“I use an Ameda Purely Yours with 25 millimeter flanges, but the white valves need to be replaced and it wouldn’t hurt to get a spare set of diaphragms as well.” If you haven’t clicked away from that mess of words already, and you are new to the world of breastpumps, you probably are wondering what on earth everything is! Since most people have had absolutely no reason to research breastpumps at any point in their lives before they had children, the lingo can be mysterious and confusing! Why are there tubes? What is a flange? Will I feel like a cow being milked? We will explore the basic parts of a breastpump below.
Many years ago, breastfeeding was on its way “out.” Advances in the nutrition and development of commercial formulas meant that children who needed to be on formula, whatever the reason may be, were able to thrive on good nutrition. However, with these scientific breakthroughs, and due to an enormous number of factors that I won’t do into in depth here, the general American public came to see formula as “better” than breastmilk, and women who chose to breastfeed were seen as weird, perhaps even “backwards.”
Shortly before her second birthday, my daughter became intensely interested in using the potty. She followed us into the bathroom to watch us go. She started pulling at her diapers after she peed. She sat on her little plastic potty and read books. One day after watching my husband use the bathroom, she ran around naked pretending to pee standing up with various “Wissssssssssssh!” sound effects. It was really the perfect time to start potty training her.
Her brother didn’t agree. I went into labor with him on my daughter’s birthday and all thoughts of potty training went out the window for all of us. I suppose it was for the best, since she probably would have regressed with a new baby in the house anyway, but I was slightly irritated at having lost the “window of opportunity” to train her. A couple of months later, when the water bill showed up and we were somehow shocked at learning that cloth diapering two full time uses much more water than only cloth diapering one full time, I bribed my daughter onto the potty with a couple of M&Ms (no judgment!) and suddenly, boom, she wanted to use the potty! Now that I had forced open a new window of opportunity, I found myself with another issue—what kind of training pants to use?
I’m a scientifically minded person. This is probably because ever since I was a little kid I drove my parents and teachers crazy by asking WHY…but I needed detailed answers. “Why is the sky blue?” could not be answered with, “Well, that’s the color the sky is, the light makes it look blue”–no, the whole concept of the color spectrum and so on had to be explained before I was satisfied. Perhaps this expectedly also got me in trouble with the nuns at the Catholic school I attended for asking too many theological questions, but that’s another story.
Anyway, this means I question a lot of things. If I read an article on a news site that says “New Study Reveals Yogurt Cures Feline Leukemia,” the first thing I will do is read the article, point out all the factual errors, and question statements about the results that aren’t backed up with statistics or other links, then hunt for the original study in a scientific journal and point out that the study showed that at 10am on a sunny Monday in March, a cat ate yogurt and tested negative for leukemia three days later which means nothing scientifically and the article was dumb. Yes, really, I do this all the time, probably much to the annoyance of everyone in my life. Anyway, THIS means that I naturally tend to be skeptical of alternative medicines and cures. Sure, millions of people might swear by taking a certain herbal supplement to prevent the flu or something, but if there are no studies proving so, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to try it.
I’m aware that nursing your baby exposes them to antibodies and other compounds that aren’t in formula. But everywhere, people were touting the healing properties of breastmilk. It cured pinkeye! It cured cradle cap! It cured diaper rash! It cured everything! The skeptic in me kicked in, even the entire nineteen months I nursed my daughter. Sure, it’s good nutrition for a child, but as a remedy for a bunch of different things? Bah.
I admit, I’m kind of a disaster freak.
Not like, “Oh no, the apocalypse is coming, gotta store 500 lbs of wheat in my cellar” type of disaster freak (mostly because we live in a top floor apartment in the middle of a large metropolitan city). But, you know, I live in the Pacific Rim of Fire and that top floor apartment gives me a dead on view of a volcano that’s been overdue for an eruption for a few hundred years now. I will at least get a National Geographicesque high-resolution closeup view of a volcanic eruption before I die a terrible, burning death.
However, more realistically, my decision to live a life on top of the area where two giant continental plates smash against one another means I’ll probably get caught up in an earthquake one of these days. The county has a suggested disaster preparation list of things that every family should have on hand in case of a disaster, tailored slightly to earthquakes for the area. You’ve got your usual water bottles and emergency blankets and ponchos, emergency food bars (have you ever actually eaten those? They’re, uh…definitely only something I’d eat in an absolute emergency), and then, almost as an afterthought, the list adds “specialty items for kids and pets.” This is important, but it begs the question of what the absolute essentials are for children in a time of disaster.
We knew at the beginning of my pregnancy that the chances of getting cholestasis again were very high. Some studies say the chances are even as high as 90%. So while I was hopeful to avoid it, I knew that more likely then not, we would be dealing with it again. The first time I had it was during my pregnancy with my fourth child, I only had to deal with the itching for a very short time, I was diagnosed and induced the very same day. It really did not prepare me for what I would be experiencing this time around.
