Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Breastfeeding Journey

A lovely gift from my sister in law. It brought me to tears. 

1 year, 4 months, 11 days. I pumped for a total of 498 days. Boy that seems long when I put in that way. Today I did my last pumping session and surprisingly I wasn't all that emotional. The end was coming for a long time and I had a hard time letting go. I grew attached to my little Medela Freestyle double pump. It and I were honestly BFFs. In the beginning days, it felt like I spent more time bonding with it than with my newborn baby. My good friend, Leslie, told me that she wrote a letter to her son when she weaned him. What a fabulous idea. So I pulled out the journal that I'm writing to Charlotte in and the tears started to fall. I feel like I'll remember every last bit of this journal to share with Charlotte when she's older, but I wanted to share my story here as well. A bit of my story anyways. 

In my past work life, I helped new moms after they came home from the hospital. It was my job to help moms latch their baby and feed. I did that for 5 years. Yah I was pretty rocky at the beginning and looking back, I feel bad that those moms got very textbook ideas/instructions. By year 4 and 5 though, I had attended quite a number of breastfeeding conferences, I've shadowed lactation consultants, and I've successful helped countless numbers of moms with their breastfeeding challenges. I felt quite prepared to handle whatever latch problems would come my way. I did after all, supposedly know all the tricks and strategies. What I wasn't prepared for was a lack of supply. Breast hypoplasia, meet me. Me, meet breast hypoplasia. I had some classic symptoms of it, but talked myself out of them because that's what I did for many many moms. Reassured them that their body is designed and programmed to produce milk for their baby. Just trust their bodies. 

So I didn't have any breast changes during pregnancy. That's okay. Not everyone does. 
So I have small breasts. That's okay. Breast size doesn't dictate whether or not you can produce enough breastmilk. 
So I didn't have any leaking colostrum towards the end of pregnancy. That's okay because, again, not everyone does. 
So I was only engorged for like 1 hour when my milk came in. That's okay because... well I didn't realize that this was anything bad. One of the many things I learned on my journey. 

I should've known things were not going well when I nursed my girl for a solid 20 minutes, active sucks and swallows, and when we went to do a post-feeding weight check, we thought the scale was broken. It wasn't. My poor girl just wasted 20 minutes of what little energy she had, only to get not 1 ml of milk. Not ONE!!! I remember the first night we came home to sleep a couple hours while Charlotte was still in the NICU. I had my friend's electric pump that she lent me and was so thankful that she did. We had gotten home close to midnight and I made Jamie go digging for the pump. I got so little and in my attempts to get every last drop into the bottle, in my lack of sleep zombie state, I manage to spill out a good portion. I was devastated. Thank goodness there was still some left that I could bring back. Then on another occasion, I managed to drop the bloody bottle while setting it down. I was so angry over spilled milk and all I could do was cry. And cry. And cry some more. 

As the days went on, I saw lactation consultants. I scoured the web for more "unapproved" methods of increasing milk supply. I pumped 8 times a day. I set my alarm to wake me up to pump. I was on over 30 pills a day including motilium, fenugreek and blessed thistle. I was eating oatmeal every day. I made sure to drink enough water, skin to skin, think about baby, watch baby videos, be with baby, drink nursing tea, acupuncture twice a week. You name it, I've tried it. I got loads of unsolicited suggestions. Maybe you're too tense. Babies can sense when you're upset and it inhibits letdown. Are you drinking enough water? Have you tried this? What about that? I was starting to question all my own actions. Maybe I'm not drinking enough water... Maybe I am too tense... Maybe I need to watch more videos of Charlotte while I'm pumping. No. I was doing everything I possibly could and nothing was working. 

