My Breastfeeding Journey, Part 2

During World Breastfeeding Week, I'm honoring that my second breastfeeding journey has come to an end. 
 
I went into this newborn/infant phase reminding myself to be graceful toward the breastfeeding journey. I wrote this blog post near the end of that phase with Ariana, when she was around 9 months old. I was looking forward to putting less pressure on myself, and I told myself I didn't have to feel guilty if we supplemented with formula.


 

Even with those reminders, I still held out hope that my supply would be better this time around.
 
It wasn't. 
 
Sophia is just over 5 months old, and my supply is done. 
 
I remember pumping after going back to work the first time around. I remember trying furiously to pump (and wash pump parts) three times a day. I remember bringing my pump when we had to travel for the day. I remember stressing about making arrangements to pump during a class I took and having to take extra break time for it. 
 
I told myself this time, I wasn't going to stress as much about pumping. It's not like it's pleasant anyway. And I didn't want to spend hundreds of extra dollars on lactation supplements that really never helped. 
 

 

 

I also gave myself a threshold for pump production, and when I hit it, I would call it off. I hit that threshold last week, when I barely pumped an ounce in a session. Even knowing that it was going to happen soon, I cried a little while putting the milk away, knowing that it was time to call it. 
 

 

I looked at my stats the other day comparing my pump sessions for Ariana vs. Sophia. I had way fewer pumping sessions and WAY fewer ounces overall.
 
It's okay to both mourn the end of this phase and feel okay choosing the alternative. But I don't want to feel discouraged - it's not a failure.
 
We've supplemented Sophia's feedings with formula since she was a newborn, and she is growing, strong, happy and healthy. I've got a small supply of frozen pumped milk, but for the most part, Sophia will be formula fed until she turns one. 

 

 

 

While grateful for the ability to use formula, I am also forever annoyed at how much formula costs and how much waste it creates. (So much plastic and so many little scoopers!)
 
If you are struggling to breastfeed for any reason, first of all, know that you are not alone. And second of all, you don't have to feel guilty using formula. You are not "less than." As long as your baby is fed, your baby is doing great. 


 

If you are able to breastfeed for over a year, I am in awe of your dedication (and your supply). 
 
And it's so true what they say - no matter if your baby is breast or bottle fed, they will grow up to be a toddler who just wants to eat junk food and dirt.

Life with my second baby

In the four months that our baby, Sophia, has been with us, she has proven to be the biggest joy. She has truly been the sweetest and cuddliest baby since day one. I always say she is the calm among our chaos. When life gets crazy at home, Sophia is almost always the one just hanging out. She, of course, has her moments, but part of the beauty of her being the second baby is that I can handle them a little better.

 

 

I spent much of my pregnancy dealing with anxiety. Beyond the obvious pandemic stress, there were just so many things taking a toll on me. I was constantly worried that something would go wrong with the pregnancy, and it felt like a more intense pregnancy in general, while we were dealing more with toddlerhood, navigating a home improvement project, living through hurricane season and an election, and just dealing with general adulthood.

I remember the day last November when I realized I hadn’t been simply enjoying the journey up until that point (which was approaching my third trimester) and I felt so guilty. I felt like it was unfair to my baby that I was spending so much time worrying. In that moment, she started kicking and it was like she was reminding me to be more present. (Side note, it's perfectly okay if you don't enjoy every moment of pregnancy. That is natural! Unnecessary guilt is one of the things I struggle with.)

The final trimester was filled with more contentment, but also with more physical discomfort. And the final week of my pregnancy was spent riding out a historic ice storm. Although I wanted to go into labor on my own without being induced, I was terrified that I would go into labor while the roads were covered in ice and we either wouldn't be able to make it to the hospital, or our parents wouldn't be able to come watch Ariana.

For as much as I struggled through my pregnancy, I had a relatively smooth labor and delivery experience. It was the kind of experience I really hoped to have, even though we ended up inducing again. Labor went much quicker, and the delivery was safe and less stressful. We were even able to go home after one night in the hospital!

I was grateful to spend 12 weeks at home with Sophia, with part of that being a WFH scenario. Although I struggled with postpartum depression during that time, I cherished getting to spend my days with only her. She was my little errand partner, neighborhood walk companion and meeting buddy. Now that I'm back in the office and back to more of a normal routine, I feel like more myself again. But at the same time, I miss being close to my baby all day.

