying to wrangle a baby, a stroller, and packages on the bus or Metro.  No stroller and no need to wrangle the baby, so it's just me carrying bags like a normal person!  I can zoom around a crowded store (or a "no strollers allowed" store).  I can go up and down steps.  Best of all, it is built like a hiking backpack, so you can get a good, snug fit that makes it feel like you aren't lugging around 20 extra pounds.

The best part of carrying your baby?  They are RIGHT THERE for hugs whenever you want them.  : )