Advice For The FPC

Notes For My Sister On Having A Baby: Post-Partum Depression


As I have never 1) experienced PPD or 2) ANY clinical-type hardcore affects-your-entire-life depression, you may think I am wholly unqualified to write on this topic. (HA HA. LIKE THAT HAS EVER STOPPED ME BEFORE.)

This is just one of those things where you really have no idea what is going to happen or what you'll feel or think until it happens. Much like nearly everything else about having a baby. I thought I would FOR SURE come down with a raging case of PPD. I talked to my doctor about it well ahead of time. I asked friends to check up on me. I read tons about it, had a list of Professionals I could call, discussed preventative measures with Phillip, and then it didn't happen. AT ALL. I actually look back on the first several weeks of each kid's life with... swoony fondness. !!!

Okay, so we already know that I am a huge weirdo. HOWEVER! I am quasi-qualified to talk about Questionable Mental Health seeing as how I experience it pretty much all times EXCEPT for the first several weeks of each kid's life. And all I have to say about it can be summed up thusly: DO NOT DO IT BY YOURSELF.

I think some of the post-partum stuff is normal. Wacked out hormones, total upsidedownness of your entire world, figuring out a whole new area of partnership with your husband - just the lack of sleep is honestly enough to make you crazy. But for some people, it seems, there is definitely a point or a line or SOMETHING where things are definitely not right. They are not normal. They are hard and scary and rough and there's no perspective, no rationality, no grace. 

Seems like a lot of women don't know this is happening until it's been happening a good long time. Then again, even if you're aware, just knowing about something does not necessarily empower you to change it or do something about it. Luckily for you, you have a super attentive and doting husband PLUS an incredibly nosy and armed-with-the-internet big sister. 

If it happens to you, know that it happens to SO MANY OTHER WOMEN. There is nothing wrong with you! And it won't last forever. Find someone who will listen, maybe your nosy sister or perhaps a professional who is objective and not emotionally invested and has heard it all before. Talk to your doctor. Get some medicine. Don't be stupid and proud and stubborn like me and think that taking drugs means you failed or you can't hack it or you're masking the real problem. None of those things are true. 

Once again I'm going to hope that the internet steps up in the comment box. I just think this is such a HUGE THING that hardly anyone really talks about in Real Life (I mean, not EVERYONE has a blog, right?) (Losers!) and then it's SO COMMON and I would just be heartbroken if you were to feel Not Right and Alone. You don't have to be those things.

Notes For My Sister On Having A Baby: Formula Is Just Food

Hey FPC! Today the Seattle City Council passed a breastfeeding ordinance that "makes it illegal for businesses and other entities to ask nursing moms to stop, cover up or move to a different location in public areas." Our fine city has made the right to breastfeed your child a protected civil right! Yay Seattle!

Of course, this only reminds me that I need to write the post about bottlefeeding. HEH.

For some people, for plenty of different reasons, breastfeeding just doesn't work. There are so many different ways it might not work that I seriously wonder how the human race just didn't STARVE in infancy. (Then I remember there were wet nurses and they were probably fine with the whole breastfeeding set up and then I start to feel sad for them because it kind of sounds like the worst job ever. Except maybe not? Like maybe they were Kept Women? You know? Lots of treats? OKAY I DIGRESS.) 

Seems like most women TRY breastfeeding and then, for the ones who struggle with it and ultimately decide to go the formula route, most of them feel like Horrible Mothers. At least at first. Because shoot, if people are going around making it a PROTECTED CIVIL RIGHT, what's wrong with YOU? 

But when I was feeling like a failure because I was going to start giving Emma formula to give my body a break from the pain, I remember taking it to Twitter (THERE'S a good recommendation! Get thee a Twitter account!) and I'm pretty sure it was Emily who said something I will remember forever: Formula is just food!

You know me, FPC. I can turn anything to Superdrama, especially if I can perceive myself somehow Failing Spectacularly, etc. You are not so neurotic. If you are in this position YOU will be fine. BUT JUST IN CASE! Just in case I will tell you: Formula is not how good you are as a mother! Formula is just food! 

