Thursday, August 20, 2015

First Visit to the Children's Museum.

Oh my, was this a good decision or what.  We've been meaning to get to the MN Children's Museum this summer, especially because of the Blue Star Museum program.  The program provides free admission to participating museums from Memorial Day to Labor Day every year.  Now that we live much closer, we will be able to go a lot.  We were there all morning with some friends and only really checked out three exhibits.  That's probably all the introduction needed, the photos speak for themselves.

"Did you wash your hands in the blue sink?" she says.

"Bus says NEXT STOP!"

Carpet slide was a huge hit
Such good posture, Myra.

What you don't see is Niko spitting up on his friend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Niko at Six Months.

Six months (yesterday)! AHHH!  I mean, I love the progress.  So far, both of my kids have gotten easier and more fun as time goes on, despite Myra's health issues.  I love the progress part.  But holy cow, how are we already halfway to his first birthday? That blows my mind.

Official 6 month check up report: healthy baby boy!  24.73" long (55%), 19 lb 5oz (82%), 45.5cm head (96%).  His height percentile went down, but those measurements always seems so impossible to get anyway.  Niko got his vaccines, nursed right away, then passed out in the car.  For the first time ever with either kid, he barely woke up when I brought him inside and he went right back to sleep in his crib.  I need to hit the publish button ASAP before he wakes up and all of that becomes less exciting.

Niko is such a happy guy.  He likes to smile, squak and yell, roll around (both ways plus scooting, semi-mobile I guess), put stuff in his mouth, spit up (small amounts, but often), suck his thumb, and he just found his toes which is super fun.  He absolutely adores Myra and smiles at her no matter what she does.  She thinks Niko is pretty great, too, and loves to greet him ("Niko's awake!!"), hug him, kiss him, tickle him ("ticky, ticky, ticky, ticky!").  Myra is a great helper with him, too.  She even got his diaper ready, insert and all.  I didn't have the heart to tell her he was already wearing one.

He loves to bounce.  When I have him in a carrier, he will bounce if I stop moving.  No solid foods yet.  Though neither of us suspect FPIES, we are in no rush (food before one is mainly for fun!).  We'll wait until he's sitting unassisted then see how he likes squash.  Niko is a bit top heavy, so it's no surprise he can't quite sit on his own yet.  We'll be doing mostly baby led weaning again since it makes sense and, bonus, is super easy.  We'll just do it one food at a time for a while.

Also, this is me at 6 months postpartum.  I gained 50 pounds during my pregnancy and have lost 37 so far.  Honestly, I haven't intentionally done much to lose the weight.  I'm generally healthy but have done my fair share of eating crap, so I'm definitely okay with this progress!

Read his birth story here.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dental School: Day One.

This is what our day was like on day one of dental school.  I was going to throw on some makeup for this family photo, but that's just not reality today.  Myra is 2.5, Niko will be 6 months tomorrow.  Rowdy is 5.5.

Today I am tired.  Trevor is, too.  Myra was up twice last night, stuffed up because I slacked on getting her Zyrtec refilled, plus we lost the little tube that goes with her Nose Frida.  I have another one on the way, but for now we are relying on her mediocre nose blowing skills.  I randomly quit giving Niko pacifiers for sleeping yesterday because any other time of day he sucks his thumb, so I decided he can figure that out in bed, too.  There was zero protest, so I guess that's done.  He woke twice to nurse, once just as I was falling asleep, of course.  These are the days of our lives.

Obligatory first day of school photo
Trevor got up at 5am to go work out then head to Histology.  They have an intense, short session class for a few weeks until the regular semester starts.

Trevor's view
I took the kids on a short adventure to find our nearest dog food retailer, Trevor came home at lunch time, the kids had staggered afternoon naps during which Trevor and I ran some errands (at different times since Myra isn't quite ready for babysitting).

We ate leftover salmon pasta for supper.  Trevor and I both got our ducks in a row for tomorrow.  He's got class again, I'm going to hang out with another baby for a couple hours in the morning.

And that, my friends, is a recap of our lives on Dental School, Day One.

We've already come a long way since Acceptance Day back in February! My belly was running out of room thanks to baby.

Our little Gophers
Our little Gophers

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Causes: World Breastfeeding Week.

I haven't posted a Causes post in a while and hardly any of them are my own, but I have enough I can say on this topic I decided to write it myself.  This is real life breastfeeding, folks.  My experience, I would guess, falls somewhere middle of the road on the horror-to-piece of cake continuum of breastfeeding.  There are so many things that can come up and if people don't know about them or aren't determined to work through them (which is also fine), they can entirely derail breastfeeding.  My hope is that people will realize there are many benefits to breastfeeding, but it is a huge sacrifice, too.

