motherhood

I Didn’t Breastfeed a Full Year and It’s Going to be Okay

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I nursed my daughter for 10.5 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics would say that I didn’t breastfeed long enough.

An average French mother would think I was insane for nursing for such a long time.

You know what? The method that I chose to feed my baby was neither of their business.

I had difficulty breastfeeding.

It hurt longer than I was told it would. Clogged ducts are no joke. I’m grateful I never got mastitis.

But most of all, I didn’t expect to have a supply problem.

I exclusively breastfed for 3 months. In that time, my daughter went from the 28th percentile for weight to the 2nd.

And yes, I drank TONS of water. Yes, I ate lactation cookies (and they were DELICIOUS, but did nothing to help my supply). Yes, I drank Mother’s Milk tea. Yes, I tried all the things. But nothing worked.

It was obvious that my newborn was constantly hungry and sometimes wanted to eat every half hour. In between feedings, I also tried to pump (supplement with breastmilk, say all the experts!) and the results were always discouraging. There was never any extra to save for later.

At my daughter’s 3 month check up, her pediatrician gently broke the news that she was undernourished. He suggested supplementing with formula. And he was a huge breastfeeding advocate (and good friend) so I knew his advice came from a place of loving concern for my daughter.

I started supplementing with formula and my daughter’s weight immediately jumped up the chart.

Formula was a blessing.

In my daughter’s case, she needed the additional calories from formula to grow. We found that supplementing with formula was what was right for US.

But that doesn’t mean it will be right for you and your baby.

Your baby may thrive with exclusive breastfeeding.

You may supplement with breastmilk or formula.

You might use formula from the start for a variety of reasons.

Guess what: it’s all good.

The choices that you make as a parent are yours.

New parents are inundated with decisions, and it goes far beyond feeding. Go on any new parent Facebook group and you will see parents battling each other over issues like co-sleeping, sleep training, first foods, screen time, and more.

But these decisions are yours to make. As long as your baby is loved, cared for, and safe, you are doing it right. You automatically made the right decision (and there is not just one right one.)

My daughter is now a healthy, thriving toddler, right smack in the middle of where she should be in height and weight. She constantly surprises me with what she is learning. Most recently, she chimes in with “E-I-O” when we sing Old MacDonald. Formula didn’t make her fat, or stupid, or cause her to be less emotionally attached to me – she runs to me just to give me a hug at least once a day.

What formula did do is help my daughter grow. It’s that simple.

Formula gave us peace of mind.

We gave our daughter formula with confidence, knowing that we were doing what we needed to do to ensure she grew and developed appropriately. On a personal level, I felt so much less stress and pressure to produce more, more, more to keep up with her demands. With that stress gone, I became a less anxious, better mom.

My focus went to my daughter, not to my breastmilk.

I was able to quit breastfeeding at 10.5 months so my husband and I could travel for a week without our daughter. I stopped because I wouldn’t be able to nurse during that time and didn’t want to pump. I thought I would miss it; I was sure that if it wasn’t for that trip, I would have nursed until she’s 2. But honestly? I don’t miss it at all.

  • I don’t miss wearing only easy access nursing clothes (although Latched Mama is the best in the business for them).
  • I don’t miss pumping. At all.
  • I don’t miss the scheduling demand… making sure that I was home from a haircut or a church event by a specific time in order to feed the baby.
  • I don’t miss planning a single glass of wine around my baby’s next feeding.

I thought I would miss it for the cuddle factor. My daughter and I logged a lot of hours together snuggled up nursing and I thought I would automatically lose that sweet time of connection.

But I didn’t. Even though my toddler would rather run around dumping bins of toys that be held, I still hold her every single day. We still rock in the glider in her nursery as we sing a bedtime song and say our prayers. She still falls asleep on me when she’s really tired. These things will end one day, but quitting breastfeeding didn’t stop them.

The point is this: love those babies. Think through the choices you make for them. But don’t let the choices paralyze you with anxiety or guilt. Breastfed or bottle-fed, cloth-diapered or disposable-diapered, homemade baby food or from the jar, the babies will turn out alright.

The babies will turn out alright.

family, motherhood

48 People Came to My Daughter’s 1st Birthday Party. Here is What I Learned.

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The week leading up to my daughter’s 1st birthday party was like preparing to go to battle. I had planned something party-related to do every single evening.

  1. Order balloons? Check.
  2. Order Chick-fil-A catering? Check.
  3. Order cake from Costco? Check.
  4. Go to the grocery store and buy pumpkins? Check. (Bonus check for spending an hour sorting through moldy pumpkins to find 25 that were mold-free.)
  5. Draw and paint poster boards of a cow and pig for a “feed the cow” and “feed the pig” cornhole game? Check.
  6. Draw and paint a John Deere tractor on a poster for Pin the Wheel on the Tractor (that wouldn’t even be played). Check.

And on and on it went.

During this process, I knew that I was going too far. But I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted my daughter’s birthday party to look like and would stop at nothing to make that picture a reality.

Bless my own heart.

Why did I work so hard and stay up late night after night to throw the perfect 1st birthday party? After all, my kid is one year old. She won’t remember it. Other kids at the party won’t remember it.

I’ll be honest. I wanted the pictures.

Pictures like this:

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And this:

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Oh, and this:

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I worked myself until the party almost wasn’t fun anymore to make these picture-perfect moments happen.

