Mommyhood

Upholstery Painting

Before my oldest was born I created the cutest little nursery.  It was an underwater theme, complete with a little navy blue upholstered armchair, found for a super price at HomeGoods.  It got a lot of use once he was walking.  Once I had a second son who was also walking, it became a big source of fighting.  I went back to get another.  Unfortunately that day they only had light colored prints.  I setting on a cream color with dinosaur prints, knowing I’d need to find out how to change it at some point. 

Over time, the light color chair turned various shades of brown and even some red (thinking a tomato may have been enjoyed in it).  I considered re-covering it with another fabric and a staple gun, but I didn’t really know how to do that well.  I wondered about dyeing with fabric dye.  That sent me to YouTube where I learned about painting upholstery.  Once I was sold on the idea, I took a good look at both and decided both chairs were in bad shape.  So I ordered some chalk paint, bought some brushes, a sanding block and a spray bottle.

Pretty dirty.
Formerly cream colored chair.

My 4 year old enjoyed the project at the start.  We sprayed the first chair with water till it was pretty damp then started brushing on very diluted paint.  Some people tell you how to measure, like 1 part paint to 2 parts water.  I dumped some paint into a plastic container and filled it with water.  Turned out, it was super diluted so maybe measuring is not such a bad idea.

Next we started painting the very watery paint (colored water) onto the chair.  We worked hard to get into every crevasse.  We sat it outside to dry completely.

He was so excited to start!

Once dry, following the advice I found online we sanded the material to keep it from getting stiff. I was afraid it would feel more like outdoor furniture than a soft chair. 

He liked the sanding part, the first time.

Once dried, we applied another coat of paint, and another and another and another.  Turns out that you don’t really need to dilute it THAT much or wet the chair THAT much for it not to feel bad.  As we went on and on, the kid got bored and grabbed my iPad.

This may have been coat 482.

So basically, we did coat after coat and let them dry.  We sanded them in between only once or twice. We used a sealer to lock the color in so it wouldn’t run off. The chairs are almost as soft as normal and  look so much better.

Still stained but much better.
Totally dry and back in the house.

If I had it to do over again, which I may on a regular adult armchair, I would work harder at first to get existing stains out.  I didn’t do that before and you can slightly see them still. I would  not dilute the paint as much and I would sand it maybe a little more thoroughly, at least on parts that get touched.

Deb’s DIY Paint was the brand I used. I also used their DIY Crystal Clear Chandelier Liquid Patina to seal the color.
Mommyhood

Infant Ear Molding

In May 2016 My first precious little son was born. He was perfect and adorable of course. But he had been stuck breech with his head under my ribs and when he came out, via C-Section, his head was pretty squished and one ear was folded down and flat. Meaning, where there should be some folds in the ear, it was more like Mickey Mouse. In the first couple of days it stopped bending down but it stood out further from his head than his other ear and was flat. When we went to his first pediatrician appointment at about a week old, the pediatrician I had selected purely based on the rave reviews of the hospital nurses mentioned to me that there is something they can do to fix the ear.

We didn’t capture very good before photos. I think we were a little embarrassed as if thinking anything about our baby wasn’t perfect. You can see here that it was flat, didn’t have the curves you expect. What you can’t see is how it stuck much farther out from his head than his other ear did.

I am so so so super grateful to have chosen this pediatrician for a ton of reasons, but knowing about infant ear molding and pointing me to Dr. Jandali is a huge one of them. We were able to get into see Dr. Jandali right away, which is very important as time is of the essence for infant ear molding. Dr. Jandali is a plastic surgeon. I believe you may find this service at other types of doctors. You can search for a physician here: https://www.earwells.com/physician-locator/?cn-cat=40&cn-zipcode=&cn-radius=5.1&cn-latitude=&cn-longitude=&cn-near-coord=&cn-unit=mi&cn-s=&cn-country=

This is what it looked like on him. He didn’t act like he ever noticed it. He didn’t even dig at it or try to pull it off. I think he hated socks way more!

Overall it was a super easy, pain free process. Dr. Jandali shaved off a little of his hair then put little shapers on my son’s ear. We went back every couple of weeks and the doctor monitored the progress and made adjustments. We had to keep it dry and at one point it did come loose. The doc had said that could happen and to just add some tape and call the office.

Creative baths to keep the ear dry.

He wore a shaper device for about 8 weeks. By then the cartilage had hardened and the new ear shape was set. It was beautiful. So easy.

