i will survive…

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ezra all dressed up for katie and mike’s wedding

[ friday, 5/5/17 ] i have been trying to publish this post for five days now. i have to go through what i already wrote to update. for instance, ezra is three weeks old as of this past tuesday! although the newborn stage has its challenges, like those motn (middle of the night) feedings, it’s also fairly easy in a sense that all the baby does is eat and sleep… unless he is wide awake all night.. and he was for almost 3 hours last night! after over an hour, dennis took over so i could sleep. ezra hates getting his diaper changed so the motn diaper changes stress me out because of how much he cries. i find that changing his diaper after a feeding will result in him being more calm because he’s content; but then i have to put him back to sleep since the whole process will have woken him up from his milk coma. so, now i stop him halfway through a feed to change his diaper (if he has pooped) since i can soothe him with milk afterwards.

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ezra at 2 weeks old

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with the exception of the first few days in the hospital, penny was exclusively breastfed until she switched over to hemp and whole milk at 13 months. there is no way i am going to be able to do this the second time around. as it is, it’s tough to find time to pump even with help. i also didn’t want to constantly pump and then be engorged on the days i’m alone and can’t find the time to do so. i had thought i could pump while playing with penny but, for some reason, she has developed a fear(?) of the pump. i’m guessing the fear stems from the pump’s appearance because she is also scared of the horn that was included with her set of musical instruments and a toy blender. who knows why?

i have tried to pump after an early morning feeding (usually i’m nodding off in bed), then during penny’s naptime, once during the evening, and then before bed. i pumped once today for comfort after not having pumped for a day and a half (!) with a nursing session in-between. looks like my nursing/pumping days are over very soon.. it does make me a little sad. in a way, i feel apologetic towards ezra.. and a little guilty because i was able to make it work for penny. but i know it’s much less stress for me.

i was also under the weather after our friends’ wedding this past sunday, most likely due to exhaustion and not eating enough these past few weeks. breastfeeding moms, particularly, need to eat well and drink plenty of water but i had been neglecting myself. that, along with sleep deprivation and infrequent pump sessions, tanked my supply. i have been supplementing with enfamil enspire formula because i had read that it’s the closest to breast milk but it was giving ezra a lot of gas. we switched over to similac (a sample from the pediatrician’s office) and he seems to be doing better with that.

although ezra is only three weeks old he has definitely become more alert. around week 2, he had a significant growth spurt where he was extra sleepy and hungry. his newborn clothes had been loose on him but now they are a bit more snug. that week was also when the witching hour began. from 6pm on, he wouldn’t sleep and would cluster feed. some of the times, however, he wasn’t hungry and just wanted to be held. there were instances where we fed him because we mistook his cues and he was very unhappy and uncomfortable from the extra milk (and gas). one night, ezra was awake from 7pm until after 11pm! every time he fell asleep in my arms and i put him down, he would wake up. my dinner had gotten cold and i gave up trying to do anything that night. after one more feed around 10, he finally fell asleep in my arms while i was in bed. i had fallen asleep too and didn’t wake up until nearly midnight to place him in his rock and play.

this is dennis’ long week at work which also means it’s a long week for me. (but now that it’s friday night instead of tuesday when i originally started this post, it’s almost over!) thankfully, i have a few play dates lined up on the days i would have been alone. i’m hoping penny will cooperate as her aversion to most adults is still going strong. (she was apprehensive initially when parker came over today but she warmed up, and they played well together.)

my mom and my sister also drove down from boston to visit for the day so i was able to take a 2.5 hour nap while they took care of ezra and played with penny. it was glorious! now i just need to get through this weekend and we can have a family day on monday since dennis has it off.

hoping tonight isn’t like last night! fingers crossed…

[family day in hartford]

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she wouldn’t leave the water station at ct science center

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snacking on blackberries

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[in-laws’ 38th wedding anniversary]

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cake

i made this cute cake topper using my cricut!

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[ katie & mike’s wedding ]

location: the barns at wesleyan hills in middletown, ct

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[ visit from mom and sister from last week ]

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freedom

after 13 months, my breastfeeding journey has come to an end! i used the last bag of frozen breast milk two days ago and i haven’t pumped to actually get milk since tuesday morning. i did pump for a few minutes yesterday to relieve some discomfort but haven’t since. no more pumping while eating; no more pumping during penny’s naps; no more setting the alarm so i can pump before penny wakes up for the day; no more lugging the pump (and the milk ) to and from vacations; no more pumping in random bathrooms, hotel rooms, other people’s homes, and airplanes.. no more!!!

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last bag!

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newark airport in new jersey recently acquired these pods for nursing and pumping moms!

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pumping before our flight to aruba!

before penny was born, i set my goal of exclusively breastfeeding at one year not realizing how difficult it would be. for those of you that have been following my blog since penny’s birth, you’ll recall the trauma my body endured and the many tears that were shed. i went through severe nipple damage, made multiple visits to the lactation consultant, had a tongue tie procedure for penny to help with her latch, suffered through two bouts of mastitis, had a drastic supply drop around 3.5 months due to taking mucinex for my cough (and then pumped every 2 hours for days to bring the supply back up), began exclusively pumping around the sixth month due to distracted nursing, went through three different pumps, suffered from acid reflux and allergies because i didn’t want to take medication for fear of it affecting my supply, and also had countless clogged ducts.

even during every “setback”, i still would not consider formula. dennis bought a few cans just in case but we never touched them. i understand breastfeeding is not for everyone particularly when moms have to return to work but it was a choice that i made, and i truly wanted to stick by it. i did start supplementing with hemp milk around 10.5 months because i wanted to start the weaning process as i was so tired of pumping. thankfully, penny loves hemp milk and has no allergic reactions to it.

if i haven’t mentioned it before, the reason why i chose hemp milk is for political, personal, and environmental reasons. i don’t drink cow’s milk because of lactose intolerance and personal preference but i didn’t want those to be the reasons for penny. the main reasons for her were because i’m not a fan of the dairy industry nor the carbon footprint it leaves behind. humans are the only species to continue drinking milk after infancy, and they’re the only ones to drink milk from another species. plus, it takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a gallon of cow’s milk! after doing more research i found that almond milk actually uses more water than cow’s milk so now i’m considering switching over to hemp milk too. of all the milk and milk alternatives, hemp milk is the most environmentally-friendly.. and it tastes great too! the only downside is that it’s expensive: it costs $4 to get a quart of hemp milk!