So anyway. Have some bottles. You'll want them even if you're breastfeeding. Well, I guess there are those ladies who don't mind being the cafeteria 24/7 but I was not one of them and it improved my quality of life four trillion percent when Phillip could do one of the nighttime feedings. We use Avent bottles, but does it matter? I don't think so. Especially now that they're all BPA free. How things change between your first kid and your third kid!

I've heard that you want to introduce the bottle at about 2 weeks old? Is that right? (This applies to breastfeeding too, obvs.) I'm sure this varies. People say if you do it earlier it confuses the baby? Nipple confusion? Jack we had to give a bottle right away because he was just too tiny to latch. We waited too long with Molly, though, and I think she was 6 or 7 months old before she took a bottle. WOE WAS ME. Emma got a bottle in the hospital and never seemed confused to me. So. I don't know. Just something to think about. 

The worst thing about bottles, in my opinion, is washing them. I HATE WASHING BOTTLES. Seriously. Phillip and I have actual fights over this task. Having one of those bottle brushes and a drying rack makes it a little less horrible. 

Munchkin makes these little formula holder thingies. So you can measure out three servings of formula and tote it around in your diaper bag. Easier (and cuter!) than a plastic bag with a scoop. 

With Jack we bought Special Filtered Water and freaked about the temperature and the foaminess or NOT foaminess of the formula. With Emma we, uh, use tap water, we don't worry too much about if it's cold (she still drinks it!) and we are often combining random bottles and sticking them in the fridge. We hope she'll still be accepted to college. 

We use store brand formula. As far as I can tell, it is EXACTLY THE SAME as the formula that costs twice (TWICE) as much. We're really lucky that all our babies were just fine with whatever formula we happened to give them. Not all parents are so lucky. (There's a good tip for 4am when the baby is on her seventeenth wakeup: someone somewhere has it worse than you.)

Pay attention to how hard your baby is sucking to get the milk out. Don't be like Phillip and me and realize you should have moved up to the 3 month nipple size (bigger holes) at, oh, six months. Oops. 

Don't be afraid to talk about it. As you know, I am Fairly Transparent and when it comes to breastfeeding talk I don't even think before I say, "Ugh, not my favorite" and I've had more than a handful of New Moms look at me with Shock - right before they say, "me either". Solidarity! It's fun!  

The breast/bottle thing feels like SUCH A BIG DEAL when your baby is tiny. It is a big deal. I don't mean to belittle it or say it isn't important or that it doesn't matter. I think it really does matter. I think your own hopes and expectations for how you feed your baby are huge, and how it all plays out can leave a big mark on your psyche, and all the other new moms you hang out with are bringing their own issues to the table, and then if you have the INTERNET it can put even more pressure on you. But one day that baby will be eating grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and carping at you all day long for fruit snacks and how long you breastfed or whatever went down with bottlefeeding will feel like a Really Long Time Ago. 

Or maybe that's just me. WHATEVS. 

I know you are cool with this, FPC. But just in case you are not. Formula is just food. 

Got any bottlefeeding tips for the FPC? I've been writing this with one hand, while watching The Voice, while avoiding the dinner dishes, and keeping track of Twitter conversations. I'm SURE I haven't even scratched the surface. 

Notes For My Sister On Having A Baby: What To Do When Breastfeeding Is Hard

OH FPC. You know your big sister loves you when she decides to have opinions about breastfeeding and publishes them on the internet. HERE GOES.

Breastfeeding: you should try it. And my reasons are: 

  1. It's free
  2. It's convenient
  3. It has potential to be the most useful baby-soothing tool you have

There are a whole slew of other reasons to breastfeed (most notably: it's the best food for your baby!) but those just happen to be MY top reasons, or, rather, the things that kept me going when it was hard. Which is what the rest of this post is about. Breastfeeding is hard. 