By the time our 48 guests arrived, I had a killer headache that almost ruined the party for me. Thank goodness my wonderful mother practically carries a CVS pharmacy in her purse. She was able to supply me with medicine, but the first hour of the party was tainted by nearly dizzying stress-induced pain in my temple.

Mamas. There has to be a better way. 

We’re doing too much. I didn’t have to invite our whole church to the party. I didn’t have to label each item of food with witty farm-themed names. I didn’t have to spend a lot of money (don’t ask me to add it all up) on pumpkin patch decorations. I didn’t have to do any of it, really.

But I felt like I did. 

For months leading up to my daughter’s birthday, friends and family members said that they couldn’t wait to see what I would come up with for her 1st birthday party. They knew my tendency to go all out and had high expectations.

Based on past experiences, I understand why they would think that. I truly do. But maybe we should all lower our expectations a little. After all, I have a child now. She requires a lot of time and energy, and there is only so much left for extras like party prep.

It comes down to this: there is too much pressure on moms today to be perfect. Pinterest perfect. We need to tone it down. Otherwise, we get tired, stressed, anxious, and generally become worse versions of ourselves.

That is not what our children or spouses deserve. After all, they probably didn’t ask us to do any of it in the first place.

My daughter’s birthday party ended up being a blast. She loved being in the spotlight and I don’t regret gifting her the experience.

But maybe, just maybe, it should have been pared down to the essentials. No guest would have missed the cute food labels because they wouldn’t have known about them at all. 

Stop worrying about doing less than what others expect of you. Start focusing on what your sweet babies need from you. I suspect that your littles would rather have your undivided attention than a Pinterest perfect birthday party anyway.

family, motherhood

4 Parenting Lessons I’ve Learned from a Pavlik Harness

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Today my baby girl graduates from a Pavlik harness to Rhino brace. For the past 6 weeks, my little love bug has been confined by straps of felt and Velcro, a sight that wasn’t always easy for me to see. The new Rhino brace will still be confining, but we’ll at least be able to take it on and off for diaper changes, baths, car rides, and to steal unhindered snuggles every once in awhile. We’ll be able to give Emmanuella baths again. We’ll be able to see her feet again! These seem like such little things, but as we mark the halfway point of her treatment for hip dysplasia, these are things that can (and should!) be celebrated.

While the Pavlik harness and its challenges are not something that I would wish for other parents, I have to admit that our time with this device came with many lessons, some of which were incredibly valuable to me as a parent.

Lesson 1. It’s okay to grieve over what you’ve lost. 

We never expected to have a child with hip dysplasia. Neither of us had even heard of the condition or understood what it meant at first. But we soon found out that our newborn wouldn’t be exactly as we pictured her. All of those precious newborn clothes in her closet wouldn’t get worn. We were being sentenced to six weeks of snap sleepers one size up (and leaving a few snaps undone at the bottom). And we could forget about bath time for awhile. And seeing her precious, tiny feet. We wouldn’t be able to hold her certain ways (Dustin’s favorite janguar-on-a-limb hold was out). The news of Emmanuella’s hip dysplasia meant that the ideas we had of the newborn state would be altered slightly. It is natural to grieve over a loss, including a loss of your expectations. So take that time. Let it out. Cry. I did one day while looking at those adorable clothes with the tags still on. It’s okay to be disappointed that things did not go according to plan. What’s not okay is when the grieving lasts forever. Because…

Lesson 2. You will adjust to the circumstances you’re given.

Really. You will. I feared that cuddling and breastfeeding would be awkward and diaper changes frustrating when working around the harness. It turned out that my fears were unwarranted because we adjusted to life in the harness just fine. When my sweet baby snuggled against my chest, I forgot that the harness was even there. And sure diaper changes are an extra challenge when you have to get a diaper under two sets of straps on each side. But you get used to it when that is the way life is. Now if you timed me changing Emmamuella against another new mom who didn’t have to work around a harness, I’d probably be just as fast. Because I’ve learned my way around it. Obstacles sometimes aren’t nearly as threatening as they seem at first.

Lesson 3. Parents of children with special needs are superheroes. 

For a short period, we have a child with a special need. And it has given me so much respect for the parents who take care of special needs children for a lifetime. It takes a lot of time and energy to ensure you baby is receiving the proper treatment, even for something as minor as hip dysplasia. Emmanuella won’t remember her time in the Pavlik harness, but we will. We will remember the constant specialist visits and ultrasounds (and the extra bills that came with them). We will remember getting home from one orthopedic pediatrician visit across town, just to get a phone call that said come back to the hospital right now for an ultrasound or you’re not getting in for another two weeks. Most of the time it wasn’t that bad. But there were moments. And those who devote their lives to making sure their children are receiving the medical care they need deserve an award.

Lesson 4. Health is a gift. 

In 6 more weeks, Emmanuella will hopefully be finished with her treatment. If her ultrasound is clear at that time, there is a 99% chance that her hip will be healed for life. This is the outcome we’ve been praying for since her birth, and right now everything is on track. There will still be follow ups for a couple years to make sure that her hip is growing correctly, but our months of a harness and a brace will be over. Having gone through all this, though, I will not be taking our child’s health for granted. A healthy baby is a gift. Our own health is a gift as well. And this experience will serve as a reminder to take care of our bodies and treat them like the temples God intended them to be.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought for a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)