at penny’s 12-month checkup we got our pediatrician’s approval to give her hemp milk but was told that she needs to limit her milk intake to 16 oz. max daily once she fully transitions. she loves milk so much but it’s important that she eats a variety of food for nutrition and growth. she’s going through a picky stage right now so i give her smoothies to provide fruits and veggies in an alternative way. today is actually her first day fully being on hemp milk so i’m not going to obsess her going over 16 oz. for a week or two.. i’ll see how it goes.

just before i started this post, i finished washing all of my pump parts and got sad about putting them away. that was 13 months of my life right there.. i eagerly looked forward to not pumping anymore and now i’m wistful about it! but, i really am ecstatic that i don’t have to do it anymore… that is, until the next baby comes!

change of diet

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver ~ mahatma gandhi

penny turned 6 months old yesterday. baby girl is already a half year old! i’ve reached the halfway point of my goal in providing exclusively breast milk to little p. for those of you that have been following my journey, you’ll recall my struggles with milk supply and latching among other issues. every day i thought, “my breastfeeding days could end today” but i kept trudging along.

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i made the little party hat using a 12 x 12 glitter scrapbook paper, felt number stickers, patterned scrapbook paper for the zig zag, and a fluffy pom from a decoration.
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penny also loves to grab her feet and feel different textures and fabrics.

nowadays, supply isn’t the problem, the content of my milk is. since her newborn days, a red flush would briefly appear around p’s eyebrows whenever she nursed or drank from a bottle. i would wonder if she was reacting to something in my milk but would always dismiss it. she also sneezes throughout the day and frequently has watery eyes though both have improved in the past few months. i was reassured that both are normal, but i couldn’t shake the feeling that they were, again, allergic reactions.

p’s poop count has also gone up. she used to have 1~2 bowel movements a day or every other day. during the past month, i’ve noticed that penny regularly has 3~4 poopy diapers.

some causes for concern:

1) almost always occurs during a feeding so she needs to have her diaper changed then resume feeding

2) started having a poopy diaper after nursing in the middle of the night when she used to only poop during the daytime

3) all seem watery and/or have mucous

4) one diaper had mucous and blood

#4 caused me to call my pediatrician and i saved the diaper as well. when we went to the doctor’s office, we were told it could be a possible reaction to my diet. initially i thought it was coconut oil because i had started adding it to oatmeal to have more fat in my diet. however when i referred to the baby tracker i saw that penny has been having multiple poopy diapers since september. i only started getting alarmed when it began happening more frequently. yesterday she had 6 poopy diapers!!! i really don’t think it’s normal.. and that milk is just passing right through her system without being digested. i’m constantly feeding her to replace what comes out but i don’t know if that aggravates the situation. she stops eating when she’s full and hasn’t surpassed 30oz a day.

now i’m thinking it’s a milk protein allergy. i was on the fence about this, and still kind of am, because i thought i didn’t consume that many diary products. i don’t drink cow’s milk, i drink almond milk. i have butter and cheese occasionally but i do eat yogurt several times a week if not more. after much research and talking to a friend that had gone through the same problem, i discovered that dairy is in almost every single food. it’s incredibly difficult to avoid dairy because it’s hidden in a lot of food products. if you’re trying to eliminate dairy, it’s advised to avoid soy and whey as well.

i don’t know if it’s connected but last night i had a snack of nutella on oatmeal bread before bed. hours later, as i rocked penny to sleep after nursing her she started pooping in my arms. after i changed her, she fell asleep but then she ended up having two more poopy diapers when she woke up! 3 bowel movements, and all before 8am.  i looked at the ingredients for nutella and saw that it contains skim milk and whey. the oatmeal bread that i’ve been mindlessly eating contains soybean oil and whey. i thought i was being careful, but i wasn’t.

what’s even more difficult is that it can take up to 3 weeks for milk protein to leave my body.. and then up to an additional 3 to exit penny’s. we’re talking 6 weeks maximum of poring over every ingredient in everything i eat. i’m already dreading thanksgiving because i won’t be able to eat mashed potatoes (my favorite), biscuits, mac & cheese.. and i’m too depressed to even think about what else.

although penny is a happy baby and very playful and active, she has been getting fussy after feedings. i don’t know if she’s reacting to the milk but it gets me worried. (by the way, that’s another sign of a possible allergy: fussiness after feedings.)

i had thought sticking to a mostly korean diet would help because dairy products aren’t often used, but soy is used often. i guess i’ll just have to ask my mil what’s in the foods she brings over and kindly ask her to omit soy.

this is all very overwhelming because i feel terrible that penny is going through this. i attributed her recent frequent awakenings to her being hungry because of the constant pooping but she slept from 7:10pm-5:20am straight last night. she woke up to nurse (and poop) and slept until 7:25am. currently she’s on a 2-hour+ morning nap. hopefully it just means she’s tired, and not dehydrated… -__-

lots of smiles

lots of smiles

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practicing sitting up unassisted

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hope you get better soon, cutie…

hair today, gone tomorrow

i was hoping it wouldn’t happen, but it has.

during pregnancy, my hair became thicker and more lush. i had a lot of hair to begin with but pregnancy hormones caused less of my hair to fall out. naturally, we shed hair every day but this process stalls during pregnancy making it seem like you’re growing more when in fact you’re just losing less. my normally paper-thin fingernails were also stronger and seemed to be growing at an alarming rate. (i felt like i was clipping my nails all the time!)

