Friday, May 30, 2014

Natural Products for the Breasfeeding Mom

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm the resident "hippie" of our little group here :) I like all things natural, organic, and eco-friendly. So it's no surprise that when it comes to products for use while breastfeeding, I get excited about the natural options that are available to women.

Trilight Health makes a wide array of herbal remedies that are great for so many different things. I've used them for everything from assisting my little one with sleep, relieving headaches, and soothing sore throats.

As someone who has suffered from mastitis before, I can tell you that it is not something I'd wish on my worst enemy! It is absolutely brutal. Not only did I experience some extremely intense pain, but I was so exhausted and worn out. I used a number of different remedies, and I only wish I had known about Mastitix from Trilight Health. Users of Mastitix have great success with healing or preventing mastitis. Women only need to take 1/2 teaspoon (up to 150 pounds; those weighing more will need a little bit larger dose) every 2 hours. That's so much easier than the plethora of stuff I was taking to cure my mastitis. If I ever get mastitis again (God forbid!) I will definitely be taking Mastitix!

I've been fortunate enough to not struggle with a low supply, but I know many women are tortured by the fear of not having enough milk. While many times this is an issue that can be remedied by more frequent nursing; the elimination of artificial nipples (pacifiers and bottles); and nursing on demand; there are times when some women just need a little boost. That's where MegaMam can be a great help. (Did you giggle at the name, too?). As with most galactagogues, this is recommended for use under the supervision of a health care practitioner, such as a lactation consultant. Women take 1/2 teaspoon (again, per 150 pounds) for 2-3 times per day. It's that easy! So pills to take or teas to drink. I won't tell anyone if you want to keep making those lactation cookies, though ;)

And last, but certainly not least, we have the always useful Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter. This stuff is amazing! It was so helpful in the early days as we adjusted to breastfeeding, and was a lifesaver when Nora started teething. Now at 15 months, I still make sure I always have a tub on hand. It even does double duty for dry lips on some of those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions when I didn't have lip balm close by.

*Disclosure: If you purchase from Trilight Health through my links above, I may receive free products from Trilight Health for referring you. If you purchase from Amazon through my links, I may receive a small commission.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

You get your milk from where? 3 Myths about milk-sharing

On May 10th I felt lucky to participate in the Best for Babes 1st Nation Wide Milk Walk, to bring awareness to the importance of human milk and milk banks.

Why is this such an important cause? Because there are still a lot of myths and misunderstandings about milk donation.

Myth #1 - It's Weird
Donating or recieving breast milk is no more weird than pouring milk on your morning cereal. Cow milk is for baby cows, human milk is for human babies. It's just that simple.

Myth #2 - It's not safe
There are 2 ways women share milk: either through milk banks or mother to mother. When going through a milk bank there is a screening process to even become a donor, just like there is a screening process for blood banks. I have personally donated mother to mother. I expected the mom I was donating to to ask me questions about my diet. lifestyle, etc. What she told me was "I have seen you give your daughter this milk, that's enough for me." Whatever your comfort level is, there is a safe way to get milk. The argument could also be made that formula can not be safe in certain situations either. There have been numerous recalls, and if not made properly, it can be harmful.

Myth #3 - It's not Important

The WHO recommends that when it comes to feeding an infant it should be

  1. breast milk from the breast
  2. pumped breast milk
  3. donated breast milk
  4. formula

Formula is LAST. Breast milk can not be replicated. There are over 100 ingredients in human milk that are not in formula.

Human Milk Saves Lives. 500 U.S. & Canadian preemie infants die annually, and 5000 more are sickened, from Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC). Feeding these fragile babies human milk has been shown to reduce the risk of NEC by 79%. NEC causes indescribable anguish to babies and parents. - See more at:

At the end of the day, I have felt a special bond with these moms that I have been able to donate my milk to. After the walk, a friend and I decided to get lunch at a local farmers market. We were both still clad with our " I make milk" and "I donate milk" stickers when a woman stopped us and said "Thank you! Because of women like you, my son is alive." Pumping is hard work and I applaud any mother who does so. Pumping for the love of a baby not your own is a gift unlike any other. I can't wait for next year's walk.
My Friend and I half way through the walk

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nipple Shield: Tips and Tricks!

I never knew that a little piece of silicon could rule my life for almost three months, but that's just what happened after my son was born.  Lucas was born with a bubble pallet, posterior tongue tie and a lip tie but was diagnosed a little later (you can find our story here and here) so I had a lot of pain in the beginning and didn't know why.

