Maternal Separation Anxiety

I haven’t posted in about three weeks. I’ve been going through some non-mama related things that have kept me unmotivated and blocked my creative thought process. I haven’t been able to think of anything worth sharing. But with Christmas come and past, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the thought of leaving my bebe with someone else. As we head into month 7 I’m starting to think about what my life is going to look like when my maternity leave is officially over. And it’s freaking me out. I know all mamas go through this and everything turns out fine. There are some hiccups as everyone adjusts, I’m sure, but everyone does adjust, eventually. I’m with my baby pretty much 24/7. Non-stop. I hear every whimper, every scream. I change almost every single diaper, I feed him almost every single meal. I’m the only one that sleeps with him. I’m the one that cuddles him the most. I’m the one that plays with him the most. We have our own secret little language that helps us communicate with each other all day long. I’m really struggling with the thought of putting him in daycare so that I can return to work.

But I’m also struggling with the day-to-day possibilities of leaving him with someone other than me. Like his father, or his grandmothers. It’s not that I don’t trust these individuals. They love him beyond measure. I just don’t want to do it. I have, but it really hurts. I feel guilty, I worry, I want to check in every 20 minutes to know what he’s doing, how he’s feeling. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t trust them and be offended, but the truth is I don’t trust them. Not because I think they will neglect him or do him any harm, I just can’t trust anyone else to protect him, soothe him, play with him, like I do. And this drives me nuts! I want so badly to have an hour to myself, but when I do get it, I immediately change my mind about leaving him and have to re-convince myself that everything will be ok. This happens even when I’m upstairs and he’s downstairs with his daddy or grandmother! Isn’t that silly? I sometimes feel a lot of internal and external pressure to leave him, to allow him to bond with other individuals and to take opportunities for self-care. I know these are healthy and necessary things, but I just can’t prioritize them in my brain.

You’ve heard of separation anxiety, but this is usually used to refer to the feelings experienced by the child. Well, it turns out that mamas can experience this too and it’s called Maternal Separation Anxiety: when a mother experiences feelings of worry, sadness, or guilt while separated from her child. Many mothers experience this in the first few months and years of post-partum. However, if left unchecked it can cause significant emotional and physical challenges for the mother and the child including anxiety attacks and unhealthy attachment and development issues.  If you do a google search for this term, you’ll likely only come up with scholarly articles, as I did. These delve into scientific theories and observations, as well as animal studies, about how separation from a child affects the mother. These studies are so important, but they do little to help a mother understand what is happening. A lot of people are quick to dismiss the feelings that a mother has when she is separated from her child as hormonal or something that she can handle, bus as one article abstract adds: “it is the couple that becomes separated and not just the child.” While the child is clearly immediately stressed, they often go on to play with toys or friends and feel a sense of joy and distraction from the absence of their mother. The mother on the other hand, perhaps because she has a higher level of mental maturity and awareness about what has happened, often continues to feel stressed, worried and guilty throughout the entire time that she is separated from her child.

Is separation from your child necessary – yes. They need to independently grow and have their own experiences. They are eventually going to go to school and you can’t go with them. But how does a mama get used to this? Often they are just left to tough it out on their own, day in and day out. I haven’t experienced this yet, but I’ve been told that it is really difficult to return to work. That many mamas are never able to return to their pre-baby efficiency or capacity because there is way to many other things going on in their lives and in their brains. I think this makes sense and i’d love to see how this is addressed in the workforce here in Canada. More to come on that as I explore this in the coming months!

So what am I going to do? For now, not a whole lot. He’s still a baby and I’m still a new mama, learning all about what motherhood is. I’m going to start by focusing my attention on my needs as a new mother and less on what “society” or others might react to how I am currently feeling. He’s my baby and it’s my right and my role to be overprotective of him and want to be with him all the time. I will focus on accepting my feelings and working through them first. In partnership with my husband, we will need to make some lifestyle choices and make decisions about child care. I’m going to try to start dropping him off at one of his grandma’s for an hour to two while I go to the gym or attend an appointment. Then, when he’s about a year old or so, I’ll start playing with the idea of having him sleep over at grandma’s house. What a feat that would be! As he grows more independent and more confident in his own abilities, I’m sure I will begin to relax, knowing that he will be able to advocate (protest, most likely) for his wants and needs and that others will be able to adequately respond.

