Category Archives: plagiocephaly

Insurance Appeal

For those of you who are new around here, when Mason was a baby, he had plagiocephaly and issues with a tight neck muscle (torticollus)

We spent six months doing stretches, physical therapy, and all sorts of repositioning, only to have him end up in a cranial orthotic (aka a helmet) to help correct his very asymmetric headshape. Our insurance refused to cover the helmet, saying that yes, his head wasn’t correctly shaped, but by their definition, it had to be a liiittttle bit worse for them to cover a helmet.

We ended up paying for his helmet out of our pocket with plans to appeal their decision down the road. You know, when we had more time, when I could do more research, when I collected one more doctor’s letter, etc etc.

Well, now it’s three years later and our window for appealing is coming to a close.

Right before Christmas, I discovered that our insurance policy had updated their requirements for cranial orthotics and by their current definition, Mason’s helmet should have been more than covered.

Tomorrow (Thursday) morning, I have a hearing with our insurance’s board of appeals. It’s our last chance at possibly getting back thousands of dollars that, if you ask me, should have been covered in the first place.

Wish us luck please. #fingerscrossed

Plagiocephaly Awareness Week – May 16-22

Today marks the end of Plagiocephaly Awareness Week in the UK and as a mother to a plagio kid, I would love to see this week acknowledged in the US as well.

For those who aren’t aware, the non-technical definition of plagiocephaly (plagio) is the abnormal flattening of one side of the skull. One cause of plagio is pressure in the womb causing the baby to have a “diamond” shaped head when seen from above. While it’s very rare for a baby to be birthed vaginally and NOT have a mis-shaped head, most babies heads round out after a few weeks. Any abnormal head shape after the 6 week point is considered plagiocephaly. The other common cause of plagio is laying on one side of the head for long periods of time. Soon that side starts to get a little flat and then it becomes the only comfortable way to lay and the baby lays on it ALL the time, worsening the problem. When the “Back to Sleep” campaign launched in 1992, cases of plagiocephaly soared.

babyheads
Flat head vs Round Head (Image from Google)

Positional plagiocephaly, as the latter type is commonly called, is often exasperated by a condition called torticollis which means “stiff neck.” Babies with torticollis are more prone to plagio because they have a poor range of motion with their head and usually always look/lay/sleep facing the same way and thus, on the same spot on their head. Mason had torticollis and if you look at pictures from when he was a wee baby, he was NEVER looking to the left and always had his head turned to the right. It took months of physical therapy to loosen his neck muscles so he had could look both ways.

There are different degrees of plagiocephaly. A perfectly round headshape has zero millimeters of difference which is probably pretty rare! “Normal” heads measure 0-3 mm of difference. Mild plagiocephaly is considered 4-6 mm and most people don’t start treatment at this level of variance. 7-11 mm is considered moderate plagiocephaly and severe plagiocephaly is 12 mm of difference and up. The more severe the plagio, the more noticeable the flattening and off shape of the head is and the more likely that the child’s ears (and possibly eyes) do not line up properly. At its worst, Mason’s plagio was over 12 mm.

plagio
Normal Head vs Plagio Head (Image from Royal Children’s Hospital)

Left untreated, moderate to severe plagiocephaly can lead to obvious problems like being teased, glasses needing special adjustments for un-even eyes and ears, helmets and hats not fitting correctly, and limited hairstyles. But most people are not aware that plagiocephaly can lead to problems with TMJ and migraines and there has also been a strong link shown with children with plagio having noticeable learning delays. It’s definitely NOT just a cosmetic problem.

Statistics from the UK show that 1 in 3 babies have plagiocephaly. Statistics in the US show 1 in 10, which is still a very significant number. While I’ve never met any other local “helmet babies,” everyone I TALK to seems to have a nephew or cousin or child 10 years ago who went through the same thing, so it’s definitely more common than anyone would imagine!

If you’d like to learn more about preventing or treating plagiocephaly, please read last year’s post on that subject! If you think your child has an unusually flat head, talk to your pediatrician and don’t accept “Oh, they’ll grow out of it as an answer – most children DON’T!