On top of my lack of supply, I had a baby who (likely because I had no milk!) absolutely refused to latch after the first day. It quickly progressed to only latching with a nipple shield. Then it was only when I would syringe milk into her mouth. Then it was only when I would syringe milk into the shield. Then we tried a supplemental nursing system that our wonderful birth photographer lent us (because nowhere carries them and it has to be ordered in!!!) and we were able to latch a couple times. It was so stressful and truthfully, painful trying to latch her. I got very frustrated, as did Jamie. What saved that grief was the fact that Charlotte ended up getting her swallowing assessed and had to be on thickened fluids. I kept telling myself that the thickened fluids likely wouldn't flow through the SnS tubes, but I never did try. That was my out for not fighting my poor girl to feed. Every. Single. Feed. She hated it. I wanted it but hated it. She wasn't going to increase my supply by nursing directly on the breast. There was no win in this for me if I kept fighting her. 

My visions of breastfeeding my child, while sipping coffee with my girlfriends and their babies, never came to fruition. I had to lug around hot water, cold water, bottles, formula powder, thickener. I hated feeding Charlotte in public. I often did all that I could to plan my day so that I could feed her at home. Part of the challenge was the amount of guilt and shame I felt. I just didn't feel good feeding her in public. Around all my friends who nursed. Everyone was always very supportive, but the inner demon won and it won often. 

Out of the 3 lactation consultants I saw, the last one was the most supportive. She had no techniques for me. Nothing new to try. No encouraging words. Just told me what I already knew. I wasn't going to produce more. No matter what. Period. It's unfortunate, but the reality. I grieved for a very long time and I'm still grieving. I think I'm finally at the acceptance stage and that's good. I need to move on. Hopefully with my next pregnancy, my breasts smarten the heck up and grow some more glandular tissue. Because apparently there's only 2 occasions where a woman can develop more glandular breast tissue. 1. Puberty 2. Pregnancy

Some ask me how I did it. The worst part for many is the washing of pump parts. Sterilizing. It's a pain in the arse. Imagine pumping 8x a day, 20 minutes each time, taking another 6-8 minutes to clean all your equipment. So essentially 30 minutes x 8. 240 minutes. 4 hours a day. It was brutal. Especially if I slept for any length of time at night, I had to squeeze in all the pumping in an even shorter time period. I still remember Jamie always saying, "What? You have to pump again? But you just pumped." Most of the time he was right. I did just pump. Like barely 2 hours ago. I know some of you are thinking, well that's how often babies feed! It's not the same. I can't articulate it for you here, but trust me. It's not the same. Then this one blog post I read, from a mom who also pumped full time, offered me a saving grace piece of advice. Why wash all the pump parts every single time? Breastmilk is good for up to 7 days in the fridge. Why not just pump, store it in the fridge, and pump with the equipment again? She washed and sterilized everything once a day. I followed suit. That saved off over an hour a day of just washing crap! I can honestly say, it is one of the reasons I was able to pump for as long as I did. 

So fast forward 400+ days. I weaned off all my medications and cut my pumping from 8 to 7 to 6, 5, 4, 3, and finally 2 times a day. I've been waking up early to pump before work. Going to bed later so I can pump right before bed. I travelled 3 times on vacation while pumping. Pumped in airports and on airplanes. It really has been quite the journey. Now Charlotte doesn't even really enjoy my breastmilk. You read that right. Not enjoying. So why even continue? I'm pretty sure my milk had a higher amount of lactase and since I had such small quantities of milk, it often took several sessions to get enough for a half or full feed. In the last few months, with an ever decreasing supply, it took even longer to build up a decent amount to feed her. She actually preferred formula. That broke my heart. Truly. We often have to coax her into drinking it or trick her by mixing it with some formula. And when she doesn't finish, the wasting of liquid gold just rubs salt into my ever aching wounds. So it's time. It's time that my journey with breastfeeding come to an end. In the whole 498 days, I only ever managed to say out loud that I was nursing my child once. It was to an oral surgeon when he asked about a bone scan for my jaw. "I'm breastfeeding." It was surreal to say and I remember being taken aback. I never did say it again. I hope that for my next baby, if I'm lucky enough to be blessed with one, I will be able to have a different journey. And even if the path looks the same, at least I know where some of the shortcuts are. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Whole Wheat Coconut Oil Vegan Scones

