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Family, Pregnancy

Formula Feeding // Your Questions Answered

September 14, 2017

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The number of questions I’ve gotten on Instagram about formula feeding have been too many to count. It appears that when you talk openly and honestly about your decision to stop breastfeeding and switching to formula, people send their questions in large quantities. I’m so thankful to be able to help moms who are struggling with the decision, wanting to know it’s OK to formula feed, and help squash any of the mom guilt associated with formula feeding these days.

As most of you know, I had a tumultuous feeding journey with Ainsley and wrote this post about the topic. The second time around, I was really reluctant to breast feed at all and wrote another post on the topic when I was feeling very conflicted about making the switch.

The Decision to Wean // 

Soon after writing that post, I decided to bite the bullet and wean. I wanted to wean, I knew it was the best decision for me emotionally and for our entire family, and yet I continued to waffle between pumping and formula feeding – deciding to wean one minute and then changing my mind the next. Ultimately, what drove my decision to wean was the following:

  1. Breastfeeding made me feel crazy. I don’t say that lightly, it really did do a number on me emotionally, and I remembered how once I weaned with Ainsley it was as if the sun started shining again and I felt like myself. I wanted to feel that way this time around.
  2. I am a modest person, and I didn’t see myself getting comfortable with public feedings. Maybe over time I would have gotten more comfortable with feeding in public, but to me, it felt daunting always wondering when/where I would be when Collins needed to eat. Would I be able to find privacy? Should I just stay at home around all feeding times? What would I wear that could accommodate feeding in public?
  3. I didn’t want to. This sounds incredibly selfish and I struggled with that the most. Shouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice everything for my baby? Yes. And no. I remembered all the effort that went into getting pregnant with Collins. The acupuncture appointments, doctor’s visits, preceding miscarriage, 30 weeks of shots in my booty, pills and supplements. I came to peace with the fact that I had sacrificed my body for over a year and that it was OK to draw the line somewhere, to regain some piece of myself in my own body.
  4. I had a living, breathing example of how you can feed a child formula and they can thrive. Having the perspective of having done this before really helped give me the freedom and confidence to wean.

So that’s that! I don’t feel the need to justify my decision to anyone, but for the sake of this post I wanted to explain. Because a lot of the posts you read on the topic are from women who can’t breastfeed – who struggle with supply issues or who have children who aren’t gaining weight or won’t latch – and go through every effort to make it work but physically it just isn’t working. And that’s not my story. Maybe it’s not yours. And I want you to know that it’s okay to stop breastfeeding even when everything is going really well.

Some of you asked me to address the stigma of formula feeding and how I deal with that. The short answer? I don’t! In today’s “breast is best” culture there is significant stigma around formula feeding and I can’t see why people feel the need to justify their choice not to breastfeed, but for me I just didn’t let that worry seep into my mind. The day I made the decision to wean I felt SO much freedom and peace knowing I made the right decision for myself and my entire family, and that was enough to override the thoughts and/or judgements of anyone else.

Making a Formula Choice // 

One of the questions that’s been asked most often is what formula we are using. I wish I could say that, in true crunchy fashion, we are using the best, most expensive, most organic option around. But we aren’t. I aimed to make a decision based both on quality, price, and convenience. We are using Similac Pro Sensitive for Collins and she has done really well with it! I went with the sensitive formula as a precaution since she had a sensitive tummy during the first few weeks she was breastfeeding and I didn’t want to rock the boat, though I’m sure she would do just fine on the regular formula.

I’ve heard awesome things about the Holle brand of formula out of Europe (like many things, they are ahead of the health and wellness curve here) but price, ease of getting it at my local Target, etc. really kept me from going that route.

We use these bottles. And this article is helpful as a guide for how much to feed your formula fed baby. I’m not sure if this is true, but if Collins is consistently draining her bottles at every feeding for a couple days, then that’s when I increase how much she is taking at each feed. I do try and track how much she eats in any given day make sure she isn’t eating too much or too little but generally I let hunger be the guide.

