Breastfeeding, pumping, and work

One of the things that was very important to me from the get go was that our baby be breastfed as much as possible. I'm not planning on extended breastfeeding (past one year), but I wanted to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months. I knew that these things don't always work out exactly as we want and I tried to make it so that I would be okay if we had to do formula or supplementing, but part of me knew I would be heartbroken. Because this is a long text heavy post, I'm inserting several unrelated images of Annabelle sporadically to keep it interesting.
This is Annabelle on a bison robe with said bison's skull beside her. For what it's worth that bison was humanely hunted and fed my extended family for two years.

This is Annabelle on a bison robe with said bison's skull beside her. For what it's worth that bison was humanely hunted and fed my extended family for two years.

We didn't get off to the strongest start with breastfeeding, but not the worst ever. My milk took four days to come in and Annabelle kept falling asleep on the breast so she wasn't getting enough of the colostrum. She lost too much weight. I resisted the doctor's suggestions of formula. Then my milk came in, I got better at encouraging her to eat, she gained weight and we did well. Throughout my maternity leave I was able to do some pumping to build up a small stash. I never was extremely consistent about it, but toward the end I tried to pump at the same time most days. I knew I needed a stash as back up for work and I needed to get my body used to the pump. Before returning to work, I did a lot of reading about pumping. The basic set up is simple, what I pump on Monday is fed to my daughter on Tuesday and so forth. It's a neat system that hopefully evens out. However it doesn't work for a lot of women. I knew that. I also knew that if anyone could make it work, I could. I have a fairly ideal situation: a private office with window blinds and a door that locks, a really supportive boss (who used to be a nursing and pumping mom herself), and a decent amount of control over my schedule to fit in pumping breaks. With all that going for myself, I feel guilty when it doesn't work. So many women struggle through so much more to make it work. This entry has a lot of me talking about emotions, particularly guilt, around breastfeeding. The culture, dialogue, and mommy-wars are so charged around these issues that it becomes a maelstrom of emotions for an already hormonal time in your life. Guilt and pressure are leveraged for a mother to breastfeed because anything less is inferior, but don't do it in public, or do it in public and be proud. The hits come from all sides and it can be hard to deal with all the conflicting messages. Any way you feed your baby is the right choice for you, your family. No one else knows your circumstances or your life, make the best decision for you and your family.
Genetics ed? Sex ed? Good thing she can't read yet!

Genetics ed? Sex ed? Good thing she can't read yet!

We had given Annabelle a bottle of pumped breast milk at five weeks with no issues. I had several brands of bottles to try since I knew some babies were fussy about that, but she liked them all. She takes bottles very well and usually goes back to the breast with no fuss. She's a good baby like that. (Occasionally in the evenings if she is really tired she won't take the breast because it's more work than a bottle and we have to use a pumped bottle while I pump more.) For the first month or so, it worked really well. In fact I even made an excess to add to, stash or to use for a date night. And then about three weeks ago, it stopped working as well. I upped the amount I put in each bottle since she didn't seem satisfied. I was gauging how much to give to her based off articles from Kellymom. I don't want my child to starve, but I don't want her overfed to the point of vomiting either. It's surprisingly hard to tell with an infant. There are no ounce markings on the side of my boob so I don't really know how much she drinks from me. As my supply started to not being able to meet what I knew she would need for the next day, I grew desperate. I unfroze from stash and tried every trick in the book to up my stash. I drink milkmaid tea daily (which is hard for me as a tea snob; it tastes slightly better than it looks is the best I can say about it), ate oatmeal, got lots of water, added a pumping at work, etc.
Someone commented on how Annabelle smiles in all her photos. So I took a photo of her crying.

Someone commented on how Annabelle smiles in all her photos. So I took a photo of her crying.

