Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Exclusive Pumping- 1 year strong

When I got pregnant with Baylor, the first thing I was most excited about (besides welcoming another member of the family)...was the thought of breastfeeding, I had absolute wonderful experiences with nursing with my first two, so I couldn't wait to get to walk that journey again with my last baby.  Breastfeeding is one of the hardest, most grueling thing a momma walks through with an infant, but by far the most rewarding and satisfying blessing as well.  There is nothing greater than knowing you alone are the source of your little one's needs and those late night feedings quickly became something I cherished more than anything.  Disclaimer: nursing sucks...it's hard...it's exhausting...it's messy...it's intrusive...let me be real and not make it seem like it's all glorious.  There are tough aspects of the journey too.

Anyway, so I looked forward to that bonding experience the whole time I was pregnant.  Enter Mr. Baylor Jace... way earlier than expected, a month long NICU stay, and an extremely fragile, underweight little stinker.  All my hopes and dreams of nursing him went down the drain that first night I realized I wasn't going to have access to him for a long time while he was in the NICU.  I really was devastated.  I knew this would be a game-changer for me and things were not going according to my plan.  I almost threw in the towel right then and there in the hospital.  I knew I needed my energy and strength to make it through the NICU with Baylor, not to mention having two more toddlers at home.  However, I also knew there was nothing better for my sick little guy than my milk.  That day, I committed to do whatever it took to get my milk to Bay Bay...whether by tube, bottle or breast...he would get my liquid gold.  I immediately sought out help from the lactation consultants in the NICU and I tried my best to figure out the tools necessary to make it long-term with pumping.  I firmly believe my milk helped Baylor fight off a deadly infection and grow stronger and stable enough to come home. 



Here I am 13 months later.  13 months of exclusive pumping.  13 months of around the clock pumping and then bottle feeding.  13 months of a sink full of bottles, pump parts and nipples.  13 months of having an almost empty fridge, but a full shelf of breast milk.  13 months of pure exhaustion and feeling tied to a machine for hours during the day.  13 months of feeling torn between my older children and the drive to pump for Baylor.  13 months of setting my alarm clock to pump in the middle of the night, just so I could make sure to have a little extra just in case I needed to stop early.  13 months of coming home early from events, parties or date nights just to pump.  It truly was a commitment, but one I would not change for anything.  I have always felt that breastmilk, whether given by nursing or bottles is a priceless gift that I could give to my children.
 
So I want to give a few tips to those fellow mamas out there who may find themselves at a moment of deciding whether or not to pump for their babies...whether because of health reasons or maybe just because it seems to work better.  Whatever the reason...know that pumping is doable and it is just as beneficial to your baby as nursing.  It just takes a lot of determination and perseverance but in the end it will never be something you regret.

Tip #1: rent a hospital grade pump at the beginning and plan to keep it for at least a month.  Those first few weeks are absolutely vital in establishing a good supply and the handheld or single user electric ones just don't have what it takes to get the job done.  Using a hospital grade pump allowed me to get ahead of the game and get my supply where it needed to be.  It was quicker and more effective in emptying my breast which in return signaled to my body to keep on producing more.  This is so helpful when trying to build up a supply in which you can produce more than what your baby needs. 

Tip #2: Recruit feeding helpers.  Those first few days/weeks/months when you are pumping, it can take 30/45 minutes to go through the process, then to have to turn around and feed the baby is just way too time consuming. I always had either my husband or other family member come help feed the baby while I would pump.  Yes, it sucked to have someone else feeding and bonding with my baby while I was stuck to a machine, but I just couldn't physically do it all.  I had to allow others to help me or I would have burned myself out within days.

Do what ya gotta do...

Tip #3: get tons of extra pump parts. You can never have too many pump parts.  At my peak, I was pumping 8-10 times a day around the clock and having to wash/sterilize that many bottles and parts was just too demanding.  Being able to have other parts on standby to where I only had to wash once a day was key.  Sometimes (especially in the middle of the night) I would pump and then put the bottle/flanges directly into the fridge and then just deal with it in the morning.  I used a simple plastic bottle cleaner that would hold about 10-15 bottles and flanges at one time, and you just add water and then microwave for 5 minutes.  It was very effective in cleaning my stuff quickly.  Just know that your counter/sink will be home to about 5307 bottles, flanges, nipples, caps and more for the duration of your pumping but that is ok...it is what it is.

Tip #4: find a good lactation cookie recipe that you like and eat the heck outta those babies.  You will need all the extra help you can get to keep your supply up because unlike with nursing, your body doesn't know to make more as your baby gets bigger.  That is up to you to train your body when you need to make more and those cookies are an excellent way to increase your ounces.