His very normal looking ear!
Oh how I miss those cheeks!

I knew at the time it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want him bullied or made fun of for a funny ear and I didn’t want him to go through any sort of surgery for something as silly as an abnormal ear. I was initially worried about cost but Dr. Jandali took my insurance and they covered it no questions asked.

I recently reached out to Dr. Jandali to ask him for a Q&A for the blog. I want to help spread the word as it seems most people don’t know this option exists. If you are in the New York, Connecticut or Massachusetts area, I highly recommend him. He made us feel very comfortable and confident with the process. The office staff is lovely and they handled the insurance approval all before I ever got there.

Our Q&A is below:

Can you describe the process of infant ear molding? 

Newborn ear molding is a proven, non-surgical procedure to correct an abnormally shaped infant ear. Molding is performed by placing a customized mold on the ear which applies gentle pressure to reshape it to the correct shape. This can be performed early in life because the ear cartilage is still soft and pliable. Complete correction can be obtained in almost all cases when molding is started early enough.

To actually perform the molding, a small area of hair on the scalp around the ear is trimmed. The area is then cleaned and the mold is customized and placed to correct the prominent ear or the ear deformity. Depending on what age we start the ear molding process, as well as the severity of the prominence or deformity, we usually mold for 4 to 6 weeks. The adhesive on the mold usually lasts about 2 weeks, so it does need to be replaced once or twice with a visit to the office.

When is it too late to start infant ear molding?

Ear molding is ideally performed in the first 3 weeks after birth, while the cartilage is still soft.  However, we have been successful molding ears up to 3-4 months old. The cartilage is firmer at this older age, and the molds often have to be in place for 6 weeks or longer. We can’t guarantee full correction at older ages, but we often obtain significant improvement and avoid the need for future corrective ear surgery.

Does the baby feel any pain or discomfort during the process?

Infant ear molding is not painful to apply or to keep on. It is completely non-surgical and applies gentle pressure to reshape the ear. A medical grade adhesive is used to keep the soft silicone mold in place. Most babies completely ignore it once it is in place. In addition, it doesn’t affect hearing development or the ability to breastfeed the baby. Babies can still sleep on their side and it doesn’t bother them.  

Does insurance generally cover it?

The vast majority of insurances will cover infant ear molding for prominent or deformed ears, since it is considered reconstructive and non-cosmetic. We will work with all insurances to get approval. We obtain approval before the first office visit, so that molding can be applied as soon as possible at the first visit.

What are the alternatives to molding? 

Ear molding is the best non-surgical way to correct prominent or deformed ears. We caution parents from attempting to just tape the ears back, create a makeshift mold themselves, or find an ear mold online. None of these are customized to the size of the ear and the particular deformity. They can distort the ear in the wrong direction, cause too much pressure, or cause irritation and infection. 

If ear molding is not performed in time and the cartilage hardens, then ear pinning surgery (otoplasty) can be performed when a child is about 5-6 years old. Otoplasty involves scraping the hard cartilage to weaken it and then applying permanent sutures to reshape it.

The goal with ear molding is to avoid surgery, which has added risks, downtime, recovery, and out of pocket cost. 

You can find Dr. Jandali here https://www.jandaliplasticsurgery.com/reconstructive-procedures/infantearmolding

Also For Mass and NYC:

www.EarMoldingNYC.com

www.EarMoldingMA.com

Before and after pictures are here: https://www.jandaliplasticsurgery.com/photogallery/ear-molding-17621

Mommyhood

Outdoor Chalkboard Project

As I was thinking about a lot of time at home this spring, I thought I came up with a cool and original idea, an outdoor chalkboard to hang on our fence near our play set. A quick Google search proved I was not so original. Still it was a fun a project my almost 4 year old and I could do together and it is already getting lots of use.

First step was to get supplies. We used treated plywood, cut to about 3 x 5. I was tempted to go bigger but this seems good for my space. We used 2 and 1/2 inch decking screws to secure it to the fence. They came with a drill bit. I got black chalk paint and read on it that I needed a primer. I found one that is really cool, making the board hold magnets.

Once we gathered all of that (for about $100), we did a very light sanding of the best side of the wood. I actually have a small electric sander and if I had it to do over again, I would have sanded it more. It is smooth enough but could be smoother. We then brushed it clean and applied two coats of primer. We let it dry overnight then painted two coats of chalk paint.