now that i’m 3.5 months postpartum, the hair-shedding process has begun. i began noticing strands of hair on my arm, on my clothes, and in penny’s clenched fists! while rocking penny to sleep, i noticed how stray hairs kept tickling my forehead prompting me to repeatedly, but ineffectively, brush them away. these, i saw, were baby hairs. what’s interesting is that penny has been losing hair as well. however, i feel like she’s losing it more so because she’s been grabbing at her own hair. now that she’s more environmentally and physically aware, she’s always staring at her hands and using them to feel and grasp. she’s been tugging at her hair mainly on her left side so it’s noticeably thinner on the left side of her head.

there’s really not much you can do to prevent hair loss. i still take my prenatal vitamins every day and it still happens. the good news is your hair eventually grows back. same with the baby’s.

a more serious problem that i’ve been recently experiencing is the gradual loss of my milk supply. every summer around this time i develop a chronic cough that is caused by an excess of mucus. i’m not sure if it has to do with allergies or the weather, but it keeps me up at night… and has also awoken penny many times while holding her because i haven’t been able to suppress it. i began taking mucinex dm last monday and i noticed that i was producing less breast milk. i couldn’t feel my milk come in and penny began fussing while nursing because, i assume, there wasn’t enough milk. prior to this incident i never had to switch breasts while nursing because penny had been satiated from nursing on one side. now, she would begin fussing around the 5-minute mark and she would unlatch/relatch for another 5 or so minutes before getting hysterical. after i switched her to the other side, the same thing would happen.

besides the mucinex, i believe that my supply has been decreasing because penny has been distracted. during the 3-4 month mark, babies become hyper-aware of their surroundings and stare at objects in an almost trance-like state. no matter where i nurse, penny unlatches to look at something, be it a lamp, a blanket, or artwork. i even nurse in penny’s room with only a small table lamp on but something always manages to catch her eye! because she has been consuming less, her sleep has been impacted as well.  she used to sleep a good stretch of 6+ hours a night and then she began waking up only a few hours after going down for the night. three days ago it was 11:30pm, and two nights ago she woke up at 9:30pm! she didn’t just wake up needing to be rocked back to sleep; she was guzzling 4 ounces of milk! since she was consuming less in the day, she was making up for it at night. not fun.

*edit: last night she slept from 7pm-4am! i didn’t set my alarm to pump because i thought she’d wake up a lot sooner. just as i finished pumping she woke up so i couldn’t nurse her, but dennis bottle fed her 5 oz (to make up for the long stretch of sleep). she drank it all and slept for another 2.5 hours.

unfortunately, i think the nighttime wakings have been exacerbated by the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. though named for the fourth month, this sleep regression can happen anytime between a baby’s third-fifth month. this usually occurs because the baby is developmentally growing at a rapid rate (like rolling!), and with all the stimulation they are getting during the day it becomes difficult to sleep at night. furthermore, the baby’s sleep cycle starts to mature. this is where rem sleep comes in and babies find it tough to switch from one sleep cycle to the next. ever wonder why your baby repeatedly wakes up around the 45-minute mark? this is why. since penny’s nighttime sleep has been getting interrupted, she’s also trying to make up for it during the daytime.. and then she’s not tired enough at night to sleep in longer stretches.. it’s a vicious cycle. supposedly, you shouldn’t introduce any new sleeping methods (i.e if you don’t use a pacifier, don’t introduce a new crutch now.) because it should all go back to “normal” eventually. the question: how long will this last? it’s different for every baby. some claim their baby only goes through it for a week but others can last as long as six! i sincerely hope it’s not the latter for me.

penny doing tummy time on her pororo mat

penny doing tummy time on her pororo mat

penny on her new pororo mat

recently, we purchased a pororo mat (korean company) for penny. they retail for a little over $100 on amazon for the large mat. a little pricey (and this is the sale price), but totally worth it. penny does most of her tummy time and play time on here. since i’ve been consistent with tummy time, penny has started to roll over! dennis was the first to witness it during penny’s 14th week and i was finally able to see it for myself at her 15th week. since then she has been rolling from tummy to back nearly every day.

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the first thing i have penny do when she wakes up for the day is tummy time either in her crib or on the floor on top of a blanket. a great way to encourage your baby to like or, at least, endure tummy time is to provide things for her to look at. i usually get on the floor with her and talk to her, and i also lay out toys in a half circle so she’s turning to the side to look at them.

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here she is looking at her mobile. she’s still got a lot of hair! that “bedhead” is actually what her hair looks like every day because of two cowlicks on the back of her head. i liken her hair to donald trump’s -_- for some reason, double cowlicks have a bad reputation: anything from being left-handed (why is this bad?) to autism! these are all myths, of course… and penny is already showing preference for her right hand so that theory is incorrect. as penny’s hair grows longer and thicker, it should lay flat… but for now she always looks like she got caught in a windstorm.

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a mirror is a great way to encourage baby during tummy time.. and it also raises self-awareness.

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i just noticed that all the toys i laid out were all gifts 🙂 the lamb chop puppet that penny is fixated on was given to me by one of my former students.

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for babies that hate tummy time, putting them on your tummy counts! the wonder weeks app also suggests games like “airplane.”

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sweet father-daughter moments. i’ll be able to witness more of these on any given day because i’m taking a year off from work to be a sahm (stay-at-home mom). i’m so excited to be able to witness penny’s milestones and just being able to BE with her all day… before penny was born, i thought 4 months was enough time to bond with her but clearly not as i found myself in tears the first few months, dreading the day i would have to return to work.

dennis encouraged me to stay home not only to ease my distress but he truly believes that the best person for penny is me. no one else has that -bond- with a baby quite like the mother. this is one reason why i am so devastated by my supply issue. i’ve been pumping every 3-4 hours to bring it back up, nursing whenever i can, drinking mother’s milk tea, and eating, eating, eating. i’ve already started to see an increase but it’s still not enough particularly in the evening before bedtime. it’s quite disheartening to hear penny cry because she’s not satisfied.  at least i am able to (hopefully) rectify the problem without having to worry about work as well. i love teaching but it can’t top being penny’s #1 teacher. she’s growing and learning so much every day, and i don’t want to miss anything.