This time last year – Eating is Messy / Plagio Awareness II
Two years ago – First Day of Daycare / Baaad Day

6 Month Post-Helmet Plagiocephaly Update

It’s been 6 months since Mason got his helmet off. For those who are new around here, Mason was diagnosed with severe plagiocephaly and tort when he was 3 months old. This would have been the optimal time to get him into a corrective helmet, but the doctor encouraged us to try repositioning and physical therapy instead. We made slight progress over the next few months, but between 8 and 9 months, his progress stopped. We made the choice to put him in a corrective helmet at 10 months old and he wore it from January until June. While the helmet did help his head shape, we didn’t have nearly as much success as we would have had we done it when he was much younger.

I meant to update a week or two after he got it off to tell you all how the adjustment was going, but looking at the archives, I apparently never did. The first few weeks were a bit of a rough learning curve for him as tapping his head on objects to hear the sound the helmet would make was a favorite passtime. Falling on his back and hitting his head on the floor use to be no big deal, but he quickly (but not quickly enough) learned that that was not fun at all anymore. After that first month or so of being helmet-free, it was like he had never had it at all. Helmet-free looked normal and new routines were quickly created. His helmet is topping his diaper cake (that was just too adorable to ever use, sorry Jayme!) on his book shelf and he never even gives it a second glance.

Since graduating from the helmet, Mason’s hair grew in leaps and bounds and if you’re not actively looking for it, you can’t tell that his head isn’t perfectly round. But, when his hair is wet or you’re feeling his head, you can definitely still tell that it’s a bit odd shaped. While it’s disappointing that the helmet didn’t “cure” his problem entirely, this past 6 months have made it clear that it was the right choice for us. With absolutely zero change to his head shape in 6 months (many doctors preach “Leave it alone and it will round out on it’s own”), it’s obvious that his head shape would definitely not have corrected itself at all. Baby heads grow the most between 0-8 months and continue growing some between 9-18 months. Now, at 21 months, it’s pretty safe to say that Mason’s head shape is the way it will always be and I’m okay with that. We did what we could and I’ll never regret that and like I said earlier, unless your his mother or his grandmother (or someone reading this and then studying him carefully when you see him LOL) you’d never notice that his head is a bit flat in the back. I no longer worry that he’ll be teased in school or that sports helmets and glasses won’t fit right. Thank you, little blue helmet.

If you feel that your baby has a significant flat spot on any part of their head (most common on the back side of the head due to the “back to sleep” campaign, but also can be on the side), here’s what I recommend (FYI I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet)

  • Immediately begin actively repositioning your baby. Keep them off their heads as much as possible – tummy time, baby-wearing instead of car-seat lugging, and encourage them to look to the “rounded” side by placing attractive objects (shiny things, mirrors, toys) that way, and yet more tummy time.
  • If your child has not seen significant improvement in their head shape by 4-5 months, get a referral to an specialist that deals with helmets. The average 4 month old is in a helmet 6-8 WEEKS and sees nearly 100% correction, but the older the child, the slower the correction and the less chance it will be as significant (case in point – Mason spent 6 months in his and got the same amount of correction many young babies see in a few weeks  – the younger they are, the faster their heads grow!)
  • Remember that whatever you choose to do – it’s way harder on YOU than your child. Yes, at times they may cry and seem sad, but they also cry and seem sad over a toy puppy being taken away. They will never remember this time of their lives, but they will remember being teased in school or being excluded from wearing “one size fits all” hats, helmets, etc if left uncorrected.

If you ever need any repositioning tips, would like to know about internet support groups I found helpful, or just need support if you think your child has plagio, I would be more than happy to talk to you! It seems like such a scary thing to face when you’re right there in it, but Mason and I are living proof that 6 months later – it’s just a very tiny blip on the radar – one that I look back on and smile because I know it was the right choice.

This time last year – Photos with Santa

Plagiocephaly Update #7: Final Update

 

Last Wednesday, Mason went to see Dr. Doug for his final head evaluation. We had decided before that we were done with the helmet either way, as it has been five months and with the heat and the slow growth, it was just TIME.  The last appointment we had, he had basically zero improvement and we weren’t holding our breath.


