Monday, September 19, 2016

Our Breastfeeding Story

Even before I got pregnant I knew wanted to breastfeed. I grew up watching my mom nurse my younger sister and my older sister nurse her babes. I have also long been fascinated by the incredible health benefits - how amazing that a mother's milk is so perfectly crafted for her baby that it helps prevent sickness and allergies, deter obesity and is all a baby needs to grow the first several months of life. Both my mom and sister had given very honest advice that the first couple of weeks were hard, and I am so thankful that they had... because even equipped with that knowledge, it was rough.

It was very important to me to feed Samuel within the first hour of him being born, so as soon as we were in the recovery room he latched for the first time. I was SO thankful that he had a good strong latch and was amazed at just how natural it felt. I fed him often that first day and quite honestly was surprised it didn't hurt more. (This is where I look back and laugh a little bit.)

The next morning, I woke up (can you call it that if you don't really sleep?) and OUCH. My nipples hurt so incredibly bad. All of the books and articles I've read (I am a researcher by nature so I read a TON) said 'breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. If you are doing it right it may be uncomfortable but won't hurt.' For me, that was 100% false those first two weeks. My poor nipples, which have always been cozy and protected under soft bras were all of a sudden being sucked on for 10 hours a day. How is that not supposed to hurt?! On top of that, positioning and latching in general seemed to have gotten more complicated for Samuel and I on the second day. He would latch and unlatch repeatedly, all while my toes were curling.

Fortunately, I had the best support system and relied on them so much for guidance. Preston and I had taken an incredible class through our birth center that focused on nursing so he was a huge help (I honestly don't think many mamas can say that about their husband so I was so thankful). My sister was also very forthcoming with all of her advice and experiences and my mom, well she was a SAINT. She knew exactly what to say to encourage me when I was hurt and frustrated. I also asked every nurse I had for their advice, and I will forever be thankful for how hands on they were. At one point, I had Preston's, my mom's, Hannah's and my nurses hands in addition to my own on my breast and Samuel's head to get us positioned correctly and latched on. Humbling. In retrospect I think that was the first moment, less than 24 hours into motherhood, where I learned that all of the facts, techniques and strategies you can read and memorize meaning nothing - you need your village of people who are ready to step in and get their hands dirty helping you.

At every single feeding in the hospital (and at home for the first few days!) I needed help getting Samuel latched on. He had strong suckling instincts, but it is still a learning curve for both mama and baby! On our third day in the hospital, the pediatrician recommended that we supplement with formula because he had lost some of his birth weight. It is very common for babies to lose weight after being born, however because he wasn't having tons of wet diapers on day 3 (he had a ton on night one!) they wanted to move forward with this plan. I did not want to do this (I wanted to wait to introduce a bottle to avoid nipple confusion) and thankfully I was comfortable declining and had a nurse who advocated for my wishes. I knew the colostrum I was producing was enough for Samuel and that it is common for c-section mommas to not have their milk come in until day 4 or 5. (Sidebar: you always have the right to ask for other options in a hospital setting and/ or decline care. Obviously make an informed decision and if possible ask for other medical opinions - our nurse and my midwife were both in favor of not giving formula since Samuel was breastfeeding successfully.) 

Once we got home, nursing got even more painful because in addition to my breasts hurting my back and shoulders were also hurting from being so tense. I was incredibly in love with my precious son and so glad I was able to nurse him, but I would dread each feeding because I hurt so bad. It was hands down way more painful than another part of my delivery or recovery experience. On Samuel's sixth day of life, the pain peaked. I sat on the couch with my mom on one side and Preston on the other, hot tears in my eyes and blood dripping from my nipple. My mom encouraged me to get up and walk for a few minutes and we would try again in five minutes (this was so helpful). Preston actually called a pharmacy (that was 45 minutes away from our house) and made a 90 minute drive to purchase special compounding nipple cream that our pediatrician had prescribed for me (bless. his. heart). It was called triple nipple cream, and you will need a prescription for it and then a compounding pharmacy to make it. Insurance also will likely not cover it but it is worth every penny and it helped me heal so much.

The next few days continued to be similar, and I remember thinking 'Now I completely get why people do formula/ exclusively pump.'  I am a huge breastfeeding advocate, and on multiple times I thought that switching to pumping or formula would be better because I would be less stressed and could be a better mom. While I am so glad we didn't, it gave me a heart for all different types of feeding - fed is best and I really believe each momma knows what is best for her and her baby.

On Samuel's tenth day of life, I noticed a switch. While breastfeeding still hurt, I was actually looking forward to that time with Samuel. Having built in one-on-one snuggle time 12+ times a day while you are nourishing your baby is pretty incredible. After the first two weeks, the pain stopped except for the initial latch (which is normal). And now, six weeks into nursing, I can truly say that it is one of my very favorite parts of motherhood and I am truly so thankful for this experience.
I think it is so important to share the hard parts of being a parent in addition to the thousands of incredible moments. I also wanted to write this down to encourage anybody in the same boat - you can absolutely do it! Those first two weeks will hurt, but you are strong and it is so worth it to push through (if breastfeeding is important to you)!

