Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cat Scratch Fever

That was a rude awakening. Jude had fallen asleep nursing beside me and had all the intention of granting me the rare treat of sleeping in when all of the sudden: Neelix! All 25 lb of him leaps up onto the bed, or rather onto the baby and my breast. There is blood EVERYWHERE. The baby is screaming and crying. I about swallow my tongue but outwardly I must remain calm.

As I clutch Jude to my chest in an effort to cuddle and comfort him I realize there is a searing pain in my nipple. Having soothed the baby to a degree, I pull him away to inspect the damage. As I wipe away all of the blood I realize that it's mine. Not his. He's fine. The screaming was due to the sudden jolt of having my boob yanked from him by a monstrous cat. He was just scared.

So here I am, with three scratches raked across my tit, trying to nurse the baby without hissing in agony. I don't even know where to begin in treating this. Anything you'd normally use on a scratch is off limits due to location and breastfeeding.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Solids Before 6 Months?

There is a lot of debate out there concerning when to start your baby on the path to solids via Infant Cereal. These days it is customary to exclusively breastfeed or give formula for the first six months of life before introducing rice cereal and deviating from this recommendation at all is met with some inappropriate outcry.

Our last check-up revealed that Jude, despite eating on demand every couple of hours like a happy piglet, was losing weight. He has always been a very active, engaged baby and other than the weight loss, there were no signs or symptoms of a problem. So, along with scheduling a follow-up in two weeks, our pediatrician told us to start him on Rice cereal, twice a day mixed with white grape juice.

This seemed weird to me, not because solids at four months but because of the white grape juice. So I asked Google to find out if this was common and if so, why? What I found boggled my mind. Countless posts from angry mothers claiming that those asking about the rice cereal should notify the health board and get their pediatricians medical licensees revoked because, "ur baby needs NOTHING BUT BREASTMILK for the first six months!!!" and, "recommending otherwise is sabotage!" or something. Along with accusations of being a lazy parent who "just doesn't wanna bf anymore." Now, as previous posts have stated: I am strongly pro-breastfeeding, but come on.

Also, somewhat hilariously one woman's ignorance answered her own question. She flew off the handle about how, "rice cereal is binding and will give such a young baby constipation!!!" followed immediately with, "and white grape juice is a stool softener, it'll give your baby diarrhea!!  your dr is an idiot!!!" Yes, what an idiot doctor to counteract the constipating effects of rice cereal with the stool softening effects of white grape juice... duh.

All of the inquiring women were in the same boat that I am: despite nursing on demand their babies just weren't getting enough. NOT offering solids at this point would be grossly negligent. Basically enforced starvation. Yet none of these other women took that information into account. I drink two litres of water per day and aim for more than two thousand and five hundred calories a day. I eat oatmeal and drink Mother's Milk Tea. I take my vitamins and fenugreek supplements to insure my milk supply is the best it can be. There isn't really anything else I can do outside of supplement his diet in some way.

I was worried that such a change to his diet would have a lengthy adjustment time. That it would upset his tummy for a number of days and make him fussy. But none of that happened! Jude took to the rice cereal immediately. Even so much as to open his mouth every time he sees the spoon, like a baby bird awaiting the worm. He was more than ready to start solids. He's always been a pretty happy baby but since starting solids he has been all around happier. His body is getting everything it needs, and it hasn't interrupted his breastfeeding. He still nurses on demand, the same amount as he had before.

I like to alternate. Two days of cereal mixed with milk for the added calories, followed by a day of cereal mixed with white grape juice just to be sure he doesn't have any trouble going potty. Though really, so long as you continue breastfeeding on demand, baby should be getting enough liquids to prevent constipation. If doubtful you can always give them a couple of tablespoons of water or white grape juice to make sure. Solids haven't changed his nursing schedule at all.

The box says that your baby is probably ready to begin solids once they can sit up with assistance. I'm not sure how accurate that is though because Jude has been able to sit up with assistance since he was five weeks old. Which definitely is too little for solids, but definitely a sign that he probably could have benefited from this change in his diet a few weeks sooner than nineteen weeks.