My lactation consultant decided that I would be a good candidate for a nipple and thus began my three month journey.

I still have our old nipple shields in a plastic bag in L's baby box.  They were a huge part of our lives for the first three months that I just can't bring myself to throw them away.

I hadn't even heard of a nipple shield prior to having my son but I soon learned that some people love them and others think they are horrible for nursing mothers.  The point of this post isn't really to go into that but rather share some important tips and tricks and things you should do if you are using one (under the supervision of an IBCLC if at all possible!).

First, make sure you have the right size nipple shield (yes, there are sizes).  This is where an IBCLC can be really helpful.

Second, if you're using the contact shield (it's got the little dip in it) that should be positioned where your babies nose will end up depending on they type of hold you plan on using.

Third, dunking it in water before putting it on will help it "stick" a little better.

Fourth, cleaning it is important - rinse it in hot water after every use and make sure you sterilize it at least every two days.  Because of this I found having two shields that I alternated between was a huge life saver!

Fifth, if your shield is filled with milk when you're finished feeding that's a good thing.  I doesn't mean your little one isn't eating enough, but rather a sign that you're using the shield correctly, your supply is good and your baby is eating well.

And finally, lets talk about supply.  This is where the controversy usually stems so what are some things you can do to help maintain your supply.  The Medela website (manufacturers of a nipple shield) suggest pumping after every feeding that you use a nipple shield.  Personally, and after talking to several LC's that I'm friends with, I think this is a bit of overkill.   It is important to make sure your breast if being fully drained, both for supply and to avoid clogged ducts and mastitis. 

This is not an exclusive list of things you should keep in mind when using a nipple shield.  And, as always, please remember this is not medical advice and you should always consult an IBCLC for questions in your specific situation.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wires & probes & tubes OH MY! Nursing in the NICU

Nursing in NICU!!!

Becks was induced for labor as a preemie (37 weeks gestation but preemie developmentally). We knew the risks for him but my health was spiraling down & he had started to grow less each week. I had imagined the most beautiful delivery with perfect kangaroo time & immediate nursing. I even told visitors we would need a while together so he could nurse & learn to latch before he saw anyone. That was far from reality for us. 

After 10 hours of labor my little prince joined us in the world but without a cry. This my friends was the most terrifying moment in my lifetime...luckily just a second later he began to make the most pitiful little cry I ever heard but I loved the sound. His dad & I each got just a few minutes to hold him while they cleaned him. The doctors & nurses said he was struggling to catch his breath so to the NICU he went while I went to my own room to rest & heal; of course I required the nurse roll my hospital bed into the NICU so I could see him immediately!

The nurses helped me pump to get my flow going. I got a whopping 2mL ha! But for a first pump I was told it was great. As soon as I was able to stand alone I began my trips downstairs (NICU) (where I spent most of my time the next 6 days!). I am sure the nurses hated me because this is when I began the rules for my little one! YES they are cared for by a doctor but what you say goes so stand up for what you want for your child!

1.) NO BOTTLES, NO NIPPLES etc. If they had to give him my milk for me then it needed to be done with a syringe. I didn't want to ruin the moment of his first latch from the beginning.
2.) NO FORMULA! I would sacrifice sleep, seeing people, peeing, eating etc. to be down there at every feeding for as long as he required me to stay! 

The next morning lactation came to assist us & he did great! It look about 45 minutes to situate the wires & find our comfy spot but we figured it out! Super powerful suck & big latch! Since this moment he has wanted to be attached to mommy 24/7!! This was the second most inspirational moment in my life! Getting him out of the bassinet with all those wires every few hours was exhausting for him, the nurses, and me, but I know getting Mommy milk into him was the best thing to make him stronger!

I decided I was going to be by his side for every moment of his journey & with BF I had to be there every 3 hours. So with a 30 minute to 1 hour feeding time I had about 1.5 hours to take a shower, nap, eat, etc. I asked the nurse to get me a sleeping recliner beside his bed-space & this was my lifesaver! Many times after he would eat we would fall asleep doing kangaroo time together. I was helping him get stronger while also getting a little bit of sleep. This is a must for mothers who want to nurse in NICU! When visitors came to visit I did not let it change our routine... I was shirtless & boobs were at his easy access (mommy gone wild?? hehe). This was priority to me over people holding him although I loved their support & love!