essentials to survive the first two months

i have been working on this post for five days now. there isn’t much downtime with a baby and i suffered from another bout of mastitis (!) but more on that later…

penny had her two-month doctor appointment on monday. it was a moment that i had been dreading because of the vaccines – 3 shots and one oral. as a member of three facebook groups geared towards parents, i learned that side effects from the vaccines can include a fever, soreness, fussiness, and sleepiness. (dennis confirmed.) many moms also recommended nursing right away to help soothe the baby.

at the appointment, we found out that penny has been growing beautifully. she now weighs 12 lb. 6 oz. and is 23.5 inches long! her measurements are in the 90th percentile. that’s my girl! she was so happy too as she lay on the check-up table smiling and cooing…until we gave her the shots. poor thing was crying and screaming from the pain. nursing immediately really did calm her down. afterwards, she was lethargic and had a glazed-over look in her eyes. she cried on and off from the pain during the evening and after holding and rocking her she went to sleep. on tuesday, she was much more sleepy. at one stretch, she slept for 4 hours and didn’t nurse in almost 5 and a half hours!

in the meantime, i had been pumping because of mastitis. i woke up tuesday morning with a tenderness under my right breast and my heart sank. even after taking a hot shower, massaging, pumping, and applying heat the symptoms of mastitis arrived in full force: the flu-like symptoms (achiness, fever, and chills). we usually don’t have the ac on in the lower level of our home because it stays relatively cool. because of chills, i wore sweatpants and a hoodie and i was still huddled underneath a blanket.

luckily my sister came down from boston to help and even stayed two nights. two important things to do when you have mastitis is to stay hydrated and rest. drinking water is easy enough but definitely not the resting part. true, i have help but one person can’t put a baby down for a nap and try to cook dinner. i stepped in to nurse penny and put her down since it was nearing 7pm and we hadn’t had dinner yet. normally, penny wakes up around that time from her last nap to get ready for bed but the vaccines threw her ‘schedule’ off.

after taking ibuprofen to ease the pain, i ended up taking a percocet before bed because i was suffering full-force by that time. i woke up around 1am hearing penny’s cry and feeling infinitely better because i had sweated everything out though the tenderness remained. thankfully, my sister stepped in to do the late night feedings (penny only nursed 4 times the previous day) while i pumped and went back to bed. as the percocet wore off, the flu-like symptoms returned. before dennis left for work, he picked up thai food for us to eat at lunch and i had to force it down because i had no appetite; but i needed to eat to maintain energy.

penny is ten weeks now. at times, it feels much longer, and other times i can’t believe how fast time has gone by. the days can drag on especially when she’s going through a growth spurt and is cluster feeding and taking short naps. i want to share some things – 14 to be exact – that helped us get through the first few months, particularly the first two weeks which were the hardest.

1. apno lactation cream

“apno” stands for “all-purpose nipple ointment.” this was a HUGE lifesaver when i was struggling with breastfeeding during the first several weeks. we found out that penny had a slight tongue-tie which made latching more painful. in one of my earlier posts, i wrote about the pain and desperation i was feeling during the earlier days. this was like a miracle cream. it contains steroids among other ingredients to speed up the healing process. i noticed a drastic change the next day! after nursing, i applied the cream and wrapped saran wrap around the nipple area to lock in moisture. i was told to only do it for a week as steroids can cause thinning of the skin. this cream can only be obtained at a compound pharmacy with a prescription, of course. luckily, there is one down the street from us. for moms that suffer from sore and raw nipples, this could be the cream for you.

2. boppy lounger

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penny was really gassy during the first month due to a tongue-tie (this was resolved at her first doctor visit) and the use of a nipple shield (which i still use). she’s been less gassy as of late but still spits up almost after every feeding so we try to keep her upright for, at least, 15 minutes. we found out that holding her over our shoulder to burp her was causing her to spit up more because of the pressure on her stomach. first, we place penny in a sitting position and pat her back to burp and then we put her over our shoulder to continually get the gas out of her body. this boppy lounger was helpful when penny was taking naps in the living room. (now that she’s older and more sensitive to noise and light, she sleeps upstairs in her crib.) we let her sleep on the lounger to keep her upright and to also have less pressure on the back of her head (no flat head for this girl!)

3. uppababy vista

this stroller comes with a bassinet, and it’s the bassinet that proved to be very useful. my mom stayed with us for a weekend during penny’s first week. since the “real” bassinet was in our room and the crib in the nursery, penny slept in the uppababy bassinet. (by the way, this bassinet was approved for overnight sleeping.) my mom woke up every few hours during the night to feed penny and would put her back to sleep in the bassinet. sometimes when we found it difficult to put her down for naps, we would take her out for a walk and she would get much needed shut-eye in the bassinet as well. these days, she doesn’t sleep in it for naps or overnight when we’re at home but we do bring it with us when we are visiting family and friends so she can nap in there.

4. swaddles

we love the aden and anais (pronounced an-eye-ees) swaddles (shown in the boppy lounger photo). these receiving blankets are made from muslin and are light and breathable which helps prevent overheating. many come in sets of 4 with various, pretty designs.

we were also fond of summer infant swaddles but penny has long outgrown them. they were easy because the baby’s legs and lower torso are tucked inside a pocket and two velcro flaps keep the arms in place. swaddles are key in helping infants go to sleep and stay asleep. newborns have a startle reflex called the moro reflex where their arms fly up. this can wake them up so tightly swaddled babies sleep better and longer.. plus, they feel safe and secure from being snug as they are used to cozy spaces from being in a womb for 9 months.

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5. glider

if you’re hesitant about purchasing a glider for the nursery, don’t be; it really is a great investment. why a glider over a rocker? well, dennis and i felt that a glider looks better than a rocker as it doesn’t have the exposed rails on the bottom. plus, it’s a bit safer for when penny starts crawling so her hands don’t get caught underneath.

i spent many a night actually sleeping on the glider the first few weeks because penny would want to nurse constantly. there was no point in going back to the master bedroom; i just collapsed onto the glider with a blanket and fell asleep. i still spend most of my mornings on that chair for early-morning feedings. thankfully, penny has been sleeping in longer stretches so i don’t need to get up as often but it’s so comfortable that it actually makes it hard to get up.

the one that we chose to get is the kersey upholstered swivel glider recliner from babies ‘r us. it retails for around $499. i love that it reclines which makes sleeping in it is easier.

below is the glider in penny’s nursery

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6. halo bassinest

the above word is not a typo. we love the halo bassinest swivel sleeper. it’s next to my side of the bed so i can easily get to her. during the first four weeks, penny was exclusively sleeping in the bassinest at night. when she woke, i would scoop her up and take her to the nursery to do a diaper change and a feed. we didn’t have a monitor then because we wanted her to be close to us at that time.

