Thursday, June 28, 2012

Breastfeeding: Grab a Maxi-Pad for Your Bra (Nursing Pad Thoughts)

So. Continuing on with the breastfeeding information train, nursing pads. They're basically maxi-pads for your bra, to catch the leaking breast milk. Go buy some. 


Yes, sometimes, depending on your bra and shirt, people might be able to see the outline of them, but I promise, that looks better than the suspicious, giant wet spot on your shirt, right over your breast. Because when you least expect it, your boobs will spring a leak, like when you're in public and someone else's baby cries and that sound triggers a let-down. Or you're running behind and your boobs are getting too full and spring a leak to ease the pressure. I found nursing pads to be a great option over looking around and asking, "Is anyone thirsty?" while fluid ran down my stomach.


I loved the Lansinoh and Medela disposable ones. Loved them. They were nice and big but super thin and abosrbant, and they had the sticky pads on the back so they could stick to my bra without moving all around, which turns out to be a crucial benefit.



Way back when, I read a bunch of reviews on various nursing pads, and many women who have smaller breasts said that the Medela and Lansinoh ones were too big for them and stuck out of their bras. The pads of those two brands ARE big but they're really thin, and the other brands were smaller but way thicker, which did make them more obvious through shirts. And, not all of them had the sticky spots on the back to adhere them to your bra.


Several women also said they loved the various reusable/washable cotton nursing pads. I thought that they were okay and I was only able to use them after like, four or five months of breastfeeding, when my supply had waned and I wasn't leaking so much. If I had any kind of big let-down, then the washable pads were useless (leaked right through them), plus they don't have the sticky pads to adhere to your bra, either, so they'd move around and go off the bull's eye, if you know what I mean. 


I'm sure you do.


Another option is to cut actual maxi pads in half and stick those in your bra, especially if you're just hanging out at home.


Oh, and I suggest tossing a few extra sets of nursing pads in the diaper bag, purse, and breast pump... you never know when you'll saturate them while out and about and need a change!


What were/are your favorite nursing pads/leak solutions?



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Monday, June 25, 2012

Breastfeeding: Engorgement Blows Sometimes

Let's talk about boobs. Specifically, your boobs on breast milk. I'm going to talk a lot about boobs on breast milk in the coming month because I had a lot of things happen when I was breastfeeding three kids, so I want to share them, in the hopes that if someone else comes across any of these issues, they'll be armed with some info, or at least be able to say, "oh, I've heard of this happening before, it's okay". 

Before though, I feel the need to make a disclaimer. I can tell that some hardcore breastfeeding advocate might read this and get all pissed off and think that I am doing some huge disservice to women and babies everywhere because by talking about the difficult, stressful times, I could be putting women off of breastfeeding. 

Actually, my intention is exactly the opposite of that. While I couldn't care less whether or not a woman chooses to breastfeed, I believed in it for me and my babies and went through hell several times over in my determination to break through the tough times I had from getting the hang of breastfeeding. So, in writing these posts on breastfeeding, it's to bring awareness to others that it's not all peaches and cream and good times and easy, but you can get through it. And go on to have a successful breastfeeding relationship, should you choose to keep on that train. I fully believe that awareness is crucial, and that somebody is more apt to power through a tough time if they are aware of the obstacles and know how to combat them, instead of being surprised and lost and discouraged.

And, I am not saying that what I experienced is going to be the case for everyone, not even close. You may or (hopefully) may not experience any of this, and some people have a WAY easier time getting the hang of breastfeeding. Some people have absolutely zero problems with it. I wasn't one of them.

Moving on, it's come to my attention over the years that not many people are willing to offer up to pregnant moms what exactly happens to your boobs after you give birth and the milk comes in. Well, I'm willing. And trust me, the baby books can gloss over what really happens and kind of under-exaggerate the severity of what some moms go through.

