Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Parenting Mindset, Part One; Now What?

You know, I can already hear the groans.

Oh, boy... here we go... another preachy judgmental defensive first-time-mom on the war path...

I hate being preached at, judgmental horse poop makes my teeth hurt, and folks who get defensive when I honestly wasn't intending to attack them just plain confuse me, so I really try not to do any of those things to people.  FTM is accurate, so I'll forgive the eye-rolling.

For now. *wink*

But as my little guy gets bigger and starts to show me a little more personality, the fact that one day he's going to purposely do something I've told him not to do is looming ever nearer on the horizon.  So I've had to put some serious work into the "how will I handle ____" sort of thinking.  I'm thinking about this time next year, this time in 2015, Christmas in 2027, you get the idea.  Obviously, I'm focusing more on the early challenges that are fast approaching, but those later hurdles are in the back of my mind and applicable ideas get tossed that direction once in a while.

Those of you who follow me know that I lean pretty heavily toward following my instincts where my son is concerned.  While I've gone through several manure-loads of anxiety and stress over the past four months, every time I step back, take a breath, and just play it by ear, things improve.  Whether that's JJ's demeanor and behavior or my stress levels and attitude, things get better.  Those instincts led me toward things like co-sleeping (even bed-sharing), baby-wearing, leaving my son intact rather than circumcising, using cloth diapers, and never ever leaving my child to cry alone in his crib.    

As I started to think about the coming years, the "terrible twos", the "NO" and "MINE" stages, the inevitable moments of sassiness, I found that the conflicts between my upbringing and my instincts were leaving me very perplexed.  I was raised in a significantly messed-up household, but for the sake of the current subject, I'll leave out the complexities that growing up with an abusive parent added to my particular stew, and address the parenting I received from my mother.  

While I remember my mother as loving and gentle, even occasionally permissive, she soon found herself resorting to the punitive methods which she often professed to despise from her own childhood.  Time outs, spankings, groundings, loss of a toy or a privilege, loss of a promised outing due to misbehavior, etc.  My mother used to carry a kitchen spatula in her purse, to be used as a spanking instrument on the bare behind of the child who dared act out in public.  We always knew it was there, and let me tell you, for something that never left marks, you could feel that sucker for DAYS.  As we got too big to spank, she still had to control her children, of course, but it became more and more about the special things we were denied when we failed to measure up, and less and less about the talking things out that she tried in our early teens.

To many in the United States, that looks like a fairly reasonable approach to parenting.  It looked that way to me... until I was faced with a child of my own.  Suddenly things took on a very different perspective.  I started to remember being confused by early accusations of lying.  Feeling hurt and angry when a punishment seemed unfair or out of proportion.  Getting into still more trouble for refusing to submit to a spanking, or asking for an explanation of exactly how I had sinned this time.  Obeying rules, not out of desire to do the right thing, but merely to avoid punishment.  The difference between "hitting" and "spanking", between "stealing" and "taking away your _X_ because you did _Y_", between "lying" and "editing for your own good", all began to sound disturbingly like those exercises in semantics adults use when trying to justify their actions to the child who has spotted a flaw in the logic.

It occurred to me... I used to be that child.

I really... REALLY don't want to be that grown up.


Okay... now what?

Next time... Part Two; Finding Another Way

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The end of an age...

It happens with every baby.

They get bigger.

They make us open up the rise on their diaper covers.  Strangely, having to open up the waistband three notches didn't bother me a bit, but two days ago when I realized I needed to open the rise a notch, I got all sniffy and nostalgic and "my baby's not quite so itty bitty anymore!"

They start to sit up and roll over and fight like crazy to stay on their feet.

He was sitting up in my lap, flopped over, and wiggled until he was comfy. 

They start to be able to go longer between naps.  A few days ago we decided to give up the 90 minute wake period, since it absolutely WAS NOT working anymore.  The first day was insanity incarnate, the second... eh, moderate fussiness but he took longer naps, and today?  Well, today has been pretty darned easy so far.

Shhhhh, you're gonna jinx it.