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the bassinest boasts a 360-degree swivel which comes in handy when you’re trying to gently place a baby inside it without waking them up.  i would turn it towards me when i was about to put penny down. i didn’t have to worry about squeezing in between my bed and the bassinest to access it.

it also has 6 different music options like ‘hush, little baby’ and rainforest noises. there is also a dim, bluish light that can be turned on so you can see your baby without switching on a bright lamp. in addition, there’s a vibrate mode than can help the baby go to sleep.

one thing that i couldn’t use was the collapsible side rail. one side of the bassinest is collapsible so you can reach in to soothe, or take out, your baby. unfortunately, we have a low bed frame and the bassinest was too high for me to be able to lean over to take penny out. i had to get out of bed. i didn’t mind really since i nursed in the nursery anyway.

7. baby bjorn

baby bjorn one

there are many baby carriers out there but we chose ‘baby bjorn one’ for its versatility. ‘baby bjorn one’ accommodates newborns-3 years and has four different carrying options. newborns are worn higher on the chest to not only make them feel safe and secure but also for easy viewing access for the parents. after the age of four months, babies should be worn lower on the chest. after five months or when your baby has a more developed neck, hips, and spine they can be worn facing outwards as well. starting from 12 months, or when your child has consistent control over their head, neck, and torso they can be worn on the back.

in the early weeks, there were days when we struggled with putting penny down for a nap and the only way she would sleep was either in our arms or in the baby bjorn one. the baby being strapped close to a warm chest lulls them to sleep (much like a swaddle). of course, it limits what you can do but at least the baby is finally sleeping and you’re hands-free! (you could’ve been stuck on the couch cradling a baby while nodding off… always a dangerous situation.)

dennis and i always make sure to pack the carrier when we’re traveling so it’s an option when penny is being fussy. recently, we drove up to massachusetts to attend my cousin’s high school graduation party. penny was overtired from being handed around to multiple people so when it finally came down to napping she would awaken a half hour later. after it occurring twice, we decided to put penny in the carrier so we wouldn’t keep missing out on the mingling and festivities. it took, maybe, five minutes for her to fall asleep once dennis put her in the carrier.

8. kindle/tablet/smartphone

using a combination of all three will really help in keeping you preoccupied when you’re up at odd hours of the day to feed the baby. during the first month or so, newborns generally feed every 1.5-2 hours so much of your days are spent confined to a glider, or the couch, unable to do much else.

i used the kindle more when i was exclusively pumping to pass the time since i was pumping every two hours in the beginning. when i resumed nursing, i started using my ipad to browse the internet and go on facebook because of the larger screen but it wasn’t as convenient as using my iphone. yes, the screen’s smaller on a smartphone but at least i can access and hold it with one hand. i’m also very skilled at texting with one hand so i’m able to keep up on my social life as well.

in addition, there are several apps (that i will mention below) that i consistently use so i always make sure to have my phone on me. during the first month when penny was either cluster feeding or feeding every 1.5-2 hours, i was bound to the glider or the couch. coincidentally, genie would be up at the same odd hours of the night as me since she had to tend to her newborn. we would spend this time texting back and forth sharing our triumphs and frustrations as well as links to articles that ranged from current events to harry potter.

9. baby tracker, white noise, & spotify apps

in a previous post, i had talked about ‘baby tracker’, an app that logs your baby’s feeding time/length, diaper changes, sleep time, milestones, vaccinations, etc. since i’m constantly accessing this app to record all of these things i make sure to have my phone with me wherever i go. when i like something, i reach the obsession stage and currently i’m consumed with this app. i like organizing data and seeing patterns, and this app allows me to gauge penny’s next meal so i know not to be in the middle of eating if she’s going to wake up for a feeding soon. being able to see when she last slept is crucial so i can make sure to put her down before she reaches the overtired stage. i make an effort to get the nap routine going before the 1.5 hour mark. it sounds crazy but it’s so easy to miss a baby’s tired cues and when you do, it goes downhill pretty quickly.

babies are used to hearing all kinds of environmental noises because they were exposed to it in the womb. one time when penny was only a few weeks old, yuri barked very close to her ear – i was livid – but penny continued snoozing on my shoulder without so much as a flinch since she had heard yuri barking for the past nine and a half months. that’s why sometimes white noise can be soothing to babies and actually help them go to sleep.

i have the white noise app on my phone and ipad. i keep the ipad in the nursery so the white noise is on whenever she is sleeping. to be honest, it’s a waste of an ipad to only be used for the white noise app so we are mulling over buying a white noise machine. now that penny is older and more sensitive to background noise, white noise also helps to mask other noises so that penny stays asleep. it brings a peace of mind knowing that you don’t have to whisper or tiptoe around the house (though we still do occasionally).

ah, spotify. we love accessing the myriad of playlists to expose penny to a variety of music. besides the white noise, we also play calm and soothing tunes from playlists such as ‘afternoon acoustics’ and ‘peaceful piano’ when trying to put penny to sleep. when she’s awake, we’ll play more upbeat music from playlists like ‘today’s top hits’ or ‘weekend buzz.’ there is a bose sound dock in penny’s room so we connect our phones to it via bluetooth whenever we are in there. to ensure penny won’t wake up when the music abruptly stops, i gradually lower the volume while putting her to sleep and then stop the music altogether when i’m just outside her door. for when she’s awake, we connect our phones to the sound bar that’s in front of the tv so music can course throughout the first floor. we try our best to not expose her to television and since many a day is spent with just me, it’s awfully quiet in our home; so to have her hear different sounds and experience all kinds of music is always a good thing.