(The stocking smooths down his duck fluff hair so a more accurate scan can be taken of his head)

Well, in the past 7 weeks, I’m happy to say that he improved more than he has in the entire 5 months combined! Yay for FINALLY getting a small growth spurt! We didn’t reach our original goal, but I was very happy to see the progress.

He wore his helmet to daycare on Thursday and Friday and had it off at home where we could watch him and help him transition into a world where knocking your head on the wall to hear cool sounds is not any fun and flopping angrily on the floor head first to have a a tantrum is not only unproductive, but hurts!

He’s been without the helmet since Friday evening and other than some rugburn (oops) and a few scratches, he’s getting the hang of things. It’s so weird to see him without his helmet more than an hour a day, so we’re all adjusting!

Last Year at this time: Mason’s 1st Sleepover / He Survived!

Plagiocephaly Awareness Week – Part 2

So yesterday I talked about what plagiocephaly is and what some of the effects of it are, today I’m going to talk about preventing it and treating it!

Prevention

First I’ve gotta say that while you CAN be proactive with various measures, it’s not always possible to PREVENT plagiocephaly and it’s absolutely no one’s FAULT if your child has it. Often times people blame themselves for having a too small uterus or for letting their baby spend too much time in the carseat, but really, if it’s going to happen, it’s probably just going to happen.

There are two main ways to prevent plagiocephaly. First,  pay attention to your baby’s range of movement. If you notice that your child definitely favors looking one way, sleeping facing one way, etc. get him or her examined by a doctor or physical therapist for torticollis. A tight neck muscle that causes your baby to never both directions causes your baby to ALWAYS lay on one side of his or her head, causing flat spots. Physical therapy and neck stretches can  make huge improvements in range of motion in just a few weeks!

belly

Many babies who have plagio never had torticollis. That’s why part two  is JUST as important. Keep your little baby off their head as much as possible! Tummy time is GREAT. Not only are you building neck, trunk, and core muscles, you’re keeping pressure off that noggin! Not spending time excessive amounts of time in the carseat is also great. Yes, some babies sleep in their carseat overnight or otherwise won’t sleep at all, but that doesn’t mean your baby needs to stay in their bucket seat the entire three hour trip to the steak house or every time you go shopping.   For a lot of babies, the swing is a godsend. If your baby spends all day in it, be sure to move the swing around the room so the baby has to turn his head different directions to find where the action is! Babywearing instead of stroller/carseat sitting / swinging at a young age is a very helpful alternative.  The less pressure on that little noggin (in the same spot) the better!

noggin

I’ve read about special pillows and sleepers that are sworn to “prevent flat head” syndrome and they seem to have mixed results. I have heard from many parents of children who are now in a helmet who used all the special pillows from day one, so I’m going with the “Nice idea, but doesn’t work” camp. I’m sure someone will read this and tell me that it saved their kid’s head, but maybe that kid was just never going to get plagio either way, ya know?!

Treatment

If at the three month point, your child’s head still seems noticeably misshapen, there are two angles to attack it from. First is aggressive repositioning. What does this mean? You reposition your child off from his or her flat area every chance you can. You physically turn their head off of  it when they are sleeping. You put up toys and mirrors and fun things in their car seats, swings, etc to encourage them to look the direction that their flat spot is not on. This is the first thing most pediatricians recommend you try and it’s most successful between 3 and 5 months of age.

reposition
Using a rolled up receiving blanket to keep a baby off their flat side (from Google)

For us, we “started” aggressive repositioning at 4 months, saw his plagio get WAY WORSE because we were not aggressive about it AT ALL, and then once we got serious, we saw improvement. We would turn him off the right side of his head 5 or 6 times a night, put up a mirror in his crib, and kept him out of his carseat as much as possible. In his swing or bouncy seat, we kept a rolled up receiving blanket under his right side, forcing him to lay with his head to the left.

Aggressive repositioning works great for some babies and not so great for others. It’s a huge commitment and if you don’t have the time and patience to continually wake up and move their heads in the middle of the night, it won’t be very successful!

