Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Extended Breastfeeding

As I was typing the title of this post, I almost wanted to just title it Breastfeeding, without the "Extended" because the length of time that a mother chooses to breast feed should not be measured. Whether it's 1 day, 3 months, or 7 years, it's just breast feeding and perfectly normal. I sound so confident and empowered right? Well, I wasn't and have struggled with the idea that Eleanor may honestly be 3 or 4 years old before she ever even begins to show signs of weaning. I believe in science and nature and trusting your instinct, but I've recently allowed my purest and most trusted maternal instinct to be questioned because of what other people will think or say. I've reached out to wonderful group of mothers who have allowed me to once again feel confident about my decision to continue to nurse my daughter for as long as we both choose to do so. But it's frustrating knowing that I lacked the confidence.

Eleanor is two years old now. When she was born I was so afraid that she wouldn't be able to breast feed that I avoided giving her a bottle or a pacifier, completely oblivious to the fact that bottle refusal was even a thing. Lo and behold, once I finally tried to reluctantly introduce a bottle, she refused it. Maybe she sensed my initial reluctance. Who knows! But everyone who knows the struggle we went through will tell you that she NEVER liked a bottle. We tried a gambit of strategies including having my mother in law come over for a couple of hours five days a week to try to give Eleanor a bottle while I left the house, but NOPE, nothing worked. So, she strictly nursed on demand until she started solids. Every now and then, once she got the hang of a sippy cup, she would drink a few ounces of breast milk from a cup, but more often than not if she wasn't nursing she wasn't getting breast milk. If you're familiar with my little blog here, than you know that we also bed share. Yep, Ellie, Jesse, Eleanor, Lilly, Baxter, and sometimes Joe. It's crowded but it works for us.

 So basically, this is my life..

7:30am: I wake up to Eleanor attached to one of my breasts.
7:45am: She wakes up happy as a clam.
7:45-8:30pm: have breakfast, get showered and dressed (this gets tricky if Eleanor is cranky because she wants to nurse for comfort to which I happily oblige), head to daycare
3:30pm: Pick Eleanor up from daycare and head home
4:00pm: We get home and Eleanor immediately wants to nurse for comfort and to reconnect after her day
4-8pm: hang out, play, exercise, nurse, supper, nurse, play, watch tv, nurse
8:30pm: bath time then nurse to sleep.

If we're out in public and she gets tired, cranky, feels like we need to reconnect then she asks to nurse. If we're together all day, she nurses even more often just out of boredom or comfort. So basically, I love being home so that I don't have to worry about about being exposed, because my breasts are constantly being beckoned to do their duty, and that is to nourish and comfort by tiny human! Why oh why do I let this realization escape me sometimes?!! I know! Because for so many other people, it's not the norm. In our society and in this fast-paced world, it's hard to slow down and make the time for it. It's not easy to be needed so much when you're being pulled in a million directions. Women today are amazing! Well, women always have been amazing, but today women travel for work, run multi-billion dollar businesses, etc. etc. etc. and a person can only do so much. So that's why I FULLY understand that breastfeeding beyond a certain point or at all is just not feasible for everyone. But I have to stop letting that make ME  feel uncomfortable about choosing to breastfeed Eleanor for as long as we both want to. (at this point, she'll be looking at wedding dresses attached to my boobs) kidding.. i hope! 😂

I recently felt that I just needed some reassurance. One of the questions that was hard for me to ask the other moms that I went to for support was "Well, what do your husbands think?" I don't like to pry but I am always so curious. I always wonder how much of an impact spousal support makes. Jesse has been so very supportive and I mean really, it's hard to argue with me because my latin determination is pretty hard to argue with. haha But so often I feel the need to know how other people successfully stave off weaning until their child says they're ready. So far, the one or two amazing mamas that have breastfed the longest have mentioned that their husbands find it totally normal and are super supportive of them charging forward for as long as they feel necessary. That shit totally rocks my world and makes me so proud of those husbands, and of my own. Support and feeling like what you're doing is right is crucial to having a healthy experience. If you don't have it, find it! Amazing support is everywhere and you deserve it.