Once dry, we hung it. We waited 3 days per the instructions on the paint, then conditioned it by rubbing chalk all over it then erasing it off.

So far so good. I am hoping to get 3 or 4 years out of it considering it is in the elements. Overall it was a really fun project to do along with my son. He felt a lot of pride in his finished project.

Anyone have any fun project ideas?

Mommyhood

Stuck at home with little ones? What do we do?

Currently stuck at home due to Coronavirus. It’s so tough. I always work from home but now I have two new colleagues distracting me all day long. Son #1 will be four in May and son #2 turned 17 months yesterday. So busy we didn’t even remember to get his monthly picture. (Who am I kidding? I managed to get pic on his month birthday maybe 3 times so far in his life!)

One thing that has been good is some programs like ABC Mouse and Hooked on Phonics are either giving away access for free or for a reduced rate. ABC Mouse has been particularly fun for my son. In the program, he does learning activities to earn tickets that he can then use to buy new stuff for his hamster or aquarium. He is saving up to buy a dog and eventually wants a baby unicorn. It’s great to keep them motivated. I am not sure on the levels though, as we started at level 1, and now am at level 5, as it seems like he isn’t challenged. I have him doing pre-k, and as I said, he is almost 4. I may up him to kindergarten soon. I want some challenge. Also, he has figured out he can redo the puzzles or coloring sheets without doing any effort and get 3 tickets each time – clever little cheat.

Other items we have been doing to keep us busy include yoga on YouTube. I saw many, but he seems to respond most to Cosmic Yoga. The woman did one for spiderman poses and one for a farm. She has a Frozen one we will try eventually. Our local kids musician is doing daily FB live shows and the local aquarium has some distance learning. I am finding it really hard to remember the times on these things, so will start doing calendar reminders. I think zoos all over the country are offering some programs.

Photo by Valeria Ushakova on Pexels.com

I ordered a ton of foam craft kits. I have some finger paints I am hoping both ages can do – just have to see how much is safe to ingest (yes, 17 month old is still putting everything in his mouth, super fun!). We made a bird feeder and an outdoor chalkboard. We have matched socks and I think may make some puppets with the left overs.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I have also tried to take this opportunity to teach basic life skills. I have been having my older son cook meals with me, clean up with me, decorate for Easter, etc. Anything that I do I try to find some part of it he can do. He is an excellent egg cracker and is now able to measure fluid accurately in a measuring cup. He understands how to boil pasta and eggs and has learned how to clean windows and bathrooms. Life skills that are super important.

I felt that having younger kids was harder, as I have to entertain them all day instead of them doing their own thing. Then I spoke to some mom friends, and boy was I wrong. The pressure of homework and homeschooling to school age children can be a lot. We are basically taking 3 or 4 jobs and meshing them into one and hoping we all survive – the teacher, the employee or employees if both parents are working from home, and the stay at home mom. The house still needs cleaned, the laundry needs done, the work needs done, the teaching, and so on. It’s awful. I am grateful afterall that I only have preschool age kids.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Would love to hear what you are doing to stay sane and any suggestions of children’s activities in the comments! Help a Mama out. We have to band together now more than ever.

Mommyhood

Do you doula?

I grew up in Ohio and had never heard of a doula until I moved to the east coast.  I know a handful of people who have used them and know a friend of friend of a friend’s cousin who is one, so I wanted to understand more about what they do. I vaguely remember that there may have been a Frazier (Best. Show. Ever) episode on doulas. I reached out to Melissa Carrick who is a doula and educator in West Seneca New York for some helpful Q&A.   

You can find Melissa here: https://www.wellnesswithinwny.com/birthyourway

I have heard of birth doulas, post partum doulas, etc.  What types of doulas are there and can you give an overview of what services they provide?


* The term Doula is Greek for “to serve.” I literally use the term for anything! I have a business coach who is my business doula. A fitness coach who is my fitness doula, etc. What we hear and see most commonly are birth and postpartum doulas. A birth doula provides birth preparation and support, usually accomplished through two or more prenatal visits which include options for birth, birth planning, and coping & comfort measures during labor; continuous labor support throughout; and usually one postpartum follow up visit. A postpartum doula helps the family after birth to assimilate and integrate their “new normal.” They may help with such things as feeding and sleeping patterns, baby care and soothing, and providing additional resources of any mood disorders are a concern. In both cases, doulas do not replace the partners or take over, but rather give the families the tools and hold space for them to empower themselves in any situation. There are also end of life doulas that can help people and their families as they near end of life, to help the transition and the coping process be more comfortable, peaceful and respectful. 