Hush up, you.  The secret to my sanity thus far has been taking joy in small victories.  :P

So JJ seems to be settling into a two hour wake period.  It's still a matter of watching the clock very carefully and anticipating his tiredness by about 10-15 minutes, but he's fighting me less and less for each nap, and we've gotten 3 nights in a row of 12 hours of night-time sleep.  Even when semi-wakings for nursing are taken into account.

We've also been forced to abandon swaddling quite abruptly.  *sniff* *tear*  We're getting to that time anyway, since JJ is working so very hard at turning back to tummy, and he's had tummy to back for a good two weeks.  A few mornings back I was awakened very early by an extremely MAD baby, and turned over to find that his diaper had leaked, and his SwaddleMe and sheet were both completely soaked.

Well, since we only have one SwaddleMe, and he can easily wiggle out of a swaddled blanket these days (even the big ones, plus it's too hot now anyway), we just brought him into the bed for the rest of the night.  There wasn't much "night" left, and he slept for several more hours, giving me the chance to grab this bit of Ultimate Cuteness.

"Baby ni-night", as captioned by a friend's little boy when posted to Facebook.

The loss of the swaddle also contributed to the short naps, confused activities, and general crankiness of baby's last three days, as he has been swaddled for virtually every sleep period for the last three months and twenty-six days.  (That's right, I'm counting.  *eyetwitch*)

The first day, as I mentioned, was nightmarish.  The first nap lasted for a grand total of five minutes, ending when I attempted to put JJ into his cosleeper without any kind of wrapping.  Those eyes popped wide open again and that grin appeared.  You know, the one that tells you any prayer you had of baby actually taking a nap just went up in smoke. 

As we closed on two hours later, I decided to try the "nursing nap" that had given me some success in month two. Got us both settled on the bed and just let the kid nurse to sleep, already lying down, and I just stayed put and took the nap with him, still no swaddle. Thirty-seven minutes.

Next round, we tried the baby-wearing approach.  Too hot for the Moby, so I improvised a sling out of one of his swaddle blankets.

Yay for repurposing!

This netted us... wait for it...

Thirty-EIGHT minutes.

I can hear the snickers in the peanut gallery.  Oh, yes, I can.  I had sharp hearing to begin with, being a Mom has only made it keener.  *glares balefully in the direction of all who dare giggle.*

Nap number four, he actually made it into the cosleeper, still without any wrapping, but at that point I was happy just to have him out of my arms for the forty-four minutes that he slept.  Hey, progress is progress, folks.

Needless to say we had a VERY CRANKY BEAR when Daddy got home.  But despite that, he only made me do one round of "I don't WANT to sleep!", and one early-evening wake cycle, before giving us a total of eleven and a half hours of night sleep.  No, it wasn't continuous, but neither did he wake up all the way to eat.  Just fussed enough to get my attention, get nip in his mouth, and voila, happy baby.

Yesterday was significantly better, I think largely because in desperation I came up with what has been dubbed the TOS.

No, fellow Trek Nerds, I do not refer to some futuristic swaddling innovation in Captains' Gold.

It stands for Transitional Open Swaddle.

And yes, I'm aware that he looks like Charlton Heston
a la "The Ten Commandments"
 had an unfortunate encounter with a trussed turkey.

It works, that's all I'm gonna say.  Plenty of fussing still, but yesterday he took three relatively easy-down naps, went to bed at 6:40, only gave me one post-bedtime wakeup, and exclusive of nursing wakeups, slept for almost twelve hours.  We haven't had that (aside from the occasional miracle) in weeks.

Today has been better still.  Aside from the fact that I'm tired from being woken up to nurse 2-3 times a night (which I'm not used to, he didn't used to do that), he hasn't fought the naps hardly at all, and isn't making me wait until he's crying-tired to successfully get him down.

The other thing that has helped is we've gone back to mostly bedsharing.  Once he has that first wake cycle and is asleep again, I've just called it a night and snuggled down with him.  This cuts down on how much I have to wake up in order to get him fed, and once he's outgrown the need for any type of swaddling at all, will hopefully lead to his being able to nurse at will without needing to wake me up.

