Cry, cry, cry

The colic-y stuff actually seems to be getting worse.  He’s not so inconsolable now– we can get him to stay quiet as long as we are holding him, walking around, and singing to him. But the duration and frequency are increasing. The start of “cranky time” is creeping earlier and earlier, but it always seems to end between 10 and 11pm.

Cry-it-out is not an option. I mean, I’m morally opposed to it, but I get as tired and wrung out as anyone, and I have had to just put him down and let him scream for a little while a couple of times, to avoid violence. I believe the cry-it-out strategy is born of the unnatural situation that is the modern nuclear family– i.e. not enough women in the household to take care of an infant. This is a curious historical/cultural anomaly.  I think it’s inevitable that women must sometimes leave their babies to cry, because we don’t all have the mental fortitude to hold an inconsolable, screaming, refusing-to-nurse child for three straight hours without hurting it. But I also think it is very, very wrong for “experts” to address this strategy as something good for the child. It’s an inevitable evil.  But there’s no way this is the norm– the best thing– for the human animal. No other animal would do this: the babe would be eaten!

That’s not why we can’t let him cry it out. Obviously, the wolves aren’t going to get him, here. But the couple of times I’ve had to do that, we’ve ended up with the landlady/neighbors at our door. And if you thought having an infant screaming in your ear was bad, try communicating what’s wrong with him to your landlady in an unfamiliar language WHILE he is screaming in your ear. Or trying to understand your neighbors’ suggestions for home remedies, and communicate back that you understand, and that you’ll try it. Or having the screaming occasionally punctuated by an anonymous neighbor lady yelling across the lobby to let me know what a bad mother I am (yeah, my Spanish sucks, but some things come through crystal clear). So it’s good that he’s actually consolable these days. But it’s grueling. It’s getting to be five hours at a time of walking him up and down the lobby, singing anything that comes to mind (lullabies, Patsy Cline, the communion hymn from church…)– because for five hours if he’s not being actively comforted, he’s screaming. At the end of the day I crawl into bed and pass out, praying that the next day will be better… and lately the next day has always been just a little bit worse.

Just to complicate things, my husband has developed severe lower back pain and can’t carry the baby, so only I can do the walking part. He has been filling in by doing the stuff Piglet has been preventing me doing: like cooking dinner and washing the dishes.

The Cusquena ladies’ remedy for colic (it didn’t work for me, but hey, anything’s worth a try!) is to chew a little peppermint leaf, spit it into a little water, and feed the baby a couple of small spoonfuls of the water (not the leaf).

At least he’s sleeping well at night. He wakes up to eat at 3:30 and 6:30 like clockwork. And I’m so tired these days that even our wailing abuela neighbor can’t keep me up.

In the mornings, when Piglet is in a good mood, I’m beginning to see little signs of communication. He seems to actually understand me when I say “are you hungry?”– he goes into his little tongue-out, head-bobbing nursey-face routine. And when he gets all squirmy and grunty and I ask if he wants to go potty, he calms down a little, and his facial expression changes. That didn’t work out well this morning, I admit: he squirmed and grunted, I put him on the potty, and he totally freaked out and yelled. He was hungry, and the potty was not where he wanted to be. But I hadn’t misread him: as soon as I took him off the potty he peed all over me and the changing pad and the bed…

He’s also started imitating us, just a little. Sometimes if you stick your tongue out at him, he sticks his tongue out. And most of the time, if he’s in a good mood, we can make clicky noises at him, and he’ll make clicky noises back to us.

We took him to the botica this morning, and weighed me holding him, and me without him. Not the most accurate way to measure the baby, but after translating out of the metric, the boy weighs roughly sixteen and a half pounds. Most of it in his thighs. The curious thing, though, is that I now weigh less than I did before the pregnancy. I started at 120 (naked), and now weigh about 117: and that’s while wearing shoes, a floor-length denim skirt, and the five meters of jersey cotton that I am using to carry Piglet around in. So it’s entirely possible I’m under 115 now. I’m not sure what to make of that, when my boobs are bigger than ever, my belly is still on the paunchy side, and breastfeeding makes me hungry all the time, so I’ve been eating like a horse. I think a lot of it is muscle atrophy.