One thing I feel compelled to say however: despite popular belief the addition of rice cereal to your baby's diet does not make them stay asleep longer! I hear this so much from people wanting to be helpful to new moms unable to get a decent night's rest and it simply isn't true. Jude's sleeping habits have not at all been effected positively or negatively by the addition of rice cereal.

While it is true that cereal and also formula are harder for baby to digest thus leaving him feeling a little fuller a little longer, at the earliest you should be introducing cereal your baby should've already established its own schedule which involves sleeping for at least six hours per stretch with one 'midnight feeding.' Giving baby cereal in his bottle earlier than this will probably just give him gas -- meaning he'll sleep worse. Also, giving solids in a bottle is a choking hazard and should be avoided entirely, no matter what. Solids should be offered via spoon only. It takes longer, is definitely messier, but is indefinitely safer.

You're better off just sleeping whenever baby sleeps until he gets into his own groove. It'll be a hard couple of months, but it too shall pass.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Water is Life

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is drink water. Whether you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or neither -- but especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

One of the biggest problems in first world countries is chronic dehydration because people simply forget to drink enough water, or don't know a good way to keep track of how much plain water they've had every day. Tragic considering that there are places in the world where clean water isn't available, and here we are simply forgetting to drink enough, or passing the life giving liquid entirely for double lattes and fountain drinks.

It's not entirely our faults, household drinkware has the volume visible no where on it. Once you remove it from the box and recycle the packaging you've no idea how many cups of water each glass you fill has unless you measure them out, which is a little OCD. So here is a sure bet way to drink plenty of water, every day.

First things first: go here and take the hydration quiz. Next go the the store and purchase your favorite juice in a comparable volume to the above. As a pregnant woman I drank a ton of orange juice, so I found reusing the Tropicana jug quite fitting and simple. Next thoroughly wash out the jug and rinse completely. It may still smell like juice despite being clean so let it air dry, open, on the counter for a few hours. By now it should be clean and aroma free. Finally, simply fill with water and pop in the fridge! If there are multiple people in your household, you can each fill up a jug and write your name on it with a Sharpie to keep tabs.

You will know you've gotten enough water throughout the day if by the time you're ready for bed your jug is nearly empty and needing to be refilled for tomorrow.

Drinking enough water is also a fabulous way to lose weight! Our bodies are amazing things, but they often mistake thirst for hunger. Try drinking a glass of water prior to snacking and chances are you will find you weren't even actually hungry to begin with. Drink water at meal time with your meal and you'll be able to cut down on your portion sizes too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Advent Breastcare Essentials Kit

Size comparison: pouch, xbox 360 controller, thermal pad
Whether you nurse or pump, this is a handy kit! It packs a lot of essentials and the included pouch is larger than I expected (about the size of a decently long novel), making it great for storing "mommy" must-haves on the go -- either in your luggage or diaper bag.

The entire thing costs less than each of the included products do on their own, for example the thermal pads themselves are 10.00. At $9.00 for 2 thermal pads, 12 daytime nursing pads, 6 nighttime nursing pads, a reminder bra clip, a diary, and a convenient carry case: it's not just handy, it's also a great deal.

Bonus? When you're done nursing, the thermal pads can be used for any variety of other pain, hot or cold.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fun With Genetics

Baby woke me up early today, so I spent the morning playing with him and thinking about dominant and recessive traits, because you need something to keep your mind busy while entertaining a human whose most exciting part of the day is when daddy disappears behind a blanket only to magically reappear a moment later with an exclamation of, "Peek-a-boo!"

So, let's talk genetics.

This is more or less how they work, granted it's been a long time since I took advanced biology, so bear with me. Dominance or lack there-of is the relationship between alleles. In dominant traits, one allele overpowers the expression of the other allele of the same category (ex. eye color).

If you break it down to mom's DNA and dad's DNA, there will be three possible outcomes; expressing the dominant trait, expressing the recessive trait, or carrying the recessive trait while expressing the dominant one. Some traits are super recessive, less likely to occur even against other recessive traits. Add in grandparent genetics and this gets a little harder to keep track of.