Tip #5: network.  Yep, having a support system in place is absolutely vital.  I joined a group on Facebook that was for exclusive pumpers and not only did I receive very important tips and information, but I received much needed "momma" support.  These women were the only ones who were really walking this road with me and were able to 100% relate to what I was going though.  I also read other blogs of women who had made it through successfully and I made sure to take all their advice and tips. Having the support of other moms and just hearing encouragement and "you can do this" sometimes made the difference in getting through one more pump. I am so blessed to have a husband that is 100% supportive of breastfeeding.  He never once gave me flack for having to go pump but instead he would always encourage me when I was tempted to quit.  He washed bottles and parts, brought me ice water, fed Baylor, entertained the big kids, whatever he needed to do to support me...it totally kept me going.  



Tip #6: Don't stress about how much you are producing.  I know this is easier said than done, but the more I stressed about producing a certain number of ounces per pump or per day, the less I would make.  It's like my body knew if I was monitoring it's output.  I had to learn that each day, really each pump, would vary and no matter what...even a small amount is a successful pump.  If I stressed about making enough, I would always see a decrease.  I had to learn to just go with it, and be happy with whatever my results were.  Stressing only made things worse.  Your body is such an amazing tool and it really does work wonders if you just let it do its thing naturally.  Leave the stress out of the pumping chair and you will see much greater results.

Tip #7: Set very short, realistic goals.  I never once set out to pump for a year, that was way too overwhelming and I did not want to think about actually going that long.  Instead, I would give myself short increments..."ok I am going to pump for 6 weeks and then at 6 weeks, I can stop if I need to." Then once I met the goal, I would set another short term goal...always knowing that when I got to that milestone I could quit if I needed to.  Family comes first and the moment that pumping got in the way of me being an effective mama to my children, all bets were off.  Having a realistic, very short goal in mind was enough to get me through each day. 

Tip #8: If possible, have more than one pump. I am very fortunate that my insurance company provides me with a pump for each pregnancy.  I was able to keep one in my car at all times, one by my bed and one at my moms.  That way I am never in a bind and I always have a pump if needed. 

Tip #9:  My last tip and probably my most important words of wisdom are to know that any breastmilk, whether for a few days, weeks, months or even a year is so valuable.  If you can only do a little, know that it is a priceless gift you can give to your child.  Don't stress about how much or how long but instead take it day by day, pump by pump.  If at any point you need to throw in the towel, know that you gave it your all and did what you could do.  Don't let guilt get in the way of you being an amazing mama.


Here's to all those mama's out there who are doing everything in their power to give their children the best.  Keep on pumping and remember that your boobs will be yours again one day!!! 


Friday, July 14, 2017

Beach Bound! Girl Edition

I admit...I am a beach addict.  The beach is my happy place.  Not so much for any other reason than I just love making special, out-of-the-ordinary moments...memories that I hope my family will remember forever.  I've read that children do not really remember toys or gifts, but rather they remember those special trips or outings.  So I've really made it a top priority to try and take special trips with my cuties. Since Christian is swamped with school and work, I figured this would be a great time to take MeMe on a girls only trip!  We went back and forth on whether or not we could do it ourselves, but in the end we decided to take the plunge and I must say we did awesome!

We ended up booking a three bedroom, so we had some extra space and at the last minute we decided to ask some more of our family to come and low and behold we ended up with a full crew!  My mother-in-love, two sisters and their kiddos came on board last minute and it ended up being an absolute blast!  Having so many of my favorite people in one place, my favorite place, was just icing on the cake.  My kids loved having their cousins there to play and swim with and we all just soaked up some much needed girl time.

We left early Sunday morning and made our way to Orange Beach!  After a few meltdowns, off road detours, multiple potty breaks and lots of snacks...we made it to our condo!  We spent the next 3 days at the beach, pool, lazy river and splash pad...the kids were in heaven.  There was almost too much to do and they were a tad bit overwhelmed.  Except for a few major meltdowns and spankings, I'd say the kids did really well.  We really never left the condo, just hung out together in the water, cooking easy dinners, sitting around talking and rocking babies...such a great time.

We had a few scary moments....make your heart drop moments.  Weston moved a chair near the balcony railing and was leaning over the rails...um yeah I about died.  Then a few of the youngest cousins got on the elevator first and before any adults could get on the door shut.  We literally froze...not knowing what to do. Thankfully Aubrey was able to get them back to our floor safely by pushing the correct number. Whew...what a scary few moments.  I will say that God had his hand on our babies and everyone survived in one piece.