One under-exaggeration being that when your milk comes in, your boobs will be "full" and "tender" and "uncomfortable" and "some moms find them to be a little painful". The truth: Your boobs can turn into excruciatingly painful rocks. Like, lumpy boulders full of swollen, burning pain, sitting right there on your chest. This is called engorgement and let me tell you, it is NOT fun. It typically happens about 4 days after birth, but everyone is different, and the milk comes in sooner the more babies you have (with my third, it only took two days). 

We obviously saw lots of family in the first weeks after each child was born and of course everyone wants to hug the new mom. And, the last thing I wanted was a hug, because the slightest whisper of a touch created ungodly amounts of pain and sometimes even triggered a painful, stinging, gushing let-down of milk. (A let-down is when your milk begins to rush out of your nipples to drown the baby for baby to more easily eat.) And the pain from the hugs made me want to first scream out OH GOD THE PAIN and then karate-chop the person in the face, so they were lucky I was incapacitated by pain from their touch and the c-section recovery. It's best to just politely beg off the hugs during engorgement.

Another under-exaggeration in all the baby books is that engorgement only lasts for 24-48 hours.

FUCK THAT LIE.

Mine lasted for THREE WEEKS. Yes, THREE WEEKS. Now, I'm not saying that you're going to have the same problem and I hope to God, you do not, but you should just know that it can and does last longer for some people. And no, I was not perpetuating the engorgement by pumping all the time and therefore telling my breasts to make more milk. I was just a super-prolific milk-maker and apparently, my body thought I had birthed 10-month-old triplets and needed that much milk. Apparently, my boobs are slow learners. 

I did, however occasionally pump for just a minute or two because after a while, the pain from 8-10 ounces of milk hanging out in just one breast (not an exaggeration) for hours and hours would become too much (baby can only eat so much and only so often). I would actually start to feel nauseous, nearly in tears, and literally incapable of movement, the pain was so bad, so I finally had to hook up to the milk machine just to get some relief before I cut my tits off with a chainsaw. Or started offering to nurse random babies in the neighborhood like a creep. The trick is to only pump in extreme circumstances (which hit about once or twice a day) and for only a minute or two, just to ease off some of the pressure. Because breast milk works on a supply and demand cycle, so the more you tell your boobs to make, the more they will make. So be careful with the pumping during the engorgement period. 

To ease the pain, I've heard that ice packs do wonders, but I was more a fan of the warm compresses and showers. But really, for me, nothing worked. I had had c-sections, so I was already on some pretty serious pain meds, and they didn't even help. So I was up shit creek without a paddle and just had to power through. If you feel comfortable taking it, ibuprofen helps reduce swelling and may work for the less severe cases. After the hard-core pain wore off from the c-section and I didn't need to take the serious drugs for pain anymore, I switched to ibuprofen, which was recommended by my doctor, and it didn't really help out my boob situation; just the incision pain.

I asked for tips for easing the engorgement period from other moms, and this is what they provided (some are what I've talked about but I'll list them anyway just to have a comprehensive list):


1. This one was mentioned several times - Cold cabbage leaves in your bra; change when they start to wilt. But one person provided this additional info: Don't do this too many times a day or you will dry up too much. Do it maybe 3 times a day, 30 minutes at a time. *UPDATE* AND, be sure to wash the cabbage leaves and/or your breasts after using them; an awesome reader (thank you, Lindsay) commented that her friend's baby got an infection and had to be hospitalized, and the doctor said it was from bacteria from the cabbage leaves.
2. Bags of frozen peas on your boobs.
3. Hot showers (the warmth stimulates the let-down reflex, easing some of the pressure).
4. Warm compresses.
5. Pump only for relief.
6. Tight sports bras

Cabbage leaves: not just for your mouth!
photo credit: stockphoto.com


Also, during the engorgement period, when I would be nursing baby on one side and get the let-down, the other side would turn into a faucet, leaking and straight-up spraying breast milk everywhere (I'm sorry for that visual). And NO nursing pad could hold all that gushing milk, so I had to stuff a cloth diaper/burp rag into my bra, and it would get absolutely soaked. The entire thing. So keep some of those handy.


