Motherhood Update: Levi at Nine Months

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Levi at nine months 

Nine months. Wow. It’s amazing what a difference one month makes in the life of a baby. One month ago Levi was going through a whiny and clingy phase. He would cry whenever I left the room, and was difficult to please. Now, at nine months, our little boy is happy as can be and no longer protests when I leave the room. I, in turn, am feeling happier and relaxed (as relaxed as someone with anxiety can ever be).

Speaking of anxiety, If you’ve been following this blog, you’re probably wondering what ever happened to the New York trip David and I had planned last month sans baby. Umm, well, it didn’t go quite as planned. Originally we were supposed to go away for five nights and leave Levi with my mom and dad in Montreal. Then a month before I asked David to cut the trip down to three, and then to two days because Levi wasn’t taking a bottle and was having separation anxiety. Those two things mixed together made me feel I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself while away, thus defeating the entire point of a vacation. To be honest with you, if we didn’t have a wedding to attend, I would’ve canceled the trip altogether.

All this to say, one week before we were scheduled to leave for New York, I changed my flight so I would be gone for only 24 hours (David left for New York a few days earlier for work). 24 hours!!! I know what you’re thinking, crazy right?! Even though deep down I knew Levi would be okay without a bottle and my parents would do an amazing job, I was still terribly stressed about leaving him. Friends and family were rolling their eyes and urging me to go for the full two days, but my gut was telling me otherwise and I listened to it. And you know what, I’m glad I did.

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Motherhood Update: Levi at Eight Months

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Levi is eight months!

And just like that — Levi is eight months! Every month has had its unique joys and challenges. When Levi is happy, there’s truly nothing better. This month’s challenge, however, has been keeping this kid entertained. He’s quite the discerning child all of a sudden, and as parents we’ve had to up the ante considerably. Levi is also able to stay awake longer between sleep periods which has its pros and cons. The pro is we get to do more fun things together, the con is we have to find fun things to do together. The fact it’s summer in Miami and extremely hot doesn’t help, neither does the fact there are significantly fewer scheduled mommy and baby classes.

What makes him happiest these days is eating, which I can surely relate to, but I can’t exactly feed him all day. Somedays 20 minutes can feel like an hour and I find myself simulatenously bored and worn out. So, yeah, it’s been a bit of a tough month. Overall, Levi’s still a happy baby, but he’s definitely growling and whining more. It’s surprising to me because he’s sleeping through the night (YAAAS!) and his afternoon nap is finally better.

I’m sure it’s all just normal developmental stuff, but of course I can’t help but wonder if it’s something else. I know he’s teething and uncomfortable, so there’s that…I’ve also been considering the possibility that maybe he’s become a bit spoiled by all our attention. We do leave him to play by himself a bit everyday, but I’m starting to think he needs to be left alone even longer in order to learn how to amuse himself without our help. He’s great at doing it when I leave him with the babysitter, but lately, the second I’m  back Levi becomes whiny and clingy.

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Motherhood Update: Levi at Seven Months

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Levi at seven months.

Our baby is seven months! There are moments when I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, but then there are times I feel I’ve earned every single day. Being a mom is hard work, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, doesn’t remember, or is doing a lot of outsourcing. Don’t get me wrong, Levi is the sweetest little boy, but he’s also now at an age where he’s able to express both his likes and dislikes, and believe me — when he doesn’t like something — he lets us know.

His current likes include: stroller rides, playing in his activity center, putting everything in his mouth, “walking” with daddy, his lovey, and eating.  His dislikes include: his afternoon nap, drinking milk from a bottle, diaper changes, tummy time, and avocado.

One of the biggest changes since my last update is that Levi is eating solids and really loving it! I’m not quite sure why, but I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing. That said,  with the help of my Ninja food processor and this super helpful online eating guide — feeding him has been a wonderful , albeit very messy experience for the both of us. I’m proud to say he’s a real gourmet just like his mama!

When you’re first starting out, pediatricians recommend introducing one new food at a time over a period of 3-4 days to test for allergies, but once a food passes the test then you’re free to mix ingredients. Levi has already tried and enjoyed pureed carrots, sweet potato, squash, zucchini, banana, pear, peas, plum, chicken and turkey. The only thing he doesn’t  like so much is avocado. He’s eating about eight ounces a day, spread out over two meals. If you’re about to start your baby on solids, I highly recommend these genius suction plates,  and these adorable bib/smocks.

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Motherhood Update: Levi at Six Months

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Levi at 22 weeks in his activity center.