The other option for treatment is a helmet, like you see Mason wearing. There are three big brands of helmets – Starband (what Mason has), Hanger, and DocBand. All of the helmets, despite different brands and different shapes, work the same way. The helmet is uniquely created for each child based on either a plaster mold or digital scan of their head. The helmet is snug to their head in the area where no more growth is wanted and open where growth is needed. Any new headgrowth goes to the flat area of the head, causing it to fill in and round out. They wear the helmet 23 hours a day with 1 hour off for bath time and giving the head time to “breathe.”

docband
Baby Ian in his DocBand

The ideal age to helmet your child is between 4 and 6 months of age. At this time, their heads are growing in leaps and bounds.  I’ve read endless stories about how a child with a 20 mm offage goes down to 11 mm in just 2-3 weeks! And down to 2-3 mm in a few weeks more! These heads do some SERIOUS growing those first six months! The average younger baby is in their helmet for 8-12 weeks and nearly all achieve that 0-3 “normal” head. The helmets work up on children up to18 months, but head growth slows significantly at about 9 months and even further at the one year mark.  Babies helmeted at one year or older usually are in their helmets for 6+ months and “cutting the number in half” is usually the goal instead of 0-3 mm. Mason began his helmet journey at 10 months 1 week old and his head has grown less than 2 mm since then, where it was growing 3 mm every few WEEKS when he was younger.

Plagiocephaly Roadblock

The biggest opponent to plagiocephaly treatment is uninformed pediatricians who label plagio as “normal” and say that the head will get better with age. While most children will see a mm or two improvement on their own, moderate to severe plagio will not fix itself. For us, even WITH aggressive repositioning, Mason’s head shape did not change at all between 7 and 9 months. Not even a fraction of a mm. It was at that point we knew that we had to decide “Leave it as misshapen as it is now or do the helmet”  and our ped wanted nothing to do with that decision. Had our pediatrician been more informed about the need for more aggressive plagio treatments, Mason would have had his helmet 3 or 4 months sooner when we saw that repositioning wasn’t working well enough and would have probably only had to wear it two months. And this is a story I hear again and again and again. Yet, helmet treatments for plagiocephaly have been around for 20+ years!

I’ve seen many petitions floating around the plagio world – one being to make it mandatory for all pediatricians to take a more aggressive approach to treat plagiocephaly (instead of recommending the “wait and see” approach) and another to require more insurance companies to cover necessary treatments. I support both of these movements!

Recap

So, in a nutshell, tummy time and baby-wearing can really help prevent plagiocephaly and are great for your baby all around. If you child’s head looks misshapen past the 3 month mark, you should definitely try aggressive repositioning and keep him/her off that flat spot as much as possible. If you haven’t seen great improvement by around 4 or 5 months, get a referral to a helmet specialist! Fixing your child’s head NOW can prevent a slew of medical (and social!) problems down the road!

highchair

And, next time you see a baby in a helmet, don’t point and stare, walk right over and say “Hey, I know a baby named Mason and he wears a helmet!” – us plagio moms like to NOT feel so alone!

One Year Ago – Daycare Day Four, BabyWearing, & He’s Learning!! (must have been a good nap day!)

Plagiocephaly Awareness Week – May 16-22

This week is Plagiocephaly Awareness Week in the UK and many of us “Plagio Moms” are hoping to bring the movement to the US as well.

For those who aren’t aware, the non-technical definition of plagiocephaly (plagio) is the abnormal flattening of one side of the skull. One cause of plagio  is the pressure in the womb causing the baby to have a “diamond” shaped head when seen from above. While it’s very rare for a baby to be birthed vaginally and NOT have a mis-shaped head, most babies acquire a normal headshape after a few weeks. Any abnormal head shape after the 6 week point is plagiocephaly.  The other common cause of plagio is laying on one side of the head for long periods of time.  Soon that side starts to get a little flat and then it becomes the only comfortable way to lay and the baby lays on it ALL the time, worsening the problem. When the  “Back to Sleep” campaign promoting back sleeping to prevent SIDs launched in 1992, cases of plagiocephaly soared.

babyheads
Flat head vs Round Head (Image from Google)

Positional plagiocephaly, as this is commonly called, is often exasperated by a condition called torticollis which means “stiff neck.” Babies with torticollis are more prone to plagio because they have a poor range of motion with their head and usually always look/lay/sleep the same way and thus, on the same spot on their head. Mason had torticollis and if you look at pictures from when he was a wee baby, he was NEVER looking to the left and always had his head turned to the right. It took months of physical therapy to loosen his neck muscles so he had could look both ways.

