got (enough) milk?

October 13, 2009

Infant growth charts can be a massive source of anxiety for new parents. Your baby is measured and weighed and compared to standardized curves that tell you how big your baby should be. Actually, that’s not what they do, but that’s how it often feels for a parent, and if your baby falls into the lower percentiles, it’s so easy to panic, even if your baby is totally normal for his/her age.

A nursing mom’s milk supply can also be a huge source of anxiety. A lot of women only breastfeed a few weeks, and there’s definitely a lack of readily available information about how your milk and your breasts change if you continue to nurse for 3, 6, 12 months, never mind if you nurse for years. The information is out there, but you have to look for it.

That’s what this post is about: infant growth charts and milk supply.

The background: last week, one of my best friends wrote me an email. Her first child is roughly 4 1/2 months old, and at her last well-baby check-up, registered in the 20th percentile for weight. My friend was concerned, wondered whether her milk supply might be dwindling, and she asked me for my thoughts. I sat down and wrote her a loooooong email (I had a lot of thoughts on the subject!), and I thought I’d share it with you, too. Of course I’ve taken out personal details regarding my friend and her baby.

Spend 2-3 days in bed with baby and just sleep, eat and nurse, nurse, nurse!

Spend 2-3 days in bed with baby and just sleep, eat and nurse, nurse, nurse!

Here were my first 2 pieces of advice:

1. First of all, Don’t Panic! Your milk supply hasn’t disappeared. If it has diminished, there are plenty of ways to increase it. And most important of all: 20th percentile is still normal. It just means that 20% of normal babies are at about that weight. And baby’s being at the 20th percentile for weight at her age doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your milk supply.

2. An extension of Don’t Panic! is that this is not a reason to supplement with formula. Don’t do it. Your milk supply really would drop if you did.

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I just want to take this moment to say how awesome Tsh – aka Simple Mom – is for creating and sharing her Daily Docket. It is like a to-do list for a given day, but it is so much more than that. It helps you prioritize your tasks and keep all the essential information for one day together.

Her regular Daily Docket fills an entire 8 1/2″ x 11″ page (or A4 for you Europeans), and I have to admit that it’s a little too much for me. If I get up in the morning and my to-do list fills an entire page, it just overwhelms the hell out of me. But she now has a smaller edition which she calls her “Pocket Docket,” and it fills just half a page. This is the perfect size for me. I can keep track of my to-do list, any appointments, what’s for dinner and any notes I need to make along the way. And it keeps me from constantly flipping through my day planner, family planner and the inevitable multiple to-do lists fluttering around my home.

I don’t use the Pocket Docket all the time, but I go through phases where despite my good intentions, I am so disorganized that I seem to forget at least one Very Important Thing nearly every day. At times like these, I print out a few Pocket Dockets and get things back on track. Right now, for example, I’m using them to prioritize my tasks as I’m slowly but steadily recovering from my sinus infection – I want to make sure I don’t do too much, but I want to get the most important things done.

Check out Tsh’s explanation of her Daily Docket: My Daily Docket is My Daily Lifesaver

Also, take a look at her other very useful downloads!

Parenthood really tests your limits. So far, our family consists of a mom, a dad, a two-year-old, a neurotic 11-year-old dog and a very active fetus. I know single moms taking care of two children, happily married moms taking care of four children, and others with two to three children who are happily married but whose husbands are seemingly constantly away on business.

I don’t know how they do it.

Do you?

I have to remind myself from time to time that no one “does it all.” Even if it seems like they do, it’s probably just what it looks like to someone on the outside. And even when you scratch beneath the surface and it still looks like they’re “doing it all,” they’re not.

Anyone “doing it all” is neglecting something, usually themselves.

I have to remind myself of this because it helps keep me from despairing when I feel like I’m failing as a mom, wife, translator or member of society. In fact, I have to remind myself in general of the deceptiveness of the feeling of “the grass is always greener on the other side.” For example, some of my favorite blogs include Soule Mama, Betz White and Angry Chicken. And when I read their thoughts and see their pictures, it’s easy to think my life would be easier and more harmonious if I didn’t live in a big metropolis. So many of the things I value in family life seem so much easier to include in said life when you live somewhere a little quieter. And then I have to remind myself that a) I’m not seeing the whole picture of any of these women’s lives, and b) there are things about living in a big city that I would miss horribly. I see my Ozzie friend Amanda raising her two young children while her husband jets around the globe on business, and I see her do it with such seeming effortlessness, that I wonder if I’m just plain incompetent.

But if I really stop and think about it, I’m not incompetent, and while city living does make certain family rituals much harder to establish and uphold, it’s not the reason I feel like a failure sometimes.

I am, quite simply, overwhelmed right now.

Why, you ask?

  • I have a two-year-old;
  • I am six months pregnant;
  • This pregnancy, while not high-risk, has been very hard;
  • I have been laid up with a sinus infection for the last seven days;
  • My social network in Berlin has shrunk to miniscule proportions;
  • We’re going through a major financial rough spot (oddly enough, totally unrelated to the global financial crisis, but I’ll address this whole can of worms in another post);
  • And lastly, alas, after 28+ years of life in this body, I still tend to bite off more than I can chew.