They play out something like this:
Dominant Trait ----------------- Recessive Trait
Brown Eyes --------------------- Blue Eyes, Gray Eyes, Hazel Eyes
Every Other Eye Color -------- Green Eyes
Brown Hair, Black Hair ------- Blonde Hair
Every Other Hair Color ------- Red Hair
Curly Hair ---------------------- Straight Hair
Widow's Peak ------------------ Normal Hairline
Dark Skin ----------------------- Light Skin
All Other Skin Color ---------- Albinism
Freckles ------------------------- No Freckles
Dimples ------------------------- No Dimples
Unattached Earlobes ---------- Attached Earlobes

Before Jude was born, Aaron and I played at guessing what he'd look like. Of the two of us, Aaron has the more dominant genes with his dark hair and his dark eyes. For ease, above I have color coded Aaron's genetic traits and Mine for comparison.

Thus we expected that Jude would probably be light skinned with brown eyes, brown curly hair with a widow's peak, dimples, unattached lobes, and maybe freckles later in life. When he got here we were mostly correct. He had Aaron's hairline, dimples, unattached lobes, light skin, eyes that seem to be suggesting they'll be brown, and while he's got straight hair now that could change as he gets a little older. However we were surprised to discover Jude is a ginger!

Have you ever tried to guess what your baby would look like? How accurate were your guesses?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Losing That Pregnancy Weight

Want to lose the weight you put on during pregnancy? As a new mother you probably don't have the free time or funds to join a gym, but it may be easier than you think. Use your baby!

First things first, if you can breastfeed or even pump breast milk... do it! Nursing mothers burn at least 500 extra calories per day. Per day. That's the equivalent of running five miles without ever having to get off the sofa. Ever seen the body of a runner? They're lean for a reason. The more you nurse or pump, the more you burn. Just how many calories per day do you need? Take this test to find out, then add 500 to it (whether or not you're nursing isn't a question) to find out.

Second, you cannot spoil a baby in its first year of life, the lack of object permanence guarantees that. So when your baby wants you to pick him up -- pick him up! I know you may be tired or have other things to do, but carrying around extra weight burns a lot of extra calories and tones muscles.

If you need your hands free consider baby wearing rather than putting baby down. They spend nine months being cuddled inside of you, it's little wonder they want so desperately to be held close once they're here. Baby will be happier feeling your warmth and heartbeat and you'll be abolishing fat without really going out of your way to do it.

Want to kick into high gear? Try a few squats with baby in hand or, rise up onto your toes then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Toss in a lunge or two. Be mindful of your balance though.

Third, get out of the house and take baby for a walk at least a couple of times per week. The outside world is less likely to over stimulate your little one and the fresh air will do you both good. Getting out of the house has been shown to help with postpartum blues, too. Not to mention simply walking ten or more minutes a day can boost your metabolism. So plop your new addition in their stroller and hit the sidewalk. Even if you've nowhere in particular to go, just a lap around the block will suffice.

Lastly, and this really applies to everyone, drink nothing but plain water. You retain more calories from liquids than you do from solids. So simply cutting out the sweet drinks can work wonders without the need for hardcore dieting.

In summary:
  1. Breastfeed
  2. Pick Up Your Baby
  3. Take a Walk
  4. Drink Water

Friday, February 8, 2013

An Afternoon Adventure

  I left yesterday afternoon with Jude unsure of our destination. When we reached the end of the complex we took a right. We went passed the Romanian church, looking at the world in wonder.

When we reached the first big intersection we decided not to cross. The air was chilly and brisk, as warm as it would get. Perhaps a touch too cold as Jude began to fuss. Going back at this point was not an option. We had come almost a mile away from home. I needed to tend the baby before we could go any further, one way or the other.

I looked around us for a place of refuge. Nearby was a quaint mom and pop cafe, a Starbucks, and Lumberjack's diner. They have a chain of them out here, all with giant statues of an ax wielding lumberjack in front.

Starbucks is no place for a baby, and the smaller cafe seemed too transparent to breastfeed comfortably should the need arise -- with walls on three sides made up of floor to ceiling windows. This left Lumberjack's, a place we've been to frequently for breakfast.

