World Breastfeeding Week: My Nursing Journey

When I first became a mother, I had no idea I would be so passionate about breastfeeding.  I intended to do it, personally, but didn’t think much more about it until after I was in the thick of nursing my first baby…

World Breastfeeding Week My Nursing Journey

Pregnant with my first baby, I had every intention of breastfeeding.  It seemed obvious, natural, convenient, and inexpensive.

It turned out to be none of those!

Let me be frank – breastfeeding my first baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken as a mother.

On Day 2 of life, he was a very sleepy little man.  I didn’t know any better, and let him sleep instead of waking him to feed.

By Day 5 of life, he wasn’t gaining and my milk hadn’t come in.

By Day 14 of life, nurses were using the term “Failure to Thrive.” Still wasn’t gaining.  Still not a good milk supply.  I started pumping, and taking herbs, and drinking dark beer, and overhydrating, and pumping and pumping and pumping.

Day 16: Nipple shields, and a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System – essentially a tube supplying formula at the breast.)

Day 18: Supplementing with formula

Day 20: Nipple confusion.  Refusing the breast unless half asleep.  Commence exclusive pumping.

After exclusively pumping (but baby still needing half his intake in formula) I finally got him back on the breast at four months.

I was also working full time as a teacher in a small school.  I had no legally mandated breaks.  I power pumped every night (for hours!!!) and never did have a good supply.

But we soldiered on.  Finally, for my sanity, we switched to all formula during the day and I put away my pump.  I nursed in the wee hours of the morning and as he fell asleep at night, and treasured my ability to do at least that.  We kept it up until two weeks shy of his first birthday, when he suddenly and completely weaned himself.

 

So, it isn’t necessarily easy, or natural, or convenient.  What an eye opener!

 

When I had my second baby, I made some changes.  Most dramatically, I put my teaching career on hold and became a full-time, professional mother.

Secondly, also extremely importantly, I had a wonderful midwife and birth center during my pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.  She guided me in exactly the natural methods I was hoping for, and encouraged my nursing in a much less clinical fashion.

I undertook the theory that I would nurse no matter what.  Any time this baby fussed, I let him nurse.  I ignored the clock completely, and offered the breast any time he cried or rooted, even if he had just stopped nursing five minutes before.

We nursed round the clock.  I didn’t sleep train, I didn’t offer a bottle.  Ever. (As it turns out, it’s not all roses – he never did take a bottle, ever, and he was up constantly until almost a year.  Exhausting!)

But we succeeded.  By his two week checkup, he had not only regained his birth weight (the goal), he had GAINED a POUND AND A HALF.  What?!  He was almost 20 pounds by six months.  A hulking, happy baby.  Suddenly, nursing was convenient and easy and natural and wonderful.

 

I’ve had a complicated journey.  I’ve experience personal failure, and success.  I had a skinny baby who had a hard time nursing, and a fat baby who was obsessed with nursing.  I have nothing but empathy for anyone trying to feed their baby in any way.  Through it all, I’ve enjoyed public nursing (yes, enjoyed!) sometimes covered and sometimes not.  I have an arsenal of wonderful breastfeeding memories that I will share in another post.  I’m invested in helping other mommas be successful in nursing, if that’s their desire, and hope someday that our culture can get fully behind normalized breastfeeding.

But not every pro-breastfeeding hippie crunchy momma has had a sunshine-and-rainbows experience!  It’s a rollercoaster sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade any of those precious nutritional snuggles despite the struggles.

Share your journey below, or link to your own story!  I love to hear from other nursing mommas!

Please, Just Buy the Kleenex (on your kids’ supply list)

I’m a teacher on hiatus as a stay-at-home-mom.  My husband is a teacher.  We both work/ed in parochial schools, notorious for high quality education and extremely low budgets.

I’m also extremely thrifty by nature.  We thrive quite nicely (no debt, saving for parochial high school and retirement at 60) on one teacher’s salary.  I know both sides of this coin.

Please, just buy the Kleenex.

your kids' school supply list

It’s back to school shopping season, and I am bracing for the onslaught of negativity.