10. samsung safeview baby monitor

the above picture is one of a slightly older model. i believe the features are all the same but some of the buttons on the front look different.

we got this monitor out of the hundreds that are out there because it got an ‘a’ in the baby bargains book and we’re very partial to samsung. but really, it does have a lot of wonderful features. the monitor has a built-in stand and a belt clip for convenience. there are also buttons to zoom in on the baby and move the camera up and down and side to side. night vision is excellent, and the out-of-range feature was helpful to me when i have to take yuri out because she’s pleading with her eyes and penny is sleeping. i grab the monitor and walk yuri as far as i can within range. thankfully, i only had to do this once. yuri was stubborn and refused to do her duty unless she went farther so i called my fil who was able to come and take her out while i tended to penny.

there’s also a two-way talk button so you can talk to the baby. dennis and i actually use this feature to communicate with one another if one is in bed and the other is tending to the baby. case in point: after a recent feeding, penny woke up, crying. surmising a soiled diaper, dennis went to go change her and found that she had had a blowout. panicking, he leaned into the camera and hissed, ‘mayday, mayday’ so i got up to assist him.

11. graco pack and play

we use this every single day. it is in our living room, and we placed a small basket of diapers, wipes, and disposable changing pads in the corner of the pack and play to also serve as a place to change penny when she’s downstairs. in addition, she does most of her tummy time in it and we also put the boppy lounger in there so she can sit up for independent play.

as she gets older, we will lower the mattress so it can serve as a playard. it’s super easy to assemble and disassemble for travel or outdoor purposes. say you’re at a cookout, you can place your (older) baby in the playard with a few toys so you can mingle and eat.

12. simple wishes bra

i know, i know, it’s a silly-looking contraption but it is very useful especially if you’re frequently pumping. i exclusively pumped the first few weeks because of severe nipple pain and damage. since i was pumping every two hours (even at night!), i was incredibly sleepy and had a lot of time to pass while pumping. initially, i would support both pumps with one arm and use the other to control the suction/speed. i found myself nodding off and milk spilling out of the flanges and thought there had to be a better way. dennis suggested the simple wishes bra and ordered one for me. i laughed it off because it looked comical, but i was a believer after the first try.

since it’s hands-free, i was able to read on my kindle and/or use my phone.  i haven’t used it since that first month though since i mostly breastfeed penny, even when i’m in public; but i’ll be able to use it at work when i return since i need to pump to keep up my supply.

13. dria nursing cover

i have the gray-and-white striped cover

i purchased this about two weeks ago from amazon. since i’m planning to go out more with penny, i wanted to find a nursing cover that wasn’t cumbersome nor had cheesy prints and patterns. i researched and came upon the dria cover. it looks like a regular top – a tunic – and the material is light and breathable. although pricey at $79.95, it’s totally worth it. not only is it a nursing cover, but you can use it as a car seat and stroller cover as well.

penny is used to taking naps in her nursery where it’s dark and has the white noise app on in the background. i’m trying to take her out more so she can get used to falling asleep anywhere. penny and i met up with genie and olivia last week to walk around the mall. although olivia fell asleep right away in the stroller, penny had difficulty because of all the stimulation. finally, i draped the dria cover over the stroller and she fell asleep within minutes. this method worked yesterday too when dennis and i went to the mall – it was instant! true, she didn’t sleep as long as she would have at home but she still got some shut-eye and we were able to focus our attention elsewhere.

14. support system

this, money cannot buy. i’m fortunate to have my in-laws live 15 minutes away. my mil is semi-retired and came over nearly every day with homemade korean food and side dishes for the first month. it was such a huge welcome since dennis and i barely had time to eat let alone prepare meals. she also helped with feeding while i rested – another bonus. my fil is retired and is mostly at home which is convenient because there are times that yuri needs to go out for a walk and i’m unable to take her. if i let him know, he leaves his home immediately and comes over to relieve me.

it’s difficult for my workaholic parents to visit since they’re preoccupied with their restaurants; which is why i was surprised and grateful when my mom stayed over for the weekend during penny’s first week. she brought loads of food from the restaurant as well as korean groceries. while i was busy tending to penny, she cooked up a storm, washed the dishes, and cleaned our home (even the bathrooms!) she also slept with penny in her room to do night feedings while i pumped.

my parents

my parents

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my sister during this week’s visit

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my sister’s visit when penny was 6 weeks.

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my brother-in-law, dan, and his wife, crystal

recently, both of my parents came down for the day. again, they arrived laden with korean food and groceries. while penny slept, i was able to eat 비빔국수, or spicy cold noodles, one of my favorite dishes with my mom and dad. growing up, my relationship with my parents was complex and awkward.. i guess it’s the typical relationship many asian children have with their parents. as i grew older, i started connecting more with my mom. it helped that i would make an effort (someone has to start). now that i have a child of my own, i see how laborious and tiring it must’ve been to raise three while working full-time. my admiration and appreciation for my parents grew significantly that first week when i struggled with breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and overall patience.

i’m also grateful for all of my friends that come to visit especially when there’s food involved! it can get mighty lonely being homebound with a newborn and a dog – both creatures that are unable to talk back to you – and having adult conversations really cheers me up. plus, i don’t feel as isolated and out of the loop.

earlier, i talked about how my friend, genie, and i regularly keep in contact about our day particularly how our girls are doing. having a close friend go through this journey with me has been beneficial. olivia is about 6 weeks older than penny so genie is able to tell me what to expect. furthermore, being able to decompress with another first-time mom is important for our sanity… and knowing that we aren’t alone.

the purpose of this blog is not only to document my experiences as a first-time mom so that penny and i can look back and cherish these memories, but also to hopefully be of some assistance to future and new parents. when you’re up at 3am with sore nipples and an inconsolable baby, it helps to know that you’re not a failure. this doesn’t just happen to you. all the praise and encouragement i’ve received from family and friends during these past ten weeks have bolstered my own self-esteem and contributed greatly in persevering through my troubles. if you’re feeling overwhelmed, please confide in your significant other, a family member, or a friend. with all the stress and work that is involved in raising a baby, you shouldn’t feel like you’re alone.

