Nineteen Months

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
When someone asked last Saturday, I said that Cullen was eighteen months old. It wasn't until about nine the next night that I realized he is actually nineteen months old now. At least it wasn't a major milestone, right? So, now that I have a grip on what day it is and how old my child is, here are a few things about nineteen-month-old Cullen.

At his eighteen month check-up, Cullen was 34 inches tall and weighed over 27 pounds, making him way above average. Most days he eats non-stop all day long. I can't imagine trying to feed him as a teenager. His favorite these days is anything apple. Apple sauce. Apple slices. Apple juice. Apple cinnamon Nutragrain Bar. He may have had all four of those for dinner one night recently. I can't wait to take him apple picking this year! 

I am in a list-making mood today, so here are some of the things Cullen does these days in list form:

  • He likes to work out with me on occasion. His specialties are jumping jacks and squats. 
  • He can blow his nose. No more bulb syringe!
  • He knows to say cheese and smile in front of a camera. I catch him putting my phone up to his face and saying "cheese" all the time! Perhaps I take a few too many pictures.
  • He loves to nap on the couch, completely surrounded by covers. He will not share the blanket with anyone else. And he is not happy if he wants to "nap" and you are in his spot on the couch. He is a grumpy ol' man already...stuck in his ways.
  • He likes to boss Macey around. I can't tell you how many times a day I hear "Come on, Macey.", "hop up", "Move, Macey.", "Walk, Macey."
  • He loves to sing. I love hearing him in the backseat humming along to the radio!
  • He insists that every drink be on a coaster. I laugh every time he puts his sippy cup on the table and then says "no, coaster" as he searches for one. My coffee table loves him.

Cullen is more and more sure of himself every day. Sometimes to a fault. We have been hearing "no" a lot from him recently. But more often it is good. He knows what he likes and what he doesn't like. He can tell us when he needs to blow his nose, when he hurts something and what exactly hurts, and when he needs a diaper change. (Could potty training be in our near future?!)

I think my favorite new expression of Cullen's is "kiss it". He asks me to kiss every single bump, scrape, and mosquito bite. He even asked me to kiss his teeth the other day. He has some new teeth coming in and a mommy's kiss can fix anything, right? We settled for a kiss on the cheek. I'll take any chance I have to kiss those sweet little cheeks!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I have started and deleted this post more times than I can count over the past few months. I wanted to share my breastfeeding experience, but I thought does the internet really need another post about breastfeeding? Hasn't that been covered enough already? Then I thought about why I'm blogging in the first place. I want to share my story, our story, to inspire and encourage other moms. So, since everyone's story is unique, I am going to add one more post about breastfeeding to the internet. It may not be ground breaking, but I hope it encourages someone (even if that someone is me sometime in the future.)

Let me start off by saying that I do not think that breastfeeding is the only right way to feed your little one. Everyone's situation is different, so do whatever works for your family. To be honest, I always thought I would go straight to formula. My brothers and I were formula fed (and we turned out just fine), so that seemed like the obvious decision. But Corey was breastfed and suggested that we at least consider the idea. It seemed important to him, so I started researching. I read several books and everything I could find online. After learning everything I could on the topic and discussing it with Corey, I decided to give breastfeeding a shot. Actually, I decided that was absolutely the right thing for our family and was determined to make it happen.

Let me tell you, breastfeeding is hard work! If you are like me, you tend to think something that seems so natural should be pretty easy, right? I mean that is what our bodies are designed to do. That is not always the case though. It wasn't for us, and from what I hear, it isn't for a lot of women. Someone even told me to not even buy a pump before Cullen was born because breastfeeding may not work. I didn't like that attitude; I had my mind set on making this work. I knew that this is what we felt was right for us, so I was determined to do everything in my power to make it work. There were several times in the first few months where we could have switched to formula, and that would have been okay. But I was determined to try everything. It was tough at times, but I think all the hard work and tears were worth it in the end.

This is getting pretty wordy, so here goes. 

When we were in the hospital, most of our time was spent getting Cullen to latch. We tried over and over and over, but he just couldn't do it. So, to at least tell my body it was time to start making milk, the nurses suggested I start pumping. The first few times I pumped I only got a few drops of colostrum, but we gave even those few drops to Cullen. He wasn't getting much from me, and had started to lose a good bit of wait, so we decided to supplement with a little formula. The three days we were in the hospital Cullen's feeding schedule looked like this: Try to get him to latch for about 10 minutes. No luck. Pump for 15 minutes. Feed Cullen with whatever I pumped. Supplement with formula through a curved syringe to get Cullen to practice sucking. Repeat two hours later. We did finally get him to latch occasionally, but he couldn't get any milk out.

Those first few days were exhausting physically and mentally. I cried to Corey, I cried to the nurses, I cried to the lactation consultants. I was frustrated that this natural thing wasn't working, even after all the research and preparations. I am a little bit of a control freak, so not being able to control this was really hard for me. The nurses and lactation consultants assured me that I was doing everything right, getting him to latch correctly, holding him in the right way, and that it would just take time and practice for Cullen to learn his part.

When we left the hospital, we were still working on getting my milk to come in and getting Cullen to latch. Every two or three hours I was nursing Cullen for as long as he would, pumping what he didn't eat, giving whatever I pumped to Cullen and then supplementing with formula (in a bottle at this point, the syringe took too much time). At his first in-office appointment with the pediatrician, the doctor we met with told basically told us that we were ruining any chance we had of getting Cullen to nurse by using a bottle. I cried again, and we have not seen her since. (She was wrong by the way!)