I'm sure it is not hard for SOME people, but I don't know those people. Every single mom friend I have has struggled with some aspect of breastfeeding, even the ones who've had a scandalously easy time of it. I mean, you can be the most pro-breastfeeding, hard core, exclusive, rah rah "lactivist" out there and still get mastitis. So I just wanted to give you a list of things you could do when it's hard, because it's worth it to TRY. 

  • Call me. At the very least I am always good for sympathy. 
  • Have other people to call. I did this with Jack and I was so thankful I did. I'd gone to some bridal shower right before he was born and met a woman who was a doula and lactation consultant. I asked her if I could call her if I ever had problems and I did, MONTHS later. Jack was probably four or five months old and I can't remember the specific problem, but I was worried about it, wondering if this was going to be the end, not sure if I should keep trying, not knowing HOW to try, and she is basically the one who kept me going another few months. The first thing she did was listen, sympathize, and completely validate my experience. The second thing she did was give me practical advice and things to try. Just knowing I had someone on my team, breastfeeding-wise, was incredibly helpful. It is really hard to build your own self up. 
  • Have a professional to call. We had so many problems with Jack at the beginning that we went to see a lactation consultant in her OFFICE. I will give you the number. The nurses at the hospital were nice, but gave me conflicting information, and I still wasn't sure what to do when I got home. Getting a pro to check me out and give me advice was so helpful. Like, it wasn't before I went to see her that I found out babies make a little soft, throaty "kuh!" sound when they swallow - I'd had no idea if Jack was swallowing or not!
  • Visit the Big Baby Box Store. The breastfeeding aisles are PACKED with stuff to help you out. Lansinoh cream is your best friend, and you can leave it on while the baby eats. Nipple shields get a bad rap, but they saved me with Jack (who was so tiny he couldn't quite manage a good latch) and Emma (whose latch was KILLER). There are gel pads you keep in the refrigerator, and though they didn't work for me, they help a lot of other women. 
  • Go to or Ask Moxie, my two favorite feeding-a-baby resources on the internet. Kellymom just has tons of good info and Ask Moxie is packed with real life experiences (and not just about breastfeeding, but EVERYTHING baby- and kid-related.)
  • Pump! I hate pumping. I'm pretty sure no one hates pumping more than me. But in the early days, pumping can be WAY easier than letting the baby eat, plus it boosts your supply, plus it allows someone else to feed the baby, plus IT GIVES YOU A BREAK. 
  • And if pumping is too horrible, try giving Baby FPC a bottle of formula every now and then, or every other feeding (which is what I did with Emma). This has potential to come with a side of guilt (see the end of this post!), but those intermittent bottles of formula allowed me to get to a place (ie: HEAL) where I COULD breastfeed near-exclusively for quite a while. 

Some random things to consider:

  • I know we briefly talked about a breastfeeding class and yes, it does seem strange to do that WITHOUT A BABY, but when I look back I think a breastfeeding class would have been WAY more helpful than a birth class. I didn't even know how to HOLD the baby. I think I could have at least picked that up in a class!
  • Some people have super huge problems with leaking. I didn't! But use those extra pads I gave you, or pick up some Lilypadz - I used those with Jack (the only time I had leaking issues) and they were AWESOME. 
  • It is worth it to buy good nursing bras. GOOD ONES. EXPENSIVE ONES. WORTH IT. The ladies at the U Village maternity store saved my life. 
  • Get some nursing tanks too. I know you, you'll like those.
  • Pain seems to taper off around six weeks. I know that sounds like forever. But it gradually gets better? And then you really do get to a point where it doesn't hurt. I have no idea how that works, but it DOES work, and if you can stick it out for six weeks, you're probably past the worst of it. 
  • If you have low supply, if you don't feel like your baby is eating enough, if she's not gaining enough weight, if THAT'S how breastfeeding is hard: call your people. There are a lot of things you can do. Call them! Don't be afraid! Do it! 
  • If your feet start to ache at night, it might be because you're sitting funny (with your toes pointed, boosting your lap higher) to breastfeed. Or maybe this was just me. 
  • Learning how to feed the baby while lying down in bed is, quite possibly, the best thing you could ever EVER teach yourself to do. 
  • If people around you are not supportive, call the people who are. It's worth it to try and make this work. 