Comfort Nursing, Tummy Troubles and More //

Everyone has different opinions about baby feeding schedules, and while we do follow a pretty nice little schedule, during the early weeks and months Collins did like to nurse for comfort. I was worried how we would get through the fussy hours of the evening if comfort nursing wasn’t an option. Introducing a pacifier was a really easy way around that. I would cuddle Collins close and hold a paci in when she wanted to be comforted and it worked like a charm – and I didn’t have to be a human pacifier which was an even greater benefit.

I did some reading on the topic of cluster feeding, and some experts have indicated that cluster feeding can actually make stomach issues worse in fussy newborns and babies because it overstimulates their digestive system, causing more gas, which causes more fussiness, which causes more comfort nursing. Basically a cycle that never ends!

I had an oversupply issue and overactive letdown, which really compounded the tummy issues Collins was having. Almost as soon as we switched over to bottles, Collins was happier and less fussy, and I was a lot less stressed out. I spent a lot of unnecessary time thinking about my diet, if that was causing tummy issues, what I was eating or not eating, etc. I don’t think any of that was to blame for Collins’s tummy troubles early on, but having the control of formula rather than the variable of breast milk was a relief.

Scheduled Eating //

Some of you asked about schedules vs. feeding on demand. Whether we formula fed or breast fed, we didn’t really do much “on demand” feeding and followed a 3-hour schedule from the start with both girls. Now that Collins is a bit older we’re stretching to 3 1/2 to 4 hours between feeds. We have found that our girls, and our whole family, really thrives on a predictable schedule. Do I get upset or out of shape if things don’t go perfect? I try not to! And trust me we have our days, but following “eat, play, sleep” a la Babywise really helps me to know that she is getting full feeds when she is awake an alert and if she is fussy outside of her feeds then I can problem solve other causes. This is one area where I don’t see much difference between breast or bottle, especially if you are following and eat-play-sleep routine and encouraging full feeds.

Bottle Warmers, Specialty Items, Etc. //

In our house, we avoid all specialty things that would get our girls accustomed to something we can’t recreate on the go, which means no bottle warmers or water warmed to the perfect temperature or baby wipe warmers, etc. I can’t imagine taking a road trip and having a baby that required her milk be warm. How does that even work?! I’m sure there are plenty of moms who make it work, but we just got both girls used to room temp or slightly cold water for their bottles from the start and they’ve taken it that way ever since!

And Finally…

YOU know what is best for you and your family, momma. Deep down in your mom gut, you know. If that’s breastfeeding until your child is two, then go, momma, go! And if you decide not to breastfeed at all, that’s more than OK, too. As moms I genuinely believe that we are all just trying to make the best decisions for our families, and because we are all unique individuals what is right is also going to vary greatly. I hope that we can continue to build one another up rather than tear each other down.

Family, Pregnancy

Mind and Body After Baby (the second time around) // 3 Months

August 22, 2017

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I’m back today to talk about mind and body after baby #2 at the three month mark! Collins is actually closer to four months than three months at this point, but that’s close enough, right? The last post I did about the postpartum recovery period was 3-6 weeks, and a LOT has changed since then.
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Mind Update ::

Let me say first that now, looking back, I can see that I was trying really hard to pull myself together during the first two months after Collins was born. Almost daily I felt as if I was floundering, stumbling, pushing through the haze day-in and day-out. I’m sure that from the outside looking in it seemed as if I had things fairly pulled together, but it was more of a struggle than I anticipated.

I remember going on multiple runs during the first few months after Collins was born, feet hitting the pavement and sun beating down on me, thinking “I’m running to hold on to my sanity and mental health.” And while that may sound dramatic, those first few months I really did feel as if I was walking on eggshells, afraid that I was perilously close to postpartum depression.

During those first two months, I thought about my postpartum experience with Ainsley and remembered feeling nearly the exact same. Emotional, easily stressed, edgy, prone to crying over the smallest things. I think part of that is normal, and some of it was probably a bit more extreme than what others experience. I waffled back and forth, back and forth about weaning and did some ridiculous pumping semi-weaned thing for a couple weeks while I tried to get up the courage to just switch entirely to formula. For some reason I felt weirdly emotional about the idea of weaning. And then I remember that with Ainsley, within a week of weaning, I started to feel like myself again. The clouds and fog lifted and everything about motherhood seemed more manageable. I was able to delight in my daughter more than ever before and wasn’t nearly as edgy.