I hope.

And yes, I hear the chuckles, BTDT mommies, with your experiential cynicism.  :P

Please not to be hating on teh new momma's naiveté.

Thank you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My friends all told me...

So, every pregnant woman has had this experience... your friends and family (and random total strangers) feel inexplicably compelled to regale you with a combination of warm fuzzies and horror stories until you're not sure whether to hide in a corner with a blankie or blow your nose with a pancake. This morning one of those little tidbits occurred to me, and I thought ... what a great post that would make! All the stuff my friends said, and whether or not it turned out to be true!

"You'll fall more in love than you ever have in your life."

Yeah, got it in one.  He drives me a little bit nuts with the meltdowns, but then he finally falls asleep and all I can do is stare at that perfect little face, and I go right back to day one.

"You're having heartburn?  Oh, he must have lots of hair!  But he'll rub it off in the crib and be bald for a while too!"

As you've seen, JJ was indeed born with a mop.  Still waiting on the baldness, thus far there is no indication of hair loss.  No Baby Rogaine on the horizon.  (Yes, I'm kidding.)

Four days.                          Almost four months.

"Childbirth is the most painful/beautiful/horrifying/magical thing you will ever experience."

Intense?  Yes.  Beautiful?  The reward was, the process, not hardly, things were far too chaotic.  Agonizing... no, not really.  The last 15 minutes scared the hell out of me, and that's what made it bad.  Now I know.   Magical?  That one I gotta give ya... five minutes after he was out, I was already saying, "Yeah, that was intense... but I could do it again."

"You'll be completely paranoid about germs and bugs and air and (insert potential life-threatening danger)."

Surprisingly not.  Yes, I throw the cats out of the bedroom when we're all asleep, or if the baby is napping and I'm not in there to watch.  Yes, I make sure his harness is snug in his car seat.  Yes, I have smiled sweetly at idiotic fellow motorists while cussing them in my soul.  No, I don't insist that people use hand sanitizer before they touch the baby, or worry that the extra gentle shampoo I buy for me will somehow turn toxic and burn his scalp because it doesn't say "Baby Shampoo" on the front.  Soap is soap.

"Cloth diapers?  You're crazy!  I know you, you hate doing laundry, you'll give up in a week and go back to disposables!!!"

I'll admit it, this one had me worried, but JJ's almost four months old and I'm adding to our stash of dipes every time I can scrape $20 to spare.  His butt hasn't seen a disposable diaper since he was three weeks old.  The laundry?  At first, John did it all.  And I confess, he still deals with the poopy ones.  But diaper laundry has turned out to be the easiest, least complicated, and most easily maintained laundry ever. And we have yet to make the acquaintance of the infamous blow-out.

"You'll sleep again... someday." (Maniacal chuckling and that "It's your turn" grin.)

Half & half.  We've hit the four month sleep regression with a vengeance, so NOW I've experienced the three to four wake ups a night to feed the baby.  I'm hurting, I tell ya, folks.  I am one sleep deprived momma.  Up until two weeks ago, I swear to you we hit the baby lottery on night sleep.  But last night and the night before, we got it down to one middle of the night wake up, and honestly he was never really awake, just fussed enough to get my attention, ate, and was back in the cosleeper in twenty minutes.  So it's (I hope) a growth spurt thing, and we can go back to sleeping through the night here soon.

Sweet Jesus, let it be so.

"You'll get used to noises while the baby is sleeping and stop chewing people out for breathing."

Not so much.  Four months next week, and I still flinch every time something hits the floor while JJ is napping.  Answering one's cell phone will get you shooed into the kitchen, and a belly laugh?  If looks could kill, my husband would be very very crispy several times over by now.  People who ruin half an hour's work and wake JJ right as he's almost asleep are considered to be volunteering to fix the situation.

"Breastfed babies tend to be smaller, so don't worry when he doesn't chunk up right away."

Thanks all for the warning.  Keeping this in mind helped me not completely panic when JJ didn't start really filling out until he was closing on two months old.  Y'all have seen the pictures, he was a very slender guy, and even though he's chubbed out nicely, I don't think he's ever going to be the roly poly sumo baby.