A few things really worked for me: watching videos of Annabelle during my pumping, really trying to make pumping sessions go 20 minutes to get the second let down, trying to still pump at least once a day on the weekends too, and massaging breasts while pumping. Also I learned that instant oatmeal doesn't have the same supply building effect that old fashioned oatmeal does, but cookies made with old-fashioned oatmeal totally work. And if you don't have a video of your child, listening to a different baby have a meltdown in the library outside your office is surprisingly effective. And yet none of it was working consistently. I was so stressed which wasn't helping production. I had an in case of emergency formula stash. When I tried to give Annabelle a bottle of it, she wouldn't take it. Freaked me out. Later I gave her a bottle that was mixed breast milk and formula, she took that. By gradually doing mixed bottles, she will now take a bottle that is just formula. However I didn't know at first if I could mix formula and breast milk. As I googled around, all I could find was articles about how important it was to breastfeed. Even consumer reports, on their guide to formula, spends the first half of the article telling you why you should breast feed. What I wanted was practical, helpful advice about supplementing, mixing bottles of formula and breastmilk, that sort of thing. What I got was a huge heaping of mommy-guilt that only served to make me feel like more of a failure. If I couldn't do it with my private office and supportive environment, what type of lazy failure of a mother was I? Every day was a struggle and I would look with dread at the bottles I pumped. I hated going home and prepping the bottles for the next day, especially if I added frozen milk or formula. More than once I had to hide tears as I did it so I wouldn't freak out my husband or mother (who was live-in child care at the time).

Once I cried over spilled milk, literally.  Despite my OCD levels of safeguards, a bottle spilled at work. It wasn't much because I caught it quickly, only a couple of tablespoons, but it was a day when I was having trouble pumping enough. And the level of my reaction would have been more appropriate to being told a beloved pet was gravely ill. That was the moment I knew I had to do something. The googling started again in earnest.

Batman called  he said i didn't have to take a nap today.

Batman called he said i didn't have to take a nap today.

Finally I read this article, while pumping in my office, and I burst into tears. I texted it to my mom and David who knew my struggles. What the author described is so exactly my situation, it was such a relief to see someone else write about it.

I am giving Annabelle everything I can. When she nurses in the morning, at night, on the weekend, she gets nutrition and to reinforce our bond. When she takes a bottle of pumped breast milk, she gets that best nutrition/antibodies/etc and to bond with someone else. When she takes a bottle of part or all formula, she gets that bond and she still gets great nutrition designed for young babies. Always her needs emotional and physical are being met.

Pumping is a mixed bag for me. It's hard on my body and leaves me extremely sore. I admire women who pump exclusively, I couldn't do that to my breasts. However pumping forces me to take breaks when I tend to be a very single-minded focused workaholic in the library. Even though I have a hands-free pumping bra (in which I feel like a cow hooked up to a milking machine) and I do keep working often during pump sessions, I also force myself to take a break. With each pumping session, I stop, look at a photo or video of my baby, read an article I want to read, and take a moment to breathe. That is helping my overall stress level and making me a better librarian and a better mom.

As I type this, I've done really well pumping in the last few days/week. I haven't had to thaw breast milk at all this week and no bottles since Tuesday needed topped off with formula. It's Sunday afternoon, the sun is streaming in, my four-month old daughter is napping on me, and there is enough breast milk in the fridge for tomorrow when I go to work. It's an ideal situation and yet I still have tears in my eyes thinking about it all.

Some days everything my daughter has was made by me without a problem, some days I'm pulling from the from the freezer to make that true. (I'm trying to be better about pulling from the freezer. That's what a stash is for and I need to stop thinking about it as a do-not-touch-emergency-fund.)  Some days she gets bottles that are partially or all formula.

So far the most she has had of formula in a single day is 1.5 bottles out of the four that she drinks when I'm at work. I refuse to set a minimum level of breast milk that I want her to have in those four bottles because it would be an arbitrary number and I would live and die by it. It's my type-A mentality. In fact it's a struggle to not make a line like that, even in my head.  But someday if I couldn't make that, it would be another way I failed. Another time I broke down in tears at my desk or at night while pumping milk.