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list. I'm hopeful the comment section will have plenty more tips and tricks and messages of encouragement. These are just the things I'm remembering off the top of my head, on a day where I woke up at 4AM to change a peed-in bed. 

And all that said, FPC, another huge HUUUUGE thing I want to tell you is that it is okay to not breastfeed. It is. It is okay. You are probably thinking, "Um, duh, I know that." But I think that when you HAVE the baby and you have REALLY TRIED to make breastfeeding work and for whatever reason (AND THERE ARE MANY GOOD REASONS) it is just not working, it can feel pretty awful. Mom guilt is like no other (and I know my guilt, right?) So anyway, my next post to you is going to be about Why It Is Okay To Stop (And What To Do Then).



Notes For My Sister On Having A Baby (Part One Of Probably Way Too Many)


I have tried (REALLY. I HAVE TRIED.) to keep my big fat older sister mouth shut about Being Pregnant and Having Babies. Not sure if you would say I have succeeded, but I have tried (REALLY. AGAIN.) to not dispense advice unless asked or prompted or the Moment seems Right. Instead I satisfy my MUST TELL YOU EVERYTHING impulses by GIVING you everything - let me know when you are tired of baby gear hand me downs. I still have about a roomful to go. 

But this morning we were talking about breastfeeding and I thought: I will just write my "advice" on my blog. Then I will feel like I got it out of my system and you only have to look at it if you want to. Plus I think my readers might gain some real enlightenment from my advice on breastfeeding. (HA HA HA that was a JOKE, Readers!)

But before you feed the baby you have to HAVE the baby. 

The best pregnancy book I read, hands down, was The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon. So go read that. I'd lend it to you, but the last person I lent it to never gave it back. Curses!

Things you might want to bring to the hospital.

There are a whole slew of people who go to all the classes and read up on pain management methods (the most intriguing to me is HYPNOBIRTHING, which I STILL cannot contemplate) and they practice with their partners and they make birth plans and they have music to play in the delivery room and I salute those people because HOO BOY just the WORD "hypnobirthing" gives me fits of anxiety. 

I am... not one of those people. Well, actually, the weird thing is that I AM (I mean, you have heard me talk about planning your baby shower, you KNOW I am a PLANNER!) but I knew ahead of time that planning was not going to suit me in this situation. My "plan" was to stay home as long as possible. After that? Phillip was in charge. My doctor was in charge. Actually, and you will find this out, the NURSES are in charge, but those women have received a special calling from God and you WANT them to be in charge of you. 

(The internet is full of labor and delivery nurse horror stories. Do not pay attention. You will get a wonderful nurse and she will love you, because you are not a drama queen, because you are polite, because you're lovable.) 

I think you are a little bit like me, and I think you have already come to this conclusion. "Just see what happens." I approve. I also approve of the drastically low expectations I suspect you have. Things will only seem great in comparison. This is why I am able to truthfully tell you: it was SO MUCH BETTER than I expected. 

Stay home as long as possible after your contractions start. It sucks to labor in a hospital. Stay home where you can eat and watch TV and wear your own jammies. 

Not that you will know when to go to the hospital. Your contractions will never follow the right pattern and you will have no idea when to go. I can just SEE your husband freaking out about this and I am laughing to myself already. Wait, I am not laughing, I would NEVER laugh about this. It's horrible, it is. I mean, SOME people follow the pattern, but chances are you aren't one of them. Call the doctor, call L&D. If you go to the hospital too early and they send you home, don't worry, just remember that happened to your dumb sister with her SECOND BABY. (Which reminds me: ask for the morphine shot!)