Once I was discharged as a patient there was no way I was leaving my baby at the hospital alone & luckily the hospital let us "rent" a room kind of like a hotel so I could stay there with him. Although I think I only used it as a place to store my stuff & take a shower because my baby needed my boob! But if you can get a room do it; it's so much easier then traveling to your house or a hotel.

After a few days I was exhausted but God's gift of adrenaline kept me going! By day 4 I needed sleep & Dad wanted to feed him so I broke my no bottle rule. I pumped & Dad fed for a few times a day. I don't regret this because that sleep was refreshing and didn't affect his latch at all! Also I realized this day that since you can't have food in NICU I was only eating 1 time a day. DON'T do this as calories are crucial for good fatty milk!

The last night we were there I was able to stay in the NICU mothers sleep in room & have Becks with me. It was great practice for when we went home while still having the nursing staff & his monitors connected for my piece of mind! I was able to lay in the bed to feed him & I didn't even know this type of room existed until the doctor offered it!

Our 6 day breastfeeding in NICU journey was the absolute hardest thing I have ever done but with lots of special requests I was able to make it successfully. If you ever have to have this experience just know you can ask for anything to make nursing easier & most hospitals are very supportive of BF!

Here is what you need in the NICU bed-space:
cell phone/camera
nursing stool
sleeping recliner
zipper jacket to wear in between feedings
someone to talk to
feeding/pee/poop log book

What to request:
  • a room in hospital
  • mothers sleep in room
  • your meds & food be delivered to NICU by your nurse 
  • schedule your personal check-ins with your nurse/doctor at the same time each day so you can be in your room for them  
  •  more diapers (hide them to take home!)

How did your delivery & hospital stay affect your breastfeeding relationship? 
What made it easier for you?
What rules did you have set that you decided to break?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

In Catholicism, May is the month of Mary. This originated in the 13th century then was made more widespread by the Jesuits in the 1700s. It's easy to forget sometimes,
even though this awesome bumper sticker exists, that even one of the most influential people of all time (put on to-do list: Find out if Jesus has actually been on the cover of Time Magazine) would not have thrived if not by nursing from His mother's breast. 

Catholics are prudes. Like they would even talk about, let alone show an image of breastfeeding. 

                                       Right and wrong.

If you've ever been in a Catholic church, you've probably noticed that the focal point of the sanctuary is, in most cases, a crucifix, the tabernacle or a painting of the resurrection. This wasn't always the case. Remember when Pope Francis made the news when he spoke out to mothers on multiple occasions urging them to breastfeed their babies in public if they are hungry in public? It brought to light some reminders that the Madonna, images of the baby Jesus being nursed by His mother used to be the focal point of some Catholic churches. It wasn't until after the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s that the Church started to frown upon nudity and pretty much erased images of Jesus the nursling from churches in Europe.

What. A. Shame.

Around 2008, chatter started buzzing around The Vatican about resurrecting some of these images and putting more of a concentration back on the gift Mary gave us through nursing Jesus and to get rid of the stigma of obscenity surrounding breastfeeding.

Warning: it's about to get very Catholic up in here... 

As a Catholic, breastfeeding mother, this is my reflection throughout the month of May - What a gift Mary gave. What a gift all mothers give. How could our salvation have been won if not for Mary nursing this little child. How could Jesus have made the sacrifice without the sacrifices of his mother? Our mother? 

Til next time, mamas - 

Keep Calm and Nurse On

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mythbusters: 4 Myths About Starting Solids

I have a background in education. One of the things that frustrated me most as a teacher was when I encountered families who had received bad advice from other teachers. This shouldn't be all that surprising though. Teachers today are burdened with unrealistic expectations from administration and the state, not to mention standards that change more rapidly than a growing toddler.

I am not a medical professional, so I don't presume to know better than my pediatrician. However, if  the field of healthcare is anything like teaching, then it's possible that the everyday demands of the job may prevent some doctors from keeping up to date with current research and AAP recommendations. This is why I think it's important for parents to do their research (which is not the same as one Google search) when it comes to making decisions about the health of their child. In this post I'll provide a few links to get you started, but please understand that I am not an expert and there is a lot more information out there!