Reading over this, it's hard for me to swallow the fact that I let my confidence take a hit. I'm a very strong willed and determined woman. Just ask anyone. I hate feeling like I let myself down. The feeling of failure or not meeting my own expectations doesn't sit will with me. So, even though I always knew in my heart that I wasn't going to let other people's perceptions of what I was doing affect me, I couldn't help but feel like I was judged or really that maybe, just maybe, I was doing something wrong! Yikes! However, I am doing a great job, and anyone else who is choosing to nourish their child's body and emotional health by breastfeeding even if they are 4 years old .. you should know that I think you're amazing!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Eleanor is now 14 months old, and growing up so incredibly fast right before our eyes. She's discovering her independence and explores her physical and mental limits everyday. She's starting to say a few words and is such an inquisitive little human. She's a very happy kid, but at first glance you'd never know haha because she very much feels out a situation and surroundings, carefully examining everyone around her, before she can feel comfortable. Kids are amazing, and Eleanor proves to me that children understand and take in so much more than what a lot of people give them credit for. She's already starting to learn about her emotions and her actions as responses to her feelings. We noticed her "fussing" our dog Baxter verrrrry similarly to the way her dear mother fusses him. So, Jesse and I have been really watching how we act around her and in general really. 

I also realized that I have to start thinking a lot about the legacy that I want to leave for my daughter in terms of my character but more specifically my lifestyle. I spend so much of my kid-free time (probably when I should be working) day to day on Instagram, online window shopping, reading fashion and lifestyle blogs, thinking about what we're going to eat, blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong, these are all things that are extremely significant in their own ways because I'm a firm believer in beauty even in the tiniest and seemingly insignificant things, but I feel like I can do more! I mean, clearly! So many of us can, really. 

Just today, researching the this year's presidential election made me realize how much of an impact I have the potential to make. I'm registered as an independent so I didn't get to vote in the LA primary election and I got super frustrated because I feel like if I had registered Democrat or Republican a long time ago I would've been able to take advantage of my privilege to vote for a candidate which I'm very recently (like 4 hours ago, I know I know, how irresponsible) pretty passionate about. Not overly passionate I suppose, since I won't divulge which candidate that is. Anyway, this is not a prompt to start talking politics or whether it was a good or bad decision to register the way I did. But, more specifically, this just got me thinking about doing my part, about service, making a difference, and doing more in general (including research on voting rules). haha 

Overall, I'm as happy as a clam. I'm married to the sweetest guy I know, we have the most amazing little girl, we love our pets like crazy, and are blessed with security and love from so many friends and family. So, what more can I ask for, right? 

For me, it's not so much about wanting more, but feeling more fulfilled and knowing that I'm leading a hearty example for Eleanor to follow. I want her to live compassionately and to yearn to help others and to make a difference and to find a way to make it happen. I guess really I want to live that way and I want to share it with her. Voting is so easy. Educating myself on the issues, also super easy. So, there's that. But what else?! Well, I want to dedicate my time to those in need. I want to make a difference in the lives of those who don't have the means to help themselves. I want to stop wasting time thinking about expensive vacations and expensive things for a new house. Instead I want to seek out opportunities to make a difference. I want to share kindness and love and compassion. I want to be less selfish and less lazy and make things happen.

I just watched this video of a young married couple who took a group of friends to Fiji to help build a school and provide daily essentials to a small village. They spent their time connecting and celebrating with the families all while helping to build a school and homes. Can you imagine how they must have felt leaving there? Proud to have served in such an awesome way, sad to imagine that not everyone in this beautiful world has availability to the luxuries (running water, electricity, plumbing, etc.) that we take for granted everyday, grateful for the health to be able to lend a helping hand, and blessed beyond measure knowing that their own daughter will grow up knowing what it is to serve. I could use an extra dose those feelings in my life! Not because I'm not grateful or proud, but to keep me grounded and focused on what really creates happiness.