Maybe your water will break and this will all be moot. Maybe you'll be induced. But I don't have advice for those things, so we'll just act like they don't exist. 

Leaving for the hospital will feel surreal. Showing up at the hospital and changing into the gown and getting hooked up to the monitors will feel totally surreal. The nurses will act like it's No Big Thing and possibly they will also be acting So Calm You Want To Murder Them. That's when you should remember that they do this multiple times a day, every day, and later you will be grateful because they know just how to take care of you. 

This is a great thing to keep in mind about the nurses: there is nothing they haven't seen before. 

There is only one drug you want at the hospital and it is called An Epidural. They might try to offer you some fancy sounding drugs through your IV but GOD NO REFUSE THEM. These won't do anything for the pain, but they WILL make you feel stoned. Not that I know what that is like. And not that I am the Be All and End All to labor drugs, but hey, this is MY advice column. 

The epidural itself seems/sounds as frightening as having a baby, doesn't it? It did to me. But when it's happening? The hardest and scariest part is making sure you sit still. This is where your nurse is worth her weight in gold. During my labor with Molly, my nurse held my hand and got up right in my face and talked loudly through the whole thing so I could focus on her and what she was saying instead of what was happening behind me. I am STILL so grateful. 

And dude, the epidural? TOTALLY WORTH THE SITTING STILL.

There are all these machines and beeps and noises and ticker tape thingies in your room. Supposedly these are monitoring the baby's vital signs and your contractions. They are SUPER annoying. They can also make you feel pressured - the nurse is always coming in to check the signs and see if you're on track. Try to ignore those little print outs. You are doing a great job. 

If your sister and her husband visit you during this time period and eat a giant cheeseburger in front of you, consider it payback.

Pushing? I pushed MAYBE 30 minutes with Jack and of course you will have an easy time of it too. This is obvs the Law of Being Related. This is another point where the entire thing is completely surreal. Especially if you have an epidural and the room is sort of calm and medicated and you're kind of like OMG THERE'S ABOUT TO BE A NEW LIFE IN THIS ROOM!!!! only you're too busy working on producing that new life. 

This is another good time to remember that the nurse has seen it all.

And hey, your doctor isn't the doctor on call! Boo! Maybe this bums some people out, but this was such an insignificant item for me. My labors were so stinking long and the actual delivery part so short that it honestly didn't seem to matter who delivered the baby. 

I think, before you do it, it sounds like something that happens sort of fast? I mean, not the whole labor, but the baby suddenly popping out part? Sometimes it's not. Sometimes they have to use special tools to help you deliver. This might feel scary at the time, but it will just be a short blip in your experience and your baby's life. It will be okay. 

THERE'S YOUR BABY OMGGGGG!!! A SLIMY BALL OF PERFECTION ALL CUDDLED UP ON YOUR Oh, what? Huh? I have to deliver a PLACENTA TOO? Don't you see what I just did? Don't I get a PASS?! Yeah, this part suuucks. And getting sewn up? (SORRY! SORRY!) This is actually sort of a breeze with an epidural. Without an epidural? The injustice of it all is magnified a frillion percent. 

Especially because your baby is over THERE getting looked at by people who are NOT YOU. I mean, they DO let you hold the baby, but then they have to do all this STUFF to the baby and it's all very annoying. 

FYI: stool softeners? Awesome. Miralax? Even better. JUST SAYIN'. 

Percocet? Watch out for the aforementioned issue. 

Make sure to feel really stinking proud of yourself, no matter how it happens. Maybe you will have a c-section. I have no advice for that, only admiration. If you feel sad that it didn't go a certain way, that's okay. It's a really complicated thing. SUPER complicated. We have a lot expectations we might not even know we had. This is why your sister will bring Ghirardelli brownies to your room and ask you how you're doing and make you tell me all the gory details. 

Well, unless you don't want visitors. Which is TOTALLY OKAY! Everyone will totally respect your wishes (which OBVS don't apply to me.)

Any advice for the FPC, Readers?