Two Weeks                      Two Months 

Three days ago... and yes, folks, that's the same type diaper in all three pictures.

"Any pacifier will do, sometimes they just want to suck."

The second part is absolutely true.  The first part is a load of bovine excrement.  The cheap binkies we got at first just to have a few were barely tolerated.  When he was about 10 weeks old, I bought a couple of Soothies, and he now flatly refuses to take any other pacifier.  As evidenced by his literally spitting one of the old ones at my nose and screaming at me today when I couldn't find the Soothie and tried an old Nuk in desperation.  Yeah, bad call, Mom.

And my absolute all time favorite:

"Don't worry, breast-milk poops don't stink."

Every single one of my friends who has ever breast-fed a baby has said this to me.

I have just one thing to say.

You are, every last one of you,

Dirty.  Rotten.  Liars.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The great outdoors...

So we had our first decent adventure out into the yard today. It's 80 freaking degrees here, and John bundled the baby up in onesie, pants, socks, AND a jacket before he let me take him outside. XD I ditched the jacket and socks pretty much right off. Not that the outfit wasn't adorable, but it was just too warm in the sun.

JJ took one look at that bright sunny yard... and promptly hid his face in my shoulder! We stayed out for maybe 30 minutes (yes, in the shade), and eventually he started looking around. We talked to the neighbor or a bit and said hello to her puppy dogs. I sat down on the ground and laid JJ across my lap so he could pat the grass. He picked up the spine of a dead leaf and stared at it like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. Then I stood him up and let those little feet feel the grass, and you should have seen his face! He stepped, and stepped, and stepped, and looked at me like I had lost my ever-lovin' mind!

Once we came back inside, his attire was promptly reduced to this:

Much happier baby!

So that was our trip outside...JJ wasn't quite sure what to make of the airplane noises and all that breeze and bright sunshine, but he did pretty well, I think.

In other baby news... for the last couple of weeks, JJ has been working VERY HARD at rolling over... the kid hates tummy time with a passion.  Today he managed to kick his way from his tummy onto his back, several times in a row, without any help from Mommy or Daddy!

And at 15 weeks and five days, he's starting to sit up for a few seconds with just something at his back.

Look, Mommy!  No hands!!

And the scale shot of his foot... Getting tougher to convince him to hold still for these... 

But it shows his growth so well!

And hey, one more just for the cuteness...

Check out my little man!!

This is JJ and Mom, signing off... over and out!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sleep... or food... Choices...

Baby boy decided to wake up twice during the night.  Both times right as my subconscious was finally convinced he was done and was letting me go to sleep.  Little parasite has learned to consistently break out of his swaddle.  Don't know what I'm going to do when he can turn over and it's not safe to swaddle anymore.

Midnight-ish... and then again at quarter past two.

My back is screaming.

He's down for his first nap.

Which I am going to allow to be as long as he wants it to be, eff this "don't let him sleep too long" horse poop.

I now have to decide whether to go get food... because I'm so hungry I feel a little sick... or lay down and go back to sleep myself, because my eyes feel gritty and I know I'm going to be a raging grouchypants this afternoon if I don't get at least another hour.

I feel like holding out a wrist a la Ender... "so feed it to me through a needle".

Excuse me while I pass out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

DST, Mommy Wars, and Fixing What Ain't Been Broke.

Before I jump into the latest burr under my saddle, the REALLY latest burr under said saddle is Daylight Savings Time.  I hate it.  It's stupid.  It jacks with my baby's rhythms.  It's pointless, and it doesn't actually work.  I promise, people still follow their body's clock, even if the mechanical one says something else, and the disparity creates more energy usage, not less.  And farmers?  They're ruled by the sun, the rain, and the seasons no matter what the clock says.  I saw this little gem on the web last night and it cracked me up:

Seems even more ridiculous when you put it like that...

But on to other things...

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about sleep.  And sleep props.  And feedings.  And schedules.  All the stuff that the "experts", the mothers with a half dozen or more, and the ever present "they" say that I should or shouldn't be doing with my son to help him sleep, wake up, eat, and mess "on time".