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twelve weeks pregnant

June 9, 2009

* Originally written June 1, 2009

Wow. I feel like I’m among the living again. I still get nauseated a lot, and odors can really drive me crazy, but neither the nausea nor the exhaustion is nearly as debilitating as it had been up until less than a week ago. No longer needing to take progesterone supplements seems to have helped a lot on the exhaustion front, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be feeling even better in a couple weeks.

On the other hand, could someone please tell me why I can’t seem to sleep anymore? I mean, it’s bad enough that our 2-year-old has been sleeping like shit for almost 2 months now, but now I’m having huge insomnia issues. As if getting up at least 3 times a night to pee and being woken up by a cranky toddler at 5:30 every morning weren’t enough, it’s been taking me hours to get to sleep at night. I’ll be sitting on the couch with Toffi, feeling my energy and alertness waning, and I’ll decide to go to bed. I feel super sleepy when I lie down, but as soon as I turn the light off, it’s like someone turns my brain on. I certainly remember having insomnia when I was pregnant with Marie, but most of it was right after finding out I was pregnant, and the rest was sporadic throughout the remaining months. Now it’s Every. Single. Night.

Here are some other random thoughts, in no particular order:

I’m definitely showing already. At 12 weeks. I’d say few people could see I was pregnant the first time around until I was close to 20 weeks (except people who knew my figure so well that they were able to discern the slight roundness in the tummy area). But as I’ve come to understand, it’s quite common to show earlier in a 2nd pregnancy, so this is just confirmation of things going as expected.

The nesting has also begun early. I’ve started to mentally rearrange the entire apartment to accommodate a second child, and this despite the fact that we’re fairly certain we’ll be co-sleeping until Babe the Second is at least about a year old. So we’re looking at having Marie share a room with her younger sibling starting in … oh … December 2010, and I’m already planning for it. Crazy lady. That’s what I am.

My skin is awesome this time! I don’t know whether it has more to do with a new(ish) skincare regimen or with the actually pregnancy, but for the past 6 weeks, I haven’t had more than 2 real pimples at once. That must be some kind of record. So whether it’s the hormones or the geniuses at Philosophy I have to thank, I am one grateful pregnant lady!

Despite my usual efforts to eat wholesome, fresh, organic and locally grown foods, I have never been so grateful for the existence of fast food. Seriously, when you’re nauseated half the time and ravenously hungry the other half (and sometimes both at the same time), it’s a reeeeally good thing to be able to satisfy a craving before it goes away and gives over to horrendous queasiness. So whether it’s a reasonably healthy bagel, a questionably healthy hotdog (at least the meat is organic!) or an undeniably unhealthy meal from McDonald’s, I’m just happy to eat when I’m hungry and not have to cook when all I want to do is throw up.

ten weeks pregnant

June 8, 2009

* Originally written May 20, 2009

As the end of the first trimester seems attainable, I’m beginning to feel more confident. For one, I no longer feel quite so apprehensive about having a miscarriage. The spotting hasn’t returned at all since I started taking the progesterone supplements, and I certainly feel pregnant enough to be constantly reminded that “hey, this is real!”

But the feeling pregnant part has also been a drag. The symptoms of pregnancy have been much more intense this time around. It’s hard to say whether it’s the pregnancy itself that’s different or whether it has more to do with the fact that I can’t just succumb to the overwhelming desire to sleep, eat, be alone or to lie down in the one position that helps me feel slightly less nauseated (on my back with knees bent and hands folded on my tummy). To some extent, I suspect the latter; since I already have a young child who needs a lot of attention and care, I can’t just indulge the whims of my pregnant body. But then again, my first pregnancy wasn’t accompanied by a hormone deficiency, and I don’t know any woman who experienced two pregnancies that were exactly alike. I am soooooo relieved that Marie is weaned, though, because the mere thought of feeling this way and breastfeeding on top of it makes me feel light-headed and panicky. I just don’t think I could have handled it.

If I’m making it sound like this pregnancy is miserable, well, then, I suppose am guilty as charged. But it’s not all bad news. I’m also feeling confident that when I no longer have to take progesterone supplements (8 days from now) and when I am officially in the second trimester (15 days from now), I will begin feeling significantly better. Not that I expect the rest of my pregnancy to go smoothly without a single hitch, but I do expect this first-trimester misery to subside soon, at least enough for me to be able to enjoy my days a little more and consequently, for my daughter and husband to enjoy me a little more. Seriously, these past weeks cannot have been that fun for either of them. Not only have I been tired and prone to sudden fits of nausea and fatigue too strong to resist, but I have been moody as hell, more likely than ever to either sit and stew while ignoring everybody or to snap and yell at others for mere trifles.

I think Marie, especially, has picked up on my mood. Toffi is an adult and is much more able to understand why his wife is so apt to blow her stack these days. I know it bothers him, but he knows it’s temporary and that it’s not him that’s making me crazy. But Marie doesn’t know these things, and she seems to sense it on a much more subconscious level. I think a lot of her tantrums and the battles of the wills we’ve been having can be partly blamed on my ambivalent (and sometimes downright hostile) mood. It also hasn’t helped that she hasn’t been sleeping nearly enough over the past 3-4 weeks (a topic on which I could rant for days), but even this chronic sleep deprivation could be at least partly related to feelings of insecurity arising from my pregnancy and the way I’ve been feeling and acting.

In other words, I can’t wait for the next two weeks to be over, to feel more certain of this pregnancy going to term, to feel physically and mental better and to feel like I have more control over my own behavior again.

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