When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned...

We were grabbing doughnuts a few weeks ago when another mom struck up a conversation with me.  "How is it with two?" she asked "Because life with one is hard enough."  She seemed to be tired and stressed, to say the least.  Turns out, she had a 10-week old baby girl and the biggest of her struggles - breastfeeding.  Specifically, her low milk supply.  When I told her I had the exact same issue {with both of my kids}, I could see a huge sense of relief come over her face.  I'm pretty sure she wanted to reach out and hug me.  She felt such pressure by society to continue breastfeeding, yet that was becoming increasingly difficult because of her low supply.  On top of that, she hadn't known any friends to have the same problem, so she felt alone.  And it was very obvious.

Looking back to when Brantley was a newborn, I was in the same boat.  Sure, I had friends that had breastfed, friends that had expressed how truly difficult it was, and friends that had quit just a few weeks in, but I don't think I knew anyone personally that had a low milk supply.  (Or, at least, at the time and for no apparent reason.  I have since learned of others.)  This poor girl was practically begging me to tell her that formula-feeding her baby was a fine alternative.  And you know what?  It is.  In eighteen years, your child will not not be accepted to college due to lack of breastmilk.  And in thirty years?  No one's going to refuse to marry your son or daughter or deny him a job because he wasn't breastfed as a baby.  My husband didn't get one drop of breastmilk, yet he's one of the smartest and healthiest men I know.  And my first born?  Only breastfed for a few weeks, followed by a few more of pumped milk in a bottle.  I know he's only two, but he's a smart, compassionate, strong, independent, healthy, energetic, and inquisitive little boy. He's always met the developmental benchmarks, and even hit some before they were "expected".

Sure, we all want breastfeeding to work, and there are definite benefits, but life doesn't always go as planned.  If there's one thing I've learned about motherhood it's that everyone has their struggles.  Some women struggle with getting pregnant, others struggle while pregnancy, others have horrible labor and deliveries, yet others have colicky babies, or babies who don't sleep a wink for months.  I'm lucky in that I've had great experiences with all of the above...except for breastfeeding.  And if I'm being completely honest, at first I thought it was my fault.  I assumed it was something I was doing wrong to cause my low supply.  I tried pumping, I tried increasing my water intake, I tried supplements.  Though those options may have helped slightly, the plain and simple answer is that I had (have) a low supply.  You know, I actually despise the phrase "Breast is best" because it seems to belittle those of us who are physically unable breastfeed exclusively.  What about mothers who adopt?  It's sad to me that they are made to feel that they are doing the "second best" because they don't have that option.  It may be the best option for some mothers, but in my heart, I know it's not the best for all.

After Holden was born, I struggled with the idea of breastfeeding and pumping.  I was nervous, anxious, and exhausted.  Mainly because it hadn't gone well with Brantley.  And by "hadn't gone well", I simply mean he wasn't gaining weight.  He seemed to have a great latch and had the sucking down.  As did Holden.  When we learned Holden wasn't gaining either, I was ready to throw in the towel.  I was beyond frustrated and felt like a failure of a mom.  (You'd think it'd be easier the second time through, but nope!)  I could have easily given up at that point had the hubs not encouraged me to keep trying.  And since a baby #3 is in our future plans, I want to reflect on my experience.  After all, I'm almost 15 weeks in and we're still giving our baby breastmilk.  Granted, he's also getting a decent amount of formula, as well, but I am a-okay with that.

So this post is mainly a post to my future self.  My nervous, anxious, and exhausted future self who is mother to a newborn baby #3 (if that's in God's plans, I should note).  If it helps or encourages someone else out there, awesome.  I feel like there are a lot of blogs written in support of exclusive breastfeeding.  And though that's great, I would have loved to have come across a blog written by someone with problems similar to what I experienced.  Someone who had a few tricks of the trade up their sleeve to encouraged breastfeeding, but also someone who completely and fully supported supplementing with formula.  It would have been nice to not feel so alone.

First, a few notes about my experience with breastfeeding:

It hurts like hell.  It was a good two months (or more!) before it finally stopped hurting for me.  Sure, the first few weeks were the most painful (just plain excruciating), but it continued to hurt for some time.  Know that it will get better...and stock up on lanolin and Soothies to use in the meantime.