I hate that, now, I only have a couple hours each evening with the girls, and that I have to split my attention between them. By nature, toddlers are very intensive and just require so much attention. I hate that sometimes I can only hold Sophia when I feed her and put her to bed. I miss those daytime naps in a quiet house, just me and her.


I relish when Sophia sleeps so peacefully in my arms. I try to always take advantage of the time when she falls asleep for the night while I'm holding her, and I just soak up the snuggles. She reminds me that I’m still her safe space and that my arms are her favorite place to be. At four months, she's strong enough to hold herself up, but she still loves to nuzzle against my shoulder and put her hand on my arm or shoulder. And it's my favorite feeling. 

But, sometimes I feel as if I put too much pressure on myself to not miss any moment because it'll be the last of something. That I have to hold her as much as possible because she'll never be this small again. I try to remember something my therapist repeats often: it's okay to mourn the loss of the past while still being excited for the future to come.



I saw this post from Motherly recently and it really hit the nail on the head of the guilt I feel sometimes about not being able to spend as much one-on-one time with Sophia anymore.



 

Life with two kids is only just beginning, but it's already teaching me so much. And one thing I know for sure is how happy I am that Sophia is part of our family. Her smile and her newfound giggles just melt me.

My Hospital Bag Packing List

(Updated March 29, 2021. Scroll down to see which items I actually used from my hospital bag!)

 

Preparing for my first child meant that I was putting together my hospital bag packing list over the course of a couple months, and I started actually packing a solid month and a half before my due date. (I think I have already established that I'm pretty Type A!) I had my carry-on size rolling suitcase organized and ready to go.


Thinking back, I feel like I packed a lot of things I ended up not using, and when it was time to come home, I crammed a lot of the hospital supplies in my suitcase. (Also, after five days in the hospital, we definitely needed the rolling cart to haul all our stuff down to the car...things accumulated quickly, especially with my husband making trips back and forth to the house.)

 


 

After reading a blog post from The Lafayette Mom, I realized I should start working on my hospital bag packing list for this time around. The list Amanda wrote out was very helpful in giving me ideas for practical items I wouldn't have thought to pack otherwise. I've tried to pare down what I will bring, and focus on what I remember actually using or needing during my last stay. However, my plan of bringing a smaller duffel bag didn't pan out, and I'm back to the same rolling suitcase I used two and a half years ago.


 

Because Ariana stayed in NICU for her first two days, I started pumping while in the hospital and accumulated quite a collection of pump supplies. When she was around a month old, I discovered the Haakaa pump and wished I'd had one from the beginning. I kept it in storage and cleaned and sterilized it recently, plus I received a brand new second one as a gift. (This is how much I love this item.) My new one comes with a lid, so that's the one I ended up packing in my bag. Ready to nurse smarter and waste less milk from the get-go!


My reusable coffee mug, water cup and straw are coming along again with the intention to reduce some waste in our hospital room. I purposely packed a huge cup for water to help ensure I drink enough. 


One thing to note: my bag and packing list covers me and the baby. Last time, I kept on my husband for weeks to pack his bag, and I think he finally shoved a few things in a backpack a few days before our scheduled induction. This time around, he packs when he packs. :)


Update!

It's been almost six weeks since I had my baby, and I'm finally getting around to updating my packing list to share what I actually used. I still overpacked, but our hospital stay was much different from our first time around. Instead of unexpectedly being in the hospital for five days, we ended up only being there for one night. Because we were able to go home a night sooner than we expected, I didn't need a lot of things I would have used otherwise (for example, I ended up not taking a shower in the hospital, so I didn't need my shampoo and conditioner.) 


I've bolded all of the items I used at some point in our stay (approximately 10 hours in our labor and delivery room and about 24 hours in our recovery room). Hopefully this may help if you are prepping your own hospital bag!