My boobs hurt from writing this. 

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Monday, June 4, 2012

One Crazy Story, Part 6: Three Kids vs. Two. Crazy As Shit.

Uuuuugh. SO GLAD to finally have gotten the emotional train wreck that is the story of Brandon on here. When I started this blog, I knew I was going to tell it but wasn't sure when. I knew I had to tell it because I make no secret of how stressful having the boys is and maybe people might be thinking, "Well then why did you keep having kids, dipshit?"


I totally get that sentiment. 

Now you all know that the third one wasn't exactly a conscious decision. Neither was the first, actually. So, now we have three kids and I have to tell you, three is what has tipped the scales for me as far as craziness, sanity, and chaos goes. I truly underestimated how big of a difference that a third child makes in a family.


I frequently see articles and blog posts from moms wondering if they should have a third child. I rarely see the ones wondering if they should go from one to two children or from three to four or more. It seems that instinctively, moms know that the third child makes for some seriously significant differences, more so than anything else. Three tips the scales.

They're right.

Moms, dads, if you're considering a third child, I beg of you to read this post thoroughly and really think about what it contains. It's going to be long, I can tell already, because three kids bring that much to consider. It's really not a decision to arrive at lightly. Many of the considerations have to do with money. Maybe you're very wealthy or at least very comfortable, so those points won't apply to you. But the emotional components probably will.


THE HUNGER GAME
Don't underestimate the food costs that a third child brings to the grocery bill. The extra few cups of milk a day, the extra breakfast, snack, lunch (half of which is ignored) afternoon snack, cup of juice, dinner (half of which is thrown on the floor) and treat or whatever bribe you threw out in sheer desperation to make him/her behave in public since you now have more kids than arms (I'll get to that next) and are willing to resort to near-prostitution to just. get. through. the. muthafuckin. day, really adds up. I'm not kidding. In the span of a few months, we went from like, a $650 a month grocery bill to about a $1000 a month. And I'm a cheap-ass bargain shopper, too. And yes, about $150 of it is booze to deal with the kids. And cheap booze, at that.


Yeah, kids kinda do that to you.


PRACTICAL ASPECTS
1. Can I get another set of arms and eyes in the back of my head? Out in public, if your kids are all close together in age and on the younger end, it's stressful to keep an eye on all three of them. That third kid really tips the scales as far as keeping track of them go. I mean, walking in a parking lot or taking them to a busy park sheds about a half a day off of my life each time. 


2. Do you really want to go through teething and potty training again? Diapers and "ass wipings" according to Nate? Three butts is a whole lotta poop; a whole lotta ass wipings. Sleepless nights? Gigantic, swollen, rock-hard, leaking breasts? (Did you think 'breasts' was going to be something else? Pervert.)


3. How are you going to handle it if all three kids are crying at once? If you do it like us and have them back-to-back-to-back, with a just-turned 4-year-old, a two-year-old, and a baby, shit like that is going to happen. I promise. And someone is going to get the shaft. It was usually the one with the less pressing problem, although many people offered up this nugget o' wisdom: When faced with multiple crying children, comfort the one who is old enough to remember that you did or did not comfort them... I still say to deal with the ones with the more pressing issues first. Screw their memories. Just add the perceived slight to the long list of things they'll take to therapy with them.


4. Another kid to get haircuts for, 20 more nails to trim (close your mouth when doing so, unless you're hungry for some clippings), another kid to bathe, to dress, brush teeth.... Takes time, people. And mental anguish.


5. Don't underestimate the noise that the third child brings. Do you have the sanity to deal with living in what is basically day-care-level noise all the time


6. Don't even think you're going to easily run errands with three small kids. GONE are the days of making a quick stop at the post office, running in to grab the forgotten milk, pretty much anything. On the plus side, having multiple children does make you more efficient and organized. Otherwise, you die.