That calculator is too expensive.  I can’t believe I need to contribute to a class stock of pencils.  Why can’t I just buy for my child?  This is too many supplies.  I don’t believe I need this brand of marker – I’ll just get whatever I feel like.  A whole pack of Expo markers?! They can’t possibly need two big boxes of Kleenex.

I can tell you personally, with all sincerity, if the teacher has asked for it, it’s necessary.  No teacher brings home a big paycheck – they know about scrimping and saving.  Teachers don’t like storing big backup collections of Lysol wipes – it’s a pain to find a place for all that stuff.  They feel badly asking you to search out specific brands and models of items.  They know the backlash they’re about to get, and they’ve stuck their neck out to ask for specific supplies anyway.

Because they, the professionals, have determined it would be best for your child’s education to have these specific supplies.

I can’t possibly exhaust all the specifics of everyone’s school supply list, but here are just a few possible explanations for why things may be required.

1 – Specific brands of pencils, or shared pencils for the whole class

Pencil sharpening is a huge time-waster in education.  The noise of the sharpener is disruptive during lessons or work time.  It requires students to be out of their desk (either at a sharpener, or emptying their personal sharpener) which opens the door for all kinds of management problems.  Many off-brand or “designer” pencils do not sharpen well – the lead is off-center so they’re never really sharp, the lead breaks off each time it’s sharpened, or the plasticy coating on the pencil gets all chewed up and stuck in the sharpener.

Whole-class pencils are a teacher choice made because of ease of management.  It can be very time efficient and smooth to always have a stock of sharpened pencils, all identical so there is no time or talking wasted in “choosing” or “finding”.  It’s not about some kind of classroom communism – it’s about efficiency and management.

2 – Specific calculators or other math devices

It is VERY DIFFICULT to teach a math class where there are several different models of calculator, protractor, etc. among the students.  Each set of directions must be given 4 or 5 times to accommodate the differences.  And while directions are given, the children to whom they don’t apply are likely getting distracted, goofing off, or craning to see their neighbor’s “cool different” device.  If everyone’s supplies match the teacher’s, then the directions can be given once, and even a large poster or presentation be created that exactly  matches what the kids have in their hands.

3 – Kleenex, Lysol wipes, paper towels, etc.

Children are natural wasters, and messy little people.  I understand that supplying paper products to a classroom, again, feels like “classroom communism” because other children are going to use them.  But to put it plainly, your child is spending 8 + hours a day for 3/4 of the year IN THE CLASSROOM.  That’s a lot of paper product usage!  If the child were home all of those hours, they would likely be burning through Kleenex and paper towels at home.  When the common cold sweeps through a classroom of children, an entire box of Kleenex is easily used up PER DAY.  The teachers personally Lysol wipe all the desks , doorknobs, sinks, EVERY DAY during flu season to try and prevent absences.  Trust me when I tell you, I never made it past February before running out of the school supply list paper products and having to buy for the rest of the year myself.  If the teacher bought all of these products for the classroom, that would mean purchasing 50 boxes of Kleenex, 20 containers of Lysol wipes, 20 rolls of paper towels… that extremely expensive for any one person.  Divided up among the students (who do all use them in some way! Promise!) it is much more manageable.

4 – Name brand markers, crayons, paints

These are asked for because they work the best.  There are many cheaper brands of art supplies out there, and they are cheaper for a reason.  They don’t work very well!  Off-brand markers dry out faster, don’t wash off as easily, and/or come in oddball colors that do not work for what we have planned.  Off-brand crayons have precious little color payoff and break easily.  These types of “little inconveniences” turn into big headaches and management problems when a child gets upset about his or her artwork “not working” or “being ruined” or can’t do the directions because the colors in that pack of supplies are different from others.

 

All of these supplies are requested after careful consideration, editing down of the list, weighing pros and cons, and year of education, training, and experience.  That’s not an exaggeration – every choice a teacher makes is for the benefit of your child’s education.  They are professionals at running classrooms and imparting knowledge.  They re-evaluate their supply list every June, adjust for any changes noticed in the last school year, then cross their fingers that the supplies will come on the first day of school as asked.

So please, just buy the Kleenex.  Maybe even a couple extra boxes.

For ideas on ways to cut costs for back-to-school (that don’t negatively impact the school day!) check out this post with six ways to save on school supplies and clothing!