Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday and our Giveaway Winner

We had a fantastic Saturday.  One wonderful bonus with having a young child is that they force you to get up early every day.  Once you resign yourself to getting out of bed (and make coffee) the morning becomes a time of relaxed play when the rest of the world is quiet. I don't know about other babies, but Ellie is happiest first thing in the morning.
We woke up at that same time we do on weekdays and got a little breakfast and coffee going. We set out to garage sales around the neighborhood and got a few great books for Ellie.  She won't be able to enjoy them until she's older, but we were pretty excited to get them.  We gravitate toward books about music, art, and nature, and found these great titles:
ABCedar, an alphabet book about trees.
Children Just Like Me, a DK book profiling children around the world.
Yep, this kiddo is a novice monk.
 Story of the Orchestra, a book all about the history of music with clips throughout.
 And details about the specifics of classical music.
We also found this book, called Discover Great Paintings, filled with famous paintings for children to examine.
 Finally, this great book with a poem by Maya Angelou and paintings by Basquiat called Life Doesn't Frighten Me.
After the garage sales, we headed to farmer's market. Ellie fell asleep in the Boba while we walked around and stayed asleep until we went to the library.  After picking up a few books (thisthis, and this)  we grabbed thai food for lunch (Ellie ate tons of my wheat gluten in garlic and pepper sauce) and then headed home.
We had a lazy afternoon and decided it was time to select our winner for the giveaway!  I wrote all the entrants down on paper
 And let E pick.
 Playing around in the bowl was pretty fun. Paper is forbidden around here.
 She grabbed a handful
 And then narrowed it down to just one.
 The winner is Jade from the Mess Pot, who may or may not have a baby at the moment.  Congratulations, Jade, and look out for an email.
 To the rest of you who commented, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Sorry you didn't win, Dad. Maybe next time?  
And if you need some cookies or granola of your own, check out my Etsy or if you're local, the Iowa Valley Food Cooperative. 
Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our Favorite Wood Toys and Giveaway Reminder

Thank you all SO much for your comments about my breastfeeding post.  It's no surprise that my readers are smart, thoughtful, kind, and supportive.
I want to remind you that you can enter the giveaway any time before midnight Friday, July 13th and to to emphasize that you don't have to be a mom to enter, and your comment doesn't even have to be about the post.  You can just say "Granola is great!" or "I love boobs!" and you're in.  
So enter, ok?
If you'd like to check out my granola and cookies on Etsy, click here
I will write about food again soon, promise.  But today I'm going to tell you about our two favorite wood toys that are both made in the U.S.  We try to avoid plastic for a variety of reasons, though we don't eschew it completely, so new toys made of solid wood are always welcome around here. 
I ran into this sweet teether at a bookstore downtown and snatched it.  It's solid maple, totally unfinished, and made in Vermont by Schoolhouse Naturals.
It is super soft, easy to grab, and fits perfectly in little mouths.  They have a whole section of natural wood toys.  Hold on to your wallet. We'll have to get her something like this block set sometime...

 I also recently ordered a beautiful set of embossed alphabet blocks from Uncle Goose.
 Made in Michigan with local wood and non-toxic inks.
 The embossing is gorgeous.
 Each block shows letters, numbers, mathematic symbols, and animals. E is very much a fan of animal noises these days (who isn't?), so I spend a lot of time handing her blocks and snorting, roaring, screeching, or cheeping.
We have had tons of fun playing with both of these wood toys and will give them as gifts to future little ones.  I feel good knowing they're made from sustainably produced wood and within the United States.
Please take a moment to enter the giveaway before midnight Friday.  Winner will be announced Saturday whenever I find a free moment, and food to come soon.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Breastfeeding Journey and a Giveaway!