So, with the encouragement of my amazing husband, I made the full switch to formula. And the same thing happened. I felt like myself again, life became more manageable, and I was able to delight in and enjoy Collins more than before. And while this is certainly NOT meant to be a debate about breast vs. formula, for me it was a wonderful decision and gave me a lot of freedom and mental clarity.
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Body/Fitness Update ::

As you probably already know if you’ve read my previous posts about my recovery, I’ve been exercising since about 3 weeks postpartum, returning to more vigorous exercise around 5/6 weeks. At this point, I’ve resumed all my regular workouts and activities and have been really surprised and how much my fitness level was able to be maintained while pregnant and how quickly my endurance returned to normal. This has nothing to do with weight, pant size, etc. I’m just talking fitness level and general ability. All that to say, working out during your pregnancy does make a huge difference in your recovery after!

As far as weight goes, I really have no idea how much I weigh right now. We don’t have a scale and I haven’t been to the doctor since my 6-week postpartum check-up, so I’m clueless until the next time I go to the doctor. I’ve been lifting more/heavier weight so I’m feeling like I have more muscle than I did before I got pregnant. I can tell you that while many of my favorite pre-baby clothing items fit again, my high-waisted jeans and a few pairs of shorts definitely do NOT fit right quite yet, so I’m giving myself grace and time to get back to where I want to be in that regard.

I have been running 3 or 4 miles on the weekend and doing workouts on Beachbody on Demand 4 to 5 of the other days of the week. Right now I’m working my way through my second round of the new program Shift Shop, which is a combination of cardio and strength training videos, and it’s been great for keeping me motivated and engaged. Since the weather is really nice here, we’ve also been taking the big double stroller on long walks as a little bit of “bonus exercise.”

Just the other day, I told Joe how STRONG I feel right now in my body. Am I in the best shape I’ve ever been? Not quite! Am I the skinniest? Heck no! But I feel fit, strong and able and that’s the biggest blessing I could ask for as a busy mom of two little girls.

So that’s that! My update on my postpartum experience the second time around at the 3-month mark. I’m hoping to do another update closer to 6 months, then again and 9 months and 1 year!

Madison

Family, Pregnancy

Thoughtful {Unique} Baby Gifts

August 2, 2017

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Let’s talk baby gifts, shall we? I want to be a better gift giver, and slowly but surely I’m learning how to be thanks to my mom friends who are great gift-givers themselves. A few of my close friends come to mind, the ones who always have the most unique, pretty and fun gift ideas. Not necessarily extravagant, per se, just spot-on and thoughtful. After having a second baby, and having a ton of friends and family having babies, gift giving has been on my mind. Here are a few of my favorite gifts for babies and new-moms. Not necessarily must-have products but gifts mom will be happy to receive.

1. Comfy Clothes or Gift Card
This is my #1 gift for a new mom. Because chances are she isn’t about to spend money on clothes when her body is in such a time of transition, but a few new items of clothing do wonders for the self-esteem when you’re in such a strange time with your body and living in sweat pants and t-shirts and workout gear. Gift cards to Old Navy have been a go-to for me because you can get a lot of bang for your buck, as well as cute mom-focused t-shirts from The Be Brand, my new favorite mom-gear shop online.

2. Solly Baby Swaddles
I’ve been given these and gifted these quite a few times in the last couple months. I LOVE how soft and stretchy they are – so much better than the muslin swaddles that everyone gifts. They work as burp cloths, swaddles, blankets, sun shades, etc. They are so super soft and stretchy and something I wouldn’t have splurged on for myself but SO appreciate being gifted.

3. A Box of Bows Subscription 
We LOVE A Little Lady Shop hair bows in our house for the girls and they have a cute little “Box of Bows” monthly subscription that you can gift. How fun, right? I love gifting the bow subscription to new girl mommas, especially if its their first girl!