Whole Wheat Coconut Oil Vegan Scones
Original recipe from Gimmesomeoven

- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup unmelted coconut oil (solid)
- 3/4 cup vegan milk (coconut, soy, rice etc.)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Cut in the solid coconut oil with a pastry cutter/blender or forks. 
3. Mix in the milk and combine until a dough forms. 
4. Turn dough out, flatten into a 1/2" layer and cut out rounds. 
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until barely golden (I couldn't get mine quite golden without over baking). 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vegan Baby Banana Oat Mini Muffins

Ah, what did we ever do before Pinterest? Rather, what did we ever do before the internet?!? +Elizabeth Der pinned this simple banana oat mini muffin recipe and I decided to give it a try. It was super easy and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. Since Charlotte is allergic to cow's milk and eggs, it was simple to make these vegan. 

Vegan Mini Banana Oat Muffins
- 1/2 cup quick cook oats (I did a quick blitz in the Vitamix)
- 1/4 rice milk
- 2 ripe mashed bananas
- dash of cinnamon 
- splash of vanilla
- 1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, grease mini muffin tin (I used a coconut spray and toaster oven!)
2. Mix all the ingredients together.
3. Divide batter out between all muffin cups. 
4. Bake until muffins are set. It took about 15 min for me. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Quilt for Reid

 Way back (a couple years ago) I made a quilt for my niece, Annalise. Fast forward and she is now a big sister to little brother, Reid. It just seemed so perfect to make a boy version of the same quilt. I used the same pattern from Kati Cupcake Pattern Co. called Willow.  It might look a little intimidating and complicated but trust me, it isn't. It was my first attempt at making a quilt on my own after my quilting class that I took with +Jinnee Barazzuol. The cutting part was quite labor intensive but the sewing part came together relatively quickly. After piecing all the blocks together, I played them all out to decide what layout would look best. It would've been easier if I had a bit more forethought before I sewed them all because some of the prints had characters that were right side up so it bothered me if I put any of them upside down! 
With Annalise's quilt, I used a darning foot and quilted the entire thing at home on my little Singer machine. I'm not gonna lie, it was rough. Like really rough. If you can imagine rolling up the quilt so that it could fit into the little hole in your sewing machine and then needing to maneuver it around at a steady speed to get a design. One of the doctors that I work with introduced me to Sparrow Studioz and I will never quilt on a home machine again. The last 3 quilts I quilted with a long arm machine, I followed a pentagram but I decided it was time to venture out to free arm quilting. It was scary but oh so fun. I think it'll be free motion from here on out! I chose flannel for the back for the very first time and I love how soft flannel gets as it's used, washed and loved. I hope Reid gets good use out of it! 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Korean Treat

How delicious does this Korean treat look? We picked it up at the Korean market on Friday and I was so excited to try it. I was imagining this super yummy sweet black sesame paste sandwiched in between chewy sweet glutinous rice flour. What I got was a bland but slightly salty, chewy unpleasant mouthful of blah. Last time we got dessert from the Korean market, it was also not yummy and we got suckered in yet again! Arrrrrg! Darn you freshly made Korean dessert rack at the checkout!!! 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bandana Bibs!