One week and four days after I gave birth I officiated a wedding for a family member. It was my first as an internet minister, and an honor to be a part of. I still very much looked pregnant and puffy, but I was so elated to be a part of their commitment to one another.
The ceremony went beautifully. We all cried, except for Ellie who was the picture of a perfect baby.  But as newborns do, she got hungry just after the wedding, so I fed her in the front seat of my car.  I was nursing her openly (I don't wear a nursing cover for a variety of reasons, but this post summarizes a few) and when my nine year old cousin walked up to the car to talk to me, he and my uncle saw me breastfeeding and apologized. I told him not to apologize and carried on our conversation while Eleanor finished eating. 
I learned that after our run in, my cousin had a very interesting conversation with another relative who was with him during the wedding reception. He walked up to her and said "Did you know that babies suck on people's boobs?"
She stifled a laugh and said that yes, babies do suck on people's boobs, but some babies have bottles instead.  Then she was barraged with questions: "Did I suck on my mom's boobs?  Can I suck on Dad's boobs?" all of which revealed that this boy had no clue about breastfeeding.  
After being amused at his choice of words, I was taken aback at how sad I felt that my young cousin had lived his whole life without seeing anyone breastfeed, or without being told about how it works. I realized that, as he approaches puberty, he has only known breasts as sexual, or at least merely a part of a woman's body.  He has never been told that they create a perfect food in the exact quantity and quality required to grow thriving, healthy babies, that when a mother uses them to feed her baby she reduces her risk for cancer, or that other animals feed their babies in exactly this way.
Then I started asking myself why.  Why wouldn't he know about this stuff?  We are a massive family. My mother has nine siblings, some of whom have more than a handful of children themselves (and many of these children have started having many children of their own) and there are always babies at family functions.  So why hadn't my cousin seen anybody breastfeed, in our family or around the crunchy, liberal city we both inhabit?  When I started asking the women in my family about breastfeeding, starting with my grandmother, I was shocked at how few of them actually breastfed at all or for very long.  My grandmother was encouraged to breastfeed for a few weeks but never did it longer than that.  Many of my aunts never breastfed at all. When I asked this cousin's father if he was breast or formula fed, he didn't remember. 
This is why I'm writing this post.  Because he deserves to know, and I deserve to feel comfortable sharing it with him.   And, perhaps most importantly, E deserves to know what I went through for her.
I want to make it explicitly clear that the point of this post isn't the judge any parents or to serve as a commentary on the use of formula.  I'm simply writing, just like I did with my birth story, to share my journey in the hopes that it will contribute to the conversation.
I'm first going to begin by telling our breastfeeding story from the first latch to now, and then will briefly summarize what I've learned throughout this whole thing.  If the minutiae of human lactation isn't your thing, scroll to the bottom of the post for a GIVEAWAY
To break up the wall of text, I'm going to insert some beautiful pieces of art related to breastfeeding (some from the series on this blog)
As soon as I got pregnant I knew that breastfeeding would be a goal for me. Aside from all the research  that showed so clearly that breast milk is best for babies, I have many breastfeeding friends and family  (Vanessa, Maggie, Susi, Niki, in case you're reading!) who showed me what a functional breastfeeding relationship looked like, and I wanted it.  Much like natural birth, I went into motherhood with breastfeeding as a goal but was prepared for it not to work.  It was important to me that I be patient and understanding with myself and my child, and if breastfeeding didn't work, I wanted to be emotionally ready to move on and just feed my baby.
Mother and Child, 1904, Janis Rosenthal
Before the birth, I learned about breastfeeding mostly from my Bradley classes and a few books I was reading about birth and early childcare.  I did the majority of my breastfeeding-specific research on the web, especially at  
 E's birth, while relatively calm, was not without its complications. While my birth was not long at all (I think I was in active labor for around 12 hours) it was somewhat traumatic for E due to being in the birth canal for so long and the use of the vacuum.  Any trauma at birth makes the initiation of breastfeeding more difficult.  Thankfully she latched well within 30 minutes of birth, thanks to the kind assistance of my doula, so I was hopeful about how things were going to unfold.
We were completely exhausted from the birth, but were still on an emotional high from the excitement and finally getting to meet her for a few hours after we left labor and delivery.  We snuggled her, smelled her, stared into her eyes, and listened to her breathe.  We shared a victory burrito and soaked in the moment.  After a while, we decided it was time to sleep.  She was continually waking to be put to the breast so I did my best to hold her and position her like I thought I should.  (I'm sure a nurse helped me at some point but I really don't remember!)  
Maternidad, 1901, Pablo Picasso 
One thing I didn't realize before giving birth is that mother and baby have different nurses, so we were constantly being barged in on by someone checking on one or both of us.  We were getting next to no sleep, and this is on top of no sleep the night before.
When E's nurse suggested we give her a small amount of formula to fill her belly and get me some rest, I agreed.  (I now know that she absolutely did not need the supplementation, and it could have been disastrous for the establishment of my supply, but at that point what I needed most was to recover.)  She slept in the nursery for four solid hours before they brought her to me to feed her again.  We did send her to the nursery at night so that we could get more sleep. It worked fine for us, though I know many couples prefer to room in with baby.  
By late into our first 24 hours at the hospital, it became clear that something wasn't working with feeding.  E would put her mouth to the breast but didn't start to suck very well.  It's normal for them to struggle to make the connection between sucking and food, but it is crucial for baby to demand from the breast so that it begins to supply, and E wasn't demanding. We were both trying, but it wasn't working.  This brings me to lesson #1 I have learned about breastfeeding:

1.  Babies are born with an instinct to suck. They are NOT born knowing how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is learned by BOTH mom and baby. 
For many dyads, breastfeeding does come naturally. My mother told me that all of her daughters just latched. It just worked.
Mother and Child, Labasque

Unfortunately, it was not this way with E and me. In those precious early moments, I needed to send the message to my body that I had a baby to feed and to get started on making milk already, but it wasn't happening.  The early feedings, before the milk actually comes into the breast, are made up of colostrum, a rich, fatty milk that is a powerhouse of nutrition.  The baby's tummy is incredibly small and the colostrum is very filling.  They need to eat often because their stomachs are so small, but they really don't need to get much liquid to feel full.  The most important part of the early feedings is to create the demand.  This is major lesson #2 I learned about breastfeeding:

  2.  Breastfeeding works on the model of supply and demand. If the baby demands milk, in most cases,   the body will supply it.  If the baby does not demand milk (through supplementation or issues with latching, etc) the body will not produce milk and can dry up.

We decided it was time to meet with a lactation consultant. She watched E try to eat and saw that she wasn't sucking as well as we'd like her to.  For some reason, having the nipple in her mouth wasn't stimulating her sucking reflex. She explained that some babies need extra stimulation on their palates to get their suck going and suggested that we try working with a nipple shield for a little while.  This is what a nipple shield looks like: (note: I urge you not to do an image search for 'nipple shield')
Shields are fine when used under the supervision of a lactation consultant, but they aren't intended for long term use and can interfere with the establishment of supply.  My LC told me that she wanted me to pump after every feeding with the shield.  Pumping is incredibly boring, but the shield was working so we stuck with it for a few feedings. Each feeding I would offer E the breast first and if she didn't latch on her own we'd use the shield.  It worked, and we kept trying and got off the shield before leaving the hospital. I'm very thankful because it can be difficult to wean from them later in the breastfeeding relationship.
We left the hospital elated, so happy to be bringing her to her own home, to introduce her to her doggie, and to be in our own comfortable surroundings.
The Manger Gertrude Kasebier 
It took five full days for my milk to come in.  This was incredibly stressful.  I was given a small container of formula at the hospital and I won't lie, I looked at it often and wondered if I should have been giving her some.  (This experience showed me why giving formula away at hospitals is not conducive to breastfeeding, as so many people have pointed out.)  But I had educated myself enough to know that my colostrum would get her through those early days and that I needed to keep her at the breast as often as possible to assure a good supply.
I had obviously never breastfed before so I didn't know what to expect, which was both good and bad. It was good because it helped me realize that I needed to avoid looking at the clock, trying to time my baby's feedings.  I didn't know anything other than just responding to her, or feeding "on demand" which is best for baby and for establishing supply.  It's normal for newborns to want to nurse every 1-2 hours at the beginning, and during cluster feeding they might eat as often as every 20-30 minutes.  *Something very important to remember about these estimates is that feedings are timed from START to START.*  That is, you start the clock when the baby begins feeding, even if it takes them 15-20 minutes to eat (or more!).  This can make cluster feeds exhausting because they can be right on top of each other.

Maternidad Angelina y et nino Diego) 1918 Diego Rivera
I was in the dark about what was normal when it came to pain associated with breastfeeding.  I had been told over and over that it wasn't supposed to hurt, but I also knew that someone sucking so hard repeatedly on such a sensitive area couldn't be painless.  I was in pain for every feeding, but I didn't know if that was normal or not.  When I realized that I was using the relaxation techniques that had gotten me through an unmedicated labor to get through feedings and was fearing each one, I knew something was not right.  I called the nurses at the hospital and they helped me realize that I had nipple damage and I needed to address it immediately before it got any worse.  E's latch was too shallow, which was causing her to put too much pressure on the nipple instead of the areola, which had damaged my nipples.  Because they felt so sensitive, I was keeping my nipples covered with soothies at all times.  I didn't realize that my damage, like any other wound, needed to be exposed to air circulation to heal.  So, I spent the majority of my days walking around the house topless and religiously applying lanolin and antibacterial ointment after every feeding.  This healed up my damage within a couple days, which was a huge relief.
E's latch, however, didn't really improve. I did everything I could: waiting for her to open wide, pushing her chin down to open her jaw and flare her lips once latched, doing my best to achieve an asymmetric latch.  I was still in pain and didn't understand why or what to do about it.  Thankfully kellymom reminded me of the most important rule about latches, and the third rule I have learned about breastfeeding:

    3)  A latch is "good" if it's EFFECTIVE and COMFORTABLE.  Nothing else matters.