Product Review: Mon Petit Coulou Winter Cover

Winter is coming! But the cold weather is already here and our little ones are shivering! How to keep them warm when we venture outside…

The Petit Coulou winter cover is AMAZING! I discovered the company at the Toronto Baby Time Show back in 2017, when I was expecting Tiago. I was only 1 month pregnant, but we were already super excited about our bundle of joy. It was super cold outside already and I knew that keeping him warm was going to be a priority for me. As we ventured from booth to booth we came across the cutest winter car seat covers. Learning that the company was started by a grandmama from Montreal and made for Canadian winters was all I needed to be convinced of its quality…

Bebé T all snuggled and zipped up in his Petit Coulou!

What is the product?: The Winter Petit Coulou is an insulated car seat cover designed to keep baby warm without the need for a snowsuit. Just dress them as normal, secure them into the car seat and zip up the cover. Presto! All warm. 
There is also an extra insulation pad that you can insert into the car seat to add a little extra warmth. The cover is stretchy around the bottom, so it will fit all types of car seats. 

Why do I like it?: I love the Petit Coulou because it absolutely keeps Tiago warm, while allowing him to be free to move around inside if he wishes. It also blocks out the harsh winter wind and snow that might otherwise blow in his face with a snowsuit, as well as creating a cozy, dark cocoon where he can fall asleep while we’re driving. In fact, this is probably what I like about it the most – as soon as I get him in there, pop his pacifier in his mouth and zip it up, he’s out cold! I imagine that it reminds him of being in the womb. It’s his favourite place.

Because I know Tiago loves to be warm and snuggly, I have added in a jolly jumper car seat insert. This allows me to not have even the slightest worry about his little toes getting cold (because I don’t use shoes) and I often forgo a jacket and mittens. But this really isn’t necessary and just to make sure he doesn’t overheat when we’re in the car I unzip the Coulou and pull out the jolly jumper cover. This also allows the Coulou to open a bit so I can see him in my rearview mirror.

I love peaking at his little face through the opening and we always play peek-a-boo through the zipper before we’re off on our adventure of the day!

Are there any disadvantages?: When adding extra layers, like I do, be cognizant of how warm your baby is and make the appropriate adjustments so they don’t overheat. I choose to unzip and pull out the extra layer when we are in the car and if he’s fallen asleep when we arrive, I unzip everything so he doesn’t get too sweaty while he’s sleeping. 

Where can this product be purchased?: I purchased mine at the Toronto Baby Time Show, but you can purchase yours directly from their online store at: www.petitcoulou.com. They also have a larger variety of mid-season and summer covers for strollers and car seats too!

Product Review: Freemie Breast pump Shells

Pumping is hard and time-consuming. As an exclusive pumper, I have looked for just about every hack and convenience there is. My dream would be to own the Willow Pump, but unfortunately, it is not available outside of the USA and comes with a MAJOR and cost prohibitive price tag. Second to that is the Freemie Liberty pump which also allows you to be mobile and on-the-go while pumping, but similarly it is not available for shipment to Canada. I’m not sure why this is the case and I hope it changes. But fear not, NUK is here to save you. NUK has partnered with Freemie to offer their cups and attachments outside of the USA.

What is the product?: The Freemie breast pump shells, by NUK, are designed to work with your existing breast pump to allow you to pump hands-free. It is a convenient way to allow pumping mothers to be a little bit more productive and mobile throughout their day.

How does the product work?: You simply insert the cups into your bra and then insert your nipples into the cups. Following that, you insert the tubing into the cups and then attach the tubing that comes with it to the tubing from your own pump. Turn your pump on and it works just the same. This product is compatible with the following pumps: Medela (Pump In Style Advanced, Symphony, Lactina), NUK and Hygeia. Each cup holds about 8oz of milk. 

Why do I like this product?: This product has truly been a life changer for me and if you’re an exclusive pumper, I would highly recommend adding it to your ensemble of gear. I have the Medela pump in style advanced in a backpack, so I can just attach the cups, put the backpack on and go. Some of the things that I’ve done include driving, cooking, washing dishes, entertaining guests and remaining social while at somebody else’s house.

I would say that the strength of the pump is diminished only slightly; where I usually take 30 to 45 minutes per pump I take 45 to 60 minutes when I use the freemie cups to get the same amount. This is not entirely inconvenient for me because most of the time I’m doing something else anyway. It’s just so much more convenient than having to go into a different room or put off the project I’m doing. It’s also as quiet as your pump is so if you have a pretty quiet pump then and there’s no additional noise that comes out. 