I knew the wait staff was friendly, mostly women, and the layout comfortable and private. Less overwhelming for a baby. At two o' clock we had the whole place mostly to ourselves. Only two other tables were occupied, one by a tiny old woman shoveling soup by the spoonful into her mouth and the other by an older gentleman with a kind face and a hat on that identified him as a veteran of the Korean war.

As I sat down and ordered a simple hot chocolate this man who sat across from me in the table next to mine nodded a hello as the waitresses fawned over Jude. Lumberjack's has a senior special from two until five where people over the age of sixty-five get two meals for only twelve dollars. While I had a feeling the old woman would be by herself, since she had already ordered her food, this man sat with only a mug of coffee to warm his hands. Clearly he was waiting for a friend.

In the meanwhile he spoke to me with a voice that complimented the warm laugh lines age had left on his face. He asked how old my little one was and complimented his good behavior. I sat with the baby in my lap and his stroller pulled up alongside the table, as out of the way as I could make it. Jude is very personable, even with strangers and he smiled at the man as we spoke. As I sipped my hot chocolate and warmed up this man told me the story of his first born.

He was only twenty years old and in the military stationed someplace far from home. His wife, the love of his life, gave birth at the service hospital and he was too afraid to hold his son until they got home. He was just so tiny and perfect. Once they had gone home, he held him for the first time very nervously in bed. Just in case. He said in that moment, his life changed forever. Holding that little bundle of raw innocence and possibility.

He had only wanted one child, but found he loved being a father so much that he wound up with four more children! Sadly they all live out of state now. Just as he finished his tale his friend arrived, an older Korean man who brought with him a deck of cards and some sort of block made from a pale wood with two pegs to keep score. One peg topped with onyx, the other topped with jade so you could easily tell them apart.

I greeted the new man politely and then left them to their game as I continued drinking my delicious hot chocolate.  When Jude got tired of sitting down, I stood up and gently swayed with him as he looked out of the window. When he grew bored of that, I turned to face the other way so that he could watch the cooks in the kitchen. I decided this would be an opportune time to settle up, so I paid for my drink in case I needed to make a hasty retreat with a crying baby. The waitress, a young red headed woman who had earlier complimented Jude and I on our own red hair, filled up a travel cup with more hot chocolate free of charge.

I put the travel cup in the cup holder on the stroller and held Jude close, looking out of the window myself now. Wondering if it was going to rain again or not. The original man at the table across from me remarked that I must love being a mother. I couldn't help but smile because it was true and he could tell just by observing. I then buckled Jude safely back into his stroller, bid the old men farewell and headed homeward bound.

Just before we got there Jude fell asleep, so rather than disturb him by taking him up a flight of stairs I just continued to make rounds near the creek until he woke up on his own. Then we went home.

Friday, February 1, 2013

About Boobies

Om nom nom.
Breastfeeding is exceptionally important for babies. Really, all mothers should breastfeed if medically able to for at least the first three months of their child's life. Ideally the first entire year! Even if you cannot feed baby at the breast, pumping breast milk and feeding via bottle, cup, or dropper is just as well.

Formula just isn't the same and even poses significant risks to newborns, such as improper preparation resulting in malnutrition, introduction of bacteria to your baby, and (due to the lack of antibodies found in breast milk) an increased risk of diarrhea and pneumonia: the leading causes of infant and childhood deaths. Breast milk also provides a resistance to allergies and is directly related to creating a lifelong healthy metabolism, meaning less chance of obesity. As added bonus, breastfed babies are also less gassy, less likely to develop colic, and are far less likely to spit-up.

Not all benefits are for baby, either. Breastfeeding helps mom return to her pre-pregnancy weight faster, shrinks the uterus back down to size after delivery, and reduces the risk of both breast and ovarian cancers. All of which are pretty significant pros! It's also a free resource, meaning financial hardship can never impact your ability to provide. It also helps establish a bond between mommy and baby and babies who have breastfed have been shown to be more receptive to being held and cuddled (who doesn't wanna cuddle with their little one?!).

Sure, there are cons as well. Breastfeeding is an acquired skill -- it's not something you and baby will be experts at from the start. It's also uncomfortable at best and painful at worse, in the beginning. It takes a week or so for your breasts to get used to their new role in life, but once you're over the proverbial hump -- you're over it!