I don't often post photos of nursing because 1) both my babies have been such fast nursers, I hardly have time to sit down and get out a camera or phone to snap a photo and 2) it's been such a normal part of life for us I haven't really thought to take many photos.  I think number 2 is kind of the point of World Breastfeeding Week, though.  People who breastfeed know there's nothing weird about it, but there are plenty of people out there who don't get it or have some pretty misguided information on it.  Plus there's the whole fallacy that "breastfeeding is awesome" is the equivalent of "formula sucks" which is so, so, so false.  To me, the goal of this week is to help the entire world see what breastfeeders have been seeing all along--that it's totally normal and not weird and just feeding your baby.  So, just like I don't really take photos of changing my kid's diaper, you're welcome, I don't take photos of nursing.  I've never had a huge emotional attachment to nursing, but it has been an important part of motherhood for me, and now I'm getting ahead of myself.

I have breastfed both of my babies because it's what my body was made to do.  It's free.  It can be easy (no measuring and mixing in the middle of the night).  I get to eat more calories and seems to be helpful in losing pregnancy weight.  It allows me to share my immune system with my babies and that really seems to help.  It's convenient (nothing to pack when we go places) and doesn't require doing extra dishes.  It reduces my risk for breast cancer.  It forces me to stop and rest for a few minutes which is actually quite hard to do with a new baby.  It reduces the risk of SIDS.  It reduces my risk of postpartum depression.  And eventually, sometimes off and on, it works for me and my baby so we keep doing it until it doesn't.  (Speaking of that, I love this post about extended breastfeeding)

But it's not all rainbows and butterflies; it is a huge sacrifice, too.  I'm so grateful to have a partner who sees that sacrifice, supports and encourages me, and even thanks me for it.  In order to breastfeed my babies, I have sacrificed sleep (only one who can feed the baby), alone time (same reason--or I could pump, but that's been difficult with the issues I have had with each kid, more below), my diet, fun stuff (again, concerts, date nights, girls nights, vacations, etc. all become difficult when pumping in advance and while you're away gets thrown into the mix), my own health and comfort (thrush, mastitis, meds you can/can't take), clothing choices (lots of my favorite shirts and dresses are not nursing friendly in the slightest), hoping your baby will actually take a bottle, oh and lactating changes your sex life.  Don't even get me started on moms who have to pump regularly, especially moms who exclusively pump.  HIGH-FIVE to you.  "Just pump and have someone give baby a bottle," PPPSSSHHHHHHHHHH.

It's also worth noting that both of my babies became very distracted nursers at a young age.  So, even though I'm perfectly comfortable nursing anytime, anywhere, I still have to go into a quiet room and close the door in my own house to nurse.  Away from home, it's a crap shoot.  If they don't eat well during the day, guess when they make up for it?

Nursing Myra on day one
With Myra, my breastfeeding journey was difficult from day one.  We really struggled with latch and she had jaundice.  So, besides the fact that every living thing needs to eat, she really needed to eat to get rid of the jaundice, but the jaundice made her so sleepy, she wouldn't wake up enough to eat.  In the hospital, I called for help every time we were "due" to try and feed her because hospitals like their little charts where you cross off every 2-3 hours when you attempt to feed your baby.  Anyway, we were getting no where.  It always felt pinchy.  They say it's not supposed to hurt and I believed it, but even if it was supposed to hurt a little (I'm convinced some initial nursing pain is normal, especially the first 30-60 seconds of latching with a newborn), I knew this wasn't right and I could hear that she wasn't swallowing anything.  One nurse told me maybe my nipples just need to toughen up and that one little voice of doubt that maybe I was being a wuss or exaggerating stuck with me and I just thought maybe this is what it's going to be like.  Wrong.  This is where misinformation and lack of support can get new moms into trouble.  I met with an actual lactation consultant the next morning and they came to help every time I nursed Myra.  By the 24 hour mark, we had to get her eating and had to signal my body to start making milk, so after every attempt of feeding her, I'd pump then we would syringe feed her the milk.  It went in a syringe with a tiny little tube and we would stick it in her mouth alongside our pinky and she would suck it out that way.  Then 2 hours later I would painfully try to nurse again, fail, pump, syringe feed, repeat.  24/7.  Trevor was in school and couldn't afford to miss class, so we were both extra exhausted.  We doctored an hour from home, so once we were discharged, I had to make the drive with my brand new baby for follow up lactation appointments every 2-3 days for three weeks.  Myra had to get her bilirubin (jaundice) levels checked via heel poke and we continued to work on latch and weigh her before and after feedings to see how much she was getting.  By three weeks old, she graduated lactation and was back to her birth weight.

