How does a baby say ‘I love you’? By sneezing on your face

Jacob has a cold.  Which, according to the laws of mommydom, means that I also have a cold because the first indication that we had that he wasn’t feeling great was when he sneezed.  On my face.

sick mom

At ten months old (and CRAWLING!  YAY!!!!!!!), this is our second cold, and this one is milder than the first.  No fever, just stuffy with a very runny nose. No biggie and he can still go to daycare.  (Although I feel seriously guilty sending him to daycare, both because I know he doesn’t feel great and because wiping snot is disgusting when it’s my OWN kid. I can’t imagine having to do that to someone else’s kid!  Gross!)

sick child daycare

When he got his first cold, we panicked.  Jacob had a slight fever, so I sent hubby to CVS for infant Tylenol.  He returned 20 minutes later having spent $70 buying EVERYTHING in the baby care section.  He’s not allowed to go to CVS anymore.

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Actual picture of what $70 buys you at CVS

We took turns taking the day off of school to stay home with him and rushed him to the pediatrician twice, only to be told both times that it was a cold, that babies get colds, and that he’d be fine.  (They DID give us antibiotics for his ears the second time we went, although they said they weren’t infected, they just looked like they COULD get infected as the cold continued.  Insane first-time parents like us are probably why everyone is developing antibiotic immunities these days.  Honestly, they ought to just give parents pink, bubblegum-flavored sugar water to give babies and tell us it’s medicine so we can feel like we’re doing something to help.)

antibiotics

So this time, in the absence of a fever, we didn’t worry.*

*Okay we worried.  But I sent frantic texts to my brother, who is a doctor, instead of rushing Jacob to the pediatrician.  Because instead of giving me antibiotics, he tells me I’m an idiot and to stop it, which actually probably does more good than the antibiotics.

And by now, we’re old pros.  We have an arsenal of infant Tylenol and Motrin (in case he develops a fever), a good baby thermometer, nasal mist, and a battery-powered aspirator (Sorry Nose Frida fans, that thing is gross.  That little blue piece of sponge that they call a filter is NOT enough to convince me that baby snot is not going into my mouth.  It’s disgusting.  Plus, when I’m sick too, I can’t generate enough suction for it to actually do anything other than freak Jacob out that I’m trying to suck his brains out of his nose.)

nose frida

The biggest problem when he’s sick (other than my hypochondriac fear that it’s actually RSV, will turn into pneumonia and require hospitalization) is how to keep him hydrated.

I’m prone to horrible post-nasal drip and know that drinking when I’m sick sucks.  But I do it, because I know I need to to feel better.  While I don’t know yet if Jacob has inherited my sinus problems (and I’m praying he doesn’t!), I do know that he doesn’t feel like taking his bottle and we have not yet mastered this sippy cup situation.  And I can tell him that he needs it to feel better until I’m blue in the face, but I might as well be telling the schnauzers to stop barking at the mail lady for all the good it does.  (She’s their worst enemy.  She attacks our house EVERY DAY and we do nothing to stop it.  They are outraged and do their very best to let her know that they’ll murder her if given half the chance.  Except for the days when she actually comes to the door, because then she gives them treats and they love her.  Seriously, all you’d need to do to rob our house is feed our dogs.)

dog mailman

He normally takes five six-ounce bottles a day and we’re working on trying to add in some water as well on days when he doesn’t finish those.  But when he’s sick, it’s a struggle to get three ounces in him.  And a quick Google search told me that a baby can dehydrate quickly when sick.  (I also found a result that said babies don’t want to eat as much when sick and are fine as long as they’re producing 3-4 wet diapers a day.  But we’ll ignore that because dehydration sounds scarier.  I also sent my brother a video of him playing and my brother told me he’s fine and that I’m an idiot.  We’ll ignore that too.)  

google dispute facts

So Jacob needs fluids.