4. Unique Art
I realize that art is really personal, but I think that gifting a print from a place like Minted is so super sweet and thoughtful if you know what baby’s room looks like and mom’s personal style.

5. Baby Play Mat 
I love this Polar Bear Baby Play Mat from Land of Nod. I was gifted something similar from Pottery Barn when Ainsley was born. It was totally something I would never have purchased on my own but I love that it’s designed for baby yet looks cute in your home. Win-win, right?

6. The Gift of Time
When you have a new baby, everyone says “If you need anything, let me know!” But that is so open-ended and most people I know are hesitant to reach out and actually take you up on the offer. I would suggest being more specific, gifting a card along with some time slots that work for you to stop by and help. Saying “I have Tuesday mornings from 9-11:30 available and would love to gift two mornings of my time to you to help out around the house.” or “I would love to take your toddler off your hands for three mornings in the next couple months as a gift to you. Monday or Wednesday mornings work for me!” is the kind of specificity that most moms need to take you up on your offer.

7. The Gift of a Clean Home
When Collins was born, my Beautycounter team gifted me a clean house! Okay, they pre-paid the gal who cleans our house for 9 cleaning sessions. What a luxury! A dirty house stresses me out to no end, so having a clean house during a time of transition and chaos was the most wonderful gift I could have been given.

8. Food Gift Cards
People tend to bring meals during the first two or three weeks after baby is born, but really, I found that I needed the meals and help more as baby girl got older and fussier. The first two weeks were total bliss. Collins slept all the time, she was very easygoing and chill, and life was good. And then the third week rolled around and she woke up, got fussier and gassier, and was generally just a bit more difficult for a few weeks. I felt totally overwhelmed and those that brought meals a little later were much appreciated! That said, gift cards would have been equally welcome!

Family, Pregnancy

Postpartum Vitamin & Supplement Routine

August 1, 2017

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Hi, friends! We are back from family vacation and I’m busy digging into a new week and a new month. It seems almost weekly that I get questions from readers and friends about my favorite supplements and vitamins, and while I’m certainly not an expert, I have done my research and found products that work well for me and my body. The postpartum period is a time when nutrition is extremely important. The postpartum body has gone through a LOT and nourishing it and fueling it appropriately is key to having a good recovery. Plus, our bodies are going through so much change (including lack of sleep) so any extra edge or boost I can get is welcome.

So, all that said, here is what has been working well for me at nearly 3 months postpartum*

1. Garden of Life My Kind Organics Once Daily Prenatal
I love the once-daily format of this prenatal. In the past I’ve taken prenatal vitamins that require you to take multiple pills each day, but I just couldn’t remember to do so consistently. I love Garden of Life products because their vitamins are all made from whole food sources and this prenatal contains folate, not folic acid, a very important deciding factor for me.

2. Bio Cleanse 
I’ve been using the Bio Cleanse since Collins was born after a friend recommended it to me. It’s a supplement made up primarily of magnesium and vitamin C with the goal of helping promote regularity and reduce gas/bloating. I took magnesium throughout my pregnancy to help with cramping and pregnancy insomnia. And since pregnancy has a way of doing a number on your stomach, any extra assistance in keeping things moving is good in my book.

3. ProBio 5 
Again, I’ve been taking ProBio 5 for over a year as I’ve tried to focus on repairing my gut health in an effort not to get sick quite as often as I have in the past. There are lots of great probiotics on the market, but this has been the one that I’ve stuck with.

4. Iron Supplement (HemeVite Plus)
I’m a vegetarian and tend to always be on the lower end of normal as far as iron is concerned. In fact, during my pregnancy with Ainsley I had the worst headaches until I started increasing my iron intake! I know iron can bother some people’s stomachs, but I’ve had zero issues with this brand. I take one pill per day

5. Water, water, water
I’m working on being more intentional about my water intake. Whenever I feel tired or worn down, I just chug a couple large glasses of water. 😉 And since I drink a lot of coffee, too, I try to balance out my coffee in take with water to stay hydrated and energized.