as always, thanks for reading.

milestones

in my last post, the tone and mood was that of despair and frustration. one of the hardest things a first-time mom can experience is breastfeeding. we hear how wonderful and natural it is, but don’t realize how painful and difficult it can actually be until we have a baby of our own.

so much has changed since that fateful entry. to ease the suffering and quicken up the healing process i took a break from breastfeeding – this lasted from sunday evening to early friday morning. in the meantime, i pumped and penny was bottle-fed. during this short period of time, i was happier than i had been since penny was born! it really goes to show how much of a toll breastfeeding had taken on me. “my girls” were also able to heal effectively and i slept much better at night (without pain, i might add).

also during this time, penny began consuming 4 oz. of breast milk. i could never tell how much she ate when i breast fed her but i was able to see that she was eating more (up from 3 oz.) initially, i was worried because i thought she may be overeating. the downsides of bottle feeding is that babies can overeat since the flow is faster from the bottle than from the breast, and the milk can pour down their throat. we try to fill the nipple halfway with milk (per the lactation consultant) to mimic breastfeeding. a sign of overeating is spit-up.  babies tend to spit up after feedings, but copious amounts can signal that a baby ate too much. penny has also been really gassy lately (another downside of bottle feeding) even though we give her gas drops and hold her upright for at least 15 minutes after feedings. still, we have seen improvement and her appetite is as strong as ever.

currently, penny is 5 weeks and at her 1 month check-up she weighed 9 lb. 11 oz! She most likely has surpassed the 10 pound mark by now.

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this boppy lounger has resulted in less spit-ups because she isn’t laying flat on her back. i know that babies aren’t supposed to sleep on them for safety reasons but she is usually about 4~5 feet away from me and we constantly watch her like a hawk.

as for breastfeeding, i decided in the wee hours of friday morning that i would give it another go. i eased into it using a nipple shield and was extremely relieved that it didn’t hurt as much as before. it was still sore afterwards but there wasn’t any excruciating pain, and there hasn’t been since. now, i’ve been using a shield every time because it’s much easier for penny to latch (saves me the pain too!) using a shield can cause discomfort for the baby because they take in more air when breastfeeding. this just means i have to be more vigilant about burping her often.

penny has been fighting sleep lately so i’m still very much sleep-deprived but i am absolutely grateful to be free of pain from breastfeeding. i honestly thought i would have to give up breastfeeding. there’s nothing wrong with bottle feeding (we still give her the occasional bottle to give me a break) but i don’t like the hassle of having to warm up a bottle and pumping constantly to have the supply ready. i still pump so i can add to my stash for when i return to work, but less frequently than before. really, there are upsides and downsides to both bf and bottle-feeding; i’m just happy to have the option of doing both again.

another milestone that penny has reached is that she social smiles! newborns smile in their early days but it’s really a reflex and not a genuine smile. however, we noticed that penny has been truly smiling since about week 3. we can see the expression in her eyes and her smiles are a response to ours. she also smiles a lot while bf when she’s half asleep. a few times, i have heard her laugh and my heart swelled.

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i caught her smiling in her sleep!

penny has also begun focusing more on objects. in her pack ‘n play, there are 3 plush stars that hang down and she tends to look at them when she’s laying down in it. she also took notice of the chandelier in her room early this morning when i was putting her down for a nap. as i walked around, her gaze kept following the chandelier. a few hours later, i was holding her in the sun room and her attention was on the ceiling fan; so, i turned it on for her so she could see it in motion.

she has also been more alert (as noted by the decrease in naps). she still needs to nap frequently since she’s still a newborn but when she is awake, she’s more active lately. i take advantage of that by playing with her. as soon as i see her giving me cues that she’s tired (i.e eyes slowly closing, rubbing eyes, less focused) i stop play immediately and start putting her down for a nap – this is usually me rocking her while playing white noise in the background. lately, i’ve also swaddled her and held her to encourage sleep.

yesterday was father’s day and i made sure the first one was special for dennis. i ordered a onesie from etsy for penny to wear. unfortunately, dennis was already on his way to work when i was changing penny so i just took a pic of her and sent it to him. i think it made his work day that much better!

isn't it cute?

isn’t it cute?

we received two handprint kits as gifts, and dennis and i had made imprints of penny’s hand and feet about a week ago. without his knowledge, i painted the handprint one and wrote a message on it for father’s day.

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it was tough pressing her little hand into the mold since she has her hands clenched into fists most of the time. this was the best we could do!

another gift i made for dennis was 3 portraits of penny holding up letters to spell ‘dad’.

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i did everything myself on saturday. she was in a good mood after a feeding so i quickly put a headband on her and arranged the letters.

IMG_0005 IMG_0006 IMG_0007 i’m thrilled with the results!!!

dennis' reaction

dennis’ reaction

the last milestone has to do with our dog, yuri. saturday, 6/20, was her fifth birthday and we wanted to make sure we didn’t forget it.. especially since all the attention we used to lavish on her has gone over to the baby… it’s obvious that yuri is more despondent and needy lately. she follows me around everywhere even when i’m feeding penny (although late at night, she stays in bed with dennis).

yuri with her scrumptious dinner

yuri with her scrumptious dinner

we used to get her special treats and a cake from a dog bakery but she doesn’t really like them. she’s more of a meat girl.