You won't necessarily feel that let-down feeling.  I never did.  Nor did my boobs ever hurt or feel full.  I can count on one hand the number of times they leaked, and it's been no where near enough leakage to require nursing pads.  None of the above are any indication that you can or can't breastfeed.  Which is what I always assumed.

Don't be afraid to breastfeed immediately after pumping.  Again, I just assumed that since I had just pumped, my boobs were empty.  However, after a little research, I learned this wasn't necessarily the case.  The baby's sucking can stimulate another letdown.  And it seemed to be true.  Whenever I fed Holden immediately after pumping, the little babe was as content as could be.

Don't stop feeding from the boob.  Even if you decide to pump and give baby a bottle six out of the seven feedings per day, breastfeed at least once.  This will ensure he doesn't forget how, and in the case that he's super fussy or you don't have a bottle on hand, you can resort to breastfeeding.  This was the biggest difference between Holden and Brantley.  I breastfed Brantley for about three weeks.  From that point on, I pumped and gave him bottles.  With Holden, I breastfed (followed by a bottle) during each feeding up until about ten weeks.  At ten weeks, we started traveling a lot, so a bottle it was.  To this day, I still breastfeed him each morning when he awakes.

Find a support system.  Though I would get frustrated with my husband for not giving me the okay to quit, looking back, I'm appreciative that he didn't.  I also stumbled across this blog series - The Breastfeeding Diaries.  Though many of those women breastfed exclusively for a full year or more and very few had issues with a low supply, the stories are inspirational and a good reminder that many moms struggle with breastfeeding in one form or another.

Notes about pumping:

Turn the pump to its max.  Sometimes it hurts (try maximizing gradually), but I am shocked at the increase in volume I get on max vs. medium.

It can be a pain in the booty to have to sit hooked up to a machine for fifteen minutes.  Find something to distract you during that time.  I often used that time to catch up on social media or compose blog posts.  I also became addicted to (and finally beat) the game 2048.  Because this was sometimes the only time I could sit and relax, I came to look forward to those fifteen minutes of "down time".  And make sure to buy a hands-free pumping bra so that you actually have the hands to do the things that distract you!  Another tip--if you're not leaving home, just pull the bandeau-like bra down around your waste and you can save some time and energy putting it on each time.  (Just don't forget to take it off when you go to the pool like I did!)

Don't freak out when your supply fluctuates.  Mine dropped drastically about a month in, but it quickly came back.  To this day, it still fluctuates quite a bit.  On average, I get about five ounces per session, but have gotten as little as one ounce and as much as eight.  Likewise, don't freak out when the ratio of breastmilk to formula decreases.  As your baby grows, he or she will need more to eat.  For me, that means more formula and less breastmilk.  It is what it is.  Try to remind yourself that each bottle of breastmilk is one fewer bottle of formula (and a penny saved).

Don't compare yourself to others.  It can be hard not to.  Especially when exclusive-breastfeeders brag about it constantly.  Remember, EVERYONE STRUGGLES with some aspect of motherhood.  You're doing the best you can.

You don't have to pump overnight.  Lactation specialists will probably tell you otherwise, and I'm sure I could increase my supply by doing so, but when my baby sleeps through the night at one month old, there's no way in hell I'm going to set my alarm just to pump!

Don't allow pumping to run your life.  I've had to remind myself of this on more than one occasion.  If it's "time" to pump, but you're unable, push it back an hour.  Life will go on and one missed/late pumping session won't deplete your supply.  Once my routine was established, I pumped a max of four times per day (morning, noonish, 5ish, and before going to bed), but I was always okay if our day only allowed for three sessions. (Note: When I first started pumping, I did so after every feeding, which was 6 to 7 times per day.  I only did that for about a week.)

As if washing bottles isn't bad enough, pumping every few hours means you have to wash pump parts, too.  I kept mine in a plastic Ziploc in the refrigerator between sessions so the leftover drops of milk wouldn't spoil, and only washed (and sterilized) parts once per day.  Lazy?  Maybe.  But when you have two kids, you don't have time to wash parts all the time.  Besides, when your boobs and/or nipples hurt, the cold parts feel rather nice against your skin. :)

And finally some notes that apply to both breastfeeding and pumping, in general:

Drink lots of water.  This was an issue for me because I just don't drink that much, period.  I carried around my hospital cup everywhere and had to consciously force myself to drink water.  I aimed for three to four hospital sized-cups per day (84 to 112 ounces total).  I always made sure to sit down with a full cup when I started feeding and/or pumping and sipped the entire time.