I'm not by any means degrading the lifestyle I currently live because there's only so much a gal could do in any given day. I have to give myself credit for showering some days if we're being completely honest. But my goal for the next few years is to seek out opportunities for me and my little family to give more of ourselves to those who truly need it! 

all photos by Hanne Denys.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bed Sharing

One of the most difficult aspects of parenthood for me to discuss with others is our methods on everything from feeding to sleeping. I get super self-conscious about what other people will think about our choices. I often have to remind myself that what works best for us will not work for others and that is 100% OK! So, before you keep reading please understand that these are strictly our own experiences and are not recommendations to others by any means. I believe that each family should do what works best for them because every baby is so different. With that being said, I've done a TON of research in order to feel 100% comfortable with our decisions and love sharing what I've learned. It's easier to be patient and compliant to baby's needs if you understand why they behave the way they do. It's also important to know what will and will not have an impact on the way your little one's behaves later on in life despite what well meaning family members or friends tell you over and over and over again. This post is all about how we sleep in the Dufrene household these days.
sound asleep next to mama.

There are so many little things that you really don't truly and fully think about before baby arrives. Sleeping arrangements was one of those things for me. I thought about it, but always imagined that it would be a breeze to put Eleanor down in her crib for naps and at bedtime. Never EVER did I consider the reality of a baby's sleep patterns and more specifically Eleanor's needs when it came to sleeping soundly. 

"hey ma, what's this thing for?"
When Eleanor was born I knew that I wanted to always keep her close, so we knew she'd room-in throughout our stay in the hospital and that we'd have a bassinet for our room at home. However, I was also so stupid giddy about making her nursery feel complete and magical that we also invested in some really great furniture and bedding. Mistake #1 right there. If I could do it again, I'd definitely wait to get nursery furniture after baby makes their arrival.To this day, Eleanor has probably slept a combined total of 12-24 hours in her crib, maybe! Occasional naps are rare but do happen. But alas, lots of money right out the window. It's a good thing her crib converts into a toddler bed because I don't see her sleeping on her own until toddlerhood or beyond. Which is fine with me, because that time will come way sooner than I can even imagine I'm sure.

For the first 3-4 weeks of her life, Eleanor was nursing every 2-3 hours around the clock and would nurse for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours from the time she started. This left very little time for her to be awake but also very little time for her to sleep before she was hungry again. So our days and nights both consisted of short periods of sleep for both she and I. Sometimes she'd stay in her bassinet for around 30 minutes but more often than not only slept longer than that if she was in my arms. 

At first, I felt like something wasn't right and that I was doing it all wrong. But in that same breath it felt so natural for me to hold my sweet babe when she'd doze off. I'd try to put her down and she'd almost immediately wake up crying only to fall right back to sleep as soon as she was in my arms. People so often would tell me that I was spoiling her by holding her or picking her up right away and that she needed to learn to self sooth and sleep on her own. Well, after lots and lots of research I learned that that's simply just not true. Babies, after all, are entering into a brand new world and the only comfort they've known is the warm and secure womb of their mothers. So to be thrown into the noise, the lights, the people, and everything else that surrounds us everyday, it's only natural for many (not all) babies to want to be held and feel secure in the next best thing to what they've known for the first few weeks, months, and even years of their life: Mommy's arms. It makes sense right? So, little by little we would let Eleanor sleep on her own but when we knew she needed a really good nap it would be in someone's arms. And at night, she slept in bed with us. Every night, all night. And it has been amazing. 

I've never been a morning person, and I've always enjoyed my sleep. So, when I realized that Eleanor was quite the opposite I knew that co-sleeping and bed sharing would be the only way I'd be able to function on a daily basis. Waking up multiple times a night to Eleanor crying to be nursed, then nursing half asleep, then trying to get her back down just seemed like too much work for this lazy mama. With her in bed all night, I'd simply let her latch on to nurse and I'd promptly fall back to sleep with Eleanor not too far behind to join me in dream land once again as soon as she got her fill of nighttime milk. By the way, the composition of breast milk changes at night with an increased amount of DHA, tryptophan, and other essential nurtrients leading to brain growth and development. Knowing that also helps me to not become frustrated with night wakings. If it's good for my girl, it's fine with me!