There are different degrees of plagiocephaly. A perfectly round headshape is 0 mm (zero millimeters of difference) which is probably pretty rare! “Normal” heads measure 0-3 mm of difference. Mild plagiocephaly is considered 4-6 mm and most people don’t start treatment at this level of variance. 7-11 mm is considered moderate plagiocephaly and severe plagiocephaly is 12 mm and up. The more severe the plagio, the more noticeable the flattening and off shape of the head is and the more likely that the child’s ears (and possibly eyes) do not line up properly. At its worst, Mason’s plagio was over 12 mm.

plagio
Normal Head vs Plagio Head (Image from Royal Children’s Hospital)

Left untreated, moderate to severe plagiocephaly can lead to obvious problems like being teased, glasses needing special adjustments for un-even eyes and ears, helmets and hats not fitting correctly, and limited hairstyles. But most people are not aware that plagiocephaly can lead to problems with TMJ and migraines and there has also been a strong link shown with children with plagio having noticeable learning delays. It’s definitely NOT  just a cosmetic problem.

Statistics from the UK show  that 1 in 3 babies have plagiocephaly. Statistics in the US show 1 in 10, which is still a very significant number.  While I haven’t met any other local “helmet babies” since Mason began his journey, everyone I TALK to seems to have a nephew or cousin or child 10 years ago who went through the same thing, so it’s definitely more common than anyone would imagine!

Now that I’ve written a novel, stop back tomorrow to learn more about how you can PREVENT plagio, some of it’s treatment options, and all that good stuff! Knowledge is power!

Plagiocephaly Update #6

Five more weeks have passed since our last visit to the helmet doctor.

This time, we saw even less (waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay less) improvement than last time. *sigh*

We’re at a damned if we do, damned if we don’t crossroads right now. He could wear the helmet for another month and have no improvement. He could stop wearing the helmet today and next week, go through a big growth spurt that would cause his head to adjust 2-3 mm in a single week… if only we hadn’t stopped. Or anything in between. There is no way of knowing.

We’re giving it one last shot. He’ll keep wearing his helmet until mid-June with his final checkup on June 22nd. Once we’re into June, he probably won’t wear his helmet to daycare on the super hot days because I’m worried about him overheating while playing outside. But he’ll still wear it at home and overnight on those days. And then slowly, we’ll phase those times out too.

I’m at peace with this decision. Other than the overheating problem (which is more my worry than his) he doesn’t mind his helmet at all.  The other day, he was trying to put it back on twenty minutes after I took it off.   Another 5 weeks will fly by as quickly as these last 5 did.  He’ll have had the helmet for five months by the time we go to our last appointment. We did what we could do and we won’t have to look back and go “If only we’d tried that helmet, maybe his head shape would be better!” No guilt, no worries, we did all we could.

Here’s to a summer filled with wispy blonde hair blowing in the wind, clothing that fits without concerns about fitting over a helmet, and ballcaps on an adorable little boy with a slightly-misshaped head. These days are on their way!

One Year Ago – Little Peapod


Helmet Update #5

So yesterday was our monthly appointment with Dr. Gary.

The news was kind of the same as last month. Barely any growth. It’s been 10 weeks and we’ve barely gotten anywhere. :o( We did a new scan (the first one since we started) and his head has went from 9.3  mm off to 7.9 mm (0-3 is normal). That tiny little change? Devastates me.

Don’t get me wrong, his head LOOKS better to us, but it’s probably a combination of a: he’s got a lot more hair and b: I only see his head an hour a day, so it’s so nice to see something other than a helmet!

We’re pushing on. Our next appointment is in 5 weeks. If he has a huge growth spurt, we could see a huge change. We started this journey out with a goal of reducing his offage in half (down to a 4.7) and while I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore, we have the helmet, we’ve paid the insane cost, and we want every single millimeter of progress we can get. I’m not very hopeful, but we owe it to him and ourselves to see this through and not throw in the towel now.