I'm done with tears over milk, spilled or otherwise. I'm giving my family everything I can. Her current mix of mostly breast milk, occasional formula is fine. If in the future I can't pump at all at work to produce milk and she has formula during the day and nurses at night, that will also be fine. If my milk dries up entirely, plenty of babies (including myself and my siblings) were formula fed, it will be fine. It will be more than fine because we love her and will always give all we can to make sure she has what she needs to grow and thrive.

Mommy I have a secret to tell you: you're doing okay.

Mommy I have a secret to tell you: you're doing okay.

Midsummer Garden (Day 16)

It's been crazy busy around here and so I'm behind on my 100 happy days. I've been taking pictures, just not posting. I'd love to tell you about my garden because it makes me so happy. Day 16, Friday July 18th I love gardening, I'm not particularly talented at it, but I love it. At the end of last summer, David built me raised bedded gardens. This year he added in moose protection, rather a cage of chicken wire. Each side comes off easily for garden access.
My gardens now with moose protection.

My gardens now with moose protection.

I got plants into the ground before baby came, before memorial day actually. A few were starts I grew from seeds, others from purchased starts from local nurseries.
Turning this piece of wood at the top of each framed in chicken wire side releases it so I can get to the plants. Very clever of my husband!

Turning this piece of wood at the top of each framed in chicken wire side releases it so I can get to the plants. Very clever of my husband!

Not all my starts worked out which is why I had to buy some. We transplanted raspberry bushes from David's aunt's house as well as some rhubarb plants. My strawberry bush survived the winter as did my chives. The rest are new plants. Mostly I'm a food gardener, if I'm going to do this much work, I want to eat my reward. However I planted some flowers this year because they were given to me. I do like their color.
Rhubarb (transplanted) and mint (purchased starter) plants growing at the side of the back porch.

Rhubarb (transplanted) and mint (purchased starter) plants growing at the side of the back porch.

I will spare you too many of the many photos I have. Here's my plant list and status instead: Mint (from a purchased start): growing like the weed it is Rhubarb (transferred from Dave's aunt): two are doing really great, one got attacked by an overzealous landscaper and is slowly recovering Various flowers (from plants given as gifts): blooming and lovely Basil (from seeds, started indoors): Not doing so well. I don't see much pesto for us this summer. Cilantro/coriander and Parsley (purchased starts): going gang busters, I've had to trim them a bunch
My basil plants (from seeds I started) aren't doing so well. Next year I'll probably go back to buying starts for basil.

My basil plants (from seeds I started) aren't doing so well. Next year I'll probably go back to buying starts for basil.

Kale: (purchased starts) I have Dino Kale and Cosmic Kale and all are great Beets: (purchased starts) looking good, though I can't see below ground Carrots (grown from seeds in the ground) I should probably thin them again, lots more coming up than I thought would. Root veggies are a mystery to me because you can't see below Broccoli: The purchased starts are doing great. The ones I tried to start didn't go at all Snap peas: (started indoors, transferred outdoors) These are my best successes for the growing from seeds. They're climbing the trellis, there are blooms and snap peas. I'm ready to start harvesting them. Brussel sprouts (purchased starts) growing well though I don't see any of the little heads forming yet Raspberries (transfers): I've got blooms and berries, waiting for them to turn red to eat, should be very soon Strawberries (one plant returned from last year, two new plants added to my patch) I've got blooms and berries, should be ready to harvest the first batch in the next week or so. I'm letting all the runners go out since this year I want the patch to grow as much as possible and fill the box
Snap pea blooms and blossoms! I'm going to have snap peas grown from seeds, the start that worked out best for me.

Snap pea blooms and blossoms! I'm going to have snap peas grown from seeds, the start that worked out best for me.

Raised Bedded Gardens

Since we live in a condo, we only control about 10 feet behind our back door. And we have to ask permission to change any of that.
That's a lot of plants on the deck. It was fantastic.