Eat lots, including protein.  Eating is one of my most favorite things to do, so naturally I loved having an excuse to eat.  Five cookies?  An extra large piece of cake?  Ice cream every few nights?  Ummm...yes! :)  I also ate a Fiber One Protein Bar almost every day.  Fiber bars were part of my daily pregnancy diet, so I just switched from my regulars to the ones with protein. 

Drink a beer, or two.  The brewer's yeast in beer is said to increase milk supply.  In fact, that's one of the key ingredients in the lactation cookies you can buy.  As for pump and dump - I've not once done that.  I read that if you're sober enough to drive, there's no reason to throw out your breastmilk.  And since that stuff is liquid gold, I took that advice to heart.  I limit myself to two beers, but have no shame in drinking (and enjoying) those two.

And while you're at it, make some cookies!  I mentioned lactation cookies above, and though you could find a recipe for such, I suggest something more yummy.  Just make sure the cookies have oatmeal.  It's said to increase milk supply.  (I can't say as if it did for me, but it was still an excuse to chow down on sweets!)

Try Fenugreek.  It's an herbal supplement that is said to increase milk supply.  I tried it with Brantley and didn't notice a difference.  However, I tried a different brand (Nature's Way) with Holden and may have noticed an ever-so slight increase--not overnight though, that's for sure!  I took two capsules three times per day, and it was probably a good week or so before it "kicked in".

If you're supplementing anyway, use formula to your advantage.  Use it when you're out and about so you don't have to worry about bottled breastmilk going bad.  Use it in public so you don't have to feed from the boob and make others/yourself uncomfortable.  Use it overnight so you can have the unmixed powder and water waiting in the little one's nursery.  Use it before bed.  It's said to be more filling and can help your baby sleep longer.  And my most favorite thing about using formula is that anyone can feed the baby.  You are not solely in charge, which was always a great feeling for me.

And remember, sometimes you have to put your happiness and health above everything else, including a breastfed baby.  If you are miserable, stressed out, exhausted, and in pain, your baby will sense that and things will likely be downhill from there.  If you're pumping and only getting an ounce, ask yourself if it's really worth your time?  For me, it wasn't (with Brantley) so that's why I quit.

Breastmilk isn't the end all, be all.  It's 2014.  Science is amazing.  Formula is just as nutritious.  Your baby will be fine.  Smart, healthy, and best of all, full.  Speaking from experience, you will have no less of a bond with your baby because he or she was formula fed.

With that being said, I've got just over a week before I return to work.  Though I had full intentions of being done with breastmilk by that time, I'm contemplating the idea of continuing to pump.  On one hand, I say absolutely not.  It would mean waking up even earlier than I already have to, and trying to find a place to pump and store my milk at school sounds like an absolute pain in booty.  Not to mention, I have all new preps this year and will be busier as a teacher than ever before.  I don't want to waste my valuable time pumping.  On the other hand, I would only have to pump once at school per day.  And miraculously, I was blessed with third block plan (the block around lunchtime), so I could make it work.  And the amount of money we could save is very tempting.  Not to mention, it's kind of addicting.  Now that I'm this far, part of me wonders how long I can actually go.  It's like a game for me, seeing how much breastmilk I can get per day and figuring the ratio of breastmilk to formula.  (Math geek, I know!)  I know in the end, I'll be okay, and happy, with whichever path I choose. 

My advice to others (and my future self) - do what feels right.  Breast doesn't necessarily have to be best.  Let's stop bragging about it, let's stop judging others, and instead let's remember that Mother is the one that knows "best".

Toddler Talk: Brantley Said What?

It drives my husband crazy when people quote their children on Facebook.  And half the time, it's not even that funny.  So I promised him never to do such, but that doesn't mean I can't document his little sayings on here. :)

Brantley is at such a fun stage right now.  He repeats everything we say.  Everything!  And puts together words to make sentences.  It's truly amazing how quickly they catch on to language.  It's also funny how they interpret things and the ways in which they put together their words.  Perhaps the most fun part about having a 2-year old!

I'll admit, some of these won't appear to be funny.  In fact, some of them aren't funny, but phrases he mutters, nonetheless.  And I want to document for the sake of remembering all the little things that make our 2-year-old Brantley, Brantley.