The itching began weeks before I was diagnosed this time, my official diagnoses came around the 33 week mark. They got me on medicine right away but nothing ever fully took away the itching. I now have scars on my arms, legs, feet, and chest because I would scratch so much.
My induction date was set for February 7th I spent the four weeks beforehand at a lot of doctor visits with extra tests. Due to the complications the condition can have for an unborn baby, I needed a lot of extra monitoring. I felt like a living pin cushion from all the blood tests they were doing. The Tuesday before my induction date was my final doctor visit. She wanted to see if I was favorable for induction and I was not. I was barely dilated to a one, 30% effaced and my cervix was very high. My doctor wanted to try cervical ripening the night before. I was upset by this news, it was another night away from my older children and more intervention that I did not want.
Thursday night I went in around 7pm and they started the cervidal. The night was pretty uneventful, I did contract every two minutes most of the night but they were not very painful. I tried to get some sleep and hoped that by morning something would have happened. By morning I was only a two and 40% effaced, it was pretty disappointing to hear. A pitocin drip was started around 7 am and I spent the afternoon walking the halls, getting the pitocin upped, more walking, more pitocin. They checked me a few times during the afternoon and not much was changing. By 3pm I was sitting at a three and 50% effaced. My doctor wanted to break my water and that is when I made the choice to get an epidural. I did not have the energy to labor all day and all night, I had not slept well in so long from the itching and I was just wanting things to be over. I wanted a natural labor, I was pretty upset with how everything was going. They let me off the monitors for awhile, I sat in the bath and waited for the anesthesiologist. While in there I broke down and cried, my husband was sitting with me and he just held me, kept reassuring me that it was okay and telling me that no matter what, I was still strong and we would have our baby soon.
What is Cholestasis?
Cholestasis, also known as ICP is a rare condition that usually occurs in late pregnancy. For reasons unknown, bile secretion is interrupted and starts backing up into your blood stream. This triggers severe itching, especially on the hands and feet. The itching often gets worse at night and very little helps.
Symptoms include -
Severe itching (this is often the only sign)
Dark colored urine (even when drinking large amounts of fluids)
Pale colored stools
While ICP does not usually have any long term side effects to the mother, it can harm a baby. It has been linked to increased risk of still birth after 37 weeks so early delivery is usually recommended. That is why it is a condition that needs to be taken very seriously. If you have any signs of Cholestasis, you need to get a blood draw. A doctor will need to check your liver function and your bile acid levels.
I had Cholestasis with my fourth child. When I was just over 36 weeks pregnant, I started to notice I was itching all over. I brushed it off because at the time I was house sitting for my parents. They have a small farm and I figured it was just from being out there. A couple days after I got home the itching got really bad, I stayed up all night itching. I made my legs bleed, my hands were raw, and I knew something was wrong. In the middle of the night I got online and started doing some research, desperately looking for relief, that is when I found information on Cholestasis. I did not fret much since it was such a rare condition and I had none of the risk factors. I called my doctor right away in the morning, he also was not very concerned but went ahead and ran a blood test. A couple hours later the liver function test came back and it was pretty bad. Since I was 37 weeks at this point, the best option was to induce right away. I went in that night and Amelia was born early the next morning. Her birth was not like we planned at all. I ended up with a hemorrhage that was most likely caused by Cholestasis. My doctor had never dealt with it before and did not know that is was recommended to give the mother a vitaman K shot. Cholestasis affects your ability to properly absord vitaman K (and other vitamins).
After Amelia was born, we were unsure if we wanted anymore children. I had a very high chance of getting Cholestasis again. We decided to wait and make a final decision when Amelia was closer to four. That did not end up happening. I got a surprise BFP shortly before she turned two.
Let me confess straight off: Breastfeeding is “meh” for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite a fan of nursing for as long you can, because it’s cheap, there are nutritional benefits, insert other positive scientifically-based statements about breastfeeding here. I believe all that, I really do.
BUT so many people and websites go on and on about how wonderful it feels to nurse, how they feel relaxed and happy, how they look down into their child’s eyes and feel a loving, unbreakable bond as the baby literally sucks nutrients from their body, and I’m like, “You feel what now?”
It’s not that I hate nursing but am too poor to buy formula, or whatever other people might assume. It’s just that for me, nursing is…a thing that I do. A natural bodily function, like breathing or walking or whatnot. It does not feel special, or wonderful, or even out of the ordinary. My baby is hungry, so I put him or her to my breast and then read or putz around online while he or she nurses. That’s all there is to it.