Using store bought bibs has been frustrating because they all leave a gaping hole around the neck. We use these bibs from IKEA and love them. Super cheap, easy to wash and often I can reuse the bib more than once since I can use a spoon to scrape some food off the bib. The problem with them is that I can't make it small enough so I find myself using two bibs, one fabric one underneath to protect Charlotte's neck and then a plastic one on top to protect her clothes! Even then, the fabric ones don't always suck everything up because they also fit too loose. That's when Pinterest came to the rescue! Making my own bibs allows me to make them fit Charlotte's tiny neck and the bandana look makes them look uber cute. The pattern I used can be found here. Super simple. I used a cheap terry fabric with PUL lining on the back that can be found at Fabricland for the back and then some random fabrics on the front such as flannel and cotton. I did have to buy some KAM snaps and a set of snap pliers but well worth it! They turned out super cute and I'm so happy with the tutorial. Give it a go, you won't regret it. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Suck Pads

I can't believe my maternity leave is coming to an end so quickly. I feel like I haven't been able to do all the things I wanted to do, crafting wise. I wanted to get caught up on my Project Life but I'm still about 2 years behind on that so that'll be my next big project to tackle. In the meantime, I carved out some time to do quick simple projects that are more "pressing" because they are items I could use right away. The first item in order was suck pads for my carrier. Charlotte is either rubbing her face against the sides to scratch her eczema or she's sucking on it so making these was priority. +Cynthia Chau sent me a tutorial for these suck pads that you can find here. I had leftover minky fabric from my quilt so I opted to use that for one side and plain cotton for the other. As much as I love minky, it's so brutal to sew and I hate. It. So. Much. It stretches, bunches, and is just overall really brutal to work with. I think next time I'm going to leave it uncut, sew what I need to sew on it, then trim off the excess minky. Maybe that's what one is supposed to do...? Who knows. Excuse the dark photos. I was too excited to finish them and show them off in the middle of the night. 

Creamy Asian Dressing

We've been eating a lot of salads lately so changing up the salad dressing is a must! Today we tried a creamy asian dressing and it was a nice change from our normal vinaigrettes. I didn't follow the measurements exactly and I used almond butter. Still turned out great. The recipe can be found here

Monday, March 30, 2015

Traveling With a Baby

We were lucky enough to travel to Hawaii a few weeks ago and it was our first trip with baby. I am so happy that Jamie and I took a couple big trips before baby because traveling with an infant is so different. It was a very long trip getting to Maui but I'm glad we had the support and help of my in-laws along the way. First mistake we made was booking a 7:00 AM flight. Every time we book flights, I say to myself I'll never book another 7:00 AM flight and yet I do it time and time again. With a baby though, definitely not doing it again. It was extremely challenging for us to plan Charlotte's feeds for 14-16 hours and carry all that gear with us. We had 2 big backpacks just full of feeding equipment such as bottles, formula, thickener, pump parts, ice pack etc. The first night I had a mini meltdown, saying to Jamie, "This is SO hard and I just want to be home right now." We settled in nicely after getting some decent rest though. I'm glad we chose a destination that was nice and chill because you really can't go go go with a baby. We opted to bring our own car seat but decided against the base because it was just that much more to lug. Lesson learned. Although it was easy getting the car seat strapped in with the seat belt, it definitely was less convenient so we will bring it on our next trip. We also decided to go stroller-less. I used a ring sling in the airport on the way there and then used our Emeibaby carrier for the rest of the trip. It was definitely very convenient using the carrier although I did have to remove her when going through security because the rings set off the alarms. I thought I was going to use my woven wrap a lot but I didn't bring it out once just because the carrier was that much more convenient. I only missed the stroller once and that was when we landed and had our first Costco trip. Having the use of a kitchen was also another lifesaver. We were able to wash all of Charlotte's bottles, my pump parts etc. Charlotte is fussing so I'll cut this short. All in all, even though we did not accomplish much in Maui, it was fabulous to get away and I can't wait to show do it again! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cloth Diapering Journey Thus Far