Click here to use the AAP's interactive infant timeline

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that parents introduce solid foods into their baby's diet when s/he is about 6 months old. On their website they remind parents that "babies who start eating solid food too early are more lilkely to be overweight or obese in childhood and adulthood." They also recommend introducing a variety of tastes and textures and encouraging self-feeding early on.

In spite of the AAP's efforts to communicate these current guidelines, there are a few pervasive myths out there regarding baby's first solid foods.

Myth #1: My baby is hungry and breast milk isn't enough.

Evidence shows: Breast milk contains all nutrients baby needs up until 6 months.
The AAP states time and again that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies up until they are one year old. At around 6 months when baby's iron stores begin to dwindle, introducing solid foods rich in iron is a great way to supplement his nutritional needs. But a baby's need for iron may be impacted by factors like birth weight, gestational age at birth, etc. So if you have a healthy, typical baby who isn't a huge fan of solid foods at 6 months, keep offering those solids, but keep offering the breast as well. It's likely that she will come around when she is ready without her health suffering.

There are some periods of time early in baby's life when he may be going through growth spurts and doing lots of cluster feeding. Frequent feeding is not necessarily a sign that baby isn't getting enough. If you are concerned, see an IBCLC to do a weighed feed (do not rely on pump output to tell you how many ounces baby is consuming!) and ask for advice. This timeline of a breastfed baby has some excellent guidance to help you know what is "normal" as baby grows and develops.

Myth #2: My baby needs solid food to sleep through the night.

Evidence shows: There isn't a link between feeding baby solids and longer stretches of sleep at night.

One study specifically found that rice cereal feedings before bedtime had no discernible impact on infant sleep duration at night. In fact, research has shown that introducing solids too early may make your baby sleep less! Dr. Gold, a pediatrician in Brooklyn, told the New York Times that infant sleep often has less to do with hunger and more to do with learning how to sleep. If you're a haggard mommy zombie who's desperate for some infant sleep guidance, try reading this or this.

Myth #3: My baby can only eat bland purees at 6 months.

Evidence shows: Different babies prefer different kinds of food.

Age-old solids introduction probably looked like a mix of purees and finger foods. Baby-led weaning (BLW) is on the rise today with more parents introducing their baby to solid finger foods before first using purees. Skeptics of BLW are often leery of choking episodes. Whether you choose to do BLW or not, be sure to look up procedures for infant choking. I keep the picture below on my phone, desktop, and have a printout close by for ease of mind. The point is, babies love exploring new foods and textures. It can take  up to 10-15 tries before a baby will accept a new food, so if she refuses, offer again a few days later, and repeat!

Both images courtesy of American Heart Association

Myth #4: Delaying solids can lead to [insert malady here].

Evidence shows: Evidence shows: Delaying solids until at least 6 months benefits mom and baby.  Not all babies are ready to eat solid food at 6 months.

More moms today are realizing that delaying the introduction of solids until at least 6 months has many benefits. What confuses many parents in US black-and-white culture is that guidelines are not intended to be hard and fast rules because every baby is the same, but at the same time marvelously different. We introduced solids to my daughter at 6 months, but she did not really become interested in eating any of them until closer to 10 months. During this time I had moments when I worried, but I tried to remind myself that she was developing at her own pace. Now she is 13 months old and healthy as she's ever been. She attacks broccoli, enchiladas, and blueberries with great gusto and it's rare that she refuses a particular food.

Some are concerned that a baby's delayed interest in solids could lead to speech and fine motor delays. This speech and language pathologist shares her take on BLW and how it has some overlap with an SLP's perspective on feeding.

Like I said before, do some research. If you find some method or philosophy that resonates with you, keep reading! Don't limit your explorations to only reading studies, blogs, and articles that agree with you. As you widen your search and learn about feeding (or parenting in general!) you will learn to differentiate between people who are experts and those who are blowing smoke, and you will ultimately learn to trust yourself.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Income and Breastfeeding

This is a post that I feel needs to be written, but I’m honestly nervous about how it will be received because it is such a sensitive issue, rife with opportunities to offend. Please understand that I have no desire to condescend, only to prompt thought and discussion. I welcome feedback and differing opinions, as well as more sources, information, and personal stories that will help to form a well-rounded picture of this societal concern.
Problem: Breastfeeding has significant health and cognitive benefits for baby, and health and psychological benefits for mothers, but those who might gain the most from these benefits - low-income families - are statistically least likely to breastfeed.

What is needed to successfully breastfeed?