During those first three weeks, every feeding involved the attempt/pump/syringe feed circus.  Myra was still so sleepy we would have to strip her naked, drip cold water on her, and make a bunch of noise to keep her awake long enough to eat.  As much of an accomplishment as that was (the bilirubin levels finally going down, weight finally going up, some APNO to repair my severely damaged nipples), we went right from that into something is wrong with my baby.  I can't even open that can of worms (click on the FPIES tab at the top of the page if you want the background info), but it took months to figure out that she couldn't handle dairy through my milk.  I had 300 ounces of pumped breastmilk in the freezer that got donated (to an incredibly sweet adoptive family) because it was useless to us once she became an entirely different baby without dairy.  Fast forward a few more months and repeat but with soy now.  Donated more breast milk and started my freezer supply over again.  I was struggling to maintain my own weight with my diet restrictions and Myra was still struggling, waking up 5+ times a night at 7 months old.  I refused to switch to formula until I knew it would actually help and I wouldn't know that until she was diagnosed with something.  If she couldn't have dairy or soy in my diet, she certainly couldn't have formula made from those things.  I'm happy Myra got the benefits of breastmilk for so long, and I truly don't feel guilty for "making her sick" with my milk, though that is reality.  Knowing what we knew and trusting the doctors we were seeing (and man, we saw quite a few), I have no hard feelings about it all.  I wish we could have figured it out sooner, but we didn't and I don't blame anyone for that.  I gave up a lot to do what I really believe was best for my child.  I couldn't get a break, or even sleep, because it was just too exhausting to pump--especially after purging my entire freezer stash of breast milk TWICE.

Nursing Myra at 8-9 months
I breastfed Myra until she was 10 months old, but I continued to pump around the clock for almost a month just in case the formula we were trying didn't help her.  Thankfully, I LOVE SCIENCE, it did.  I love breastfeeding and I love formula.


The first time I nursed Niko.  Photo by Angie Knutson Photography.

With Niko, I was terrified of all of the above.  Today he's a week shy of 6 months old (*sniffle*) and we have had none.of.that.  Oh, but wait, it hasn't been a perfect journey either.  Everything started out great, for the most part.  He was sleepy at first, but no jaundice issues.  I know babies can take their sweet little time in those early hours, birth is exhausting-I get that.  So, I tried to nurse him sometime in the first hour I think, it wasn't awful but he just didn't really eat.  I tried again a couple hours later, same thing.  His pediatrician wasn't worried at all and neither was I.  When Niko was about 7 hours old, he had a couple of decent attempts at the breast, but still hadn't really eaten (you can tell by listening for swallowing).  The nurse I had at the time got a little excited, put some sugar water on my boob and set me up with a nipple shield.  It seriously happened so fast I was like "uh, ok, we're trying this now, ok."  Using a nipple shield is fine, but it doesn't stimulate milk production like nursing without one does, so I also had to pump after feeding him like I did with Myra.  This is to ensure a good milk supply right off the bat.  I really did not want to get sucked into that circus again.  This is where my experience with Myra and lactation consultants came in handy.  I knew he was still new enough that I didn't need to stress just yet.  I had been calling for help every time I wanted to try to feed him because I'm a huge advocate of take all the help you can get while you're in the hospital!  But, after that really bizarre experience, and knowing what Myra taught me, I decided to just give it a go myself in the peace and quiet of my little hospital room.  It took some work and position changing and fidgeting, but he seemed to be doing better each time and I didn't have the jaundice fear, so I just went with it.  I did meet with an actual lactation nurse the following day and she said he looked great.  So, as far as those early days go, everything was pretty darn great.  However, big however, at about the six week mark things started to go south.  I was expecting the opposite: a rough start, but by 4 weeks we'd be rockin and rollin.  I had severe pain, thought it was from an instance of bad latch that left me a little damaged, I would dread feeding Niko and cry while he nursed.  After a month of that (yeah, a MONTH of crying every time I fed my baby), I realized it was actually thrush (click the link if you're bored out of your mind and want to read more about that process) and it took me another month to get rid of it.

Nursing Niko at 5 months, a rare moment where he fell asleep nursing
I had a month of good, easy, pain free nursing then I got mastitis.  The week we were moving.  I swallowed raw garlic like you wouldn't believe (that actually is a great remedy), but I knew I wouldn't be able to rest like I should, so I got the antibiotics, too.  Mastitis can be really bad if you don't get it under control.  As expected, the antibiotics led to me getting thrush again.  This time, I was prepared.  I started with all my lotions and potions right away and it's been stubborn but never got even close to the amount of pain I dealt with the first time.  I think it's gone or basically gone now, but I'm still being extra cautious, using grapefruit seed extract, probiotics, and trying not to get too hot and sweaty on my chest (easier said than done).