I originally wanted to share my cloth diapering journey in some regular posts but with the lack of time now, here's the Cole's Notes (do they even still make them?) version. Even though our peanut is 6 months old (!) already, we have only been able to cloth diaper her little booty for approximately 3 months. She had this unrelenting diaper rash that is still not fully healed yet so we were in disposables for 3 months, trying cream after cream. Everything I read and everyone I spoke with, highly advised against making a huge purchase of one brand of diapers before testing one out first on baby's bum. Being the true Asian that I am, a sale got the best of me and we splurged on about 12 pairs of Applecheeks diaper covers and 30 bamboo inserts. That set us back over $500 right off the bat and I just hoped that they would work out for us because there seemed to be so much Applecheeks love in the cloth diapering world. Well they sure did not disappoint. I absolutely loved cloth diapering from day 1, although I did not love the gDiapers that we borrowed from a family member. Regardless, it got us through the first couple of weeks when Charlotte was itty bitty. Now I realized as I was typing, this is not looking very Cole's Notes like so I'll just share a few things that I want to share. 

1. Disposable liners can probably convert a lot of non-cloth diapering folks to switch over because it makes handling poop so easy. Just pull off the Bounce fabric softener like sheet out of the diaper, chuck that out and you're good to go! The Applecheeks liners cost about $0.08/liner but we cut them in half. If you're uber Asian green, you can hand wash the liners that have only been peed on, hang dry them and reuse them. I misread and thought I could throw them in the washer and reuse them. That does not work. 

2. I don't think Charlotte's rash was ever ammonia burn but it sure got me reading into all the issues that cloth diapers can have if the wash routine isn't getting them clean enough. Ammonia burn, mineral build up, barn yard stink, the list is huge! Now add on all the diaper creams on the market that are not cloth diaper safe and the things you have to do to your diapers to get the creams out, it'll make your head spin.

3. I like the idea of a one size diaper but I really do prefer the trimmer fit of the Applecheeks' sized diapers vs. one sized diapers like AMP. AMP snaps also drive me a little crazy and I hate them! 

4. We had an old top loader that I made Jamie sell and we purchased a nice HE front loader. Only after, did I find out that old school top loaders supposedly work better for cloth diapers. I don't regret it though because we redid our laundry room. The new washer and dryer look fabulous and we all know a fabulous looking laundry room, like all the ones you see on Pinterest or Houzz, make doing laundry seem less like a chore. Jamie put up some hanging racks we purchased at Ikea and I found a cute little metal tin at Winners that says "Laundry Detergent" on the front. You might not believe me but I can honestly say, the new laundry room makes me actually enjoy laundry. What I even enjoy more is stuffing inserts into diaper covers. It's amazing the number of moms that find stuffing diapers relaxing.

5. So has cloth diapering saved us any money so far? Absolutely NOT! As so many cloth diapering memes say, I just want to BUY ALL THE DIAPERS!!! There are so many cute prints that I have to constantly resist the urge to make purchase after purchase of these dang cute diapers. We didn't decide to cloth diaper to save money, but rather to try and decrease our contribution to the landfill. After using disposables for almost 3 months, I'm so happy to be back in cloth because I felt awful every time we had a full bag of dirty diapers to throw away. I feel like we went through them extraordinarily fast because of Charlotte's rash so that didn't help matters. What I am hoping for though, is if I do stop buying more diapers, everything should last us at least another child so we might break even in 5-7 years. 

6. If nothing else, just the sheer cuteness of cloth diapers might just lure you in! 


Friday, February 6, 2015

The View From the Top

I'm about 2 years behind on my Project Life albums when I finally decided to skip ahead and work on 2014. I'm not making a lot of headway since I'm only working on it 1-2 hours a week, but as +Cynthia Chau pointed out, that's more than when I didn't have a baby. We did a hike at Diamond Head and the view up there was so spectacular. I tried to capture it the best I could and here's my pieced together attempt. It's choppy but still breathtaking. Besides the view, the second most memorable part of the hike was when we were half way up, in the blazing sun, 20 weeks pregnant, I ask for water, and we have none. Not one drop. We forgot to pack it even though we did a mental checklist of everything we needed. Needless to say, pregnant mental checklists are not dependable. It's a good thing we packed a small container of mixed berries so that gave us a bit of sustenance. I was so excited to gulp down some water when we made it back to the car, but we didn't even have nasty hot car water to drink!!! Epic fail. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Random Update