Plea from me to you

I keep reading all these great stories about these 6 month olds who are seeing 2 mm change in TWO WEEKS and here we are, 10 weeks and not even a 1.5 mm change. This is why it’s SO important to not listen to doctors when they say “Oh, they’ll grow out of it”  The chance of that happening is very minimal.  No, instead, the head basically stops growing. The BEST age to “fix” your baby’s head is between 4-6 months.  Their head grows EVERY SINGLE DAY and all that new growth? Goes into the flat spot. The average turn around time for a little baby in a helmet is 6-12 weeks. We’re talking from a 14 mm difference to a 4 mm difference in a mere 2-3 months.

So please, folks, if you’re thinking that your baby’s head shape isn’t right passed the 3 month mark and your ped keeps saying “Oh, it will fix itself” please seek a second opinion. Cranial Technologies and other places that specialize in this stuff will do the scan FOR FREE and won’t pressure you into going one route or another. It’s WORTH getting it checked out NOW if it’s something you’re concerned about.

Plagiocephaly is NOT just a cosmetic thing – the flattening in the head can lead to issues with TMJ and migraines as well as more obvious things like helmets and glasses not fitting correctly and a childhood full of teasing.There are currently ongoing studies that are seeing links to severe cases of plagio and developmental delays. We’re not doing this to “make him pretty” – we’re doing this for his health.

/soapbox

This definitely hasn’t been the easiest thing. I hate having to plan his outfits on what has a wide enough neck to fit over the helmet for outfit changes at daycare. Mason now runs when he sees the helmet coming. He’s at the age where he fights us as we’re trying to put it on his head. I hate that he can’t wear any of his cute winter clothes because he gets too hot. But, once it’s on, he doesn’t care at all. He loves gently bumping it against things and he gets the hugest smile when the other kids at daycare poke at it. It’s prevented endless bumps and bruises as he’s learned to pull up and cruise. And truthfully, for every second I spend hating this helmet with every ounce of my being, I spend an hour not even noticing it’s there.

We’re doing this for him. We’re going to look back and be so glad that we did what we could, even if we don’t get the end results we originally hoped for. At least we won’t be left with what ifs. At least we’ll know we did what we could.

And sometimes? That just has to be good enough.

One Year Ago – Joe’s 8th Birthday

My Little Grower

On Tuesday Mason had his 1 year check-up and unlike his last scheduled check-up, she declared him to be right on target with his milestones and development, so that was nice! He weighs in at 20 lbs 8 ounces and 29.5 inches long, so he’s still a little peanut. (Totally evidenced by the fact that I got stopped three times at the store last weekend with exclamations of  “Oh my gosh, LOOK at all those TEETH!” and then when they found out how old he was, followed up with “Oh, nevermind, I guess that isn’t that many teeth, I thought he was a lot younger…” Nice, huh?)

I realized some time around 2 am that the pediatrician’s happiness with his growth is all because they weighted him with his (7 ounce) helmet – his chart has him down as 20 lbs 15 oz, so his huge growth spurt didn’t really exist. With the helmet on, he’s at 25% on the growth curve, which means he’s probably under 20% in actuality, but that’s okay! He’s eating three solids meals a day (80% table food), breastfeeding twice a day, and having three breastmilk bottles a day, so as long as he’s growing some, I think we’re doing fine. Granted, I’m already dreading the 15 month appointment when he magically “loses” that 7 ounces and she’s concerned about his “regression” but we’ll deal with it then.

The biggest change in our world right now is that he’s transitioning into the one year old room at daycare. This is way harder FOR ME than I thought it would be. He’s been in the same room for 10 months and had the same teachers for a good 6 months, so to be in a totally different room with teachers I don’t know and kids I don’t know feels like I’m leaving him for the first time all over again! He’s the only kid in the room who isn’t walking and I believe he’s also the youngest by 3 months. He looks like a tiny thing next to all of those big kids – two of which will be turning two soon!

The biggest changes in the one year old room are going from naps in cribs to naps on nap mats and having a morning and afternoon nap in the nursery to having one nap a day that starts at 11:30. We’ve definitely been struggling with this at home – he’s absolutely exhausted beyond belief by 6 pm and is all tears and tantrums. In the nursery, he would often wake up from a nap around 4 pm, so now to be awake from 1:00 til bedtime is rough. They say he’ll adjust, but the selfish part of me doesn’t want him to (yet) – I enjoy the three plus hours a day of nap time and I don’t look forward to having to move Mason’s bedtime earlier, which is what I’m guessing is going to happen.

