Friday, April 24, 2009

California Baby "Super Sensitive Hair Conditioner"

Lately, the hair at the back of baby girl's head was getting seriously matted after every nap and had developed a texture not unlike steel wool. She even had a few mini dreads. So I bought the Super Sensitive Hair Conditioner by California Baby, choosing it primarily because it contains no fragrance and seems to use natural ingredients (I admit I didn't really do much research on this). I used just the tiniest dot of conditioner in R's hair, combed it through, and then rinsed it out. I wasn't sure what to expect and so was pretty surprised to find her hair completely back to normal the next day. And her hair stayed straight and smooth for three days before starting to frizz up a little bit again. The price for this rather small bottle (8.5 oz / 255 ml) of conditioner was US$11.49, which seems expensive, but considering how fine and short most baby hair is and how little you need to use, one bottle could actually last quite a long time. After checking out the California Baby Web site, I noticed that the conditioner even contains "natural sunscreens"--not that I really know what kind of protective coverage that would provide, but, hey, every little bit counts, I guess.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ah, breastfeeding. What could so perfectly conjure up that maternal emotion of quiet, tender love as the scene of a mother nursing her infant? Unless you're me, of course. Because then, most likely, your jaws would be clenched and your shoulders stiffly hunched as your own flesh and blood lays siege to your body.

If someone asked me what's the hardest part about being a new mother, I would answer unequivocably: breastfeeding. What's so hard about it? Well, first, there's that little bit of pressure regarding adequately nourishing your child. Imagine holding your fragile new daughter, who, hysterical with hunger, tries to find relief at your breast, only to pull back, flailing and screaming even louder. Then having a nurse gasp and say, "Oh, no" after weighing your one-week old baby, who apparently has lost too much weight. Then having the pediatrician tell you that your babe is dangerously jaundiced and that you have to supplement with formula because your milk isn't working, isn't enough (which translates in a crazed new-mom's brain as: You've completely failed your child and it's entirely your fault that she's sick).

Breastfeeding also has its physical discomforts. In my case, so far, my breasts have been: bitten, bruised, puked on, kicked, kneed, pounded on by little fists, clawed and bloodied, pinched, yanked on, shoved away, infected, blistered, and so engorged at times, I couldn't put my arms down or bear to feel a soft t-shirt against my skin. I still can't face forward in the shower, unless my arms are crossed shield-like over my chest against the water spray. Hugging makes me wince. It's been almost two months and the multiple milk blisters on my left nipple aren't healing and there's sharp pain every time I nurse, and even when I'm not nursing. Although really it's nothing compared to the experience of nursing with thrush--thank god that's over--which felt like there was a shard of jagged glass repeatedly plunging straight through my breast and out past my shoulder blade.

I'm not tallying up my battle wounds like a strutting jock. I'm not fishing for sympathy--because truly, after all this time, you get a bit numb to the discomforts. I'm writing this post because I haven't yet met a mom struggling with breastfeeding who didn't tear up when we shared experiences. I don't want to scare anyone who hasn't gone through it. I have friends who declare it everything those Madonna and Child paintings depict it to be, who adore each precious bonding moment. But for those of us who find it a challenge--a "war" was how I thought of it in the beginning, when every nursing session left me feeling utterly drained and defeated--just know that you're not a failure and a wuss for crying, for finding it hard, for having thoughts of giving up. If you have any doubts, just visit the La Leche forum, and you'll see there are many, many other moms going through something similar or maybe, sadly, something worse.

I think a low point for me, though, came a few months back, when my own lactation consultant told me that maybe I should consider giving up. No, there's no shame in pumping or turning to formula. But that's not what I needed to hear when what I was seeking was encouragement and hope. Okay, sure, while she's savaging my nipple, my daughter's roving little fingers still attack any exposed flesh like she's Bruno the Burly Baker working on a rebellious piece of bread dough. Yeah, the slow-healing milk blisters are bugging the heck out of me. Maybe all this jaw-clenching is realigning my until-now straight rows of teeth. Also, tonight, the little poopsies bit me so hard I felt the pain surge like a wave all the way down my body. But when I glance through my baby girl's newborn photos and see exactly how much she's changed, how big she's grown, how squeezably chubby her body has become, I feel...awed and amazed that somehow I had something to do with that. And on those rare occasions when we're not battling, when she's getting sleepy at my breast and the abuse from those terrifying little hands turns to gentle petting, or when she's just about to nurse and opens her mouth, like a baby bird beneath a dangling worm, with utter confidence in my ability to feed her, I do understand the peaceful connection that other women experience with their babies.

The best thing to do is think only about getting through today. Don't dwell on the weeks and months stretching ahead of you. Some things actually do get better. My daughter eventually stopped choking and crying while nursing when I finally fixed my overactive letdown (this took weeks of militantly precise block feeding). I woke up one morning and my shirt and sheets weren't completely drenched and soggy with milk from my stupid leaking breasts. I haven't had a plugged duct--utterly terrifying for anyone who's ever had mastitis--in weeks. And I can sort of, almost, practically feed my daughter without using my beloved My Breast Friend pillow. Now if we could only nurse in public without my daughter swatting at the nursing cover so hard my breasts are revealed to all the hapless passersby.