Bad Mama, nursing in a sling, and something’s working, but what?

I’m a bad mama. I nicked the little guy’s fingers while cutting his nails. Twice. He forgets in seconds. I spend the next two days feeling horrible about it.

We’ve had a bit of a reprieve with the colicky symptoms. They’ve been happening earlier in the day, lasting no more than an hour, and they’ve been milder– we have not been escalating to inconsolable screaming these last few days. Just general crankiness where he cries unless he’s being carried around. That’s been the last three days…  so something worked, but since we changed several things at once, I’m not sure what. It could be:

1) Block nursing is finally working. I can tell it has reduced supply somewhat– that or the little guy has grown a larger stomach– because by afternoon we have cleared both breasts, and he can actually finish one side and start the other in the same feeding. Previously it took two or three feedings just to clear one side, every time.

2)Elimination diet: I have removed all eggs and dairy from my diet, for the time being.

3) I ditched the anise tea: it’s a local specialty and I really like it, but it turns out it passes through the breastmilk, is mildly toxic, and because it’s part of the fennel family, it can increase milk supply. This could be why block nursing didn’t seem to be working before.

4) No more Milk of Magnesia: I’ve replaced my daily dose with 1000mg of vitamin C in the morning, which has roughly the same effect.

5) None of the Above: Could just be coincidence.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of claims of people nursing babies in their slings– wraps, pouches, ergos, you name it… what kind of mutants are these women? I have tried and tried with both my wrap and pouch slings, and it is totally impossible. I would have to have foot-long snakelike boobs to make that work. All attempts result in A) baby can’t reach or B) baby is mashed into my boob and can’t breathe.  What gives?


Colic and YouTube

Mr. Grumpypants has been, well, cranky lately. He’ll have a couple of minor cranky spells in the morning and afternoon, and then in the evening it is Grand Horrible Screamingfit Crankytime. For one to three hours. Nothing calms him for more than a few minutes. We’ve been playing a lot of YouTube music videos to keep ourselves calm, and sometimes they even work for the baby. For a time. So far, here’s what works best:

1) Way-too-loud waterfall video, ten minutes long: freaking fantastic. It is loud enough to get through to him while he’s still crying, and this morning it got him calmed down enough to nurse, and he fell asleep in under five minutes.

2) Waves on beach sounds. Less hard on my own ears, and seemed to help him sleep.

3) Brahms: Mr. Grumpypants does not like Tchaikovsky, but he seems to like Brahms. If he hasn’t reached Ultimate Screaming yet, it’ll catch his fancy for a few minutes.

4) Andres Segovia: I like Segovia. But for reasons I cannot fathom, my six-week-old son is totally mesmerized by him. Is it the chunky glasses? The bald head and wispy fringe of hair like his own? I don’t know, but I’ll take it.

And because we are desperate and we’ll try anything, we’re also giving colic massage a go. Here’s a good instructional video:

Currently, what seems to work best at the worst times is the colic hold:

Mr. Grumpypants is too big and too heavy to do this one-armed like the guy in this video, but we (usually my husband) do the two-armed version and walk him around and around and around the apartment. This can work for a good while, if he’s not too freaked out, but it’s not foolproof. Eventually one’s back gives out, or he freaks out and starts yelling again anyway. But once in a while, he just goes to sleep, or stays calm enough long enough that I can nurse him and we can all go to bed.

For extra insurance, I’m also eliminating eggs and dairy from my diet for a while, to see if that helps, and I’m looking for an alternative to my daily dose of leche de magnesia, in case that’s somehow crossing through my milk and upsetting his stomach. The stuff certainly makes me fart like crazy, and I have run across a couple of mentions of mothers’ stool softener/laxative use affecting the breastfed baby, so…   perhaps a big chunk of vitamin C in the morning instead?

Block nursing continues. I honestly can’t say it’s making any difference, but at least I can tell when the breast is actually empty now. They were never getting emptied before. We’re settling into a pattern, where it’s about four hours to empty one side at the start of the day, because he nurses only short sessions before falling asleep again, at night, and when we get up in the morning, my boobs are on the verge of exploding. Sometimes I have to express the side he’s not nursing. We’re still having problems with massive let-down response. He pulls  away choking and coughing, and I scramble for a rag to soak up the river of milk running down my side.

DIY Moby Wrap!

Today, in my quest to try out every buckle-free baby-carrying option, I made my own Moby Wrap. It’s just a long piece of stretchy fabric, right?  I went to the fabric shop at the mercado, picked up five metres of T-shirt cotton in a pretty teal color, and when I got home with it, immediately realized it was way, way too much fabric. It was the right length, but much too wide. So I cut it down the center and now it is perfect. It can do all the things a Moby can do, but I didn’t have to figure out where to buy one of those suckers in Lima. It is, admittedly, a bit warm for this climate, but so much more comfortable than my other sling, which is a one-shoulder deal. It also helps that it’s stretchy. It is fantastic for carrying him around, despite the puddles of sweat on my belly, but the boy doesn’t like it when it comes to nursing, so I have to take him out of it and rearrange to feed him. But I had to do that anyway with the other sling, so… no harm. Maybe with some practice?