He’s also not allowed to use a Nuk except for nap time (which is fine, that’s all we do at home) and they want him off the bottle ASAP. We were preparing for that change but didn’t realize that they don’t use sippy cups – they go right from bottles to small drinking glasses. I’m sure it will work eventually, but I have visions of breastmilk dumped everywhere, so that kind of bugs me. Right now they’re working with him to drink water from the cup at meal times and are letting him use the bottle for his milk, but I don’t know how long that will last. He’s got another good 2 months of frozen breastmilk to get through and I really don’t want to feel pressured to not use it, ya know?

In other news, this afternoon we make the trek down to the helmet doctor to hopefully get a head scan, see what sort of progress he’s made, and maybe possibly (but I’m not holding my breath) get some idea how much longer Mason will be in his helmet. So if you could keep your fingers crossed for us, that would be great – I’d really really love to be able see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Have a great Thursday everyone!

One Year Ago – 1st Walk

One Year of Breastfeeding!

So judging by the load time on this site, if I did another picture post today, people’s computers were going to start self destructing! SO let’s take a break from the adorable-ness and talk about boobs. This turned into a novel, so don’t feel you have to read it all – I wrote it more for me to remember this crazy journey than for you to suffer through. I’ve never had the gift of brevity!

Lilypie Breastfeeding tickers

On Mason’s birthday, we celebrated one year of breastfeeding and on Sunday, one year of exclusive breast feeding! For those who didn’t play Truth and Lies with us, the hospital gave Mason formula while he was out of my care because my breast milk wasn’t “good enough” for his jaundice. But that’s a post for another day. I’m not anti-formula, but being told I was a failure as a brand new mom was a rough way to start this whole process!

Anyway, back to this special anniversary celebration! It’s been a long long 12 months and we’ve fought many battles. The first several weeks were awful. I’m so glad that I had went to a breastfeeding class where they straight out said that it would hurt and it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows and that was totally NORMAL. Yes, if the latch is proper, the actual act of breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but engorgement and the rawness caused by a tiny being stuck on your previously un-abused boob 20 hours a day definitely is an adjustment!  Due to his jaundice, we were under strict instructions to wake him every two hours AROUND THE CLOCK and feed him. This led to one very tired momma!  We were suppose to keep this up for 6 weeks, but quit long before then. If little man wanted to sleep 4-5 hours, SO DID I!!  Every day I repeated in my head “We have to make it six weeks, we have to make it six weeks!” and that seemed forever away!

When Mason was in the hospital, he stayed under the bilirubin lights 20+ hours a day, so I became very familiar with the hospital pump and pumping. Mason also became familiar with a bottle (which we hadn’t planned on introducing until 4 weeks) which ended up being great because SuperDad was able to start taking over some of the middle of the night feedings after a while. Becoming familiar with the pump was also a great way to establish my milk supply. By the time I went back to work full time after 8 weeks, I already had a good month supply of milk in the freezer!

Unfortunately, early on Mason showed a definite preference for breastfeeding on one side. No matter what we did, he didn’t seem to latch well or eat well on the other side. Not wanting to dry up or become lopsided, we soon established a routine of me feeding him on one side and then pumping the other. My one boob soon made enough milk to feed him without having to bottle feed the expressed milk and my freezer stash grew and grew, but having to spend double the time dealing with milk every time he was hungry was not my ideal world by any means. In hindsight, giving up fairly quickly and always having him feed on one side probably contributed to his tort (tight neck muscle) which played a big part on the flat spot on his head that led to him being in a helmet today. *sigh*

When we made the 6 week milestone, I silently celebrated and set my sights on three months, which seemed so very far away.  I had read over and over that “something clicks around 6 weeks and it becomes easy” and I just hadn’t had that experience. I was filled with resentment nearly every time I had to feed him and still having issues with pain and rawness. But I’d set my mind and heart on it and I was going to do it.