How do you choose the right doula – how do you know if they are right fit for you?


When choosing a doula, consider the skills that are important to you, rather than their experience. A doula should be kind, genuine, respectful of all choices, compassionate, caring, empowering, a great communicator… Experience in birth is important, for sure, but you want to be comfortable, uninhibited, and yourself around this person. Inviting someone to your birth space is a big deal. Are you comfortable making noises, being naked, being vulnerable around this person? It’s more of a feeling that you get when you meet with them. If you have any special circumstances or high risk consideration, it may be valuable to ask their experience. Ask open ended questions like, “how would you handle….?” “How will you support me and/or my partner, or include my partner…?”

What type of training do doulas typically have?


Training may vary. There are many online certifications, and some in person trainings. It usually involves doing some amount of “book work,” and reading, the learning part; in addition to The practical part- taking a childbirth education class, a breastfeeding class, finding a mentor to shadow 3 births, and then leaning on that mentor as you begin to take on your own clients. Currently there are no regulations on doulas so certification is not yet “required.”  You may find a doula that’s been supporting births since they witnessed their siblings being born! I believe it is a calling that seeks you out!

Does the doula’s role change if you have a c section, whether scheduled or emergency?


The underlying role does not change. That is, to provide comfort, support, and coping strategies for the family. If it is planned, the doula and family have time to mentally prepare (which is all birth! Birth is more mental prep than anything!) and discuss options to have a gentle or family oriented cesarean, which would include a clear drape or cropped drape to see the baby as they are being born, skin to skin in the OR, the family staying together throughout the process, music, essential oils, delayed cord clamping, etc. If it becomes emergent, the doula will have already discussed the plan for this ahead of time during the prenatal education sessions. Hopefully the family has planned and understands the options and urgency that arise in this situation.  I encourage the partner and myself to stick right by the moms side as long as possible to keep our attention on her, keep her grounded and focused, as all other attention is on getting things moving quickly.

If you are hiring a doula, at what stage in pregnancy should you start interviewing them?


Anytime!! It’s never too late or too early. I’ve had people hire me at 8 weeks at 36 weeks! Those that hire early don’t usually schedule a first visit until the second trimester and the second visit in the third trimester, but every doula does things differently.

Do doulas work in groups  -or what happens if you are not available when I go into labor? 


A lot of doulas are independent contractors, or work for themselves, but often have back up doulas in place. Some doulas work for agencies or collectives where there is a partner system and the two (or more) doulas share an “on call” schedule, and rotate.  This is a great question to ask when interviewing: “do you have back up? Vacations planned? How many births do you take a month? Can I meet your back up?” 

What are the typical fees for services performed?


Fees can vary. A lot of “doulas in training” offer lower rates until their training is complete. Some students offer free services until qualified by their certifying company. On the low end, average could range from $300-$600. For more experienced doulas, it may range from $800-$1500. In larger metropolitan areas like NYC, they may be well over $2000. Please consider the prenatal and postpartum visits, the on call nature of the job, the unpredictable hours and continuous support throughout labors that may last upwards of 48+ hours. Invaluable!

Have you hired a doula or are you a doula? We’d love to hear from you.

Mommyhood

Plagiocephaly

When my first son was born, the first thing I heard before I saw him was the nurse asking “was this baby breech?” When you have a C section you expect the perfect little round head over the cone shape you often get with vaginal births. Well, didn’t happen here. My baby’s head was squished under my ribs forever. They had to twist and turn to get him out! I could feel it. His little head was crooked. His lips didn’t even line up when he closed his mouth. They told me in the hospital it would get better.

At 12 weeks we had a lactation consultant come in to check for ties. She mentioned torticollis to me. That took us down a path of twice weekly PT for about 9 months. At first I wasn’t super worried about his head shape. At about 5 months old or so, the PT asked if I had considered a helmet. I hadn’t really, I still expected it to get better as he started moving and sitting up. Still I ended up making an appointment at one of the big cranial helmet companies.