As I’m writing this Levi is almost six months. He’s becoming increasingly more social which makes playtime much more fun for us as parents. Levi’s also started laughing and making these hilarious bird-like noises which we mimic back to him much to his delight. He’s losing interest in his swing and keeps trying to pull himself up from his playmate. However, he enjoys his activity center and is fascinated by the trees and the sky. I place him by the window and he just stares out into our backyard. Free entertainment folks.

A couple of weeks ago he started rolling onto his side which made for a bit of a rough week sleep-wise because he would roll over and either get scared or uncomfortable and start to cry. Thankfully it passed, and now we get a kick out of seeing him fall asleep in the most awkward positions (the things that entertain us these days, oye!).

It’s been over two months since I’ve pumped breast milk and given it to Levi in a bottle (I don’t like pumping very much), and I’m getting a little worried he’s going to reject the bottle. I know I have to get on this asap, but I seriously enjoy holding him close to me while nursing him, while also being too lazy to pump. That said, the older he gets the more comfortable I’ll be leaving him for extended periods of time and I’m definitely going to want him to take a bottle of breastmilk or formula when I do.

In about one week we’re going to start offering him pureed food which I’m both nervous and excited for. It’s going to mean more work for mom and a lot more cleaning, but I’m looking forward to getting him started on his culinary journey. Hopefully he’ll be an adventurous eater just like his mommy!

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Why Everyday Should Be Don’t Forget About Mom Day

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Levi 18 Weeks

When you’re pregnant, everyone asks you how you’re feeling. People hold the door open for you and engage you in friendly banter. You’re showered with attention and it feels good. But then you give birth and — poof — just like that those same folks start caring less about you. A lot less. The baby is the focus of everyone’s attention, and rightfully so — babies need tons of attention. They’re fragile, new, and adorable. They also smell incredible. How can anyone, let alone a tired, rundown, and hormonal new mom compete with that?

But here’s the thing: please don’t forget about Mom. She needs you almost as much as the little baby. Her life has changed completely, and if she’s anything like me, chances are she sometimes feels anxious, lonely, and confused. She’s also tired. Really tired.

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Motherhood Update: Four Months

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Levi at 16 weeks.

Our little Levi is four months old! I wish I could say these months have flown by but then I’d be lying to you guys and that would defeat the purpose of this blog. The truth is being a mom is tough. It’s hard work and right now it’s my full-time job. And Levi is actually an easy baby! He’s always smiling and is happy to chill in his baby swing or stroller, or lay on his play mat. He is absolutely delicious and makes me smile whenever I’m with him.

The hard part right now really has to do with his sleep or lack thereof. At 17 weeks he’s still waking up twice most nights to eat, which is considered normal for his age and wouldn’t even be so bad IF he actually napped during the day! Since about nine weeks his napping has gotten worse and worse. I have read Dr. Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and have spoken with two sleep consultants who both told me I could start nap training at 16 weeks because that’s when biological rhythms for naps emerge (I’ll discuss night sleep training in another post). This means babies are biologically programmed to sleep at certain times and be awake at other times. More specifically, nap training involves putting your baby down in his crib (drowsy but awake) after a consistent soothing routine and leaving them in their bed for one hour regardless if they’re sleeping or not. The idea is to teach them to fall asleep on their own and fall back asleep when they wake between sleep cycles.

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On Banishing Mom Guilt Once and for All

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Levi at 14 weeks.

I had heard a lot about mom guilt before having Levi, but hearing about it and experiencing it are two very different things. Prior to his birth, I promised to give myself time to adjust to motherhood without putting pressure on myself to be a full-time mom and still do all the things I was doing before. I’m referring to things like preparing home cooked meals, freelance writing, blogging, going to the gym regularly, etc. While I have been kinder to myself than usual (yay me!) given my type A personality, I still often find myself feeling bad/guilty about not doing certain things.

During my many walks with Levi I’ve been listening to the audio book version of Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I highly recommend this funny, fresh, and insightful look at parenting in France, however, the reason I’m mentioning it now is because there’s an entire chapter dedicated to doing away with the dreaded mom guilt. French mothers are vigilant about not giving into it. They accept the fact they can’t do it all and that the perfect mother simply doesn’t exist. Consequently, a giant weight is lifted off their shoulders and they can approach motherhood with a greater sense of ease. In this regard, I absolutely want to be more like these women. I realize feeling guilty virtually all the time is unhealthy, and that it’s not beneficial to me or my family. You’d be surprised by the seemingly trivial things I’ve felt bad about these last couple of months (I assure you this is all true), and so now my hope is that by writing it out I will be more likely to stop feeling guilty about certain things.  Here’s to a relatively guilt-free 2018!