My BFF asked for a blog post and it's been a while so I'm taking a bit of time to do a quick update for my dear buddy and fellow readers in the blogosphere. Before Christmas, I got really into crocheting and found that the Michael's crappy hooks just weren't cutting it so Jamie and I put in a big order on KnitPicks and I made a sweet hook holder for all my new toys using this pattern. 
We also made Charlotte's first Christmas ornaments using a simple salt dough recipe. It took a lot of tries to get her little hand and foot to cooperate. I'm glad that salt dough is very forgiving and easy to work with. I think they turned out adorable and I can't wait to hang them on our tree next year! 
I did my very first DIY RLR diaper insert strip because Charlotte got this terrible rash from having diarrhea and I thought it wouldn't hurt to strip the diapers just in case there was some ammonia build up. I absolutely love cloth diapering and have been very sad that I haven't been able to for the last 3 months because Charlotte's poor rash just isn't healing and I'm using all these non-cloth diaper safe products to try and protect her skin. She's got extremely sensitive and finicky skin so hopefully we can make our way back to cloth soon. 
We also picked up a bunch of picture frames from Ikea when they had a sale. I was envisioning this wall for quite some time and Ikea just happened to have frames on sale and a display conveniently put up that I fell in love with so we just stole the whole idea. Jamie didn't really have a choice but to put it up because we had no room to store the frames since we were hosting Christmas dinner for 20 people. Unfortunately, the frames are still sitting empty. Yet another project to tackle. 
With the amount of hoarding I do with crafting goods, I knew I wanted to make some tag blankets with the vast, VAST amount of ribbon I own. I managed to sneak away one Monday night to a friend's house and hunkered down for 2 hours. I think I used about 0.02% of my ribbon. 
We've been doing a lot more cooking since I started maternity leave. A new salad dressing that I've been obsessed with is this lemon garlic concoction. I don't remember where I found the recipe, but those who know me know that I'm not good with measurements so I'll just list off the ingredients. 

Kick Butt Lemon Dressing 
- olive oil
- lemon juice from 1/2 to 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
- mashed garlic
- oregano 
- a tiny bit of sugar if you want

It's seriously so yummy that it got Jamie actually enjoying salad! One thing to note though, the garlic is what makes the dressing so one must be okay with stinky raw garlic breath. Below are just some random shots. I attempted to make this White chicken Chili and although it didn't turn out like the recipe, it was still delicious. 
A few girlfriends and I are trying to get back into shape post baby so I've been doing baby barre class where you strap baby to you while doing ballet moves and strollercize (which is essentially working out while baby stays in the stroller). I've also managed to get in a couple walks with the warm weather we were having. Whatever little time that Charlotte is napping and I have my hands free, I'm trying to catch up on my Project Life. I'm only about 2 years behind now. Jamie is de-cluttering the basement and finally recycling all his university textbooks. Makes me sad knowing we both spent thousands and thousands of dollars on those damn things that we can't even use as firewood. They are literally worthless paperweights that are taking up valuable storage space, but yet I cringe at the thought of dumping them. How Asian of me. 
To end off this random update, say hi to the puppies! 

Monday, January 5, 2015


I cannot believe our wee little baby is almost 5 months old. I found some time today to edit some photos and it brought me right back to the NICU. It amazes me how resilient babies are, and people in general. I am so grateful for our health care system, that I did not have to worry about how I was going to pay for the care my baby was receiving, and that I get to spend an entire year with my sweet girl. What an incredible life I have and I am thankful for every minute of it. Sure we do not drive fancy cars, or have many expensive things, but with our health, a loving family, amazing friends, a roof over our heads on this cold, cold day, and full bellies, I am fulfilled.