As I was in the waiting room, I heard the entire consult with another family in a room right beside me, through the closed door. The man was telling them how the back to sleep campaign has caused so many bad shaped heads and that they should have done more tummy time, etc. It was close to blaming the baby’s head shape on the family. Then he went on to talk about how they don’t have to worry because he can fix what they have done. It didn’t sit well with me. When it was our turn, as soon as he came in, he started giving me the same speech. I interrupted at one point to tell him about how the baby was breech and his head had improved a ton and he gets tons of tummy time, but he wasn’t having it. He just continued on implying it was my fault. Before he left the room, he mentioned my neighborhood and how it is expensive but a helmet is not that much money for my child’s entire life.

I was so turned off I wanted to vomit. They measured him at 16mm asymmetry, severe in their opinion. They loaded me down with tons of documents and quoted one study that said heads don’t improve on their own. I left there feeling almost taken advantage of. I only want what is best for my kid, I love him with all of my heart, and I felt like they were playing off that. I went home and did a ton of research. I found the study they mentioned and I don’t recall specifics but it was a super small study. I couldn’t find a lot to support their claim that he would have jaw problems and ear infections and helmets would never fit him right. But I also couldn’t find any posts from parents who chose not to helmet or a lot of data to show what happens if you don’t.

I went to the pediatrician to get an opinion. The caveat is that my pediatrician had left that practice and for other reasons related to where he went, I wasn’t going to go with him. The person I saw that day seemed confused about why I was there and basically said, if they think you need a helmet, get a helmet. I asked for a referral to a neurosurgeon or someone who can provide an opinion. They literally looked at me like I was crazy, rolling their eyes between two of them and gave me a brochure for the same helmet place I had just been to. I went home steaming mad (and btw went back to my original pediatrician who I love to this day).

As soon as I got home I started researching. I live in the NYC area, and it turns out, there are neurosurgeons who have plagiocephally clinics! I wasn’t so damn crazy afterall. I went to Cornell’s plagiocephally clinic, ran by their chief of pediatric neurosurgery, and saw a wonderful female doctor. She checked out my son, explained that heads grow like a deflated basketball when you add air back, filling out one area then another. She wasn’t wishy washy at all, said absolutely No you don’t need a helmet. My son is now almost 4 and looks great. I will add pictures to this post eventually to show the difference.

To be clear, I have nothing against helmets and I think everyone needs to make the best choice for them. I chose not to helmet for my son. I joined some Facebook groups and saw that many babies have rashes, dry skin patches and other complications from the helmet. Some don’t adjust well. You must go often to get it adjusted, and remember we were already doing PT 2 times a week. I just didn’t want to put him through all of that. He may have had to wear it 8 months, maybe 12 months. It was a lot. Also, I saw so many moms who were unhappy with the helmet’s result. Maybe they went from 16mm to 12mm and that wasn’t enough for them. I didn’t want to put him through all of that for a result that is that slight. Also there was a lot of data suggesting that helmeting exacerbates torticollis, which I knew had to be the focus of treatment.

The icing for me was the obsession. I saw so many moms who were not satisfied when they went from 16mm to 3mm. They were chasing absolute perfection and always being let down. I saw some take their second child for a helmet as a given, even when that child measured only 8mm off at 3 months. I didn’t want to become obsessive about the head shape. I wanted to enjoy my son and I trusted the doctor at Cornell, though to be honest, it was hard. It was very hard to let it go and have faith that it would be Ok. That is because we all want the best for our kids and making a decision is scary – it is either the right or wrong choice every single time.

If you are in the situation where you are deciding whether to helmet or not, I feel for you. It’s a hard choice. I really believe it will be OK no matter what choice you make. Some kids do great in helmets, don’t even mind them and their results are fantastic. Some kids helmet with little result but by age 3 look fantastic. And some kids don’t get the helmet and also look fantastic by age 3.

What I learned was overall it wasn’t worth the stress and agonizing I did over the decision.

Breastfeeding, Mommyhood

Breast pumps

What I wish I had known before having to order my insurance provided breastpump.