Brantley at 24 Months:

Mama, look!  
(But it sounds more like, Mama, duck!)

I broke ick.

Help please.

Beer please.

I tooted.

{When we're looking at something on our phones or after we take a picture of him}
I wanna see!

{After each meal}
Mah-yi-be excused? 

{Whenever he hands us something, usually a ball to pitch to him}
Thank you, Mama.

{Whenever he climbs into the chair while I'm holding Holden, or whenever I'm carrying around both of them}
Mama two babies.

I need Kleenex.
(What two-year old asks for Kleenex?)

{Whenever we hold up our phones to take a picture of him}

{Whenever I am done pumping}
Boobies done!!

Us: Brantley, do you know where we're going?
Brantley: Baseball game!!!

Me: Brantley, what color is Holden's hair?
B: Blue!!!!  

Me: Brantley, what's your name?
B: Carter Siiiiiiiides!!!

{Whenever we change his diaper and he has a bad diaper rash.  Which is more often than not.}
Butttttt hurts.  OR  Booooty hurts.  OR  Butttttt, buttttt, buttttt!

{When we ask him to identify himself in a picture}

Gooooooo (insert favorite team - Royals, Hawkeyes, Jayhawks, Chiefs)

{Daddy's Fave}

Rock Chalk Jayhawk 

The Lake This Year

Instead of spending a full week with my family at the Lake {of the Ozarks}, we spent just five days this year.  Saturday until Wednesday.  With Craig's new job and a couple of other upcoming trips, we didn't want to spend all our money or vacation days in one spot.  Turns out, five days was about near perfect. 

It was slightly harder this year, with an additional kid.  First of all, we realized that a mini van is inevitable.  Even with our Highlander and an overhead carrier, we were stuffed to the brim.  I'm not sure how or where a third child would fit...hence, the minivan. 

Once there, our family of four shared one bedroom (luckily, the largest of the three).  But that was still difficult seeing that we all went to bed at different times, Holden awoke around 6:30 each morning to eat, and Brantley was in a strange, new bed (a full) all by himself.  (Though usually I'd hop in with him as quick as a whip the moment he started to stir in an attempt to keep him sleeping longer.)  We made it work (and had a great view!), but let's just say I was more than happy to return home where the four of us are split between three separate bedrooms. :)

As for what we did each day - the same as every other year.  My dad fishes, the guys play tennis, we take turns making dinner, time at the park, cards/games each night, and lots of pool time.

Brantley got in some quality time with his cousin, Kellen, and it seemed the two loved playing together more than ever before.

On Tuesday, Craig and I went into Osage Beach for a little outlet shopping.  While we were shopping, I checked the temp and it was a whopping 66 degrees!  Unseasonably cool, definitely the coolest it's been since we started going in 1997.  Needless to say, I was cold.  Craig thought it was amazing.

Funny story--while we were shopping, Brantley found one of those size markers that go around the wire part of the hanger.  Well, to him it was a soccer ball.  He freaked out every time he thought he lost his "soccer ball".  Which was approximately every two minutes.  What was funny at first got annoying really fast.

On Tuesday night, we went to dinner at our annual spot - Paradise.  Dinner this year was just okay, but we did manage to get the best family of four picture to date.

Other lake highlights this year include feeding the ducks (and fish), catching lightning bugs, a little mama time at the pool, a family swing in the hammock, and playing "basketball" with a walnut found on the ground.

Thanks for a fun time.  Until next time, Lake!

Two Under Two

It's been two and a half weeks since Brantley turned the big T-W-O, which means I can no longer use the excuse of having "two under two".  I had planned to do a blog post before his big day to reflect on my experience, but time got the best of me and I didn't get to it.  So, here I am.  Two and a half weeks later.  Finally sitting down to blog about the two and a half months of having two under two

I'm not going to lie.  Having two kids under the age of two can be a real challenge.  Some days, I couldn't get my cup of coffee (or five) quick enough.  Others, I would change four poopy diapers (no joke, my kids poop a lot) before finally making my way to the Keurig.  Mornings were rough.  Holden needed to eat (breastfeed, then a bottle, which took extra time), Brantley needed breakfast, both needed diaper and clothes changes, I needed to brush my teeth, wash my face, and put in my contacts (at the very least), I wanted breakfast, and I needed to pump.  I would often try to wash and prepare bottles before bed so mornings were a little smoother.  But they were still hectic.  Mondays were rough, as well.  They were quite a kick in the face after having help from the hubs for the two days prior.  Not to mention, they were grocery store and laundry days.  Tuesdays and Thursdays were my saving grace.  Those were the days Brantley went to daycare.  It's funny - on Mondays and Wednesdays, I couldn't wait for the next day.  But come Tuesday and/or Thursday, I missed the big kid and couldn't wait to have him back home.