I will no longer feel guilty about:

1. Not making the bed everyday.

2. Going a full week without “cooking” anything beyond tuna melts, eggs, and maybe pasta if I’m feeling fancy.

3. Not always having a fully stocked fridge because I don’t want to spend my limited free time at the grocery store and don’t want to pay the pricey delivery fees every week.

4. Missing a workout, or two, or three.

5. Declining dinner with friends because I want to be in bed by 9p.m.

6. Wearing yoga pants daily.

7. Trolling social media while nursing. I made a resolution not to go on social media or text while breastfeeding but that was before I realized just how often I would be breastfeeding and that it’s actually the best time to catch up on my reading. In fact, following other moms on Instagram has been especially comforting as a new mom.

8. Politely declining visitors.

9. Politely declining sexual advances (occasionally)!

10. Sometimes feeling bored while playing with my baby even though I love him truly, madly, deeply.

11. Missing a wax, or two, or three.

12. Not breastfeeding for the full year because I want to go on a mini vacation with my husband sans baby this summer.

13. Letting my baby cry it out as part of sleep training for nighttime and naps. I’m doing it because I know that by learning how to self soothe he will have better quality sleep which will only benefit him.

14. Saying no to plans because of nap training and sleep training. I’m committed to making sure Levi gets the rest he needs.

15. Not being a perfect mom because such a thing does NOT exist.

XOXO

Val

New Mom Challenge: Sleep Deprivation

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Levi at 11 weeks. This boy has stolen my heart… and my sleep. 

Never ask a mom of a newborn if her baby’s sleeping through the night as hearing this question will only remind her how tired she is. And for God’s sake please don’t tell a new mom she looks tired, even if your intention is to acknowledge her plight. The truth is I knew I would be tired the first few months of Levi’s life, I  just didn’t realize all the emotions and challenges that would arise from being in a constant state of sleeplessness.

The first month of Levi’s life he essentially ate every two hours and slept whenever he wasn’t nursing. The constant breastfeeding was tiring and took some getting used to, however, because he was sleeping so much and fell asleep so easily — it was easy for me to nap while he napped. This was crucial for me at this point and I was diligent about it. Of course, it must be said I had hired help cleaning the house a couple times a week and family members bringing us dinner and fetching our groceries. If not I definitely would’ve been more tired. Still, the combination of hormones and a lack of sleep during this first month definitely made me more prone to bouts of crying for seemingly no reason. I would snap at David only to burst into tears and apologize moments later. It wasn’t exactly fun.

Once Levi turned six weeks, a new challenge arose: it became harder to get him down for naps and for nighttime sleep. Suddenly I was way more tired than I had ever been in my life because not only was I  sleeping less overall, but I was exerting more energy trying to get him to sleep. This included endless walks around the neighborhood. Want to know how I lost the baby weight? I literally walked for hours everyday. What’s more, when he wouldn’t go down for hours at a time I would get stressed and anxious which only made it harder for me to fall asleep for naps and at night.

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New Motherhood Challenge: Finding Balance While Breastfeeding

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This face though…Levi at 9 weeks.

I  knew that breastfeeding can be quite painful at first, and I had heard many stories about moms who had difficulties due to a poor latch or low milk supply. Fortunately, Levi latched on immediately and my supply was sufficient. Any pain I felt also went away after about the first week. What I’ve been finding tough about breastfeeding is how big of a commitment it is.

For the first month or so I felt I was nursing non-stop. While I loved having Levi snuggled up so close, feeding on demand was exhausting both during the day and especially at night. It also tied me down making it hard to leave him for more than an hour. The lactation consultants tell you to wait at least three weeks before introducing a bottle of expressed milk so it was only three weeks after his birth that I felt comfortable enough to leave his side to go for a quick dinner with David. That night it felt like I was re-discovering the world for the first time.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably read about the big mistake I made with regards to nursing when I went too long without breastfeeding or pumping during the night. I thought I could pump in the morning and have David give Levi a bottle at night so I could get more consecutive hours of sleep. Turns out, when you’re not able to physically nurse your baby you have to pump around the same time so as not to diminish your milk supply. This was a tough pill to swallow for me; how was I to get any relief at night? Thats when it really sunk in just how big a commitment breast feeding can be.

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Motherhood Update: No Naps and Breast Battles

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Levi started smiling (for real not because of gas) at 7 weeks. When I see this happy face, it makes all the struggles worth it. Truly. 