Going back to work full time meant two pumping sessions at work every day. I pumped once at 10:30 and once at 2:30, trying to mimic his feeding schedule at daycare and space them out enough that I could still get my morning work done and take a lunch break without feeling too guilty. Lucky for me, despite working with ALL men, pumping at work was great. No one batted an eye about the 40 minutes a day that I spent in a closed up office, everyone was happy to cover for me, and “Going to the parlor” jokes were laughed at by all.

By the time we hit the three month mark, things were going a little bit better, but I set my sights on the 6 month mark. By the time that 6 months rolled around, we’d finally settled into a groove. I was still pumping on one side AND getting up between 3 and 4 am to pump (it was my most “profitable” pumping of the day and I didn’t want to give it up!) even though Mason was sleeping. But finally, breastfeeding and pumping didn’t feel like torture. I wasn’t feeling totally tied down and any sort of associated pain was a distant memory. Mason dropping the after school feeding (and me the after school pumping) really seemed to help. I set my sights on one year and stopped counting the days. I was still pumping before I went to work in the morning, twice a day at work, right after I fed Mason at night, right before I went to bed, and once in the middle of the night.

In November, I took a trip to visit friends in Michigan. I had mailed my pump there, but it got stuck at the post office due to Veteran’s Day. That was definitely an experience not to be repeated – let me just say that there is a REASON some breast pumps cost $70 and others cost $280. Having to find time to pump with no baby around while I really wanted to be out having fun with my friends was a bummer, but we managed! I don’t think they expected to have a casserole pan full of bags of breastmilk in their refrigerator, but they were good sports! On the trip home, I transported 175 oz of breastmilk in a lunch bag and spent half the flight thinking that my soggy dripping bag was a serious breastmilk leak (but didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself and my bag of liquid gold while crammed on a tiny airplane). Fortunately, it turned out that the frozen bags of milk were just shedding moisture as they unthawed. Whew!

When Mason was around 8 months, I decided I was really sick of pumping as part of my morning routine and tried again to see if he would latch on to the pariah boob and he did! Within a few days, I was able to stop pumping that side in the morning before work and during his bedtime feed since he was eating so well. That added an extra 15 minutes to my day (and my sleep!) which was awesome. I also started cutting out my middle of the night pumping since I had enough milk in the freezer by this point to last until he turned 1.

In early December, I caught pneumonia and was nearly hospitalized. While I fought to breathe, my body decided to start focusing on making me better and stop focusing on making milk. My supply nearly entirely dried up and I was absolutely crushed. So, I became a crazy person and started pumping 8 times a day again, attempted drinking mother’s milk tea (made me gag), eating oatmeal (hated it) popped 9 fenugreek a day, and ate lots and lots of booby cookies (cookies made with lots of flaxseed, brewers yeast, and oatmeal, all supply increasers) and after about two weeks of living and breathing nothing but “Must increase my supply” it was finally back to where it was before I got sick. I wrote about this time here and here.

Once my supply was definitely back for good, I cut out my middle of the night pumping AGAIN and started sleeping through the night. In January, I started skipping a pumping session at work and in February, I started skipping both pumping sessions at work. By early March, I was down to  just breastfeeding the first thing in the morning and the last thing before he went to bed. My supply has dropped A LOT and Mason now gets freezer stash breastmilk during the day on weekends instead of me breastfeeding. At first I was sad about this, but then I realized that being able to hand him off to SuperDad or a Grandma and do whatever I wanted without having to feel the need to be home or available at a certain time is awesome.

While I plan on breastfeeding as long as Mason wants to, once the freezer supply of milk is gone, he’ll be switching to whole milk in the day. At night, he’s feeding for 5 minutes or so instead of 10-15, so I’m guessing that either he’s losing interest or my supply is waning more than I thought. Part of me wants to drag out the pump and start popping fenugreek and keep going but part of me is whispering “It’s time… let it go….” I made it a year, I made every goal I set for myself and for us. I’m so proud that I managed to sustain ANOTHER HUMAN BEING off of my body alone for 6 months and be 90% of his nutrition for 6 months after that. So I keep telling myself that if we stop tomorrow or if we stop 4 months from now, it’s fine. Because? It is fine. Actually, no… it’s great!

Happy One Year Breastfeeding, Little Man!!

One Year Ago Today