On one hand, I enjoyed running my errands when I didn't have Brantley.  It was one less kid to get in and out of the car.  One less kid to worry about in public.  On the other hand, I didn't want to waste all that time I had without Brantley on things I could do when I did have him.  I loved using Tuesdays and Thursdays to snap monthly photos of Holden, take care of household business, compose blog posts, and catch up on the blogs I follow--things that are harder to do with Brantley around.  Having errands to run with Brantley also got us out of the house and was a good way to waste time while we waited for Daddy to come home.

However, trying to leave the house was always a challenge.  It took a good fifteen minutes of rounding up everything we needed.  And usually in that fifteen minutes, I'd have to put Brantley's shoes back on a minimum of two times.  Only to find a barefoot kid once we arrived at our destination.  From our house to Target (the whole five blocks) - barefoot.  Target to the post office - barefoot.  Post office back home - barefoot.  Every.single.time. Drives me absolutely crazy.  That kid cannot leave a pair of shoes on to save his life.  Is it a huge deal?  No.  But when I already have a purse and a diaper bag and a kid in an infant carrier and it's 90 degrees outside, the last thing I want to do is spend an extra 30 seconds putting shoes back on.

I was lucky in that Brantley could at least climb into his carseat alone.  I would open the car door for him to climb in, go put Holden in the car, and come back to buckle Brantley in.  Props to those moms that have two under two where the oldest is even less independent than Brantley.  Oh man, I don't know how you do it!

As if having two under two wasn't enough, Murphy's Law proved its existence more than once.

Like the time...

Brantley got car sick and threw up while I was driving 70 mph down 69 highway.  Needless to say, we didn't make it to our coffee date with friends or the Farmer's Market.

Or the time...

Exactly one week later when we made it to coffee, only to have Brantley puke again.  At our table.  With no forewarning.  My sweet friends cleaned it up while I cleaned Brantley in the bathroom.  (Chalked it up to car sickness again.)

Or the time...

We were in a hurry to leave the house for some reason.  I made a quick, 30-second trip upstairs to get one last thing and didn't shut the baby gate.  Of course, Brantley had to follow me and proceeded to fall down the bottom three or four stairs.  Thank goodness he was okay.  Scared and shaking (both of us), but okay.

Or the time...

I was washing bottles and had the cabinet door under the sink open.  Brantley grabbed the bottle of Windex and gave it a nice spray.

Or the time...

I was pumping and had limited mobility.  Brantley started putting clean diapers in the Diaper Genie full of smelly, disgusting diapers.

Or the time...

Brantley told me he ate dog poop.  No joke.  That's what he said.  Though we were inside and it couldn't have been true.  Dog food - maybe.  Dog poop - no.

Or the time...

I was pushing the mini van of shopping carts at Target (the bigger ones with the additional seats for kids) and ran smack into one of the big red balls outside.  Oops.

Or the time...

I went onto our deck to grab something and Brantley locked me out. (Technically this was after he turned two.)  Try explaining to a two-year-old through a sliding glass door how to unlock said door.  I finally gave up and went around to our garage.

Funny memories indeed.  I'm sure there are more.  These are just the ones I started noting in my phone for a future {this} blog post. :)

I think it goes without saying that caring for two youngsters can be wearing on anyone.  I consider myself lucky in that I have a great-sleeper and overall fairly happy baby.  And a pretty good two-year-old for that matter.  And quite honestly, it's probably been easier than I expected.  (Remember how terrified I was?)  But, it's no walk in the park.

I've definitely lost my patience once or twice.  And wanted to yell.  Or cry.  Or both.  Usually when one kid is whaling loudly and the other is sleeping.  Or when Brantley messes with Holden while he is sleeping.  Or when they both need my immediate attention.  Which happens more often than not.