My best pieces of advice are to go in prepared (I would recommend taking a class with your spouse, this was so helpful to Preston and I), have a support team that will encourage you, have supplies (nipple cream, nursing tanks, nursing pads, boppy and/ or my breast friend pillow are musts), and have something to motivate you - for me, this was the post nursing, milk-drunk snuggles. They are heaven on earth! Also, through your modesty out the window and be topless and skin to skin with your babe as much as you can in the early days. Most importantly, make sure that you are eating and drinking A TON. You need way more calories to breastfeed than you do while pregnant, so be prepared with snacks and meals that are high in fat and protein. And make sure to bring some to bed with you every single night, in addition to a lot of water (I drink 50+ ounces through the night). More than anything, though, give yourself some grace and know that you are doing an awesome job. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

One Month of Samuel Jacob

As of September 4th, our precious boy is one month old! I can't describe how amazing this first month of motherhood has been. I knew I would love it, but I never could have imagined just how much joy I find in being Samuel's mom. While this first month of parenthood has absolutely had it's challenges, (hello sleep deprivation) it has also been hands down the most fulfilling time of my life and I would do it again in a heart beat.

-At his one month visit, Samuel was 22 3/4 inches tall (86 percentile) and weighed 9 lbs 13.5 ounces (48 percentile) - this sweet boy is taking after his daddy, long, lanky and handsome! Truly though, he is a complete and total mini-Preston. From the day he was born we have gotten soooo many comments about how much they look alike, which I love! Samuel does have my lips though. :)

-Samuel has been a solid eater from the very beginning - the boy does not miss meals. He eats every two hours during the day (except for when he cluster feeds in the evenings in which case our feedings are back to back) and will do 3-4 hour stretches at night. Because he lost some of his birth weight in the hospital (which is completely normal but I still let it get to me!) I will wake him up at night if he gets to the four hour point. I will write more about our nursing experience in another post, while it is absolutely incredible now the first week and a half was painful.

After his first bath at a few days old

-Up until his umbilical cord fell off, we gave Samuel sponge baths which he was pretty indifferent to. When it came time for his first real sink bath, we got him naked and he must have got a little chilly because he spread his arms and legs wide and yet out a SCREAM (not a cry) that let us know he was clearly not happy about the situation. Preston was completely scarred by the situation and told me that he wasn't going to give him a bath again until he was five (I still can't think about the night without giggling). We reverted to showers until he is big enough to enjoy real baths, so now twice a week Preston hands him to me at the end of my nightly shower and he LOVES it. He snuggles up on my chest while I get him nice and clean. Have you noticed the key to our parenthood approach? Put the babe on momma's chest and all will be ok! Ha!

-He is the most alert baby of ALL TIME, as you can see above. People comment on it everywhere we go. From the first day he was born, he has wanted to take in the world. He loves bright lights, being outside and staring at peoples faces. At the very end of the month he started to focus more on specific things (like the pages of books when I read to him) which has been SO fun! It has had it's downfalls, such as naps - this boy fights them! I have become a bit of a nap nazi because if he doesn't sleep well during the day our nights are much more difficult. Overall it is so fun to have a babe who is already so fascinated by life - I hope you always stay way Samuel!

-Samuel's faces are HILARIOUS. He has quite the assortment of wacky facial expressions which completely crack us up. Also, he does the sweetest, biggest, gummiest smile which absolutely melts my heart! I don't have any pictures of it because when he flashes it I just stare and try to take it all in! This upcoming month I want to try to get better about videos of all of his expressions because I know I will want to remember them forever. I can already picture him making the exact same faces as a toddler and then as a little boy and it makes me so excited and breaks my heart all at the same time.

-Speaking of sleep, this was not quite as straightforward as I was expecting. We have the Halo Bassinet, and I was planning on having Samuel sleep in it right next to my side of the bed. On our first night home we found out two things: one, Samuel was not loving the bassinet and two, it felt like he was A MILE away from me even though in reality it was twelve inches. Soon enough we found out that Samuel prefers to sleep on his mama, and I sleep so much better with him cuddled up on my chest where I know he is safe and sound. He also does 1-2 hours a night in the Rock N Play as well (he has a bit of reflux so he sleeps much better when elevated - it isn't recommended for the whole night but our pediatrician is fine with him doing a couple of hours a day/ night in there). We will transition him out into the bassinet most likely when he is two months but for now this situation is working out great (in all honesty I live for the night time snuggles I get with my little man - it is heaven on earth!). As far as naps go, little man loves wrap naps. Loves, as in, that is how he naps everyday. :)

Samuel loooooves being in his Mimi's arms - the first two weeks she stayed with us and I don't think I would have survived without the morning nap she allowed me to have while he was swaddled and snuggled tight in her arms!