My 2021 hospital bag packing list

  • Onesies, nightgowns, mittens, pacifier and going-home outfit for Bébé (We used one nightgown and she wore a onesie home, rather than the special onesie pictured above that was way too big for her.)
  • Swaddle sleep sack (we borrowed one from the hospital for Ariana but it was huge, so this time I wanted to bring our own in the newborn size.) (VERY glad I brought this!)
  • Button down pajamas, robe, slippers, grippy socks (I only used one nightgown after changing out of the hospital gown. The slippers were one of my most-used items! Bring some with a hard sole that can be easily disinfected after you leave.)
  • Nursing bra/tank top and nursing pads
  • Outfit for me to wear home (I wore the same pants home that I wore to the hospital, but wore a different shirt. It was not what I would call an "outfit", ha.)
  • Extra masks and a mask chain (I'm relieved that I don't have to labor in a mask, but we will need to wear them when anyone comes into our labor/delivery and recovery rooms, so the mask chain will be handy.) (I actually only needed to use the mask when going into the hospital, being transferred to our recovery room, and on the wheelchair ride down to the car. I never took the mask chain out of my case.)
  • Toiletries for me (shampoo/conditioner, toothbrush/toothpaste, contact lens solution/case, facial wipes, lotion, makeup)
  • Chapstick (I absolutely bought a tube just to pack in my bag.) (I used the one that I always have in my purse, but I DID use it a lot - so make sure you have at least one tube. I kept mine on my tray table during labor!)
  • Postnatal vitamins
  • Haakaa pump and small pump bottles to store any extra milk (cleaned and sterilized)
  • Sound machine (if you don't already have one, save a white noise playlist or download an app on your phone. I've also downloaded my favorite sleep music track from Headspace.) (I used my phone!)
  • Small Bluetooth speaker and charger (not a necessity, but I love to have music playing and I did make a Spotify mix for labor.) (Loved having the speaker and listening to my playlist. I had it going during delivery but couldn't tell you which song was playing when my baby was born!)
  • Stainless steel coffee mug with lid, water cup with lid and straw (The hospital gave me a large reusable cup that I used for water and Powerade. I am actually still using my hospital cup at home to help make sure I drink enough water.)
  • Phone charger and extension cord

 

Things on my packing list the first time around that I'm not bringing this time

  • Flat iron and blow dryer
  • Boppy pillow
  • My own pump (I think we did bring it last time, but used one of the hospital's pumps instead.)
  • Our own blankets (I did bring my own pillow last time and was glad for it, but I'm not sure I'll bother with it this time.)
  • Snacks (This time, I'll probably just send my husband out on snack runs, or that'll be something I throw in the car last-minute.) (After I published this blog post, my husband told me he wanted to make sure we packed snacks, so we had a separate bag for them. We didn't eat a lot of the snacks, but it was nice to have.)
  • Birth plan (I'd already spoken with my doctor about the major things, and like everyone says, things don't go according to plan. The piece of paper never left my suitcase, ha.)
  • Framed photos for the room
  • DSLR camera (Another thing we did use, but that I'm not bothering with this time. I may still change my mind though!)


With just a couple remaining items that I'm still using every day, the hospital bag is packed and ready to go whenever Bébé is!

Comparing my pregnancies

I've always heard how different pregnancies can be, especially going from your first baby to your second. It's definitely been true around here, and in general, this pregnancy has been harder on me. 


 

Symptoms

I've definitely grown faster and showed earlier this time, although I've learned to embrace it.  

 

My first trimester morning sickness was much more consistent this time, and I've noticed more third trimester reflux. I feel like I've had more aches and pains, especially in my lower back, but that's probably a combination of it not being my first pregnancy and me not exercising as regularly.


I didn't have any many cravings this time. I remember my cravings for peanut M&Ms and Icees last time, but I think especially during my first trimester this time, I had more aversions to food. 


I've said for a few weeks now that Ariana was my karate kicker, and this baby has been more gentle for the most part. She's been moving A LOT the past couple weeks, but I find it's more rolls than kicks.


I also feel like I have had more intense Braxton Hicks contractions this time around, although I can't remember if I had them and didn't know it last time, or I didn't have them as much. They are known to be more common in subsequent pregnancies. 


I wrote a blog post a few months back on my headspace throughout this pregnancy, and I think getting those thoughts out helped me tremendously!


Pandemic

I mean, first things first. Obviously the pandemic has changed the pregnancy experience for thousands of women. It was strange to spend so much of my pregnancy working at home, and with so few people seeing me on a regular basis and my growing bump. (That's one thing about video meetings - that webcam can hide a lot, ha!) It was peaceful in a way, yet isolating in a way. 