I stepped back and asked myself if my latch was effective.  It clearly was because E was growing perfectly and had the right number of wet diapers. Frankly, the amount that you're putting into baby is difficult to gauge, and if, according to rule #1, you're demanding that your body make the milk, it will likely respond with just enough for your baby.  But even though I knew she was getting enough food, I was still in lots of pain when I nursed.  To be completely honest, nothing I did fixed our latch problems.  It was simply a matter of time (around two months) before things got better.  I think it was a combination of us both learning how to breastfeed and E getting bigger.  After around two months, I was no longer in constant pain while nursing.  There have been times since then that I've had pain, but it has usually been as a result of problems that I know how to fix.  (For example, E would clamp down when she was done nursing, rather than pulling off or stopping sucking.  I just had to learn to tell when she was finished with the essential part of the feed and pull her off myself.)
Gladys and Elizabeth, 2010, Kate Hansen
Those two early months also came with overactive letdown and oversupply.  Letdown is when the milk comes through the nipple.  Baby sucks with quick short sucks at the breast for a while to signal to the breast that it's time to feed.  When the milk actually starts coming out the sucks become longer and there's a pause of the chin as baby gets a mouth full of milk.  (This video shows that pause, and all the videos on that page are incredibly helpful. They show bare breasts, so maybe don't watch at work if your boss isn't cool with that.)  Once I'd let down (which was almost immediately) E would choke because the milk would come out too fast for her.  I would have to hand express to relieve some of the pressure and try to get her latched back on.  Once she got bigger and my supply worked itself out this became a non-issue, but in the beginning it was very difficult for me and her.  She knew she needed to eat but it was terribly uncomfortable, and when I had to take the time to hand express, she would get frustrated and angry that she couldn't eat. I literally couldn't have gotten through the early times without an incredibly supportive husband who was just as dedicated to breastfeeding as I was.
Oversupply has been called a good problem to have, but for us, it was awful.  For whatever reason, my breasts got the message to make WAY too much milk.  When I was still home on maternity leave I would leak like crazy.  I would hear dripping or feel warmth on my feet and realize that both breasts were gushing milk.  (And yes, this happened in public and when guests were around.)  I have so many nursing bras and tank tops because I would soak through the first one immediately and wasn't comfortable being sitting in milk all day.  She had trouble latching more deeply because my breasts were always too full.  When I returned to work, I pumped at the times that E would have been feeding.  I was pumping 10-12 oz. at a time, which is a ridiculous amount. (In general, breastfed babies rarely eat more than 4 oz. at a feeding, so I was pumping up to three times that amount. When I told a lactation consultant how much I was getting when I pumped, she said "oh, so your body thinks you're feeding twins.")  One minor variation from this routine and I ended up with mastitis, which you can read about in this post.
I stored all that extra milk and managed to give some of it away through Human Milk for Human Babies.

After those first 2-3 rough months, things evened out. My supply regulated, which brings me to another incredibly important rule of breastfeeding:

    4.  The only way to judge your supply is your baby's output and weight gain. How your breasts feel, how long baby is at the breast, how they act at the breast, how much you pump, none of these are indicative of your supply.  Here's an excellent article about supply.