I know the current advice is to only offer formula or breastmilk from a bottle and water should come only from a sippy cup, but despite our daily efforts, Jacob thinks the sippy cup is a teething toy.  He also enjoys grabbing it by the handles and flinging it off of his high chair onto the poor dogs, who hang out there hoping for Cheerios.  But drinking from it?  That’s a no go.

sippy cup

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And our parents’ generation gave us water and juice in a bottle and all of us eventually learned how to drink from cups.  So Pedialyte in a bottle it is for now.  We had some success with that, and then I used an oral syringe to get a little more in him, which he actually liked.  I guess it’s pretty hard to drink from a bottle when you can’t breathe through your nose.  Poor little guy.  But on the plus side, with me pushing fluids like a psycho, at least he’s pooping well!

Am I being ridiculous?  Absolutely.  And I’m fully aware that when eventual baby #2 gets sick, I’ll probably be like, eh, suck it up, you’re fine.  But I guess there’s a reason that first-time parents have a reputation for being nuts.  

first child third child

Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy

Breastfeeding is hard.

There.  I said it.

You know what?  I’m gonna say it again.  Breastfeeding is REALLY freaking hard.  In fact, it deserves the other f word because it’s so hard, but I like having my teaching job so that I can afford all the cute baby stuff that Jacob needs, so you’ll have to settle for freaking.

Everyone out there makes you think breastfeeding is the easiest, most natural thing in the world.  It may be natural, and I’m sure for some women it’s easy, but going around preaching that it’s the simplest act on the planet is a recipe for disaster for other women.

I was never worried about breastfeeding.  My mother always talked about how great she was at it (no, mom, that wasn’t remotely traumatizing as a kid to hear about that constantly.  Not at all.), and as I take after her in all regards (seriously, we’re the same person, it’s freaky), I figured it would be a piece of cake.

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The hubby and I took a breastfeeding class and were the least concerned people there. (Partially because hubby finds everything hilarious.  The teacher mentioned milk ducts at one point and he drew a picture of a duck with boobs labeled “milk duck.”  I married a child.)  Why was everyone else there worried about breastfeeding? It was easy, right? The teacher certainly assured us that it was.

milk duck
How hard can it be if even a rubber ducky can do it?

“Every woman has the ability to exclusively breastfeed her baby,” she told us—a line that would come back to haunt me with harrowing feelings of guilt and failure.  She advised us to throw out any free formula that we received ahead of time—the formula companies prey on new mothers, she told us, and mail out formula when you register for gifts, just hoping that you’ll get discouraged and use it instead of breastfeeding.  But EVERYONE can do it, so you’re being lazy if you use formula.

breastfeeding apocalypse

I dutifully went home and threw out the Enfamil starter pack that had come in the mail. I wasn’t going to be a lazy formula mom.  Uh uh.  Not me.  No way.  Breastmilk all the way. I’d even eat all organic food and nothing processed so my baby would be getting the best quality breastmilk.  He was going to be the next Einstein and it would all come from my boobs.

Fast forward another couple of months.  Jacob was born two weeks early because my fluid levels started dropping in my 36th week.  They hadn’t been super high to begin with, but I drank double my body weight in water daily for the next couple of weeks and figured my levels would be better at my next appointment.  They were not.  In fact, they were so much worse that I was sent to the hospital at just under 38 weeks, kept on IV fluids for two days, and then induced.  I’m only sharing that detail now because I’m 99 percent convinced that the low amniotic fluid levels were related to low milk production later.  I’ve found zero research connecting the two, but I would put money on some doctor finding a correlation someday.  Please comment if you had something similar!

After a fairly uncomplicated birth, we had a beautiful baby.  Granted, his birth weight was probably somewhat inflated after those two days of IV fluids, and all newborns look vaguely like aliens, but he was perfect in every way.

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The lactation consultant came into the delivery room, saw that not only was he already latched (I paid attention in breastfeeding class after all), he was already eating.  She pronounced my latch flawless and was out of there in under two minutes.

Another lactation consultant came in a day or two later (that hospital time is a blur. I think the nurses monitor when you fall asleep and pick that exact moment to come in and wake you up), advised me to keep his head more in the crook of my arm, agreed that I had an impeccable latch, and went on her merry way.