In better news, my blood sugars seem to have stabilized. I’m guessing the crazy low glucose numbers are what make so many people give up on a low-carb diet. Those first few days can be really brutal. But I’m very, very glad I stuck it out, because now that my numbers are consistently in the 70s and 80s both before and after meals, I feel so much better. If I were still randomly plummeting into the 40s and 50s, I don’t think I could handle Piglet’s cranky spells at all. It’s a little disappointing to find that my blood sugars don’t appear to be the cause (and therefore the cure) of his ills, but…  stable blood sugars are good for both of us anyway.


8 foot boob

Lately, friends and strangers alike have been on fire posting about FB’s absurd policy of deleting breastfeeding photos in accordance with their no-nudity policy. Whatever. FB can do what it wants. You are, after all, using their bandwidth for free. But I thought I’d chime in and point out what a uniquely American weirdness that is. Here in Lima, today, we were waiting in line outside the RENIEC office to get the baby a DNI. A woman was sitting on the steps of the building nursing her child. I mentioned it to my husband later, and he hadn’t even noticed. He says it’s such a common sight here you just kind of tune it out, like the cars, buses, money-changers, and donut stands. Though to be fair, my husband probably notices ALL the donut stands.

Later we got lunch at a chicharron shop, where a nudie calendar with a big-busted model hung on the back wall. I nursed Piglet at the table and nobody batted an eye. Then, on the bus on the way home, I spotted this:

It’s a bad photo taken from a moving bus, so I apologize. But that is a public service billboard reminding you to get a mammogram. And it features an eight foot tall photo of a bare breast. I don’t know about you, but I was in no way offended.

Thumbsucking, ECing at night, and it’s not the eggs

I woke a few nights ago to Piglet’s squirming next to me. I looked over to see his little fist balled up next to his mouth. Surely he wasn’t…  but he was! That little thumb was definitely in his mouth. Visions of his future gigantic orthodontic bills flashed before me. I gently pulled it out. He waved his fist by his mouth, but his thumb was tucked in– whew! But then, very deliberately, he opened his hand, splayed out all his fingers, and waved his hand by his mouth twice, until he got the thumb. I cursed quietly, pulled the thumb away, and nursed him back to sleep. Please don’t be a thumbsucker, Piglet!

ECing at night is really hard. But sometimes it’s the best solution. This morning, at 3:30, Piglet woke up to eat. It quickly turned into a crazy wrestling match, with him repeatedly letting go and then frantically searching for the nipple again, all while punching me and kicking violently. What the heck, Piglet? Are you hungry or aren’t you? I don’t think very clearly at 3:30. Finally I got so frustrated I had to sit up and be out of the reach of his flailing feet and fists. I started down the list. I burped him. His diaper was uncharacteristically dry and clean. I got out the potty and set him on it. He immediately calmed down and started making his little floppy-disk-drive noises. So that was it! Poor kid needed to poop, and didn’t want to go in his pants. If I can make this an automatic response instead of a last-ditch effort to figure out why Piglet is trying to beat me up in the middle of the night, I think we’ll have a lot fewer dirty diapers!

For two days, we have been free of colic episodes! This is after going back to eating eggs, so I think we can safely say it wasn’t the eggs causing the problem. But what IS the cause? Here are the likeliest possibilities:

1) For the past two days my blood sugars have been under control. Nothing over 113, nothing under 59, and my new “normal” seems to be in the mid-sixties. Which seems really low to me, but I feel fine at that level so I’m just going to roll with it.I am eating a ton, with eggs, coconut shreds, avocado, and charqui to tide me over between actual meals.