What does that mean, anyway?  "On time."  From what I can gather, it means baby doing all his various activities in a schedule that fits into my life.

What with moving clear across the country three weeks before he was born, I didn't have much of a life to begin with, so there isn't really much of a schedule for him to fit into anyway.

It didn't make sense to me to expect an infant to neatly slot into grown up time-tables.  So I didn't try to make him.  Well, I did try, did the Babywise deal for about a week... made things worse, not better, so we stopped and went back to letting JJ schedule himself.  And you know what?  He did.  Entirely on his own, he settled into a cycle of wake up, eat, play, eat, sleep, naps ranging from forty minutes to three hours, and consistently sleeps at least eight hours at night, usually more like ten, and in the last couple of weeks occasionally teases me with a twelve hour night.

Just in time for the four month sleep regression, I know.  *sticks fingers in ears and hums loudly*

While many many mothers work, and thus need a more defined schedule for their little ones, I'm happy to say that if you're blessed enough to be able to stay home, a rigid schedule is NOT required.  Some babies take to it and it works for them, some don't.  I am so grateful that I can stay home with my son, and that he is the sort of baby who settled into a reasonably predictable schedule all on his own.

And yet, when people find out that I still do this or that or whatever it is they happen to feel passionately about, I hear the same old song.

"Oh, my, you do/don't/did/didn't/still __(insert parenting choice)___???  You're going to have so many problems with  ___(insert dire predictions)___!!!!"  People get amazingly bent out of shape every time they discover that some other parent did things some other way, as if that passes judgment on the choices they made, and they must now defend those choices to the bitter end.

It's amusing and confounding and irritating as holy hand grenades all at the same time.  Because while they usually have raised or are raising children, none of them have raised my child.  None of them watch him all day and all night.  None of them sleep with both ears wide open to catch his sleepy burbles and listen to his breathing.  None of them read all the books and scoured the internet with my child in mind and finally said "Ya know what? I'll figure it out.  The human race somehow survived before any of this stuff was written, it can't possibly be that hard."

Don't get me wrong, I love hearing about other parents' experiences.  What I don't like is "what worked for me" turning into "you have to do it this exact way or your baby will __(insert more doom and gloom)___"

The problem with all the different theories is that none of them work across the board, and anyone who claims that their method works for all babies all the time (if properly applied and the parents do it right, putting the blame for failure on noncompliant parents) hasn't worked long term with enough children.  Even most of the so-called experts will admit when pressed that there's no such thing as a Baby Manual.  No magic pill, no formula, no step by step or blow by blow that will tell every parent how to handle every baby all the time.  It does not exist.

Everybody knows that.

And yet somehow, everyone also seems to know that their way (or Ezzo or Baby Whisperer or Dr What'sHisNameToday) is the ONLY way that will absolutely work for my child.

I look at my precious baby, contentedly sleeping in his Arm's Reach, happy and healthy and hitting milestones.  (He's sitting up for a second or three unaided now.) I look at myself... rested, with time to myself to write or exercise or do laundry or whatever needs doing.  I look at my husband... rested, working, able to have time with the baby on a daily basis and still spend time with just me.  

I look at our family... and I figure we're doing alright.  We cosleep and swaddle, occasionally bedshare.  I babywear and cloth diaper, but use disposable wipes and vaccinate.  I drive our pediatrician a bit batty and insist on spreading out those vaccines so he gets one new bug at a time.  I gave up on baby baths and instead just take him into the shower with me.  I nurse on demand and let the baby nurse to sleep, rock, sing, cuddle, whatever works to get him down.  I use about a half dozen ASL signs daily for common activities, and will introduce more as he gets older.  When he goes down for the night, I lay there for the first 45 minutes to catch the first rouse cycle and soothe him back down if necessary so that he will sleep through the night.  I could go on like that all day, but the short version is... it's working, and I'm going to continue doing everything that works until it doesn't, at which point I will try other things until I find the new thing that works.  If I ever write a parenting book, it's gonna be...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Oh, boy... here we go again...