 Jesse, being the overly concerned guy he is, worried that either a) Eleanor would never learn to sleep on her own or b) he would roll over her during the night.  So, I did my research on both concerns and assured him that it would be ok. I also told myself that by 6 months we would work on transitioning her to her crib. That quickly turned to 9 months, and now it's sort of just became an arrangement that we'll stick to indefinitely. I quickly learned that despite popular belief co-sleeping and even bed sharing have both been linked to greater independence as a child grows and that, if done safely, both co-sleeping and bed sharing can potentially reduce the probability of SIDS.

happy baby every single morning.
Basically, studies show that by responding to your baby throughout the night (as well as anytime they cry or seek your attention) you are creating a feeling of trust. That feeling of trust and security and the increased comfort and physical affection that comes with keeping your little one close can actually lead to greater independence. I tend to try to find the logic in things, and this personally makes a bit more sense then encouraging a newborn, infant, or toddler to learn to sooth themselves. I feel that soothing Eleanor is my responsibility, as a her mother, after all. That's not to say that I haven't been tempted by sleep training, (Trust me, I HAVE!) but something in my gut always stops me from even attempting. I know that she won't sleep with us forever and, even if other people disagree, I plan to enjoy the snuggles as long as I can. Besides, I really get so much rest because of the way we sleep. If in 10 years she hasn't stopped nursing throughout the night then we'll know I was so very wrong.   ;  )

When it came to the question of safety, I was always sure to follow a few guidelines. No heavy blankets or pillows. No bed sharing if Jesse or I have had any alcoholic drinks or are extremely tired. Like, out of the norm tired where we would sleep so deeply to the point of unsafe. Finally, the only person who bed shares with Eleanor is me. No one wakes up quite like me to Eleanor's movements. Besides all of that, there's this (I've found similar information from various sources but this was the most concise) :

"Co-sleeping helps your baby rouse himself: New research has shown that in most cases, SIDS is caused by a baby's inability to arouse himself from sleep. Normally, when something occurs that threatens your baby's well being, such as difficulty breathing, he will automatically wake up. For reasons that are still unknown, in some babies, this protective mechanism does not go off, and so these babies are more at risk for SIDS.
This is where the positive aspects of co-sleeping come in. Dr. James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, has conducted numerous studies of mothers and babies who were co-sleeping and night nursing. His group of researchers found that mom and baby share similar patterns of sleep arousals, what we call "nighttime harmony." They drifted in and out of sleep stages in a similar, but not always identical, pattern. Some SIDS researchers believe that this is a factor in baby's protective arousal mechanism. This harmony may also be related to a psychological synchronicity between co-sleeping mothers and their babies: The co-sleeping mom is more likely to subconsciously sense if her baby's health is in danger and wake up.
Researchers also believe that the carbon dioxide you exhale when you sleep close to your baby may help stimulate her breathing. Plus, co-sleeping infants tend to automatically sleep on their back, in order to have easier access to nighttime feedings. Back sleeping has proved to be one of the top risk-reducers for SIDS. Meanwhile, babies who sleep separately from their moms have been shown to experience a decrease in the amount of REM sleep, the state of sleep in which protective arousal is the most likely to occur."

Again, I'm no expert on babies BY ANY MEANS but I'm just really proud that I've trusted myself to do what works really well for us in terms of sleeping when there is so much information pushing the contrary.To this day, I honestly have never had one of those "OMG, my baby didn't sleep at all last night" type of night. Well, except for like the first two weeks. But that doesn't count! 
good morning, sunshine!
I'm the first to admit that I may very well change my tune once baby #2 comes around. But for those of you who struggle with allowing yourself to co-sleep or bed share because of what others tell you or how "dangerous" it is, know that there are those of us out there who are all for it! Your only responsibility is to live fearlessly, to mother your babe fiercely, and trust your mama instinct no matter what.