THE SPACE CASE
Cars
Do you have room in your car? Seriously, depending on the age of your kids and car seat necessity, can you somewhat comfortably fit the extra kid in your car? Not to mention the strollers and other gear, a friend of theirs/carpool stuff. If not, can you really afford to trade up? We bought a 7-seater SUV after the 3rd was born, only to discover that the second row didn't really fit three car seats very well. And we weren't really planning on utilizing the third row unless absolutely required (we need it folded down for the cargo space), so that isn't an option for seating the 5-year-old. Five people take up a lot of room in a car.


House
Does your house really have enough bedrooms/space for a third? If not, are you truly in a position to move/trade up? Think of all the crap that you accumulate with a child.... the clothes, the gear, the toys... we are currently storing (since we have all boys) the full wardrobes of not only the size that the three boys are IN, but the in-between sizes for hand-me-downs. It's a hell of a lot of clothes.


We got lucky in having all boys and close together in age because we've just thrown them all in the same room. It's like a dorm in there. Smells like one, too.


Do you have a dining room table that will fit the fifth wheel person? The space to extend your 4-seater table to the six-seater with the extra leaf in the middle? 


Do you have space in your refrigerator for all the food a family of five consumes? Unless you want to go to the store every other day (which I swear to God, you will not have the time or especially the inclination to do), you will learn to buy big and minimize the frequency that you have to grocery shop. And you'll need somewhere to put the food. We lucked into an extra refrigerator that we shoved in the garage and it has been a lifesaver. Since I now buy 4 gallons of milk at a time, the giant 5-dozen brick of eggs from Costco, six 6-packs of yogurt, the "institution-size" double bags of bread (It always cracks me up to see that stamped on the bag of bread because I really do feel like I am living in an institution. Of the insane variety.), several gallons of juice... you get it. Takes up space. 

THE TIME MACHINE
Laundry
Do you have the time and inclination to do the extra load or two of laundry a week? The money for the added detergent/water costs? We went from doing like, 3-4 loads to 7-8 a week. There's extra bedding, towels, clothes, messes to deal with... and we also went from having the gigantic Costco-sized box of Tide last for nearly a year to a couple of months.


Doctor's Visits / Co-Pays / Health Insurance Premiums
Do you have the time to schedule those extra doctor's visits and well baby/child check-ups, not to mention if the child has health issues? The extra money for health insurance premiums and co-pays? 


School / Sports and Extracurricular Activities / Birthday Invites
What about when #3 enters school and starts getting those invites to the birthday parties? Now you not only have three kids receiving party invites, and have to juggle those (and the expense of the gifts) but what about sports and other extracurricular activities? The cost of lessons, sports fees? You have three kids in three different leagues with three different birthday parties and two different recitals and a study group, all on one weekend.... 


Fuck me. Bye bye, weekends and evenings!


But I guess, this is where the kids learn the art of sacrifice and picking what's important. Or, they learn that mom and dad will drive themselves up the wall to fulfill every "need" their children present.

THE BABYSITTER'S CLUB
Do you realize that it's a lot harder to find people willing to babysit three kids over two? Look at who watches your children and think about whether or not they'd be capable of AND willing to watch another child. I'm talking about for the date nights and overnight trips (if you can even still afford them), not necessarily daycare, although, that's a consideration, too. Can your daycare take on another child, and a baby at that? Can you afford the cost of another child in daycare?


For date nights and overnight trips, when we had only two, it was much easier to convince family members to watch them. Now with three? Our options dropped off significantly, as our need to get away increased. Shitty. We now only have my mom, who lives out of state, and Nate's dad and stepmom, who live an hour away and have lives of their own. Our primary sitter, Nate's mom, can take two of them without issues but when it comes to all three... She will occasionally and in extreme circumstances do it but it's not really an option.


So yeah, we kinda fucked ourselves there.


Actually, she's gotten more willing since Brandon is getting older and a *touch* easier to handle.


ENTERTAINMENT
Next, the movies, zoo, amusement park, concert, ballpark, season passes, theater, museum, water park, general entertainment cost-of-admission tickets. Add another ticket price/season pass into the already exorbitant costs, and it may become prohibitive. 