When my daughter was fifteen months old, I discovered I was pregnant again. Pregnancy has never been kind to me and the first trimester is the worst. I got terrible migraines and swallowing pills whole made me barf, so I often sent my husband on nighttime runs to the store to pick up boxes and boxes of kid’s chewable Tylenol for me. On weekends I would sleep for 13 hours straight and wake up still exhausted. When I did throw up my face would be covered in bright red broken blood vessels that even makeup couldn’t cover up. And this time, the symptoms of the first trimester lasted long into the second trimester, too.
You might imagine how difficult it was for me to nurse during this time. I hated it. I may have been fairly apathetic about nursing before but the last thing I wanted to do while feeling utterly horrible was nurse another child. Luckily, my daughter has always been an excellent eater and was eating nearly everything we gave her, so I wasn’t overly concerned about her nutrition. And since she was more mobile and interested in the world around, she would nurse a few minutes and then run off to explore, instead of embarking on the marathon nursing sessions she loved when she was younger. It was easier, but not very fun.
Okay, so it isn’t much of a secret when I throw it up on a blog for hundreds of people to read. But seriously.
In an attempt to reverse the trend of only formula feeding American infants, a lot of pro-breastfeeding literature has been released in the last few decades. That’s not a bad thing, of course. We know that breastmilk has components formula can’t even come close to imitating, it passes on antibodies, it may reduce the risk of SIDS, childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes, allergies, and probably makes your kids close to immortal at that rate. There has been plenty of literature that talks up the benefits for mothers, too. It might help with postpartum weight loss (your mileage may vary), it may reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life, and the one thing I always always ALWAYS see is that since breastfeeding releases oxytocin, it promotes bonding and the mother will feel wonderful close feelings of love and nurture towards her beloved precious child.
But honestly I just don’t feel much when I nurse. It’s been that way with both my children. The baby starts to fuss. I start to nurse. Baby happily gulps away. I look down and think, “Aw, how cute” for a whopping three seconds and then I’m bored. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. It’s just that, well, what do I do for the next fifteen minutes while nursing? If I close my eyes my body will go, “OH IT IS TIME TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP” and I will pass out (this has happened during 3am feedings and I wake up slumped over, terrified that I have smushed my baby but all has been well so far). So, on goes the TV to watch reruns of Downton Abbey (Matthew Crawley looks like my husband, seriously) or out comes the tablet to browse more crap on amazon.com that I really don’t need but oops I happened to press “add to cart” anyway.
Admitting that I find nursing kind of boring is a catalyst for the apocalypse, according to some people. I have been told by relatives that I’m abnormal. An anomaly. That I “should” be overwhelmed by feelings of love and preciousness every time I nurse. Let me just say that at 5am, when I hear my baby start fussing for the fourth time after only falling asleep at 12am, the first thoughts that cross my mind as I drag myself out of bed to nurse are NOT “Oh, my precious little lovebug is hungry again. Let me smile down lovingly at this tiny miracle as I nourish him with my body.” No, it’s more along the lines of words I can’t publish publicly on this blog.
I have always hated disposable menstrual products.
I have battled eczema my whole life. My arms and legs are literally scarred from the irritation and give me a mottled snake appearance (though snakes are far cuter with their little shiny, beady eyes). When I hit puberty, I was terrified to discover that disposable menstrual products irritated my skin too. Thankfully, I never broke out in a proper rash like my arms and legs do, but the irritation combined with heavy, irregular periods due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome made me want to murder my uterus whenever I had my menstrual cycle.
One afternoon in college, while I was sitting in my dorm room procrastinating a paper, I came across a random forum post that briefly mentioned cloth menstrual pads. Uh, what? Ew. So “ew” I had to Google it (you know how that is). As I studied pictures of pads, the questions that came to mind were answered almost immediately. Is cloth comfortable? Of course it is, it’s not itchy, crinkly paper. No added scents to irritate. Oh, but the snaps on this brand were metal—but nickel free, hmm (I’m definitely allergic to nickel).
By the way, this is why I hate and NEVER use the term “mama cloth.” Anyone can use cloth menstrual pads—not just moms! I don’t know where the term started but “cloth pads” is just as short and more descriptive. As a teenager I totally would have felt uncool and gross using the term “mama cloth” since it sounds like some old lady product I’d totally die before admitting to using, like ever, totally.
There are a thousand brands of cloth pads out there. The most “commercial” ones I know of are Lunapads—made by the same folks who sell the Keeper and Moon Cup menstrual cups—and Party in my Pants Pads, which are often in little health boutiques. Just like cloth diapers, there are a million options in cloth menstrual pads. There’s a “pocket” type where you have inserts just like pocket diapers, except pad shaped, all in ones, even a few that have snap-in liners. You can choose from cotton, bamboo, hemp, velour, flannel, plastic snaps, metal snaps…the list goes on. For my first cloth pad I went with an all-in-one style liner, because I didn’t want to mess with different inserts and liners were cheaper than full pads, because they have less absorbency.