Remember how I said some days are tough and some days I feel I’ve got this whole new Mom thing in the bag? Well, last week (week 7) was the toughest thus far. Levi basically gave up napping and some days would go as long as five hours without sleeping. The times he did sleep, it was usually only for an hour or less. What happened to his 2-3 hour naps I wondered desperately? And I must also mention that any nap he did have happened in his stroller (after a looong stroll), or in the swing, or in the car seat after driving around for a while. His best nap of the week was, of course, a three hour nap while he was with my mother-in-law and I went out for a birthday lunch. If I’m supposed to nap when baby naps but baby doesn’t nap, well, you do the math…

If I hadn’t read famous sleep doctor and pediatrician Dr.Weissbluth’s book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) where it says that week six (or six weeks after the due date so week seven for Levi) would be the toughest, I would’ve been feeling insanely confused and desperate. He calls it the six week peak and says at this time all babies are the most wakeful and the most fussy and parents should do whatever it takes to maximize sleep and minimize crying. So while we don’t want Levi getting used to sleeping in his car seat, swing, or stroller for that matter — we were in so-called survival mode. Dr. Weissbluth says after week six babies are supposed to calm down and their biological circadian rhythms are supposed to evolve so they start differentiating more between night and day and should begin sleeping longer stretches at night. I’ll report back. Here’s hoping (and praying).

Meanwhile, during week seven Levi also began a pattern of crying while nursing and pulling away frequently during feedings. When I would try to put him back on my breast, he would suck for a little and then pull away and keep crying. When we then offered him expressed milk in a bottle he would take it, indicating to us he was still hungry but wasn’t getting what he needed at the breast. Naturally I began to freak out. It was physically hurting me to see my baby in such a distressed state while nursing. I longed for the sweet look of satisfaction he used to have. What was happening? Where did I go wrong?

Then we weighed him on his smart changing pad which doubles as a scale and saw he hadn’t gained weight all week. I started to freak out even more. Then it hit me: what if my milk supply was dwindling? I was pumping once or twice a day and giving Levi a bottle so I could go out without him for a bit and/or get more sleep at night while David fed him a bottle. However, as a result there were several nights that I had gone more than four hours without pumping or nursing (I was trying to get some much needed sleep!). That said, by doing so I was signaling to my body that I needed to produce less milk to feed my baby because he was sleeping more, when in reality this wasn’t the case — someone else was just feeding him a bottle. I had neglected to make up for the missed nursing session with a pumping session.

Once I realized this was likely what had happened I became inconsolably upset. To make matters worse it was the weekend so I couldn’t call the Doctor or a lactation consultant. How did I mess up so badly? How did I not realize such an obvious point? I was angry at myself and deeply upset/stressed that as a result of my negligence and selfish desire for sleep I was unable to fill Levi’s tummy up without topping him off with a bottle. I  had read so much breast feeding literature yet in my tired state must’ve totally missed this part.

So what to do? Well I’ve learned the hard way that until he actually starts sleeping longer stretches in the night, I really shouldn’t be going longer than four hours without pumping or nursing him. Farewell five/six hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep that my husband was graciously giving to me.

Thus I spent all of New Year’s weekend feeding him as much as possible and pumping my breasts whenever I could to indicate to my body it needs to produce more milk to meet my baby’s current demands. In fact, I’m writing this post while pumping. Fun times.

Hopefully my supply will get back to where it needs to be in a couple of days and I can put this upsetting episode behind me. I spoke with my friend’s father who is a pediatrician and a leading breast feeding researcher and he said I shouldn’t worry and my supply would regulate in a couple of days. I’m also hoping at our next pediatrician appointment on January 15 the doctor will tell us whether his weight is ok and let me know if I need to keep pumping to increase my supply or supplement him with formula if needed.

Whatever it is, I’m ready. If there is indeed a problem with my supply that I cannot fix without driving myself crazy — I will make the switch to formula or I’ll supplement with formula. I will remember that fed is best and that at least I tried nursing, even though I messed up a bit in the process. What’s important isn’t so much whether I give Levi breast exclusively or formula, or a combo, but that he’s fed and happy and gaining weight as he should be and that I in turn can be a better mom because I’ll be less stressed and happier. I wholeheartedly believe that happy Mom equals happy baby.

Thank goodness for David’s unwavering support throughout these rough few days. I’m sure I’m not the only Mom who beats herself up when they make a mistake or experience a setback. I want to be less hard on myself, especially because stress not only affects my milk supply but my ability to be a good wife and Mom. I have to forgive myself, attempt to fix things as best I can, and just move forward. I’m trying and I’ll report back.

Xoxo

Val