I would always try to ensure that both napped at the same time.  Because let's be honest, naptime = mama time.  But much to my dismay, Brantley would finally fall asleep (after fighting it and crying long enough to make me feel like losing my mind), and then Holden would want nothing but to be held for the entire two hours that Brantley napped.

I've learned that babies cry.  Toddlers cry.  And often, they cry at the same time.  But you know what?  A crying kid never hurt anyone.  When you have two under two, you have to do the best you can and if that means a screaming kid while you tend to the other, so be it.

I look forward to the day when Brantley is more independent than he is now.  When he can dress himself and feed himself and when doesn't need diaper changes.  And better yet, I really look forward to the day when the two boys can play together.  Oh, how much easier life will be.  But then, we'll have new challenges.  And quite possibly, another kid. 

For now, I'm going to appreciate my life with these two young kiddos.  The two and a half months that I had two under two, and now.  (Because let's be honest, nothing really changed once Brantley turned two.) 

Because truth be told, this is exactly what I wanted.  Two kids close in age.  And for that, I am incredibly blessed.  It's a challenge for sure, but so worth every minute.  And I wouldn't change it for the world.  Frustrations, exhaustion, and all. 

Holden Beckett: 3 Months Old!

Holy three months already!!  Where in the world is the time going, and how are you already 1/4 of a year old??  I feel like we are definitely beyond the newborn stage, and if I remember correctly with Brantley, three months is when it started to get really fun!  However, this milestone is definitely bittersweet for me, as well.  This is the month I go back to work.  In fact, I only have three more weeks of summer break, then it's back to the real world.  Even though I had five additional weeks, this summer flew by faster than ever before.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to find the strength and courage to leave you during the days.  But I did it once {with Brantley}, and I can surely do it again.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though.  I'm definitely going to savor in these moments during my last three carefree weeks with you and your big brother.  Speaking of, have I mentioned how much he loves you?  I'm convinced he's the best big brother there is.  Lucky guy, you are, to have such a sweet, caring, and lovable brother!  He constantly gives you hugs and kisses (though his hugs are more like body surfing on you...sorry about that) and whenever you're crying, he makes it his mission to find your pacifier.  He checks on you constantly and often asks "Where Baby Holden?"  To Brantley, I think you might always be "Baby" Holden, so I hope you are okay with that. :) 

You are still a good baby - better than average, for sure.  However, in recent days, you've gone through periods of crying when all you want is to be held.  It can be frustrating when I'm trying to get things done, but a good reminder that you don't stay little for long, and an hour of holding you won't harm anything.  You are also very smiley.  Like very smiley.  And big smiles, too.  As big as your whole face!  Your brother was always so serious, so it's fun to have a baby that smiles at us nearly every time we look at you.

In other news, we've discovered that you sweat like crazy.  Your entire back is often drenched after laying in your carseat and/or Rock 'n Play.  Consequently, you haven't been loving your carseat, yet you still tend to fall asleep en route places, thank goodness. This month also brought chunky, little, baby thighs. For about 10 or 11 weeks, you had skinny, little, chicken thighs. And then all of a sudden, overnight it seemed, the rolls appeared! So darn cute!!

I can't believe we're only a month away from starting rice cereal.  We're also inching closer to you rolling, laughing, crawling, and all that fun stuff.  I am so excited and giddy just thinking about what's to come.  Needless to say, it's been a fantastic three months.  I cannot imagine our lives without you and can't wait to see what the next month brings!

Love ya, Little Stinks!

3-Month Update:

Size - I haven't made it to the Mommy & Me Boutique in over two weeks, so I would purely be guessing.  You last weight check on July 3 was 11 pounds 5 ounces, so I'm guessing you're between 12 and 12.5 pounds.

Words - You "coo" and "talk" quite frequently.

Activity - A little bit of tummy time each day and some time in your Bumbo, as well as under your play gym.  You're usually very content and just take in all of your surroundings.

Food - We're up to at least 4 ounces at each feeding, and sometimes as many as 6.  Still 6 to 7 times per day.  You're not on a strict schedule, as it all depends on what time you awake each morning.  We've pretty much switched from breast to bottle feeding.  The only time I breastfeed is during your first feeding each morning and to soothe you when you're really fussy.  I'm still pumping milk regularly, and though it seems like you're getting smaller amounts of breastmilk, I don't think you truly are; we're just giving you more formula since you're eating more.