So long as the latch is correct, soreness should fade in short order. If it doesn't, you may want to speak with your physician to try and figure out why. It's rare, but sometimes there are underlying conditions (with either mommy or baby) that make breastfeeding painful. Even then, that doesn't mean you need to resort to formula. There are options. You could champion through the discomfort like a Spartan, or pump and give baby the liquid gold (breast milk) that way. Pumps aren't as powerful as a baby's latch, so it is often not as hard to cope with in these circumstances. What's important is that your baby gets that vital breast milk -- not how baby gets it.

Sadly, very few women stick with it. Statistics show even though many mothers intend to breastfeed exclusively for the first twelve months, most don't even make it out of the hospital breastfeeding. That means in less than two days they've given up. Now, I'm not blaming the moms here. There are many factors involved in this outcome and usually it has little to nothing to do with the mom. Suchas...

In many states, hospitals aren't baby-friendly. This means they do not educate mothers-to-be about the benefits of breastfeeding, encourage skin-to-skin right after delivery, or encourage mom to try breastfeeding within the first hour after baby is born. The single most important hour of your breastfeeding lives. Nurses may supplement baby with formula or sugar water with or without parental consent, making baby even less likely to bother with the breast when introduced. Newborns are picky eaters and bottles are way easier to eat from (the flow is much quicker). Formula is also harder to digest making baby feel fuller, longer. A one-two combo that leaves baby wondering why he'd ever bother with mom.

Lack of a positive support network is also a culprit. Anxiety can impact milk supply. So being around family or friends, even if they're well-meaning, who do nothing but criticize can really kill the chance of success. "You're positioning her wrong." "You're not feeding him enough." etc., etc. While the intention is maybe in the right place, the execution is poor.

Even if your wife is blatantly doing it wrong, making her feel dumb about it in this vulnerable, hormonal postpartum state is really not going to help her whatsoever. She's already feeling anxious and inadequate about the situation, you need to approach the subject carefully. Increasing her anxiety will only hamper her let-down process, which will in turn make her feel even more inadequate. A cycle which spirals out of control quickly once it starts. She'll get it, it sometimes takes up to a week, but she'll get it. Encourage her. Don't criticize.

In the same vein, being embarrassed can hamper let-down also. So inviting everyone into the room while she's topless and looking like Death due to sleep deprivation and blood loss isn't going to help. Limit guests to people you know she'd be comfortable half-naked with. And if you're worried about anyone seeing her boobs, stfu about it. If she isn't insecure about her body image, trying to cover her up or telling her to leave the room to breastfeed so no one sees is only going to make her so.

Some women can breastfeed like gold medalists but cannot pump for shit. This is normal! Even the best electric pump under the best of conditions is only half as effective as baby at expressing milk. Don't take what your wife pumps as a sign of what your child is getting at mealtime. So long as baby is maintaining his or her weight and is growing, they're getting plenty. Don't worry mom that she may not be providing enough. If that's really a problem you'll find out from the pediatrician during your frequent well-checks.

Going back to work often conflicts with breastfeeding and/or pumping. Many places of employment lack facilities for pumping and frown upon breastfeeding in the workplace, meaning you need to find someplace else to do either of these things if you intend to do them. If you cannot find such a place and need to work, often times it boils down to breastfeeding or working. Considering having a place to live is also important for babies, through no fault of her own, work generally wins out.

In some states breastfeeding in public still isn't legal. Which means if you plan to ever leave your house, you'll need to either bring expressed milk in a bottle or formula. However, either of these options interfere with on-demand feeding to maintain supply.

While a number of states now protect a woman's right to bear her breast and nurse her baby in public that does not mean the public condones it. A lot of women wind up feeling ashamed while trying to breastfeed out in the open due to public reaction to the sight. This is why there now exists such a market for nursing covers, to hide what you're doing from prying eyes so that you can do it whenever and wherever you need to without dealing with naysayers.

Breastfeeding is how babies are meant to be fed! This is the sole function of breasts in the first place. Why then is it such a taboo?