So instead of having the financial freedom to have season passes to the local favorite amusement park/museum, being able to see a movie once a month, attend some major sporting events, and go out to dinner, you might be able to see a play at the reduced-price multi-ticket family discount night at the local theater once a year, and have a family pass to the local museum, and never see the inside of a restaurant nicer than McDonald's for many, many years.


National Lampoon's Vacation
Are you used to going to Disneyland, or Hawaii, or somewhere else fun every year? Can you afford the third plane ticket? How are you going to do the sleeping arrangements in the hotel?  Most have two beds, which is great when there are four people. Might be tough sleeping three kids in a bed or dealing with who has to sleep on the floor. How are you going to configure the seating on the rides? There will always be an odd man out. I realized this when we went to Legoland when I was pregnant with Brandon. The other two boys were too small to ride most of the rides by themselves and will be for some time, and Nate and I were able to split sitting with them, except for the ones that preggos can't go on. But if we'd had the third with us then? We would have had to take twice as long going through everything twice to allow the third child the chance to ride. So it looks like we won't be returning to those types of amusement parks until at least the two oldest can ride together.

THE LOVE BOAT
Do you really have the time and emotional capacity to invest in another child? Like, really really really? Are you already feeling kind of tapped out? A third child is only going to make that worse, way worse. You're already splitting yourself between your spouse/partner, yourself, and the other two kids. Do you really have the reserves for another child? Can you truly invest the time for another child? Can your marriage/relationship afford the distraction, time requirements, and stress of another child?


It takes a hell of a lot of yourself to raise EACH child you bring into this world. Yes, the more kids you add, the more you can utilize siblings to help with each other, but when one child is sick, or struggling with stress or emotional upheaval, or dealing with whatever issues arise at any given moment, it falls to you, or dad, to deal with it. Most things siblings cannot (and should not) take care of. So you really need to ask yourself, "Am I capable of divesting myself for yet another child? When I am splitting myself between the two kids, my spouse, myself (yes, yourself; you count as much as anyone) and the rest of my obligations, do I really have enough left over for another child? Am I prepared to sacrifice the time I do have with the two kids for another? Am I going to feel guilty for taking the time and energy from my other kids?"


So in conclusion:


I was already crazy with just the two, but now I have one foot in the loony bin and the other on a banana peel. Three kids are hard. It's really crazy. It really does tip the scales from manageable to... I don't want to say unmanageable....


Chaotic might be a better word. 


We are friends with a couple who have four kids. They were over for a birthday party one day and the dad was talking to me and of course I got distracted from the conversation by a kid,  apologized, said something like, "man, three kids is fucking nuts", then realized that I was telling some dude who has four kids that three is crazy. He responded that three is no different than four. He got it. He was like, "Once you have three kids, it's all over. Four isn't any different." Then he cracked that we should have another kid and I wanted to punch his nuts up through his throat.


Yeah. NO THANKS.


Some of these things may seem really small (I mean really, I threw out the extra laundry detergent costs to consider?) but together, they all add up into one big thing. Those tiny expenses really, really do add up. Trust me, they do, I know for a fact. The time required for the care of a third child adds up, too. More than maybe one would think.


I have realized that I will always want a baby. But I don't want another child. Babies are my thing; I absolutely love those warm and snugly tiny sacks of poop and gas. The desire for a baby may never go away, but that doesn't mean I should keep having kids to sate it, because it will never be sated. So really ask yourself if you just want to have another baby, or do you really want to add another member to your family? In a lot of the articles and posts that I read, many of the authors just talk about how much they want a baby, to hold a baby, to smell a baby, etc., and they never really say they want to have another child, have another family member. This scares me a little because it doesn't appear to me that they are realizing or considering the difference, and I'm not always sure that they are taking into consideration the fact that the baby only is a baby for a too-short period of time. It will turn into a toddler. And then, a teenager. Remember that.





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