Are there any notable disadvantages?:  The only disadvantage with these cups is that if you are not standing or sitting perfectly up right there is the chance that milk will spill out or flow back into the to the tubes and that could potentially get into your pump. They are also quite large and double your chest size- it’s obvious that you have something in your shirt, but if you just wear an oversized sweater you should be fine. 

Where can this product be purchased?: You can purchase this product through Amazon via my affiliate link HERE. It’s also reduced in price since I purchased it and is an affordable $60.95 CAD with Prime.

I’m adding Formula to the mix

Just as soon as I typed the last word in the last sentence of last week’s post, about my 1200ml supply, I felt my supply start to dip. Is it a coincidence? Overconfidence? Did I jinx it? The next pump was just not the same, and then the next and the next. Each time I was getting less than I was used to. Not tremendously less, I still get enough for a whole bottle, but there wasn’t that little bit extra. Regardless, I’m still in a good place. As I remove from my freezer stash I’m still adding in every other night. Is this the beginning of the end? I can’t help but feel a little bit of relief… and guilt. But most importantly, relief.

Don’t get me wrong. I love feeding my baby with my body and I have prioritized that over every single other thing for the last six months, but I’m tired and I don’t like my body anymore. I know many mothers go through this feeling, of looking at themselves in wonder at how they let “this”happen to themselves.. the flabby skin, the saggy boobs, the dry hair and the large dark circles around their eyes. I haven’t lost any weight since bebe T was born and I’m actually starting to put some more on.  “Your body is a powerhouse”; “you’ve just made a human, a miracle”; “you’re beautiful, Mama”; “love the skin you’re in.” I get it, I got it. I love that there are women out there who are truly happy with themselves and confident with their post-partum bodies. I think it’s beautiful and I wish I felt this way. But I don’t. I’ve tried really hard and did a good job of it for the last six months to live by those words, to think that my body can wait. But I’m also human. I’m also a twenty-first-century woman. I’m also surrounded by the fit and beautiful, I used to count myself among them. I just want to feel a little bit like that again and I’ve felt like I couldn’t get to that while I was pumping. I couldn’t jeopardize my supply by prioritizing my “self”.So is my body telling me its time? Is it naturally trying to wean itself? I don’t know, but it’s brought me that sense of relief, that maybe I’m not choosing my body, but my body is choosing me instead. We shall see.

I’m not stopping, but I will start the long process of weaning myself off pumping. I expect this to take a few months still as I’m not a tremendous rush to end my supply. My first priority is reducing my nighttime pumps down to one instead of two so that I can get in more sleep and longer stretches of it. My pumping routine is now, 8AM, 12PM, 3PM, 6PM, 10PM, 3AM. In a few weeks, I’ll try to move it to 3AM pump to 4AM and continue until my body can handle no overnight pumping. Hopefully that will work, although I’m nervous because thatMOTN pump was always my largest.  I will also start to take a closer look at what I’m eating. I haven’t thought twice about what I have been eating, or how much. I haven’t been eating take-out every night or munching on pizza pops or anything. It’s been healthy, but I can probably scale it back a bit, cut some of the less healthy things out and start to see some results. I’m also really looking forward to going back to the gym. I thought that I would be able to do some things at home, but I just find other things to do that are taking priority and my leaky boob is my worst nightmare.

For now, and in consultation with my pediatrician, I’m going to start slowly adding formula to bebe T’s daily nutrient intake. He is still always asking for food every two hours and often asks for more, so hopefully with this addition, plus the solid foods we have been adding, he will be satiated little more and I will have the comfort of knowing that he is getting all the nutrients and bulk that he needs, while still getting my breastmilk.  I have a few bottles of ready-made Enfamil, which we purchased in the summer for our travels that I will use up first and start utilizing at night so he’s not waiting too long on a warming bottle. After that, I brought back some formula from our trip to Portugal that I will use andI’ve ordered one of the best formulas on the international market – Holle Cow’s Milk OrganicFormula.  

If you haven’t looked into it, European formula is quickly growing to be a preferred substitute for north American formula because of the stricter regulations around infant formula ingredients within the EU. The brand I chose, specifically, is Demeter Certified, which means that the benefits of the formula production go beyond the ingredient list. Not only is the formula adherent to EU guidelines, but it’s organic, GMO-free and the milk ingredients are taken from cows that have been raised on a sustainable, organic, pesticide-free farm and in humane conditions. These are all things that I have been passionate about for a long time and, honestly, was a huge part of my anxiety to add a formula in the first place.  It is more expensive to do it this way, but with a little extra penny-pinching in other places on my end, I am doing what I feel to be the best option within my means for my child and for myself.