Surprise, surprise!! That got much longer than I expected.  This started as a Facebook post with one picture from my iPod...oops.  But hey, there you have it-my real life experience with breastfeeding so far.  Like I said, I don't really feel like I have the same emotional connection to nursing as many moms do, but I am still damn proud of myself for all of this.  I'm doing what I believe to be best for my babies and that's all any of us is trying to do.  I truly believe breastfeeding isn't what is best for every baby.  When things like stress, exhaustion, health of both mom and baby, guilt, physiology, etc. are factored in, there is absolutely no one size fits all.  I was ready to switch Niko to formula in a New York minute if he showed signs of FPIES because Neocate changed our lives that much with Myra.  I was stubborn through the thrush nonsense because I knew as soon as it cleared up I would wish I had kept nursing.  It was a-w-f-u-l, but I am glad I hung in there.  Again, me being stubborn and passionate about breastfeeding is in no way a knock on formula.  I do want people who will be having children to be aware of these things, know that they are fairly common, know that there is support out there, and know that it can be done.  All that said, if anyone chooses not to or is unable to breastfeed, you are still an awesome parent and don't let anyone make you feel otherwise.

This is when I should proofread, but instead I will go take a shower.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Wowza we have been busy!  To get myself back in bloggy mode, again, here are some random photos with updates.  I'm in denial that my baby will be half a year next week, so expect a post about that soon!

Safety first!
Como Town with friends
Sigh, poor kid didn't get his own 5 month post
Play date with friends and lots of kiddos! Photo by Memory Me Studio.
Shirt says "best baby bro." Isn't that the truth.
Found some goodies while unpacking.
Swaddled and sleeping.  She thinks she's hilarious.
Quinoa, beans, and spinach.  "More spinach please, Mommy?"
I love the progress we're making with foods.  She can now eat normal toddler things like ketchup, spaghetti, and peanut butter.
Being a parent means feet in your face and lots of giggling.
Our new city has a Puppet Wagon.  It's a traveling puppet show that goes to various parks around town in the summer.  Myra thought this was just great!
First time wearing two babies at once.  Not too shabby!
I started walking around the house all sassy trying to get Myra moving to get ready for bed (OH, the dawdling...).  Then I walk in her room to find this.  "Reading books with Niko!" Heart melt.

And yes, Trevor lives here, too, though somehow he has mostly escaped the camera lately.  We'll have to fix that.  I hope to share more photos and updates soon!  We are loving the new area and house, everyone is settling in quite nicely.  Even Rowdy is starting to relax a bit and find new places to hang out, though I'm sure he misses his old window perch.  Selling a house and moving with two small children is no small task!  But hey, at least we are done with house showings.  If I could never go through that again...

Updated Food Trial Method.

It's been a while since Myra has had a reaction during a food trial, 10 months to be exact. When Niko was born, we chose some foods with a really high pass rate to trial so we could continue adding to her diet without setting ourselves up for failure with a newborn in the house. As we have tiptoed into some riskier foods and still been blessed to not have any reactions, we have also loosened up our trial method. I was fortunate to find another FPIES mom, Jamie V (click here for her website), who has done plenty of research and trial and error of her own and used her wisdom in figuring out which foods to trial. Now, I am using her same method for the trial itself. Originally, we could trial one new food every 14 days. With this method, we are able to trial two new foods every 20 days. The big caveat is that it only works if everything is going well. Thankfully, that has been the case for quite some time now.

Click here to see how we used to run trials.

The combination of not having a reaction for a long time, Myra having great communication skills so she can tell us if she isn't feeling well, and not having any unique circumstances lately like teething or illness is what makes us able to do a faster paced trial. As a reminder, the important aspects of a trial for us are to start slowly yet build to a full serving size, take a break, then come back to the food while starting slowly and building to a full serving size again. Many FPIES kiddos don't react to a food until they have a break from it, so that is an important part of our trial.  This is the new method that has been working well for us.

New food #1 for 5 days (working up to a full serving size by day 5)
New food #2 for 5 days (working up to a full serving size by day 5)
Back to new food #1 for 5 days (working up to a full serving size by day 5)
Back to new food #2 for 5 days (working up to a full serving size by day 5)

If all goes well by the end of the second five-day period, we consider that food a pass.  This allows us to take advantage of the break rather than just letting time pass.  If we see or even suspect a reaction, though, we can't introduce the second food during the break.  In that case, we would use the break to see if the symptom goes away or if it is unrelated (teeth, illness, seasonal allergies, etc.).  It is much easier now that Myra can tell us what is bothering her.  She was struggling with sleep for a while which was our first red flag, but now she is able to tell me that her "nose feels yucky and her eyes feel ouch" which was my indicator to get her Zyrtec refilled.

I wouldn't feel comfortable doing two risky foods in the same trial period, just to be safe.  For example, we wanted to do peanuts and wheat.  Peanuts aren't quite as risky for FPIES kids, but because it is a legume like soy, green beans, and peas (all fails for Myra) we were nervous.  Had one or the other gone bad, we wouldn't want to risk confusion between the two or derailing the whole trial, so we paired each with a less risky option.
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