  • You may or may not respond well to any particular pump.
  • Spectra and Medela are the most popular home pumps, which can mean it may be easier to find parts locally for them.
  • A battery is wonderful. Even if you are home with baby, being able to move around and pump in different areas without finding a plug is huge. I pumped in the car, airports, everywhere. If it is an update for a small amount of money, definitely consider it.
  • Parts can be provided through your insurance. I honestly didn’t know this till towards the end of my breastfeeding journey so never got to take advantage. Not sure how to get the process going, but worth it to enquire.
  • Your baby will be more efficient than a pump at transferring milk. If your milk supply seems low from pumping, don’t assume your baby isn’t getting enough.
  • Fancy bags designed for pumps are nice but I found it most helpful to have simple stuff, a bag large enough to include my pump, extra parts in a Ziploc, and an insulated lunch bag and the hardsided ice packs.
  • Breast Milk Soap – one of my favorite products. Makes cleaning parts so much easier.
  • You can ask for a pump while in the hospital. Some say wait till your supply is established, but both my kids spent a little time in NICU and I wasn’t able to latch as often. They will provide you a hospital grade pump and parts and you can likely rent that pump from your hospital or local pharmacies if you prefer.

I liked the Medela Symphony rental and also my Spectra S1. What pumps did you love and what other advice do you have?

Breastfeeding, Mommyhood

Exclusively pumping

So what I wish I knew about breastfeeding before my baby was born is huge! I focused so much on getting pregnant and after so many losses, including my second trimester loss, I was so afraid to even use the P word, I really didn’t start thinking in Mommy mode till I was on the C section table. To be fair, I did take one breastfeeding class, but I definitely didn’t realize it was not just going to be easy peasy. In fact, I didn’t even buy a single bottle cause why would I need a bottle? I was going to breastfeed. It will just naturally happen.

But it didn’t. Here’s what actually happened.

Around 32 weeks or so they thought they saw a knot in my son’s cord. Remember, I had several early losses and lost my twin girls due to incompetent cervix. I firmly believed in my transabdominal cerclage, but I was acutely aware through the whole pregnancy that things happen. So hearing there is possibly a knot and reading that they can result in a stillborn some percent of the time – even though a super small percent, it is still a percent – I was holding my breathe and getting scared I may lose another baby. I was told to do kick counts and I was doing stress tests weekly or twice a week, can’t recall now.

At 36 weeks, I had gained about 20lbs quickly, like in a week. I had a headache. I knew what this meant. I went to my OB appointment telling my new puppy (yes, I had a puppy while I was having a baby – do not recommend but more on that later), I would be right back but knowing I would not. My BP was 146/86 or something – not super high but very high for me. They sent me to labor and delivery and did some blood work and urinalysis. My doc came in a few hours later and basically told me that there may be a knot, my BP is going up probably cause they scared me with the knot, the fluid looks a little low and I am 36 weeks and 2 days. She was suggesting we take the baby. It was May 5th. I totally agreed but was glad when she said tomorrow. (I was picturing trading my Cinco De Mayo Margaritas for Paw Patrol and popsicles).

The next day, my beautiful son was born, 7lbs and 5oz, big for his gestation, with no knot in the cord! It was the most wonderful sound I had ever heard, him crying. The hospital had prepared me for NICU, as their policy is all babies born before 37 weeks must go to NICU for at least one night. I was fine with it of course, but that meant he was whisked off after just a couple of little kisses from me and I was carted to recovery. In recovery my BP bottomed out, dropping super low then half an hour later went up super high. It was all over the place. I finally got to see my baby when they stabilized me and wheeled me into NICU. This was the first time I had a chance to try to latch him. He had already sucked down 15mL of formula like a total champ. He wasn’t super interested, but latched for a second or two.

Once I got to my room, instead of being able to go back to the baby in a wheelchair, and later as my legs woke up, by foot, I was put on magnesium due to the crazy BP fluctuations. That meant I spent 18 hours locked to the bed, away from my baby. Once I was off of it, I was moved to the regular maternity ward and he was allowed to come to my room, finally. By now, he was loving his formula and bottle and my milk hadn’t even begun to come in. I started pumping and tried to latch him a few times. I had no idea what I was doing and although the lactation consultants offered to help, I wasn’t sure what I needed help with.

Eventually I was pumping on the Symphony at the hospital and rented one as soon as we got home. I tried latching him when I could but then also had family over to help and was super exhausted. I always thought I could work on that later, if the milk would come in good then he would latch. It was also painful for me. I couldn’t stand the pain if he latched more than 2 or 3 times in a day. I expected it to hurt a little at first but then get better. It never got better. Overtime I started reading up on breastfeeding issues and read about tongue and lip ties. I had a lip tie myself that had to be fixed before I could get braces on. I could clearly see he had one too. I called in a lactation consultant to help me confirm.