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lastly, this is what we had for dinner last night! dennis’ parents came over, and my mil made bibimbap for us. it’s a korean dish with a variety of vegetables mixed with white rice and sweet chili paste. it’s also great topped with a fried egg. we didn’t have a gift for my fil but we are going to present one to him later on today. we got him a really nice bicycle. since he’s been retired, he’s been mostly homebound save for the occasional bike ride. we hope that this will encourage him to get outdoors more often 🙂

speaking of outdoors, today is dennis’ day off and we are going to meet up with the gardners later on. the boys plan to go bike-riding at west hartford reservoir while the girls take a stroll either at the same place or blue back square, a shopping plaza. we’re really on our babies’ schedules so hopefully we can work this out!

it’s not about you anymore

—- 6/10/15 —-

motherhood has been extremely taxing since day 1. as mentioned in my previous post, i’ve had to deal with latching issues. though it was resolved for the most part, i developed mastitis in my right breast due to plugged milk ducts. i produce much more milk than penny, or the pump, can drain so it gets backed up. when this happens, the breast gets infected and swells. some symptoms are a fever of 101.5 or higher, flu-like symptoms such as chills and body aches, redness (wedge-shaped) on the breast, and burning pain that can extend from your breast to your back during and after breastfeeding. i woke up on friday morning (6/5) with chills and body aches. although you’re miserable and in great pain during this time, it’s highly recommended to continue bf as nothing can drain the breast of milk more effectively than your baby. this is clearly easier said than done – it’s difficult battling flu-like symptoms without having to constantly nurse a newborn, and i tried to tough it out the entire day. i knew it was bad when i found myself crying in the nursery while my mother-in-law sat oblivious downstairs. i was too proud to tell her at the time because i felt like i had failed as a mother. let me tell you, it’s hard maintaining a positive attitude and staying strong when problems keep arising but one look at penny and i know i would do anything to keep her happy and healthy, even with my own pain and suffering.

currently, i’m on medication and i’ve been feeling better. i make sure to massage the affected area thoroughly before and after a feeding or pumping. applying heat also helped – before a feeding, i made sure to hold a heating pad to both of my breasts. i also felt much better after a hot shower. a helpful tip i received from a fellow mom was to apply lanolin to the nipples before getting in the shower to help with sensitivity. i still have to take a shower covering my nipples with my hands because the water pressure is painful.

as i sit here writing this, the lo (little one) is snoozing away in the pack ‘n play. it’s 3:22 in the afternoon and it’s a balmy day. the weather app on my macbook says the current temperature is 80 degrees but it was probably hotter earlier.. who knows? i have yet to step outside today which was not by choice.

i was looking forward to today because my friend and i had planned a playdate for our girls. since penny is now 3.5 weeks and olivia is about 9 weeks i guess the “playdate” is really an excuse for us newly-minted moms to get together to vent, get fresh air, and attempt to remain(?) sane.

clearly, i’m still new to this game. though the car was loaded with all carefully packed baby essentials, i had underestimated the power of a newborn. yes, i was nervous about going out on my own particularly since i hadn’t driven in nearly a month and now i was toting along a very precious cargo. but yet, i kept hoping that everything would run smoothly – i would try to time her feedings and naps so we could leave the house by late morning/early afternoon.

penny has been fussy lately during the evening and nighttime hours which is normal for newborns. it’s been difficult trying to time our dinners – usually one of us (dennis, mostly) has to abandon our meal at the table to go console penny. and to console, we go through a list of troubleshooting methods: swaddling, holding her, singing, mamaroo, baby carrier, diaper change, feed, pacifier, and go for a walk to name a bunch. it’s quite exhausting and frustrating. last night, i had to forgo second helpings of dinner so i could feed penny. i resumed eating about an hour later.

there are also days that penny is fussy in the early to late morning hours. lately after an early morning feeding at around 5:30am, she’ll want to cluster feed again and doesn’t end up taking a nap. she becomes overtired and agitated making it harder for us to put her down. this is what happened this morning. i fed her nearly every hour (one was a 50-minute session!) until noon which was the last feed before the car ride so she would be all set for a few hours. although she had fallen asleep on me, she woke up crying when we tried to place her in the car seat. of course, changing her bottoms from bloomers to pants didn’t help (the car seat straps were digging into her bare legs). dennis tried soothing her by holding her and gently rocking her back and forth while she sucked on a pacifier but he had to get ready for work. if it was this difficult trying to get out of the house, i didn’t want to think about the half-hour car ride and trying to walk around blue back square, an outdoor shopping plaza in west hartford. so, i canceled the date and now i’m sitting here forlornly, wishing i could be outside.

to be honest, planning dates and going out with a baby solo is probably all too soon just like dennis suggested. it has only been three weeks and moms are recommended to get 6 weeks of recovery and low activity.

—- 6/11/15 —-

the above post is all i got to yesterday. little did i know today would be even worse than yesterday. right now it’s 6:40pm and penny has been up since 7:30am!!! she’s been suffering from acid reflux so her naps (if we’re lucky to have her go down) have been cut short because she’s spitting up. she has her 1-month check-up on monday so we are hoping to get her zantac to help with the reflux.

i’ve been alone the past few days while dennis has gone to work. my friend, genie, was sweet enough to leave her lo with her mom and come assist me for a few hours. we took a walk outside which calmed penny down but the oppressive heat was too much for my dog so we had to cut it short. before dennis came home with food, all i had to eat today was a nature valley bar and 2 hard-boiled eggs. 😦 penny kept wanting to feed and that is all i was able to do today besides change my clothes and wash up.

here is penny in calmer times:

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penny relaxing in her pack ‘n play


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penny at 3 weeks


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penny at christina & john’s baby shower – 5/30/15


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this was also the day of her newborn photo shoot.. this shot was taken at the baby shower though

i keep hearing that “things will get better” but it really makes me wonder: when? and anyway, even if “this, too, shall pass” there will be other issues to deal with such as teething, and the dreaded growth spurt in the sixth week. what’s kept me somewhat sane during this time has been my wonderful husband. after hearing what a tough day i had had today, he came home from working all day to provide dinner while he took over finding ways to soothe penny. after i collected myself and ate, i found dennis upstairs doing skin-to-skin with our dd (dear daughter). it’s important to have a support system especially during the first month and i’m fortunate that dennis is so hands-on and encouraging. my friend, genie, (a recent mommy herself) and i also text back and forth all day sharing our joys and woes – usually we are up at the same time feeding our girls even at 3am.

i want to end this post by giving a s/o to the mommies and friends for their words of encouragement and advice: genie, christine, jules, alice, jen v., mouy, jisun, and dana. thanks also to grace k. for always bringing bubble tea when visiting! 🙂

i’ve been typing for so long, penny woke up from her too-short nap. time to resume the madness… but it’s all worth it, right?