Because my milk comes out so fast, E is at the breast for a very short time, sometimes around 2-3 minutes.  Everything I read about feeding told me that the short end of normal was 5 minutes, but I'm confident that she's getting enough milk (and getting the important fatty hind milk because I can see it in the corners of her mouth) and is satisfied.  It has been difficult because she is an incredibly distracted nurser, but we make it work by going into a quiet room when things are too noisy or exciting for her.
I was very nervous that teeth could spell the end of our breastfeeding relationship because she is not the most gentile nurser, but we have the two lower teeth in and everything has been fine.
Since the day she was born, she and I join our bodies every few hours.  We lock eyes, cuddle, chat, and just enjoy each other.  This is what nursing looks like now (is there a painter who understands women and children better than Mary Cassatt?) with her finger exploring my teeth a significant amount of the time.
Mary Cassatt
We introduced solids to E when she was just under six months using mostly the Baby Led Weaning approach.  The idea is that children skip purees and are given whole solid foods from the start. Early on they consume next to nothing, but spend meal times at the table with the family and explore food with all their senses.  E has become a great little eater. I can't think of a single food we've given her that she didn't eat.  She is curious about new foods and eats well, and does a great job of telling us when she's finished (usually by melting down) and we listen. There's no forcing bites by making the spoon into an airplane or trying to finish the jar.  She decides what to eat and how much of it to eat.  My job is to offer her a variety of textures and flavors to keep eating interesting.  In general she eats what we eat and it's gone very well.  I attribute her healthy attitude toward food to this approach to solids and to the fact that she's breastfed. Breast milk (and amniotic fluid!) changes flavor based on what the mother eats, so baby gets to experience new tastes second hand.  Her appetite waxes and wanes, which is completely normal, and she'll continue to get the majority of her nutrition from breast milk for at least the first year of her life.
I want to briefly mention weaning, even though it's a subject we haven't had to deal with yet.  I will lead E decide when to stop nursing (unless it starts to become an issue for us or something unexpected happens) so we will hopefully nurse well past her first year.  Extended breastfeeding is actually the norm in the rest of the world, and the WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. I am concerned about weaning related depression, but being aware of this is all I can do to prepare for it.

To summarize, if breastfeeding is important to you, here are some suggestions:

  • Trust your body and your baby. Respond to her and she will tell you what she needs. Ounces and minutes are not important. 
  • Educate yourself about how lactation works. Learn about the newborn process and growth spurts.  
  • Establish contact with a lactation consultant in the hospital when you give birth, even if things are going well, and have their number available to you at all times.
  • Surround yourself with people supportive of breastfeeding (and make it clear to them how important it is to you.)  Your partner is by far the most important (the breastfeeding dad) but I can't overemphasize having friends and family who also breastfeed around you. They help you learn the moves and are open to questions or just talking. Being a breastfeeding mother can be terribly isolating. Anticipate this and get involved in the breastfeeding community around you.  (I found a local support group that met weekly to be very helpful.)  
  • Be persistent. It's possible that you'll want to quit, but remember that your breastfeeding issues are likely a short term problem, and your breastfeeding relationship should last over the long term.  Breastfeeding isn't something you can 'unquit'.
  • Be understanding with yourself and your baby.  Remember that breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing. Do what you can and what works for your family.

If you've made it this far, you deserve a cookie.
How about a cookie that boosts your milk supply?  I've started baking and selling cookies for breastfeeding mamas that I call Cookies and Milk lactation cookies.  They are packed with three important ingredients that boost mama's milk supply: oatmeal, flax seed, and brewer's yeast. 
They provide breastfeeding mothers with convenient quick snacks to eat during their hectic says (and are easy to eat one-handed) when extra high-quality calories are necessary. (Did you know the average breastfeeding mother burns an extra 500 calories a day?!)

These wholesome and delicious cookies are made with organic whole wheat flour, organic oatmeal, milled flaxseed, organic cane sugar, homemade peanut butter, local eggs, and dark chocolate chips. 

They store beautifully in the freezer. If you or someone you love is expecting, these are a fantastic snack to have on hand before the birth. They would make an excellent shower gift, or a great way to show a new mom that you're thinking about HER when you come see the baby. They are also great for moms who are starting a pumping routine and returning to work after maternity leave.

I'd like to give these cookies away to one of my dear readers (to thank you for sticking with me over this long, much needed break) for themselves or for a loved one.  If you're not currently lactating, I would love to give you a bag of my house recipe granola, my #1 seller, with nuts, seeds, honey, and golden raisins.  
You guys are the best and totally deserve a treat, ok?

All you have to do to enter is comment on this post.  If you're reading this post, this giveaway is for you.  I mean it, Mom.  Just comment and I'll bake you something healthy and tasty.  Winner will be chosen on July 13, next Friday.  
You can earn extra entries by liking my blog on Facebook or sharing this post on your blog, Facebook, or twitter account.  Just leave an extra comment letting me know.  
I've missed you so and will be back again soon. Thanks for reading! 

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