6. OmegaBrite Fish Oil
This was recommended to me by a doctor as one of the higher quality fish oils. In fact, some of the major studies done on mental health and fish oil used this particular brand. Since our family doesn’t eat a lot of fish because it’s hard to come by in small town Iowa, I’ve tried my best to be more diligent about taking a fish oil supplement.

*affiliate links included
**I’m not a doctor or medical professional. All advice is my personal opinions and you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Family, Pregnancy

Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding and Supplementing :: The Second Time Around

July 6, 2017

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A few weeks ago on Instagram I promised that I would write this post. And yet here I am, two weeks later, still kicking the can down the road and avoiding writing about the topic of breastfeeding, bottle feeding, supplementing. Not because I’m afraid to write about the topic, but because it’s a complicated subject – one that I feel different about daily. Chances are, if you’re a mom, you understand what I’m talking about. Because in the long run, it’s something that doesn’t really matter that much, and yet it matters so much when you’re in the thick of the newborn and baby days.

Let’s back up a little bit first. While I was preparing for Collins to arrive I debating not breastfeeding at all. Not a flippant comment here and there, but rather a very real conversation with Joe about not even giving it a shot. Having had a less than ideal breastfeeding (err pumping) journey with Ainsley, I was traumatized by the experience and not at all keen for a repeat. Exclusive pumping is not for the faint of heart!

I was never one of those people who dreamed about breastfeeding my child. And having formula fed Ainsley after four months of pumping, it made me realize that formula was, in fact, quite a wonderful thing. Nutritionally inferior to breastmilk? Yes, there’s no debating that. But a fantastic second option. Yet time and time again with both pregnancies I was met with plenty of unsolicited “Breast is Best” messaging. I still remember getting a call from a survey taker from the Minnesota state government after Ainsley was born and giving them an earful about how I didn’t want to have breastfeeding pushed on me any more than it already had been.

So this time around I promised myself: no guilt, no struggling to breastfeed, no exclusive pumping around the clock to keep up my supply. Joe and I decided that my goal would be two weeks of breastfeeding to give Collins the colostrum and early milk and then if it wasn’t working I would switch over to formula. My two week goal came and went, and I continued to breastfeed. I’m fairly certain that few moms would classify breastfeeding as “easy” but it was workable, a few issues with over-supply aside.

A lot of the stories about breastfeeding and switching over to formula that you find on the internet usually revolve around times when a mom has no other choice – baby isn’t gaining weight, mom doesn’t have enough supply, latching isn’t working, etc. But what about when it is working? With Ainsley, I had very little guilt about not breastfeeding because her lip gap caused major latch issues that I don’t think we could have overcome. It was my out, my valid excuse for switching to bottles. And then eventually, dropping the exclusive pumping routine and switching to formula. But with Collins? What was my reasoning? What would I tell others who asked?

At the end of the day I don’t really have a major reason. But here’s what I do know: Breastfeeding was not, for me, a blissful bonding experience with my baby. Having bottle fed Ainsley for a year, I knew enough to realize that I enjoyed bottle feeding my baby more than I did breastfeeding her. I could kiss her head and look into her eyes without the stress of whether or not she would pull away or unlatch or get upset. I knew enough to know that because I’m a fairly modest person, breastfeeding in public places was giving me serious anxiety and staying home with a toddler or being home for every feeding just wasn’t an option. I knew enough to know that formula, while nutritionally inferior, would give me the ability to be the most present wife and mom I could be.

So where does that leave me right now? I don’t really know. I’m still pumping three times a day right now, producing enough milk to cover about 3/4 of Collins’s feedings for the day, but I contemplate quitting nearly every single day and switching over to formula entirely. Pumping a few times a day seems like such a small price to pay for providing my daughter with the benefits of breastmilk, yet I long to be completely in one camp or another rather than one foot in and one foot out.

For now, I’m in the murky middle. I’m sure that eventually I’ll fall into the exclusively formula fed camp, but for now I’m just taking it day by day. Realizing it’s okay to be conflicted, unsure, neither here nor there.

Madison