I'm grateful that my husband was able to join for both of our scheduled ultrasounds during the pandemic, although it take take some extra effort. When it was time to schedule my first ultrasound, I chose to have it done at the hospital. When I realized they weren't allowing any guests at the time, I called my doctor, and she was able to refer me to another facility that was allowing one guest. I was so grateful that we were both able to see our baby for the first time and get the comforting news that everything was looking normal and healthy.

 

Hurricanes

I remember that Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina the weekend Ariana was born in 2018, but thankfully, we didn't go through any major storms in Louisiana that year. 


This year, we got the brunt of hurricane season and I experienced Hurricane Laura while 13 weeks pregnant and Hurricane Delta while 20 weeks pregnant. I got a great 20 week workout helping to clean up the fallen tree branches in our yard after Delta, although being without power was not pleasant for any of us. 

 

Keeping it all in perspective, I'm grateful that our home wasn't damaged, that Ariana and I could spend the night at a relative's who had power, and that our power was restored after two days (and our Internet after a week - I have never been so grateful for hotspots!) So many people had it so much worse than us -- whether they were pregnant, new parents or not.

 

Announcement

Having a miscarriage makes it hard to want to share a pregnancy announcement early. When we announced our pregnancy for Ariana back in 2018, I was so excited to share our news publicly once we had passed the first trimester. 


This time, I think I was nearing 22 or 23 weeks before posting anything online, ha. From simply not seeing that many people, there was also always something going on that made me want to wait. It felt weird to post a pregnancy announcement when everyone was preoccupied with hurricanes. Then with National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in October, I wanted to be sensitive to everyone grieving their own losses.


In a way, waiting that long to announce anything made it seem like the first half of my pregnancy lasted forever, while the second half has flown by.

 

Exercise

When I was pregnant with Ariana, I scaled down my yoga practice but still went every week, and went swimming often that summer.


Since she's been born, I've never gotten back into a steady exercise/gym routine. And combined with the pandemic, I had not been working out much at all. At least during the spring, I was getting lots of neighborhood walks in. And with a very active toddler, I haven't been able to stay very still in general.

 

It's honestly taken me until my third trimester to get my butt to the gym, with a mask, on a regular basis. And I'm so, so glad I'm doing it. Even just the handful of swimming afternoons at the heated indoor pool and the few yoga classes I've attended have done so much to make me feel better physically and mentally.


Exercising while pregnant isn't about fitness goals for me, but rather focusing on feeling better mentally and physically. Yoga really helps with all of the aches and pains of pregnancy, and swimming is the best for decompressing, especially when I feel extra puffy.

 

Preparation

Oh, how overeager and Type A I was when preparing for Ariana. I remember how hard I worked to have the nursery complete before she was born. I started packing my hospital bag a month and a half before my due date. I curated a hospital playlist over the course of a couple months (and I don't think I listened to half of it in the hospital.) I eagerly read the weekly updates in my pregnancy apps. I always had questions ready for my OB appointments. I made sure we had a maternity photo shoot, lol.


This time, I feel like I've been going with the flow a little more. I remember enough from last time that I don't have as many questions. The nursery is basically staying the same (Ariana will move into a big girl room later this year, so we're making updates a little at a time.) I've refined my hospital bag packing list, but have only packed the baby's clothes so far.


It also helps that we saved so many items to use for a second baby, so our needs list is pretty minimal. We've been collecting some hand-me-downs to take care of what we didn't save.


And I'm pretty sure any maternity shoot this time around will be getting my husband to take a few more photos in the backyard, ha.

 

Names

I have said it for three years now. I find it so hard to choose girl names. I was about six months pregnant when we chose the name Ariana, and then chose her middle name about a month later.


I am now nearing 35 weeks pregnant, and we still have not settled on a first name for the baby. And no, I do not plan to wait until we meet her to pick a name, ha. Yes, I am putting pressure on myself by telling myself I need to just pick something in the next week or so. We've narrowed it down to about four or five contenders, and just need to sit down and make a decision already.

What I Look Forward to Doing Differently for Baby #2

Since giving birth to Ariana and especially since getting pregnant earlier this year, I've been keeping a mental list of the valuable things I've learned when it comes to taking care of both newborns and myself in that postpartum phase. There are a few things that I'm looking forward to doing differently this time around, even though obviously, some things are out of my control.