The LC walked in and mentioned torticollis right away, then confirmed the ties I suspected. I went and had them laser revised that same week. But this was week 12. I got him to latch maybe 2 or 3 times after that. I didn’t try very hard. I was afraid he would be hungry and unsatisfied, that he wouldn’t grow well, that he was too upset when trying. I basically gave up. I exclusively pumped for him for 10 months. And that was awful! Would never recommend.

Exclusively pumping means for most of us, a constant battle with supply. It was impossible for me to ever make enough to feed him without supplementing. I pumped every 3 to 4 hours, around the clock for awhile, to “establish supply” as they say. All it ever established for me was being in a complete stupor. I could make at most 18oz a day as my baby was eating 26oz a day and then later up to 30oz a day. I finally scaled back and pumped about 5 times a day only during daylight, meaning I allowed myself to sleep for 6-8 hours. I decided to freeze some milk and feed some milk so over time I could space it out and he could always have 10oz a day till he was a year old. It was hard as can be. I used an app called Pump Log, and as soon as I had enough frozen to feed him till his birthday, I was so glad to hang up the flange.

During the process, I spent about $90 a month on pump rental, as well as who knows how much in pump parts (I didn’t know insurance will often cover these), different size flanges till I found what worked, and even more on things like pumping bras, freezing bags, etc. I am doubtful I saved any money overall since I still had to buy formula too. Did it make him healthy? I don’t know how much I believe in all the hype. But in case it is real, he had breastmilk.

What I learned with baby #2 and wish I had known with baby #1, is nipple confusion isn’t really real. You absolutely can get a baby back to the breast after having a bottle. A baby really can remove milk way better than a pump and help with your supply. If you don’t “establish supply” right away, it’s ok, you can still increase it over time. The best tip I can give anyone who is thinking of exclusively pumping is to offer the breast, with a smile and soothing words, don’t push, be playful, try it when they are sleepy, try it when laying in a warm bath with them, make it a nice option, and when they refuse, don’t take it personally, don’t let them see you upset, don’t sweat it, at all.. just give them the bottle and try again the next time. I firmly believe most babies can be coaxed back to the breast in these ways. And if you find you can’t get them back, exclusively pump if you want but do not feel bad at all for saying heck with it. It’s such a hard path and ultimately, it took so much time away from my baby that overall I wish I hadn’t done it.

Mommyhood, Pregnancy

Torticollis, my kid was crooked

For 12 weeks I struggled with son #1 not latching. After some research I suspected he had a lip and tongue tie. I called in a lactation specialist and the first thing she said to me was, “oh looks like a little torticollis”. I had never heard that word.

But turned out there was an actual name for my baby’s head tilting to one side. We started physical therapy and went 2 times per week from 12 weeks to almost one year old. At the time we had a nanny and she and I would also do the stretches at home.

My best advice for dealing with tort is to treat it as early as you can. Eventually they fight the therapy. You can do just about if you use a silly song or a toy when your baby is 4 months old, but by the time they are getting around on their own, good luck!

Torticollis is from a stiffened muscle in the neck. It’s too short compared to the other side and needs stretched. It can be caused by laying one way too much or one of the now off the market baby apparatus. My son was smashed under my ribs and even though born via C-section, his head was a squished up mess. His lips didn’t even meet top to bottom at birth. I am pretty sure his tort started while tucked in the womb.

Most tort it seems can be treated by PT and stretching exercises. I did see in some groups I joined that sometimes they use surgical release or injections to help treat the tougher cases.

Sometimes tort goes hand in hand with plagiocephaly, a condition with a flattened area on the head causing asymmetry. Yep, we had that too. It often goes with tort because of the tight neck muscle. The baby doesn’t tend to move the head to the other direction and therefore the one side gets flattened. In our case I think the torticollis definitely exasperated plagiocephaly, but I think it was all there from him being breech and under my ribs. (More on plagiocephaly and helmets coming in another post)

One other point, occasionally the child may be tilting due to eye muscle issues. They do it on purpose to make their vision better. I have double vision when looking up and had a couple of surgeries to fix that in my 20s. For this reason, I did take my son to an opthalmologist to be sure, especially before spending 2 hours a week in PT.

Overall, in the big scheme of things, it turned out to not be a huge deal for us. We got therapy, stretched him out and he is totally normal now. At the time though it was overwhelming. I think anytime you have a baby who needs help in any way it can be overwhelming. There are decisions you must make for your child. It was the first time I was in that position, navigating my way through making the best decisions for him, this person I love more than life itself.