2) Bananas. To control sugars, I had to give up all the fruits, and bananas were a daily pleasure, eaten in thirds. I’ve been without them for three days now.

3) Fructose. It’s not just bananas– I’ve been without all fruits and grains, excepting avocados. So if he’s fructose sensitive, that would cure it.

4) Dairy. I’ve been without that for something like two weeks now, but some sources suggest the proteins can persist in your system for over a week, so if it only just now cleared out, that could be it…

5) It’s a fluke, or he’s just growing out of it. We may never know.

Breastfeeding and hypoglycemia: Will the medically-ignorant please just shut up? (and will the research community please step up?)

I have a blood-sugar control problem. I’m not diabetic. Yet. My fasting levels are normally good: 84-85. But I get a bit high if I eat more than twenty grams of carbohydrate in one go. In high school and college I had all the classic symptoms of hypoglycemia, but was never diagnosed. My aunt once measured my blood glucose at a whopping 33 (anything under 61 is considered hypo). For the first half of pregnancy my fasting sugars dropped into the 70s, and sometimes got down to 60or 61. Second half saw my post-meal sugars creeping upward–  150,160, 165– and I got control of it by lowering carbs and going for a long walk whenever the numbers got north of 130.

Since Piglet was born, though, it’s been a roller coaster. The lows keep getting lower and the highs keep getting higher (three days ago a modest serving of rice and lentils helped me reach a personal record high of 186). Today was scary. I woke up feeling crappy, so I checked my fasting level at 6am. It was 43: lowest reading I’ve gotten since my aunt waylaid me back in high school. It frightened me, so I downed two teaspoons of sugar and three bites of leftover beans from dinner. Forty-five minutes later I checked again: 33. Another spoonful of sugar got me up to 48. My husband went out to buy groceries and cooked me breakfast: I ate half an avocado and a tiny sweet potato. And shot up to 148 at one hour. An hour or so after that I was back down around 50.

All of this sucks. Anything under about 65 and I feel crappy– lightheaded, lethargic, and crabby. Once you get over 150, you’re flirting with incremental, irreversible organ damage. It won’t kill you right away, but it’ll sure make your retirement years hell.

Here’s the problem: there doesn’t appear to be ANY legit medical research on the connection between hypoglycemia and breastfeeding. None. If you search the keywords you come up with tons of stuff on hypoglycemic newborns, but nothing on hypoglycemic mothers. I’m hardly a unique case, though, and further searching turns up a lot of women like me, asking the same questions, i.e. What the heck is going on with my blood sugars? I think breastfeeding is exacerbating my hypoglycemia/making me hypoglycemic– is this possible? What do I do about it? Is this affecting my baby?

In the absence of any real medical input on these questions, a lot of rabid breastfeeding advocates feel the need to jump into the breach and claim there is no connection whatsoever between breastfeeding and hypoglycemia, that breastfeeding is the most natural, wonderful thing on the face of the earth and it is simply not possible for it to have any negative effects on mama or baby.

Which means I can’t find any real, useful, helpful information on the problem.

Rabid breastfeeding advocates: I know you mean well, but you’re full of shit. Back off. I am breastfeeding my child, exclusively. And I want to continue to do so. Denying that the problem even exists is not helpful.

Medical profession: I know there are a lot of medical problems out there. But it’d be nice if you could get to this one. Is my system dumping sugar into my milk supply? Could this be the cause of the colic episodes? Is there something else I should be doing to control it, apart from watching my carb intake and eating protein frequently? How do I keep my sugars from plummeting overnight when I’m not eating?

In the meantime, I guess I’ll lay off the sweet potatoes and rice, keep eating truckloads of protein, and hope for the best.

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Why do my bras smell like Doritos?

Doritos. It’s been years since I ate one, but that’s the exact smell.  It’s late summer here, the days are warm, and some combination of leaked milk, sweat, and heat = Dorito smell.

Doritos: Extra spicy, Ranch, or Original Mom flavor

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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.