I'd love to hear what some of you have to say about how sleeping has changed in your life now that you're a parent! 

all my love,


Monday, November 2, 2015

Welcome to Motherhood

The only thing better than a good night's sleep is waking up to a smiling baby after a night of no sleep. 
Sweet morning smiles at 7 weeks

After only 10 months I've learned that motherhood is about sacrifices i.e. very little sleep, about patience, about vulnerability, and about strength that you never knew you could ever possess. I've learned more about myself in the past 10 months than I ever thought possible. Not only as a mother, but as a daughter, friend, and wife.

Our Eleanor Elizabeth was born on December 25, 2014 at 5:22pm weighing 8lbs. 6 oz. and since then she has taught me what life is all about. I planned and organized and set expectations of what life would be like with our babe earth side, despite the countless remarks about how routine goes right out the window once you have a baby, only to realize that everyone was right. No book, no website, no solicited advice could have ever prepared me for what was to come. And while my type A personality yearned for some answers and explanations to why Eleanor didn't sleep more than 45 minutes or why she cried in my arms and no one else's, I know now that sometimes you need to stop looking for answers and trust that the universe will give you the strength to go with your gut and trust your mama instincts.

After 39 hours of labor, this mama couldn't have been happier to be holding her baby girl.

Today I find myself giving tons of unsolicited advice to new mommies about breast feeding, starting solids, bathtime routines, sleeping patterns, etc. all while remembering to end my rants with the ever so popular, "But do what works best for you and your family." There are enough mommy wars these days and judgements flying from every direction that the last thing I want to do is to contribute to the hardship of being a first time mom. However, I don't remember ever being quite so passionate about anything than I am about being a mom, so if you're a new mom and I'm anywhere near you beware of the advice vomit that I'm bound to spew. But trust that I would never be insulted by someone asking me to kindly shut the hell up. 

I can't believe how little she was.

In the coming weeks, I want to share with my readers (reader maybe? hah) some of what I've learned, some of the hardest things we've gone through, and some of the most incredible things that come with becoming a first time parent. I also just want to have a space of my own to come and remind myself of what it was like. A place that I can come and take a look of what we accomplished as a family, and to remind myself just how grand life is!

Nothing sweeter than a napping babe.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A couple, two pups, and a baby on the way

25 days ago I found out I was going to be a mom. Today, Jesse and I will go to the doctor for the first ultrasound. 

Motherhood is something that half the population of the world experiences, yet I can't help but to feel in complete awe, bewilderment, astonishment, happiness beyond boundaries that I'm on the path to experiencing it myself. Right now, I'm nervous, so so nervous. I want to hear that heartbeat so that it can all be confirmed. I'm healthy and have been so incredibly fortunate so far in my life and can't imagine everything not being ok, but still I won't be able to shake the fear until I know that everything's still right on track. 

Being a mother was something I looked up to and admired, but never thought I would want to experience. I always figured that I'd leave that to the ladies that couldn't dream of anything else. Me, well I was content knowing that I could have a career and live a solitary life. 

That all changed when Jesse's love and compassion shook me right to my core. With him I want a marriage, a family, a life of partnership and parenthood. We were engaged last June and talked about having kids as soon as we were married, but I think secretly we knew our impatience could possibly intervene. And that it did. While we weren't actively trying, we found ourselves on a Friday night contemplating whether it could really be possible. Two positive pregnancy tests later, and there we were in complete disbelief. Shock came first, and then joy that could not be measured. 

But, I'd be lying if I said we weren't worried. Still, the fear and worry overwhelms us. Not because we don't feel capable, but because our lives are better than we could ever imagine to the point that it scares us. Could life really be this incredible and giving? Could we really be this fortunate? I need to give more, I need to do more, I need to be more to deserve all the gifts that the universe has laid out for me. Yet, how selfish of me to let self doubt trump the immense joy that I'm feeling. We haven't told anyone but our parents yet, and maybe having to hold in the news is also causing me to hold in my joy. 