-Demeanor wise, Samuel is pretty relaxed and content - as long as he is being held. I rarely ever set him down, and when I do he has no idea what on earth is going on! Hence why his newborn photos and the ones I take are all of him sleeping or being held! I don't mind, I truly do live for the snuggles and I know that I am going to blink and he will be a toddler squirming out of my arms to go on the swings at the park (cue the tears). Besides that, he only fusses when he is hungry (and if that is the case he can go to 0 - 60 in a second flat!), has a dirty diaper, is gassy or tired. During his second week of life, we had some long, super rough nights where he was really gassy and very unhappy. We would burp him, bicycle his legs, etc for hours and nothing really seemed to work. I went off dairy per my mom and sister's recommendation (my sister had to do the same with her littles) and within a few days he was 10x better. I am so thankful for the countless pieces of guidance and advice my mom and sister have given me this month - Mom and Hannah, you two are incredible!

-Little man is also so strong! At just two weeks old he started to lift his head on his own which was nuts. It is only for a couple of seconds at a time (it has gotten gradually longer) but it was waaaay earlier than I was expecting him to! In so many ways it seems like he has already outgrown the newborn phase, I keep reminding him that he is still a baby - no need to rush through all of these milestones, buddy!

-I want to remember what our favorite things this first month have been for future reference, so here they are...

Solly Wrap - This is such a lifesaver! Like I mentioned above, starting around week 3 Samuel decided he had outgrown naps. I had to remind him that buddy, you are a baby, and YOU NEED SLEEP. Fortunately, I have the Solly and if I wrap him nice and snug and walk around our house he can't resist the coziness and falls asleep. Major win for this mama!

Rock and Play - I was not planning to register for this when I was pregnant, but after a sweet friend (hi Rach!) sang its praises and said it was the one thing she would recommend I went for it. I am SO glad I did because outside of my arms this is one of the few few other places Samuel will sleep. Plus it is super lightweight and portable so I have no problem carting it up and down the stairs and it is cheap!

Pack and Play - Preston had this Pack and Play picked out from the moment we saw it at Target on display. It really is so nice that is one button to pop up and I love the simple black design of it. Right now we have it set up with the top as a changing station in the living room which is a life saver. It is so nice to have a designated space with diapers, wipes, sanitizer, etc so we aren't running up the stairs a million times a day (seriously, we go through so many diapers)!

Kickee Pants pajamas - These pajamas are the absolute best. A very sweet coworker sent me a box of hand me down clothes from her boys and there were several pairs of these in there. After one night we are addicted. I looove that they have footies and mitts (to keep him warm since we have the AC running all night) and they are so incredibly soft. They have a decent amount of buttons on them which is a bit of a pain for middle of the night diaper changes, but anytime we have tried other pajama styles they really just don't compare.

Crane Humidifier - Like I mentioned above, we have the AC running all night (hello August in Texas) so a humidifier is a must to make sure we don't dry out little man. This one has a great design and holds a ton of water so it won't run out in the middle of the night.

Dock A Tot - I ordered this (well technically Preston did) after a particularly rough night. While we had high hopes that it would be the perfect solution to safely cosleep, it hasn't worked out 100% that way yet largely because Samuel needs to be elevated a bit when he sleeps. I have a bassinet wedge on the way that I plan to use with the dock a tot for sleeping, but there are plenty of other things

Swaddle Blankets (these and these are our favorites) - These are so amazing for everything. We use one daily (that I switch out each night) and we use them for swaddling, blankets and as a breastfeeding cover up.

Sweet Samuel, you are such a joy!! This month with you has been nothing short of incredible - I'm not quite sure how your dad and I ever lived without you. Every single day I look at you in complete awe that my body grew something so perfect. All of those cheesy onesies couldn't be more true, you really are all of God's grace wrapped up in one tiny face. My son, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

Monday, September 5, 2016


I had so much fun putting Samuel's nursery together. I knew going in that Samuel wouldn't be sleeping in his room for months and that truly nurseries are more for the mamas than the babies. :) That being said, we actually do use this room a surprising amount! The glider that Preston's parents generously gifted us is one of my favorite spots to nurse, sing and read to my sweet boy. Our time spent in this little nursery is some of my favorite bonding time and I'm grateful to have these photos to document it...

All photos by Amanda Reed Photography

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Newborn Days

My sweet (and incredibly talented!) friend Brittany who I've known since I was four came over for a playdate with her son Blake. Brittany and I were born five days apart, married a week apart and now have precious sons two and a half weeks apart!

While she was here, she made a video of a normal morning for Samuel and I and it is such a treasure. The newborn days are the best kind of blur of nursing, diaper changes, nursing, cuddling and more nursing and I am so glad I have this video to remember them by! Thank you Brittany - you are amazing!

Samuel Jacob from Brittany Brooks Photography on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Samuel's Newborn Photos

These photos are such treasures to me! We had a friend from church who does (beautiful!) photography come to do them when Samuel was a fresh 10 days old. Our little babe was feeling a bit gassy this afternoon, so he was not exactly loving all of the photo action (just like his daddy ;). I laughed when I realized that almost all of the photos are of us holding him - it is such an accurate depiction of our life, I can't stand to put the little love down!

All photos by Amanda Reed Photography