I did screw up on one count, though– I was brave and wore my nursing tank with it. I don’t like things that show so much skin, normally, but the wrap covered my shoulders so I felt comfortable in it.  And I got a pretty good v-shaped sunburn on the uncovered portion of my upper back. I keep forgetting this is the tropics.

Unsolicited advice

Having a baby makes you a magnet for unsolicited advice. Good advice, bad advice– everyone has something to say. And even when it’s good, solid advice, it often feels like judgement: “Make sure you support that baby’s head” sounds just like “You’re doing it all wrong, stupid.”

Before I even had the baby, some random lady at church was telling me I should schedule feedings so the baby wouldn’t be spoiled. I fumed all the way home. I’d already done my research on the subject, and knew the importance of feeding on demand for adequate milk supply– especially in the early months. This woman’s children were long since grown, and the research had moved on without notifying her. Two weeks in a row now, another lady at church has advised us on holding the baby correctly. What she’s saying is absolutely right– we should be supporting his head at all times, and being careful to keep his spine straight. I KNOW these things. I’ve read an entire book on the subject and if you ever want to check it out, Esther Gokhale‘s 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back is a fantastic read, whether you have back pain or not. Anyway, this woman is telling us about proper baby posture and care, and she’s absolutely right, but it sounds like judgement. You’re not doing it right. And the thing is, I am actually trying to do it right, but my baby weighs over twelve pounds at only six weeks, and I just flat don’t have the arm strength to hold him correctly for more than a couple of minutes– which is partly why I’ve been so obsessed with finding the right baby sling arrangement. And I don’t speak enough Spanish to explain that to her. It’s incredibly frustrating to get advice I know to be good, and still feel judged by it.

Oddly, not all advice feels that way. Delivery is important. When the lady on the bench yesterday pointed out that the baby’s nose was blocked while he was nursing, that didn’t feel judgemental at all.

The thing is, I find myself on the opposite side of the problem too. My brother and his wife had a baby a week after we did.  I’ve just run across a slew of articles criticizing the overuse of acid suppressing drugs in infants, for reflux. Basically, as long as the baby is growing normally, you shouldn’t give them drugs for spitting up. Baby vomit is not acid and does not damage the esophagus the way adult reflux does.  And the drugs have some nasty effects in the long term — especially worrisome in infants because they can interfere with calcium absorption. Yet they’re the flavor of the week in pediatrics.  Thing is, I feel like I can’t even forward the articles, because I know it’ll come across as judgement. And it is. It’s basically me telling my sister-in-law “you have too much blind faith in the medical profession and you should do your own research. I’m right and you’re wrong.”  Which would be really bad for family relations.  I lack the exquisite tact to be able to do that without offense.

It hurts to bite my tongue that hard.

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Breastfeeding in public… in Lima

The boy is almost six weeks old. I took him to church today for the second time. I’m still not used to the additional planning and hassle of taking a baby with me, but I’m learning. At least I don’t have to worry about bottles and formula. But then… I am an American, and I’m not absolutely sure what the “rules” are about breastfeeding here. Back in the US it can be a charged political issue, depending on where you are. Which means that however you feel about breastfeeding, if you do it in public, someone is going to feel that you are A) making a political statement, or B) committing a terrible breach of etiquette.

I’d seen women nursing just about everywhere here, and the children being nursed are a surprising range of ages, so I figured wherever I need to feed him, it’s probably OK.  But I’m still a bit timid about it, so I try to find an out-of the-way spot and not expose acres of skin.

At church, he wanted to nurse for most of the liturgy, so I nursed him in the pew for a while, and when he got fussy and needed a diaper, I went out to nurse him outside and in the church hall. No big deal. The pew was tucked into a corner and nobody even noticed. After church we caught the bus to the mercado, and went to lunch at a pollo a la brasa place. The boy had passed out in his sling as soon as we left church, and stayed asleep through most of lunch. As we were finishing up, though, he got cranky and hungry again, and we had to scurry to pay and leave so we wouldn’t be those people with the screaming baby in the restaurant. We walked out, and looked for a good place to sit and feed him. He cried all the two blocks up to the merchants’ street, where there are nice shady benches.

Those benches are in the middle of a large and busy pedestrian thoroughfare, but I spotted one that was sheltered on one side by the back of a vendor’s booth–something resembling privacy– so we sat down there, next to a nice-looking middle-aged couple, and I rearranged clothes and sling to nurse him. He happily settled in for lunch. The woman next to me asked how old he was, and whether he was a “mujer” or an “hombre”, and what was his name. Then, a lady with a three- or four-year-old boy in tow stepped out of the foot traffic toward me, speaking rapidly and enthusiastically to the boy. I picked out the words “bebe”, “leche” (milk), and “teta” (breast)…  something to the effect of “look! the baby is drinking milk from this lady’s boob!”  Everyone around us seemed to think this situation was totally normal, so I mustered my best smile-and-nod, and we did the usual round of questions again– age of baby, yes he’s a boy– and she did the usual cooing and “bonito!” (or “que lindo”, or “chiquito nino” etc.), and I said “gracias” and she went on her way.