Yesterday he ate like he was starving, went through fourteen (yes, I said 14) diapers, and took little 40 minute naps all day.

Today he is still eating like there's no tomorrow, but he is on his second nap.  His first was just over two hours, this one is making swift tracks for three (at which point I'm going to get him up so he doesn't wake up too hungry), and he's sleeping very soundly.  I folded a whole basket of laundry standing right next to the crib and he didn't so much as twitch.

That, my friends, signals... you guessed it...

Growth Spurt.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Breast... may not *always* be best.

I'm about to crack open a subject that tends to get people all riled up and panty-bunched.

Before anyone fluffs out their feathers and prepares to do battle, that's not what I'm after here.

So breathe.  In... out... in... out...  See?  Air is good! ;)

Breast-milk versus Baby Formula is a hot topic on the baby boards.  People on both sides have excellent reasons for the choice they made for their children.  The debate can get pretty heated, and hyperbole often rears its ugly head with declarations like "Formula is POISON!!!" and "EEEEWWW, breast-feeding is gross!!"  At which point the debate usually spins out of control into name-calling and LOLcats pictures.

Being respectful of others' parenting choices goes up in smoke.

And you know what?  It's sad, it really is.  Because whether it comes from a breast or a bottle, the babies are getting fed.  They are growing and healthy and happy and THAT is what matters.  I find it disgusting that mothers who formula-feed are vilified and told they are poisoning their children, choosing the "easy" way instead of what's best for their child (which is BS, ask anyone who has to wash bottles daily), etc.  Similarly, those who find breast-feeding to be unsavory should take a hard look at their overall world view and see if they're upholding that viewpoint by eschewing all exposure to flesh in the media.  Hello, advertising.  

A significant percentage of formula moms are formula-feeding out of flat necessity.  There are myriad reasons why this can happen, from an undiagnosed tongue-tie causing a poor latch, to dietary issues in the mother, flat/inverted nipples, all the way to a straight up allergy to breast-milk (rare, but it happens).  If it's a latching or a dietary issue, poor advice from doctors relying on outdated education can contribute to the problem.  Or, for some, one day for no apparent reason whatsoever, your baby may just refuse to breast-feed.

That's what happened to me.  One day when JJ was about three weeks old, the debate over breast-milk vs. formula became frighteningly personal.  He started to scream bloody murder if a naked breast got anywhere near him.  I tried everything.  Different positions, pulled EVERYTHING out of my diet (seriously, I had the most hypoallergenic milk on the planet, folks), hand-expressing into his mouth, and every feeding session was a fight.   He was gassy and miserable, screeching that started at 4pm was a good day, and I was fast becoming convinced that my child hated me.  And then one morning he just would not latch, no matter what I tried. So we started giving him thawed breast-milk in a bottle.

Voila.  Probably seventy percent of the gas issue cleared up overnight.  My happy content baby reappeared.  Oh, the screeching banshee child was still occasionally in evidence, but it was thirty minutes before he would go down for the night, as opposed to starting up at 4 in the morning and going all day.  So I got my hands on an electric pump and started pumping every two hours around the clock.  The baby was suddenly growing faster, more content, less gassy, and John was getting to feed the baby.

But here's the rub... I was devastated.  Every time I saw JJ drinking from a bottle, I wanted to scream.  Even if I was feeding it to him, I felt somehow that I was failing.  And I didn't get to feed him that often. Needing to pump every two hours during the day and every three at night meant that I was getting less sleep, more stressed, and less and less time with my son.  I would sit hooked up to that damned machine, watch someone else feed my baby, and cry.  Let me tell you, I was starting to get severely snuggle-deprived.

Add to that, the spectre of the Dreaded Formula was looming nearer and nearer every day.  My production was not coming up fast enough or far enough, and eventually the baby would need formula to supplement what I was able to pump, once he burned through what I had stored in the freezer.  I was absolutely frantic.  I was (and still am) taking every natural milk-booster I could get my hands on, and at one point talked a doctor around to a short term prescription for Domperidone.  That's a whole other post there... effective as a milk-booster, no painful side effects but I started gaining weight pretty rapidly, so I weaned off it again before I even finished the initial supply.  And nothing was working well enough to keep that poison away from my baby.  Yes, I'm ashamed to say it, I was a member of the Formula is Poison crowd.