Sleep - Still sleeping soundly through the night (about eight hours).  Naps are still off and on throughout the day and not on any kind of schedule.

Bedtime/Waketime - Bedtime is after your last feeding, which is anywhere between 9 and 10.  Waketime is usually between 6:30 and 7:00.

Hair - Still dark brown.

Eyes - Bright blue

Teeth - None

Wardrobe - You have grown out of most of your newborn clothes and are in mostly 0-3 month stuff.

Diapers - Size 1

Likes - Being patted on the booty, your paci (mainly when you're fussy or to fall asleep), the Sitter Seal white noise app, movement (the car, the swing, the stroller), arms out of your swaddle, Mommy's ponytail, being talked to, being held. 

Dislikes - Being hungry, tired, or needing a diaper change.  Also, the hiccups and being hot/sweating.

Mommy's Fave - I still love your smiles, especially the ones directed at us.

(Despite you smiling all the time, I could not get a smile in these pictures to save my life!  I was jumping {while standing on a stool}, making silly noises, dancing, yelling, everything I could...but nada.  Little stinker.)


Four amazing, incredible, fun, happy, exciting, and blissful years. 

That I wouldn't change for the world.

We don't do anniversary gifts, but we don't need to. 

Because you've given me two of the most beautiful, precious little gifts in the whole wide world.

Can't wait to celebrate tonight!  Happy anniversary, love!

Brantley Carter: 2 Years Old!

And just like that, these updates are measuring in years instead of months!  Yesterday marked 24 months since your day of birth.  Two years, TWO YEARS!  I cannot even believe it's been that long since you came into this world.  Two Januaries, two Februaries, two Christmases, two Halloweens, two winters, two springs, two.of.everything.  Best two years of our lives, that is for sure!

My favorite age in kiddos has always been one to three years old and we're smack dab in the middle of that.  One was fun, two is even better!  We have conversations nowActual conversations.  And even when you don't know how or what to respond, I feel that you comprehend what I'm saying, no doubt about it.  Your vocabulary is increasing even more rapidly than it was three months ago.  It's crazy and fun, at all the same time.  We tell you something once, and it sticks.  We sing a song once, and you'll sing a line back to us three days later.  You continue to amaze us and make us very proud.

You also continue to make us laugh.  On a daily, if not hourly, basis.  You are very good at imitating what you see.  For instance, you were sitting on your potty chair a few days ago when you asked for a Kleenex.  I gave you one and you proceeded to wipe yourself.  Oh my gosh, I about died.  You also pretended to clip my fingernails about a month ago and followed the exact same motions as when I clip yours: clip, tear, and toss the nail to the side.  And once you realized I was laughing at your actions, you purposely continued while eying me to ensure I was still watching and laughing.  And then there was the breast pumping incident.  Funny kid, you are, just like your dad!

Speaking of your potty chair, you've become very interested.  We decided to hold off on potty training until this fall or winter.  Not because we don't think you'd get it now, but we'd prefer to wait until it's cold outside and there's nothing better to do.  We don't want you to be distracted by the outdoors and know we have to commit a good three days to doing pretty much nothing except running you to the bathroom.  Not to mention, there's no way I can attempt potty training while also breastfeeding and pumping for your little brother.  However, you did pee in your potty chair for the first time last week and, boy, were you proud!

Your absolute favorite thing to do is play sports.  It doesn't matter which kind.  For awhile, you did nothing but shoot hoops.  And then we started watching baseball every night.  And now, any stick-like object you find becomes your bat and you constantly want us to pitch to you.  Forget t-ball, you're going straight for the moving target.  And then we started watching the World Cup.  And, of course, you became obsessed with kicking your soccer ball.  And you're pretty good (very coordinated), I might add!  Your latest obsession is your tennis racket.  Daddy even caught you sleeping with it last week.  I know a sports-loving son is your daddy's dream-come-true and he would love nothing more than for you to continue your sports-loving ways.  But at the same time, if you realize you like something else better, that is fine, too.  We will support whatever makes you happy, kid!