Unless you never plan to leave the house, being a nursing mother can be tricky. You need to be able to get at your breasts at a moment's notice (one handed) should baby be hungry and yet still stay covered much of the time, because we're supposedly a civilized country. Since you are expected to wear clothes, you'll also need to protect them from milk, which can be unruly at times. This means you need to buy stuff. Thanks to capitalism, this needed stuff is naturally expensive because they're deemed specialty items.

You'll need nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing pajamas, and nursing pads. You'll probably also want a nursing cover of some sort due to reasons mentioned above. If you bought merely one of each of those things, it would run you about eighty dollars minimum. And that'd be a lucky bargain. Thing is, you need several of each of those things. The kicker? These things aren't necessarily easy to find.

While many stores have maternity departments, they often only deal with pregnancy clothing. Not post-pregnancy items such as those needed for nursing. The internet makes this hunting a little easier, but no less expensive. Granted, breastfeeding costs are still miniscule in comparison to formula feeding costs.

See my tips for convenient nursing on a reasonable budget here.

The amount of misinformation about pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing that persists these days is mind boggling. We'll just touch on the misinformation related to nursing here though. While I have no fucking idea why, it is a common misconception that breastfeeding will ruin your breasts. Now, there are all sorts of things wrong with this perception. Really, it's kind of absurd.

Breastfeeding is the reason your breasts even exist. So using them for their purpose is hardly going to ruin them. Changes in the breast are usually temporary anyway (you know, like your giant pregnant belly was), and take place long before you put baby to breast! Your breasts undergo their metamorphosis due to hormones at least a month before your little one is even expected to make their appearance in the world.

So if this is your reason not to breastfeed... it's kind of a flawed one.

Medical Conditions
Sometimes there are legitimate medical reasons why breastfeeding doesn't work out.

Difficult labor resulting in severe anemia or injury can damage your milk supply so much that you need to also give formula so baby doesn't starve. Which incidentally further impedes your milk supply, meaning you may need to supplement permanently or switch to formula completely.

Certain hormonal imbalances prevent proper milk supply from ever establishing itself, resulting in much the same. Hormonal imbalances, if caught right away, can be treated though. So don't give up right away. Working alongside your physician, you may be fully capable of establishing a normal milk supply.

Some physical deformities (under-developed or damaged ducts, for example) can impact milk supply or prevent it from ever coming in to begin with. Generally there is nothing that can be done for a problem such as this. Even if you made colostrum, there's probably not going to be enough milk to satisfy your baby.

Even in situations such as this though, there are options available to ensure your baby gets at least some breast milk -- even if it's not necessarily yours. There are a few services out there that provide donated breast milk to women in such circumstances as this, who want to breastfeed their child but literally cannot. Sometimes even free of charge!

If you're concerned about supply but suffer from no prohibitive underlying condition, there are methods of increasing your supply. I suggest contacting a lactation consultant (the hospital you delivered at can put you in touch with one if needbe). Otherwise I'll touch on this in a later blog, as I had a hell of a start, myself.

Postpartum Depression
Depression saps the will to accomplish even simple daily tasks out of anyone, super depression such as PPD even moreso. Your milk supply is hampered by emotional lows, particularly prolonged ones! Breastfeeding is often not bothered with or given up on by women experiencing postpartum depression for many reasons, all of which essentially boil down to: too depressed. If your postpartum blues last longer than a month or you have thoughts of harming yourself, your significant other, or your baby -- seek support and help right away. PPD is of such severity than it often does not resolve on its own.

Some women just don't want to breastfeed. You know what? Whatever, that's fine if you just really, really, really don't wanna. Formula feeding is way easier. I'm sure we've all eaten a Poptart rather than a real breakfast because it was quick and simple. Just prepare a bottle and you're basically done. It takes five minutes instead of thirty. Baby is full longer, meaning he'll sleep longer, leaving you with more free time for yourself (work, sleep, chores, hobbies, and so forth). Anyone can feed your baby for you. You don't even technically need to be there, which isn't technically a bad thing. Being able to pass baby off for a few hours to get some rest does wonders for a speedy recovery!

In summary, I find it strange that in a society that by-and-large knows the facts, breastfeeding is still a taboo surrounded by misinformation, shaky (sometimes well-meaning) support structures, and a surprising lack of available resources.