 


 

Labor and delivery

Before giving birth to Ariana, I was of course aware that birth plans do not always go according to plan. With guidance from my doctor, we planned for me to be induced two days after my due date. After Ariana was born, she spent a few days in the NICU. It was a comparatively very short and minor stay compared to so many babies (and my heart goes out to all NICU babies and parents!), but it was certainly something that was hard on us. It wasn't something we anticipated dealing with, and I remember feeling so clueless the entire time about what was going on, even though the nurses and staff were wonderful.


One of the biggest things I hope for this time around is a smoother and shorter labor and delivery experience, and most of all, to have our baby in the recovery room with us (and to go home after two days!)


 

More baby-wearing!

I purchased a Solly Baby wrap before Ariana was born and even practiced using it with a teddy bear. When she was an infant, I honestly didn't use it as much as I thought I would - mostly just for neighborhood walks.

 

Now that I'm somewhat more familiar with what maternity leave will be like, I'm looking forward to using it a lot more, especially so I can multitask and do things around the house, or take both girls for walks around the neighborhood.

 

Getting out more

Once I returned to work after maternity leave last time, I looked back and wished I had gotten out a little more, rather than honestly being 'quarantined' much of the time at home. My first time raising a newborn was certainly challenging, and the schedule was unlike anything I was used to. And of course, we wanted to protect our newborn from flu and RSV and all those fun things.

 

While I wasn't dreaming of going on road trips or anything big if I ever had a second child, I was looking forward to visiting family and friends more or even going for short drives just to get out of the house.


I'm not sure exactly what Spring 2021 will look like with COVID, so I might end up staying at home as much as I did for my first maternity leave and a large portion of 2020 (I still consider the 8 weeks of the stay at home order my maternity leave with an 18-month old.) But that doesn't mean I can't plan to get my butt out of the house for more walks, backyard time and fresh air. Ariana loves to play outside and since the time will spring forward, I can picture lots of playtime in the backyard for her while the baby and me hang out on a blanket! There might even be some backyard tent camping in our future. 



Easier nursing experience

First, I want to say there is nothing wrong with formula feeding! We started supplementing with formula when Ariana was two months, and she has always been happy and healthy. It was hard on me to take that step initially, although I know it was the right one. I still nursed and pumped until she was around nine months, and we kept a reserve stash of frozen milk that lasted until she turned 1.

 

I hope to not stress as much about breastfeeding this time around, but I also hope my production and supply will be better. (Look, I'm still cheap and formula is NOT cheap.) I've done a lot of reading and research in the past year and a half, and have some techniques and other tricks saved.

 

I also plan to switch pump brands from Medela to Spectra. I used the Medela Pump In Style last time (and ohhh how I did not love that thing), and am planning to get a Spectra S1. I've heard from so many moms that it has better output compared to Medela. I also like that there are adapter pieces you can buy so that you can still use Medela bottles to pump, especially since I have a container full of Medela bottles.

 

I'm also looking forward to using glass bottles for feedings. A friend passed down her collection to me, making them both secondhand and plastic-free!


Baby food

I loved making baby food for Ariana with a hand-me-down Baby Bullet. I've since passed it along to another mom friend, and I plan to get an all-in-one baby food steamer and blender. I knew right away that it would be much easier in general to do everything with one appliance. It also helps that our rice cooker and steamer kicked the bucket during quarantine earlier this year and we haven't replaced it. (Stove rice FTW!)

 

Better self care

I saw a pelvic floor therapy specialist last time around 10 weeks postpartum, and it really, really helped. Especially with this being my second baby, I want to be proactive in getting pelvic floor therapy during my postpartum recovery.

 

I took a postnatal vitamin for the first couple months after Ariana was born, and this time, I'm planning to take some for a lot longer. After diligently taking prenatal vitamins for nearly 9 months, it just makes sense to keep giving myself vital nutrients in the postpartum phase. Bonus if they do help with milk production!


I'm also hopeful that I'll be able to ride the postpartum waves better throughout this baby's infancy. I first saw a therapist who specializes in postnatal counseling when Ariana was around 8 months, and since then, it has made a world of difference for me. I've continued my therapy throughout this pregnancy, and am relieved that I have this support in my corner as I head into that postpartum phase. I think it will help even in ways I haven't yet anticipated.



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