Bad Laura.  No cookie for you.

One Friday night, the baby was asleep, and John and I were lying in bed trying to figure out how to get my head into a place where the baby getting formula wouldn't send me into an emotional tail-spin.  I basically made up my mind that I would keep pumping, keep working at getting my supply up, but it was good we already had some formula on hand because JJ was going to burn through the stored milk before my production caught up with him.  We called it a night at that point, and still in an emotional stew I got JJ out of his cosleeper and brought him into the bed with us.  Bedsharing isn't my all-time favorite thing, kid's a wiggle-butt, but I was desperately in need of some bonding time with my son.  

The next morning, about 4 am, right when he would normally be waking me up fussing for a bottle, I woke up and found that during the night, JJ had found the breast and latched on, and was happily sucking away, still sound asleep.  I laid there and stared at him in total astonishment, joy and disbelief chasing each other through my soul.  I didn't so much as twitch for three damn hours, and when I finally did get up, it was slowly... cautiously... must not upset the baby... Of course by that time he was awake, but he was smiling at me!  He was calm!  He was happy!  He was... 

Wet.  Soaked through.  Yeah, reality came crashing back in a hurry, y'all.  LOL

That week was dubbed Nursing Boot Camp.  I literally sat on our bed and watched Ghost Whisperer.  I did all the things the sleep-trainers run from in horror... I let the baby nurse to sleep, and even then let him sleep at the breast.  For at least four days I took him off the breast so I could go to the bathroom.  That's it.  John brought me food, and the baby slept next to me at night so he could nurse whenever he wanted to do so.  By the end of the week JJ had gotten a little less clingy, and I had stopped wondering if he liked me.

It was two weeks before I let another bottle anywhere near him.  Even now it's a rare occurrence and will continue as such.

But folks, that's not the end of this story.  See, while I was in the middle of that, I was reading and researching and asking everyone I knew for advice.  And several very well-meaning people offered great ideas... while at the same time using the language of failure to describe the cessation of breast-feeding.  Oh, it wasn't intended to make me feel badly, but the fact is that I *already* felt like the worst mother in the entire damn world.  A doctor was telling me that bottles are responsible for  breast-feeding failure.  A friend was telling me that she hated to see people try so hard to breast-feed and then fail.  Folks on the BF'ing boards were urging me not to give up on giving my baby THE BEST POSSIBLE FOOD.  Folks on the Pumping boards were telling me it was okay to supplement as long as I kept pumping, because ANY BREAST MILK IS BETTER THAN NONE.  All with the very best of intentions.

And the whole time I was thinking "Yes, I know, I failed.  God designed the perfect system for feeding babies, it's practically idiot-proof, but I can't even make that work.  WOW, I suck at this."

If you know someone who, for whatever reason, feeds their baby formula, leave it alone.  Formula has its drawbacks, but it is in fact not poison.  It doesn't set babies up to be obese later, it doesn't automatically trash their developing immune systems, and it doesn't mean they love their child any less.  

If you know someone who is struggling to continue breast-feeding, please, for the love of her sanity, watch your language.  Words like "failure", "giving up", "inadequate" and so forth can be damaging to a mother already hurting over the perceived ideal of baby nutrition.  If she's determined to supplelemnt with breast-milk, get her in touch with a milk bank and find out if her insurance will help defray the costs.  Remember that stress and emotional upheaval also have a huge impact on milk supply, so rather than focusing on that supply issue, try words like "love", "food", "comfort", and for pete's sake, send the woman a LOLcat or two.  Make her laugh.  Take her out for a coffee or a manicure if you can.  Focus her attention on the happy, healthy, thriving child she is raising on whatever combination of baby milk works best.

This is the goal.  No matter how you get there.

But never, ever, ever imply by word, thought, or deed, that she has failed in her duty as a mother.

Because, I promise you, she's already thinking it herself.