Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On demand

Yes. A post about breastfeeding. Not about the controversial Time Magazine cover though. Just about my kids and me.

Breastfeeding these days is supposed to be on demand. Which I'm all for, but I'm not good at. I'm a schedule kind of girl. On demand throws me off. It makes me sit down (often, very often), and do nothing, except feeding my baby, while to-do lists remain long. It's OK though, this will not last for years.

My baby demands to nurse somewhere between every 2-4 hours. Having a bigger brother running around means he gets distracted a lot while nursing, which leads to demanding to nurse more often because he didn't get a lot of milk in the previous session. We only get to the 4 hours when we're on the go, never at home. There are people who say that my kid is feeding out of boredom, and I should get out of the house more, so the on-demand will be more spaced out. But there is stuff that needs to be done, sometimes, at home, and I can't be on the go 24/7.

My pediatrician thinks once a baby has reached a certain weight, he/she should be able to get by with 4 to 5 feeds a day. Yeah, right, on a bottle maybe, not on a breast, or at least not on mine (or at least not my kids). With baby #1 these kind of comments made me very nervous, now I just shrug them off. Even though I would love to have a kid that only demands every 4-5 hours, mine are not that way and I also understand very well that breastfeeding is not just about food. I can count on it that every time I have to clean the baby's stuffed nose in the middle of the night, he will want to nurse afterward. For comfort, and to be able to fall back asleep. I think that's perfectly OK (even I sometimes curse silently saying it was only 1.5 hrs ago that he last nursed), and I will give the evil eye to anyone saying that babies snacking for comfort are starting a bad habit and will be snacking on chocolate and/or chips in front of the TV later in life when they're bored or sad.

In the whole discussion about breastfeeding and on-demand there is however not a lot of thought about how it has to be a situation that is best for baby AND mommy. With my first baby I was so focused on 'breast is best' and that you should exclusively breastfeed for the first six months that I completely lost sight of myself. My son wanted to nurse all the time, day and night. Except for about a month when he ended up in our bed around midnight every night, he slept in his own room, which meant I was up at least three times a night. He didn't gain much weight between three and five months, which made my pediatrician suggest to start supplementing with formula, which freaked me out and made me ask a second opinion with a breastfeeding specialist at the hospital. This doctor said nothing was wrong and suggested I should nurse even more, which basically would have meant having my son latched on 24/7. I sought advice everywhere and didn't know how to form my own opinion anymore. I now wish someone had told me to look for the balance between what was right for baby and me, but I'm not sure I would have listened (I'm sure my mom did say something like that), the baby was all-important to me. I only found myself again after a few therapy sessions (and the baby starting solids, finally the bottle around 7 months, and sleeping better at night).

So even before the arrival of baby #2 I decided to do things differently. He's sleeping in a co-sleeper next to me, so even if he wakes three times a night (which he does), I don't have to get up, and even though it's tiring, it's nothing compared to the to-and-fros I did with #1. He's a big boy (bigger than his brother) and packing on the pounds as he should, so now my pediatrician compliments me for getting these results by exclusively breastfeeding. But two days ago I did start giving him a bottle of formula before putting him down for the night in an attempt to have him sleep better at night. Waking up three times a night, wanting to nurse every time, is just too much for me. Don't say it's a growth spurt, those don't last for three weeks. It might be due to his stuffed nose, or maybe he's already teething, or maybe he just wants to cuddle up to mommy at night, or…  We'll probably never know. I just can't get to the point of exhaustion I had the first time, especially not with a toddler running around - who usually wakes up around 6/6:30 am just when the baby's fallen back asleep, making sure I don't get any sleep past 5:30 am… The first night with bottle didn't make any difference. We'll see how the coming nights will be. Otherwise he's such a happy baby - and didn't make any problems with the bottle at all. He still wants to nurse before falling asleep at night, even with his tummy full of formula, which makes me smile (for naps I can just put him down, but at night he wants to nurse to sleep - which is often a challenge with his big brother coming in and jumping on the bed) and hope that he will continue to nurse until six or seven months (I say this because his brother, who took two months before finally accepting the bottle, rejected the breast pretty quickly after discovering it required much less effort to get milk from a bottle than from my breast). Yes, I will wean him. I admire the women who can/want to nurse their children for 2-3 years, but that is just not for me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The bracelet

My mom used to wear this bracelet

First, there were only two 'coins' on it, one with my sister's name on the front and her birthday on the back, and one with my name and birthday. Then years later she added the heart to represent her stillborn son. When my nephew was born, he got a coin too, next to my sister's, and almost four years later one was added for my niece. The last one my mom added was for our first son.

When my mom died, we talked a bit about what to do with the bracelet. It had been such a part of her, that we briefly considered having her wear it and take it with her into the grave. But it had too much meaning to do so. Incorporating it into the gravestone was also discussed - but the chances that it would get stolen were too big, so we abandoned that as well. Until we came up with a better idea, my dad kept it safe.

My dad recently had a sixth coin with our second son's name and birthday added to the bracelet, and when we saw each other over Easter, he gave it to me and asked to alternate it with my sister.

I won't wear it because it's not my story that it represents, but my mom's. I liked the idea of exchanging it with my sister, but at first I didn't really know what to do with it, I didn't want it just sit in its box and being forgotten until I would hand it to her.

But now I think I know. Today is my sister's birthday. So this morning I opened the box, I took the bracelet in my hand and looked at that oldest coin, the one with my sister's name and birthday on it and thought what that birth (a healthy girl after stillbirth and miscarriage, born on a day people in Holland remember the death from WWII) and that girl has meant to my mother for all those years.

My mom and sister, on the beach in Holland, probably somewhere in the early 1990s
And it made me tear up, because I miss my mom so much.