A few more notes about your 2-year-old self:
  • You've started to hang on everything.  I think we're going to enroll you in a gymnastics class this fall.
  • You love the pool and have become really brave just in the last few weeks - jumping in, floating from your back to belly and vice versa (with your Puddle Jumper, obviously), going under water, etc.
  • You still drool a lot.  We are so over it.  You think it's hilarious when I say "Stop droooooling" and have figured out how to drool on purpose.
  • You're still all boy.  If we're outside and you're not playing with a ball, I can almost guarantee you have a stick in your hand.  Your legs have been covered with bruises, scrapes, and bug bites for a solid two months.
  • Speaking of, you're very tough.  You fall down, or bump into something, and we're certain you're going to be hurt, but you often just say "Ow" and go about your business.
  • You have an obsession with school buses.  You spotted one on I70 from our seats in the upper deck at the Royal's game a few weeks ago.  True story.
  • You also love cars, trucks (the garbage truck especially), choo choo trains, and blocks.
  • One of your most uses phrases is "I tooted."  Your other is "I did it!"
  • You looooove baseball.  You whine about wanting to watch Royal's games on t.v.  Your favorite players: Alex Gordon, Mike Goose Moose, and Billy Butler (in a singing voice, followed by clap clap, clap clap clap).
  • You still love to read, and often beg to read "one more book" before bedtime each night.
  • You also love your Papas.  Whenever we Facetime with one of your Grandmas, you ask for Papa instead.
  • You're still a Daddy's Boy, but you have become more attached to your mommy after being home with her this summer.
  • You're still very polite.  According to Gramma & Papa Fritz, you're one of the most polite kids they've ever known.  I would agree. 
  • You can count to 14 unassisted.  And 10 in Spanish.
  • You know the colors blue, green, red, orange, purple, yellow, pink, brown, black, white, and gray.
  • You are impatient, can be demanding, and have a temper.  Which means these next couple of years will be tons of fun. :)
  • Three months ago, we were certain you were a lefty.  Now we're not sure.
  • You try to dress and undress yourself.  It's so cute watching you attempt this!
  • You take your shoes off every.single.time we go somewhere in the car.  It used to be funny.  Now it's beyond annoying.
  • Gone are the days of you staying in your big boy bed when you awake.  You climb out and play, and have even opened your door and come down the hall into our bedroom.  We often have to tell you to get back into bed when it should be naptime.
  • You demand drinking "cold water."
  • You are the BEST big brother.  You are constantly giving hugs and kisses to Baby Holden and take him his paci whenever he's crying.  You are smitten with him and that love you have for him is more than I ever imagined possible.

Height: 34.5 inches (54th percentile)
Weight: 26 pounds 2 ounces (27th percentile)
Head Circumference: 48.5 centimeters (46th percentile)
BMI: 15.5 (19th percentile)

Food: You seem to be becoming a little more adventurous in the food department.  You actually tried (and have eaten) a turkey sandwich.  Fruit is still your absolute favorite, however, and your faves include berries and bananas.  Other staples in your diet include: hot dogs, chicken nuggets, Easy Mac, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, GoGurt, fruit snacks, veggie straws, goldfish, applesauce pouches, and pancakes & waffles (for breakfast).  Oh, and donuts.  You love "no-nuts". 

Sleep: About 11 hours each night, with a 2ish-hour afternoon nap each day.  You're still pretty good about laying down and falling asleep with little to no fuss, though you have fought us more in recent weeks and we sometimes listen to you cry for a good (and long) 45 minutes before you fall asleep.  I'm blaming it on the fact that our bedtime routine isn't so routine during these summer nights.

Bedtime/Waketime: Well, seeing that it's summer, your bedtime has become very lax.  It's been as early as 8:30 and as late as 11.  It's just too hard to keep a consistent 8:00 bedtime when it's not dark outside and we're outside doing things.  Consequently, your typical waketime is all over the place, as well.  As early at 6:30am, and as late as 9am.

Hair: Blond.  I think it's even blonder from being out in the sun so much.

Eyes: Blueish-gray.

Teeth: 16-18??

Wardrobe: 24 month/2T shirts, 18-24 month/2T shorts and pants, and size 5 shoes.

Diapers: Size 4

Mommy's Fave: Definitely the conversations we have.  It's so fun to talk to you, have you comprehend what I'm saying, and respond!

Brantley, these past two years have been such a pleasure and an amazing journey.  You gave us quite a few scares in the beginning, but it's been smooth sailing ever since.  I can not (nor want to) imagine life without you.  Happy second birthday to my ornery, polite, hilarious, tough, sweet, and special first born little guy.  I love you!

Xoxo, Your Mommy