That's a lot of plants on the deck. It was fantastic.

I love to garden and we've had no space. We do have a deck that is rather wonky; the previous owners had a hot tub that was too heavy for it and now it is askew. After a summer when we used it twice, we decided to replace it with raised bedded gardens When I say we, it is a bit of an exaggeration. I came up with this plan and David was happy to go with it. Mostly he isn't too invested in the backyard or growing things, but is happy to build things that make me happy. Basically best husband ever.
This is David and this is his garden bed.

This is David and this is his garden bed.

I always say I will plant only a handful of things and then I get too excited in the nursery and buy too many plants and go hog wild. I just needed a space that was big enough to put all my plants in it to start. Pretty much I stick to planting vegetables and herbs. Flowers are lovely but if I'm doing all that work, I want to eat it at the end. We demolished the deck, disturbed a vole nest and dug holes to drop the raised garden beds into. Also do you see how rocky that soil is? It's awful fill that is almost entirely large rocks.
The first bed ready to be filled!

The first bed ready to be filled!

Our original plan was to reuse the wood from the deck for the raised garden beds. However after reading up about it, we didn't want to use treated wood and risk the chemicals leeching into our soil and our veggies. Dave got untreated cheap wood and built raised beds. We also lined the beds with garden weed fabric to hopefully keep the chickweed out for a while. The beds are 4 feet by 10 feet.One was just an empty box and the other had a divider down the middle. The simple box will be veggies and herbs. The divided box will have raspberry bushes transplanted from David's family's patch on one side and strawberry plants on the other.
Pretty beds filled with good soil! (And extra wood from the deck that we are going to use for stairs in the spring).

Pretty beds filled with good soil! (And extra wood from the deck that we are going to use for stairs in the spring).

Since the gross rocky fill is useless, we had to have dirt delivered. (Did you know you can have dirt delivered?) A nice person in a dump truck dropped 4.5 cubic yards (over 4 tons) onto tarps on our driveway. We then moved it by wheel barrow into the boxes. I did use the larger rocks from the fills to make pretty rock paths all along the edges of the boxes. The fill was used to level out a dip in our neighbor's yard. Before winter fell, I transferred my chives (an annual) into the herb box and the strawberry plants into the fruit box. Then we mulched them with straw and waited for winter. I can't wait until spring when I can fill the boxes with plants!
Strawberry plant we will see you in the spring!

Strawberry plant we will see you in the spring!

Vermicomposting

A few months ago I started reading about vermicomposting and really wanted to try it. Growing up my parents always had a compost pile (actually three bins in rotation) in our back yard. My mom has a picture on her blog. (Yes my mom has a blog, yes I helped her set it up, yes she did a multi week series of pictures of manhole covers, yes we have suggested she needed psychiatric help, and no she did not go.) In Anchorage it is mostly too cold to compost (something about the piles freezing and the chemical process stopping). Plus I'm betting that our condo association/home owners group has a rule against compost bins. But I hate throwing away veggie and fruit scraps. So vermicomposting seemed like the perfect solution. It can be done indoors in smaller quantities, supposedly doesn't smell, and it has a cool name that doesn't at all sound weird. Vermicomposting is cool, modern, and eco friendly. Worm farm is weird and hippy. I am weird and a hippy (as I am discovering more and more), but I'd like to put prettier labels on it when I can. And thus a couple of weeks ago, I started my worm farm/vermicomposting adventure.
Hilary is happy to do some drilling. Naturally we chose the DIY route.

Hilary is happy to do some drilling. Naturally we chose the DIY route.

There are lots of instructions and ways to go about setting up your warm farm. You can even buy a fancy, expensive worm factory 360. Or you can do what we did and find some instructions online and go the DIY route. There are a ton of instructions online, but we chose this one because like the expensive pre-made option, the worms can crawl from one level to another gradually over time. Oh, did I say we? This became a group project. I got my hippie enabler friend Hilary (some day our husbands are going to stop letting us talk to each other, we feed off each other too much) and her housemate Sarah to go along with this. Or I was tagging along with them. Whatever. Group project time!
Sarah is not afraid to drill.