Trust that Jesse and I are happy, so insanely happy; so happy that we have names picked, so happy that together we dream of the parents we want to be and of the life we want to provide for our child, so happy that I look in the mirror and cry tears of joy because I know that inside of me a light of love and passion is growing. Still, our nerves and stress and fear are eating us up and they will until 2:10pm today when the sound of our baby's beautiful heartbeat can put all the fears to rest. 

This post was originally written on Tuesday, May 27. Today we're overjoyed, everything's smooth sailing, and we're ready to share the great news!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ditching the Take-Out

My first 10K! 

I've always been the type of person who thoroughly enjoys exercise. Truly, I do. Getting started, well that's always a bit of a mountain to climb but once I get going, I'm telling you I just love it! Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have my bouts of week long laziness(ahem, maybe more than 1 week), but eventually I always get back into some sort of routine. For the past couple of months, dance class two to three times a week suited my need for physical activity. But now that our recital has come and gone, I am beyond excited to be able to get in some mindless but regimented workouts. By mindless, I mean to say that there is no choreography involved. Y'all, dance is one of my biggest passions and a part of me that I hold so dearly in my heart, but ya girl was struggling to keep up this year with all the incredible choreography that my fellow dancers brilliantly came up with. So, I'm relieved that my mind can take it easy, and I can once again challenge my body to gain strength and endurance at my own pace.

Natarajasana at Glacier Point in Yosemite.
Jesse and I vowed to stay committed to exercising regularly and eating healthier. This time we're not giving up! (we're not the only ones who give up after just three weeks right??) And like I said, the exercise segment of this program will be a snap, but eating healthy.. man oh man, I'll be searching for every ounce of willpower inside of me. Oddly enough, Jesse is quite the opposite which means that we'll be able to really push each other to keep going. Every legit article you read mentions eating 5-6 meals a day including 2-3 snacks along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I've got to say, it's a sound method to kick your metabolism into high gear. It seems like after the age of 25, you really have to have a complete and well-rounded food AND exercise plan if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And that's really what our goal is.

I've always been the girl that was never fat but never ever thin. I've got child bearing hips and thighs that could rival tree stumps. Luckily, my mom raised me to always wear my pants above my hips, suck in my belly always, and wear clothes that fit me properly. That's something that I am so grateful for because despite my size and weight, people have always told me that I hold my weight well. That's always been really hard for me to accept though because even if I don't look gigantic it's a real bummer to skip certain aisles or racks in some of my favorite clothing stores and boutiques. (Umm boutiques, why does your large feel like an extra small?) But alas, these days I choose to focus on living a healthier lifestyle instead of losing weight just to fit into a pretty dress. With health as my main focus, a smaller dress or pants size will just be an added bonus. 

Our meals will look a lot more like this nowadays.
Admittedly, the past four years have not been my healthiest. I gained, what I like to call, happy weight. Jesse and I have enjoyed gatherings with our family and friends never forgetting to include libations and delicious sustenance. But starting now, we're hoping to be more balanced. We want to be examples of health and happiness to our children one day and I'm not sure that six packs (of beer) and take out twice (OK thrice) a week is going to get us there. So, here's to a healthier lifestyle. Wish us luck!

from my heart to yours,


P.S. Tomorrow I'll post some of my favorite exercise routines (mostly running and yoga) and healthy recipes!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

under construction ..

Normally, I'm not the type of girl to jump into something without making sure I've got all my little duckies in a row. Except for this one time when I decided I wanted to become a blogger. Am I in over my head? In other words, am I lost? The answer.. a resounding YEP!

I've been doing my fair share of research and, believe it or not, I'm so glad I took the leap and just did it. So far, my little corner here on the line (The Internship reference; gah, I love that movie!) hasn't gotten much love other than from my sweet sister-in-law. (Love you Jen!) BUT, I'm driven, now more than ever, to make this little vision of mine come alive. So, wish me luck! .. And be sure to keep checking in as the design and content will get a tad bit more interesting. 

For now, a sneak peek at our super fun engagement sessions.. Photo by the super talented South Louisiana photographer Mark Eric and his incredible team at Sweet Lovely Weddings

From my heart to yours,

Ellie :  )