A week after he was born we went back to the hospital to meet with the lactation consultant to discuss our progress and game plan. While there, she checked his latch and did a weighed feeding. At that point, with some work I could get Cullen to latch, but even after nursing for 15 minutes, he was only getting drops (less than I was even able to pump). She suggested I take fenugreek and blessed thistle to increase my supply and continue with everything else to get Cullen fed.

Between pumping and the herbs, my milk finally increased enough to drop the formula. That made me feel a little better. At least if nothing else changed, I could pump for a year and just feed Cullen expressed milk. I have a friend who had to go that route and it worked for them. It is a great solution, but a lot of work!

But I wasn't ready to give up on getting Cullen to nurse just yet. (I can be a little stubborn sometimes!) We went to see the the lactation consultant once more to follow up when Cullen was two weeks old. My milk supply was good, and Cullen would usually latch after some work, but he still couldn't get out any of the milk that was there. We decided the best course of action was to keep pumping and try to get him to latch when we felt up to it. She encouraged me that he would get it eventually, some babies just take a little longer to figure it out.

So that is what we did. Some feedings Cullen just got a bottle and I would pump, other times we nursed for a while and supplemented with expressed milk if he still seemed hungry. We got in a pretty good routine, and while not ideal, things were going well. At about two months, when meeting with the pediatrician, we finally figured out that Cullen had a shallow chin, like my brother and I, which was keeping him from being able to efficiently transfer milk. The doctor assured us that this usually becomes less of a problem as the baby grows. I was encouraged that we still had hope of actually nursing instead of exclusively pumping.

I continued pumping and bottle feeding Cullen, but I tried to get him to nurse whenever we both felt up to it. Then one day, at about three months old, he just got it. All of a sudden, he latched perfectly, ate until he was full, and everyone was happy. No pump needed. From that point forward, I only pumped at work. Nighttime feedings were easier, I didn't have to pack a bottle anytime we left the house, and there were fewer bottle and pump parts to wash.

Looking back, it was only the first three months that we really struggled. But those struggles were enough to make it seem like a lifetime. We started weaning when Cullen was a year old, and he nursed for the last time a little after fourteen months. In the end, the hard work all three of us put into breastfeeding were worth it. After the first few months, nursing was so much easier than making bottles in the middle of the night or when we had to run errands. And I loved the special time with Cullen. 

So, if you are breastfeeding or entertaining the idea of breastfeeding, here are my words of advice:

1. Do your research. Talk to other moms, search the internet, and read a book or two. I strongly recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and These were my go-to resources for nearly every question I had.

2. Don't listen to negative "advice". How you feed your child is your decision. Do what is right for your family. (This applies to formula-feeding mom's as well!) If you let them, the Negative Nelly types can really get under your skin and make you second guess your choices. Don't let them!

3. Find positive and encouraging influences. These may be other moms, your spouse, nurses, or lactation consultants. Find someone you can talk to on a rough day. This helps more than anything else!

4. Most importantly, don't beat yourself up if it is harder than you expect. Or if you end up going a different route. A happy family with a formula-fed baby or exclusively pumping is much better than mom and baby being frustrated all the time. You are a great mom no matter what!

More Water!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
You have already seen our trip to the aquarium and our family pictures, but I'm back today (a little later than promised) to share about the rest of our family vacation. (Read as "what Cullen did all week".) This was our annual family trip with my Mom's extended family and family friends. They have been going on this vacation for over 45 years. We go the same week and stay in the same houses every year. This year we had over 30 people with us and we all had a blast!

We all love this week so much! It is a chance to relax and spend time with family and friends we rarely get to see. We spent most of the week sitting on the beach, reading, eating, and chatting on the back porch. Our most pressing concern of the week was making sure we remembered to reapply sunscreen. ;)

Saturday afternoon we took out time getting settled, stocking up on food for the week, and saying hello to everyone for the first time since last year. The rest of the week was spent soaking up the sun, building sand castles and jumping waves. Cullen fascinated by the sand and the ocean. 

This kid has no fear and took on the ocean like it was a puddle. If a waved knocked him down he, quite literally, rolled with it and grinned ear to ear. Then he was back up to do it all again. One of my favorite moments from the week was when he was standing in the edge of the surf, he threw his hands up and yelled "more water!" as the waves sank back into the ocean. I think that sums up how he feels about the ocean. 

If he wasn't in the water, he was carrying sand back to the ocean. I can't begin to count how many times he carried handfuls of sand from the beach and threw them into the ocean. Because that's where the sand goes, right?

Cullen's Papa, Daddy, and uncles tried to teach him the art of sand castle building. What ended up happening was he dug holes while they attempted to build a sand castle, then he knocked over said sand castle. And then asked them to build it again. Apparently he is more into demolition. It was great seeing him truly enjoy time with the men in his life. It is easy to see how much he already looks up to them by the way he imitates their every move (burping and finger-pulling included!)

When he did take a break from throwing sand and jumping waves, he chased birds, ran after 20-something-year-old women, ate sand covered goldfish, and took naps under the tent. Cullen took advantage of every minute we had on vacation and made a lifetime of memories in this one week.

One rainy afternoon, when we couldn't play on the beach, Cullen caught his first fish. Mom and I were out shopping when I received this picture of Cullen and his fish. The look on his face is priceless; he is so proud of himself and his fish (rightfully so!) Weeks later he still grins ear to ear and tells you how big his fish was when you ask.

There is not much else that can beat a week at the beach with family and not a care in the world. It was a great trip, and we are already looking forward to next year!

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