Information: Mothers need to know benefits, how to latch, how to troubleshoot a bad latch, diet and nutrition, breastfeeding economics (supply and demand), newborn behaviors and hunger cues, etc.
Time: A breastfed baby feeds around the clock for at least the first month and often much longer. Establishing a strong nursing relationship and adequate supply may take trial and error. The mother also needs rest to recover from the birth and produce milk. Any other demands on mom's time can impede the relationship.
Support: Studies show that early and ongoing support (especially from other women and/or the mother's partner) is crucial to successful and continued breastfeeding. This can come from family, friends, hospital staff, support groups and organizations, etc. If the woman's social network lacks any supportive or knowledgeable figures with regards to breastfeeding, she is much less likely to attempt or continue with it.

How does income affect these factors?

Living conditions: A low-income mother is likely to live in an area with fewer resources available, like birth/newborn care classes that cover breastfeeding. Even if they are available, she may lack the time or means of transportation to attend.
Photo from this excellent blog post
Hospital: She is likely to give birth at a poorly-funded hospital with fewer resources to promote breastfeeding, such as Lactation Consultants, breast pumps, nipple shields, etc. The hospital may provide formula samples because its lack of funding will incentivize the acceptance of promotional deals with formula companies. While she is of course not obligated to use these samples, in the absence of proper breastfeeding education, she may feel it is easier (and more comfortable) to do so.
Job: A low-income mother may have a part-time job or work at a company with less than 50 employees, neither of which are legally obligated to allow maternity leave. This means she would need to return to work almost immediately to keep her job. Even if she is employed full-time at a large company, the standard 6-week maternity leave often ends before the mother's milk supply has been firmly established, especially if baby has spent any time in the NICU. Likewise, the mother’s employer may not fall under breastfeeding laws which require them to provide the space and time for her to pump, not to mention a place to store the milk.
Marital Status: She may be single or have an absent partner, meaning he would be unable or unwilling to provide her any support. Since the trend appears across several generations, the women in her family are less likely to have breastfed themselves, so they may lack knowledge and experience with breastfeeding, making her likewise unlikely to receive much support for nursing from them.
Equipment: Breast pumps can be expensive, and also require specific care, replacement parts, additional gear like bags and bottles, etc. Their use also tends to have its own learning curve.

What can you do about it?

Personal Support: Support the new, expecting, and experienced mothers in your life, no matter their income level. With sympathy and positivity, offer them your knowledge, encouragement, and friendship. Participate in organizations like La Leche League and Nursing Mothers Counsel, or join an online support group to share your experience with other mothers who may not have access to a local support network. Bake some lactation cookies for your sister, give your friend some soothing gels, and tell your online buddy how getting a lip-tie resolved saved your nursing relationship. And give a big smile to every mother you see nursing in public!
Activism (“Lactivism”): The current legal code discourages mothers, especially low-income mothers, from making the choice and attempt to breastfeed. I will not propose specific political solutions to this problem since we will all undoubtedly have differing views as to what is appropriate, but I will say: get involved.
Learn about maternity leave laws, breastfeeding laws, the effect of the WIC program on breastfeeding rates, lack of lactation management education for doctors, and FDA regulations for infant formulas. Share this information with others, find out where your representative stands on these issues (or if they’re even aware of them), and call or email them to share your opinion. Network with other breastfeeding mothers and advocates, attend events, and always be respectfully open and communicative about your choice and struggle to breastfeed.
Giving and Volunteering: Finished pumping but still have a pump in good working condition? Donate it! Consider giving to programs that support low-income families. If you’re feeling truly generous and are able to give of your time, think about volunteering for shelters and organizations that support new moms who are in tough financial and social circumstances. Breastfeeding is just one aspect of the overall quality of life for a new mother and baby, and changing the culture takes time, but this kind of mother-to-mother care will be invaluable for everyone involved.

The choice to breastfeed should be one that is available to all mothers, regardless of income or social status. For too many women today, not only is it NOT a choice, but it is a near-impossibility. What are your ideas to change this? How have you offered support to others? Are you a “lactivist?” Share your response and experience in the comments, and thanks for reading!

More sources:
If you read only one, it should be this paper
Occupational links to breastfeeding
Risks of Breastfeeding Cessation among Low-Income Families
Effects of WIC Participation on Breastfeeding practices
Nurse Practitioner perspective
Length of Maternity Leave as an obstacle
Formula marketing and legislation