Sarah is not afraid to drill.

First we drove up to Eagle River to buy worms. We bought a bags of worms from the Worms and Stuff lady. She was fascinating to talk to and a great source of information. Her website is really helpful too. She sells the fancy expensive worm factories and has instructions on how to make a different version. Plus she confirmed that the worm factories don't at all smell. Admittedly that was one of our biggest fears since we were keeping things in our house. (In the garage it gets too cold, not cold enough to kill the worms, but cold enough they go into near hibernation and aren't actively chewing up food scraps.)
We used a marker to decide where to drill holes.

We used a marker to decide where to drill holes.

While at the worm lady's house, we could feel the worm bins and see what the actual appropriate moisture level is. (Too moist and the worms drown, not moist enough and the worms can't breathe through their skin.) You're aiming for just wrung out sponge. Her worms are also sold in Anchorage at Alaska Mill and Feed. After the worms were acquired, everything else was purchased at Home Depot. Two rubbermaid 10 gallon tubs and a broken paving stone each. We convinced the Home Depot guys that because they couldn't sell the broken paving stone and they would just have to throw it away, to sell it to us for a great discount. David was gone for the weekend (hunting) but left behind a drill for me. This involves one size of drill holes in the bottom and another on the sides and the lids. After marking off the bins, we took turns drilling. All told it was probably ~100 holes per bins, four bins total.
Look at how good I am at changing the drill bit. Ignore the messy garage. We are working on it.

Look at how good I am at changing the drill bit. Ignore the messy garage. We are working on it.

We burned through two batteries and I had to wait to drill the last 30 or so holes until the battery recharged. I showed David what I had done and he told me if he had realized how much I would be drilling he would have left me the 20 volt drill instead of the 12. Yeah, apparently he thinks my projects are little and cute. Oh well. To be fair I did have to have a quick refresher course on how to use the drill. After all the holes are drilled you need to shred up a lot of bedding. I meant to bring home shredded paper from work, but forgot. Instead I hand shredded newspaper which probably is safer for the worms. Some people on the internet are very concerned about the dyes used in ink cartridges. Or something. Whatever, it is all recycling.
I appreciate that this newspaper ad from a grocery store told me it was safe to compost! Saved me worrying about "toxic dyes".

I appreciate that this newspaper ad from a grocery store told me it was safe to compost! Saved me worrying about "toxic dyes".

Take the lid that doesn't have holes in it, put your broken paving stones on top. This will create a drainage area if it gets too wet. And we are going to do the rest of this photo essay style. You really should read the linked instructions above for a full instruction. Fill the bottom with your newspaper, wet it down with a spray bottle, and add in your bag of worms (that have some shredded paper and dirt already).
Broken paving stone on lid.

Broken paving stone on lid.

Worms happy in their new home.

Worms happy in their new home.

               
(Sorry for the blurry iphone photo), here's the stuff to make it work.

(Sorry for the blurry iphone photo), here's the stuff to make it work.

I used the box from our full circle organic produce delivery, which is supposedly super compostable, to put on top of the worms before the second tub. It creates a barrier for smells and to keep the worms from exploring too much. Eventually they'll eat through it, but that will be time for them to move on anyway. And I've been doing this now for about two weeks. They love our coffee grounds and it isn't smelly at all. The trick is to never add in meats or animal products (except egg shells that are first baked in the oven) and thus avoid smells. The egg shells balance the ph of the system, baking them keeps it from getting that rotting smell. Yay composting! It just feels so good to not throw away veggie scraps and coffee grounds. Next up on the hippie agenda, garden boxes and an update into my natural hair care path.
The final system, not too big, not too smelly, not off putting to husbands and guests who don't even know what it is until I tell them.

The final system, not too big, not too smelly, not off putting to husbands and guests who don't even know what it is until I tell them.