I was an earth goddess, breastfeeding my baby.  All was well.

new baby

Except it wasn’t.  When we went to the pediatrician for our second visit, Jacob was still losing weight.  And when we went back two days later he should have been gaining weight, but he wasn’t.

“I think it’s time to try supplementing with some formula,” our pediatrician said.

I promptly burst into tears.  She comforted me as best as she could, throwing around phrases like “low supply,” “not a big deal,” “happens to so many women,” etc.  But all I could hear was, “You failed your baby and now he has to have formula and won’t be as smart or healthy and it’s all your fault.”

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Much heartbreak, an insane amount of pumping, medication, and the world’s worst lactation consultants ever (I’ll blog about that another day—they literally told us to hire someone to watch the baby so I could spend five-to-six hours a day pumping to increase supply) later, we added in formula supplementation, and Jacob finally started gaining weight.

I continued breastfeeding and supplementing with formula after until just after six months, when he started completely refusing to nurse.  I’m still pumping to get him whatever benefit there is from the tiny amount that I can sneak into his bottle, but I’m fully aware that the pumping is entirely because of mom guilt and to keep my feelings of failure at bay.guilty

Even now, when he’s seven-and-a-half months old, eating solid food and above the 80th percentile for weight, I’m ashamed of the fact that he subsides on mostly formula.  I feel like I failed him.  I’m sitting here, writing this, and a tiny little voice in my head is saying, “Maybe you shouldn’t publish this.  Don’t let people know that you failed.”

Except I didn’t fail.  He’s above the 80th freaking percentile for weight.  I think his thighs are bigger than mine now.  He’s the happiest, healthiest, best baby in the world (as my mother will stop you on the street to tell you. Seriously, if a random woman stops you on the street to tell you that, say hi to my mom). And while there is some ambiguity about whether my low fluid levels caused low milk production or whether it was Jacob’s disorganized suck that tanked production, the reality is that it doesn’t matter.

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That’s the real point to this post: (yes, it took me 1,000 words to get there, and yes, I’m about to get major hate mail from the “Breast is Best”ers, but I don’t care) feed your baby and don’t let anyone (other than yourself) make you feel guilty about how you do it.

I barely left the house for the first three months because I was convinced that if I skipped a breastfeeding session it would cause irreparable damage to my already-low supply. And I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public because Jacob wasn’t good at it, and I’m just not a whip-my-boobs-out-in-public kind of girl.  I was terrified that people were going to judge me if they saw me feeding him formula, so I tried to only feed him in private.  I refused to talk to anyone about what was going on because I thought that they would judge me.  I cried more over breastfeeding than I have over anything else in my life.  And I felt utterly despondent because, as a huge control freak, nothing I did could fix this.

spilled milk

But guess what happened when I finally came clean?  Absolutely no one cared.  Actually, that’s not true.  Once I talked about it, people told me all about how much trouble they’d had too.  The low supply, the clogged ducts, the agonizing over not knowing if the baby was getting enough to eat, the infections, the tears, the guilt.  I wasn’t nearly as alone as I thought I was.

I realized how horrible it is to tell people that “Every woman has the ability to breastfeed her baby,” and that formula is for lazy moms, and I grew increasingly angry at that attitude.  If every woman could do it, wet nurses wouldn’t have existed and no one would have invented formula.  I’m so grateful that I live in an era where all I had to do to feed my son when my body couldn’t was go to the grocery store.   

breastfeeding apocalypse

Saying that every woman can do it is a blatant lie.  And it’s a harmful lie because in those early months, when sleep is scarce and women feel isolated at home with a newborn, adding in feelings of failure makes everything so much harder than it needs to be.

When eventual baby #2 comes along (don’t get any ideas, it’s not happening yet!), I plan to breastfeed him or her.  But if it isn’t working this time, I’m not going to let the baby’s weight get too low or cry (too much) because I now know that formula isn’t the devil and some things are out of my control.

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If breastfeeding was easy for you, cool.  Congratulations.  If it wasn’t, you’re not alone. And if you need to hear you’re doing a great job when it feels like you aren’t, drop me a line. Because mamas, as long as your baby is eating, you’re doing a great job.

bottle feeding