The lady next to me pointed out that he had mushed half his nose into my boob and I should rearrange him to breathe more easily. So I did. Hardly had she finished helping me with my latch when another woman with a slightly older boy in tow stopped by to admire the baby (all the while he is still eating) and to chat with the woman next to me, while they both peered at the baby and discussed the color of his eyes. The maintenance ladies in our building had almost the same conversation about him when we first brought him home– apparently it is a generally known fact here that all gringo babies have blue eyes, but few people ever have a chance to verify this firsthand, so when an actual gringo baby comes along, it must be checked out.

It all reminded me of those anxiety dreams I had back in school, where I’d show up for class, but had forgotten to wear a shirt… I’d feel terribly self-conscious about it, but nobody seemed to notice, so eventually… it was ok and didn’t really matter. Breastfeeding is not political here, as far as I can tell. It’s perfectly normal, and having a cute baby in your arms gives everyone permission to come talk to you, whether the baby is eating or not. I’m still not sure how to react to this, but so far smiling, nodding, and saying “thank you” to compliments seems to be acceptable.

Oversupply and block nursing, topless zone

I gave up on block nursing. I’d been going 3-4 hours a side, and it didn’t seem to make a difference.  So this morning I went with whichever side was fullest.  And the screaming started at noon.

Today was day three without eggs, so I don’t think they’re to blame. I may still eschew butter for a while jost to see, but…

I found another blog describing very similar troubles, and it points back to oversupply.  She mentions block-nursing for up to ten hours a side, in the beginning.  So maybe 3-hour block are just not long enough, and I need to give it another shot. How do you tell when the breast is completely empty, exactly?

Since the screaming episodes started, our house has become an intermittent topless zone. As soon as the baby gets fussy, my husband and I are both shucking our shirts– him because he wants to avoid urp on his clothes, I because it’s easier to nurse that way.  We tag-team it, me nursing, my husband burping the kid, and both of us pacing the floors.

Also: the rolling over was not a fluke. He did it a third and fourth time this morning!

Eggs? Rollovers, block nursing, brain melting, monster farts, hair loss

We’ve been trying everything we can think of to alleviate the evening screaming sessions. Eliminating garlic and caffeine did not work. We tried block nursing based on an article over at, which is a fabulous breastfeeding resource, but with mixed results. The screaming continued unabated, but I have been less engorged lately. I’m experimenting with my diet now, to see if it’s maybe something I’m eating. Most common allergens are things I don’t normally eat anyway, but I do eat a ton of eggs, so today’s my second day without them. Last night we had a mere one-hour cranky time, and without the all-out goatlike screaming. We’ll see what a few more days without eggs are like.

Yesterday morning, the boy rolled over, all by himself. Probably a fluke: he’s only five weeks old. He did have a slight downhill slope in his favor, where my husband was sitting on the bed. He was lying on his belly, bobbing around, and lurched over with his head and shoulders. A couple of minutes of kicking made his legs follow. He smiled and smiled, looking awfully proud of himself. Then he did it again this morning– and it looked much more deliberate. Whoa!

On the pottying front, things are burbling right along. We still catch a few and miss more, but the total absence of diaper rash is payment enough. The process is, however, melting my brain. A day or two ago, when he made his little cranky noises and I actually noticed and put him on the potty and he promptly let loose with a gigantic poop. And I actually (I kid you not) uttered the word “pooperstar”.  Enough said.

Breastfeeding… those pastel drawings with the mama in 1900s dress looking angelic and absorbed in her sweetly suckling infant: they lie. We like to nurse lying down because the babe is so darn heavy already. When he lies on his right side he drips a constant stream of milk out of his right nostril. It doesn’t seem to bother him, but it’s hard to keep from making puddles on the sheets, and by the end of the week, there’s a definite sour-milk funk in the bed.  Lately, he’s been getting attacks of the monster farts. He’s not scared of his own farts anymore, but they still make him uncomfortable, so when he’s farting, he wants to nurse. And while he’s nursing, he writhes around and kicks at me and flails his arms and farts loudly and frequently.

I am undergoing a massive hair-shedding. It was expected, and I haven’t developed any bald spots, or reached that cancer-patient coming-out-in-handfuls stage. The funnier thing is the baby’s hair loss. He has been going bald from front to back, and now he’s got a severely receding hairline.  I expect this means his light brown fuzz will be replaced, eventually, by a cornsilk mop like I had as a child– after the black hair I was born with fell out.