Overall it was an awesome trip. Full of amazing, special memories that I will cherish forever. I am so blessed to have such incredible family...cream of the crop when it comes to my loved ones.  I know this trip will go down as one of my favorites.














Thanks MeMe for coming along for the crazy ride!  You are a brave woman.  Can't wait til next summer...this will be an annual trip for sure! 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Baylor Jace

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Feels like Summer!

Well the school year has wrapped up and we are in full summer mode. It is one of my most favorite times of the year!  My little Aubrey graduated from Pre-K4 and is headed to the big leagues...kindergarten!  I can't believe she is old enough to be in real school!!  I am thrilled for her though because she will absolutely love and thrive at her school.  My big boy Weston finished Toddler 3 and he was so excited to see it end.  He was not a fan of school and towards the end, it was a daily fight...he just wanted to stay home with his mama everyday!

Last day of school!  Sassy girl!

Big smile cause it's the last day of school!


Silly faces!




Poor Baylor...I didn't realize it til a day or two later, but he had an ear infection.  I guess I should have known based on this picture. I'm a terrible mama!!

My sweet kids, ready for SUMMER!!!


Nothing makes me happier than warm weather and summer rays!  I just love summer time...I grew up spending my summer in the pool.  I have loved the sun and water since as early as I can remember. My little guys take after their mama and are little fish. I have a hard time getting them out of the water. Much to my delight, Aubrey decided she wanted to do swim team this year!  I have been proclaiming the greatness that is swim team since she was little bitty, so when she hit the age limit, I signed her up!  She has only been doing it for two weeks but she has done incredible!  She shows absolutely no fear at all and she just loves it.  Her endurance and determination are endless and I couldn't be more proud of her.  




Our summer hasn't all been fun and games.  We had an incredibly close call last week, and I have barely come to terms with just how horrible things could have been.  We were eating diner out on the patio, I had Aubrey on one side of me, Weston on another side of me, and I was in the middle holding Baylor.  We had been out on the patio most of the evening, hanging out, eating and playing. I just happened to glance down and noticed under our umbrella holder, something odd... just mere inches from our feet.  I stared at it for a moment thinking to myself, "that kinda looks like a snake" before seeing his eyes pop up and him begin to hiss at me.  



For a brief moment, my heart stopped. I immediately began to scream hysterically and we raced to the back door.  It is only by the grace of God that the snake did not bite one of us.  I know without a doubt we were making a ton of noise and commotion and I just don't know how it didn't feel threatened. I firmly believe God sealed that snake's mouth shut and put his angels around my babies. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't pass out or drop Baylor.  I don't really recall how we all managed to get away from the table, but I do know it was a miracle.  Turns out it was a cottonmouth and indeed a very dangerous snake...one bite could have killed my little guys or seriously injured me or Christian.  

You can see just how close our chairs were to this snake. (Disclaimer: all pictures were taken by Christian after it was shot multiple times.)






It really shook us all up.  We were all deeply disturbed for days after it happened.  Even my Bre had a hard time sleeping for about a week after the event.  It was such a scary moment for us, but it did bring along some good lessons for us to remember. I have let my guard down with being out in the yard and not really paying attention to ditches or high grass.  I've realized that I have to be very attentive and alert at all times when out in our yard or even at parks. It also gave me a good chance to talk with Aubrey about satan. I know she is young, but evil is a very real thing and I want her to have a healthy fear of the devil and the harm that he longs to do in our lives. I didn't really get into it with her but I do hope to save these pictures, and remind her of this event when she and Weston are a little older.  The devil is near at all times and always ready to pounce when given the opportunity. I want my children to know that even though evil exists in this world, we serve a much, much greater God.  I'm so thankful my children will know God is infinitely more powerful and capable than the devil and evil will not win or prevail.  What a powerful illustration for them to be able to look back on. 

Well I just can't end on that heavy of a note...so I must include some pictures of this little cutie.  He loves the water as much as his siblings.  

Such focus! 


 My sweet lil man!




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Beach Trip 2017

We took our annual Moots beach trip last week and it was such a relaxing week...well as relaxing as can be with three kids on the beach.  We went to Orange Beach for 4 days and it was just glorious...it is always my favorite week of the year.

The kids did great at the beach this year...much better than last year.  They actually played and enjoyed the sand and the waves.







Our sweet Bay Bay loved the beach as well...he took multiple 2-3 hour naps and loved his little pool.







Christian loves to take the kids crabbing at night and they absolutely love it.  Last year it was a total bomb because it was too cold for the crabs but this year it was a success!  Look at those huge crabs!!





The week was full of swimming, snacking, sleeping and lots of snuggles with these cuties! 





What a great week!  These are the best days of our lives!